Chapter Track: Float On – Modest Mouse
Kenny doesn't arrive back at the motel until dawn nearly touches the horizon, the sky a hazy gray blue. He thanks the guys that gave him a lift back and stumbles from their beater car, tripping in the middle of the parking lot. For a moment, he stays on his hands and knees, dizzy as all hell. He tries to steel himself for what might be waiting for him in the room, but he's too drunk to be prepared for anything. That's okay, maybe, because that means he's too drunk for feelings, too.
He fumbles for the key card in his pocket. It takes a few tries to get their room's door open.
Bebe isn't in their bed.
She's tucked between Craig and Clyde on theirs, asleep with one of Clyde's thick arms draped over her waist. Craig is awake, and has one lamp still on while he messes around on his phone. He glances up when Kenny drags himself in, and sets the cell aside.
"You're fucked," Craig says.
Kenny drags a hand through his hair, "Yeah, yeah, I know. Fuck off."
"I'm not kidding around," Craig says. He lifts his plucked brows high into his hair and folds his arms as he goes on, "Seriously, man. That was some fucked up crap you pulled."
"I was drunk," defends Kenny, and then amends, "I am drunk, whatever."
Craig rolls his eyes and responds, "Whatever you say." Kenny waits for him to dive into a lecture, but Craig flicks his lamp off and settles back into his pillow, shifting so that his hand rests over Clyde's, where he's draped over Bebe's body.
Kenny doesn't like this. He tries to come up with something to say, a clever retort, maybe, or possibly an apology. He comes up short and trips through the dark room to the empty bed on the right. He kicks his shoes off and collapses on the mattress.
Maybe if he just sleeps this off, he'll be okay.
But he isn't, of course.
Kenny wakes to the sun searing his eyes. The curtains are wide open. The heat of the sunlight made him sweat bullets in his sleep.
"Jesus Christ," he groans, and pulls his pillow over his head. He moans into the sheets, "What the hell time is it?"
Kenny doesn't get a response.
When he dares to pull the pillow away, the motel room is empty. The bags and suitcases are still open and on the ground, and the other bed is unmade with Clyde's camera sitting in the center of the mess. It smells like shampoo and hot water, but when Kenny shoves himself up onto his feet and tromps to the bathroom, there's no one there, either.
He pulls the curtains closed and sheds his jeans from last night, crawling back into the bed. He's some combination of still drunk and really hungover, and before he can he even close his eyes again, his stomach does a flip and he finds himself sprinting to the bathroom so that he can vomit.
Kenny rests his cheek against the toilet bowl. Last night – what the hell happened last night? He remembers most of it, but it comes to him slowly, like thick molasses in his brain. The show. Tweek. Lots of beer. Lots and lots and lots of beer.
This is…not the first time that he's fucked somebody over like this, unfortunately. He never wanted to do it to Bebe. That's why their old arrangement was such a good idea – he could just be friends with her, and that was fine, because sex complicates things sometimes and he didn't want to complicate things with Bebe. What they had was simple.
And now it's really not.
Christ, he is too hungover to be thinking like this.
Kenny peels his cheek off of the toilet seat and wobbles as he stands, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He ducks back into the room briefly to check the clock – it's only a little past ten in the morning. Way too early to be awake for the night that he had, but he doesn't think there's any turning back now that he's on two feet.
Kenny collects a fresh set of clothing and sets it on the bathroom counter. He feels to crappy to sing to himself as he scrubs, and makes quick work of getting clean.
When he pokes his head out of the room, fully dressed with hair damp and neatly combed, Bebe is there. She's sitting on their bed, the one that she wasn't in last night, picking at the hem of her dress.
"Hey," he chokes out.
Bebe lifts a hand in greeting. She holds up a coffee and says, "Thought you might want this."
"Seriously?" Kenny says. He takes it from her and adds, "You're an angel."
