Disclaimer: I do not own South Park or any character present in this story. They belong to their rightful owners, and I do not intend to use them for any kind of profit.
Chapter 5: Nice and Boring—Just the Way I Like It
The way to the Tucker residence was not an easy road down the hill. Not that Gary was a terrible driver—in fact, he was doing the best he could under the worst weather condition the city had witnessed in years. The world seen through the windshield was of pure white: the rains formed something like a thick fog that limited the sight range to merely a few yards. One could almost feel malice in the way that the wind blew, and the vehicle shook dangerously left and right as it found itself in the middle of the churning turbulence.
"Jesus Christ, if the DeLorns don't kill us, this crazy weather will." Bridon blurted from the backseat, holding tight to the nearest object that he could find: Stan Marsh. Stan briefly pondered about pushing him away but then remembered that it was he who injured his other hand and decided to make up for it by letting him cling for the moment.
"Easy, Bridon. Everything's fine." It was Kenny occupying the passenger seat in a laxed posture. He seemed almost too complacent as if he was not worried a bit about what was going on in the outside. "What's the worst thing that can happen? Die?"
"Ha. Ha. Not funny, boss." Bridon retorted. "Regrettably, we're unlike you. First, we didn't get to sleep with every walking chick in this city. Second, we are not immortals."
The second part briefly caught Stan's attention.
"Wait, what do you mean by that last part?"
"Oh, didn't you know?" Looking ahead, Stan found that Kenny was now sitting backwards on his seat so that he faced him, a smirk developing on his face. "Well, I understand. You've been far away from this city and it's been less than an hour since you joined, so you might have missed who I really am."
Stan made his brows knit. "An immortal?"
"Precisely." Kenny's grin grew wider. "You noticed the name of our little tavern? Where do you think it came from?"
"And you're telling me to actually believe it?" Stan looked at his boss accusingly.
"Well, at least that's what they call me." Kenny shrugged. "You wanna hear some of my credentials?"
"Please. I'm all ears." Stan laced his fingers behind his head, leaning backwards to the seat. "I've got nothing else to do while the car's rolling, anyway."
"Kids… they never believe anything these days." Kenny shook his head in mock disapproval. "Okay, first off, you know I fought in the war in Europe, don't you?"
"You did? I knew old Jimmy had lost his leg back there but didn't know you were there, too."
"Not everyone who fought there lost his leg, Stan. In fact, I've been through worse. Guess how many times I got shot in the Somme."
"Forget about that name. The correct answer is six times, boy. Three in the chest, two in the left thigh, and one in the neck."
"You got shot at your neck?" Stan asked incredulously. "And you're here in this car with me alive?"
"What did I say?" Kenny grinned and shrugged. "And you shouldn't be surprised yet, because here is the real shit. I have been officially dead for three minutes."
"Yes way! Ask Gary here. He was the one who pronounced me dead." Kenny tapped on the driver's shoulder. "Tell him, Gary."
"It's true." He confirmed without breaking his gaze to the front. "A massive trauma made his heart stop for more than two minutes. I still can't explain what got it beating again aside from pure luck."
"You hear that?" Kenny stated triumphantly. "Learn to believe what your boss says." As he saw the confused look on the teenager's face, he felt his victory assured and turned around to face the front again, until he heard what Stan said next:
"A zombie…" Stan mumbled to himself, which was clearly audible to all others in the vehicle.
Kenny once again turned his gaze backwards to where he was sitting. "Pardon?"
"If you died and then got resurrected somehow," Stan tilted his head in contemplation. "That doesn't make you an immortal. It makes you a zombie. Immortals cannot die in the first place."
The smile on the face of Kenny began to disappear. "I'd really prefer the other terminology."
"It makes sense, boss." Bridon chuckled as he hopped into the conversation. "Raised from the dead. That fits the definition of a zombie."
"Bridon, shut up if you want to keep your other arm." Kenny briefly glared at him and then turned his gaze to Stan. "Okay, let's ask for an expert's advice and settle it. Gary?"
"Um, boss, I'm driving. Count me out."
"All you have to say is that I'm an immortal, and absolutely not a filthy zombie." Kenny formed an overly wide smile that revealed his gum line.
"Don't give in to outside pressure, Gary." Stan was now enjoying this game a little and joined in the effort to woo the half-doctor to his side. "Remember what the medical school taught you."
"Uh…" The Mormon was visibly embarrassed by the situation where he was sucked right into a pointless argument while having to drive all the way through the terrible storm. "I think a more appropriate designation would be…"
The attention of all other people in the vehicle was now pointed towards the driver's mouth. Was Kenny an immortal, or a zombie?
Kenny reclined back to his seat. with his mouth slightly agape as though he refused to believe what the driver just said. "Really?"
"Fair enough." Stan took the doctor's diagnosis rather contentedly. "Zombies, Undeads. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to."
"Jesus Christ," Defeated, Kenny repeatedly banged the back of his head on the seat. "I give you guys food, shelter, clothing, and job, and look at what you do to your boss. Call him a zombie. Fantastic. Damn you. Damn you all."
"No need to be pouting, my good boss." Stan giggled. "Zombie or not, I think it's pretty cool to not to be able to die, or at least stay dead."
"I think it's pretty cool to return from the dead. Duh." Kenny mimicked his works mockingly. "You have absolutely no idea. You really don't."
