Part two! So, I was hoping to finish this all up by July 4th, but I'm pretty sure that isn't going to happen, considering how long it took to get this chapter out. Oh well, only time will tell. Also, this story doesn't look to be as popular as I thought it would be. It's only gotten like... 70 views since I put it up. Why is it that my smut gets more views than my actual short stories? I think that says something about the fandom....
Disclaimer: When thinking about sex noises, you always look back and say, 'What made me think making that noise was acceptable? It seemed like a good idea at the time, though.' Just remember, I don't own South Park or any characters therein - however, if your with your lover and you make a sex noise that sounds like a dying giraffe, I will suspect that something went wrong and try to resque you from ze guard dogs.
This Tale's Been De-Fairied
The only thing Kenny could hear was the sound of his own breathing; in, out, in, out, faster, faster, in, out. He concentrated on that, on his lungs. Filling them with air and slowly letting them deflate. It was all very rehearsed. He had trained very hard to learn how to breathe properly. It was the only way to keep your sanity when times were painful and humans thoughtless. Breathing was simple. Breathing was bare. And that's how Kenny felt as he stared into Tavin's unmoving eyes: stripped of everything and hopelessly defenseless.
He couldn't tear away from those eyes, for he had been conditioned so well. So mercilessly. It took all of his will power to not fall to his knees in submission right then and there. His friends were all witness to the scene, and Kenny was not standing tall in the face of his opponent. But despite all of his fears, he kept his chin up; he wanted to save his dignity from being incinerated, if but only a morsel. As soon as he thought this, Kenny almost rolled his eyes at himself in grief. What dignity did he have left?
Their staring contest had an obvious winner, as Tavin did not waver in the least. He was holding all of the cards, and Kenny knew it. He purposely blinked, defeated. He had no dignity left to squander… but Kyle did. And Stan. And everybody else who was at the Winterbloom Bed and Breakfast. They were actually worth something. They had everything to lose. Kenny had to keep Tavin away from them at all costs, or at least that's what he thought. Did he… did he not want them getting involved for fear that they might get hurt? Or was it just because Kenny didn't want them finding out…?
"Not here," Kenny managed to choke out.
"Hm?" Tavin droned, raising an eyebrow with amusement. Kenny shook with unconceivable rage, clenching his fists at his side. Tavin had heard what he said, and they both knew that. He just wanted to prove to all their spectators that he had complete dominance over Kenny, and that he would follow his every command.
"We can't talk here," Kenny said, his voice quivering in a grotesque mixture anger and fear. "Can we please go somewhere else?"
"Oh!" the brunette exclaimed, nodding his head and readjusting his glasses. "Okay, I get what you mean. Yes, yes, I understand perfectly." He turned his attention towards Kyle with a cruel grin. "Would it be alright if we used Mr. McCormick's room to have a little chat? We won't be a minute."
Kyle's façade of pleasantry had been utterly erased from his visage as he glared at his guest threateningly; with all the power that Kenny wished he could muster in himself. "Kenny has the key," he said, dryly. "It's his decision."
"Oh, is it now?" Tavin chuckled under his breath as if Kyle had just told a moderately funny joke. He took up the wristwatch in his hand and looked at it like he had forgotten it was ever there in the first place. "This was a gift, Kenny," he said, sounding very disappointed. "You would crush my act of appreciation into the dust, even though you knew how much it meant to me? To us?" He jiggled the silver watch in his hand, mourning it like a deceased child. "I'm having trouble labeling your actions in any way other than irrationally flippant."
"Don't patronize me!" Kenny shouted, but he instantly cowered away under the single hot glare that Tavin imposed upon him. He couldn't even keep himself from taking a few steps back. Anything… anything to get as far away from him as possible.
"No need to become hostile, Ken," Tavin sighed, dropping the watch back into his pocket. "I was merely expressing my deep concern for your behavior, and –"
"We can't talk about this here," Kenny interjected. Tavin went rigid, staring darkly into the thin pocket of his trench coat. Neither one of them moved and Kenny's heart pounded so hard in his chest he feared it would burst from his ribcage.
"I mean…" he amended, timidly. "Could we… please… not talk about this here… please."
Tavin remained motionless for a few tortuously long seconds. After a while, he straightened up and smiled in Kyle's direction, the manager staring back like a stone statue; cold and formidable. "I'll be back down to get my room key," Tavin explained to him, calmly. "After Mr. McCormick and I have a brief heart to heart in his room."
"It'll be waiting here for you on the counter," Kyle informed, his voice low. He took a key off of a hook just behind the register and let it clatter onto the wood with a deft drop. "I have other garbage I must be tending to. It seems to be piling up lately."
"Oh good," Tavin said, unflinching. "Wouldn't want anything else stinking up this Inn, I'm sure."
Kenny swallowed hard and hoped to all the powers that may be that Kyle knew when to control his temper and back down. Luckily, Kyle didn't push his luck, barely even flaring his nostrils in agitation. He gave one last far too quick look in Kenny's direction before climbing out from behind the counter and leaving through the dining room entrance. Tavin turned back and gestured for Kenny to get moving up the stairs, which he obeyed with diligence.
They ascended the flights of stairs together, Kenny leading the way. When they turned the corner, Stan shot out from nowhere and squeezed onto Tavin's arm, pulling him in with a rough jerk and setting his lips to the man's ear. With his brow furrowed in anger, Stan whispered many things, but Kenny couldn't hear any of them. He only watched as Tavin's mouth slowly dropped as he listened intently to whatever Stan was telling him.
When he finally let go, Tavin grinned excitedly and brushed off his coat with a nod. Stan didn't wait for Kenny to look at him; he just turned back down the stairs and sauntered all the way to the bottom, probably seeking out Kyle to discuss their new customer together. Kenny's breathing was ragged again as he scoured Tavin's eyes for any sign that might be revealing, but all he did was shoo him on with his hand.
As soon as the door clicked behind them, Tavin let out a whooping laugh. "You know, Ken," he started, wiping away an imaginary tear from his eye. "At first I was a little put off by your brusque manners towards me earlier, but seeing how protective your buddies are of you, I can't blame your conduct at all! If I knew I was surrounded by such characters, I would be overly confident as well."
He slowly meandered towards the closest chair and seated himself. "I'll tell you what, that Kyle fellow has the eyes of the devil! And it's been such an unbearably long time since I've heard threats like the ones that man just gave me! It was all rather terrifying. Ah, yes, I was in need of an adrenaline rush. I'll have to thank them later."
"How did you find me?"
"Here's a little hint, McCormick: When you run away, don't go back to your home town. I should think that one would be obvious."
"Why are you here?"
Tavin glanced up from his seat, his demeanor switching from amusement to business in less than a flash. "I would say that that's a very stupid question, Kenny."
"No," Kenny denied. "No, it's not. Because if they just wanted to get me back to New York, they would have sent Butch."
"Huh-uh," Tavin breathed, wagging his finger like a scolding parent. "No, you see… you would have killed Butch if we had sent him."
"And I won't kill you?"
Tavin erupted into a roaring guffaw and had to clutch at his sides to keep himself from slipping out of the chair. He got to his feet, staggering for a fleeting moment as he regained his balance and attempted to pacify himself. "Please, Ken," he chortled. "Comedy doesn't suit you. You should stick with what you know best. So quit it with the jokes, okay? You couldn't possibly bring yourself to kill me."
"How the fuck would you know!" Kenny screamed at the top of his lungs, lurching toward Tavin. He didn't take two steps before Tavin drew his gun from the inside of his coat. The black weapon glinted in the fluorescent light as his steady hand held it straight out from his body, aimed directly between Kenny's eyes. The blonde froze like a cornered animal.
"Now, Kenny," Tavin started, sounding agitated, keeping the gun level with his arm. He was speaking like he wanted Kenny to sympathize and pity him. "I had to skip work for this. I had to take a plane that wasn't first class just to get to Colorado. I had to take a bus down to the Bed and Breakfast. And, to be quite frank, I'm not in the best of moods at the moment. In fact, I'm quite irritable. I'm not accustomed to being treated like a second class citizen, and if I weren't on a mission here, I probably would have put a bullet into those two men downstairs."
Kenny gasped. "So I would really appreciate it – for everyone's sake – if you would just calm down," Tavin warned, keeping the gun poised with expert precision. "I would hate to have that nice man with the laundry basket to have to break out the bleach just to clean up your blood."
"Now, I know why you're here," he continued, taking the edge off his words, but not lowering the gun; it was a part of him, like a natural extension of his hand. "You wanted to see your friends and family again! That's perfectly normal; I mean, everyone's got to get away every once in a while, right? It's totally understandable. And since you're such a prominent… 'member,' I guess we should call it… of our humble work force, Boss is willing to let this infraction slide."
"What are you saying?" Kenny asked, weakly.
Tavin held up a single finger with his free hand. "One week, Ken. We're being fucking generous here, so don't say we never did anything for you. You can stay and live it up with your friends for one whole week, but after that, you're coming back with me to New York. And, of course, to make sure you don't skip out on us, I'll be staying here as well. To watch over you. Like a guardian angel." His face glinted with enamel as he bore a toothy sneer. "Isn't that sweet of me, Kenny?"
He strode towards the door, concealing his gun again, and Kenny collapsed to the ground as if being released from a strangle hold. Tavin opened the door and looked back. With a menacing smile, he reached over on the wall and flicked off the light switch. Kenny was in the corner, weeping from shock and despair, illuminated dimly by the light from the hallway. "There's the Kenny I know," Tavin mumbled, his voice giving off traces of a lascivious tone. "You look so much prettier in the dark."
When he left, he closed the door, and everything was pitch black.
Tavin fired the gun once, the echo of the explosion resonating like a clap of thunder. There was a heavy drop and a spray of crimson as Kenny broke his eyes away and retched. The small alcove rang again with bullets as he shot the gun a second and third time. Kenny was speechless and practically hyper ventilating, cursing this fate and its ephemeral propensity.
"Always shoot them more than once," Tavin was saying as he casually wiped down his pistol with a rag. "Just to be sure. I once shot a man through the head and left him here, thinking he was dead. Little did I know that I had shot him at an angle that didn't instantly kill him. He laid on that floor for three hours in excruciating agony before he finally bled to death. I actually lost a night of sleep over that one." Tavin blew some remnant dust from the gun and holstered it, staring down at the man slumped against the wall. "No, it's always fair if you shoot them more than just once."
Kenny was on his knees, trying in vain to smear away the blood that was splattered across his face. He blubbered mindlessly as he crawled on all fours over to the still warm corpse, his hands hovering absently over it… not sure if he should leave it alone or take it into his arms for one last farewell hug. Tavin cocked an eyebrow and curled his lips with distaste. "What's the matter with you?" he gawked. "You don't usually cry like this. Hey, just think, he's in a better place now; you of all people can't object to that."
"It was Granger," Kenny hiccupped.
Tavin was not moved. "Oh, boo hoo. So he was an acquaintance that was closer to you than some of the others. Get over it."
