A Thousand Days
A/N: Like my Dip oneshot "Home Is a Fire", this is named after a song because my creativity with naming things fizzles out sporadically, and that song is by The Offspring. I'm also obligated to say that my sister typed a good portion of this up for me once I'd written it out.
Kenny McCormick spent New Year's Day at his father's grave with a beer can in hand and his parka pulled tight to prevent the harsh winds from hitting him.
Karen, Kevin, and their mother hadn't returned to the graveyard since a week prior when Stuart McCormick had been buried, but Kenny needed daily visits for reasons he preferred not to think about; his friends guessed that his predominant reason was because he was the one most deeply hurt by Stuart's death, and Kenny was content to let them believe that, despite its lack of truth. No, he did not miss his dad, and, unfortunately, he was not the one who hurt the worse due to the loss.
The blonde nudged the toe of one weathered sneaker into the corner of still-fresh dirt packed over the coffin. "I can't believe you would be stupid enough to drink that fuckin' much," he said to the headstone, making no attempt to mask the sourness in his tone that was still discernable, even past the hood covering his mouth. There was a pause, then, "Actually, y'know what? I do. I can believe it. You had an amazing penchant for spending what little money we had on booze and bleach. Well, I hope you're fucking happy, shithead.
"Do you know what your sons have been eating lately? Nothin', in my case; I bring food back from school for Kevin, who might've been doing the same if you hadn't encouraged him to drop outta school and help you in your damned drug lab. What about that, dad? Eighteen years old and no future. And me? You've managed to stay out of my life enough for me not to become a fifteen-year-old meth addict. That could be lucky or not, depending on how you look at it."
Kenny took a few deep breaths to calm himself, only to erupt into furious accusations at the thought of Karen. "Better yet, because you never thought to leave us with even a little bit of food money, your thirteen-year-old daughter has been eating nothing but frozen waffles that she can't even heat because we've got no electricity!"
His voice raised an octave and hit a note so acrimonious that the devil himself might have envied it. "Karen is fucking starving! We all are, because of you! The only thing mom's probably put in her mouth since you fucked up and killed yourself, you don't want to know. But, well, how do you think we've still got our fucking house? I hope you're rotting in hell!"
Finally, he stopped yelling, panting slightly from the release of his numerous bottled-up emotions. It took more than five minutes for his shoulders to stop quaking, but once they had, he popped the top on the beer can he'd been holding and emptied the container straight onto the dirt beneath him.
"Hope you like it," he muttered under his breath as he tossed the empty can on the ground and pulled his hood back. "Kevin shoplifted it yesterday."
He turned around, then walked away from the grave with a hollow, "He only drinks because of you."
The next day at school brought about an interesting realization for the McCormick boy: Someone had been watching him the night before. Every shout and curse had been picked up by a boy that Kenny didn't recognize, though they'd apparently been attending the same school for several years.
His name was Craig Tucker, and he looked about as dispassionate as they come.
"Hey, McCormick, right?" It had started with that - a rather nasally voice calling from somewhere behind him as he was making his way to driver's ed with his friends Kyle and Stan.
He'd turned, naturally, and was nearly run over by two-hundred chattering students before he was swiftly pulled to the side and into the divet in the wall that had never been fixed from when Scott Tenorman drove his car into it. (That certainly hadn't been Kenny's favorite death.)
"Who the hell are you?"
Kenny backed up a step and Craig let go of his wrist. "Tucker, Tucker..."
"We've never met."
"Then how the fuck do you know my name?"
"I dunno your first, just your last, 'cause that headstone you were screamin' at last night said 'McCormick.'"
The blonde's eyes widened considerably. "Listen, you little shit, don't-"
"Tell anyone. I know, I won't." Craig blinked, then fixed a droll, rather tired-looking stare on Kenny's face.
The latter opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again; the former, without even the slightest change in tone or expression, said, "Want to go get some McDonald's? You can get something for your family, too. I'll buy."
For the first time in quite a while, the McCormick was speechless. This kid he had just met was going to buy food for him and his whole family? Without even realizing he was doing it, he nodded, mouth still agape under the parka's fabric .
"Great, 'cause I feel like I owe ya at least a bit for eavesdropping." Finally, Craig smiled, a small, barely-there gesture that made Kenny's heart skip a beat and was unfortunately ephemeral. "So, what is your first name, anyway?"
Kenny's lips slowly rose into a smile, which, to his delight, brought Craig's back. "Name's Kenny."
"Kenny McCormick, eh? I like it."
"And then he fuckin' looked at me like I'm s'posed to give a shit, and I'm standing there with the most blank-ass expression..." Kenny talked and ate in unison, which, while Craig found it a little off-putting, was understandable; Kenny's friends apparently didn't listen well and this was the first real meal he'd had in a week.
