Now that finals are over, I get time to write more fic! I'm probably the only one who's actually really, really excited about this.
Don't Cry Baby is an absolutely gorgeous Etta James song. I'd suggest you take a listen to it.
Sorry for any errors. I do all my own stunts.
If you'd asked Butters Stotch twenty years ago what he'd be doing at this moment, never in a million years would he have replied 'sitting in the principal's office with Kenny McCormick'.
Life has a funny way of taking your expectations and fucking them right in the butt, though, so Butters has kind of just learned to let life take him where it may and so far it's been pretty enjoyable. He's got a good life: a steady job, a handsome fella, and a pretty great kid to keep him happy.
"Kenny, Butters," Principal Victoria regards them with an air of familiarity as they walk in through the door. She looks like just about everyone else does when they realize that Kenneth McCormick and Leopold Stotch really are Kenny and Butters, that they've really shacked up and raised a kid together. It's that look of gentle shock and confusion that clouds their faces for a brief flicker of a second before they realize they're being rude and continue with whatever they'd just been saying.
"Have a seat, boys," she says and gestures to two chairs on either side of the one in the middle. "Mr. Mackey is just finishing up with Patrick right now."
Butters squirms in his seat—he'd only been sent to the principal a few times in his life, and the worst part had always been sitting in with Mackey and talking about what you'd just done. That, and if Patrick was anything like Butters he was probably close to bawling his eyes out and pleading with whatever God above that no one had called his parents.
Butters likes to think that he and Kenny are a little more forgiving with Patrick than their parents had been with them.
Sure enough, when the door opens Patrick is utterly mortified to see his parents sitting there waiting for him, but obediently goes to sit between them when he's asked to do so. Butters notices out of the corner of his eye how surprised Principal Victoria looks when she sees Kenny lean over and check Patrick's face for any markings or signs of stress or damage, internal or external. He bristles, because seven years in and still no one believes that Kenny is as good of a father as he is. Butters would put him up against anyone as a parent.
"Kenny, Leopold," Principal Victoria begins, and Butters cringes because he's only a few years shy of thirty and he still can't stand being called Leopold ninety percent of the time. It's only a problem in situations like this, where he has to give off the impression that he's a mature adult who pays bills and goes to work five days a week and who doesn't play his son's video games with his boyfriend after they've put him to sleep.
"As I told you," she continued, and Kenny let go of Patrick's face and grudgingly gave the woman his full attention. "We had a bit of an incident in class with Patrick today… he was—"
"To put it simply," Mr. Mackey takes over, "he was caught dumping a tray of paint onto another student's head."
That's what gets Butters' attention. He whips around to look at Patrick with that imploring parental look he swore he'd never give his own kid ever, and meanwhile Kenny's about two seconds away from bursting into laughter, because as long as Patrick is physically safe, Kenny's pretty amused by just about everything he does, even if that something includes emotionally scarring another student.
"It was just paint," Kenny says, and Butters may actually reach around behind Patrick and smack him on the shoulder if he's not careful. "I'm just saying, it'll wash out, right?"
"Well, see," Mr. Mackey pulls up a chair and sits. "We try to talk it out here. There's a reason for why children do what they do and we want to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible. Now, Patrick, can you remember what you talked about and tell your dads what happened?"
Patrick shifts uncomfortably in his chair and folds his arms, loose blond curls sticking up every which way and hazel eyes cast off to the side, like he's intending on taking what's probably a really petty reason for his behavior to his grave with him. Butters places a hand on his shoulder and gives it a comforting squeeze.
"Patrick, no one's mad at you," he says. "We just wanna know what happened."
"I don't wanna talk about it," Patrick shoots back, very insistent, and Butters rolls his eyes because he lives with two of the most stubbornly shut-off human beings in the world and there's only so much he can do before he just gives up and lets them be emotionally-repressed retards for the rest of their lives. At least they'd be emotionally-repressed together.
"I know you don't want to," Kenny chimes in, leaning over in his seat and pushing a few of the bigger curls back off of Patrick's forehead. "But you know they're just gonna tell us anyway if you don't, right? We'd rather hear it from you."
Butters nods and picks a piece of lint off of Patrick's turquoise parka, and Patrick sighs, like his parents offering him physical affection is the most tiring thing in the world. He sinks low in his seat and starts playing with his fingers as he moves to speak.
"We were making Mother's Day cards after recess," he begins. "And I was makin' one for my mom. Cynthia Cliffords came over to me and told me I couldn't make one 'cause I don't have a mom."