"But he was still my friend!" Kenny yelled, overpowered by the emotions surging through him. He lifted the lifeless body into his arms and held his head close, disregarding the blood seeping onto his clothes as he fondled the boy's hair. "Why kill him? He was still worth a profit!"
"He had AIDS!" Tavin shouted back, as if that were the answer to everything.
"Does that make him any less of a person?!"
"No, but it does makes him less of a profit." Tavin brushed his fingers through his brown bangs and laughed in disbelief. "What is this? After five years of being here, I'd think you'd be used to this kind of stuff."
Kenny rocked back and forth on his haunches, cradling the head of his former colleague and sobbing with heavy pants. Tavin begrudgingly gave him a minute, standing still, waiting for him to have his pointless goodbyes sated. Kenny reverently laid Granger back down onto the cold, hard concrete and sniffed.
"Take him to Cooky."
"Can't I…" Kenny wheezed, his eyes beet red with tears. "Can't I just… throw h-him in the furnace l-like I did w-with Chris?"
"That was a one time deal," Tavin reminded, dropping a large, vomit green blanket down at his side. "And besides, you know how the economy is these days. We can't afford to pass up this opportunity." He paused on the off chance that Kenny might actually say something, but all the blonde did was continue to cry. Tavin cleared his throat and headed for the stairs that led out of the secluded basement. "Take him to Cooky," he commanded again, stomping up the wooden steps.
Kenny tried to remember what it was that Granger had taught him: how to control his breathing. But he was still mastering the technique, and now, the man who taught it to him was at his feet. Instead, Kenny nearly passed out from his shallow gasps before he finally calmed down enough to pick up the blanket and unfold it. He stretched it out over the floor, trying to get back into the routine – appalled beyond all reason that this was actually starting to become nothing but a routine to him. He had trouble seeing through his watery eyes, but didn't dare wipe them away. His hands were covered with Granger's blood, and he absolutely could not be contaminated with AIDS.
He pulled the weighty corpse along the ground until it was closer to the blanket. He leaned over Granger one last time, manically using his palm to close the lifeless right eye (Granger's left one had been replaced with a gaping wound from where Tavin had shot him, the bone of his skull gleaming white against the red of the soft tissue underneath). With a cry of utter despair, Kenny applied his full force to rolling the body over onto the sheet so that it was right in the middle.
Before he furled the blanket, Kenny involuntarily took a moment to try and fathom this whole situation. With the others, he just hadn't thought about it, and managed to still fall asleep that night. But this time, the grave severity of it all struck him with all its might. Granger was here not six minutes ago, alive – sprawling and pleading for his life… but alive – and now he was gone. Almost like he had never been there in the first place. Almost like he never existed at all.
He wrapped the body up and felt himself gag a few times, but there was nothing in his stomach to throw up. With a breathless grunt, he heaved the body over his shoulder and tried to stand. A pool of blood made the concrete slick, and Kenny's foot slid out from underneath him. He landed on his knee with a dull crack and screamed out in hysterics, his body quaking so badly that he could barely attempt to stand again. With much difficulty, he finally managed to ascend the stairs, even with the heavy mass that was Granger on his back, and stumbled into the kitchen.
With a dark, vespertine glow cascading through the high windows, the boys all assembled at their benches for dinner. None of them sat until Butch gave them permission, and when he did they all eagerly took their seats. Tavin grinned on from the door, standing guard like the over seer that he was. One by one, the bowls of watery soup were distributed to each of the thirteen men as they played with their filthy spoons in anticipation.
Dante had just brought his first spoonful to his lips when Otto tapped him on the shoulder and forced him to stop. "Wait, wait," he hissed in a whisper. Dante did his best to glare, but he didn't have the strength, so he abandoned the effort and just stared on, blankly.
"Look at Kenny," Otto said, pointing.
Kenny sat by himself at the furthest end of the table, but closest to Tavin. He already had his bowl of supper, but had skidded it away from him with a half hearted push. Instead, he was using his time to read up on "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" from his pocket book of fairytales.
"Aw, fuck," Alex cursed, joining them in their assessment. He sighed and set down his own spoon. "So which one of us is missing?"
They all glanced around the table, counting heads, and asking for names.
"Granger," Evan mumbled, letting his shoulders drop as he gazed into his reflection that shimmered back through the soup. "Shit, dude." They all swallowed their hunger and pushed away their bowls with morose. All except one.
Dante stared down at the meal, latching onto the twisted spoon with an unsteady hand. The tremors coursing down the length of his arm caused ripples to shift in the bowl. He was blatantly trying to keep himself from bawling, and was failing miserably.
"They haven't fed me in days," he sobbed, his voice cracking. The others didn't say anything. They didn't even move to comfort him. One would always like to assume that they would never fall so low. But when one is starving…. With a ravenous cry, Dante leaned into the bowl and took two voracious gulps. "Granger," he wailed between spoonfuls, tears streaming from his red eyes. "I'm s-so sorry… so s-sorry…."
The other boys just focused their attentions on something else. Anything else. But no matter how much they pretended not to care, none of them could drown out Dante's pained gasps as he continued to eat. There was nothing left for any of them to say, for they were all thinking the same exact thing:
Which one of us… will be next?
"Kenny?" The first thing Kenny saw was the sliver of light that rushed in from the hallway. Silhouetted in the door was Kyle. "Kenny?" he called again, groping along the wall to find the switched and flicked it on. The darkness dispersed in a burst of light and the blonde shied away from it. He was crouching in the corner of the room in a fetal position, his face in his knees. Kyle approached him and wordlessly sat down beside him.
The red head put out his hand and slowly rubbed Kenny's back genuinely attempting to ease sanguine comfort into the tightened muscles. And it wasn't fake or forced. It was genuine concern; something that Stan and Kyle never seemed to be exhausted of. Kenny flinched at his touch, feeling the fool, the wretch, the cipher. But he didn't stop, only pulled him in tighter, until Kenny's shakes eventually died down.
"I may have majored in business," Kyle started. "But I also minored in psychology. And even if I didn't, any idiot could tell what you're going through. And it's not healthy, Kenny. This is physically and mentally damaging to you, and I can't see you reduced to this. I won't allow it."
"It's alright," Kenny waved him off, finding his voice. "I won't let him intimidate me like that anymore. I won't allow that."
"It's us against him," Kyle reinforced. "We're all your friends here, and we outnumber him. Just stay with us and you'll be fine. The best thing we can do right now is ignore him and pretend he isn't there until we can think of something more permanent."
You don't understand! Kenny shouted in his head. It's not that simple! It's never that simple!
"But we have to make sure you want us on your side." Kenny shot a bewildered stare at Kyle. His friend's visage was sad, but within the lines of his face, written into the already forming wrinkles across his brow, Kenny saw hurt and suspicion residing there. He was only 28, and yet he was so old. Whatever happened to celebratory bonfires and beers? Whatever happened to marshmallows in fire pits and friends laughing at the night? Where the fuck did those days go? Why didn't he drink? Why the fuck didn't they try harder to convince him to stay?
"Are you on our side?"
Kenny withdrew into himself again. What a loaded question. For that, there was no right answer. "I can't be allied with anybody," he responded. "I'm alone in this."
Kyle sighed and stopped rubbing Kenny's back. "I guess what I really want to ask is… did you kiss Stan yesterday?"
Kenny swallowed. He knew it'd come to this. What a joke. What was all this third degree for: a territorial display of ownership? What kind of person are you that you can ignore the person crying at your side and think only about yourself. What a joke! What a little kid you are, fighting over your playthings. Grow up, Kyle. Grow up!
"I'm not angry," Kyle assured him, accepting his friend's silence for the unmistakable yes that it was. "Did you honestly think he wouldn't tell me? I know… life's been tough. Ten years can change a whole lot of things. But it can't change friends. If you say that… if you say that you 'didn't know what else to do' then I'll believe you. I don't understand that explanation, but I'll believe you."
"I'm just surprised he stopped at the kissing." They both looked up at the doorway to see Tavin leaning against its frame, sipping from the edge of a coffee mug. When he saw that they were glaring at him, he played dumb. "I'm sorry," he said in a vitriolic sigh. "Was this a private conversation? I had no idea."
"Kyle," another voice came. This time it was Butters. He peeked hesitantly in at first before entering the room, shoving Tavin out of the way. "Kyle… Wendy's here. She just parked her car and is gathering her bags."
Tavin shrugged into his cup before adjourning to his own room and Kyle leaned over Kenny, giving him a short but caring peck on the top of his golden head. "Don't worry," he whispered, before leaving and going back down to the front door. Only Butters remained, but he nervously shifted his weight from foot to foot, obviously distraught at Kenny's current misfortune.
"Are you alright?" he asked gingerly. "Is everything going to be okay? How are you feeling, Kenny?"
Kenny pulled himself from the ground with minimal amount of struggle. He walked up to Butters, shrugging with remorse every step of the way. "I've never been better," he confessed. He broke out into a spiteful laugh and took a few steps backwards to make distance between them. Butters just stared on in wonderment, completely confused. "It's the truth," Kenny shot, throwing his arms into the air. "I have never been better. I have never been better than this!"
Before he could do anything about it, Butters lunged into him. Even though he only stood as tall as Kenny's chin, he somehow managed to surround him – enveloping him in an exponential embrace that filled the room, filled the house, filled the world! There, behind the protection of Butters' arms, he was safe. And nothing, come hell or high water, bullets or brassards, could defile him. Kenny rested his chin onto Butters, his eyes squeezing out one last tear that was different from all the others. He breathed deeply and mumbled, "This has never been better."
When they went outside, Tavin was standing outside of his door, drinking innocently from his little cup. With his arm around Butters' shoulder, Kenny felt strangely empowered. "You," he growled, jabbing a governing finger in Tavin's direction. "This entire week… to my friends, to me… you are invisible. Got that?"
Tavin stared him down for a second, peering over his glasses. After a pause, he gave an immature shrug and pursed his lips with indifference. "Sure," he said, as if it was nothing. "I'll keep the lowest profile possible. As long as you agree to stay within the premises of the Winterbloom Inn. We'll have no problems."
"Good," Kenny stuttered, hardly believing what he was hearing. He wanted to ask what the catch was, but with Butters so close, it was not a discussion to be had. Tavin wasn't the only one who intended to keep a low profile. Kenny continued on his way downstairs, feeling confidence swell in his chest; it was almost like getting away with murder.
Before they got to the stairs, Butters turned his head around and stuck out his tongue like a brat, directly in Tavin's face. Kenny clenched his fingers around Butters shoulder to warn him not to go too far, but he interpreted the cautionary squeeze for an encouraging one. He stuck both of his middle fingers into the air and waved them insolently with glee.
