The day goes like it does every year: dinner at Bennigan's, presents at home (an Xbox game and a new green tie), with the promise of birthday cake before bed. Just his mom, dad, and him.
It's always the same - Butters has never had a birthday party, not that he normally minds. Who would he invite, anyhow; Cartman? The only thing is that this year the day is uneasy and fills him with dread. For the past week his parents have been tense and quiet around each other, glaring at the other's back when one isn't lookin', and quickly exiting the room when the other enters. Every time his dad leaves the house he slams the door and his mom cries and drinks a lot of wine. They've been deadly silent all day, and Butters is at his wit's end.
When someone calls his dad while his mom is lighting the birthday candles, it just gets worse.
"It's your son's birthday, Stephen," his mom says, dropping the lighter.
His dad doesn't say a thing, just glares down at the table and ignores his phone's ringing. Butters' mom is gripping the edge of the table so hard her knuckles are turning white.
Butters glances nervously between them. "H-hey, mom... dad?" He tries.
"Go ahead," his mom says calmly. "Answer your phone. It's him, isn't it, Stephen?" Her nose wrinkles up in a snarl, the ringing echoes into the kitchen. "Answer it!" she shouts, and Butters jumps.
"Linda," his dad says finally, viciously. "Linda, enough. Stop it."
"Don't you dare," she yells, slamming her hands onto the table, "don't you dare speak to me like that after what you've done!"
"You said you could get past it!" His dad yells back - he pulls out his phone and ends the call hastily, swearing as he slams it down onto the table. "Look at what you're doing to us, Linda."
Butters' mother laughs, covering her face with her hands, Butters thinks she might be crying. "That's right, Stephen," she says, her sobbing is slightly muffled through her fingers. "I'm doing this to us, to our family."
For a while, no one says anything. Butters looks down at his cake, the smiley strawberry face staring back up at him. He hears a chair push out from the table but he doesn't look up to see who leaves. It doesn't really matter who it is.
That night in bed, Butters can still hear them arguing downstairs. He counts to ten like Mr. Mackey used to tell him he should when he was feeling anxious, but it doesn't drown out their voices. He listens to music, but he can still feel the thump of things being thrown at the walls.
Finally, Butters kicks off his sheets and heads straight for his window. He's thought about doing this before, when things got bad, but he never imagined he'd go through with it. Always too worried about how badly he'd be punished. But enough is enough. Looking down, Butters figures he could reach the middle branch and jump down from there, it wouldn't be too high a landing.
He doesn't care how badly they'll ground him when they find out, it's worth it.
Butters gets away with a few splinters on his palms and a rip on his sleeve. He heads down the pathway quickly, heart thumping as he glances back at the house. Part of him briefly worries that they'll check his room and see he's not there, but at the rate they were going he decides they probably won't notice.
He walks aimlessly for a few blocks, feeling good to just be out and away from the house, from them. The night air seems to be getting cooler the farther he gets, so Butters tucks his hands into his sleeves, wishing he'd thought to bring a sweater.
He stops when he reaches his old elementary school, he must not have gotten too far if he's only reached the school. Looking up at the building now, Butters doesn't know what to think. It wasn't all bad times, but it's the uglier memories that stick out with this place. Most of his old teachers have left - except Mr. Garrison, who is now the school's principal of all things.
"Weird, huh?" A voice says from behind, startling him.
Butters spins around only to find Kenny, thank Jesus, standing there and smoking, an empty gas can at his feet.
"Jeez louise, Kenny, you scared the heck out of me!" He clutches at his chest as if to keep his heart from beating out, taking a few deep breaths.
"Sorry." Kenny smiles (not looking too sorry at all, if you ask Butters), and blows smoke in the direction of the school. "Didn't expect to see you here, though. You sneak out, Stotch?"
"N-no," Butters lies too quickly. Kenny raises an eyebrow at him and Butters deflates, rubbing his hands together through the sleeves of his panda pyjamas as he confesses. "Yes, but I-I was just walkin' around. I don't know, maybe I should just head home."
"Hey, don't let me scare you off," Kenny says, and gestures to the gas can. "I won't ask if you don't."
Butters is a little disappointed by that 'cause he's little curious, but a deal's a deal - he won't ask. He's already distracted, watching the way the smoke curls between Kenny's lips when he speaks.
"So, what's been up, Buttercup?"
Kenny shrugs and smiles, handsome as ever. "It's either that or Peanut."
"Oh." Butters flushes at the idea that Kenny would think up suitable nicknames for him. "Buttercup's fine."
Kenny laughs and flicks the cigarette to the ground, and Butters' eyes are just drawn to the shape of his mouth again, fascinated.
"I-I think I'd like to try that," Butters blurts out, then wide-eyed, quickly adds, "the-the smoking, I mean."
Kenny tilts his head at this, looking down as he stubs the cigarette out. "I'd light another one to let you, but I'm all out," he says, shrugging. "You don't wanna try that stuff anyway, it'll kill ya."
"Well, b-but you don't care if it kills you," Butters points out, feeling a little cheated for not having his mouth on something Kenny's lips have touched.
Kenny just laughs again, and reaches a hand up to ruffle Butters' hair. "I don't really have to worry about that." He kicks the empty gas can dangerously close to the crushed-but-still-flickering cigarette and starts walking away.
"Wha-what were you doing with that thing, anyway?" Butters can't help but ask.
Kenny stops and looks at him over his shoulder. "Oh, I was gonna burn the whole thing down," he answers casually. "You coming?"