"You sure are talkative when you feel like it."
At this, Kenny swallowed an impressive bite of burger and laughed, prompting Craig to smile amusedly. "Yeah, well..." The blonde shrugged. "You're easy to talk to."
"First time I ever heard that one," the Tucker boy said with a snort. "I'm used to 'how about you say something for once, Craig?' or 'stop being such a dick, Craig.' or whatever."
"Whenever people call me a dick I just say 'well, you are what you eat' and that usually weirds 'em out enough to where they leave."
"But you aren't gay, are you?" Craig hardly even glanced up as he asked.
"No, but I do like boys."
With that, their previous arrangement reinstated itself: Kenny kept talking through bites of his meal and Craig listened to the best of his ability while he sucked down a McFlurry. Both of them got up to throw their trash away at the same time, and, afterwards, Craig returned to the counter to pick up three to-go meals while Kenny watched with a warm smile.
"Here you go, McCormick," the Tucker said as he thrust a bag into Kenny's arms. "Figured you can carry one of 'em, lazy bastard."
Kenny readjusted his parka hood with one hand - it was sloppily done, to say the least, but it served its purpose to cover the dumb grin on his face that he couldn't seem to will away.
The McCormick family had been following their usual Monday routine: Kevin was making a valiant but futile effort to dust the living room furniture, Carol was sifting through job offers in the local newspaper, and Karen was sorting a basket of laundry into darks and lights.
Kenny watched them work through one of the side windows, careful to remain unseen so his mother wouldn't punish him for skipping school. He saw Karen look up from her task when the doorbell rang and ducked as his mom went to see who had come to visit. His head lifted the slightest bit, just in time to see Karen and Kevin simultaneously erupt into cheers and seize a bag of food each. The expressions they wore gave Kenny more comfort than he'd felt in a while.
After a moment of silent staring, he felt a hand on his shoulder and reluctantly pulled away from the window, letting himself be towed away from his house by Craig Tucker's hand. And, though his eyes were now trained on his pale fingers interlaced with ones hidden by navy blue gloves, the reassuring comfort he'd felt before surprised him by remaining present.
Kenny had hardly stepped off the bus the following morning before Kyle caught him and began chiding him for ditching school, complaining about how many notes he was going to have to copy for him.
Stan and Cartman joined the duo moments later with a matching set of accusations: "Why are you hanging out with Craig Tucker?"
Kyle immediately stopped skimming through his geometry folder of impressive width in order to give the blonde an amused look above the frames of his glasses. "Wait, you ditched with Craig?"
"He sure did!" Cartman practically bellowed, sounding for the life of him like this was the biggest scandal he'd ever heard of. "Butters had to stay home yesterday 'cause his mom had another panic attack or some shit, and he said he saw you two fags holding hands when he went to take the trash out."
"Cartman," Kyle snapped, "shut up for a second."
"I wanna know why Kinny's makin' out with Motherfucker Tucker!"
"You were kissing him?"
"Stan, you be quiet, too! Let Kenny tell us what happened."
By this point, Kenny was glaring past his hood and exasperated without even having said anything. "Craig bought me lunch," he stated simply. "That's all."
With that, he shouldered between Stan and Cartman and found solace in the school library, along with a sheepishly smiling, well-meaning Butters and his hushed whisper of, "You 'n' Craig look awful cute together."
Kenny swallowed down a scathing remark for his friend's sake and gave a polite correction in response, at which Butters looked a bit confused. "But I asked Craig this mornin' and, uh, well, he said that you two were datin'."
Kenny's eyebrows rose, moreso in amusement than the irritation he supposed would have been more appropriate for the situation. "He did?"
The Stotch nodded in response. "Sure did. So...he was lyin'?"
There was a moment's pause, then Kenny pressed his lips together into a line and gave a vague shake of his head. "Nah, I just wasn't sure if I was ready to start tellin' people yet." His expression became one of smug satisfaction, his hidden grin only discernable as present by the way the corners of his eyes crinkled.
"Oh! So you are together."
"Aw, but I didn't think about whether or not you wanted it kept a secret..." Butters rubbed his knuckles together in that ever-present nervous tic of his. "I sorta already told Eric 'n' Stan... Sorry, Ken."
To Butters' evident surprise, the McCormick's response was muffled laughter, which soon died down into soft chuckles. "Yeah, I know," he began, "but that's fine. Y'know what?"
"I want you to tell everyone, Butters."
"Craig! Craig, dude!"
"What is it, Clyde?"
"Hey, don't get pissy with me, loser. You're the one who's been keepin' secrets from me!"