Several seconds of awkward silence pass before he dares to ask, "Where are Craig and Clyde?"
"They wanted to hang out with Tweek," Bebe answers, "For old time's sake, I guess." She doesn't look him in the eye as she speaks, and it makes him feel like such shit. He doesn't know how the hell he's supposed to handle this.
"Um," he says, but doesn't get anything else out.
"Anyway, I thought you'd still be asleep now," she says, "You look like hell."
"I know," Kenny responds, "Hey, sugar, about last night –"
"Don't worry about it," Bebe says. She shakes her head, and when she looks back up at Kenny, there's a smile-but-not-really-smile on her face that makes him feel queasy all over again. She goes on, "Look, we knew this was all a bad idea. Somewhere along the way I got it in my head that if it was me, things would be different, which I know sounds stupid on about twenty different levels. So can we just – put it past us? Go back to being friends? I think I liked us better that way."
Kenny did not know that being dumped could make him feel like such shit. Everything hurts. His head, his guts – everything. He feels his stomach sink low, and he wants more than anything to say no to Bebe. He wants to her no, he likes what they became, he likes the kissing and the touching and the sex and the cuddling. He loves all of it.
But he says, "Yeah, that's a good idea," instead.
"Good," Bebe agrees, "I'm glad that we're on the same page."
Awkward silence falls, and after a couple minutes of Kenny shifting back and forth on his bare feet while he sips at the coffee she bought him, Kenny flops back onto the bed, a safe distance from where Bebe is sitting. She scoots back and picks up Game of Thrones from her purse and cracks it open – he guesses that they're done talking, or at least that Bebe feels that they're done. Kenny doesn't feel as though anything is done, or resolved, at all.
Maybe he should text Stan.
"Hey, Bebe?" Kenny pipes up.
"Look, I'm really sorry about the stuff that happened," he finishes lamely.
Bebe eyes him and responds, "I thought we talked this out, Kenny. I know you're sorry. It's done, and we're back to being friends. It was a nice interlude."
"Interlude?" echoes Kenny. He tries to decide whether or not he should be offended by that sentiment.
"Yeah," Bebe says, "Something different from what we usually have. Now we know what stuff it would lead to, so we can go back and no hard feelings."
Kenny rolls over and grabs for his phone. He grinds out a terse, "Excuse me," before pocketing a room key and ducking outside. He dials Stan's number with angry punches of his thumb.
It rings twice before Stan picks up with a, "What's up, man? Your turtle isn't dead, I promise."
"What did you do to Donatello?" demands Kenny, and then, "Nevermind. Dude, I'm in a bit of a bind. Hang on." He tromps away from the motel room and down the street, someplace more private.
"What's going on? This is your vacation, man. And you'd better not be asking me for money," Stan says.
"No, man. It's – some stuff happened with Bebe," Kenny says, lowering his voice.
"Your tone suggests that you're not talking about the good kind of stuff," Stan responds.
Kenny blows all the air from his lungs as he walks and fumbles in the pocket of his jeans, pulling out his half-smoked pack of cigarettes. He lights one and drags in before he responds to Stan, "Okay, so it started out with good stuff. We fucked around, like a lot. And I really liked that, you know? And so we go to this show last night, and I'm pretty trashed. This pretty girl comes onto me, and I just – you know. And now Bebe's all 'It was a nice interlude' or whatever. What the hell does that even mean?"
"Um, it means you fucked up," Stan replies.
"Thanks, Sherlock, like I hadn't figured that one out already," Kenny snips back. He smokes angrily. It feels impossible to shake this frustration. He just – doesn't want to feel like this. His insides are squirming and uncomfortable. He sighs, runs a hand through his hair, and goes on, "So, like, what do I do, dude?"
"I don't know man, women are hard," Stan shoots back, but adds, "Apologize, maybe?"
"I did that," Kenny says.
