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Word Of The Day

Chapter Text

Sometimes, the adults seemed to think they absolutely knew better than the kids they were around.

 

Sometimes, his parents acted as if they were incapable of holding down jobs when Kenny had been working at City Wok for over a week.

 

“Sometimes my brother or my mom tell me a word of the day, an’ I gotta use the word in some kinda way.”

 

She had asked about his home life, how he was getting on with his family, how his siblings were doing. It was sweet, warmed his heart for him to know Red cares about other people he cares about. It always eased something inside him as he sat with the girls and heard one of them turn conversation to him, smiles on their faces as they would ask, how's Karen? how's Kevin? are you both getting enough to eat?

 

They were equal parts some of the scariest people in South Park, and some of the sweetest. He was always glad to be reminded he's on their good sides.

 

The slightest tilt of her head, curiosity in her gaze as she watched her companion, the two waiting at the lunch table for the rest of the girls and Wendyl. He liked sitting with them more sometimes - they didn’t get into stupid, petty fights with each other. They weren’t unbearably _loud_.

 

Don’t get him wrong, he loves his friends, but sometimes, it was nice to sit back and relax. His coat tied around his waist as he talks softly, tells her things he doesn’t mind sharing. “Did you get a word today?” The redhead asked, and he took a moment before he grinned slowly, nodded. “What was it?” She asked then, and Kenny raised a hand, the two bumping their fists together softly.

 

“Trust.” “How are you gonna use it?” Kenny pushed her fist a little from where their knuckles were still together, considering before he said as Wendyl and Bebe returned to the table, “Word of the day is trust, since I trust you gals - and Wendyl.” “And guy?” Bebe asked, giggling when Kenny just winked at her and waved at the smiling Wendyl beside her. “Nah. Wendyl is whatever they wanna be.”

 

Sometimes it changed like the weather, but that was okay, because he did too. “And methinks the princess should have another dress up day with her people.” He added, delighted in the laughter that pulled from his friends around him, easily ignored the either confused or bitter stares of his other friends, always wondering how and why someone like him was friends with the girls . They’ll never learn his secret.

 

(The secret is trust - mutual love, care and understanding from all parties. Something they sometimes seem unfamiliar with).

Chapter Text

”Dazzle.” Kevin had said as he watched TV, and Kenny looked up from where he sleepily sat on the couch in his pjs early in the morning. He had wanted to keep his brother company in the morning before it was time to go to school.

 

“Dazzle? What’s that mean?” The younger brother asked softly, and Kevin looked at him finally, a curious look on his face. Their mother cut in as she stepped into the room, startling the boys for a moment. “To blind temporarily, or amaze, overwhelm and fascinate someone.”

 

Dazzled, a verb, to blind temporarily and to amaze…

 

Kenny was dazzled by Craig.

 

He stepped in to school, hands stuffed in his pockets, thinking all too much about the word and what he could use it for, gaze on the ground when he bumped into someone. Kenny jerked back, eyes wide as he looked up to see the beanpole that was Craig Tucker, and okay, maybe the word could apply to this situation.

 

He wasn’t exactly blinding sunshine , but Kenny still squinted for a second, making Craig narrow his own eyes down at Kenny, one hand in his blue hoodie pocket and the other holding the strap of his backpack. “I’m… Sorry?” Why did he word it as a question? It wasn’t a question. He didn’t watch where he was going, it was kind of (definitely) his fault. Craig didn't really look angry, though. About as stern and quiet as ever.

 

They were silent a moment longer before Craig slowly stepped away from Kenny and carried on his way down the halls, completely unfazed by the situation.

 

Kenny stared after him before he slowly started on his way again.

 

The real moment happened during lunch where Kenny sat with his friends, bored, tired and listening to whatever story of the weekend they had to tell. He almost didn’t notice the insults thrown at him by Cartman, brushing them off with a slight rise and fall of his shoulder as he shot back comments of his own. This was interrupted when a voice behind Kenny said, “Shut up already, you’re getting on everyone’s nerves.”

 

Kenny turned his head to see Craig standing there with a frown on his face, and his blue eyes went from Cartman to Kenny, staring a moment before saying, “Come sit with us - Tweek wanted to talk to you.” And just like that, he was walking back to his table, leaving the group confused. After a moment, Kenny slowly stood up to follow after, leaving the gay comments from Cartman behind him.


