Didn't Know I Cared

By Breech Loader

Me: I wanted to make this a lemony-goodness one-shot. But I couldn't do it. So I settled on explaining what I think about Cartman's attitude – not to love, but to feeling anything at all.

Most people skip to the kids being 16 or 18 but they can be doing awesome things when they're 14 too, you know. This fic is sort of Cartman/Butters but I haven't decided exactly how slashy it needs to be just yet.

Who really needs help here? The suicidal Butters... or Cartman? And will Butters even live? Will I kill Butters? Am I a bastard?

Fourteen-year-old Eric Cartman was 100% certain that he was important.

You didn't have to have friends to be important. Hell, half the time friends were a fucking burden; whatever Stan and Kyle said, he knew their friendship caused more trouble for them than it was worth. They were only important to each other, which was totally gay.

The trouble was that some days – not very often, but sometimes he'd look in the mirror and wonder what it must be like to have friends, and not just a bunch of guys you hung around with who mostly hated you. And that would get him around to wanting them, if only for a little while.

He stared in the mirror for a while. He wasn't as... large... as he had been; his mother absolutely insisted that he go to the gym at least once a week. Also, when he mentally compared his portion sizes to that of a year or two ago, he imagined they were smaller. And he was pretty sure there were less snacks in the cupboards. There was muscle under the flab, which had surprised a few people when they tried to fuck with him and he had successfully broken their arms.

But even that didn't seem to help a lot.

How the hell did you make friends anyway? By being nice to people? That was just stupid! He'd been nice before and people hadn't become his friends! It wouldn't be so bad if it was a 100% guarantee of getting a friend, but Cartman was pretty sure that for him there was probably more work involved.

There was Butters of course, but he didn't like Cartman much a lot of the time either. Still, if it wasn't for him, Cartman knew he'd have been totally ostracised long ago.

In any case, Butters was just... pathetic. Like a little dog, except dogs had spines. Cartman tried to imagine Butters as being brave and standing up for himself once in a while. Then he remembered that sometimes he did. And when he did, people listened.

People listened to Cartman when he gave moving speeches, mimicking Stan and Kyle's gay little things because they seemed to get somewhere, but he always felt a little bit sick inside when he made them – partly at how much people were exactly like sheep, and partly at himself, though he couldn't pin down why. How could the other guys stand it?

Some other kids thought it was cool to have a mom who let him do anything he wanted and would give him anything he wanted. And it was that too, but they didn't know what it was like for that mother to also be the slut of South Park, to have seen her doing those crazy things, to know she was so dirty and he was related to her. And he had no father. All the other kids had dads somewhere. Even the ones who were assholes were still dads.

In any case she wasn't in right now. She was probably busy being her usual slutty self. He could put himself to bed but as so often happened, he'd likely fall asleep crying.

He stopped looking in the mirror, because it was days like this that his own reflection made him want to be sick.

He could use some company.

The fourteen-year-old Butters Stotch looked at the selection of baby-proof bottles that he'd lifted from his parents' medicine cabinet, as well as the bottles he'd bought from the pharmacy to supplement them.

He wasn't sure how many of them it would take for an overdose, or what exactly the results would be or anything, but he was damn sure that enough of them mixed together would surely have the desired effect.

Nobody cared about him. His mother had tried to kill him, then blamed it on 'some Puerto Rican guy', his father thought he was spineless and pathetic, even when he'd practically saved the world – or Imaginationland at least - and as for the groundings that happened on an almost weekly basis... well, he wasn't sure he could stand even one more night of being locked in the basement.

At school, things weren't much better. The boys accepted him when he put himself in to their group, but nobody ever came to him, unless it was to make fun of him. Most of the time he was left on his own, and it wouldn't be so bad, but... it was. And it was getting worse.