Stan pauses before he answers, "Look, dude. I don't really know. I don't date. You're the one that's been living with Bebe this whole time. I know I'm not helping, but like – figure it out. You know her better than I do."
Kenny crushes his cigarette underneath his boot and nods, even though he knows that Stan can't see him.
"Thanks, dude," he says, "even though you didn't really do anything."
"I try," Stan says back.
Kenny hangs up the phone and pockets it. He supposes that the smartest option is to let himself think about it, maybe when he's not hungover and angry and sore inside. He walks the short distance back to the motel.
Goldilocks is parked outside again.
"Looks like they took good care of you, lady," he remarks to the vehicle, and pats her hood before traipsing back to the room and sliding the key card into the door.
"Hey guys," Kenny says, "You weren't gone with Tweek long."
"Nah," Clyde replies, "he was supposed to go on a date with Sylvia or something. That's so weird – him having a girlfriend, I mean."
"If one of you drives, I was thinking we could head out in an hour or so," Kenny says.
Craig eyes him, one brow cocked, and asks, "Are you sure? You look really hungover."
"I am really hungover," replies Kenny, "I'll sleep in the backseat with my sunglasses on. Bebe got me coffee. I'll be fine." He thinks. He's still pissed – at himself, mostly – but he doesn't want to dig himself any deeper than he already is.
By the time that they are packed, loaded into the car, and checked out, it's almost one in the afternoon. Clyde takes the keys for Goldilocks and they head out. Bebe instructs him on how to reach the highway from the backseat while Kenny curls up and sips his coffee, silently thanking God for tinted windows.
"I think the drive all the way to Disneyland is going to be too long with traffic," Craig mentions.
"Wait, then where am I going?" asks Clyde.
"Calm down," Craig snips at him, and takes his phone out of his jacket to pull up a map. He thumbs down a zoomed-in California and suggests, "Bakersfield?"
"I'm fine with whatever," Kenny mumbles, "As long as we get to Disneyland eventually. I want to meet Princess Jasmine, okay."
"So we've heard," Bebe pipes up from beside him. Kenny glances over at her, and his heart sinks a little lower into his gut. After years of rooming together, he knows when she feels like shit, even – maybe especially – when she's trying to mask it.
Kenny offers a smile and she turns away from him, staring out of the window. He has a lot of things that he wants to say to her, starting with another apology, but doesn't want Craig and Clyde to have to get involved in this mess. The last person he wants involved in his love life is Craig Tucker, to be honest.
Kenny guesses that that's where he puts Bebe in his head now. Not roommate, not best friend, not girl with amazing breasts (okay, no, she still goes there), but love life. He wants to bury his face in her neck and sleep there. He wants to be close enough to her that he can smell her shampoo and perfume. He wants to feel the way that her body fits perfectly against his, like they were cut out together from the same piece of paper and stuck together again.
The sun filters through the car window and into Bebe's blond hair. She's wearing one of her short little dresses, a purple one with black polka dots.
"You look nice today," Kenny whispers.
Bebe purses her lips and responds lowly, "Don't start that, Kenny."
"Start what?" he clips back, "It was a statement of fact. I could tell you that you looked nice before we started banging, in case you forgot."
"Yeah, well, that's different now," Bebe snips at him.
Clyde glances back and says, "Cut that out or I will turn this car around."
"You won't," Kenny says back, "It's my car, and this trip is supposed to be my birthday present. You know, because you all seem to have forgotten that."
Craig intervenes, "Okay, we're done here. Kenny, go to sleep or something, man."
As irritated as Kenny is, he closes his mouth and sets his chin on his knees. The jerking of the car is making him feel nauseated, so he keeps his hand on the window button in case he needs to throw up.
The feeling takes an hour to pass, and by then, Kenny starts to drift. He wishes that he could fall asleep on Bebe, because that's what he would usually do when he's as upset as he is, but that's not something that's going to fly anymore. So, he slumps over against the window on his side and lets Goldilocks rock him to sleep as Craig's endless loop of Lady Gaga carries on through the speakers.