"Oh, Jesus," Butters hears Kenny say, because of any parenting thing he has to deal with, Kenny fucking hates the 'I have two daddies' song and dance. Patrick sees his mom every weekend, even spends a few weeks with her every summer when her schedule allows it.
"Well, I told her I did," Patrick frowns and sits up, upset now. "And she said that I couldn't have two dads and a mom. And then she told me that I was goin' to hell because my parents like to poke each other in the butt."
Butters is actually the one who laughs at this, because it's funny, but quickly moves to cover his mouth when Kenny gives him a look.
"So you dumped paint on her head," Kenny tries to puzzle out, but Patrick shakes his head.
"No, that was all fine," he says. "When she said that my mom was a slut and my dads were evil… that's when I did it."
Patrick Steven McCormick-Stotch—Queer Crusader and Advocate for Social Change, age seven.
"We understand that what Cynthia said was in no way excusable," says Principal Victoria, "And believe me, I had a thorough talk with her mother not half an hour ago about the seriousness of the situation."
"Good," Kenny nods and moves to stand. "Principal Victoria, it's been a pleasure as always—"
"Sit down, Mr. McCormick," Principal Victoria scowls and that name enough gets Kenny to sit in his chair. He hates being called Mr. McCormick almost as much as Butters hates being called Leopold.
"Sorry," Kenny apologizes, even though he's not in the least bit sorry. Butters has to hold in a laugh again.
"This in no way excuses Patrick from what he's done," Principal Victoria says. "I understand that children in this… situation have a more difficult time assimilating when it comes to this kind of thing, but resorting to physical retaliation—"
"It was just paint!" Patrick exclaims, "I-I made sure it was the kind that washed out before I did it, honest!"
"Patrick," Butters says in that warning tone that gets him to shut his mouth instantly and turns to Principal Victoria with an earnest smile on his face. "Thank you for letting us know. We'll be sure to have a talk with him."
"Absolutely," Kenny nods and stands. "Are we excused now?" Because Kenny is insanely uncomfortable and, even if Butters couldn't read him like a book, he's not doing a very good job of hiding it. Principal Victoria just nods and jots something down on Patrick's file.
"Yes, you are. Patrick is excused from school for the rest of the week, and I want you all to know that if this incident turns into regular behavior, I will take action," she says and gives Butters a smile. "Have a nice day."
Butters bids her the same and stands, because Kenny's already out the door and walking back to the car. Patrick hasn't moved yet—he's just sitting with his face buried in his parka and a fearful look in his eyes.
"Come on, sweetheart," Butters says as he grabs Patrick's backpack off of another chair by the door, and Patrick stands to follow Butters out of the office and to the car.
"Dad," Patrick says softly and Butters turns around. "Can you help me untie this knot?" He holds up one of his drawstrings that he's undoubtedly knotted up all on his own while he waited outside the principal's office earlier.
"Let's do it when we get home," Butters suggests and holds out a hand for Patrick to take. He does, and it makes Butters' heart feel warm because his son is seven and still doesn't mind holding his hand sometimes. Granted, the hallway is deserted right now, so there's no chance of him being seen by any of his friends, but still. It feels good.
"Dad," Patrick says again as they walk out of the school and into the parking lot, where Kenny is already waiting and, Jesus Christ, smoking a cigarette. He's been trying to quit since Patrick was a baby, and there were a good three or four years where he'd kept his relapses to a minimum, but he's been unsuccessful for the most part. He claims it's because he needs something to do with his hands, and unless Butters is offering to be manhandled in public at a moment's notice, he's going to keep on until he finds a better alternative.
"Dad!" Patrick tugs on his hand and pulls him out of his head.
"Is dad mad at me?"
"Why would he be?" Butters asks and adjusts Patrick's bag over his shoulder. "Baby, you didn't do anything worth bein' mad about, all right?"
"I know," Patrick shrugs. "He left awful fast, though."
"That's 'cause he hates that office," Butters grins and leans down like they're sharing a secret. "Between you and me, I think it reminds him way too much of all those times he got sent to that office. And it's the same lady, too. He probably thinks it's him that's in trouble instead of you."
That makes Patrick smile a bit and drop Butters' hand; Butters doesn't know if he likes knowing that Patrick is getting too old for hand-holding. He doesn't dwell on it too much, because Patrick's bounding up to Kenny now and hugging him tight around the waist. Kenny flicks the cigarette into a puddle and hugs Patrick back. He can never get enough of this kid's hugs—Butters kind of loves that about him. For the macho asshole parents that both his dad and brother are, Kenny's one of the sweetest, most loving dads a kid could ask for. Both Butters and Patrick remind him of this on several occasions—Patrick usually in birthday cards that, up until about a year ago, Butters had been writing, while Butters says it every once in a while when Kenny's feeling particularly down.