"Boss?" It was Gary who called him before Stan could conjure up a response.
"What." Kenny turned his head to his side, but not trying to conceal his lack of enthusiasm. "Wanna change your vote? Still wouldn't change that you hurt me. Hard."
"Uh, not exactly." He pointed the outside with his chin. "We're here. The Tucker residence."
Stan must say he'd expected more when he first heard of the Tucker residence. He himself was born and raised for the first eight years in his life in what can't be called other than a palace: with flamboyant decorations and dozens of people manning the place. Compared to his old residence in his childhood memory, the place where the leader of the Tucker family allegedly lived seemed like a humble cottage. Sure, it was bigger than most houses in the surrounding area—it was three story high—, but that was it. The paint on the wall had lost its hue after constant exposure to the sunbeam and was slightly peeling off. There was nothing that could be called a garden, except for a few—and almost dying—bushes alongside the fence. No one would have suspected that anyone with such influence as Craig Tucker resided in such a modest place. The only thing that indicated that something was going on was the presence of heavily armed guards looking around suspiciously as more and more men arrived to answer their godfather's call.
"Greetings, Mr. McCormick. Glad you could make it on such a short notice." A person who seemed to be in charge of security greeted the self-professed immortal as they made their way to the main entrance. He had to raise his voice so that it can be heard in the middle of the storm.
"Yeah, whatever. These are my boys," Kenny seemed yet to break from his begrudged state. "Unfortunately, that is."
"Um…" The security head cocked his head slightly, not knowing exactly what was going on. Soon enough, however, he recovered his normal state. "Would you consider contributing some of your men for reinforcing the security? As you know, we believe the DeLorns are clearly planning something."
"Fair enough. Where do you need our support?"
"In the rear entrance."
"You guys heard him." Kenny then nudged Gary in his side. "You take Bridon and man the rear side."
"Seriously, boss? In this weather? I'm injured!" Bridon complained openly.
"So much for calling your boss a zombie, huh?" An evil grin replaced the discontent look on the blonde man's face. "Next time, think before you speak. Now hurry along."
Gary and Bridon couldn't make it more obvious that they didn't want to be left in the outside under the torrential rain but had no other choice but to abide by the command. When Stan made gestures to follow the two, however, he was pulled back by Kenny who voiced: "Nuh-uh. You stay."
"Well, I was the one who came up with the new terminology first." Stan felt sorry for the other two members of the crew who were now being held responsible for what he said. "If they have to stay outside, I have to be with them. If you need someone to rash out on, that'd be me, not them."
"Nice try to cover your friends, but that's an order." His boss demanded. "I need to introduce you to some other people inside. Now tag along."
As he made his way towards the front door, Stan made an apologetic smile at the two others who were now destined to get wet before following his lead. They answered with a bitter smile and then disappeared to the other side of the building.
Stepping inside the building behind Kenny revealed a hallway lit by a couple of lamps standing at each side of the wall. If someone asked, Stan would say it was no different from any other ordinary household.
"I must say," Stan decided to press with his growing curiosity. "Your godfather seems to be a very humble man."
"Our godfather, Stan. Keep in mind that you're one of us now." Kenny corrected, earning a 'sorry' from the teenager. "It's his style. He just doesn't enjoy any form of grandiosity. He wants to keep everything as plain and simple as possible. I sometimes like it, sometimes don't."
They soon reached the end of the hallway and were now in front of the door. "Stay behind me—" Kenny instructed him and pushed it open.
As they passed the doorway, they entered a large reception area where other people in the family were gathering as well. In the middle of the room was this long, wooden table with a dozen chairs situated around it. As the number of chairs fell significantly short of the number of people present, Stan guessed that they were meant for only the important figures, maybe at the director level like his boss. At the far end of the table was an empty chair that was of a different size and color. That had to be the one where the godfather would be seated.
No one seemed to notice their entrance to the area, as pretty much everybody else in the room was engaged in a conversation with others, not paying enough attention to who arrived. Kenny seemed to be looking for someone as he glanced around the place.
"A-ha! There you are." Having found the person he was looking for, he beckoned Stan to follow him as he approached a person on the other side of the room who standing alone, and oddly enough, facing to the wall up close. The mentioned person was constantly mumbling something to himself, and probably because of that, did not notice the two of them until Kenny was merely an inch behind him, placing his hand on the person's shoulder.
"Long time no see, Twee—"
Stan flinched as the man shrieked at the contact and the object that he was holding dropped to the floor, breaking apart with a clattering noise. The room suddenly became silent as everyone else in the place ceased to do what they were doing and stared at the source of the sudden sound.
"Jesus Christ, you scared me! What if I-ngh-die of a heart attack?" The man almost reprimanded Kenny upon turning around.
Instead of apologizing, Kenny smiled back. "It's good to see you too, Tweek. Glad you're…lively as ever." For some reason, he didn't seem to mind the man's odd mannerism at all. The same was true for all others in the room who now continued their own businesses. Whatever his problem was, they must be already too familiar with it to care enough.
Stan looked down at the floor to find several pieces of what used to be a coffee cup, with its steamy content splattered on the wooden flooring and now sipping through the cracks. Looking up, he identified that the man who also had blonde hair—albeit much brighter than Kenny's. Something suggested that the man was not in a normal state, though. His hands on each side of his body didn't stop swinging back and forth, his eyeballs rotated to every direction as if he were trying to assess every object around him a hundred times, his head jerked to left and right without any reason or notable pattern, his shirt was buttoned incorrectly, and most importantly, his entire body was constantly shaking. There were two possibilities: he was either seriously ill, or quite possibly, high beyond belief.