"That you're dating Kenny McCormick!"
"I thought I was your broooo! Bros are s'posed to tell each other everything!"
"Quit whining, Clyde... I just told Butters that so he wouldn't pester me about it."
"Eh? I didn't hear it from Butters, I heard it from Bebe. She heard it from Wendy, who heard it from Stan, and he heard it from Butters."
"What? How many fucking people know about this?"
"The whole school, dude."
"The entire school?"
"Yeah, man. Everyone."
The next day proceeded much like Monday, only when Craig yanked Kenny away from his path to class, Kyle's and Stan's eyes followed until they'd disappeared, and Kenny didn't speak while he ate.
The duo sat in the same McDonald's booth as they had both days prior, ordered the same thing, and left with three additional bags that were identical to their last take-outs.
In fact, they didn't stray from their pattern much at all, Kenny noticed. Craig didn't look annoyed or angry, or anything like what the blonde had assumed he would, and once they had delivered the food to the McCormick household once again, their hands joined in the same manner as before without a tinge of hesitance or discomfort.
Kenny felt dumb for thinking about it, but he couldn't help feeling more comfortable than he had in a long time like this, with his previously-chilled fingers slowly warming in Craig's hand, watching the snow catch and melt in the other boy's hair... Hair?
The McCormick grunted, earning the attention of a pair of ice-blue eyes that may or may not have temporarily stunned him. "Where's your hat? I see you around, like, everywhere and that thing has never left your head."
Craig snorted. "What, you don't like my pretty hair, McCormick?"
"Tch, it's not that. I dunno, you just look... Different without it."
"Well, I bet you look a lot different without that damn parka on."
"Here's a hint: I've got a nose in the center of my face, and a mouth below that."
"Crazy. Me too, as it turns out. Only without the hat, though." At that, Kenny's stern expression gave way when he laughed, then Craig added, "Without the chullo I pretty much blend in with everyone else," and his laughter immediately halted.
"What? Dude, that's bullshit."
"Not really. I'm pretty plain, nothin' special. Same as a lot of kids."
"Same as a-!" Kenny's tone was incredulous; he stopped walking and eyed Craig with raised eyebrows the moment he'd turned to face him. "You've got blue eyes; most kids here have brown ones, so that's a start. The only kid with hair even remotely similar to yours is Stan, and let's face it - the kid never combs that shit, so yours looks better, anyway. You've got the fuckin' jawline of Hercules, the most perfect complexion I've ever seen on a guy, and..." When Kenny trailed off, his eyes had subconsciously focused on Craig's lips, and the silence alerted both boys to this fact at the same time.
Kenny glanced away and covered his embarrassment with a snort, followed by a scoff that more or less sounded like he was choking up snot. By the time he looked back, the raven-haired boy's mouth was slightly ajar, and Kenny imagined he was as taken aback as the blonde himself.
"You've got nice teeth, too," the latter mumbled, since he supposed it would be difficult to shame himself any further.
This sent Craig's hand flying out of Kenny's to cover his own mouth. "Fuck you, dude."
Kenny's eyebrows furrowed. "What? That was a fucking compliment."
"No, you were mocking me."
"Why the hell would I mock you? Your teeth are nice. Nicer than mine, at least."
Craig was quiet for a frighteningly long time; long enough for Kenny to register that his hand was cold again, and that he wanted to kick himself for wishing the raven hadn't let go of it. Eventually he spoke, taking the gloved hand away from his mouth. "People always gave me shit for having crooked teeth, so I always hated them."
"The people or your teeth?" the other teased, smile returning.
Craig half-smiled back and replied, "Both, but mostly the teeth."
"Heh... Well, don't feel bad, dude. My teeth are shit. They're clean, but they're stained from seven years of Dr. Pepper and have three fillings from nine years of Gummi Worms and Twizzlers."
This time, Craig's smile reached his eyes, which made Kenny feel pretty good, despite the fact their conversation wasn't particularly uplifting, and he was well on his way to getting hypothermia (he hoped he wouldn't - he'd already died of that twice and it was not pleasant.) "Yeah, my ex-boyfriend has that problem since he drinks a shit load of coffee."
"Ah, so you do like boys," the blonde said, deviating from the subject entirely.
Craig went along with it. "I would hope I like boys if I've got a boyfriend."
"You've got a boyfriend?" The McCormick sounded, frankly, like this was the most shocking thing a person could hear.
"You, dumbass. Or don't you know that the entirety of our high school thinks we're a couple?" Craig raised an eyebrow, though this didn't make him appear any less emotionless.
"Oh! Believe me, I know about that..."
"Hmph, well, I guess that's my fault 'cause I told the Stotch kid we were. He asked if we were together and I told him yes so he'd go away. I didn't realize he'd tell everyone."
