"Mom, it's fine. I'll be okay by myself tonight, I swear."

"Thomas, sweetie, you're only nine."

"Shit! Cock! Mom, I'll be fine on my own. Go have some fun."

His mother hesitates, then finally nods. She's beautiful in her white slitted dress, her hair piled up on her head, eyes glittering and cheeks flushed from the thrill.

"You look great, mom," Thomas tells her.

She smiles.

"Shitcock!" he blurts.

Her smile falls. She kisses him on the cheek.

"If you need anything, anything at all-"

"Your phone number is on the fridge. Dad's number is –fuckshitcock! – below it. Cocksucker," he mutters under his breath. The last one might not be a result of his neurological disease, and his mother knows it. She flicks him on the head before opening the door.

Her eyes have stopped glittering. He knows and she knows that even if the date goes well, she won't be able to bring this 'Adam' from work home, ever, because Thomas's oddness will drive him away. It drives everyone away.

"I'll be back by midnight. Don't wait up, Thomas, you have a group meeting tomorrow morning."

She's like Cinderella, his mom is, and he wonders if she knows it.

Once she's out the door, he heads for the TV and flicks it on to his favorite cartoon, Red Racer. They don't have the money for a sitter (his dad's been, well, stingy about child support, and his mom's waitress gig doesn't pay the big bucks). He's used to being on his own. At North Park Elementary, the other kids usually avoid him like the plague. Jealousy, mostly, topped off by annoyance when his verbal tics interrupt their conversations.

"Fuck," he mutters under his breath. Why can't he shout something nice, like, 'Daisies!' or, 'Puppies!' Then his mom wouldn't have to be embarrassed at all. "Shit! Cock! Shit!"

The phone rings, on the coffee table. He stares at it, hesitating for a few seconds. His mom says he's not supposed to answer the phone when she's gone, but he can always lie and say she's in the shower . . .

He picks it up out of the cradle. "Hello? Shitcock!" Oh, fuck, he thinks.

"Thomas?"

There is a certain amount of reverence in Craig's voice.

"Yeah. That's me. Who else randomly shouts obscenities?"

Craig chuckles over the phone line. "You are so cool. So, hey, can I come over? I said I would do your laundry sometime."

He gave the kid his phone number yesterday, after all the dateline shit was over. He didn't think Craig was serious.

"You want to come over. And do my laundry."

"Yes. Totally. Or we could just hang out. That would make me soooo happy. But I wouldn't mind doing your laundry, dude."

"I live in North Park. Cock!"

"North Park? You're one of those poser fags?"

"Uh . . . yeah."

"Fuck."

Craig groans through the phone.

"But you're still really cool, don't worry," Craig assures him. "So, what're you doing right now?"

"Er- shit – watching T.V."

"Whatcha watching?"

Is it just him, or is he turning Craig into a teenage fangirl?

"Red Racer. It's my favorite show."

Craig is quiet for a few seconds.

"Craig? Uh-"

"Marry me," Craig says.

"Cock!" Thomas takes a second to further his response. "Um, no thanks?"

"I'm not joking," Craig says in his flat monotone. "Marry me. I know we have to wait until we're eighteen and we have to move to Massachusetts or something, but you have to marry me."

"Cocksucker."

"Hey!"

"I have Tourette's, remember?"

"That time was fake."

"Cock – shit cock – uh, you'll never find out."

Craig laughs, which is approximately the coolest sound Thomas has ever heard. It's such an optimistic sound coming from the snarky, nasally voice.

"Which episode is it?"

"It's the episode where Red Racer's sister gets kidnapped by Blue Racer, and he has to race Blue Racer to get her back. "

"Dude," Craig says, genuine excitement in his voice. "They're rerunning that episode? That's one of my favorite episodes!"

"It's on the cartoon channel. Cock!"

He hears Craig flipping through the channels.

"Ah," Craig sighs. "It's on commercial break. This is a damn good episode. The most recent episode is the best so far, though. The one where he starts the tournament, and the Red and Purple Racers are also in it, and he has to race against his best friend White Racer and he looses but he gets back in-"

"I haven't seen the most recent episode yet. Cockshit!"

"Oh. Oops. Um. You have to see it."