They only stop once on the drive from Sacramento to Bakersfield to fill up on gas and empty respective bladders. Clyde complains about being hungry enough for an early dinner, but Kenny's stomach still roils at the thought of food, and he's content to keep himself holed up in the backseat on a steady diet of Advil, bottled water, and gas station coffee.
The four of them are eerily silent when they reach Bakersfield a little before seven o'clock in the evening, after having been stuck in rush hour traffic hell for longer than Kenny ever wanted to experience. They pull into the parking lot of the first motel that they see and check in, all with shadowed eyes and exhausted faces.
"You folks sure look like you had a long day," the desk attendant remarks as she takes Bebe's credit card and swipes it, "Room one-oh-six is all yours. Breakfast starts at six and ends at nine! You have a nice day."
Bebe refuses Kenny's help when he offers to take her suitcase in for him. He doesn't know whether he should be angrier or not – they're all tense from being in the car together for so long, and they haven't had a proper meal yet today, at least, Kenny hasn't. His hangover has finally waned to a background feeling, and with that came hunger.
"Do we want to get settled in and then head out to dinner someplace?" he asks.
"Can I take a nap first?" asks Clyde, "Driving that long made me so effing tired." He pops his neck and then yawns, as though to emphasize his words.
"I need one too," Bebe chips in.
That's okay – Kenny could use some time to himself to think. Now that his brain is clearer, maybe he'll be able to figure this one out.
He hopes so, anyway.
While Clyde and Bebe flop onto each of the beds, Kenny inclines his head at the motel room door and suggests to Craig, "You wanna smoke with me?"
"Sure," Craig agrees, and follows him outside.
They don't speak for a while, even after lighting up and both taking drags.
"I don't think she'd go for flowers," Kenny mentions, not sure if he's talking to himself or if he's talking to Craig. Sometimes, it feels like the same thing. He exhales a cloud of smoke and goes on, "Plus we wouldn't have anywhere to put them, even if I think she would like flowers. I don't think she'd like anything cheesy."
When Kenny looks over at Craig, he's rolling his eyes.
"Dude, don't be a dick," Kenny says.
Craig sighs and responds, "Man, why don't you just tell her that you love her? It's not that fucking hard. She loves you back. It's why she's so pissed over what – a drunk kiss at a concert? Like, who cares? But when I think about it, I think I'd be mad if Clyde kissed other people, so."
"You want me to," – Kenny cuts off.
He loves her.
Kenny McCormick loves Bebe Stevens.
"Oh, Christ, don't tell me that it didn't fucking occur to you that you're in love with her until now," Craig complains, "Clyde says you've had it bad for each other since forever ago."
"Clyde is a traitor and a scoundrel," Kenny says back.
Silence falls, and Kenny asks, "Can I just say that to her? Without, like, any gifts?"
"I don't know," Craig answers, "I always bring Clyde chocolate or Chipotle or something when I fuck up, and he always brings my guinea pigs treats if he messes up. So maybe? I'm not the one that loves her, so I'm not the one to ask."
"That's what Stan said," Kenny replies.
"Ugh, gross. Don't tell me I sound like him."
Kenny flicks his cigarette butt into the parking lot and ignores Craig, mulling over what he should do. He thinks that maybe a peace offering would be a good idea, but he doesn't know what to do – Bebe likes pugs, but he can't exactly buy her a puppy, and they already have a pug, anyway.
"Tell them I'm going out but I'll be back in like an hour that we can go to dinner," Kenny says. He ducks into Goldilocks and adjusts the seat back to his place, starting her up and rumbling down the road.
On the way into Bakersfield, Bebe had pointed out some kind of boutique that she said looked nice. Maybe he could find his peace offering there.