"Ohh..." Kenny cleared his throat. "Oh."
"Mmhm. That's actually why I'm missing my hat; some dickhole snatched it from me during English and told me it would look much better on someone who wasn't an 'ass-licking faggot.'"
Presently, Kenny made quite the undignified noise and raised his voice an octave. "What the fuck? I thought kids in this town had an ounce of sense in their heads, but I guess I was wrong! I - dude, I'm so fucking sorry..." Here, his voice returned to its previous volume. "It was my fault. I told Butters to tell everyone. Figured it was some sort of joke."
"It's cool. I kicked the guy in the nuts, anyway."
"Wow, all right, Tucker." The corners of the blonde's mouth twitched upward. "Good call."
"Damn right it was. My hat's probably still laying around that room, though."
"That's pretty weak."
"I guess so." With that, Craig began walking again and the two of them returned to the McDonald's, contently loitering around the back. They spent the first ten minutes in silence, with Craig lost in his thoughts and Kenny alternating between biting his thumbnail and staring dumbly at the boy sitting beside him, then, breaking the silence, the black-haired male announced the frozen state of his nuts and stood up, tacking on a helpful, "My house is free since you've got nowhere to go 'til school's out."
Kenny stood, nodded, and pulled at the strings of his hood in sequence before thoughtlessly slipping one hand into Craig's.
Neither of them spoke on the way to the Tucker household, but Kenny was beginning to view the frequent silences between them as peaceful, contemplative silences, unlike the ones that occurred around Stan, Kyle, and Cartman, which usually meant trouble, and those around his family, which meant some or all of them had Stuart on their mind.
He expected the quiet air they shared to last, but was surprised when Craig addressed him as they neared his front porch. "What do we do about the boyfriends dilemma?"
The McCormick thought about it for all of three seconds. "Nothing. I wanna see how long we can fake it."
Craig stepped up onto the porch before Kenny could catch his reaction, letting go of his hand to unlock the door. "Hmm... Sure. Why not? Let's see where this boyfriend thing gets us."
Thursday and Friday brought about curious onlookers by the dozens, who were not at all concerned with the fact two boys were dating, but concerned with the fact that Craig and Kenny were dating. The matter quickly became a favorite lunch time topic, and the duo faced every overheard whisper with their respective reactions: Kenny blatantly amused, Craig feigning disinterest.
Closest to where they sat, "I didn't think Craig was his type," and "I didn't think Craig even had a type," could be heard from Kyle and Stan, respectively.
A bit further down the table, Jimmy stammered a curious "How is it going with them, anyway?"
Cartman and Butters exchanged details of when it allegedly happened at varying volumes; the girls' table behind them was abuzz with hasty whispers of "I didn't know Craig was into guys," and "A'course, he dated Tweek," and, ultimately, "I think they're cute together!", which brought forth a chorus of giggles and agreements.
Kenny hadn't been this entertained at school in a while; Craig hadn't realized that school could be entertaining.
By the end of both days, they had plenty to discuss over McDonald's burgers and fries, and Kenny still watched through the window when Craig left the McCormicks their daily meal and ran before he could be caught.
Kenny made sure to wait a few moments before walking inside, lest his mom discover that he was aiding their anonymous deliverer and, consequently, had skipped school the first three days of the week to do so.
Carol had explained the situation to him on Monday, and he always had to keep from grinning like a madman while she excitedly rambled about the blessings from their guardian angel. He'd eventually convinced her that he was eating fine, too, and she didn't ask any more questions. Today, however, Karen did.
His mom and brother bought the guardian angel explanation, but his little sister was damned intuitive for a thirteen-year-old. It started with a small gesture on her part to lure him away from the rest of the family, and then became, "Who's really bringin' us food?" without preamble.
Kenny saw no reason to lie since he trusted Karen, so he took a cue from the girl not to indulge in a foreword and simply told her, "Craig. Ruby's brother."
He'd meant to keep it that concise, but he couldn't prevent an epilogue like he had a prologue, so, before he could stop himself, he added, "My boyfriend."
Craig awoke late on Saturday morning, milling about his room at a sloth-like pace and maneuvering down the stairs in the same fashion.
He expected eggs, bacon, and Red Racer reruns.
He had not expected his mother to hand him a letter with the name Karen McCormick printed neatly on the front.
Thank you so much for bringing us food the past week. We've been in a tough spot since daddy died. Kenny's had a couple of boyfriends that I know of, but none of them did anything like this for us, so you're definitely my favorite. Since you're so awesome, you'll tell Ruby I said hi, won't you?