"All right," Butters says as he stops in front of Kenny and Patrick, a hugging heap against the side of the car. "I don't feel like cookin', so who wants pizza tonight?"
Patrick's eyes light up, because Fridays are the nights they get pizza and a Friday today is not. He looks at Kenny, to make sure Butters isn't just saying this, to make sure it's actually happening, before letting out a little 'yip' of happiness and Kenny's affirming smile. Butters figures that, after the day this poor kid has had, he deserves a little something like pizza on a Thursday night to lift his spirits.
They pile into the car, their relatively un-shitty Nissan Sentra that Kenny has owned since before Patrick was even born, and start off toward home. They live closer to the outskirts of town, in a nice little community that popped up sometime in the four years that Butters had been away at school. Butters likes it because it's a good ways away from his parents, and Kenny likes it because it's not a total shithole.
Patrick likes it because it's their home.
Considering how much Kenny and Butters hated being at home around their parents when they were kids, Butters takes it as a point of pride that Patrick likes to spread his homework out on the dining table and hum to himself while Butters washes dishes or while Kenny looks over stacks of inventory and orders for the store.
"Dad, how do you say this word?"
It's a Butters question. Kenny gets questions about math (which as it turns out he's really good at) and science, while Butters gets pronunciation and spelling questions. Butters tosses his towel down on the countertop and goes to look at whatever Patrick's pointing at.
"Genealogy," Butters says almost mindlessly before he registers the word and looks back at the paper again. A family history report, due on Monday, pictures and all on a poster, and Patrick hasn't mentioned a word until now.
"When did your teacher give you this?" Butters asks and picks up the piece of paper. On the back there are two boxes, one labeled 'mom' and one labeled 'dad'. The 'mom' box is already full, which means he's had this at least for one weekend. The 'dad' box is empty, and Patrick looks like he feels a little guilty for leaving it so.
"I didn't," Patrick shifts in his seat. He's no longer in his parka, and Butters is sometimes surprised of how much smaller he looks when he's out of it. "I didn't know who to ask."
Butters nods, because Kenny's been drawn in by the conversation by now and has taken the paper from Butters' hands. He looks it over and snorts.
"Your mom is not part Cherokee," he says, scanning Patrick's notes on the subject. "That would make her one sixty-fourth; that doesn't count."
He says it to make Butters laugh, because Patrick could probably care less about whose great grandmother was fucking who, but Butters…
"We're out of milk, I think," he says, distant. "I'm gonna go out and get some."
He grabs his coat, pecks Kenny on the lips and kisses Patrick on the top of his head before he leaves the house feeling all a panicked mess. He just needs to get outside, to think, to calm down, because he knew this day was coming.
He just never wanted it to come so soon.
But Patrick is smart, so it's a wonder it didn't come sooner. His mom has been an active part of his life since he's been born, longer even than Butters has been a part of his life (although not by much) and Patrick's not ignorant enough to believe that every kid has two dads and a mom… not that anyone ever gave him the chance to be that ignorant, at any rate. Patrick knows that one pf them is the odd one out but has never bothered to piece it together before, probably for the sake of whoever isn't his real dad, because he's one of the sweetest kids that ever lived and it makes Butters' heart hurt knowing that he's kept all these questions to himself for the sake of his dad's feelings.
He walks up and down the Surrounding streets at least three times each, trying to get this worry out of his head—Patrick's his son, and Butters is his dad, just as much as Kenny is.
Butters' phone rings and, as expected, it's home calling. Probably Kenny to make sure he's not teetering on the edge of a cliff or anything. Butters never knows why Kenny thinks he'd resort to such drastic measures—of anyone, Kenny's the melodramatic one out of the three of them, always making big gestures and grand claims that make Butters and Patrick sort of look at each other and roll their eyes.
"Hello?" Butters holds the phone to his ear.
"Hi, dad," comes Patrick's voice on the other end of the line. "I need a poster board but dad says you took the car keys with you on accident."
Sure enough, Butters reaches into his pockets to see that, yes, in his haste he'd accidentally grabbed the car keys.
"I'll be home in a second," he says. "We'll get your poster board and pick up some pizza. Sound like a plan?"
"Yes sir," Patrick chirps back a little cheekily and he knows instantly that Kenny was sitting there with him, because Patrick loves making Kenny laugh like it's so difficult, which is kind of silly because Kenny laughs at everything.