As he talked quietly with Tweek and sat beside Craig, his gaze once again found itself locked on the other (he was certainly doing a lot of staring today - seems Craig has near every ounce of Kenny’s attention today), and he mumbled a rather dreamy and thoughtless, “ Dazzling …”

Chapter Text

They didn’t spend time together all that often, and Kenny wasn’t quite sure why. The other was a good guy, fun to spend time with (more so when he was calm but Kenny enjoyed his company regardless), and he was a good listener. He’d chat with Kenny for hours sometimes when they did hang out, even as the rest of their friends paid him no mind.

 

“Why don’t you hang out with us over here?” one of Clyde’s friends would ask. “Not right now, I’m in the middle of telling Kenny that story I told you the other day!”

 

And maybe it warmed the kid to know he was worth the time of others (he was worth Clyde’s time).

 

He didn’t miss appreciative glances or little grins when he stuck up for Clyde in the middle of the hall ( “You’re such a loser. Crybaby Clyde!” “I’ll knock your fucking front teeth out if you say anything like that to him again, you white crayon!” ) or when he teamed up with Clyde to study for a test.

 

His favorite moment with Clyde thus far, however, was the tracks. Fingers twined together as Clyde and Kenny walked on the tracks themselves, connected and trusting each other to not let them fall.

 

Kenny hummed the softest tune as he slowly It one foot in front of the other again and again, Clyde glancing at him every once in a while when he felt unsteady.

 

Kenny tightened his grip on Clyde’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze for each glance.

 

Kenny whistled his tune, and Clyde laughed softly as he listened. A smile on his face as they switched hands while they turned and started back.


As they both fell asleep side by side in Kenny’s bed later that night, Kenny whispered to the boy he considered a platonic soulmate at that point, “ Melody ,” and he heard Clyde respond an equally quiet, “The best one.” Before they drifted off.

Chapter Text

“Photograph,” Kevin had told him as he looked at the film camera in Kenny’s hands.

 

Kenny stared at his brother before he held the camera up and Kevin raised a hand, palm facing him as he said, “No, that's too easy.”

 

Photograph, huh? What was he expected to do with this word? The thought stuck with him throughout school, relieved when Kyle subtly helped him every chance he got. It was likely all thanks to Kyle alone that he didn't fail the test.

 

He looked around the library, reached into his heavy messenger bag to grab his notepad and pencil. He spent all his time in the library sketching slow intricate lines along his companion’s face on his page, swirls and sharp edges and symbols melding into the strange puzzle he thought Kyle Broflovski to be.

 

And maybe he was a little bit more than angry and embarrassed when his notebook was swiped out from under him, some stranger looking at it with Cartman, Kenny turning red when the only comments he received were negative - something about being able to do something other than blow people for cash.

 

Kyle found him later sat in a bathroom stall with his knees to his chest. Sat outside the stall and spoke softly about how flattering it was, how pretty his artwork is and, “I didn't know you could draw.” Pause. “Only Leo knew. Guess everyone does now.”

 

He hadn’t meant to sound so bitter. Kyle wasn't at fault here, school never would be a safe place for him to enjoy his art, but he had the urge, the image in his head and had to put it on paper before it was gone.

 

Dust in the wind.

 

He took a picture that day with the camera Craig, Tweek and the girls had all gotten him (the best gift he'd ever received, he told them later).

 

He went straight to bed when he got home. When Kevin went to check on his exhausted little brother, he saw a photograph taped to the plain black cover of the notebook. A photograph of Kyle confusedly smiling and Kenny looking at him rather than the camera, the corner of his lips upturned.

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“We’ll be the best dressed at the party, don’t worry!” Kenny assured him, delighted as he sat beside Tweek, watching the teen go stare incredulously at the Halloween costumes Kenny had found. “I- ghh- Kenny, I am n- not wearing a dress!” Tweek’s voice was louder than he expected. Kenny was a bit of a wildcard, it was better to specify such things upfront rather than hope he would just know or would remember from conversations in the past.

 

“Nah, I know,” or maybe he did remember and sometimes just chose to ignore things said in past conversations if he had an idea in his head that he so deeply wanted to go through with. So after everyone in their classes were invited to a Halloween costume party at Token’s house, Kenny excitedly told Tweek he had the perfect idea if his friend was willing to go with him. He was surprised when the other blond gave him a little smile and an agreement. He didn’t say anything when Tweek furrowed his brows and asked what was wrong.