They talk about Red Racer a little bit more. Apparently, Craig even has the cosplay for it, which makes Thomas mutter, 'cocksucker,' under his breath again, and Craig laughs and threatens to kill him. The episode comes back on, but since they've both seen it they keep talking while they watch.

"Is your mom home?" Craig asks.

"No. Fuckshit! She's on a date with this dude she met at work."

"A date?"

He has the civility not to ask any more.

"You're supposed to tell your friends when you're mom's gonna be out, dude. How else would you hang out and get into the slasher movies?"

"Uh – cock!"

"Close, but no. So you're alone?"

"Yeah."

"I hate being alone in my house. It's just weird."

"Yeah," Thomas says. "Cock! Shit! Cock! I'm kind of afraid of the dark."

"You are?"

Outside, thunder cracks. Thomas almost laughs at the absurdity and over-doneness of the situation.

"Yeah, I am, but it's not a big deal, I think most kids are. Fuck!"

"They probably are," Craig admits. Then, "Okay. I promised I would do your laundry. I'm coming over."

"What?"

"I'm coming over to your house."

"Right now?"

"Yup."

"It's like nine o clock!"

"Oh no. I forgot about the mutant zombies that come out at exactly nine o clock."

"What're you going to tell your parents? Fuck! Shit! Shiiiit!"

"I won't tell them anything. I'll just say I'm going to bed."

"How will you get here, then?"

"I'll walk."

"North Park is like twelve miles away!"

"I'll walk fast."

"But-" Thomas can't think of anything else. "Cocksucker! Shitcock! What are you thinking, Craig?"

"I'm thinking," Craig says, his voice hard, "That it sucks to be by yourself, dude."

Thomas is quiet.

Then,

"I'm not a pussy. You don't have to baby me."

"I'm not!" Craig snaps. "I'm just . . . doing your laundry for you, okay? Like I said I would."

Thomas stares at the television screen in front of him. Red Racer steals his sister back from the evil Blue Racer. The little voices chatter away on screen.

"Hey," Thomas says. "What you said – fuckshit! – what you said before-"

"I said a lot of things before."

"You know, how about you're supposed to tell your friends when your parents aren't home. Shitcock! Does this mean we're . . friends?"

"Not at all," Craig says, but with enough sarcastic and amusement for Thomas to realize he's joking. "I'll bring The Hills Have Eyes. What's your address?"

Thomas tells him.

"See you soon."

He clicks off. Thomas stares at his phone for his few seconds. He knows that there's no way Craig will actually walk twelve miles to come visit him in the middle of the night, and even if he does it'll be like five hours and Thomas's mom will probably be home by then and she'll throw a fit and be so pissed after her date and aw, jeez-

But either way, Thomas can't help but curl up on the couch, his heart fluttering in his chest. His friend. Craig. Is coming. To visit.

He falls asleep there, Red Racer still blaring.

XXX

There is a hand over his mouth, thick fingers keeping him from screaming. Another hand curls around his waist and drags him back against someone's chest. Muffled shrieks spill from his mouth, but he can't yank away to give a real screech for help.

The phone rings. Thomas glances wildly at it. The digital clock next to the phone's cradle blazes through the dark living room. It's 11:53. And forty-eight seconds.

The phone rings again.

He can feel someone's hot breath on his cheek. It smells like peppermint.

Third ring.

Fingernails curl into the flesh of his arm, the sleeve of his pressed, geeky shirt yanked back.

Fourth ring.

The person holding deliberately slides a finger up and down Thomas's arm. A whimper escapes him.

Fifth ring.

He can't see whoever's holding him, can't tell what they look like, but they're huge and strong and they won't let him go-

Sixth ring.

It's hard to breath through just his nose, and he's struggling for breath, struggling through the fear-

Seventh ring-

And it goes to voicemail.

"Thomas, sweetie? It's me, mommy." Her clear voice filters through the phone's speakers. "I know you're probably asleep, which is why you didn't answer- well, anyway, I'm just calling to say I had a wonderful time on my date. Adam's a real sweetie. Anyway . . . I'm going back to his place tonight, darling. I'll be home tomorrow by seven, just in time to take you to your group meeting. I'm just calling to make sure you don't get worried when you wake up. Goodnight, sweetheart. Sleep tight."