Tavin smirked, unfazed. He took another sip from his coffee mug and shaped his own fingers into the form a gun. Lifting his hand up, he winked one eye closed, setting his sights inescapably down Butters' heart. He drew in a short breath before hissing out through his teeth a very insinuating:
They were all standing on the porch like a welcoming committee, watching with an impatient fervor as Wendy pulled her bags from the trunk of her car. The suitcases were laden with untold riches; Kenny assumed that, anyhow, imagining that Wendy had been just as well off as everyone else had been. His own mangy duffle bag was beginning to look more and more like a proverbial spindle to which his finger was constantly pricking. He just wanted to fall into a deep sleep, surrounded by the thorns of his own past.
"Don't say anything," Stan whispered to Kenny, and the blonde stared at him with perplexity. He didn't elaborate, only returning his gaze to Wendy. The girl was tromping down the parking lot, lugging her suitcases along, looking eager to set them down and quickly. But, nonetheless, her face was risible – eyes bright, lips parted in a smile that seemed to dance in the sunlight.
She was charging straight for Stan and, clambering up the wooden steps, dropped her bags with barely even a look. They fell to the ground, unsung, making clomping sounds as they dashed against the steps and landed heavily on the gravel below. Wendy didn't care. She just threw her arms around Stan with an exalted giggle. "Oh my god," she exclaimed. "You guys look so good!"
Kyle was next to be tackled and he nearly lost his balance as Wendy threw her whole weight into him with a firm embrace. "I've been looking forward to this for so long," Wendy sighed, holding Kyle out at a viewing distance, gazing into his eyes before pulling him back in for a second hug.
Kenny couldn't help but notice the bandages wrapped around both of Wendy's forearms; stretching from elbows to wrists. He shot a questioning glance at Stan, whose only response was a transitory flicker in his smile. Kenny cleared his throat in confirmation. Don't say anything.
The guttural affirmation was enough to pry Wendy's attention from the other guests and she did a double take in Kenny's direction. Her first glance was more of a dismissive acknowledgement to the presence of someone else being within her vicinity. But the second… Wendy lifted her wide eyes up in wonderment, mouth agape. "You –" she began, losing her words for her exhilaration. "I know you."
"I should hope so," Butters said through a grin, pushing Kenny forward and closer to Wendy. "I mean, it's only been ten years. Friends don't forget friends so easily." If Kenny had been more attentive to what Butters had been saying, he would have paused to assess the boy's downhearted tone.
Wendy gasped and covered her mouth with her hands and gave a fleeting, breathy laugh. "Kenny?" she cried, overjoyed. "It's been… years – oh my god!" She flung herself into his arms and nearly squeezed the very life out of him; she hugged oddly, using primarily her shoulders and biceps. But Kenny supposed that was out of fear for damaging her tender wrists. "Why haven't you called or written? I've been worried sick over you!"
Kenny remained dutifully speechless. He still wasn't used to such endearing people being so close to him. He even found it difficult to manage a return hug without feeling the pangs of apprehension to which he was so inclined.
When Wendy finally disengaged him (it felt like ages!) she turned to face the group with an unwavering grin. "And guess who I found milling around South Park like the rat he is?" she inquired rhetorically. "He was hitching a ride from a stranger to come here anyway, and I'm just such a nice person that I couldn't let him do that, so I picked him up for myself." She nudged Kenny with her hip. "I'm sure he will be just as excited to see you, too, Ken."
"Who is he?" came a gruff snarl, accompanied by the click of a lighter and an orgasmic drag from a cigarette. His voice was harboring disdain like some childhood memory that he couldn't bear to let go, and his eyes were sunken darkly – an unsightly side effect of insomnia. But most characteristically of all was his mellifluous French accent, causing undulations in his pronunciations that could either be taken as genuine or just plain annoying.
"Christophe, don't be that way," Wendy scolded him, placing her hands on her hips. "It's Kenny, you remember?"
"Like I give a shit," he spat, smoke hazing his profile for an instant as it wafted almost romantically into the air. "I've only met the dick hole once in my life, and I make a point to promptly forget things that are worthless."
Finally, Kenny thought, feeling a disturbing satisfaction settle in on his stomach. Someone who finally understands me.
Christophe didn't bother wasting the energy to preamble even a meager hello to the others. Instead, he briskly strode toward Stan and Kyle, using his long legs to mount the three stairs onto the porch in one step. "Do you have my… effects?"
"Among other things," Kyle said, laying his hand onto Christophe's shoulder. The brunette lazily dropped his eyes down in an accusing glare before returning his gaze to Kyle. He blew out another stream of smoke, narrowly missing Kyle's face, and quietly slipped from his grasp.
"I'll be in my room."
"Uh, actually…" Stan corrected, stepping in front of him to block the door inside. "Kenny's currently occupying that space."
With a swift sneer, Christophe puffed out his chest in staunch defiance, not even attempting to hide his disapproval. "I thought we had an agreement," he said, sounding more betrayed than angry.
"We do," Kyle tried to explain. "It's just that –"
"It's fine," Kenny interrupted. The three men, each one seemingly towering above Kenny, turned to face him in mixed expressions. Kenny tore himself from Butters side and brushed past them all to the indoors. "It's fine," he assured a second time in a low whisper, and ascended the stairs to clear out his things.
Kenny closed the door to his former room behind him, another habit of his that was beginning to get on his nerves. He scanned the area with a melancholy realization that there was barely anything for him to move out. With slow, deliberate steps, Kenny circled the room, picking up his clothes from yesterday as he made his way towards the alarm clock. He reset the time as a considerate favor to Christophe before reaching under the bed and retrieving his duffle bag.
The door prattled open with a squeak of its hinges, Christophe sauntering inside. He was carrying a bag of his own that was somewhat similar to Kenny's, only gray and not dirty red. He let it slip from his arm and fall dejected to the floor. With a final drag, his lips leaked with smoke as he tapped out his cigarette in the frame of the doorway. The two of them felt at least obligated enough nod at each other as a greeting.
Christophe made his way to the other side of the bed as Kenny stood in the corner and stuffed his old clothes into his bag. The brunette, with his slumped and nonchalant posture, analyzed the living space, turning on a lamp positioned on the bed side table. "Clinophobia?" he mumbled, somewhat absently.
Kenny couldn't determine whether his repossesser was asking something or just rambling to himself. "Excuse me?" he ventured, keeping his voice low.
"Do you have Clinophobia?" Christophe inquired, more specifically and definitely more harshly. "The fear of beds." Kenny didn't answer; he wasn't sure what this interrogation was all about. Christophe rolled his eyes at Kenny's silence and ran his fingerless-gloved hand along the comforter. "I'm only asking because you've stayed here for – how long did Kyle tell me? – two days? And yet, by the looks of it, you haven't slept in this at all."
He glanced at Kenny, looking him dead in the eye with scrutiny. The blonde swallowed his thoughts, letting the silence be his answer. Christophe squinted his tired eyes and flared his nostrils. "I'm not asking the walls, here," he said forcefully. "I expect an answer. Do. You. Have. Clinophobia?"
Kenny chuckled spitefully under his breath and turned away to leave. "Genophobia," he proposed, hefting the duffle bag to his shoulder.
"Hey, Kenny," Christophe called to him, the foreign inflection in his voice making his name sound comical. Regardless, he granted his new friend a second to get whatever it was off his chest. Christophe stared him down, seemingly making sure that he had his undivided attention before bestowing upon him his mote of wisdom. "The little death," he started, waving his hand facetiously, "is nothing to be feared."
Kenny had to smirk at this. "There are only so many times you can experience death," he sighed to the clueless man, staring past his golden bangs to his feet. "…Before it finally kills you."
Back in the room, Christophe's silence was holding coda with an assiduous stance. The only goodbye Kenny received was the brief chorus of dog tags as they twinkled around Christophe's neck, staring longingly at the sheens that played so gracefully across their metal faces. "Soon," he whispered, so quietly that, at first, Kenny though he had imagined it. "I'll find you. Soon."
Nobody was at the counter when Kenny returned with his duffle bag. In fact, he hadn't seen anybody at all since he had gone upstairs. He deliberated with himself on whether or not he should wait for Kyle to return and give him the key to his new room. Though, the idea of it seemed pretty wasteful – he would just sleep on the floor again and not use the bed. There was even a thought that he should just pack up and run. But he couldn't endanger his friends like that. Who knows what Tavin would do?
Stan must have gone back to working in the garden again, for Kenny heard water running somewhere in the back; it was spraying with the pressurized force that only comes from a hose attached with a nozzle. He ignored it, coming to the conclusion that Stan wouldn't be able to get him a room key (it felt a little offensive to think this, but Kenny imagined that Kyle wore the pants in their relationship; and even if that weren't the case, Stan was so absent minded that he probably didn't even know where the keys were kept). Instead, he just leaned against the counter and waited for somebody with a little sense to show up.
After about five minutes of waiting, Kenny started to listen more intently to the ruckus going on in the back yard and started picking up on hints of laughter intermingled within the water spraying. It was unusually noisy out there for somebody to be just watering the begonias. Finally, Kenny's curiosity couldn't handle the questions vying for his attention anymore, and he straightened himself out, walking through the kitchen and out towards the back deck.
The laughter grew louder with every passing step, and Kenny began to take notice that it was Kyle's. "S-stop!" he was gasping between guffaws, his bare feet audibly padding through the grass of the yard. Stan's voice would echo in a fit of giggles himself, and the picture of the scene that was taking place was beginning to be painted in Kenny's mind.
When he finally arrived on the deck, Kenny had to stifle a breath as his eyes grew wide. It wasn't just Stan and Kyle outside, but everybody was there. Everybody. Even Christophe was poking his head out of the window from the third story. Tweek and Bebe were closer to the door and the first to pick up their heads as Kenny walked through, but quickly returned their attentions to Stan and Kyle. Wendy, Craig, and Thomas were sitting on the edge of the deck, feet planted in the ground, each one of them gulping dryly. Tavin was on the far end of the deck, the furthest away, but even he was ogling at the sight. There was something strangely voyeuristic about it all.
That was especially since Stan and Kyle were the only ones doing anything. They were in the yard, running around like little kids – Stan with the hose, mercilessly spraying Kyle as he trotted up and down the yard. He was carrying the lid to a garbage can, trying to defend himself against Stan. But between his side splitting laughter and his willingness to have fun, the make-shift shield wasn't doing much to keep him dry.
Not that there was anything else to get wet. Dripping from head to toe, Kyle was soaked through to the bone, his hair falling about his face in a tangled mess of auburn… while Stan remained completely dry.
Kenny couldn't take his eyes off of Kyle. Nobody could. Because Kyle had the misfortune of wearing a very tight, very white t-shirt. And now that it was wet, it was completely transparent, displaying Kyle's pert nipples and semi-tone torso for the world to see. He was also wearing pants whose material was extremely thin, as well as a pair of Fruit of the Loom white briefs. You knew they were briefs because Kyle's pants were white, drenched, and also completely transparent. And you knew the briefs were white because – just like everything else white that he was wearing – they too… were completely see through. It left nothing to the imagination.
Craig, out of all of them, was having the toughest time hiding his erection.