 

“So you’re gonna be-?” Tweek started, looking toward Kenny with furrowed brows and watching as the blond let out a little giggle, wrapping his arms around Tweek’s shoulders as he leaned on him, watching the computer with a grin. “Yes, long as you take the other costume. Cool?” He thought about it before nodding a little, smiling faintly. “Ye- yeah, sure.” Kenny tapped his cheek with his finger before he took over on the laptop, bringing up another costume. “I texted Craigory earlier, he’s gonna take this one.”

 

Oh, the pride he felt when Tweek snorted a laugh at the thought of Craig in the themed costume to match his favorite blondes.

 

Kenny didn’t even seem to have the slightest bit of shame as they donned their costumes and arrived at the party, arms linked because Kenny McCormick was relentless. Tweek had to cover his mouth to stifle his laughter as he saw Craig in his costume - the white rabbit. He had to admit, Craig looked nice in the vest and coat, a top hat with white rabbit ears stuck to the sides of the hat on his head.

 

And Craig was left staring at them for a solid minute and Tweek could probably guess why. He could hear a couple of their friends giggling at Kenny, Wendyl delightedly calling that, “The princess has arrived!”

 

Kenny, for his part, looked delighted in his Alice costume, the dress made of soft fabrics and stockings white with black spots to go with his costume. He’d even tied a black ribbon atop his head to hold some of his hair back. Tweek adjusted his coat, matching the apparent costume group with his Hatter costume. Black shoes, mismatched socks, a spotted bow tie, a sash tied of bobbins covered in thread of all kinds of color from his shoulder to his hip and to top it all off, a top hat with a red sash around it and a paper that looked burned at the edges and read 10/6 on it.


Kenny just giggled like mad as Craig stepped up to stand with the two, a faint smile on the generally stoic teen’s face when Tweek complimented his outfit with a big smile and oh, the looks they both gave Kenny as he threw an arm around both their necks and gleefully said, “Welcome to Wonderland .”

Chapter Text

“Warmth,” Kevin announced as he stepped into the room, smiling as Karen giggled and Kenny groaned loudly. “Warmth? What kind of fucking word is that? Gimme somethin’ better, man.”

 

“No, I think you’ll survive with this one.” Kevin stated with a little grin, ruffling Kenny’s hair as he walked by. “It’s a learning experience, Ken. You’ll figure it out.”

 

Kenny sighed, hands in his pockets as he walked along the sidewalk, Karen at his side. It was the weekend and he wasn’t sure if he was grateful for it or not, but it did give him time to slowly go for a walk and breathe in the fresh air with his sister at his side. She’d wanted to see Tricia and since Kenny was headed that direction, he said he’d walk her there. The second she shivered, he made her wear his parka, smiling as she complained about her brother getting cold, yet snuggled into the warm patchwork coat regardless. 

 

He heard a voice call his name as the two arrived at Craig’s. He and his sister glanced back to see Stan looking at them first with delight, then with disdain. “Kenny, what the fuck, man? It’s winter . You’re gonna fucking freeze!” Karen just smiled, the girl waving from beside Kenny and watching as Stan dropped any frustration with Kenny for a moment to smile and wave back at Karen. “Good luck, Ken!” The girl shouted delightedly, darting toward the door and knocking excitedly as Kenny glanced at her, gave her such a betrayed look.

 

Back to Stan, staring disapprovingly at Kenny as the blond walked up to stand close by him with a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry, ‘kay? Gave my coat to Kare. She was cold.” He explained, letting Stan sling an arm around his neck and tug him along. “Well, come on - I was gonna ask you to join Cartman, Kyle and I in playing video games, you can warm up and get something to eat.”

 

Kenny leaned in to the slight affection, smiling gleefully as the two walked back to Stan’s house. It was warm inside the building and as he didn’t want to play video games before he warmed up, he settled for sitting beside Stan and watching the three of them play.


The word flit through his mind again when he eventually found himself lying down, head resting in Stan’s lap. He almost fell asleep a few times, a blanket tossed over his body carelessly as he relaxed against his friend. Kenny did eventually fall asleep, head cushioned on the other’s thighs as he mumbled a barely audible, “ Warm …”

Chapter Text

“Dragon.” Kenny’s mother offered that morning when she got up, smiling when he looked at her in surprise. Even Kevin seemed a little surprised that their mother took over, but Kenny smiled, tilting his head. “Dragon?” “Yes. Dragon.” “What am I supposed to do with that ?” The boy asked, but his mother shrugged and that was that. 