The phone clicks off.

The person holding him starts to chuckle. Low and gravelly. "Adam's one of my best buddies," the person behind him says, his voice a definite masculine rumble. "I asked him to ask her out for tonight so I could have you all to myself."

Thomas doesn't struggle. He's been beaten up enough by kids at school to know he can't fight back, it'll only make them angrier. He knows this is different, but he's too freaked out to take this more than one step at a time.

The part of this situation that makes him feel sickest is that this guy has screwed with his mom's hopes for happiness yet again. He's just one of the fuckers making things harder for his mom, the way people always do. This thought makes his insides churn.

"Hello, cute billy one-eighty-two," the person holding him whispers. "It's me, DaddyHello six-six-six-three."

Thomas can't help it, he tries to squirm out from under Hello's grip. Hello laughs, his lips brushing Thomas's jaw line.

"You might have fooled all the other freaks in the chat room, but I wasn't smart enough to go to the address you gave everyone. I ran it through Google, came up with Dateline. That was a nice touch, by the way. I watched the whole thing on TV last night. Laughed my ass off the entire time. Fucking morons."

"Then I used your IP address to track down your house. I knew all those computer classes at the community college would be useful. Lucky for me my buddy Adam knows your mom. And that's how I got here, hmmm, cute billy one-eighty-two. And now I have you. All to myself."

"Lmmgff mefff mggommfff!"

"Your name is Thomas, right? Such a cute name."

Thomas has to start laboring the breath. Hello recognizes the need for air.

"I'll release you, kid, but if you scream, I'll hurt you, and I'll kill whoever comes to help you. Understand?"

Thomas nods.

The hands around him relax. Thomas wrenches himself from Hello's grasp, sucks in air, and scrambles back until he hits the far armrest. Hello stretches over the couch, menacing, smiling. He's about twice as large as Thomas imagined him to be. He's maybe in his mid to late thirties, all muscle, with shaggy brown hair and a flashing white smile.

Thomas trembles, but he doesn't scream. He believes Hello when he says he would kill whoever comes to help him.

"You have Tourette's, right?" Hello whispers. "Say something sweet for me, Thomas."

Thomas opens his mouth, to tell him to shut up or something, but all that comes out is, "Cocksucker! Shit! Faggot-ass cocksucker! Fuckshitcock!" He clamps his hands over his mouth.

Hello chuckles. "Aw, man, I am so turned on right now."

"Get out of my house," Thomas breaths. "Cock! Get out of my house right now!"

"Come on, Thomas." Hello reaches forward and lets his fingers trail over Thomas's cheek. Thomas shivers. "Don't be like that. We'll have fun."

"You're a pedophile. I think those two statements are mutually exclusive." Thomas barks out, "Shitcock! Just get out of my house, man, or I'll – fuckshit! – call the cops."

"You're not going to call the cops, Thomas."

A chill runs down Thomas's spine at the genuinely threatening hint in Hello's voice.

"Besides," Hello's voice goes soft again. "I'm not like those other freaks who killed themselves."

"Really?" Thomas snaps. "Then what the hell are you doing in my house? Cock!"

Hello grins wide.

The phone is behind Hello.

Thomas wonders the likelihood of him reaching it, dialing the cops, and then evading Hello's wrath while he waits for them to show up. Very, very small.

"Please don't do anything to me," he whispers, hoping to appeal to the last shred of sanity in Hello's fucked-up mind.

"Don't worry." Hello strokes his cheek. "I'll make sure you have fun, Thomas. You've just got to do something for me, first."

XXX

Powerless. Helpless. That's how Thomas feels, that's how Thomas is. On his knees in front of Hello, Hello sitting back with his legs spread, slouching into their living room couch. It's worse than anything. It's worse than everything.

And Hello's dick is jammed in his mouth, and it's the most disgusting thing in the world. Hello warns him if he bites, he'll regret it, and Thomas doesn't doubt him. The bruises already forming on his neck, his wrists, and his shoulders prove Hello is more than willing to physically force him to do whatever the hell he wants.