At last, Stan stopped playing and beamed triumphantly from the border of his garden, watching lustfully as Kyle threw away the garbage lid and stood standing, virtually naked. It was only then that Kyle discovered they had an audience. He looked at Stan, up to the deck, over to Tavin, up to Christophe from his perch, back across the lecherous grins of his peers, and finally, returned his gaze to Stan.
His chest heaved beneath his wet shirt and Thomas squeaked out a very breathy "cock!" and didn't even say "excuse me" after it. Kyle's face flushed away before becoming florid with embarrassment. He fists shook as he clenched them harder and harder, glaring at Stan with all the intensity he could muster.
"You fucking dick!" he shouted as best he could, his voice breaking twice under the strain of the humiliation. "I'm gonna kill you! I'm gonna fucking kill you!" Kyle's threat went unenforced as he tried to cover himself and began to sprint towards the back door. As everyone on the deck went rigid (interpret freely), Kyle skidded to a halt and rethought his plan of escape – running, while everything was… visible… was not the best idea.
"I'm gonna kill you," he yelled again, almost in tears, having no choice but to break through the crowd in order to get back inside the Bed and Breakfast. He didn't make it far, though, as his foot caught on the edge of their welcome mat and he tripped, falling to his hands and knees, right in front of Kenny. Shell shocked, the red head stayed put, his ass in the air, within groping distance of his friend. He trembled with mortification for another heart pounding moment before finally stumbling to his feet and racing inside.
"What made him think wearing all white was a good idea in the first place?" Wendy wondered out loud, not really asking anyone in particular.
Stan answered with a cruel snicker as he set the hose down. "Kyle may manage my money… but I pick out his clothes for him every morning." Kenny raised his eyebrows with a congratulatory nod. Perhaps Stan wasn't so absent minded after all. Maybe he just played dumb to keep everyone else off balance. One thing was for sure, his move today was not only ingenious, but flawless. That and:
"Kyle is going to be so pissed at you," Kenny gawked, hearing his distraught friend clatter up the stairs.
Stan shook his head and laid his arm on Kenny's shoulder. "He'll forgive me. He won't be mad later tonight after we have make-up sex."
"No, dude, I'm pretty sure he's –"
Stan slapped his palm over Kenny's mouth to keep him from finishing his sentence. "Believe me, Ken," he smirked. "He won't be mad." His confidence was so sensational that all Kenny could conjure as a response was to raise his eyebrows.
"Isn't that a great philosophy?" Tavin prodded, coming towards them with a mischievous grin. "That love can solve all problems in the end if you just play your cards right, eh, Kenny?" Silence; Stan didn't get it and Kenny was too busy being hung up on his sardonic badgering to reply. "But say, Stan, I do have a serious question, if you don't mind, that is. What is the Winterbloom's policy on meals?"
"We have breakfast everyday, delivered to your room if you prefer, of course," Stan said cheerfully. "I mean, this is a Bed and Breakfast after all. We also prepare a dinner during the evenings in the dining room, but attendance is optional. I'm sorry, but we don't offer a lunch service, if that is what you're really implying. Our budget doesn't cover that. You'll have to go into town."
"That's quite alright," Tavin said, adjusting his glasses. "I have a few errands to run in town anyway – places to go, people to see – it won't hurt to grab a bite while I'm there. My good sir, what would you recommend in South Park? Should I settle for a conventional meal, or sample some of the city's rustic Colorado culture?"
"Who do you have to meet in town?" Kenny interjected, feeling his pulse quicken. Tavin looked at him passively and smiled.
"Let's just say that Boss took your little vanishing act very personally…."
"Did I hear you're going into town, did I hear that right, you're going into town?" Tavin started with a small jump as Tweek appeared at his side, shamelessly invading the man's personal bubble. "Because if you are and you want to go someplace to eat – or get a cup of coffee – or eat – I guess it doesn't matter, they offer both, but if you're going to go into town and really want to have a great experience I would really like to recommend to you The Café Divine on the corner of 4267 Walnut Street; we have the best coffee in town and practically the United States and possibly the world as our business is on the brink of becoming global… uh… just as soon as I decide just where we're going to branch out into, it's a uh… a hard decision and way too much pressure!"
Tavin somehow channeled Bebe in some cosmic way, as his face remained plastered with a welcoming grin and he never once flinched. After Tweek was done, the brunette took the other's hand in a hearty shake. "Well, you've convinced me, sir! I think I'll do just that. Walnut Street, you say? You'll definitely have my business within the hour, friend."
"I did?" Tweek stuttered, blinking. "I mean… I did! Yes, of course I did! Jesus Christ, Bebe! Bebe, guess what I did? You'll never guess!" Tavin let go and walked proudly from the deck and back inside, leaving Tweek to dash after Bebe in an ecstatic frenzy.
"Yes, Mr. Tweak," Bebe conceded. "It's quite an amazing feat. You should be proud of yourself." She broke away and turned to face Stan. The man seemed to shy away; he loved being the center of attention, but only when there was applause to be had. All this management stuff wasn't particularly his forte, and it soon became clear that he was mentally floundering without Kyle. "Stan, what is it that you'll be having for dinner today?"
"Uh, hamburgers I think, but –"
"Hamburgers?!" Craig exclaimed, jumping up from his seated position. "Are you serious? Score, dude! My favorite! Hey… hey, can Thomas and I make them? Like on a grill and all that shit? We'll pop a few beers and have make a party out of it, what do you say?"
"P-party?" Stan warbled, thinking it over. "I'm not sure if Kyle would… I mean, what exactly do you mean by party? And besides we haven't even bought the ingredients yet…."
"Aw, shit!" Thomas spat, covering his mouth. "Excuse me. Stan, if it you're worried about us handling your grill and cooking materials, then it's perfectly alright. I can – fuck! Ass fuck! – excuse me. I can handle all that stuff, no problem. I work as a chef in a local – bitch! – a local restaurant back in L.A. I'll make sure Craig behaves."
"Dude, you really work as a chef?"
"Yeah," Thomas admitted, folding his hands behind his back nervously. "It's the only place I can work that I can get off having a mouth like mine. Sh-shit! Excuse me."
"Yeah, but," Stan started, hesitantly. "You're our paying guests and we… well, Kyle always says…." He desperately looked up at one of the third story windows, the one with floral curtains, and Kenny could only assume that that was their own personal room. However, Stan's silent pleas for help went unanswered.
"Oh yeah, well I own a house in L.A. and Dallas as well as one here in Colorado," Tweek shouted from the far end of the deck, not even sorry that he was brazenly eavesdropping. "And I got all that money to buy those houses by owning a successful chain of coffee places that are about to go global!" The unspoken "beat that!" went without saying.
The deck erupted into screams as everybody threw their hands over their heads and ducked to the floor. Tweek jumped as a result and started screaming as well. He backed into the railing of the deck, hectically searching the area for whatever it was that was causing everyone else to shout. "Why is he holding a gun?!" Kenny yelled over the chaos, pointing at Tweek's armed hand.
Bebe turned around and grappled Tweek's wrist, prying the loaded Taurus Millennium away from him with a roll of her eyes. "It's mine," she stated, trying to calm everyone down. "It's my gun. I just asked him to hold it while I looked in my purse for a pen."
"Okay, number one:" Stan began, holding up a finger for emphasis. "Why would you ever in your life think it was a good idea to give Tweek a gun, even if it was just for a second? And two: why do you even have a gun in your purse to begin with?"
Bebe looked at them all, her face blank with a serious visage. "I work for Mr. Tweak," she explained with a shrug. The group let out a sigh of relief, nodding to each other in understanding. That was the only explanation she needed to give. Who knew what could happen when you were Tweek's underling.
"So, dude," Craig gawked, after they all had gotten up from the ground. "Have you ever, like… killed anybody?"
"No," Bebe answered quickly, stuffing the pistol back into her purse. She glanced around at everybody, only the slightest hint of nervousness manifesting itself as a bead of sweat on her brow. "…Technically."
"Technically?" Thomas ejected. "Shit! Fuck!"
Wendy bolted to her feet, standing between Bebe and her accusers. "My client's movements were not premeditated at all. It was purely an accident – she simply confused her acceleration pedal for her brake when she ran that poor man over."
"Yeah!" Tweek added, his voice shrill and none too convincing. Then, under his breath, "He doesn't call me a fucking cocaine addict anymore, now does he?"
"That was your defense?" Stan scoffed, completely composing himself from what he was before. "I read about that case. The man who Bebe ran over was a competitor for Tweek's budding company that just so happened to be on bad terms with him. And the best you could come up with was 'my foot slipped?'"
"It happens in cases all the time!" Wendy argued back, taking a threatening step forward. Stan held his ground.
"Yeah, in which the perpetrator is in the age group of 50 to 60 years. You can't back up an affidavit with blatant demur."
"It was a high stress situation in which Bebe lost her head and was unable to control her reaction time!"
"Witnesses claimed she had a good ten seconds to apply her brake after she initially accelerated, which would have at least decreased her momentum, increased the duration of impact, and lessened the force applied to a level that was not fatal. That is… if she didn't have the intention to kill."
Wendy's face grew red and she gritted her jaw furiously. "Well, that litigation is six years old now, and Bebe paid what she owed. Regardless of whatever evidence you may be proposing, the fact still stands that I won!"
"Yeah, by the skin of your teeth and a four day jury delegation."
"Okay, Stan!" Wendy shrieked, throwing her hands into the air, her eyes growing red with tears. "So you graduated Valedictorian from our class, bravo, congratulations! Are you ever going to let that down? You're always just going to keep that in your back pocket and bring it out to rub in my face whenever you want, huh? Well guess what, Stan? Guess who has a job as a lawyer, and guess who works at a fucking Bed and Breakfast?!"
She ran her bandaged wrist against her cheek to catch any renegade tears and stormed from the deck. When she was gone, Kenny whistled in awe. "Man," he said, wryly. "You're just pissing everyone off today."
Stan faced him, mouth ajar, eyes wide, and with that ambivalent expression… shrugged.
"So…" Bebe drawled, bringing attention back to her. "Hamburgers for dinner then? Well, Mr. Tweak, looks like you'll be having another salad."
"No," Tweek twitched, and Bebe literally stopped dead in her tracks, looking dumbfounded.
"But, Mr. Tweak," she said in disbelief. "You don't eat red meat."
"I want to try it," he demanded, his eyes set hotly upon Craig. He took a moment to lick his dry lips. "It's… it's my new favorite."
Bebe let out a very tired sounding breath and retrieved her purse again. Her high heels clicked against the wood of the deck as she headed back towards the entrance of the house. Kenny waved at her, trying to flag her down. "Are you okay?" he asked. He figured it would be the right thing to say, seeing as nobody was paying any attention to her. And he knew exactly what they felt like.
"Yes, I'm fine," Bebe responded, rubbing her temples with her fingers. "There goes Mr. Tweak's vegan streak. Salads were so much easier to make, but now I'm going to have to start actually cooking things for him."