 

He should know not to ask - he’d never get anywhere. He could put his own meanings to the word . Any boredom or wonders he had about the word was left with Karen pulling his arm and asking her brother to play with her, her eyes big and a smile on her face. He could never say no to her.

 

Which was why when later on, Kenny was dressed in her princess costume, playing with Karen out on the remnants of SoDoSoPa. Kenny sat legs crossed by the edge of the platform as Karen laughed and roared, dressed like the word she’d received - a makeshift dragon, in an oversized red shirt of Kevin’s and a skirt of Kenny’s. She made a mental note to maybe make her a better costume later on. She’d love it.

 

She made the best dragon. They didn’t play ‘dragon steals the princess’, oh no. They played ‘dragon guards the princess’. Her little dragon hopped around and chattered with her delightfully, a smile on her face as Kenny twisted a long lock of her blond hair around her fingers, made a mental note to perhaps get a haircut sometime soon if she could. She was pulled from her thoughts as Karen loudly yelled, “Halt!” and voices from the base of SoDoSoPa reached her ears. Kenny peeked over the edge curiously, seeing a few of her friends at the base of the remnants.

 

“Wh- Kenny, what are you guys doing up there?” Kyle asked with a frown, and Kenny stood on her knees, careful with her dress as she waved gleefully, heart full when Stan, Leo and Tweek waved back with smiles, seemingly unbothered by where she was or the costume she was clearly wearing. “Ken, d’you wanna come play games with us?” Stan asked, tilting his head when Kenny shook her head. “Can we play with you?” Leo asked instead, and Kenny was so delighted when Karen called out as if they already were , “Answer my questions three and prove yourselves worthy and you may rescue the princess!”

 

Kenny covered her mouth with a gloved hand to stifle a giggle as they looked incredulously at her little sister. Kyle crossed his arms, asking what her questions were, and Karen seemed to think for a moment before saying, “What’s the princess’s favorite color?”

 

That seemed to stump all of them - well, except Leo, who looked delighted as he smiled up at Kenny and watched her return the smile with equal delight. “Orange?” Cartman asked, scowling up at them as Leo shook his head, met Karen’s gaze with his joy. “No, it’s purple, isn’t it?” Karen blinked, looking surprised before smiling widely, nodding. “Correct! Next question: What’s the princess’s favorite food?”

 

There wasn’t even any hesitation, Tweek stepping up beside Leo as they all looked at each other in quiet confusion, even Craig surprised when his boyfriend called up, “Banana sandwiches.”

 

Karen met Kenny’s gaze and the princess shrugged and nodded with a little grin of her own. “Yeah, he’s not wrong,” She uttered to her dragon, and Karen giggled. “Final question! Who is the princess’s best friend?”

 

Now no one had the answer, looking between each other and quietly discussing before one of them offered, “Stan? Kyle?” in confusion, sets of eyes narrowing as Karen stated loudly, “Nope, all wrong!”

 

Now they looked to Kenny for her answer, confusion and suspicious eyes narrowed at her as the princess smiled lazily, arms dangling off the guard rails as she thought about it before stating simply, delighted herself in their confused frustration as she answered for herself, “My dearest dragon.”

 

Kenny still went down with Karen, her sister holding her hand as they stood before her friends with a smile. “My heroes,” She said, releasing Karen’s hand to hold Tweek and Leo’s for a moment, gleeful in the smile Tweek offered while Leo looked rather flustered. “My wonderful protector and I would love for you all to join us.”


Her dearest dragon .

Chapter Text

The word followed him through the whole day. As he donned the hood and cape, as he strolled the streets in broad daylight, as he watched the sun slowly fall beyond the horizon from his perfect view point atop a building and wow, he really could see everything from up there, but for once, for one of the first times as Mysterion, he wasn’t focused on crime, or fighting, or the Hell that was his life.

 

He was focused on the sky. Blue skies fading into oranges, pinks and purples. Colors that made Mysterion’s heart thump in his chest, feeling soft in ways this persona never usually did. A gorgeous sight of the fading light that made him long for that one person’s hand in his own, a soft voice speaking about this or that in his ears as he leaned into the soft warmth and watched the color casted against fluffy clouds of all shapes and sizes above them until the darkness and the moonlight took over for the sunshine.

