THIS IS A TRIGGER WARNING FOR THE ENTIRE FIC: The whole thing will contain themes of drug use, prostitution, gore and abuse. I will trigger warning specific chapters if there is anything worse within it.
Chapter Track: Stripper – Sohodolls
This town has changed since they were kids. Kenny could pinpoint exactly when it happened. Some world famous Eastern European model and her foreign-film actor husband stumbled upon South Park, Colorado when their car broke down just outside of it. They'd gotten themselves lost looking for their fancy damned ski resort. Kenny doesn't know how you can possibly get that lost, but they could, and they did. And in his opinion, it fucked with everything.
When he was thirteen years old, said model and actor had an incredible house built on the side of the mountain – not in South Park, but close enough that it counted to the rest of the world.
Just like that, people flocked to South Park. There were new, big houses. New restaurants. New roads. There were new kids at his school, new rules to follow. New everything. The tiny, veritable village transformed. It still isn't a city – no, not even close. It didn't have time to reach that point in its growth before the economy crashed and everything went to shit. But it's a town. A bustling, well-populated town. But it's not so bright anymore.
So, once upon a time, South Park had had some glory days when the new people started arriving. Business had been booming, the economy was great, tourists had been at an all-time hell. Hell, Kenny had never been making so much money in his life. He'd been maybe fifteen and selling fake IDs and pot to the other kids at school. It was the life.
It went bad, though, real bad.
Kenny got into a sticky place in his life. He hadn't graduated high school. He'd started snorting lines with the rich kids, or hitting the crack pipe with the poor kids, instead. See – with the new people had come new and fascinating ways for Kenny to die, and new and fascinating ways for nobody to remember a damned thing happening.
So he would die, as per usual, and return a few days later at most, but usually a couple hours later. People thought he disappeared to get high anyway – they thought Kenny McCormick was an irresponsible ne'er-do-well, that one kid, the one you see and don't want your kid to hang out with, for fear they'll be snorting coke in a matter of minutes. He'll never forget the day that Kyle had told him that he thought his mom was right about Kenny. Sheila Broflovski had related a lot of cruel gossip relating to the McCormick family over the years, and as long as her son didn't believe her words, Kenny was fine. But Kyle listened to his mom after awhile like the good son that he was. And where Kyle goes, Stan follows. Kenny was friendless.
The dying had stopped for a time, just before all those people came to his town.
But when it resumed, it resumed with a vengeance. He died daily in every way imaginable.
Suddenly, smoking bud wasn't doing jack shit anymore. So he went deeper,
Until he wasn't at school anymore. He was some dumb twenty-year-old kid too coked up to know shit about what he was doing. He'd been long since kicked out of his parents' house – he'd been seventeen, maybe? They caught him blowing some dude for a wad of cash. Which, by the way, he never got. He remembered his mom crying and how his brother punched him, how his dad physically threw him out onto the doorstep, declaring he 'didn't want no homos around his family.' The worst of it, though, was probably how Karen had followed him and hugged him, telling Kenny that she still loved him.
And by that point, nobody in the entire town wanted him around. He knew that. He didn't even bother going to the guys that used to be his friends. They were about to graduate from high school, about to go off into the world and discover life beyond this poor-ass town. They were going to do something that Kenny never could.
They would escape.
He wandered around the streets after that. Everybody knew that he was homeless, though nobody ever did anything about it. There were random acts of kindness from time to time, sure. He thinks he can remember Wendy Testaburger wrapping a blanket around his shoulders one time, but he was so high, it could have been Jesus Christ himself and Kenny wouldn't have known. Tweek would sometimes bring him coffee. He wouldn't actually approach Kenny, mind – he would leave a to-go cup of Tweak Bros approximately ten feet away and run for his life. People threw quarters and crumpled one dollar bills at his feet and he took them, passing them onto his dealer in exchange for more product.
He got in deep with his dealer. Deep, deep in debt.
The guy had gone easy on him in the beginning, he'd let Kenny have whatever for a romp in the sack. Kenny was, and is, damned good at fucking. He'd been in practice since he was thirteen. With that much training under your belt, you're bound to get good at it. And he's attractive. He knows he is. Although, at that time, he'd probably been a lot less so. But living on the streets, he didn't have a mirror to check up in. He was too high to care, in any case.