His blue eyes were puffy and red from the tears that kept pouring down his cheeks, but there was an unusual determination in them as he started to crush up the pills in a bowl, thinking hard. If his parents caught him doing this, they'd ground him for sure, but they were out at a town meeting and he was home alone again. And it was hard to ground a dead kid.

This was for the best, right? Of course it was; nobody would miss him, and he wouldn't cause any more trouble. When God had made him, he'd done something horribly wrong somehow; Butters wasn't sure what but he was bad, wicked, wrong. This would solve the problems of his parents, the problems of his classmates, and his own problems.

He looked in the mirror by the bed for a moment angrily. Why did he have to be so spineless all the time? Well, he wasn't going to be spineless over this.

He glared hatefully at his own reflection, before knocking the mirror off his table. Nobody understood, did they? Not understanding how hard it was to keep smiling; to set yourself the task of being the sunshine in everybody's otherwise gloomy lives.

He'd tried to deal with this already, using Professor Chaos. Somebody who didn't need to smile and be happy all the time. That had gone from wasting aerosol, to leaving hoses running, to trying to blow up the hospital – although that was mostly Cartman's fault – and then his parents had found out that Professor Chaos was starting fires. So they'd grounded him.

They'd grounded Butters. They hadn't grounded Professor Chaos.

Not that it mattered; Professor Chaos still wasn't enough to deal with all this... loneliness.

Should he leave a note? That was what people did in the movies. But he wasn't sure what he should write. After all, it wasn't like he'd even be around to see anybody read it. He tipped the crushed drugs into a large glass, then poured in a hefty dose of cough medicine. He finished by mixing in some milk, to help it all go down.

Well, should he leave a note? He thought for a moment. Maybe he should see if he wanted to write anything. He should at least say goodbye. He didn't want them to think it was some kind of accident. He picked out a pen and some writing paper and scrawled a quick note, a few tears dripping onto the paper.

Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he picked up the glass full of toxins, his hand shaking. This was it. No more being grounded in the basement. No more being constantly insulted and called weak. No more waking up screaming. No going back. No going back. No going back...

That was when the phone rang.

It shouldn't be an interruption, but as usual Butters had to give in to his spinelessness and answer the phone. Still holding the glass in one hand.

"Uh, hey there... who is it?"

"Butters, it's me, Cartman."

"Shucks, E-Eric? You want to talk to me?" Now that he thought about it, Cartman often wanted to see him. But on reflection, he only wanted to see him in order to play some cruel prank.

"Well yeah, dweeb. Why else would I call you? For sure I don't wanna hear you sing the entire works of Gilbert and Sullivan."

"Well..." Butters looked at the glass, "Gee Eric, it's after ten. My parents sure will be mad at me. I'll be grounded for sure. And I'm kinda busy with something important right now..."

"Don't be such a little dipshit, Butters. Who's more important in your life than me, your best friend?"

"Well, uh..." Butters considered this, "I didn't know you cared-"

"I'm bored. Figured I'd watch a movie or two. Why don't you come over and we'll watch it together?" On the other end of the phone, Cartman tried to sound casual, but in reality he just wanted company for a little while. Company that wouldn't try to make him feel bad. Maybe after a movie he'd mess with Butters' head a little. That might get him feeling better.

"Okay," Butters told him, "I'll be there in ten minutes, Eric!" he hung up, "Aw, hamburgers!" Why couldn't he ever say no to Eric Cartman? The guy was a jerk, honestly. But sometimes he felt like the only reliable person in Butters' life – even if it was only reliable that he would fuck him over.

He wiped the tears off his face. He could always kill himself later anyway, right?

He stared at the glass.

For once, Cartman had to open the door, what with his mom being at the town meeting. Butters was standing there, smiling as innocently as ever.

"Dammit Butters, what the hell took you so long?" he asked, inviting the lanky blond in.

"Gee, sorry Eric," Butters knocked his knuckles together, "I just-"

"Oh, forget it," Cartman turned away, "I'm gonna watch 'Saw 2'. Ever heard of it, Butters?" he asked, hiding a nasty grin.