He has no idea what the fuck he's doing. Hello, smirking, encourages him, directs him. He keeps his hands wrapped around Thomas's neck and tangled in his hair, so even if Thomas wanted to risk Hello's fury and yank back, he couldn't. Thomas is choking on Hello, and his insides are screaming and twisting and his heart is pounding in fear and shame and it's the most disgusting thing ever and god oh god oh god oh god oh-

And Hello finally comes in his mouth and releases Thomas, and Thomas falls back and smashes against the coffee table, spluttering and spitting and crying, tears rolling down his cheek. Hello picks him up and cradles him and tells him it's going to be okay, that he did an excellent job for someone with no practice and Hello is very proud of him.

"And," Hello adds, "I'll make sure you get plenty of practice later, back at my house."

Thomas freezes.

"Oh, yeah, Thomas, sweetheart." Hello pats him on the head. "You're far too cute to pass up. You're coming back to my place to hang with the other kids in my basement, okay? Don't worry. It'll be fun. And you won't have to go to school!"

"C-cock!" Thomas entire body starts to tremble. He wriggles from Hello's grasp yet again. "Shitcock! Don't touch me! Don't fucking touch me, you pedo freak!"

Hello's eyes darken and he raises his fist.

"Hey, Thomas, guess what-"

They both turn at the sound of the door opening and a young boy's nasally voice.

Craig takes in the tear stains running down Thomas's cheek, the cum dribbling over his chin, the bruises on his bare arms and back. He looks at Hello, who's still grinning sadistically with his fists still raised and his jeans still unzipped.

"Okay," Craig says in a flat monotone. "Whatever the hell is going on here, I don't know, and I don't want to know. I just want to go home. My house is right down the street. I just want to go home and forget I ever saw this. I swear I will not remember any of this later. I'm just going to walk away."

He turns and walks out of the house, shutting the door behind him. The blunt honesty in Craig's words makes Thomas feel more alone than he's ever been.

"Looks like your little friend knows his place," Hello whispers into Thomas's ear. "But don't worry, kid. When we're finished here I'll take him back to my house along with you so you'll have your friend with you."

Thomas is still rigid, eyes blank.

"Take off your pants, kid."

"No." Thomas breathes, still staring at the door, still staring at the place where Craig, his only real (fake) friend had left him.

"It'll be fun. You'll enjoy it. Take off your pants, kid!"

"No!" he shrieks.

The hand clamps down over his mouth again. Another hand flips him over onto his stomach, stretched out on the couch. Hello starts to drag his pants down.

"Stay still and be quiet," he pants out, "And this will be much easier for all of us, understand, Thomas, sweetie."

Thomas whimpers but doesn't scream.

"That's a good boy." And then Hello pats him on the head.

Something inside Thomas snaps. With a roar, he jams his elbow back, smashing it into Hello's eye. Hello releases him, screaming in pain. Thomas staggers to his feet, yanking his jeans back up and stumbling for the kitchen. He clambers up onto the counter and grabs a butcher's knife. He stays on the counter, socks almost slipping off the shiny surface. His breath comes in ragged gasps. Hello stalks towards him, his fists clenched.

"You're sure gonna get it now, Thomas," he says, not noticing or not caring about the knife.

And then something roars to life in the gloom behind him.

Hello turns and Thomas can barely make out something metallic and glittery before the groaning thing – a chainsaw – makes contact with his leg.

Blood spurts. Hello hits the ground, screaming. The chainsaw comes down on his back, biting into his flesh. He puts up his hands to push the attacker off, but Thomas jumps down on him and jams the butcher's knife into his back.

Hello collapses to the ground, gurgling blood. Behind him, Craig pants, trembling under the weight of the chainsaw. He lets it die down and drops it to the ground. The metal squeals as it collides with the wooden floor.

Thomas's knees hit the floor opposite Craig. Blood pools around his legs, but he's still too adrenalized, too pumped-up to care.

"Help me," Hello gasps out, the blood in his throat mangling his words to the point of incomprehensibility. Crimson gushes from his back and his left leg. It soaks his clothes and mats over his skin and hair. He tries to reach out for Thomas, but Thomas scoots away. The chainsaw hums, the only sound other than Hello's labored breathing. The metal teeth ripped off almost his entire left leg. A split of flesh connects it to the rest of his body.

It takes him a full three minutes to bleed out.

When Hello's breathing stops, Craig runs bleach over the chainsaw and returns it to the neighbors' house.