She tried to continue on her way, but Kenny took her gently by the shoulder. "Why do you let him boss you around like that?" he mumbled, furrowing his eyebrows in concern. Bebe looked him in the eye, but only briefly, before pulling away with a sigh.
"Because he is my boss," she said, walking inside.
"Okay, okay!" Stan raised his voice. He was holding up his hands in defeat and backing away from Craig. "The two of you can make the burgers, but the fact still stands that I haven't gotten to buying any of the ingredients yet, and I still have to do damage control with Wendy and… and with Kyle. So, in for a penny in for pound. Go buy the ground beef and shit while you're at it."
"What?" Craig sneered, turning his nose up. "I didn't sign up for that!"
"I'll go into town." Butters came from the gate in the garden, letting it swing closed behind him with a rickety bang.
"Really?" Stan implored, utterly thankful. "You'd do that?"
Butters smiled and brushed his hand through his hair. "Hey, that's what you've been paying me to do, right? Run errands? And it's not like I have anything better to do, you know?"
Kenny stared at him as he perched himself against the outside railing of the deck, placing his head in his arms. "Where'd you come from?" he asked.
"Well," Butters said, shortly. "When a man and a woman love each other very much, they decide to ruin their lives by having a child…." He trailed off, feeling Kenny's scorching leer upon him. He cocked his head to one side with an innocent smirk. "Okay, I've been watching from the fence. Kyle's pretty easy on the eyes, no?"
"Enough!" Stan growled, growing weary of his joke – the initial prank was hilarious, but the after effects so far have been undesirable. "Butters, you go into town and buy the materials, I have a list already made. When he's back, at 4:30, Craig and Thomas, you will start making dinner and have it ready by 5:00. I'll go manage the cash register until Kyle's done being pissy, and Wendy will just have to wait for an apology until I'm done being busy." He threw his fist up at the floral curtains. "Ha! Take that! I can handle things on my own every once in a while!"
"You know, Kenny," Butters hinted, nudging the other blonde with his elbow. "That offer from yesterday still stands. My bike can fit two, if you wanna tag along."
With a half hearted smile, Kenny averted his gaze to the floor. "I… I can't."
"Oh," Butters nodded, sadly. "I understand. Just thought it would be nice to spend time with you."
"Just fuck him already," Craig groaned, linking arms with Thomas and striding back inside the house. "You both know you want to."
"Okay, well," Butters said, waving him off (Craig returned the gesture with his middle finger). "I won't be leaving right away. I still have a few hours. You can rethink your decision and come back to me with the correct answer next time." He patted Kenny on the shoulder before disappearing inside.
Back in the Bed and Breakfast, Kenny walked in on Stan at the front counter. He was talking to another customer that had just arrived, and if his memory didn't fail him, that customer was none other than Clyde Donovan. Brown hair, brown eyes, medium height, nasally voice… Clyde Donovan.
"You been waiting here long?" Stan was asking, apologetically.
"Long enough to see Kyle run upstairs dripping and practically naked," Clyde answered, tactlessly. "I didn't need to see that, but Craig did tell me that you guys can get wild. Though, I guess it's more fun for people like you as opposed to people like me."
"Speaking of," Stan commented, either trying to make small talk, or trying to distract Clyde long enough for him to figure out how to use the register. "How's the wife and kids? They doing alright?"
Clyde swallowed and looked away. "Yeah," he answered hesitantly. "From what I've seen of them."
"From what you've seen of them?" Stan echoed, perfunctory. He finally solved the riddle of the register and handed Clyde his key to the room he would be staying in. Clyde took it with an apathetic visage.
"I've been on a road trip. Haven't seen much of them for a while."
"Okay, well," Stan said. "I hope you enjoy your stay and get back to your family soon!"
Clyde's face was deadpan, getting lost in the cadence of a memory growing far too distant for his liking. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but couldn't bring himself to open his mouth. After a long while, he at last picked up his bags and started for the stairs, glancing over his shoulder. "Me too."
On his way down, Clyde and Christophe passed one another, giving themselves a nod of acknowledgment as they parted ways. For a fleeting instant, Kenny could have sworn the two of them looked exactly the same, right down to their melancholy expressions. Christophe stomped into the vestibule, a cigarette in one hand, his other playing absently with his dog tags. He didn't stop to chat, only kept on his way.
"I'm going into town," he tossed at Stan, who waved goodbye with a silent twitch of his hand. Christophe said nothing to Kenny.
"Don't mind him," Stan consoled as soon as the Frenchman was out of earshot. He toyed with the register for a bit, an odd smile thin across his lips – it wasn't one of happiness, but more complaisant restraint. "Christophe…" he tried to explain, visibly distressed by the limited number of explanations he could use. "Christophe is a man on a mission. He doesn't really have the time, or the energy, for other people right now."
Kenny scratched his head, using that as an excuse to avert his gaze. "I don't blame him," he said. "We all have missions, in one way or another."
Towards the back of the house, a door squeaked open, and the sound of footsteps coming up from the basement beat through the air. Stan inexplicably found himself to be busy again, his hands lighting over papers that he never actually did anything with; he would just pick them up and set them down elsewhere. It may have been ten years, but that nervous habit still hadn't been broken, and Kenny could see right passed Stan's disarming grin as he distracted himself.
Tavin appeared around the corner and gave out a fake gasp of surprise. "Oh my," he breathed, removing his glasses and wiping them down with his shirt. "I always seem to be interrupting the two of you."
"What were you doing in the basement?" Stan shot hurriedly. Tavin was slightly taken aback by his hostile tone, raising his eyebrows at the accusation.
"My coat was dirty from yesterday," the brunette put forward, guarding his words with reflection. "I heard there was a laundry machine downstairs, so I thought I'd wash it."
"I do the laundry."
Tavin smirked dismissively and took a step forward. "Thank you for telling me, but there's a certain way I prefer my clothes to be washed –"
"You could have told me," Stan yapped. "I could have done it. I do the laundry. Either me or Kyle, nobody else." Now, even Kenny was looking at Stan with suspicion. Beneath their stares, Stan withdrew into himself, returning to organizing the papers on the counter for a few seconds, his mind searching for a way to salvage the situation. "Y-you know," he continued in a forced laugh. "You're our customers. You're supposed to relax."
Neither Tavin nor Kenny was convinced.
Stan looked between the two of them a few times with uneasy eyes, before finally mumbling, "I need to go get Kyle." As he stumbled from behind the counter and up the stairs, Tavin grabbed Kenny's upper arm and pulled him aside into the dining room, just in front of the cellar door.
"What's going on?" Kenny hissed through his teeth. "I thought you said you were going into town."
"I will, I will," Tavin said, speaking as one would to a child. He shoved him along playfully towards the top of the steps. "I just want to show you something first."
The basement was pitch dark, all except for the light from the upstairs and a small green mote of a bulb on the washing machine in the corner. The large metal box hummed and vibrated loudly, sounding like it was on its last breath – Kyle probably had been too cheap to buy a new one. Kenny trained his eyes onto that green light, probing his right hand in front of him in the dark while skimming his left hand along the railing so as to not lose his balance and fall. Tavin confidently trailed behind him, standing at the foot of the steps even as Kenny ventured out further into the blackness.
"What's this all about?" Kenny asked, stupidly, still groping the air with his hands to catch any obstructions. He was answered with a burst of light as Tavin clicked on the over head light. It flickered weakly at first before gaining strength and casting its artificial glow on the cellar.
Kenny jumped in terror, spinning on his heels to take in the whole sight as his breathing became labored. The wooden staircase; the cement blocks that made up the walls; the cold, hard concrete beneath his feet; it was all frighteningly reminiscent of the basement back in the brothels of New York. The air was heavy with a moldy undertone, but Kenny's memory still triggered his brain into thinking he smelled blood. He glared at Tavin, wide eyed and startled. This is what he wanted to show him. He wanted him to see the similarities and be reminded of where he belonged.
Back in the far wall, a subtle difference caught Kenny's attention. He addled hid way toward it, trying to focus his attention away to anything that wasn't his past. He noticed that the wall here was two different shades of gray. No… not two different colors… a few of the bricks, stretching from the floor all the way to the ceiling, spanning a little less than six feet, were newer than the rest of the blocks. It was a miniscule variation, but just noticeable enough to call attention to itself.
However, there wasn't any more time to investigate, as Kenny felt a presence at his back. Tavin wrapped his arm around Kenny's chest and held him close, reaching down with his other hand to begin undoing his jeans. Before he could even react fully, Tavin already had his onerous hand down into the confines of Kenny's pants, setting his fingers around him.
Kenny lurched away with a cry, backing against the wall, sprawling his hands out in shock. Tavin gave a deprecating shake of his head and loomed even higher above Kenny. "You said one week," the blonde choked, feeling defenseless.
"Oh, come on, Ken," Tavin whispered, seductive, empowered. "I have needs too, you know. I promise I won't make it bad. I'll even be gentle this time." He caressed Kenny's trembling face with the back of his hand, feeling the feverish heat enflamed by his touch. Kenny retreated even further into himself and cowered away.
"Stop," he pleaded, his heart racing.
"I swear you'll enjoy it."
"I said stop!"
In a ferocious surge of clout, Kenny exploded outward, practically hurling Tavin away from his and off of his feet. The brunette staggered backwards, a drop of blood tracing down from the corner of his mouth – he had bitten his tongue in the skirmish.
Tavin reacted immediately. He seized Kenny by his neck and slammed the hapless victim into the wall, the concrete bricks shuddering under the force of impact. "Now, you listen here, fucker!" he shouted, shaking Kenny furiously and bruising his trachea. "I've just about had it with you and your bitchy attitude! I'm this close – this close! – to dragging you kicking and screaming back to Boss, right now! All I wanted was a little relief from my stress! It isn't like you aren't used to it!"
Kenny offered no response but for the hushed cries of a wounded animal. His back stung with a sharp pain and he was coughing beneath Tavin's unyielding grip. "If you want to be that way," Tavin grumbled menacingly, pulling Kenny away from the wall and lifting him by his throat into the air. "Then be that way!"
With a heaving grunt, Tavin launched Kenny into the wall. The concrete bricks slid out from underneath themselves and gave way as Kenny's feeble body collided with them. All of the wind was knocked from his lungs and his vision went blurry even as Tavin trudged back up the stairs. In a crumpled ball, a mere shell of what he was, Kenny laid on the floor, gasping for breath.
His mind was an angry fog of malicious retribution. He was so blinded by maniacal rage that he barely even registered what was behind the fallen wall. He saw the fabric. He smelled the odor. Kenny couldn't process the sight and resorted to running from the basement as fast as his legs could carry him.
Butters was out in the parking lot. He cheerfully went about his business, readying his motorcycle for his ride into town, the list of materials Stan had written sitting snuggly in his jacket pocket. He put on his helmet, pulled down the visor and revved the engine a few times. That was what he loved most. That was the sound of the road. The sound of freedom. He was just about to peel out from gravel and onto the asphalt when he felt an extra weight sit itself behind him.