P.S., Kenny says you two haven't kissed yet. I think he wants to, because he smiled and said your name once in his sleep, so you should definitely do that.
P.S.S., His favorite movie is Spiderman, so you should do the Spiderman/Mary Jane kiss, okay? He'd love that.
Monday rolled around and the hype behind Kenny and Craig's ruse had dissipated. Some still talked about it - Cartman and Butters consistently pestered Kenny, and Clyde was always on Craig's tail over it - but, overall, everything had returned to normal.
The week went by too quickly for Kenny's liking. By Friday, he had dozens of conversations floating around in his brain; words spoken over the usual fast food with the rather unusual boy that he was scared to think he might be falling for.
That Saturday, Craig showed up to Kenny's house unannounced, an unapologetic look on his face and a basketball held snug against his hip. The blonde tried not to look overly excited while he tugged on a pair of the rattiest tennis shoes Craig had ever seen and hopped from his doorstep to the ground about a foot below it.
Craig didn't ask where the stairs had gone and, in return, Kenny didn't ask how the other boy had found his house. (He'd only asked Ruby to ask Karen, but he figured the stair story was more complicated, or, at least, not something the other wanted to share.)
The following Sunday, the doorbell to the McCormick household was rung again, but there was no boy with his hair in his eyes and a pretty smile on his lips to be seen, the middle McCormick child noted in disappointment. There was, however, a Reebok box labeled "for Kenny" on his porch, and that was enough to make his morning, because, even though he had to sit in church for the next two hours, he at least got to sit in church with a pair of shoes that weren't falling apart at the seams. This, oddly enough, kept him happy the rest of the day.
Another Monday came and passed as the others before had (and Kenny remembered to thank Craig for the new shoes), but Tuesday brought about an interesting change of pace.
The Tucker caught Kenny's arm as the latter was leaving school, pulling him away from his group of friends without saying a word. Kenny yelped as he was tugged to the side and very nearly punched the dark-haired boy in the face before he realized who it was. "Jesus, Tucker! You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"And you almost punched your boyfriend in the face," was the monotonous reply. At that, Kenny only offered a snort, so Craig clarified why he'd pulled the blonde over in the first place with a request: "Come to the park with me."
"Park? But what about McDonald's?"
"Took care of it during English."
"Ah... Oh! Speaking of English..." Kenny slung his backpack on the ground at his feet and unzipped it so he could pull out one surprisingly elusive blue chullo. "Ta-da! Found this fucker under one of the back desks. Turns out we have the same English teacher." He smiled, handing the hat over.
"Wow, thanks, dude. I dunno how I missed it, though, because I looked back there."
At this, Kenny's face flushed a bit. "Hehe, well, I found it a few days ago and forgot to tell you."
Craig rolled his eyes and put the hat back on, grabbing Kenny's hand and toting him away from the school. "That figures."
"I said, 'rude.'"
"You're impossible to hear sometimes with that hood pulled up to your fuckin' nose. You oughta loosen those ties, at least."
Kenny huffed, but made no move to fix the hood. "All right, what're we s'posed to do here?" he asked once they'd reached the park.
"Whatever the hell you want. It's an empty park." Craig brightened in a manner that would've surely been indiscernible, had Kenny not been so focused on his face. "I'm getting on the monkey bars." Presently, he left Kenny's side to engage in a climbing session, and Kenny himself had to watch for a moment in amusement before heading to the swings not far from the gate they'd come through.
"You're fifteen fucking years old and still like the monkey bars?" the blonde inquired with a laugh, still surveying Craig from his seat on one of the swings.
"I will be a fifty-year-old who still loves monkey bars, so shut your mouth before I shut it for you, McCormick."
"Sounds like fun."
Craig didn't dignify that with a response, instead opting to hook his knees on one of the higher bars and hang upside down. His chullo and a stray piece of paper dropped to the dirt beneath him, which he didn't care to acknowledge by picking them up. After a short moment, however, he caught sight of a name written in purple pen on that paper, and a small smile curled his lips. "Hey."
Kenny jerked his head up. "Hm?"
Craig pulled himself back up, put his feet back on the ground, and picked his fallen items up. "C'mere."
With a theatrical groan, the blonde stood from his swing to approach the other boy, seconds away from making a comment before Craig surprised him by yanking his hood down. "Hey-" The words that may have followed his interjection died on his lips when a blue chullo was pushed down over his unruly blonde hair, and he consequently began rattling off a string of unintelligible syllables instead.
The Tucker smirked and slid Karen's note into a more reliable pocket. "Stand right there."
"What the fuck are you doing, dude?" Kenny raised an eyebrow at Craig, who had hung himself from the top bars by his knees and was now upside-down less than two inches from Kenny's face.
