A/N: Just a random little one shot that was written at about one in the morning. Excuse any spelling/grammer mistakes, all my proof reading was done at about two in the morning.
Kenny slipped out of his window around three in the morning, when the fighting in his house got too loud for him to sleep or jack off, so there was really no reason for him to stick around. Hands in his pockets, he looped around the neighborhood, checking his friends' windows to see if any of them were still awake. Kyle's window was dark, which was unsurprising, because it was a school night and Kyle was more in love with school than he was in love with Stan. It was the beginning of their senior year and he had already applied to over ten colleges. Stan's house was similarly dark, which didn't surprise Kenny either, though it was disappointing because Stan had just got the newest version of Call of Duty. He contemplated climbing onto Stan's roof and waking him up, but he doubted Stan would be in a good mood, since he was already upset at how much time Kyle was spending on school work. Cartman actually had a light on his room, but he was in no mood to deal with the fatass, Cartman was sure to be in a bad mood after being put on academic probation one month into the year. Kenny gave up on finding a friend and headed down to Stark's Pond, which was one of those places that he never got tired of.
When he got to the pond he found that he was not the only one there, and that the other person was actually in his seat. Unlike everyone else who went to Stark's Pond, he didn't sit on the only bench there (it had always seemed ridiculous to him that there was only one bench in the whole park), he sat in a tree. The first time he climbed that tree was when Cartman had dared him to back in kindergarten. Of course he had fallen off and died, but when he came back he had been determined to climb that tree and reach the top. Over the years he had fallen off a million times, two more of them resulting in his death, but he never stopped climbing. He approached the tree, a bit affronted that someone was sitting in his spot, in his tree.
However, when Kenny looked up into the tree he was surprised to find Craig Tucker, and more surprised to find that the shit was beaten out of him and that there were tears on his face. Craig Tucker was a badass. He didn't give a shit about anyone or anything, and he wasn't shy about telling people that. Even his best friends were frequently told to fuck off, and he thoroughly meant every word. A case could be made that his abusive father and emotionally absent mother taught him how to be this way, but no one had ever cared enough to look into his home life. That was fine with Craig, because he could be just as emotionally detached as his mother, if not more so, because he had been studying this from birth. He walked through life half-assing everything that he did, and that was okay. He got okay grades, he did alright in sports, and his favorite day was one where nothing even remotely interesting happened. Kenny wondered what could have made that kid cry, because he doubted that it had much to do with anything physical. Craig could take a punch.
At this point Craig hadn't seen him, his eyes were fixed on some spot across the pond, and Kenny could either slip away or get more involved. Kenny gave a silent sigh, knowing that he was about to get more involved, and hating it because he knew that there was a good chance Craig would push him out that tree and he would die on the ground below for the fourth time. But Kenny was a softie, and as someone who had gotten the shit beaten out of him by his dad before, he felt inclined to intervene. A part of him felt guilty that he hadn't done something sooner, because he had seen the bruises and the signs.
Kenny McCormick was in a very similar situation as Craig, but he handled it in the completely opposite way. He was outgoing, calm, and he cared. He cared about his sister and his family, even if they were fucked up, and he was loyal as hell. He made himself a superhero, a real one, and he faced death without flinching every day. He was as brave as Craig claimed to be. He was scared, yes, but he learned to face that fear a long time ago. By the time they reached high school he was close to dropping out, but he was alive in ways that Craig wasn't. He didn't fear the world or hide from it, he embraced it.
So Kenny climbed the tree, taking a spot on a different branch, so that he and Craig were facing the same way. "Hey shithead, I was here first!" Craig said angrily, determined not to wipe at his face because he knew it would only show weakness. He was more enraged that he hadn't noticed Kenny sneaking up on him. This had been the king of shitty days, and he didn't need any company. He just wanted to be alone.
"This is my tree." Kenny said simply, gazing straight ahead and swinging his legs nonchalantly.
"I don't see your fucking name on it." Craig hissed immaturely, hating that he had stooped to the level of a five year old, but unable to take the words back now that they were out of his mouth. Everything he had said today had been wrong.
"I believe I carved my name in it about five inches above your head." Kenny answered, trying to keep the smirk from his voice because he knew it wouldn't help the situation.
Craig looked up, grinding his teeth together when he found Kenny's name etched into the tree next to him. "Fine, have your gay fucking tree."
Craig started to jump down, but Kenny spoke. "Why don't you stay?" Craig rolled his eyes, knowing that he was being patronized. Kenny looked at him, his brilliant blue eyes full of honesty, and Craig swallowed dryly, pushing down a sea of emotions he would never let rise. "Seriously, I could use the company." Kenny said with a slow grin on his face. "My parents are fighting over the coke, my sister is staying with a friend, and all of my friends are either asleep or assholes, or both."
Craig was smart enough to know that Kenny was doing this for his sake, but he was compelled to stay. He wouldn't admit to himself that the thought of having someone actually there with him was comforting. Instead Craig rolled his eyes again, spitting, "Just don't think we're friends or anything."
"I would never be friends with you, you're an asswipe." Kenny said with a smirk, and Craig actually scoffed in something close to laughter. Kenny's smirk widened, and he grabbed a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, taking one himself and then offering the last one to Craig, who took it. Kenny pretended not to notice how badly Craig's hands were shaking, and lit both of their cigarettes.
For a few moments they smoked in silence, both lost in their own thoughts, and surprisingly calmed by the other's presence. Suddenly Craig looked over at Kenny, his dark eyes piercing into the blond boy. "I know your secret. I know you die and come back." Craig wasn't sure why he said those words. He wasn't sure why he brought it up, if he meant to hurt Kenny or prove that he was above anyone else, but he said it, the words just slipping out with the usual amount of spite.