"W-what do you want from me?" he asked Kenny as if he was being threatened.
"I wanted to introduce someone to you." Kenny then beckoned Stan with his index finger and casually slung his arm onto his shoulders. "Would you like to guess who this is?"
"N-No! Don't make me guess. Guessing is too much pressure!"
Wow, Stan thought, whoever this man is, he's seriously fucked up.
"Try not to have a second heart attack." Apparently, this did not discourage his boss a bit. "He's Stanley Marsh."
"S-Stanley who?" Stan guessed that it was supposed to be a surprised expression from the man, but there was no telling—he was always twitching so fiercely that it was impossible to make out what he was thinking.
"Marsh, Tweek. M.A.R.S.H." Kenny spelled the raven's last name for the poor man. "He's the son of Randall. You remember the Marshes, don't you?"
"Jesus Christ!" Well, there goes the surprise. "I heard no one survived! They say the Mole chopped their bodies into pieces and fed them to sharks!" Then he glared at Stan with his eyeballs, each almost the same size to a baseball. "Oh my God! You're a zombie! You've come back from the graves to get me! Gah! I'm dead!"
"Calm down, Tweek. First, no one actually got chopped up and fed to sharks. Second, he's not a zombie. But I may be." Kenny then winked at Stan. "And most importantly, no one has a vested interest in doing such things to you. It wouldn't be exactly…uh…worth the effort." Kenny corrected in a methodical manner and looked back at Stan. "Stan, this is Tweek Tweak, director of the Southeast division and the godfather's personal secretary."
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Tweak." Stan extended his hand as politely as possible, trying to conceal his judgment that he might not want to be too close to him. "Stan Marsh."
The man called Tweek, however, left Stan's hand hanging in the air while looking at his face and his hand alternately. Instead of greetings, he asked: "Have you washed your hands?"
Caught off guard at the question, Stan didn't immediately understand what he meant. "Pardon?"
"God! You didn't!" If there was an emotion written on the man's face, that would be pure fear. "Do you know how many-ngh-germs there are on your hands? A hundred thousand on each, man! I'll die of sepsis the instant I come into contact with them. There's no way I'm ever touching it. Nuh-uh. Not before you wash it at least three times!"
Feeling slightly irritated, Stan retrieved his extended hand from the man's side. Then he wisphered to his boss: "Do you happen to know what sepsis is?" Discovering what was going on inside his mind, his boss leaned in to whisper in reply: "Don't be offended. He does that."
Having failed at introducing the raven appropriately to the twitchy man, Kenny fake coughed a couple times to lift the mood. "Okay, I think you two can start hanging out later. Tweek, can we have a word with Mr. Tucker? I want him to meet this boy as well."
"N-Not right now. He's making an important phone call. And he'll be-ngh-presiding the emergency meeting when finished."
"A phone call?" Kenny knitted his brows. "To whom?"
"I-I don't know! It's supposed to be confidential. What do you want to know that for?" Then his eyes went even wider. "Oh my God! You aren't a spy, are you? You're first gonna sell the information to the DeLorns and then probably sell me for slavery at a cotton farm in Georgia! I knew it! I knew it was going to happen! TOO MUCH PRESSURE!"
Urgh. Stan actually developed a respect for Kenny for being able to stand a conversation with Tweek for longer than five seconds.
"Easy, Tweek. I'm not a spy, and I'm not going to sell you for slavery." Kenny soothed the spazzy one, or at least he tried. "No Southerner will be so inclined to buy one like you, anyway. You'll waste more cotton than you pick. Anyway, do arrange time for us after the meeting. I need to have a talk with Mr. Tucker about this kid."
"-ngh-Will do! Just keep your hands off me!" From the looks of it, Kenny's words failed to calm Tweek down so far. But then again, Stan thought that no one would really able to do just that. "G-Get your seat. The meeting will start soon. I gotta get some more coffee before-ngh-he comes."
As the twitchy blonde jogged his way out of their sight, Stan was left bewildered by what he just encountered.
"Sorry, Kenny. I just realized being called a zombie isn't a very sweet experience at all." That earned a chucked from his blonde boss. "What's wrong with that guy, anyway?" Stan asked while rubbing his temple, trying to relieve the mental strain caused by merely meeting him.
"It's a long story. He used to be the best hand-to-hand fighter in this whole town—way higher up there than every man in this room, myself included." Kenny answered while still looking at the direction where Tweek disappeared. "Will you believe if I tell you that he actually sparred and went neck and neck with Mr. Tucker?"
"No way!" Really? That spazzy guy, of all people? "I mean, they duked it out?"
"Sort of." Kenny sniffed. "If what I hear is right, they both ended up in hospital. And you know these cases where dudes get closer when they fight? I think that's exactly happened, as that's when they got together to expand their operations and began to send their competitors to hell one after another. Half the credit for establishing the Tucker family should go to Tweek, they say."
"I would have never guessed. He's like, the last person that I'd associate with that kind of business." Like someone said, life was full of surprises. "What really happened to him? He's so fucked up."
