Chapter One: Unwanted Friends
Twelve years after...
Eight months before present...
What a boring life. It was the single thought that always passed through Kenny’s mind; especially at work where he was almost always alone. It was eleven o’clock at night, which meant his shift was almost over and that always gave him a sigh of relief.
The store was small and cramped, which gave it its life-sucking effect- a robbery would be the only thing that could give this place some excitement but it was so small that no one would ever attempt it, even if Kenny or one of his coworkers begged and groveled for them to. He swatted at a fly that buzzed by his ear. Sick.
There was a distant flush and Kenny looked over to the bathroom from where he stood stiffly behind the counter. His shoulders and back had lost all feeling the second hour of his shift but worse yet was that some bald pedophile looking guy had been in the bathroom for forty five minutes.
Just get the fuck out of here… Kenny sighed and shook his head to himself. The bathroom door finally started to open and Kenny stepped back from the counter, out of any arms’ length. He was a good twenty seven years old but that didn’t stop children’s fear.
He subconsciously swallowed as he watched the man approach, forehead sweaty and brows furrowed; he was probably battling some bad thought. Kenny hoped it was to rob the store.
They didn’t speak to each other, the man simply placing down a worn twenty dollar bill and stating for twenty in gas at post 1. Kenny opened the register in a way to display all of the money in it but it didn’t do much because the man was looking at his chewed finger nails, so he put the bill in and bid the man the routinely “Have a good night”. Whatever the man was thinking, Kenny’s words cut through and the man gave a quick nod before hurrying out of the shop.
Damn. Kenny looked at the time on his cheap flip phone and exhaled deeply: one hour left for any kind of excitement. It didn’t take a genius to know that all of the excitement was in Colorado. The most exciting thing to happen here since Kenny moved in to town was a waitress getting beaten and harassed, and that was just a couple’s dispute. No, the real stuff was three hundred miles away in South Park. Kenny shook his head at the town’s memory.
Once a South Park kid, always a South Park kid. Until you kill yourself, then you’re no one’s kid.
He shook his head again. Stop with the thoughts.
It was hard to forget the town though, and its people: Butters, Stan, Cartman’s fat ass, Kyle… Another shake of his head. When he stalked their social medias there was nothing about him, just their lives now. Butters was a tattoo artist, Stan was in law school, Cartman was running some sort of mafia that no one would mess with, and Kyle… Well, Kyle wasn’t actually on social media much.
It was surprising though, Butters’ chosen profession. A tattoo artist? Well, he always liked to doodle when they were kids but still, using a needle gun instead of markers was a big change. Kenny would have never guessed either; Butters’ skin was still as porcelain as it was when he had left. At least he was still innocent and ruining other peoples’ bodies instead of his own. Hm… that would be a good stress reliever.
My friends… Kenny leaned over the counter and put his face in his hands. What have I done to myself? It was clear what he had done, though. Kenny McCormick had hanged himself at fifteen years old and now Ralph Coffee, twenty seven, was the man that that boy should have grown into. Ralph had messy, unkempt sandy hair and some unforgiving facial stubble that he kept forgiving to shave. He also had freckled skin from too much of this town’s sun. Kenny shook his head again.
The only thing to link Ralph to his past were his icy blue eyes. The unkempt hair made a new person all on its own but the light freckles were a given, one that Kenny wasn’t fond of. Damn sun.
The door’s bell jingled and Kenny sighed, rubbing his hands over his face to regain himself. Footsteps sounded walking past him and he took the time to mutter insults to himself to make himself feel better. Ralph was stern and kept to himself, he didn’t have any weaknesses.
Get up .
Kenny pushed himself up from the counter and took a deep breath to gain full control of himself again. He glanced around to see where the customer was and it took a full two minutes and standing on his toes to spot him. There was a man with messy, messy blonde hair standing at the drink coolers and Kenny couldn’t help but raise a brow while watching him. The guy was just… weird. His shoulder jerked and Kenny gave him a look. “Are you-”
“Gah!” The blonde’s whole body twitched and Kenny furrowed his brows.
“...Tweek?” It came out sudden and without much thought and Kenny managed to duck under the counter just as the man looked over.
“W-who said that?”
Kenny cursed to himself and peeked up over the counter’s edge. The blonde was looking around with light twitches and looked to be freaking himself out a little too much; Kenny stood and waved to keep him from running.