"Sure haven't, Eric. What's it about?" Butters' thick Dallas drawl rolled forward.

"It's an awesome movie, Butters. All about the will to live. You'll love it," Carman tousled Butters' hair gently. The innocent, smiling little Butters would probably wet himself watching it. He'd have nightmares for sure.

Hey, at least it was something to keep his mind off the other things.

He slotted the DVD into the machine, pulled up a tub of KFC without offering Butters any, and sprawled lazily on the couch. After a couple of seconds Butters sat down beside him.

The scenes puzzled Butters at first, although Cartman paid avid attention. They didn't seem to be seeing anything close and meaningful. They were just waking up in a horrible place and-

"OH HAMBURGERS!" Butters shrieked.

Cartman almost laughed. Butters was a real sucker; a glutton for punishment. The blond boy was already crying. Cartman doubted he had yet seen a horror movie, or even a thriller. That was why it was so funny to see the kid whimpering, occasionally covering his face with his hands, "I didn't think you'd care..." he smirked.

"I... I... I can't handle this!" Butters wailed suddenly, jumping to his feet, "Ah jeepers, I gotta go to the bathroom!" He started to rush off, and Cartman grabbed him by the wrist.

"Where're ya going', Butters?" he asked, laughing amicably, "It's just gettin' good!" He paused the movie and studied Butters, amused. The much smaller boy had grown, but he hadn't actually bulked up yet; it was more like he had stretched. He was incredibly lanky now. He looked like he'd been built with a collection of sticks, and he moved like he was held together with elastic bands and chewing gum.

"It's awful!" Butters' eyes kept straying back to the TV; it reminded him of the first time he'd seen The Lord Of The Rings. He couldn't bear to keep watching but he couldn't look away. With a sudden burst of energy, he twisted himself away from Cartman, "I feel... I feel kinda queasy..."

Suddenly Butters collapsed to the carpet on his hands and knees, shaking. His stomach felt like it was twisting up inside. It really hurt...

"Ay! Not on my carpet you don't!" Cartman got up and tried to move him. He was too late. Butters baulked, then throw up. There was some food, but to Cartman's surprise there was other stuff too, "Ay, what is this shit?" he snapped at Butters, looking at the puddle of food and... some sort of paste.

"I don't... I think somethin' went wrong, Eric..." Butters whimpered before throwing up again, "I just... I just..." he looked over at his coat.

Cartman's eyes narrowed and he walked over to Butters' coat. There was a piece of paper in one pocket.

I'm sorry, everybody. It's not you, it's me. I'm a horrible person. Thanks for trying so hard. You're all good inside. All of you. Goodbye forever.

"What the fuck is this, Butters?" he asked the other boy, waving the note around.

"My... my tummy hurts..." Butters mumbled, just before he choked up some more of the paste.

"Did you... did you do something stupid, Butters?" Cartman looked down at the blond. His head was hurting. It sometimes did, when something unexpected turned up. He shouldn't need to give two shits about what happened to other people. Who the hell was he, Mother-fucking-Teresa?

It was days like this when he remembered what Stan had said to him a few years ago – "We feel bad for other people."

"I... ow..." Cartman clutched his head for a few seconds, before he grabbed Butters and hauled him up to eye level, "Did you try to kill yourself, Butters?" he growled at him, "DID YOU?" he shook the boy.

"Y-yeah..." tears were starting to come to Butters' wide blue eyes. His face was incredibly pale. Was it just Cartman's imagination, or was it becoming more so by the second?

Cartman grimaced. His head hurt really bad – not a physical pain, but the pain you got when you were just so confused. And this moment was horribly confusing. Butters wasn't him. Why should he care if the little pussy wanted to off himself? There had to be a reason... "WHY?" he yelled finally.