"Somebody slipped a neurotoxin in his morning coffee." Kenny frowned. "The doctors said it was a miracle for him to be even alive, but it ended up severely damaging his brain. That's why he's…like that."
"Jeez," So there was a story behind it. Stan began to feel a bit sorry about the man. "Did they find out who messed with his coffee?"
"No. But it was immediately after the attack on your family, so everyone presumes that it was the work of the Mole."
"Him again." For some reason, Stan didn't fail to hear that name whenever there was tragedy. He was now committed to making the last tragedy belong to the man himself. "It seems everyone in this city has something against that man in one way or another."
"The opportunity will come, I promise." Kenny put his hand on the raven's shoulder. "Right now, let's worry only about the meeting. The godfather will be here soon. Stand right behind my seat." With that, he pulled a chair from the table at the center of the room. Stan wasn't sure if Kenny possessed an ability to foresee the future, but it was exactly when someone emerged from one of the doors.
"Greetings, gentlemen. I appreciate your coming here." The newly-emerged man said, walking to his designated seat at the end of the table as other people in the room promptly ended their private talking and hurriedly took their seats or stood behind where their bosses were seated. He saw the twitchy blonde reentering the room and joining the table now with a full pot that presumably contained hot, steamy coffee within it. Stan, having no intention of messing up his first encounter with his new godfather, stood firmly behind Kenny and observed other people, especially Craig Tucker.
"As you all know, I'm not a fan of words. Our fancy little session here isn't exactly my thing." Mr. Tucker spoke with a monotone, nosy voice. "But the current circumstance calls for it, and I had no other option."
As Stan carefully examined the man who was supposed to be the first in command of this group, he found that he looked extremely young for both his position and his reputation. Most of the people would put him in no more than his thirties or early forties. He had pitch black hair, much similar to Stan himself, but was more than a head taller than him. If he had to pick one particular feature out of his appearance, however, that should be the complete lack of any expression on his face. If it weren't for the eyes, he would have bought that he was wearing a mask rather than a real face.
"At 0900, we received an intelligence report that DogPoo Petuski, the young leader of Staten Island, was assassinated. Tweek will fill in the details."
"Me? Jesus, that's too much pressure!"
Oh, not again. Stan seriously doubted Tucker's motive behind having Tweek, of all people, do the job. Not that he had options, though. For the next five minutes or so, he was stuck in that room listening to what the spazz had to say, which was of course frequently interrupted by his sudden anxiety attacks. He was about to start banging his head against the wall when the story got to where the Petuski residence got burned down.
"Burned down?" A slightly obese man from the table stopped Tweek for the first time since the meeting started. "In this weather? That sounds improbable." Several other people nodded in approval of the question.
"Jesus, I'm not lying! T-There was an explosion!" He almost seemed about to cry. "We believe they torched the armory and the next thing we know, the whole place was gone! BOOM!" Then his complexion turned whiter than ever. "God! We have an armory down in the basement, too! When it exploded, not a piece of me will survive! Jesus, see me through this!"
The next thing the people saw was the twitchy blonde curl himself into a ball on the chair, brining an abrupt end to the briefing. This, indeed, was good news for Stan. And he had reasons to believe that he was not alone.
"I believe that's about it. Thank you, Tweek." Having determined that the mental ability of his aide was almost incapacitated, Mr. Tucker seemingly decided to take up from there. "As you may have guessed, the purpose of today's session is to determine our best response against the DeLorns' hostile actions."
That made sense. Despite the fact the Petuskis were the weakest link among the four remaining crime families, it indubitably shook up the status quo. Given Mr. Tucker's reputation, he wouldn't sidestep a direct confrontation with the Mole himself, would he?
That expectation, however, began to disintegrate at the man's next words: "So, which card do you think we should put down on our negotiation table with them?"
…What? Stan wasn't sure if he heard him right. A negotiation?
"Cash is definitely out of the option." One of the directors wearing glasses pointed out while Stan was having difficulty assessing what really was going on. "The treasury is at all-time low. We can't afford to buy our way out as long as the current level of cash influx continues." Then he shot almost a disdainful look at Kenny. "Especially when there are some people who report zero income months after months. Don't you think, McCormick?"
"At least I don't touch kids, Nathan." Kenny retorted. "If selling kids to brothels is your version of making money, please do me a favor and count me out."
The eyes of the man called Nathan went fiery, to which Kenny responded with a similar look. The slightly obese man intervened: "I suggest you two continue your petty argument outside. None of you is helping here." Then he addressed the godfather. "Mr. Tucker, it may be a better choice to concede some of our territories. Our control on the northeast region is already contested by the DeLorns and I don't think we stand a very good chance of securing it to begin with. If we can save our lives by cutting out our tails, we should do so."
"Who gives you the authority to sell out my domain?" Another man rose from his seat, his face about to blow off. "I was working my ass off to keep that one from the French hands while you were sipping martinis and harassing little girls!"
"I did what to what?" The chubby man rose from his seat as well.
"Did you think I didn't know, you slimy pedophile?"
Stan had nothing else to do than watch the session quickly degenerate into a rather childish name-calling. He, however, couldn't concentrate on what exactly they were talking about. One of the ruling families gets wiped out, and what's the only thing they do? They were more interested in appeasing the enemy to minimize the fallout to themselves than to stand against them. That was so different from what he had expected.
Thump, Thump, Thump.