Butters folds up the phone and puts it back in his pocket. Patrick is still calling him 'dad'… that's at least good. He walks the block and a half back home to see Patrick sitting on the stoop with his backpack, humming to himself as he traces lines on the pavement with a stick.
"Hey," Butters says, unsure of why he's feeling this uncomfortable pull in his gut. Patrick's just the same as he ever was, all big smiles and happy greetings as he sets the stick down and walks over to the car.
"Did you know that dad's family is Irish?" Patrick asks as he climbs into the car and buckles up.
"Sure did," he says and pulls out of the driveway. "Pretty neat, huh?"
"Yup," Patrick nods and then pulls his notebook out of his bag, and then a pen, and turns to his report paper. "You left before I got to ask you where your family is from."
"Oh," Butters falters, shifting a little uncomfortably as Patrick stares at him expectantly. "W-well, I think your teacher's probably just interested in dad and your mom."
"But I wanna know about you too," Patrick frowns, looking at Butters almost to say 'this isn't like you', because it's not. Butters always encourages Patrick to go above and beyond the call of duty on school assignments, mostly because he's got his mom's brain's and not using them would be a sin.
"Uh," Butters begins, "Well, a lot of my family is from Scotland and England, and then Scandinavia mostly for the rest. A little Polish, I think your grandma said, but I'm not sure."
Patrick nods as he jots down his notes, like he's a reporter looking to make headlines with a hard-hitting story, and when they stop at a red light Butters can see that Patrick has misspelled 'Scandnavya' and so politely spells it out for him.
"My mom and you had different places, but dad just had one," Patrick notices. "Do you think he's lying?"
"Probably," Butters shrugs. "I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't really know, sweetheart."
Patrick nods again and stuffs his notebook back into his bag. He appears contemplative, but Butters has lived with both him and Kenny long enough to know that you just let it lie when they got like that. If they wanted to tell you what they were thinking, they would, and if it was something important, you just kind of had to trust that they'd come out with it if they had to.
Sometimes Butters kind of wished they had another kid, maybe a daughter, who was a little more like him. He always thought two and two would've been easier, because working out a balancing act between the three of them gets a little trying sometimes. Butters likes to think they succeed… much more than his parents ever did, anyway.
"Know what I think?" Patrick asks as they park at the market and get out of the car.
"What's that?" Butters shoots back as he runs over a checklist in his head: poster and pizza. And maybe some ice cream, because it's just that kind of night.
"I think I'm gonna put your flags on my poster board anyway," Patrick says as Butters grabs a cart and hops on the end. Butters gives him a look and makes him get off, because that's dangerous and he'll be damned if harm comes to one hair on that kid's head when it was entirely avoidable.
That, and Kenny had made it abundantly clear from the first time Butters held Patrick seven years ago that he would murder him if he ever even thought about letting harm come to him.
"Fine," Patrick rolls his eyes and steps back onto the linoleum. "I'm still putting you on my poster."
"I'm perfectly fine with bein' left off of it," Butters lies as he browses the office supplies. Patrick is looking at the posters, unsure if he should pick basic white or eye-bleeding neon yellow. He settles on fluorescent orange and places it in the basket.
"No," Patrick is adamant. "You're my dad and I want you on it, so my teacher can go fuck herself."
Butters flies forward and claps a hand over Patrick's mouth, making sure to smile politely at Mrs. Tweak, who gives him alook like he can't even control his own kid in public like this? Butters rolls his eyes when she passes and regards Patrick sternly.
"What're you talkin' like that for?" he asks, even though he knows the answer. Kenny curses like a fucking sailor, and after being with him for so long Butters has started doing the same. It's not the best of habits, and it's certainly not the worst, but the last thing Butters needs is someone reporting him and Kenny because their kid can't keep his filthy mouth shut.
"Sorry," Patrick mumbles and pulls his hood up over his head in a way that indicates that he's not. "But she is kind of a bitch anyway."
Butters decides to stop trying and moves to gather the rest of the items on his small list… and a gallon of rocky road ice cream because Butters knows he's going to need it later. They don't say much on the ride home, and when they get back into the house they find Kenny lounging on the couch, watching some trashy show that he won't admit that he loves.
"Hey, boys," Kenny smiles and gives a languid stretch. "Have a good time?"
"I got an orange poster," Patrick declares proudly and runs to lay it out on the kitchen table. Butters snorts and leans over the back of the couch to kiss Kenny hello, and really shouldn't be surprised when Kenny grabs him by the back of the neck and shoves his tongue in his mouth like they're fifteen years old.
"You okay?" he asks and gives Butters' lower lip an affectionate nip.
"Yeah," Butters says and clears his throat. "Got ice cream meltin'."