Even as Kenny's arms wrapped around him, Butters felt his heart leap. Kenny carelessly dug his face into Butters' shoulder, blinking away the wetness from his eyes and folding his hands securely to the other's torso. "Drive," Kenny commanded, his voice sounding small and far away.
Butters tried his hardest to contain his excitement. "You… I don't have an extra helmet."
That was all he coaxing he needed. With a few more revs of the bike, Butters and Kenny tore from the parking lot in a cloud of dust, heading straight into South Park.
"Let's get right down to business," Tavin started, entering the room with Butch close behind. He took his position at the front of the group of boys where a chalk board was stationed. Numbers were etched onto the black surface with a powdery white beneath the names of all thirteen men.
Most of the attendants were standing, but others, like Dante and Robert, who were still relatively green-horns, had to sit. They were already weak in the knees, and seeing their small numbers up on the board, they were beginning to lose hope. Kenny, too was sitting cross-legged, but only because he had just come from a job and was feeling woozy still. The one's who were standing, the experienced employees, had already lost all of their hope. Now all they saw were numbers. White numbers and endless tunnels that never seemed to have a light at the end of them.
They were all different heights and complexions with different types of hair length and color. But one thing they all shared in common was their thin bodies and the sweat that seeped from their every pore (customer approval claimed that they preferred it when their flesh was hot, so Boss made sure they stayed hot). Some were wearing torn shirts, and some wore nothing at all. Though, none of them were clothed from the waist down.
"Numbers don't lie, people," Tavin was stating excitedly. He picked up a piece of chalk and gestured toward the name 'Scott' that was scribed atop the moist slate. "Scott, my friend, it seems that you're still in the lead with 4,893 points. Kenny…" The blonde jerked at the sound of his name, lifting his expectant eyes up to Tavin who stared back with a ribald grin. "You are second with 4,322 points."
Nobody clapped. Nobody cheered. What was the point? They were all essentially rivals struggling for the same end. Besides, none of them had the energy to do more than breathe and keep standing. Tavin scanned the faces of the dejected youth until he finally spotted Scott within the crowd.
"Scott," he called. "Would you come to the front, please?" Scott didn't move and Kenny twisted his neck to one side to see him, panting in the steam of the over heated room. Tavin tapped his foot impatiently, his arms crossed over his chest, glaring over his glasses. "Scott! Scott! For the love of god! Butch… go bring Scott here."
The large man broke away and waded through the huddled gathering like a man among children, standing tall and foreboding with his bulging muscles and bald head. He took Scott by the collar, nearly ripping apart the moth-eaten threads, and hefted him center stage. From there, Tavin gave him a disapproving once over.
Scott was sleek with sweat, more so than the other boys, and his eyes were dull and hazy. He wobbled on his feet, barely able to keep his balance, and more than once he had to have Butch force him upright after falling against him. He was shivering uncontrollably; so much so that his very frame quaked and trembled with bone jarring intensity.
"Scott," Tavin began again, peering at him with a click of his tongue. "You're not sick, are you?"
The boy opened his mouth and dry heaved a few times before catching his breath. "N-no," he slurred, none too convincingly. "I… I'm going through with… withdrawal, sir."
"We can't have you behaving like this," Tavin chastised. "It's bad for business." He took an eraser into his hand and waved it a few times in the air, coercing Scott to speak. The boy could not. "Well? What is it that you need?"
"I'm f-f-fine, sir. Please, don't… don't…."
"I said," Tavin growled, brandishing the eraser almost as if it were a weapon. "What is it that you need?"
Scott swallowed and went into spasms again. His legs gave out beneath him and he collapsed to the floor. His back convulsed and his neck snapped into place as his body locked itself rigid. With a gut wrenching squelch, he vomited all over the ground. Spitting the acrid bile from his mouth, he begged at the top of his lungs, "Oxycotton!"
"Butch," Tavin said, pointing toward the door. "OxyContin, please. Third shelf to the right." Butch grunted wordlessly and left the room.
Tavin checked his shoes for any stray sick that may have splattered towards him before kneeling down and helping Scott to his feet. "It's alright, son," he cooed, grappling with the teenage train wreck, attempting to steady him. "We'll get you your fix, and you'll be back on your feet in no time. You… do know, however, that OxyContin costs 2,000 points to purchase?"
"Alright then," Tavin shrugged. With a deft stroke of his eraser, he smeared away the 4,893 and replaced it with 2,893. Butch returned swiftly, looking a little humorous waddling in his typically wide gait. He held in his palm four white pills, two of which he stuffed down Scotts throat and two he placed into the teen's quivering fingers. "There you go," Tavin sang with a clap of his hands. "Now, you're scheduled for an appointment in five minutes. Please try to get a hold of yourself before then. You'll be in room seven, as always, Scott."
The boy swaggered away, obediently heading for the door. His shoulder slammed into the frame as he lost his stability, and he idled there to wipe the remnant vomit from his lips onto his forearm. He stared at his palm and two treasure capsules there. With barely a moment of debate, Scott downed the last two pills he should have saved for later and tripped into the hallway. Panting and sickly, he stumbled his way towards room seven.
"Kenny," Tavin called again, leaning over the blonde haired man with affection. "You know what this means? You're first now. Congratulations. You're the best."
The best? Kenny thought, his head reeling. He smiled wide with accomplishment and wheezed out a thrilled laugh. He had beaten Scott. He was the best! Out of all the boys there, everyone loved him the most! They all loved him! This was the most exciting day of his life! The best! The best!
"I knew you could do it," Tavin whispered, lovingly. He extended his hand toward Kenny, who nodded his cheek into the embrace eagerly like an attention starved kitten. Tavin smirked, letting Kenny take his hand and rub it. He stroked his golden hair like a trained pet, and Kenny relished the endearing touch of his fingers. "You have always been my favorite," Tavin said, pulling away his hand. Kenny whimpered in almost genuine orgasm.
That touch was more passionate than making love. More sought after than sex. For sex loses its appeal when it is your job. When it is your life.
There were still three and a half hours before Butters and Kenny had to be back at Winterbloom with the groceries for Craig and Thomas. They both figured that they could risk spending a little more time catching up with each other.
Of classy places to spend an afternoon, South Park's local Get Go was not high on Kenny's list – but who could turn down a good slushy? And besides, Butters seemed excited enough for both of them, so he supposed he could grin and bear it.
The slushy machine whirred as Butters lost himself in the spinning axils of plastic that churned the ice and colors and artificial flavors all together. Kenny watched as Butters fumbled with his medium sized cup and licked his lips in anticipation. He placed his cup down beneath the cherry flavored ice, filled the cup up half way, and then slid it over to the blueberry side and topped the container off the rest of the way. He drifted backwards, gawking at the mixture as the two colors slowly melted into one another, creating a tie-dye solution.
Kenny smiled a bemused grin before he moved in and settled for just cherry. "I can't imagine that would taste very good," he commented, retrieving a straw from one of the holders and making his way towards the counter to purchase.
Butters took a sip, the melding colors starting to form a pale brown. He winced away and stuck out his tongue in disgust. "It doesn't…."
"Then why would you do that?" Kenny laughed sincerely. Butters reached into his pocket and took out a wad of bills, ciphering out a few ones to pay for the slushies. He leaned himself against the front counter, twirling his cup as if it were an expensive wine.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," he said in mock grandeur.
"Three dollars and seventy-nine cents, please," the Get Go employee droned. His eyes mooned over almost as if he would fall asleep right then and there. Butters gave him four dollars in cash before returning his attention to Kenny.
"So… you come here often?"
Kenny snickered at the stupid question, playing along. "It's not as esteemed as a café in France," he started, motioning towards Butters. "But they always have my favorite beverage."
"Oh, France!" Butters breathed in delectation. He arched his spine, stretching himself and sighing dreamily. "I would love to see Paris some day."
Kenny let a half hearted chuckle escape his lips – Butters was too much sometimes. His laugh, however, slowly died off as he realized that Butters was being completely serious, looking at him with those sky blue eyes that were full of masked hurt. "You…" Kenny started, the words escaping him for their perceived silliness. "You've already been to Paris."
A look of sudden realization washed itself over Butters face as he recoiled in understanding. For an instant, he looked confused, gathering up his 21 cents in change from the cash register. His visage was quickly replaced with a joviant smile and he laughed heartily. "Well, duh!" he said. "I meant with you, stupid!"
"Ha!" Kenny scoffed, sucking more of the red drink through his straw. "Don't hold your breath."
"Would you hold it for me?"
Kenny opened his mouth to respond, but his lips were enveloped with Butters' as the smaller man lifted himself up onto his toes, locking them into a kiss. He breathed sharply through his nostrils, the unsuspected act of compassion taking him totally off guard. He didn't kiss back. He couldn't. It was all too sudden.
When Butters finally pulled away (it seemed like hours), Kenny was breathless and wide eyed. It was the twinkling chime of the front door's bell that broke him from his trance, and he raced to catch up with Butters, already out on the sidewalk.
Butters was staring into his hand, making the coins jump in his palm like a bored toddler. All at once, he tossed the change into the air and purposely moved his hand away so that all of the silver shimmered to the ground, scattering across the pavement. Kenny didn't ask why.
"You know," the other began, his slushy now completely brown. "I don't really want this anymore." He squinted his eyes against the sunlight and scanned the area. About twenty feet away was The Café Divine, Tweek's own chain of business. But that's not what Butters was leering at. Kenny followed his line of vision to a man in a police officer's uniform, drinking daintily from a china tea cup. "Is that Officer Barbrady?" Butters asked, a malignant tone coating his voice.
"I think so," Kenny answered, even though Butters had already begun tromping towards the man. "I didn't know he was still serving."
"Officer Barbrady?" Butters called from behind the man.
Kenny choked on a gasp as Butters dumped the shit-colored concoction all over the man with a malevolent smirk. As soon as he did it, he pivoted sharply and waved his arms at Kenny. "Hey, you asshole!" Barbrady shouted, standing up and dripping with slushy.
"Go, go, go!" Butters guffawed, pointing to the bike parked right next to the door. Kenny hesitated, shocked from what his friend had just done, but he complied nonetheless. Butters leaped over the seat and started the engine, roaring out of the Get Go and onto the street, going ten miles an hour over the speed limit.
"I don't think he's actually following us!" Kenny shouted over the wind as the road vanished beneath their tires, South Park whizzing by in a blur. Butters' only response was an exhilarated laugh as he put the peddle to the medal, continuing to increase his speed. The ribbon of the road snaked its way along until eventually the buildings became darker and less new. They were headed out of the town proper straight into the part of the city.
Eventually Butters slowed to a stop, unable to catch his breath from the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Kenny wanted to hit him across the head… but in all honesty, he had never had such a rush before. He almost sorta wished the cops had been chasing them. But, if Barbrady was still Barbrady, the only thing he did was go home to get a change of clothes.
"Hey, look," Butters murmured, throwing out the kickstand and getting off his motorcycle. "Isn't that the church?"