"Why didn't you call the police?" Thomas whispers.

"Can't trust police," Craig says shortly.

"Maybe not in South Park, but in North Park we can. Fuck! Shitcock!"

Craig shrugs. "Still can't trust them. And they would tell people what happened." He reaches out, across Hello's dead body, and touches Thomas's cheek. It's nothing like when Hello touched him. It's not false reassurance. It's real affection, real tenderness.

Hello deluded his own fucked up mind into thinking he cared about Thomas. Craig's isn't screwing himself. He's real. He's Thomas's friend.

Thomas shivers.

"And I don't think you'd want people to know."

Thomas nods dumbly.

"My mom can't find out," he whispers finally. "If she finds out, she'll be ruined, destroyed forever. She'll never go out again. She'll hate herself for the rest of her life. Shit!"

Craig scoots around the dead body and hugs him. They're both drenched in Hello's blood. Thomas flinches when Craig presses against his bruises, but doesn't pull away.

"Fuck," he mutters under his breath, and it's not his tourette's, it's just this whole fucked up situation.

XXX

This is Craig's fourth time burying a dead body. His first was when he was five. He tells Thomas this as they dig the whole in the neighbor's backyard for Hello's body.

"That's fucked up," Thomas mumbles, the shovel heavy in his hands as he swings clayish, frozen mud over his head.

"I'm not the record holder, not by far. Stan currently has the record at twelve. Bebe's a close second at ten. It's all because of the cannibal incident back in second grade that's she's doing so well, really."

Craig rests for a second, leaning on the handle of his shovel.

"But this is the first time I've killed someone."

"South Park is fucked up."

"I know."

XXX

They don't speak anymore, not until they roll the dead body in, first extracting his wallet.

Craig hands Thomas the fifty dollars in cash he finds, and Thomas takes it without debate. Craig also pulls out a business card. Hello's real name is on the card but neither of them can stomach it.

"He was a stock broker," Craig says.

The card has an address on it.

Thomas tells him about the kids Hello claimed to have locked in his basement.

"Oh." Craig readjusts his hat and tosses aside his shovel.

XXX

Craig rode his dad's bike. That's how he got to North Park so fast. Because of the slick ice, they have to pedal super-slowly. Thomas perches behind him, his arms wrapped around Craig's waist. There's barely enough room on the seat for both of them and it's way big, even with the seat pushed down as far as it will go.

Craig picks the lock to break into Hello's house.

XXX

There are eleven little kids in the basement, six little girls and five little boys, aged between twelve to barely older than three.

They let them out. Some haven't eaten in a week. They're all grimy, covered with blood and other filth, reeking of their own fear.

Thomas raids the fridge and finds enough sandwich material to feed all of them. They all live(d?) within Park county. They walk the kids to police station and then ditch them, making the kids promise not to tell the police what the people who set them free look like.

With any luck, the police won't be able to track Thomas down by anything in Hello's house.

XXX

It's three o clock in the morning by the time they get back to Thomas's house. He's exhausted, but no way in hell can he sleep.

Shower. He needs a fucking shower. He makes Craig go first because Craig's absolutely soaked in Hello's blood. It's gritty, rusty red, in his hair clothes, splattered across his face.

While Craig showers, Thomas bleaches and scrubs the wooden floor until he's soaped up every trace of Hello's blood and his own.

Craig comes out dressed in towel. Thomas lends him some of his clothes, which hang baggy on the three-inches-smaller-and-stick-thin Craig. He hops into the shower after him and uses up the rest of the hot water. He scrubs away the blood and the cum, but no matter how hard he tries, he can't get rid of the shame and the memories.

The bruises, at least, will heal on their own.

He fetches his pajamas from his bedroom. By the time he returns downstairs, Craig has started a fire in their neglected fireplace and has already tossed his old clothes in.

"Give me yours. You'll have to lie to your mom. Or something."

Thomas obeys.

XXX

It's almost four o clock by the time all clean up is done. He heats up leftovers, mashed potatoes and chicken. Craig pops his movie into the DVD player. It's The Hills Have Eyes, the remake, and up until tonight it would be approximately the scariest thing Thomas has ever seen. Now, though, he's numb to the violence, flinching only slightly at the graphic rape scene (which hits a little too close to home) and smiling slightly in triumph when one of the main characters succeeds at this or that.