Kenny lets him go, though it seems he thinks it's against his better judgment. Like he thinks Butters is going to send himself careening off the edge of a hundred-story building if he's left alone for too long or something. Why would anyone bother to do that when they knew they had rocky road in the freezer.
As it stands, Butters doesn't even get as far as preheating the oven before Kenny comes up from behind and wraps his arms around him, kissing him on the neck and nuzzling him in the kind of way that makes Patrick give an exaggerated gag. They know he doesn't mind, no more than any kid minds their parents being affectionate, but he's definitely Kenny's son in the way that he enjoys the shit out of being a brat.
"Get a room," he says and Kenny and Butters both look over at him like he monkeys have just flown out of his mouth.
"Where'd you hear that?" Kenny asks and Patrick shrugs.
"My mom told me to say it if you guys ever got too gross," he says and gives them a cheeky grin. Butters rolls his eyes, about to say he's going to have a talk with her on Saturday when she comes to pick him up, but Kenny's plan of attack is entirely different. He spins Butters around and captures him in a sloppy, groan-inducing kiss. Patrick seems to get the hint and grabs his homework, his backpack, and his poster, and stomps off upstairs. Butters is ready to pull away, to laugh and tell Kenny he's made his point, but Kenny's shifted tones now. He's got Butters' head cradled in both of his hands, tonguing softly at the inside of his mouth in the way that he always does when he's too caught up in the moment to say 'I love you'. Butters will never admit it, but stuff like that always weakens his resolve.
He only just remembers to put the pizza in the oven before he pulls Kenny into their little laundry room so they can resume sucking face.
"How long 'til that pizza's done?" Kenny asks as Butters starts in on unbuttoning his fly.
"Fifteen minutes," Butters replies and nips at his chin.
"Sweet," Kenny grins and grabs the box of dryer sheets off of the shelf. They keep an emergency strip of condoms at the very bottom of the box, because even though Butters is always mortified that Patrick will somehow find them Kenny is insistent that they have a stash in every room just in case.
The laundry room is small; they can't hump against the washer or dryer, because they make too much noise and the only time they'd tried it Patrick had thought someone was trying to rob them. And they can't fuck against the door because… that makes too much noise too and Patrick thinks someone's trying to rob them whenever they forget and do it anyway. They haven't done a very good job of easing his paranoia, Butters thinks, but how do two of the most paranoid people in the world churn out an un-paranoid kid? Can't be done.
Blessedly, Kenny pulls Butters out of his thoughts by sneaking a hand down into his pants and bringing him into another kiss. They fall back into a pile of laundry on the floor that Kenny's yet to take care of, both frantically trying to get each other out of their pants and trying not to make noise in the process.
They emerge twenty minutes later to a pizza just shy of burnt and a son who thinks that his dads are completely useless human beings. Kenny tells him to stop whining, that he's lucky they're feeding him at all, and he does a good job of coming across as sarcastic as he does for how close those words must hit home. He's not nearly as skinny as he used to be when they were kids, isn't even as thin as he was when Patrick was born—he looks healthy, and secretly Butters takes every last bit of credit for it.
"Any idea what you're doing with your mom this weekend?" Kenny asks when he crunches into a blackened slice of pizza. He'll eat anything; Butters and Patrick are less inclined to do so.
"She said she's taking me to the Nature and Science museum," Patrick shrugs and picks a pepperoni off of his slice of pizza. Then he looks up at Butters and frowns. "How come you're my dad?"
Butters and Kenny stop dead and look at Patrick like he's a feral tiger that's just gotten loose from the zoo. Kenny looks a little like he's about to snap into defense mode, because there will never be a moment when Kenny isn't protective of Butters, but Butters kicks him in the shin because this is their kid, not some asshole stopping them in the supermarket or making rude comments in the park or anything.
"What do you mean, sweetheart?" Butters asks, because he knows Patrick doesn't mean anything bad by it. He's curious. He's always been curious. He's a little kid, for God's sake.
"I mean," Patrick begins, "my mom is my mom, and dad is my dad, because they're my mom and dad, but how come you're my dad too? I mean, my mom has a boyfriend too, and I've never even met him."
Butters looks over at Kenny, who's looking right back at him like he's afraid of what he'll say. Butters hates that look—he hates knowing that he can make Kenny feel afraid and helpless. He doesn't want to go down that road ever again.
"I'm your dad because I fell in love with you and your dad decided to share you with me, all right?" Butters smiles and leans over the table to kiss Patrick on the forehead. "That's all there is to it. Now let's order some real pizza before we both starve."