Kenny chuckled slowly, shaking his head. "It's not a secret. I tell people all the time, they just don't believe me." Kenny turned to Craig, a strange emotion on his face. "Why didn't you say anything before?"
"For the same reason you don't say anything about my dad beating the shit out of me." Craig answered sharply, turning away from Kenny's gaze.
Kenny nodded thoughtfully, staring intently at his swinging feet. "I think it's easier to just hide from all the shitty parts of life, and the same goes for the crap in other people's lives."
"That sounds like some bad quote from the Goth kids." Craig bit back with a sneer.
The blond just laughed, not offended by the comment at all. "Hey maybe they can use it in some weird fortune cookie or some shit. I wonder if I could get paid for that..."
"Don't you ever get mad?" Craig asked, knowing that he would have been pissed if someone had said that about something he said. He assumed that Kenny was just doing it to be nice to him.
"Yeah, but not about stupid stuff," Kenny answered with a shrug. "I've died too many times to get pissed about someone making fun of shit I've said."
Craig didn't like that answer, but he sat there and thought about it for a few minutes, looking out across the water again. Finally he asked, voice lowered, "What's dying like?"
"It sucks." Kenny said with an honest laugh. "But it kind of makes you glad for the other shit when you're back. I even like stupid stuff, like class."
That wasn't what Craig had meant, so he clarified with annoyance in his voice, "I meant, what happens when you die?" He disliked asking the question, but he had to know. Death scared him, more than he would ever admit. He loved the normal, craved the boring, and death was the greatest unknown out there.
"Sometimes I go to heaven, sometimes hell, but it doesn't seem to follow any specific pattern." Kenny answered, unperturbed by Craig's apparent anger. "Actually I think that both sides just get sick of seeing my face and pass me around." Craig was silent, his gaze lost again. Kenny waited a few minutes before asking hesitantly, "Why do you ask?" There was something in Craig's face now that scared him, something raw and human; it was something the brunette couldn't hide, even if he tried.
"Stripe died tonight." Craig answered without looking at the other boy. He assumed that Kenny would think he was an idiot for being so attached to a guinea pig.
"I'm really sorry." Kenny said, his voice free of the condescending tone his father had when he heard the news. "Did you bury him yet?"
Craig shook his head, still staring down at his feet. "No. I got in a fight with my dad and left."
"Do you want to bury him?" Kenny asked seriously, his voice kind. "We could do it by the pond or something, if you want."
After a second of contemplation Craig nodded, feeling extremely vulnerable. "Yeah, let's do that."
Both boys got down from the tree in silence, heading back towards Craig's house. When they got there Craig stopped for a moment, staring at the house with a mix of emotion. "I could go in." Kenny offered. "I could probably climb the roof to your room and get in without them knowing."
It was an offer that Craig appreciated more than he would ever say, but he declined with a sneer. "I don't need your falling off the roof and dying. I won't be burying your body as well." Kenny shrugged, going to sit on the curb and wait. Craig snuck into his house through a back door, hiding in the laundry room and waiting a good five minutes until his mother left the kitchen. Then his slowly crept up the stairs, stopping when her heard noise from his sister's room, and then continuing on. He didn't want to see anyone right now, because it would just lead to another fight. In his room, he grabbed a shoe box and filled it with some bedding and hay, putting Stripe inside it with care, and closing it carefully. Craig hated this. Stripe had always been the one constant in his life, the one thing that loved him unconditionally no matter what, and always comforted him in silence. The guinea pigs generally only lived seven to nine years, but Craig had always thought secretly that Stripe stuck around so long because he needed him to. The thought that he wouldn't have Stripe around anymore was killing him. He pushed down his emotions, sneaking past his dad who had passed out on the couch, and going back outside.
Kenny was gone from his spot on the curb, and Craig felt his heart drop. He had been stupid to think that someone else would care about him when his whole life he had been taught the opposite of that. Then Kenny came jogging back, a bottle of whiskey in his hand. "I, uh, thought it might be appropriate." He explained, and Craig tried not to show how sickeningly happy he was that the other boy was back. His emotions were a fucking rollercoaster today, and he hated every minute of it, though it wasn't doing him much good.
"Let's go." Craig said briskly, taking the lead. Kenny followed, not worried that Craig was mad at him because he saw the relief in the Craig's eyes when he showed up. He was actually pretty amused.
They made it back to the pond and Craig dug the hole while Kenny waited in an understanding silence, holding the alcohol by his side. Craig sat back on his heels, placing the box inside, and not knowing what to say or do. Kenny sat down cross-legged next to Craig in the snow, speaking quietly. "You know, dying isn't all bad." Since Craig didn't immediately tell him to shut the fuck up, Kenny continued. "When I die it usually sucks because it's painful and long, but sometimes it isn't like that. When you get close to the end things get comfortable and warm. You slip away slowly, easily, and then it's just over. It's peaceful and calm, and nothing hurts anymore." Craig's head was bowed, a few more tears falling, and then he gathered himself together. He pushed the dirt over the box, smoothing it out with care. Kenny handed him the bottle and Craig poured some over the grave, burying his best friend, the one who had always meant the most to him. Kenny took out his pocket knife and carved Stripe's name on the tree, saying cheekily, "I guess I can share the spot."
They both drank until their asses were freezing and they couldn't feel their toes, then they got up and headed separate ways.