Kenny's heart beats a million miles a minute as he rolls along the street, looking for the place. He thinks he's spotted it when he sees a clothing shop with its name written in cursive neon lights. In the windows sits a colorful display of vintage clothing and repurposed mod furniture – exactly Bebe's kind of thing. He's been steered into more than one of these places in Denver while enjoying a weekend off with Bebe.
Kenny parks, fidgeting with his shirt as he walks into the store. The cashier is dressed in a sixties-style dress with huge red hoop earrings looped through her ear lobes.
"Can I help you find anything?" she asks, when the bell above the door jingles at Kenny's entry.
"Um," he manages – and everything spills out.
"I messed up with the girl that I love and I wanted to get her something nice and she usually likes this kind of stuff but I don't know what to get?"
The cashier laughs, "Slow down, there. Do you know her size? We got some nice dresses in the other day."
"Um. I don't know. She's got pretty big," Kenny makes a motion to his chest, "Uh, yeah. Those. She's – curvy?"
Kenny is in the boutique for longer than he meant to be, and emerges from it an hour later with a bag full of random things instead of just one – a vintage dress a little like the one the cashier was wearing, too many pairs of earrings, and a pair of white boots. They all look like stuff that Bebe would like, but how is he supposed to know? It cost him a buttload of money, so he prays that this works.
He stashes the bag of goodies in Goldilocks' trunk before heading back to the motel. In the room, Bebe and Clyde are awake, looking better than they did when they first arrived in town.
"Did you see any places to eat while you were out?" asks Clyde.
"Yeah, there's some Mexican place a couple blocks away from here," answers Kenny, "That sound good to everybody?"
All three grumble responses in the affirmative. Kenny offers to drive and Craig ends up in the passenger's seat beside him. He hooks in his iPod and starts up another loop of Lady Gaga songs, and when Kenny lifts a brow, Craig mirrors him, as though daring him to dispute his choice in music.
The restaurant is fortunately cheap, and the food is pretty good. After they've eaten and paid, they're all in better spirits than they've been all day. Kenny feels ready to indulge in a post-food nap, but he's still on edge with all of this love stuff, and he doesn't know that he could sleep without knowing that he tried his damnedest to make reparations with Bebe.
Back at the motel, Kenny nods at Craig and Clyde to fuck off. Craig gets the signal better than Clyde does, and takes him by the hand to guide him back into the motel room.
"Bebe, wait," Kenny says, when she moves to follow them.
Bebe exhales, "What, Kenny?"
"I, um," he fumbles with his keys and drops them on the ground. He babbles as he bends to pick them up, "I bought you some stuff from that place that you said looked cool. I wanted to say I'm sorry again."
Bebe frowns. She takes a step forward as Kenny opens Goldilocks' trunk and says, "Sweetheart – I mean. Kenny, you didn't have to do that. It's okay. We can move on."
"No!" Kenny snaps. He didn't mean for the words to come out as acidly as they do, and he says, "No, I can't move on." He yanks the bag out of the trunk and pushes it into Bebe's arms, continuing his speech before she can say anything, "I can't move on because I think I've loved you for years and I don't want to let go of that. I love you. I love you! I love you. I've never known somebody like you, I've never – felt this before. I feel stupid, and I feel all gross and hurt, but it's like – the best feeling ever."
"You didn't need to buy me stuff to tell me that, you know," she tells him, voice quiet.
"It's really cool stuff, though," defends Kenny.
Bebe sets the bag down on next to her feet and sweeps forward. She loops her arms around Kenny's neck and hugs him close, burying her head against his chest. After a second, Kenny wraps his arms around her back and sets his chin in her hair.
"What does – um. What does this mean?" he asks.
Bebe pulls back and stares up at him for a long moment. She reaches up and cups his jaw in her hand, stroking her thumb over the scruff.
And then, she leans up, and presses her lips back against his.
"I love you, too," she says.
An…update? Yes. Yes it is. This only has one or two chapters to go! Thank you all for reading.