It's nothing like when it's real.

When it's real, you can feel the blood spatter. Your muscles ache from effort, ache from being tensed for so long. Your whole body fights to throw off the waves of fear, but they paralyze you. Your heartbeat throbs through the world. When it's real, it's your own hands drenched with lifeblood, your own body bearing the bruises, your own teeth chattering and your own eyes wide and your own breath harsh and -

Craig sits as far from him on the couch as possible, although they do manage to share the blanket. He turns it down until the volume is a barest whisper on screen.

"I wasn't going to leave you, you know. I just had to trick him-"

"I know. Cock! Shit!" Thomas clamps his hands over his mouth and keeps his eyes trained on the screen.

"What he did-"

"I don't want to talk about it."

They watch the movie in silence for a few more minutes. Finally, Craig crawls over to him and forces Thomas to look at him.

"I know we had to kill him. And it really sucked. And I'm sorry." His lower lip trembles.

Thomas figures Craig is about as freaked out as he is, maybe more.

"But, look, we had to deal with it. What happened happened. I'm just soooo happy we're both alive. And he's dead. That makes me almost the happiest of all, because he was an asshole pedo who was raping a bunch of little kids and he fucking deserved to die."

"And I won't let anyone hurt you ever again. And I'm sorry he did, but he's dead now. But no one's ever going to hurt you again, and I'm going to make sure of it."

"Oh," Thomas says. He pulls his knees up to his chest but stays pressed up against Craig because he sort of needs and hates the physical contact right now. He knows (hopes – no, knows) that Craig will never do anything like what Hello did to him.

"You have to join my gang. I know we all live over in South Park and you're one of the North kids, but after all this fucked up shit you're an honorary South Park kid. And they'll all look after you because we all look after each other.

And when we grow up, you have to marry me, so I can definitely protect you. Understand?"

Thomas looks at him. Their gazes lock. Craig's gray steel eyes bore into Thomas.

"Cock! Shit! You're so gay."

Craig waits.

"Okay, sure, whatever. We'll get married."

Craig hugs him. Thomas buries his face into Craig's arms and pretends not to cry.

XXX

He manages to get Craig out the house before his mom comes home and flips out. Craig's already practicing the lie he's going to tell his parents when Thomas kicks his only real (fake – no, real) friend out of the house. Because that's what friends do. Kick each other out. He thinks. Um.

Mom is bedraggled, her hair crazy around her head.

"How'd it go, mom? Cock! Shitcock!"

He pretends to have fallen asleep on the couch.

"Oh, Thomas! Hello, sweetie." She rubs her eyes. Thomas briefly becomes aware of how exhausted he is (he caught maybe three hours of sleep last night) but he plasters a fake smile on his face and she does the same.

"How was your night, mom?"

She shrugs. "He was an asshole," she admits.

"Oh."

He already knew this. Any friend of Hello's was an asshole. That bastard will haunt him for the rest of his life.

"How was your night, sweetie? Didn't stay up to late, did you?"

"No. Cock!"

She sniffs. "Why does this room smell like bleach?"

"Dunno." He runs over to her and hug her around her hips, burying his face into her stomach. "I had a nice night, mom. My . . . um . . . friend Craig came over."

"Really? That late?" She looks down at him disapprovingly.

"Uh, yeah. Shit! Cock! Shit! But it was fine, he only stayed for a few hours and we just watched Red Racer together."

"Oh." She smiles, rather tentatively. "You have . . . a friend?"

"Yeah," he says. "Best friend in the world." Because even though Craig had left, he'd come back.

He pulls away. "I love you, mom. Fuckshitcock!"

And then she smiles, a real smile this time. "I Love you too, Thomas. I'm glad you had a nice night." She ruffles his hair, in the same way Hello did last night. He tries not to let it get to him.

He heads into the kitchen to dig around for some cereal. He spies the bloodied butcher's knife and runs it under the sink before his mom can notice it.

xxx

fin.

xxx

xxx

xxx

xxx

A/N:

Wow. Thomas had no character change at all and Craig had loads. FAIL on my part. Hope you enjoyed anyway. Thanks for reading this fucked up little piece. Review if you feel like it.