The room went gradually silent as Tucker banged on the table three times to get attention. His look, however, did not display any sense of displeasure. Looking uninterested as ever, he reopened the original subject. "I see we have difficulty reaching a consensus. Anyone with better idea than handing in cash or territory?"
Well, this might be the right time for Stan to speak up. Or at least he thought so.
"Um, aren't we planning on any kind of retaliation?"
Stan almost gasped as the entire eyes pointed to his direction immediately after he voiced his opinion. For a split second, he wasn't sure if their attention was directed to himself or Kenny who apparently chocked at his own spit upon hearing what his subordinate said. As seconds went by, however, it became clear that it was indeed Stan who was bathing in all that attention.
"Do elaborate." Tucker, along with others, locked his gaze on the raven, albeit not breaking his stoic appearance.
"*cough* Sorry, *cough* he's new to this realm." It seemed Kenny finally recovered from his chocking as he tried to provide cover for him.
"I'm not asking you, McCormick." Tucker's gaze briefly went to him and went straight back to Stan. "I don't know if I'm getting to old, but I don't quite remember you. Identify yourself."
Not sure of what to do, Stan first gave a look to his boss to gain his approval. He only earned his shrug, which conveyed the meaning of 'don't ask me! you're the one who started this!'
Sighing, he decided to go for it. "My name's Stan Marsh. And yes, my father as Randall."
The brief silence in the room was immediately broken as people began murmuring upon hearing that. He couldn't make out all of them, but he was sure that they were talking about his supposed death at the scene ten years ago.
The bangs on the table once again sounded, and the order was quickly restored to the meeting. Tucker raised one of his brows. "From what I know, you're not supposed to be alive. How do I know that I'm not facing an impostor?"
"He's who he claims to be. I can verify." Kenny spoke up in defense of his identity.
For the first time, Stan thought he saw some kind of expression appear on his godfather, but he was not sure if he was interested or disturbed. Soon, even that brief expression disappeared.
"That explains what you've proposed." Tucker continued in his characteristically nosy voice. "Retaliation is exactly what Randall would have opted for in this situation. It seems it runs in the family, then."
"To me, it's the right choice." Stan almost felt proud at his mentioning of his father.
"Right, but stupid." Stan was a bit surprised as Tucker's words suddenly assumed a cold, cynical tone. "In this city, no one wants to shake things up, especially it involves messing with the French."
"But they shook it up first." Stan protested. "You can't let them run rampant. First, it was we Marshes. Second, Petuskis are gone. What do you think will be next? Shouldn't anyone at least try to stop them?"
"And try to be a hero? Like your father did? Please." Mr. Tucker frowned. "Let me tell you this. It was his misguided sense of righteousness that damned him and his followers to oblivion. He was the only one who stood up against the DeLorns and look what happened. He's no more, along with his followers."
"He did what he had to do." Stan was not backing down without a fight. "He followed what he believed in."
"That's the exact problem. Whenever bad things happen, you push yourself deeper and deeper into the situation. Until you pay for it with your life." He snarled. "Sometimes it's best to just walk away. That's the reason why there is not going to be any retaliation."
"So, what are you going to do?" Stan hissed, fully aware that this was not the most respectful way to address his first in command. "Holed up in this house, giving out your territory one after another, to live a plain and boring life?"
"Stan, that's about enough." Kenny finally intervened to prevent the conversation from getting any hotter. "I will not tolerate any more insolence—"
"Shut up, McCormick, before I make you shut up." Mr. Tucker, however, made him back away and continued the already prolonged conversation. "Yes. Nice and boring—just the way I like it. Got any problem with that, Marsh?"
"It's nothing more than an excuse! This is about more than just retaliation. It's about justice."
"Then tell me, Marsh." Tucker leaned his body forward. "Justice? Sounds good. But how many lives are you ready to sacrifice to achieve that lofty ideal? Suppose your father and you were naïve enough to believe your ideas, but what can you say about others who got killed just for being on your side? Do you really believe your silly sense of justice is worth hundreds of lives?"
If there was going to be any gotcha question that put Stan's logic in a precarious position, that would be it. Craig Tucker was right. In fact, it was the point that he had been dwelling on for quite a while. Opposing the Mole and his family would definitely spell doom for anyone who attempted to do so. As much as he wanted to have the objective of his live fulfilled, there was no doubt the endeavor will prove extremely risky and probably fatal. That was the reason why he had planned to take on his mission all by himself—he didn't want the fate of his family to befall any others he cared for.
Hearing no response from the boy, Mr. Tucker slowly regained his stoic posture. "Your father failed to protect those who followed him. I'm not making the same mistake." Then he leaned reclined back to his seat. "I understand you may have strong opinions about this matter, but as long as you remain under the roof of my house and my family, you'll abide by my rules. Consider it as a personal lesson for your new job here."
"…" Stan still refused to reply to that remark. Joining forces with Kenny, and therefore with the Tuckers, may prove to be a grave mistake.
Before the session could continue, however, there was a knock at the door to the reception area.
"Sir, a liaison from the DeLorns requests access." It was the head of security that Stan had met earlier that day.
"Let them in." Tucker ordered.
"The DeLorns? Here?" One of the directors voiced his suspicion. "They've got a lot of nerve to be showing their faces around here for sure."