Wait... The McCormick prayed that his expression didn't look too much like that of a deer in headlights. "Tucker?"
Craig mentally told himself not to pussy out and took a shamefully shaky breath before he brushed his fingers against Kenny's cheeks and made a move to pull him forward. Kenny stopped him, which made him visibly wince at how sharp a pain that had caused in his chest. He was about to make up an excuse before he felt Kenny's cold hands on his cheeks.
The latter chuckled at the other's expression. "Mary Jane was the one who put her hands on his face," he said matter-of-factly.
Craig hummed, then stared for a good few seconds at the blonde, who looked a lot less nervous than he, himself, probably did. Then, finally, he felt Kenny's lips meet his the same moment his eyes had fluttered closed.
"Kenny McCormick! Where have you been, young man? School let out an hour and a half ago! I thought you'd died!"
Kenny rubbed at his neck subconsciously and frowned beneath his hood, which was once again pulled securely up to his nose. "Sorry, mom. I went to the park with a friend."
Carol huffed and shook her head. "Next time you tell me, got it?"
"Yes'm," he responded, edging past her and disappearing into the bedroom he shared with Kevin. He shut the door behind him and yanked his hood back on his way toward the mirror hanging between the two beds. "Well, fuck me," he muttered upon catching sight of the now-purpling bruise on his neck. "He left a goddamn hickey. The guys oughta love that..."
"Did Craig do that?"
Kenny clapped a hand over his mouth midway through a gasp and turned around to see his little sister standing in the doorway, beaming. "Did he kiss you like Spiderman, too?"
Kenny's eyes widened a fraction, then lit up as he dropped his hand and laughed. "Karen, you little devil. You put him up to that, didn't you?"
"Well, I just gave him the idea. The hickey wasn't part of the plan, but-"
"Ah, ah, Karen, shush about that. If Kevin hears about it he'll never let me live it down."
"Oh, yeah, sorry! Sometimes I forget mom and Kevin don't know you like boys."
"S'okay." The boy pulled his hood back up and ruffled his sister's hair. "In fact, I'm thinkin' about telling 'em soon."
Karen smiled brightly. "No lie?"
"No lie." He hummed as he headed down the hall again, halting halfway through in response to Karen's insistent tugging on his sleeve.
She giggled. "You really like Craig, huh?"
And, as usual, Kenny found no reason to lie to his younger sister, so he could do nothing more than give a slight nod and reply with, "Yeah, I guess I do."
School that Wednesday was rather amusing for the McCormick boy, due to the floods of interesting comments he'd received in response to the hickey adorning his neck. He'd worn his hood down on purpose, of course, because, not only did he get bragging rights and some much appreciated attention, he got to watch Craig get flustered whenever someone talked to him about it, which was quite possibly the highlight of Kenny's day.
After school, the hood was back up and the blonde's smile had become a worried frown periodically interrupted by his teeth chewing on his lip.
Naturally, Craig noticed this, though he decidedly didn't say anything about it. He wasn't particularly concerned until Kenny stopped him from leaving the bags of McDonald's on the McCormick's porch.
"Actually, uh, I thought you could just bring it on in today."
"Ready to blow my cover already?" Craig asked, raising an eyebrow the slightest bit.
"Both covers, actually."
Now the Tucker was beginning to get a little wary. "Both covers? What do you mean?"
"I... Well, we can go ahead and admit that you're the one who's been bringing the food...they'd like you a lot for that."
"And?" Craig pressed.
"And I wanna come out to my family."
Craig's shoulders visibly relaxed. "Oh, that's it."
"Whaddya mean, 'that's it'? Dude, I'm telling my mom and brother somethin' that could make them totally hate me, and I plan to introduce you as my boyfriend to do that, but I was gonna tell 'em that that part was fake, and that's gonna break Karen's heart. She likes you, and she thinks..."
Craig almost didn't think to question that because he was so taken aback by the emotion in Kenny's voice, but he managed to ask, "Thinks what?"
"That we're really good together, or whatever. She's gonna be upset that I lied to her, too..."
"Well..." Craig exhaled slowly through his nose, then gave the blonde a deceptively placid look. "How about we don't create more problems than we need to?"
Kenny was silent, searching the other's face questioningly. "This is going to be somethin' that's gonna upset me, isn't it?"
Craig laughed once, and a small portion of the McCormick's stress disappeared, just like that. "Hell, I don't know. Maybe. I was going to say...well, let's not upset Karen."
"She's going to be upset anyway once she figures out we aren't really dating."
"That's what I mean." The dark-haired boy looked, for a brief moment, like he regretted saying that, but his determination seemed to reappear a moment later. "What if we were really dating?"