"I can't keep on... I can't keep on smiling!" Butters wailed. He turned his face away just enough to avoid throwing up all over Cartman, "It hurts too much!"

"What the fuck do you mean?" Cartman almost screamed, "You smile all the fucking time! You telling me that's fake? I fake and it doesn't hurt! Why'd you keep doing it if it hurts?"

"You sure wouldn't understand, Eric!" Butters wept, "I smile for other people! But it does hurt! And it's been hurtin' a long time!"

Cartman let go of him. Butters was right; the larger boy didn't understand, "You mean like... to get other people to like you more?" he hazarded. He really hoped he was right; at least that would make a little bit of sense.

"No! Because I like seeing other people happy!" Butters replied. This was exactly the sort of thing Cartman never understood.

"Ow... ow... ow..." Cartman grabbed a handful of his own hair, pulling it, and looked at Butters, "But you..." Why, exactly, was he so goddamn scared right now? "You were just gonna die?" He slapped Butters across the face so hard that it left a hand-print, "How could you do that to me?"

"S-Sorry..." Butters rubbed his face. His stomach still hurt, "I-"

"Yeah, you better be! Leaving me alone with stupid dumbasses and gingers and Jews..." Cartman shook him by the shoulders again, "What the hell did you do, ya little fag?"

"I took some pills..." Butters sniffled, "Why do you even care? You think I'm stupid..."

"I sure do!" Cartman spat, "Pills? That's a stupid way to do it! You could've been dying in a hospital bed from liver failure, and then I'd have to watch you die! Don't you know a fucking thing about killing yourself?" Why do I care? Why do I care? Why do I care? To his shock and fear, tears were rolling down his chubby cheeks, and the more scared he got, the faster they came. He grabbed Butters and threw him back on the couch.

"You care?" Butters asked.

"NO!" Cartman lied, stamping around the room, "Why should I care? There's nothing you can do for me! You're replaceable! You're just a chump to hustle!" he hesitated, "...I think..."

"Eric?" Butters' misery was being temporarily staved off briefly by Cartman's obvious distress.

Cartman swung around to look at Butters again, "You can't just... can't just..." he managed. He wiped one sleeve across his face to smear away the tears, and tried to take hold of himself again.

Butters looked uncomfortable for a few seconds, "Eric, I didn't know-" Then he threw up for the third time that night.

Biting down on his lip, Cartman hated himself even more for what he did next. He actually sat down next to Butters... and wrapped an arm loosely around his shoulders. So totally faggy... "Okay, you've quit being sick now?" he checked.

"Maybe..." Butters mumbled. "I just... now I feel kinda sleepy..."

Cartman paused at that one. Butters was almost porcelain-pale now, and cold, "Oh no you don't, Butters," the large boy told him firmly, "You're not falling asleep, even if it means I have to take on the responsibility of slapping you all night. Goddammit, stay awake!"

"You... you do care then?" Butters asked.

Cartman stopped, because he wasn't sure. It was usually easy to spout off 'Of course I care' pleasantries. But now that he wasn't quite sure what response he wanted, or whether what would be said would be a lie or the truth, he was stuck, "It stinks in here, Butters," he told his slumped companion, "Come on, I got music in my room."

"Ooooh..." Butters clutched his middle, "Shucks Eric... I don't feel..."

"Quit your bitching," Cartman hauled Butters to his feet. It shouldn't be so much effort but Butters was only barely conscious, "And wake up! Shit! What the fuck did you take?" He slapped Butters again a couple of times again.

Butters tried to think straight, "I dunno, somethin' of everythin' in the cabinet... There was some... some Nembutal in there... What does it matter?"

Cartman considered this. Butters probably wasn't going to die. But Cartman couldn't imagine how horrible South Park would be if Butters wasn't in it, and he didn't like the idea of the blond dying from liver failure, or getting brain damage and winding up in a psyche ward or something, "I... I don't want you to die, Butters," he spoke with some difficulty. Expressing concern – genuine concern, anyway – had never been something he was good at, probably because he didn't feel much concern. But here he was, being concerned for Butters.