Shit started happening when Kenny stopped being attractive enough, when he lost his charm, his glitz, whatever had made him who he was. He died a lot. He died painfully. Sick bastards thought watching him in pain was funny. Usually when they'd fucked around with Kenny, he was drugged up and didn't quite understand what was happening to him, just that it hurt a lot and he wanted it to stop. By some cruel trick of fate, he'd always end up in Hell fully sober, and knowing exactly what had gone down.
They forced you to have sex, Kenny.
They pulled off your fingernails one by one, Kenny.
They cut off all the fingers on your right hand, Kenny.
It was nasty business, and most of the shit his dealer and lackeys did happened more than once. Because, although they enjoyed being creative, if Kenny died, they wouldn't remember what fun bit of torture they'd done that resulted in his death in the first place. He bled out a lot. There wasn't much mercy with those people. He advises to this day to not go near those psychos. The high isn't even worth what they'll do if you run out of money.
So when an opportunity to get out of this hole arose, he took it.
Maybe it should have mattered that the person offering this opportunity was Eric Cartman. It definitely mattered now, anyway. But at the time, Kenny was just grateful that he had been saved.
And…it sort of fixed some things. Kenny doesn't die every day now. He doesn't even die every week. He has his own apartment. It's a shitty little place with all of one window, but it's better than cold as fuck pavement and his ratty old coat. The stove even works, unlike the stove that occupied his childhood home. Not that you could call what he lived as a child 'a childhood.'
He even comes home to a dog with a wagging tail at the end of the night (or at the beginning of the morning, depending which angle you chose to look at it from). Sure, she's missing an eye and scared by any noises louder than popping popcorn, but she's his and that's what's important.
Eric Cartman has paid off his drug debts, down to the last penny.
There was a shit ton of money involved.
Cartman essentially owns him, now.
Kenny mostly doesn't mind. All he does is work at the club that Cartman inherited from his mother upon her death three years before he picked Kenny up off of the streets. Kenny had been too drugged out at the time of Liane's death to have known that it had happened, and he wonders why he never sees her in Hell when he dies. He liked Liane. She had been an attractive and industrious lady, and she'd taught Kenny the literal tricks of the trade when he was around sixteen or so. The stuff she'd taught him continues to come in handy to this day.
Liane worked her way up, all the way up to owning her own strip joint. It was a sort of combination strip joint/bordello/jazz club/shitty theatre now, under Cartman's thumb. Cartman turned the place weird. But hey, he could be doing worse than working a club at night. All Kenny has to do is wear leather pants and put himself on display, really, until Cartman tells him who he is fucking or is going to be fucked by. And that's okay. It's what Kenny's good at, and he knows it. Sex.
The other part of his job is admittedly strange. Cartman likes putting on half-assed shows and musicals for prospective customers. That suits Kenny and the girls just fine, most of the people employed at Polly (Kenny has the disturbing feeling that Cartman renamed the club after the doll he had as a child and shot in the head) are washed-up wannabe actors or singers. Artsy people. A lot of ex-Raisins girls, too. The South Park strip joint theatre has become somewhat of a roadside oddity. You might be surprised how many people enjoy watching their favorite plays and musicals being performed while the actors wear next to nothing. The shows, of course, are during the week. Gotta stay dirty on the weekends.
So, he's a fulltime rentboy and shitty actor, or something like that. Kenny likes the singing part that he sometimes has to do. He's always been good at singing, has always secretly enjoyed those five minutes of cold shower when he gets to belt out whatever's on his mind to a random melody.
His life…isn't bad.
He's come to the understanding that as an adult, there are responsibilities to take care of. Rent, keeping your nose out of trouble, feeding yourself and your dog. That's Kenny's list. Maybe one day that list will be bigger. Maybe one day it'll be more exciting.
Maybe one day, he'll escape.
But he doesn't count on it.
There are downfalls and benefits to working at Polly during the winter. The benefit is that leather pants are actually kind of warm, and his are waterproof, which is convenient for the amount of snowfall that they get up in the mountains. The downfall is that he's not allowed to wear a fucking shirt at the club, and because Kenny is lazy, he often opts not to wear one at all under his thick coat.
It's actually pretty cold to be wearing a bulky winter coat with nothing underneath, believe it or not. The silky lining gets all cool from the wind making its way inside. It's why Kenny typically goes for a coffee before he heads to work, why that's exactly what he's doing right now.
Sometimes he tells himself that he should just bother with something as simple as putting on a shirt, but when he's not working, he's sleeping, or scratching lotto tickets. He sleeps all day, wakes up at the last possible minute to head to work. He's always in a hurry at this time of night.