"I called them in." The man 'oh'ed as his godfather revealed himself as the architect of the plan. "They wanted to settle the matter as soon as possible, to which I agreed. The session is over, gentlemen. I will take your perspectives into consideration while coming to terms with them."
As soon as he finished that line, the door opened and revealed several new figures who marched towards the room. Two of them, Stan immediately identified as their own security guards. The remaining three, on the other hand, seemed distinct from all the others present in that room, possibly due to the different color base of the clothes they were wearing: black with noticeable greenish hue. At the center of that group was a female with long, black hair. At each side of her were two men who seemed to be her entourage.
While he was examining the newly-advent party to the group, Kenny grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled him down and whispered. "You already managed to embarrass me and yourself enough today, Stan. Don't do anything stupid. You don't want to aggravate her."
"…Why not?" Stan replied unimpressed. It was already apparent that he would not be able to pull anything out of this given what Craig Tucker warned.
"That's Wendy fucking DeLorn, the wife of Gregory. If you touch her, you're messing with the right arm of the Mole himself."
"…That's all the more reason to bring her down at once."
"I swear to God, if you pull more street performance today, I'll get you before you get anyone."
Stan sighed at the sight of Kenny glaring daggers at him. Earlier that day, it felt like he earned several valuable allies in his lonely fight against the one man he was seeking revenge against. Right now, it was as if everyone that he thought was his friend turned against him.
"Did I disturb your time together, gentlemen?" The woman who Kenny identified as Wendy DeLorn said entering the area. Despite the semblance of politeness, Stan could feel the sense of high pride and arrogance emanating from her.
"Not at all, Madame, it's glad to see you again." Craig Tucker himself addressed the woman. "I must say that I expected your husband to show up, though."
"Gregory is busy tonight. Then again, he always is." She walked towards the crowd elegantly. "I was given the full authority for conducting negotiations with your family on behalf of our leadership today. I hope you don't have anything against talking to a woman on the equal footing."
"I don't. Now, if you'd please." Tucker emerged from his seat. "We've just finished up our own discussion here. The rest of the negotiation process will be better done in a more private setting."
"Always as wise, Mr. Tucker." She wore a satisfied smile. "Your clan will prosper under your rule, much unlike Petuskis, or…" Then, she said something that would anger Stan to no end. "Marshes, for that matter."
What the fuck did she just say? Stan thought.
Or he thought so. From the way everyone else was looking at him—for the second time that day—, he realized that his thought actually escaped his mouth in a verbal form without him even recognizing it. Then he heard a small thudding sound that Kenny made as he banged his head to the table, mumbling 'Jesus, either kill him or kill me.'
"Well, that certainly is harsh." Wendy didn't erase her smile from her face even after being insulted by the raven. "Is that the way you treat ladies? What a shame for such a good looking man."
"Of course I—ouch!" Stan's reply was cut short as a sharp pain invaded him. Looking down, he found that Kenny's patience had finally been depleted and that he was stepping on his foot, facing him with his glaring eyes.
"That's it, Stan Marsh!" Stan had never seen his boss this angry before. "I hereby forbid you from speaking another single word! That's a fucking order! Got it?"
In his aggravate state, Kenny didn't really notice that he gave Stan's identity away.
"…Marsh?" Of course there was no way for the woman not to notice. "This surely gets more and more interesting."
Kenny just realized what he had done and slapped his own forehead. "Look what you did to me." He took several heavy breaths before he opened his mouth again. "I'm out. You clean up your own shit." After whispering that, he almost crawled his way to the door and disappeared outside.
"Well, that's surely a surprise. Gregory did tell me that there was no one Marsh left in this city." She almost taunted Stan to strangle her neck with her mockery. "Although I have to confess that I'm unfamiliar with any Stan. Care to enlighten me?"
"Don't worry, you'll learn soon." Stan snarled. "I promise each and every DeLorn will grow to fear my name one day. And I'm a man of my word." With that, he quickly ran past her to follow his boss out of the room. He didn't know what he would do if he stayed with her for too long. Surprisingly enough, Craig Tucker had been watching the whole ordeal with his indifferent look even when Stan came dangerously close to ruining a deal that might spell life-or-death decision for his clan.
He heard Madame DeLorn scoff as he was closing the door behind him. "I doubt I'll ever see that day." And that the was the last thing he heard from her from that encounter. He normally would have tried to decipher the ulterior meaning of the phrase, but he just didn't have enough patience to do so.
Trying hard to shake off the lingering aura of that lady, Stan looked around to locate his missing boss. The task was not hard, as he easily found him banging his head against the wall. Hurriedly advancing right next to him. Realizing that he had caused lots of problems for his boss, he determined that an apology was in order. He was about to do just that when he put his hand on his shoulder. "Kenny—"
"Don't. Touch. Me." Stan was forced to withdraw his hand as his boss spoke with venom. "I'm starting to doubt if bringing you here was a wise decision. Until I figure that out, I'm not talking to you."
"…I understand." Stan really did. As he brought up the fresh memory of that day, he did quite a bit of acting up after getting here. And Kenny turned out to be the biggest victim here. Stan couldn't feel worse about himself, and he thought it wouldn't be so different for his boss.
Maybe I need to chill out first.
"Kenny, do you know where the bathroom is?" It would be the last question before Stan left him alone without further bothering him.
"I'm not telling you." The only answer from him was that methodical line.