“Hey, uh, it’s just me, the cashier.” He stated and the blonde stared at him, narrowed his eyes, widened them again, and went to rub his neck. “Oh.. S-s-sorry.” The words sounded like they were directed elsewhere but Kenny shook his head and shrugged.
“No, it’s fine, I just dropped something; sorry for spooking you.” He gave a nervous smile to the customer and somehow got him to give a meek smile in return.
“Okay- okay.” The customer turned back to face the coolers again and Kenny leaned on the counter to watch him. There wouldn’t be a reason in Hell for Tweek Tweak to be three hundred miles from South Park. He couldn’t survive without his parents’ constant mental torture, he was sure. That kid sure did look like him though; messy hair, twitches, blonde messy hair.
The customer opened the cooler and pulled out a bottle of cold coffee and Kenny pushed off of the counter to check him out without scaring him when he started approaching. He put the bottle down a little too hard when a twitch jerked his hand and Kenny grabbed it to keep it from tipping over. “This is 2.50. You can get another for $3.00.” Kenny recited and the customer seemed to consider it greatly but ultimately didn’t move so Kenny punched in the price.
“Ten cents and you can get another.”
“...I-I can g-get it?”
Kenny waved off the customer after the three dollars were paid and he went to grab his other awarded drink. Kenny looked at the time again and huffed to himself. Forty five minutes left.
The customer came back to the counter to get his other coffee and Kenny bid a goodnight. The blonde stood there for a moment, though, thinking.
“Does it scare you?” He asked and Kenny quirked a brow.
“Does what scare me?”
“B-being alone- all alone.” The last bit was hushed, probably for some kind of inner turmoil Kenny assumed and he shrugged. “Not really. I’m a nighttime kind of guy.” He replied and grinned. The customer seemed to get a bit uncomfortable at the gesture so Kenny cleared his throat and turned to the cash register to pretend to adjust something on it.
“What’s your name?” It was a loud blurt that even scared the customer who had asked it and Kenny had a thought that it sounded like a preteen with puberty.
“Ralph Coffee.” Kenny stated and pointed to his worn name tag. The blonde’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment and Kenny gestured to him. “What’s your name?” He asked.
There was a silence to awkward for comfort but the customer eventually spoke up.
It wasn’t what Kenny expected but he wouldn’t force someone to give him their name; even though it wasn’t exactly fair.
“I was just curious. So, what brings you to town? You don’t look too fond of the outdoors.” He replied. The blonde seemed to consider this for a moment.
“I-I ...I needed a uh.. break.”
The blonde was silent and looked to his coffee holding hands before looking back to “Ralph” and giving a smile too wide for his face. “Life.”
They both stood there in silence, looking into each others’ blue and green eyes and Kenny could feel some sort of connection- some sort of loss they seemed to share.
Kenny broke the connection. “You should probably go, huh? It’s sort of too late for someone like you to be out, some weird people hang around these parts.” He stated while turning to the cigarette casing behind him, checking to make sure it was locked to gain some distance from the customer. He wanted a friend, but Tweek wasn’t an option and he could feel something from the interaction easing him into a comfort. That damn customer was probably feeling the same thing because he didn’t move, just contemplated the words even while Kenny was indirectly telling him to leave.
“Did you walk here?” The customer asked and Kenny sighed at the glass, looking to the blonde from the reflection.
“No, a friend dropped me off.”
“...I could drive you home.”
“Look,” Kenny turned from the case to the customer. “I don’t take rides from strangers.” Those green eyes set in deep gray sockets seemed to waver and Kenny glanced away. It was like kicking a puppy. A persistent puppy that you had to kick to make go away and that haunted you all night for it.
“What kind of name is “Coffee”?” The blonde asked.
It was the name from a tombstone; some man who died from a drunk driver. Ralph Coffee, a very fitting name.
“I don’t really know.” Kenny stated. The customer ultimately held out a shaky hand. “I-I’m Tweek. You can ride in the b-back of my truck: t-the bed.”
Kenny looked at the hand and huffed with a light shake of the head. “I can’t.” “I need… I… I need help.” The words were soft and looking at his hand Kenny could still see the fear. There was something else too, though. He felt as though he was being trusted.
He shook his head harder, looking to Tweek’s face this time. “I’m not a good person.”
“Neither am I.”
Kenny let out a frustrated chuckle but the hand stayed, trembling. “I can’t survive on my own.”
Their eyes met but Kenny couldn’t break his away this time. He reached out and clasped the hand; it clasped his right back.