Kenny looked to see a tall skeleton of a building. It had been stripped of its outer layers, bare beams and supports just barely staying up. Milky plastic coated the outside at some places, but most of it just flapped freely in the wind. Looking at it – having no prior knowledge of the town – you wouldn't have been able to tell it was a church except for the lone steeple, jagging out like a rotted tooth among bones.
Off to one side, not far from the street, bulldozers sat lifeless. "They're tearing it down," Kenny gawked, connecting the pieces together.
Butters shrugged, kicking a few rocks at his feet. "Things change," he stated, matter-of-factly. The two blondes entered the old church, their footfalls echoing cheerlessly across the brittle plywood that replaced the once stone foundation. The shell was musty with the scent of sawdust.
"Speaking of which," Kenny groaned, taking a seat on a pile of discarded pews. "You've certainly changed since the last time I saw you. Cute, little Butters… traveling the world to find his purpose! That would make a good fairytale."
The other boy's face lit up with coquettish fervor. "You want to see pictures?" Before Kenny could say yes, Butters was back out at his bike, scrounging around in a bag until he pulled out two binders with three inch wide spines. He jogged back in, still beaming brightly, and set down the photo books, in front of Kenny's lap on what used to be an altar, opening the first one to the front page.
Butters paced back and forth as Kenny perused the photographs, smiling warmly at all the exotic places. He wasn't lying when he said he had been to France; there Butter's was, in front of the Eiffel Tower with… some man. A man about their age. They had their arms wrapped around each other. Becoming suspicious, Kenny pulled the picture out and flipped it over. Written on the back in black sharpie was: "Anton – 23 years old – Taken November 7th – Great kisser; poor sex – Gave you book on graffiti art for Christmas."
"Who is this?" Kenny asked, holding the picture up for Butters to see. He tried his hardest to keep the anger from creeping into his voice, but failed. The other boy stopped dead in his tracks, mouth agape as he stared at the picture, blankly.
"A…" he started, stumbling over his alibi. "A roommate. Couldn't afford a hotel back then, so I bummed around with… him for a few… months."
Kenny sifted through the pages, coming across a title headed "Tokyo, Japan." The first picture there was of Butters and another man, only this time, Butters was kissing him on the cheek. Kenny pointed to that one beneath the laminated sheen and growled. "And who's this?"
Butters looked away. "A roommate."
"And this guy?"
"Just a roommate."
"And these two men from London? Just roommates?"
"What do you want from me?" Butters cried, whirling around and throwing his arms out to his side. "What's with the sudden interrogation? Can't you just look at the god damn pictures?"
Kenny held up the picture of Anton that was still in his hand. "Who is this?"
"I already told you, a –"
"I don't want to know," Kenny shouted, shaking the photograph, "if he was a roommate or not! I want to know what his name was."
Butters staggered backwards, shocked that Kenny was actually yelling at him. He couldn't form words under the pressure – only shaking his head.
"Who is he?"
"I don't know."
"And this man?" Kenny said, pointing to another picture. "What's his name?"
"I… I don't know."
Kenny shot up from his seat and kicked the pew with all of his might. The wood splintered and the booth fell backwards with a noisy clatter. He gritted his teeth and clenched his hands into fists, creasing the photo his hand with a stale crinkle. He had no idea how else to express his rage. "Butters," he hissed slowly, forcing himself to look the man in the eye. "You mean to tell me… that you slept with all of these people…"
Kenny's fury melted away beneath his forming tears, and his voice cracked. "You slept with these men and you… you don't even remember any of their names?"
"I don't know!" Butters clasped his hands over his ears and turned away.
"I thought you were different!" Kenny screamed, throwing down the picture. "But you're just the same as all the others! You'll feed off of my libido until you've had your fill and then you'll just skip town, off on your next big adventure with your newest, hapless boy toy! Then when you're tired of him, you'll snap a picture, and run away again, huh?! What are we, just a collection of pretty faces for your scrap book?!"
"I don't know!"
"They all just leave in end," Kenny sputtered, losing his breath. "They come and they go and come and go, but they always leave when the night is over. And you're left alone on your stained bed with your stained body, hating to see them go but wishing them good riddance! So many times they rip your heart apart you begin doubting whether you had one at all!"
"That's not me!" Butters pleaded, becoming hysterical. "I have problems."
"What kind of problems could you have that could ever justify this?"
Butters stayed silent. He sobbed with hot tears and tried to speak. "I can't help it. I have Huntingdon's Disease."
Kenny instantly fell away, his visage wiped clean of expression. Butters stared at his feet, composing himself and stopping the flow of his tears with a sniff. When he looked up again, he tried to explain. "It's a disorder… like dementia. It's heredity, it… it runs in my family. I was diagnosed years ago, back in the first semester of my second year of college. After that, I… I didn't know what to do so I… I just ran."
The boy sat down in another pew, derided and hopeless. He cradled his head in his hands. "I lose my memory, Kenny," he continued, merciless tears streaking down his cheeks. "Sometimes it's not so bad. Sometimes I forget things I didn't want to remember. But it's getting worse. I'm losing my memory faster than before. I started taking pictures… to help remind me where I've been. What I've done. When we met on the road, I didn't tell you it was me… not because I thought it would be awkward. But because I didn't recognize you."
Butters wept and picked up the photo albums into his arms, letting his sadness wet them with quiet drips. "The pictures jog my memory sometimes. But not always." He opened one of the binders and rifled through the pages, faster and faster, desperately searching for something – anything – that looked familiar to him. "I've been all over the world," he cried through the gasps. "And I can't even remember being to any of these places!"
He shouted at the top of his lungs, throwing the albums to the ground, kicking up dust and debris into the air. With a final gasp, Butters' knees buckled beneath him and he collapsed into the pew.
Kenny, bewildered and ashamed, hovered over him. He reached out his hand, but pulled it back. He opened his mouth to say something, but didn't. He wanted to sit down next to him and… do something. But he couldn't think of anything to do. Nothing.
Just how do you show someone you care?
How do you comfort a person without the fallback of sex?
"You just don't get it!" Tweek was shouting as Kenny and Butters returned to the Winterbloom Bed and Breakfast. It had been a difficult task keeping the plastic bags of groceries in place on a motorcycle, but somehow they had managed. It was also hard to hold onto each other and not instantly break down into desolated sobs laden with lament. But again, somehow, they managed.
"What's not to get?" Kyle asked, keeping his voice calm. He had changed his clothes from before, working the Inn's ledger at the counter with lassitude. Stan was in the hallway, sweeping up dust mites with an embittered but relieved face – he was either avoiding Kyle, or they had already made up and that morning's debacle was now just a thing of the past. Tweek, however, could not keep still, wringing his hands and darting his eyes to and fro.
Tweek's attention was first caught by Craig and Thomas as they entered through the kitchen. They greeted everybody in their own way (a middle finger and a bitten off curse word) before taking the bags from Butters and Kenny and inspecting the foodstuffs therein. It was only then that Tweek realized the other two blondes were there. He sort of twitched in annoyance and leaned in closer to Kyle, trying to keep his voice to a whisper.
"Please," he begged, unusually cool and collected. "I'll pay you double what I offered last year. Just sign the papers and sell the Winterbloom to me."
"Money isn't the issue, Tweek," Kyle stated loudly, unafraid of being overheard. "Stan and I won't sell you this place. It's ours."
"You'll still be managers! I'll make you managers! You can still run the whole place just the way you've always done, the only difference will be becoming a branch of my company, and you'll even be paid a steady salary on top of what you'll get for the land, so what the fuck is wrong with this deal? Jesus Christ!"
Kyle smiled glibly, shaking his head. "That's not the point," he mumbled, gazing into nothingness as he reminisced. "This place isn't just our business. It's our life. It's who we are. It's the closest thing we have to a child and our one and only refuge from the world. Well… among other things."
Wendy and Clyde stepped through the door from the deck and headed into the dining room. Kenny couldn't help but hear their conversation.
"Why do you keep running from me?" Clyde mumbled, reaching out touch Wendy. The black haired girl jerked away with an angry glower.
"I have a restraining order, you know. I'd ask you to please respect it."
"I just wanted to see you again," Clyde continued, following Wendy into the vestibule with everyone else. He caught up with her and clutched her arm, staring at the bandages around her wrists with empathy. "What did you do to yourself?"
Wendy wrenched away, furious. "Can't you just leave me alone? Don't you have other women you could be bothering right now? What would your wife think? Wasn't one divorce enough for you?"
Clyde went limp and furrowed his brow. "Is one enough for you?"
Wendy breathed in a sharp gasp. She swiped her hand towards Clyde, slapping him hard across the cheek. As he stood, stunned from the seemingly unprovoked act of aggression, Wendy bolted for the stairs. "You don't know anything about me!" she cried, holding onto the railing as she ascended to her room. Clyde merely limped away to the outside porch.
"Aw, shit!" Thomas sneezed, clutching the bag of groceries firmly against his chest. "It's not like she was even serious."
"What's that?" Craig asked, only half there. Most of his attention was focused on Tweek.
"Wendy wasn't serious," Thomas repeated, even though he knew all too well that Craig wasn't listening. "She did it wrong. You're supposed to go down the street, not across the road."
Craig snapped from his trance at this and looked down to Thomas who spat out another obscenity. "And just how would you know that?" he asked, authentically concerned. Thomas didn't answer. He just turned his back and left through the kitchen, sorting through their ingredients in spiteful silence.
"I'm sorry, Tweek," Kyle said again with finality. "We're not selling."
Tweek expressed his apparent defeat with a slam of his fists onto the counter top. Kyle didn't even jump at the outburst, mildly smiling disarmingly. "Bebe!" Tweek shrieked, leaving through the dining room with childish stomps.
"You won't sell?" Kenny implored, seeing this as an opportunity he might not get again.
"This Bed and Breakfast has a lot of memories with it," Kyle responded, glancing longingly at Stan who grinned back playfully. "You can sell possessions, but you can't sell attachments."
"Does this have anything to do with the skeletons in your basement?"
Kyle laughed, returning his attention to the register. "No, Kenny, I believe the correct saying is: skeletons in your closet."
"No," Kenny said, shortly. "That's not what I meant."
Kyle's smirk was instantly dashed from his face, his pupils dilating in understanding. He quickly shot a glance at Stan who was standing rigid at the broom. They wordlessly conversed with their eyes until, at last, Stan set the broom against the wall and made swift steps toward the basement door. Kyle reformed the grin across his lips, but couldn't hide the bead of sweat dripping from his brow. "Thank you for going into town for us," he said, his voice quivering ever so slightly.
Kenny nodded, trailing behind Butters as he went upstairs. The other blonde ground his key into the door of his room, but let his hand fall to his side without turning it. "It's so strange," Butters mused aloud, staring at the doorknob.
"What is?" Kenny asked, getting as close as he possibly dared.