 

He longed for soft, mismatched blue eyes, messy undercut blond hair and a smile that rivalled the sun itself, a smile that Kenny always wanted to see first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

 

He started when he heard a voice calling his name and oh, that’s the voice he wants to hear. Did his thoughts summon him? Did the other just so happen to be in the same place at the same time, look up and spot the resident superhero? There was no danger in sight, nothing to threaten the sunshine boy. And no one around to stop him from reaching up, determination in climbing the rusted ladder to get closer to the hero.

 

Mysterion wasn’t cruel. He offered him a hand the moment he was in reach, easily tugging Butters up onto the roof with him. “What were you looking at?” His companion asked, uttered nothing more than a soft, “ Oh ,” when Mysterion gestured to the fading light coloring the sky in a wide array of warm colors. When Mysterion sat down, he did too. 


And that’s how they stayed for a while, silently watching sundown together. When Leo curled his fingers around Mysterion’s hand after a few minutes, he received a gentle squeeze in response as the light shining on them faded away. Mysterion felt soft in ways he never usually did as a vigilante ‘hero’, and Kenny had exactly what he wanted - a soft hand held tight to his own as they watched the fading light together, and he understood, smiling faintly under the hood. Dusk .

Chapter Text

The weird thing was, he didn’t get jealous often. Neither Kenny, nor Stan, so he wasn’t sure how they found themselves in that situation at all, but maybe it was something buried deep, buzzing under Stan’s skin when they were together, hanging out alone or with their groups of friends. Stan laughed when Kenny thought too into his scowl and casually explained that he, Tweek, Butters and Bebe were the blonde bitches of the school . He had no doubt at least Tweek would have smacked him for the comment.

 

He didn’t feel that buzzing when Kenny spent time with the blondes anymore, suddenly it wasn’t all that surprising to see the four of them playing sports together at the park, their friends just sat around watching the blondes go up against each other, smiling as Kenny perked up and loudly asked Thomas, Bradley, Pip and Annie to join in, stating it’s the blonde bitches against everyone else!

 

Stan felt… Off. Wrong as he, Kyle and six other boys and girls teamed up against the blondes, smiles on everyone’s faces as the fierce game of basketball commenced, and Stan couldn’t remember the last time Kenny put his absolute all into something and really tried , brows knit together as he did his absolute best for his team.

 

Their friend group went back to Stan’s after the game, the teens slumping down on the couches, chairs, each other or the floor in Kenny’s case as he plopped himself down unnecessarily at Stan’s feet despite the empty spot beside Stan, smiling away as he said that the spot was clearly rightfully Kyle’s. Kenny seemed to have no problem dropping his head back against Stan and Bebe’s legs, listening to Wendy and Bebe chat away as a manicured hand held his and gentle fingers that definitely weren’t Bebe’s ran through surprisingly soft blond locks. Kenny leaned his head back just a little bit more (and more into that hand in his hair despite the pause in the gentle touches), blue eyes looking up to see Stan smiling as he struck conversation with Kyle as the redhead returned from the bathroom.

 

The raised eyebrow made something stir in his gut, but Kenny just grinned at Kyle and pressed closer to Stan, watching the flustered glance he shot to his super best friend as his fingers resumed gently moving through Kenny’s hair. Kyle looked more fond than anything when he saw Kenny just melt against Stan’s lap with one hand’s fingers twined affectionately with Bebe’s.

 

Everything seemed quiet for the next couple of days, and Stan would have thought Kenny dropped off the face of the earth if not for his appearances in school, sluggishly dragging himself through his classes and lunch and the halls as if he were drop dead exhausted. Stan had tried to talk to him, as well as all their friends, but he just smiled meekly at them and apologized for any worry he’d caused. That only caused more worry, and Stan wasn’t sure what to do with the cold twist in his gut and the frustration that followed when Kenny’s other friends got further with questioning than he did. Butters’ arms around Kenny while Tweek held his hand, soft offers of comfort for whatever had him down and so exhausted and he knew he shouldn’t have been thinking, why can Kenny’s ‘blonde bitches’ can fix it and I can’t?

 

Stan felt this a considerable amount of times with Kenneth, but the breaking point was as Toolshed, Kite and other heroes were out trying to stop Professor Chaos and a civilian found himself in the crossfire.