Kenny doesn't even have to voice his order to Tweek when he reaches the register at Tweak Bros. Tweek knows it by heart, not that Kenny's usual is some long-ass nonfat half-foam two-flavored with whip thing. All he gets is a medium Americano, something strong to get him through the night, and keep him warm on the walk to Polly.
Tweek and Kenny have this strange unspoken bond. Maybe it originated from the cups of coffee that Tweek always left for Kenny all those years ago, or maybe it's because Kenny's the only one that knows about the fact that Tweek had been sleeping with Craig for years before Craig ditched South Park in favor of "finding himself," or some mundane shit like that. Whatever it is, they know some of each other's more unfavorable secrets, and there's a silent vow that neither of them will tell.
Kenny likes Tweek. He likes Tweek because he's one of the only kids that stayed in South Park and holds down a job that is completely unrelated to Eric fucking Cartman. Eric owns this town, it seems like. A lot of people that can't find work find it at Polly. For a price – usually their freedom, like Kenny. Kenny swears he can't even breathe the wrong way without Cartman knowing. He's constantly being watched by Cartman's various men. He can always tell who those men are, too. He gets this prickle in the back of his neck, the one that says you're being watched, and he knows at that moment that he has to be on his best behavior.
Kenny wonders if Cartman has people tailing all of the working folk at Polly, or just him. Probably just him. Kenny thinks it's some fucked up combination of Cartman feeling like Kenny is still his friend (if they ever were friends), and the fact that his ass belongs to Cartman, now.
He feels that prickle now, as Tweek hands him hit hot cup of coffee.
"Thanks, man," Kenny says gruffly.
Tweek doesn't reply. He doesn't actually talk much, anymore. Not after all his friends left. Kenny gets that. His friends are gone. At least, the old ones that he had up until he started using. Kyle went to some fancy university off east, and last he heard, Stan is living in California with Wendy. They're engaged or some stupid shit.
Kenny would probably off himself before agreeing to marry somebody. Not that such a threat is particularly viable coming from him, or that Cartman would allow Kenny to get into the position in his life when marrying somebody would sound appealing.
Kenny's friends now are much different. He isn't even sure that he'd name them friends. They're more like…allies. South Park has become their battlefield, and frankly, Kenny isn't even sure who the enemy is. It's all ambiguous. There's no black and white.
It's actually, deep down, a little frightening to him.
Like he said, he's got Tweek.
He's got Bebe. Bebe's probably the best friend he's got anymore. Being the bartender at Polly, she's adept at kicking asses. Cartman has hired muscle hanging all around the club, but Bebe's the only one that's ever checked on him after he's taken a client upstairs, to the less legal area of his workplace. Fortunately for Cartman's bank account, the cops are tucked safely in his fat pocket. It never fails to impress Kenny what wealth can do, the kind of wealth that he'll never have.
Other than that, he's got the girls on his side. There's Mercedes and Portia, and Sally Darson.
And he thinks – the operative word being thinks – that he's got Kevin Stoley. Stoley works the accounts for the club in a tiny office in the back. The guy has what it takes to get out of South Park, but for whatever reason, sticks here with the rest of the losers that didn't make their escapes. For the most part, Stoley sticks to the status quo – meaning Cartman – but Kenny thinks that somewhere in there, there's got to be a human being, instead of an accounting robot.
Some days are rougher than others. Sometimes the important person that's purchased Kenny's services for the night just wants get off, and then they'll leave. Other times, they're into weird-ass shit, things that at one point would have made Kenny uncomfortable, but now are things he has to do if he wants to continue living his reasonably okay life. It's not good, but it could always be worse. He's been much worse. Compared to bleeding out in the middle of an abandoned warehouse from gunshots all down his legs and in his knees, this isn't half-bad.
The bell at the front door of Tweak Bros tinkles as he exits with coffee in hand, avoiding the stares of the people that know who he is. He seldom feels embarrassment, but one thing never fails to mortify him – his friends' parents looking at him. They know what he does. They know what happened to him. South Park may not be tiny anymore, but shit still gets around. Especially when it's juicy gossip about rentboy druggie Kenny McCormick.
Not that he does much in the way of drugs, anymore. He can't stomach the shit, not when he remembers what it made him do. And fortunately for Kenny, every time he dies, he gets a new body, with new everything except for memories. He doesn't have an addiction in his current body. He doesn't have any of the shit he's gotten over the years, shit he doesn't want to think about, because it's all so fucking humiliating.