"Th-That's awful swell of ya, Eric..." Butters mumbled as Cartman started to haul him up the stairs.

"Yeah, well when you come around properly you're gonna explain a few things to me, Butters," Cartman told him, dragging him up the last few steps.

"L-like what?" Butters asked.

Cartman stopped there. He had questions. But he didn't know how to ask them. He wasn't even sure they were the right questions, "Look, just don't fall asleep on me, okay?" he told Butters, "For once, I actually want to hear you talking."

"Thanks for not wanting me to die... I didn't know you cared..." Butters paused, "I still wanna die though," he added after a few seconds.

Cartman's eyes widened, "You mean you're gonna try again?" he asked, feeling a strange combination of anger and fear rise up inside of him. The feeling got bigger when he watched Butters shrug without committing himself. He'd never had a proper relationship. Girls weren't his thing, and they weren't interested in him much either. On the other hand, it wasn't like he'd ever looked at any guys either. People were background. Sometimes they were tools. But he'd never seen others as being potential lovers.

The full implications of what he was thinking started to rise up in his brain.

"Weak..." he said finally.

"What's weak?" Butters asked, lying almost ashen-faced on top of the sheets.

Cartman gave it a few seconds, feeling Butters' inquisitive eyes on him, "It doesn't matter whether any chicks like me or not. Because I don't like girls," he growled finally, looking down, "But before you ask... I don't like guys either. They don't make me... feel anything. It's like I'm numb..." he hesitated, "I... I do look at magazines. I get hard. I cum. But... I don't know that I really... feel anything."

"Boy-howdy, Eric... that must suck..." Butters commented. Being sick all those times had brought up most of the pills but he still felt ill. And tired. He struggled to sit up, and it almost got him out of breath until Cartman pulled him up roughly.

"Sucks donkey-balls," Cartman confessed, "I hate when I'm not sure about some shit. And I don't... don't feel. Except when you came in and nearly died. I felt stuff. Like I hardly ever..." he stopped and narrowed his eyes, "But I'm not gay!"

Butters looked distant, "Must suck, not to feel anything..." he repeated to himself. On a whim, he darted forward and hugged Cartman as tightly as he could manage, expecting at any moment a punch in the face. When it wasn't Cartman's instant reaction, he spoke again, "I mean, I went and... tried to... because of feelin' too much. But not feelin' must suck too. You feel anything now?"

Cartman hesitated. But he was feeling something. Not turned on. Or how he imagined most people felt when they were turned on. But something, "A little..." he admitted.

Butters pulled away again, "That's better'n feelin' nothing, right?" he checked, starting to lie down again.

Cartman hesitated, and took Butters' hand. It was colder than ever. And Butters... well, Butters was paler than ever, despite speaking and the tight hug. If he'd been asleep; if it weren't for that slow pulse, Cartman might have assumed him dead. But despite that, it was like something had for once touched him inside. Whether it was anger, fear, concern or even affection, he got those feelings so rarely that it always felt like a big deal when he did get them... and in a few short minutes, Butters had provided them all...

He wasn't sure what he felt exactly, but he knew he couldn't feel it without Butters sitting there, no matter how much he currently looked like death warmed up.

"Butters... Next time you try to kill yourself..."

"Uh-huh?" Butters asked quietly.

"Check with me first, okay?" Cartman stood up with a resolve he hadn't felt in a couple of years. He grabbed Butters' arm and started to pull him up too, "Now come on. You look like shit; we gotta get you to the hospital. Get your stomach pumped or something."

"I didn't know you cared..."

"Neither did I."

Me: So review, okay? I might actually continue this chapter if a few people think it's worth continuing, because I have a few ideas. Anyway, it looks like Cartman needs Butters a lot more than Butters needs Cartman... will it stay that way if I do continue?