Kenny was obviously gaping, even though his mouth was covered by the ever-present parka hood, and Craig wanted to hit himself for saying anything. He hadn't anticipated the other to nod just moments later.
"Yeah, I think that sounds good. Not just for Karen, but 'cause I really like you." Now Kenny was chuckling, but he quieted long enough to add, "That sounded pretty fucking gay, I guess."
Craig snorted. "Nothing wrong with that, right?" His lips upturned into a smile.
Kenny tried to dim the intensity of his own, but he simply couldn't shake the happiness he was practically radiating, even as he opened the door and stepped inside, prepared for the worst.
The worst never came; his family took the news well and welcomed Craig with open arms. Everything was working out in Kenny's favor for once.
On Thursday, Carol invited the Tucker family over to play cards; Friday, the Tuckers returned the favor with dinner included. Saturday, Craig managed to convince Clyde to talk Mr. Donovan into scheduling a job interview with Kevin at their shoe store, and on Sunday the job was his.
The worst had certainly let Kenny and his family off the hook, and honestly, they'd never been happier.
On Monday, South Park High School was decorated from floor to ceiling in every hall with gaudy designs and advertisements for the Valentine's dance. Kenny mulled over the thought of going, but he and Craig both loathed Valentine's Day and school dances, so they settled on hanging out that day elsewhere, instead.
The date was set; Kenny's nerves burned with anticipation.
The two didn't see each other again until Friday, mostly due to studying on Craig's part and premade plans with Cartman, Kyle, and Stan on Kenny's part. The day was still rather uneventful, but Craig had promised Kenny an actual date as soon as he thought of a suitable idea, so any idle time between them was perfectly acceptable.
"I think I'm in love."
"Dude, you're too young to be saying shit like that," Token chided, his voice muffled due to Craig's horrendous phone signal. "Plus, haven't y'all only been dating for, like, what? Three days?"
The Tucker leaned against his bedroom wall and stared absently at Kenny's sleeping form wound up in his sheets; he allowed himself a smirk since Token couldn't see it. "There's no age limit for love, first of all, and if you knew what all we've done in three days you might reconsider your opinion."
"Craig fucking Tucker. Did you already sleep with him?" Token's opinion was obviously not changing, but Craig could care less.
"I dunno, you want to ask him? He's still asleep in my bed, but I can wake him..."
The aforementioned boy chuckled softly, then caved and gave his friend a real answer. "No, all right? We haven't fucked."
Token's relieved sigh was loud. "Oh, good, I-"
"I did give him head, though."
"Jesus, Craig, can you not save this conversation for Clyde, or what?"
"'Fraid not. Clyde's working this morning."
"That lucky son of a bitch."
Craig's answering scoff preceded a hasty, "Oh, he's waking up. See you later, man," and, like that, the line went dead.
Kenny's head hurt like a bitch. As a matter of fact, so did his chest and legs.
He saw a bright light that stung his eyes and was soon identified as the sun. He didn't remember going outside...he just remembered waking up in Craig's room, getting dressed...there were other things, he was sure, but he couldn't seem to recall them at the moment.
Somebody was shouting, and there were a few people crowding around him. Their faces were high enough up for him to realize he was on the ground. He looked to the side. Whoa, that was a lot of blood...
Someone else was crying.
Then, suddenly, he was warm. It wasn't until seconds later when he could no longer feel his body aching that he realized he was dying.
"Hello? Tucker residence, Craig speaking."
"Craig, this is Miss McCormick."
"Oh, hello, ma'am... What's up? You sound upset."
"Kenny's gone home with God, o-okay?"
"Sweetie, K-Kenny is dead."
Craig's blood ran cold; he hardly noticed the phone slip through his fingers and land with a dull crack on the floor at his feet.
"Where is he?"
"First level. Dad, I can handle this one, if you want."
"No, Damien. I've got it."
Kenny turned around to face the direction the voices were coming from and rolled his eyes. "You can hurry this up, can't you? I thought we had this procedure down."
"Actually, this time's special, kid." Damien entered the room first, but quickly stepped aside to make room for the overseer of hell, himself.
"Kenny McCormick! Hell's most frequent visitor!" The devil walked past the blonde and gestured for him to follow, which he did with a grumble. They halted in front of a large mirror, and Kenny's eyes shifted from that to his escort in a split-second.
"You're not pullin' any wicked stepmother shit on me, right?" He was ignored, his remark lost in the tempest of Satan's busied handiwork as the devil turned several knobs and switches on the gargantuan mirror's side. Eventually he brought the reflective surface to life, brightly illuminated as if it were a computer screen.
Kenny's eyebrows furrowed the moment his eyes settled on the picture. "Okay, you've got my town on camera..."