He feels the tingle on the back of his neck, the one that tells him that Cartman's watching him. It makes him speed up his walking pace, even though he knows that he won't be late. Being followed makes his hair stand on end. It's the one thing that he'll argue about with Cartman. Everything else is fair game, but having Kenny followed? It reminds him too much of the drugged-out homeless days, when he was always paranoid and fucking certain that every person that passed by him on the street was out to get him.
Kenny loathes those arguments, because Cartman always tells him that he's full of shit.
You're being paranoid, you poor asshole. Must be an aftereffect of all those drugs, Cartman always says this so smugly, rubbing Kenny's failure as a human being in his nose, like he always does when he gets the chance. Nevermind the fact that Kenny hasn't done lines or smoked crack in almost five years now. He sticks to weed these days, and even then, he only falls back on smoking bud when he's had a bad client – one that made him do something totally not in his comfort zone, or maybe one that beat the living shit out him. Usually he can hold his own, but there's the occasional client whose rage is so all-consuming that they're blind to Kenny, that they can't feel it when he fights back, and won't stop when the fists start flying. Typically this a guy that hates his wife with a vengeance, probably because of his repressed sexuality that he goes to brothels to take care of. Assholes.
The mere thought of those pricks sets Kenny's teeth on edge. He frowns deeply, nurses a bit of his coffee, and fishes a mostly flattened pack of cigarettes out of his coat pocket. Kenny sticks one of the half-finished cigarettes that he stuck back in the box in between his lips and lights it, dragging in gratefully.
Fuck, he's got to remember not to think of all the shit things that could happen, and try and be positive…or something stupid like that. He could have one of those nice, shy guys looking for nothing more than a good time with an experienced fucker like himself.
That's just wishful thinking. He knows that. There's like, one nice dude to every thirty dirty, heavy-handed pricks. And that's a generous estimate, that one. Kenny's the only male on staff.
Sometimes Kenny wonders if that's why Cartman pulled him out of his rut. You know, so he could have a male stripper or prostitute or whatever he was called (Depended on the night, quite frankly) for hire. There are a lot of repressed people in South Park, after all. Especially after the economy went bad and the fancy little European model and her husband had a messy divorce, abandoning the town filled with people there just to follow the fame around. You're probably a sad sack of shit if you moved to a crappy tiny place in the middle of nowhere just to see if you could catch a glimpse of somebody famous, anyhow.
When Kenny spots the red and golden-yellow neon lights of Polly over the crest of the hill, he takes a final drag of his cigarette and crushes it underneath his boot. He tugs the hood of his winter coat up over his face, but it doesn't do much good to hide his identity as he walks around the line of randy teenagers with fake IDs and middle-aged losers. There's only one guy that would walk around to the back of Polly in leather pants, and that would be him. There are a couple of wolf whistles, a couple of crude shouts, a few insults (not everybody in rural Colorado is happy to have a male stripper 'invade' their club, but fuck those guys).
Fucking hell, he hates Friday nights, and from the looks of it, this is going to be a busy one.
It's one of those nights in which he'd like to shout at those guys outside. Yell at them, hold both middle fingers up and scream, I'm just a normal guy going to work, you stupid fucks. I've even got a goddamned cup of coffee in my hand.
Just another day at the office. All that Kenny's missing is a suit.
Kenny is greeted with a chorus of hellos when he slams the door to the dressing room behind him. He kind of wishes that he could have his own dressing room. It's funny – before everything in his life went to shit, he'd have been ecstatic over the prospect of sharing a changing room with a bunch of fairly attractive women in varying states of undress and sparkly things, but now, he just feels like the guys outside should. Like total a douche.
C'est la vie.
"Looks like a pretty bad crowd," remarks Mercedes.
Kenny thinks that she's talking to him, but he doesn't want to have to acknowledge how awful those people look. Mostly they get the same crowd night after night – despite the growth of South Park's population in the last decade or so, it's still a relatively small town. However, Polly's the only strip joint for miles and miles. They get the dirty fucks from all over Park Country. North Park, Middle Park, Buena Vista – truckers passing by on the highway. The works.
"Sweetie, we gotta be positive," says one of the other girls. Kenny can't tell which one.
He doesn't blame Mercedes for not being positive. Last year, she stabbed one of her clients with a nail file. Cartman was pissed. The guy ended up at Hell's Pass dead on arrival, and Kenny knew that between Cartman and the police department, the cover up was enormous and hellishly painstaking. Can't bring those truckers in if those guys think they might get stabbed.