The raven sighed. Guess he'll have to find it out himself. It surely would be a difficult job as there were no particular signs denoting restrooms in the house. The door to the bathroom looked exactly the same as the door to a bathroom. Maybe he should start searching on the second flo—
"I'm not telling you it's the last door on your left on the second floor." Fortunately, Kenny once again did him a favor by saving him the burden. After what he did to him that day, that's more than what Stan deserved from him.
"Thank you." Stan developed a bitter smile towards his boss, which was completely ignored by the intended target.
"I'm not going to say you're welcome." Although he finally stopped torturing himself by making his head make contacts with the wall, he still refused to look back at the raven's direction.
Erasing the smile from his face, Stan slowly proceeded to the stairs leading up to the second floor. There were not a whole lot of things that he could do except to leave his boss alone and hope that he would feel better as time went by.
The sound of his shoes making contact with the wooden floor echoed through the empty hall as he walked towards where Kenny had told him the bathroom was located. Recollecting the day's events, Stan realized how many things happened at the same time after he arrived at the city. He was involved in a bar fight, then he had a little 'family' reunion with his old acquaintance. Somehow this acquaintance successfully persuaded him to join his crew, but things really began to descend into chaos as soon as he arrived at this place. He first had an argument with his new godfather—wow.—and still then almost ruined a critical negotiation process that might have cost lives.
Stan held down his head the entire time as he approached the restroom. Everything was happening at too fast a rate for him. If there was only one thing he needed at the moment, that was some time to calm himself down and try to assess the current situation. So, the Tuckers have opted for a peaceful resolution with the DeLorns, much to Stan's dismay. Would his personal plan of wreaking vengeance upon the Mole ever succeed if the clan that he belonged to shook hands with his ultimate enemy? Not very likely. But then again, what could he do? Stan immersed himself in deep thought as he heard his footsteps being reverberated by the walls.
…It was right then that he realized that he was not alone. Yes, he did hear his walking sound bouncing back and forth from the walls. The problem was that the sound was slightly but clearly duplicated. For every one step he took, he heard the echoing sound of two.
He then remembered the last thing Wendy DeLorn had told him.
I doubt I'll ever see that day.
Stan scoffed. She made it perhaps a little bit too obvious.
No need to guess. Stan thought. That bitch sent one of his aides to clean the last Marsh up. Such a daring move in this place.
In order to test his theory, Stan deliberately controlled the pace of his walking, slowing down or quickening up to make it difficult for his possible follower to synchronize steps with him. That proved to be effective, as he definitely noticed the gap in the sounds between the change-ups in the speed.
The answer became clear: he was being followed, presumably by one of the DeLorn thugs.
Saliva began to moisten up the inside of his mouth and his heartbeat rate skyrocketed. He didn't carry any weapon to defend himself: everything was happening in a rush, so Kenny must have forgotten to issue him one. If it was a trained assassin that trailed his back, he might have to endure a difficult, prolonged fight.
He fought every urge to turn around to face whoever was tracing his back. From the way the follower tried to hide his existence, he or she did not want Stan to recognize the fact that there was a company to his little trip to the bathroom. In this scenario, the best trick he could pull was to pretend not to have noticed the tracking. Stan continued to contemplate and decided that the most ideal time to catch the follower was he entered the bathroom unsuspectingly.
Acting as natural as he could, Stan reached the end of the hallway and took a left turn to enter the bathroom. He briefly considered locking the door upon making it inside, but a clumsy door lock wouldn't put up much of a fight if someone that he was about to confront was really willing to do harm. Bailing that option, Stan instead installed himself inside one of the toilet stalls and closed the stall door.
From there he waited for the slimy stalker. He couldn't hear anything for the first couple of minutes, but he definitely began to hear muffled footsteps starting from a distance but getting closer and closer. The bathroom door made noises as it slowly opened and closed. There was a clicking sound of the door lock as the follower apparently opted to lock themselves up before he could kill Stan off for good.
The tiles on the floor of the bathroom made it much easier hear the intruder's footsteps. Stan controlled his breath so that the person on the other side of the stall door couldn't locate him. The footsteps now reached about the center of the restroom, where it suddenly stopped. The came almost a whispering voice: "…Marsh?"
It was the right time.
Stan jerked the stall door open and charged to the unsuspecting figure with every might he could muster from his body. The opponent was caught off-guard and was immediately knocked backwards. Without losing the perfect chance, Stan garnered the momentum to actually pin the man against the wall, placing his both hands around his neck so that he can choke him to death whenever the circumstance called for it.
"Who are you?" Stan demanded fiercely. "Why are you following me?"
The figure squeaked, coughing constantly, but not being able to produce comprehensible words. Maybe Stan was being too forceful with his hands. As he loosened the grab a little, the man took heavy breaths to provide precious oxygen to his lungs. The raven decided to give him some time to regain his composure.
""I…Mean…No harm…" the man gasped along with his answer. "I don't carry… any weapon. Check for yourself."
Determining that the man did not pose an immediate threat, Stan let go of his neck and patted down the figure in a search for any concealed weapon. He didn't find any.
"See? Now can you let me go so that we can have a talk?" The man spread out his arms innocently.
Seeing no deception going on, Stan did let go of the man. Taking a few step backwards, he began to question his intentions of following him.
"What do you want?"
"First, I need to make sure you are who you claim to be. Are you really Stanley Marsh, the son of Randall Marsh?"