Another knob was turned, and the screen's image changed. Finally, the devil explained, his expression one of dark delight as he reveled in Kenny's pained grimace. "That's your man, yeah? Well, give this about two minutes and you'll see why he's so upset. And, by extension, how you ended up here this time."
So Kenny watched, eyes wide with shock and a sort of disgusted awe at being able to see panic break out among the crowd Craig was joining. "Damn," he breathed, wincing at the scene. "That's me laying there on that stretcher, right?"
"Sure is. You were hit by a car while you were crossing the road on your way home."
The blonde felt like his words were stuck in his throat, slowly asphyxiating him. "Craig..."
"He's saying something to you here."
"Let me hear it."
The devil flipped a small switch, and, at once, a comfortingly familiar - if not slightly nasally - voice was filling Kenny's ears. "You can't fucking die now... Not now, McCormick..." The unusual tone in Craig's voice made Kenny's chest hurt; he'd never heard the dark-haired boy sound so lost before. "Kenny..."
"Fuck..." The blonde's voice cracked. "I've never heard him call me by my first name... I guess it's sorta dumb we let that last-name-basis thing go on."
"I knew I should've said something, damn it." Craig was crying, and Kenny couldn't stand to look at the screen anymore. "I should've fucking told you how much-"
There was a long moment of silence, during which Kenny hesitantly looked up. "Why'd you-"
The devil turned the image in the mirror off. "I muted it because he was saying some pretty important things."
Kenny's eyes widened a fraction. "Like?"
He was surprised when the fallen angel actually smiled at him. "Like some things you might wanna hear under different circumstances."
"Those circumstances being alive and on earth?"
"Well, what're we waiting for?"
"That's where this gets a bit different."
Kenny frowned. "Uh... How?"
"Damien's right about this occasion being special, so, here's the deal: This happens to be your one-hundredth death."
At once, the blonde groaned and crossed his arms. "And I don't get a better fucking death than getting hit by a fucking car?"
"God's in charge of the actual dying process, kid. You'll have to clean up your mouth a little and take that up with him." Satan scoffed before he waved the subject off and continued explaining Kenny's predicament. "Anyway, you get a choice today - a choice you'll never get again. You can either go back now and keep this whole odd immortality thing up, or stay dead forever."
The devil made the decision sound like a piece of cake, but Kenny knew better. He'd always loathed being unable to die, and he was currently being offered a deal that he'd wanted since he was nine... Yet he had gotten rather accustomed to his unfortunate curse, and now he had Craig to think about.
"Fuck," he mumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I don't want to keep dying... But I don't want to be dead... Not now, anyway."
"Well, time's tickin' for you, McCormick. Better choose quickly."
"You're not helping," Kenny snapped, closing his eyes tightly.
The room fell prey to a heavy silence, during which the boy paced and considered his options. After a while, the devil cleared his throat and interrupted any form of thought-processing, which prompted Kenny to give him an exasperated look.
"What? I'm thinkin', okay?"
"I'm just gonna let you know, if you do go back, whenever that boyfriend of yours kicks the bucket, you can always sell me your soul. That'll keep you from coming back to life once you die, and it's not like I'm gonna have a strong desire to fuck with you once you're down here again. I like you - you're a pretty cool guy and all."
Kenny regarded that with a wide-eyed expression. "Hadn't thought of that..."
"So what's your choice?" The question was passed with a smug undertone, and by the time it was answered, the devil had nothing left to do but crack his knuckles and silently commend the McCormick boy for a difficult choice well made.
Kenny stepped off the bus Monday morning and met with Butters in the library, carrying out his usual task of idly staring at his shoes and only half-listening to the other boy babble. His attention was only captured by the Stotch when a cheery greeting of, "Heya, Craig!" reached his ears, and even then it quickly shifted upwards to meet his boyfriend's face.
"Hey, kid." The Tucker sat on the floor between the two of them and snaked an arm around Kenny's waist; Butters took that as his cue to leave.
"Mornin'," the blonde supplied, staring at the other unabashedly. He remembered the way Craig had looked on that screen just hours prior and comforted himself by taking him in at his usual composure.
Craig was quick to notice, however, and raised an eyebrow at him. "What?"
A brief recollection of words pricked at Kenny's brain: He was saying some pretty important things to you... With a bright smile, he replied,
"I love you, you know."
Craig looked blatantly surprised, but it didn't take long for him to rearrange his expression into one of feigned sangfroid. "Y'know, McCormick-"
"We oughta forget about the last name basis, right?" The blonde chuckled. "Just call me Kenny."
Though the gesture was small, the smile Craig gave didn't go undetected. "Well, you know, Kenny... I love you, too."