At least when somebody takes out their rage on Kenny, he knows that if he dies, he'll be back in at most, a couple days. The girls don't have that luxury. Not that he'd name it a luxury, even. Sometimes he wishes that one of his johns would off him. Permanently. Chilling with Satan is hardly the worst fate he could suffer for the rest of eternity.
He feels kind of guilty for thinking that. His dog would probably miss him, and who would take care of a one-eyed old pitbull named Esther if he died for real?
Kenny sheds his coat and hangs it in his locker. Awhile ago, the girls tried to brighten up the dressing room by adding stickers with everybody's names onto their lockers. His says 'Kenny' in silver lettering surrounded by gold stars, all of which are peeling, now.
He turns to give Mercedes some routine words of encouragement, when the door bursts open.
"Ah, hey Boss," greets Portia, from where she's applying blush to her cheeks in front of the illuminated mirror.
Cartman ignores her.
Kenny stares out of the corner of his eye. The fat fuck loves to put his wealth on display. He's in some designer suit, a set of novelty cufflinks from his collection at the cuffs. These ones are shaped like eagles, and look like they're solid gold, matching the glinting chain around his neck. What a dick.
"You," he points a well-manicured finger in Kenny's face and grunts, "My office. Now."
Kenny resists the urge to ask 'What the hell did I do this time?' and sighs quietly, following Cartman from the overheated dressing room and down the short back hallway of the club.
If there's one thing he hates more than the extravagant way that Cartman dresses, it's the presumptuous décor of his office. Beyond the hardwood floors, paneled walls and enormous portrait of Cartman and his mother hanging on the wall, he sits in a high-backed, velvet-upholstered armchair, like something out of a villain's lair in a bad movie. But Cartman loves it. The stupid fuck is at home among this excess. Kenny has never been able to stand people that live as profligately as this. Every time he looks at Cartman's stupid-ass expensive chair, he thinks how many families could have been fed with how much money it cost. The same question applies to essentially everything that Cartman owns – his cufflink collection, the box of Cuban cigars that Kenny knows is sitting in the top right hand drawer on the mahogany desk.
"Take a seat," Cartman says, indicating with a sweeping gesture to the two much smaller armchairs that sit before his desk.
Kenny obeys, silently.
"You're going to be on your best behavior tonight, McCormick," Cartman says, "I've got a big client coming in. He's offering me a lot of money for a night with you, so I want you to treat him like a damn king."
"Yeah, okay," Kenny says. Same old, same old. Cartman says this every time he calls Kenny in here.
"I'm fucking serious, poor boy!" he exclaims (Kenny is beyond irritated that Cartman has never relinquished that moniker, in spite of the truth of it), "This one tells me that if he likes your work, he's gonna come back for more. I'll give you a bonus if he does. He'll be your little Sugar Daddy, Kinny."
Kenny tries not to look too interested. He's been saving up for years, but with the shit money he makes working this job, and the cost of his rent and food and just living, he's only been able to put away money a very little bit at a time. This could be his big break. He asks tentatively, "Who is he?"
An evil little smirk appears on Cartman's face, and he replies, voice sickly sweet, "I want it to be a surprise. I'll point him out on the floor tonight."
"That's fucking stupid, Cartman," Kenny deadpans, scowling.
"Ey!" Cartman protests, "I own you. I do what I want. I'll point him out to you before 'Bunny Club,' and I want you to give him a nice dance, okay?"
"Fine," Kenny agrees. He doesn't want to be in here anymore. This office feels suffocating to him, regardless of how spacious it is in actuality. It just reminds him that he's some sort of prisoner. Plus, judging by the hands of the grandfather clock in the corner, Kenny barely has ten minutes to put eyeliner on his face and muss his hair to look all pretty. Looks matter in this business – you don't just get to slap on a pair of leather pants and call it a goddamned day.
"I mean it, Kinny," Cartman says. His voice lowers to a dangerous hiss, indicating that Cartman's anger is real, not his typical surliness that Kenny's subjected to day by day, "If you fuck this up, I will fuck you over. Hard. I let you get away with a being a smartass because you make me money, poor boy. If you cost me this deal, you're done for."
"Got it," Kenny says tiredly, but without the sass. He knows he pushes Cartman's limits with his sarcasm. Usually it's amusing, but tonight his ass appears to be on the line.
"'Got it,' what?"
"Got it, boss," Kenny says, forcing the irritability down and away from his voice.
With that, Cartman gives Kenny a curt nod, indicating that he's free to leave.
Kenny climbs to his feet with the grim knowledge that this is going to be one hell of a night.