"What was your mother's name?"
"Never had one."
"Does the name Henrietta ring a bell?"
"Sure. She made the world's best oatmeal."
The man exhaled excitedly. "You are indeed Stan Marsh. But I thought you were dead."
Stan was growing absolutely tired of the same reaction that people made when they found out who he was. "Please, can we not repeat this shit again and just get straight to the point?"
The excited look on the man's face was quickly washed away. "I only wanted to warn you." He straightened up his wrinkled clothing. "Your life is in danger. You must leave this premise immediately."
"And tell me anything I don't know." Stan retorted. "If that's the only news you wanted to break to me, you could have just told me, instead of being sneaky like this."
"I couldn't. I'm acting on my own. Madame DeLorn cannot know that we met here."
Acting on his own? There goes the 'assassin sent by that bitch' theory.
"What's your purpose? You work with the DeLorns, and that makes us committed enemies. What's in your interest to protect me even if there's danger ahead?"
The man stared at Stan. "Let's just say I've known you for a very long time. If you want to live, leave this building before midnight. Go as far away from the building as possible. That's the only way. I'm risking a lot by telling you this."
Stan stood there assessing what he just said. All his senses indicated that the man was saying the truth. Then it did mean that his life was seriously threatened. There was, however, another thing that drew his attention.
Stan instinctively moved closer to the man in order to get a better look at the man's glowing eyes. The figure noticed something was off and tried to back off, but the wall behind him prevented him from doing so.
Now Stan looked directly into the man's eyes. Green. Not a very common color these days. He didn't remember a whole lot of people who had green eyes, but he needed more clues.
In a sudden movement, Stan snatched the hat on the man's head that had been denying him a look at his hair. It was dark red. Slightly curly. Still not a very common combination.
That was enough evidence gathered. Green eyes, curly hair in dark red color, and someone who had known Stan for a long time. As long as his memory was concerned, there was only one match that he could retrieve from his old memories.
"Kyle." It was the one Stan had been hoping to meet the entire time, but at the same time was the one he never expected to see as well. "Kyle Broflovski."
His green eyes stirred. Or for a better description, they were engulfed in a whirlwind. "I-I don't know anyone by that name."
"Forget it. You can never fool me, Kyle." Stan didn't know how to describe his exact feeling right now. Pleasure for finally meeting his super best friend? Or sadness to see him turned into a foe after all those years? But one thing was for sure: he was never letting go of this opportunity. "After all, we used to be super best friends. We knew every secret of each other."
The redhead's gaze fell to the ground. He stood there breathing steadily, but not saying anything out loud.
"Kyle?" Stan reduced the gap between them and placed his hands on his each shoulder. "Talk to me. Please."
After some long pause, there came a sniffle from the redhead, along with a 'damnit' that was barely audible to both of them. As he slowly raised his head up, it revealed that those green eyes were now moistened up a bit. Taking a heavy breath, he finally opened his mouth.
"Hi, Stan." He forced a bitter smile, which didn't last very long. "Sorry we couldn't meet at a better time."
A/N: Sorry for another lazy update there. I'm quickly running out of excuses, so I'm going to admit that I've been holding a secret: I have a Ph. D. in Procrastination. If there ever was a Nobel Prize for putting the most things off, I'm going to make a very promising contestant.
Two things: first, believe it or not, this chapter got very long as well—even longer than the last one! I wasn't exactly expecting this to happen. I always believe 3-4K is just the right amount of words for one chapter. For one, that's as far as the attention span of normal people would go. With a 9K chapter, people are just tempted to jump over boring sections, which is not a very good sign for an AU fic where the smallest details make big differences. There are several amazing writers who can grab the attention of readers the whole time while writing a 15k long chapter—I know I'm not one of them, so I really need to keep this concise and engaging. Except that's not happening here very often. I do have an extreme tendency to enlarge—sometimes unnecessarily—every story I write, which is painful because I type like five letters in an hour. But enough of that whining.
I know I absolutely bombarded you with so many encounters with new characters in this chapter. Hope you didn't get lost. There's the brief joking scene with the Kenny crews, the first encounter with Tweek, the confrontation with Craig, and then Wendy appears, and of course, we have Kyle at last. I really should have split this chapter off, but if I did that, I'll probably end up producing forty chapters or so. I already have the basic synopsis all the way up to Ch.20, the epilogue, and really want to finish this up before next fall when I'll be forced to retire from writing stuffs. More on that later. You probably have noticed that some of the main/recurring characters are yet to be sighted, but please rest assured: they will be here, with the possible exception of Timmy who doesn't really fit into a rather serious story like this. And no, the slightly obese man from the meeting is NOT Clyde.
Once again, I would never have pulled it off without the warm support of reviewers: kenny and kyle; Molala24; lily's mom09; A.T. Vio; simply anonymous; and Little Wolf Vamp Hearts Yaoi. I'm super stoked that there are people who like what I write. I'm planning to work on another short Style story while doing YHIM, so hope you'll like it when it's up!
Why do I only write Style? Well, don't be grossed out, but I actually had a crush on my best friend in high school. So I kinda know how it feels, perhaps better than anyone. No, I kept it forever as a secret—I live in a place where 'freaks' like me are condemned as social disease and are publicly executed, and I wasn't quite willing to risk my life. Let me know if you'd like to hear more—I probably can update my profiles.