Butters just stands there for a second, glancing between Kenny and the school before hurriedly catching up to him.
Butters doesn't remember deciding to go home with Kenny, only that as they walked away from the school they fell into step with each other, and then Kenny was grabbing his arm and saying he had an extra pillow for Butters to use.
For another matter, Butters doesn't remember how Kenny went from grabbing his arm to holding his hand the whole way home.
They climb through Kenny's window instead of using the front door. "So as to not disturb the folks," Kenny explains when Butters looks at him oddly, "I don't know if they're fighting, fucking, or passed out drunk, but it's better we play it safe either way."
Butters lands face-first on the bed, not realizing how tired he is until he's on it. Kenny's bed is more comfortable and clean than he imagined it would be - not that he's imagined Kenny's bed too often - but the material of the bedspread is soft and worn in just the right way, and he feels sleepy just lying here. "Gosh," Butters says, "your bed's really comfy, Kenny."
Kenny laughs and lies down next to him, causing Butters' face to bounce against the mattress. "Haven't gotten that one before."
"It's true!" Butters says, rubbing his face into a pillow and shutting his eyes for a moment. "I could sleep here forever."
Kenny huffs and turns to him, propped up on his elbow. "Is that so?" He smiles into his palm when Butters nods, looking amused. "Maybe you should, s'warmer when there's two people anyway."
Butters rolls onto his back and looks up at Kenny inquisitively. He blushes at the way Kenny's watching him, and his stomach feels all fluttery. There's enough light that Butters can see Kenny just fine, and darn but he's so good-looking. Butters can't imagine why Kenny'd ever hide his face like he did when they were younger.
Kenny hooks a leg over Butters' waist and pulls himself on top of him, causing Butters to stammer and squirm at the sudden weight and closeness. "Wh-what're you doin', Ken?"
"I was right," Kenny says softly despite Butters' flailing, his cheek resting just above Butters' shoulder now. "Much better with two people."
Butters' heart pounds almost painfully. Kenny is warm and heavy, he feels good on top of him, right. Butters tries to hold perfectly still, afraid that if he doesn't that Kenny will move away, and he really doesn't want that.
He bites his lips and tries to will his heart to slow, finding the only thing that helps is looking anywhere except at Kenny. Butters forces himself to relax, idly saying, "I- I've never been in your room."
Kenny frowns at this, a small crease forming between his brows that Butters wants to soothe away with his fingers. "Sure you have," Kenny says, though he sounds unsure. "I mean that time when - oh. Huh." He pulls back and Butters wants to grab him close again, but he catches Kenny's frowning face and keeps his hands at his sides. "That's so weird, you've been my friend forever and you've never been in here."
"We were n-never that close, Ken," Butters whispers back, and it hurts to say, because even if they weren't ever all that close he still always liked Kenny best of all the fellas.
Kenny is silent at that, and Butters just wants to smack himself for his big stupid mouth. Kenny's been so nice to him and Butters just has to go and ruin it, any minute now Kenny is going to get up and kick him out of his house, which would be well within his rights because Butters is a big-mouthed jerk.
"Well," Kenny says, hiding his face against Butters' neck - much to Butters' surprise. "We're close now." Kenny smells like cigarettes and a gas station, but Butters can't help but try to get closer and hope that smell clings to him too.
"Kenny..." Butters shivers at the feeling of lips under his jaw, dry and soft.
"I like you, Butters" Kenny says quietly, pressing the words up to the shell of Butters' ear, tracing them with his tongue. "I've always liked you a lot."
Butters gulps and closes his eyes, he feels so warm everywhere Kenny's touching him. "L-like a friend?" he asks, scared out of his wits.
Kenny lifts his head to look Butters in the eyes, says, "Like this," and kisses him.
Butters thinks that if someone had told him earlier that he'd be sneaking out of his room and kissing Kenny McCormick on his birthday, well, he would've called that person a terrible stinkin' liar. As it is, he lets out a shuddery breath and feels Kenny's tongue touch his, and Butters can't think much at all.
"K-Kenny," he breathes. Kenny slips a hand behind Butters' neck, threading his fingers into the hair there. It feels amazing. Their lips part wetly as Kenny pulls away, something strange and searching in his eyes. He uses the hand in Butters' hair to tilt his head back, leans in close until their lips are almost touching again, and softly says, "...We should sleep."
"We-what?" Butters sputters disbelievingly as Kenny sits up and moves away. Butters gapes wordlessly as Kenny drapes a thin blanket over them both, lying beside Butters and gently rolling him to his side so he can cuddle up close behind him, his arms circling Butters' waist.
"You've had a big night dude," Kenny explains, rubbing circles into Butters' stomach with his fingers, "and as good as birthday sex can be, I'd rather fuck you when you have a clear head."
Butters doesn't know what to say to that; kissing was one thing, but sex was a whole 'nother level, much less the possibility of actually having it. With Kenny- not that he doesn't like Kenny, but it's a lot to take in for one night. And he knows Butters' birthday. Butters suddenly feels overwhelmed and exhausted, his head hasn't stopped spinnin' since the day started.
Kenny's right, they should stop for now. Butters lets out a big disappointed sigh anyway. He really liked the kissing.
"Don't worry," Kenny says, nuzzling into the back of Butters' neck. "I'll kiss you in the morning, if you still want me to."
Butters lets himself relax into Kenny's arms, he feels warm and good here, and he thinks, after everything, his birthday didn't turn out so bad after all.