"Everyone here," Butters began, his bright eyes glazing over in thought. "They're all so full of love… and yet everyone is so heartbroken. Two things that can never easily coexist." His conclusion hung in the air for a few moments before it settled into a bittersweet smile and a drop of his eyes to the floor, before he swung his attention back to the lock and entered his room.
There was still a good hour until dinner, so Kenny and Butters decided to relax. "Relax" here being defined as sitting in Butters' room together on the bed, reading from Kenny's hard bound pocket book of fairytales.
At one point, Kenny went downstairs to get Butters a glass of water. He halted gingerly on the second floor flight of stairs as he heard Stan and Kyle conversing together at the register. Their voices were low with degradation.
"I told you," Stan was saying, his words coming off sharper than he intended. "Stacking the bricks wasn't good enough. You have to use mortar to be sure they stay in place."
"Stan, it was years ago," Kyle huffed, and Kenny could imagine he was pinching the brim of his nose. "We barely had enough money for the cement blocks let alone mortar."
"See what it's come to?"
"Yeah, well, I didn't necessarily expect people to be here throwing themselves against the walls of our basement!"
There was a pause as Kyle sighed, audibly releasing tension from his over taxed muscles. "No," he revised, feeling ashamed. "You're right, Stan. You're absolutely right. This is all my fault. If only I had been smarter… we wouldn't have had to buy the mortar… we wouldn't have had to buy the bricks! If it wasn't for my stupidity… none of this would ever have happened."
Clothes ruffled as Stan pulled Kyle in for a hug. The "Don't blame yourself" was unspoken, but even Kenny could feel it in the air. They kissed and Stan sighed.
"I'm sorry," he forfeited with an overly dramatic drawl.
"For showing off your amazingly sexy body to everyone at the Inn in some cruel and utterly immature joke this morning."
"That reminds me… you promised me make-up sex!"
Kenny smiled softly to himself and headed back up the stairs. He could get water from the bathroom sink. Besides, Stan and Kyle seemed busy, and he didn't want to interrupt them.
Butters was still in bed when he got back, so they continued the story of "Beauty and the Beast." It seemed a very apt tale to tell, in Kenny's mind at least. He didn't really know if they had finished reading it out loud – at some point they must have both fallen asleep. Though, their rest didn't last long.
The door to Butters' room flew open with a resounding crack as it had been kicked open. Kenny jolted from his slumber, but his eyes were hazy and couldn't see anything. Despite the sudden intrusion, he took the time to rub his eyes to clear away the fog. There was a shriek of pain from Butters as the bed creaked and got suddenly lighter. At the sound of his voice, Kenny's eyes shot open, instantly alert, just in time to see Tavin… dragging Butters by his hair from the bedroom doorway.
Tavin led the way down the stairs with Butters behind him, clasping his hands over his attackers arm as the roots of his hair were being pulled. Butters couldn't stand upright and had to tumble along the steps behind Tavin, bruising himself all the way down with sickening thuds and screams of agony. Kenny was right on his heels, trying to catch up, but by the time he had made it to the first floor, Tavin was already outside, skidding Butters across the hard gravel without any remorse for his well being.
The commotion was loud enough to summon everyone at the Winterbloom to the porch, racing in exigent worry, called by the screams from one of their friends. Tavin halted in the middle of the parking lot and aimed his gun at the crowd. "None of you move!" he commanded, and even the struggling Butters went limp with obedience.
"Tavin," Kenny called, trying to remain calm for Butters' sake. "Don't do anything rash, please."
"I had one rule," the brunette reminded with a dilapidated shrug. "Don't leave the Inn. That's it. But when I go into town and sit down for a nice, refreshing cup of coffee, what is the first thing I see? You and this… fucker… calling attention to yourselves by spilling drinks on cops and riding off into the sunset! Did I not specifically tell you that you were to stay put?"
"Yes, he did go into town," Kyle admitted, holding up his hands in a subconscious defense mechanism. "But Kenny came back. He didn't do anything in town. The police aren't looking for him. He didn't run away or anything. We can… we can settle this like civilized people."
"Don't preach to me," Tavin smirked, totting the pistol in his grasp, giving Butters' hair a not so gentle tug. "I had a little chat with Boss, Kenny. He says the deal is off. You're to come back with me right now. And, you know," he placed the gun to his captive's head, "I really think you'd want to comply."
Kenny was shaking with rage. It was one thing to threaten him… but threatening others. He could not stand for that. He had to do something. He had to do something. Kyle was saying a few things, but Kenny couldn't hear him. It wouldn't matter, anyway. Words didn't work on Tavin.
"We can do a little trade," Tavin proposed, still holding the gun to Butters' skull. "You give me Kenny and I'll hand over this faggot." Kenny's eyes glinted passionately. Tavin must have seen this because his grin grew wider and more malicious. "Or…" he started again, enjoying the tension he was causing. "We could do a different trade. You keep Kenny… and I take this one back to New York instead."
"No!" Kenny shouted, bolting from the porch. He had to force himself to stop as Tavin pressed the gun harder, causing Butters to cower in timorous deportment.
Tavin straightened out his back and redirected his crosshairs, setting his sights on Kenny, glaring down the barrel of the gun with glee. "Which will it be," he mused, his finger on the trigger. "You've got five seconds before everyone dies; starting with this blonde and ending with you. Just so you can have the pleasure of watching all your friends bleed to death before your miserable life is finally –"
Tavin's elbow snapped and the pistol fell to the ground. It was followed by a hard back hand to his nose and a right jab across the face. His head was bloodied again as a tone forearm smashed into him, sending him sprawling to the ground. A dark commando boot kicked away Tavin's gun and there was a tiny clack from a lighter being lit.
"I go away for a couple of minutes and everything goes to shit," Christophe growled, taking in a triumphant drag from his cig, standing tall above the beaten aggressor. The rest of the gang hurriedly flew towards the scene, picking Butters up from the ground and pulling him away to safety.
Kenny remained idle, shell shocked and stunned. Butters' life was that close… that close to ending. It was unbelievable. Unbearable. He looked down to his feet and his heart pounded in his chest as he saw Bebe's discarded purse still there upon the porch. He took slow, deliberate steps toward it and reached inside.
The group was hushed and Kenny stepped forward, his face darkened with an irreproachable scowl. Even the birds seemed to quiet as he towered above Tavin, Bebe's Taurus Millennium quivering in his tightened grip. He got down to one knee and inched the muzzle of the gun directly beneath Tavin's chin. Nobody moved to stop him.
"What?" Tavin wheezed, his broken nose trailing a single drop of blood down his mouth. "You're going to shoot me? After all we've been through?"
Tavin laughed, even with the pistol gouging into his trachea. "That's rich! That's funny! It really is, Kenny! It's hilarious!"
"You can't kill me," Tavin assured, remaining confident, peering over the brims of his glasses with glimmering eyes. "You don't have what it takes. You're a coward. You've always been a coward. That's why it's always been so easy to control you these past ten years. You couldn't fend for yourself, and you can't now."
"You can't kill me," Tavin grumbled again, grinning through his teeth. "You're powerless against someone like me."
Kenny moved the gun and placed the tip of it right in the middle of Tavin's forehead. He clenched his jaw and hissed, "You'd be surprised how much power someone can have… when the gun is in the other hand."
"Oh, please, Kenny, spare me the –"
Kenny got to his feet, aiming the gun again.
It was only fair to shoot them more than once.
Kenny shot him again. A fifth time. A sixth time. It was only fair. A seventh time. An eighth time. Only fair. A ninth. A tenth. The gun was empty, but that didn't stop Kenny from pulling the trigger.
Click. Click, click. Click… click, click, click, click click click click clickclickclickclick!
"Kenny!" Kyle called, taking the weeping boy's hand in his own. "I think he's dead now. You can stop. It's over." Kenny let the pistol fall from his fingers with a pained gasp, feeling the tears burn as they streamed past his eyes.
It's over? It's over?
It is never over….
The pain was almost too much to bear. This man was insane.
Kenny was tied to the bed post so tightly that his wrists were already raw. He could do nothing but scream as the knife cut into him, just enough to draw blood but not enough to kill. He was naked and defenseless, being used for the pleasure of a deranged psychopath.
It was then that the man drew the gun. He shot it once at the ceiling to prove that it was loaded before stuffing it into Kenny's mouth and down his throat. He couldn't drown out the laughs as the man continued to rape him.
Somebody help me, Kenny cried in his mind. Please, god, this is too much!
Something like this had never happened to Kenny before. In his ten years of imprisonment in this fucking hell hole, his life was never this much in danger. He had never been more frightened in his entire life. The man toyed maniacally with the trigger, playing a game of chicken, relishing Kenny's muffled whimpers as he tried to beg for his life.
The door to room number four burst open and Butch grappled the man by his torso, lifting him off and out of Kenny with a bloody wrench. Tavin quickly followed, forcing the customer to hand over his pistol.
"I'm sorry, sir," Tavin said. "But this is strictly against the rules."
"I paid my money!" the crazed man shouted, fighting against Butch's hold. "Even double the price! You can't kick me out."
"Who said anything about that?" Tavin scoffed, raising an eyebrow. He removed the clip from the gun and poured out the remaining bullets before snapping it back in place. He pocketed the metal slugs into his trench coat and Butch let the man go. "Here," Tavin said, giving the man back his pistol. "You can keep the gun, you can keep the knife, just don't kill him, alright?"
"Tavin!" Kenny shrieked, writhing beneath his bonds as they grew crimson with his bleeding flesh. "Tavin, please! Stop this! I'm scared, so scared!"
The brunette glanced at him briefly before returning his attention to the customer. "You may continue," he stated, following Butch out the door and closing it behind him with a deft slam.
The insane man once again shoved the barrel of the pistol back into Kenny's mouth and went to work with the knife, carving morbidly beautiful patterns into the soft, pale skin. Kenny could do nothing but cry.
As soon as his wounds had healed, Kenny collected everything that he still owned into his lone, red duffle bag, and in the early morning, while everyone was still asleep… he ran.
"So…" Kyle began, absolutely stymied. "All of this time… all of these years… you've been in New York? Trafficked into a prostitution ring?"
All Kenny could muster in response was a half hearted nod.
"It's almost too much to believe, I… I don't know what to say."
Neither did Kenny.
They continued down the stairs into the basement. Stan had offered to collect Tavin's remains and join them in a minute. Everyone else had adjourned for the evening except for Kyle, Kenny, and Christophe.
The Frenchman was ahead of Kyle and Kenny, already turning on the light for the cellar and making his way towards the collapsed wall. From there, he unceremoniously grabbed the already rotting corpse as it festered in its dingy clothes, bones already starting to show behind the melting flesh. He tossed it to one side and began digging through the rubble.
"You keep dead bodies behind false walls in your basement?" Kenny asked, still in a daze. Kyle tried to smile comfortingly, but failed. Kenny watched as Christophe disappeared behind the wall and came back out carrying an AK-47 and an ammo box full of grenades.
Kyle shrugged, slowly rubbing Kenny's back in a consoling gesture.
"Among other things…."
End of Part Two