 

Kenny, as downright as exhausted as he’d been at school, turning the corner right as Wonder and Kite used their ranged attacks on Chaos and the villain jumped away only for the civilian he hadn’t noticed walking out behind him to take the hit himself when he looked up. Wonder looked downright horrified, Super at his side holding his hand as Mysterion slowly stepped forward, as did Chaos after a moment of silent staring at the vigilante. Everyone was surprised, watching the hero and villain issue some sort of silent truce as Chaos stepped over to the shaking, now wide awake looking Kenny and lifted him with ease and there was that twisted feeling again as Kenny looked so uncomfortable, looking between Mysterion and Chaos, bottom lip between his teeth as Chaos adjusted him, looking more solemn now he was never supposed to be caught in the crossfire and Toolshed’s teammates were walking away, going back to base - all except Kite and Mysterion, and it only took a slight push on the shoulder from Kite and the glance of Mysterion as the vigilante left them be before Toolshed was saying, perhaps a bit too loud, “Chaos, wait-!”

 

The villain turned to him, eyes narrowed as he observed the hero. Perhaps relaxed a little as it clicked Toolshed wasn’t going to attack. “Can… I mean, can I-?” He couldn’t find his words, but a slight gesture to the shaking Kenny did it, and Kenny reaching an arm out for Toolshed really did it. Now he had his arms full of Kenny, and Kite was gone and Chaos uttered a simple, “Take care of him, Marsh,” before he was off much like all the rest. He shouldn’t have been that surprised that Chaos knew his name.

 

Kenny just grit his teeth, kept silent the whole affair as his fingers twisted into the back of Toolshed’s shirt and he really just felt like a kid being passed around. “I- I can walk..” He uttered, felt the hero shake his head a little, jostled slightly from the movement as the hero started moving slowly. That sickening feeling was gone, replaced with something softer as Kenny’s nose pressed against his neck, breath cold against his skin and generally feeling discomfort as Toolshed took him to his own home, not at all minding the tight hold the other had on him. Kenny only seemed a little surprised when the familiar room processed, but he didn’t say a thing when the hero slowly laid him down on his own bed.

 

Ken felt touched, really, as the hero tucked him in, left for a few minutes only to come back with a cup of tea and urge Kenny to sit up softly. He sips the tea slowly, staring at the covers over his lap as Toolshed changes out of his costume and then he’s not the hero anymore, is he?

 

He’s Stan Marsh, one of Kenny’s best friends, who tries really hard to care for everyone, who looks at Kenny with a soft look on his face each time he thinks the blond isn’t looking, who ran his fingers through Kenny’s hair and curled up with him and soothed him into sleep on days when he couldn’t. Stan, who offered him his coat when he was cold and helped him with hard tests and studied with him even when Stan didn’t understand the test either, who Kenny had to talk out of fights sometimes because apparently nobody gets to pick on Kenny anymore.

 

Stan laid down beside him, watching curiously as Kenny set the half empty cup down to lay down again, curling close to wrap his arms around him. Stan bit his lip, fingers gently running through Kenny’s hair before pressing a hand to his forehead, whispering a soft, “You’re so cold, Ken… Get some sleep, I’ll… I’ll take care of you if you get sick, okay?” He felt Kenny’s slow nod, felt the gentle press of lips against his neck before Kenny seemed to settle, not relenting in his grip to Stan’s shirt as he pressed close. Stan did think briefly about putting some distance between them, but Kenny was so cold, and he wouldn’t let go when Stan nudged him, so he let it be. Just for tonight , he told himself.

 

When Stan woke up, the sun shining in through his window, Kenny was still there, overheated and clinging, but he was there. He didn’t seem sick, but Stan made him stay in bed a while longer to be sure, offering food and water and a kind smile when Kenny uttered a quiet, “Thank you,” warmer, calmer and far less exhausted than he had been. He went to school with Stan, wearing a hoodie of his friend’s and greeting his friends with smiles (and hugs in the blonde’s cases), but he stayed by Stan. Well, until he saw Karen as they were leaving school, gleefully opening his arms and catching his sister when she darted over to him for a hug, clearly worried for her brother who didn’t come home the night before.


Kenny was usually the one rambling on about words of the day , Stan had to pause as he watched Kenny hold his sister tight, Butters, Tweek and Bebe greeting him with smiles as the shorter of the blondes asked if he was okay and Kenny responded with a bright smile sent Butters’ way because yeah he was okay - perfect, in fact , he’d said gleefully. Stan smiled faintly, thinking yeah, that could be his own word. Especially so when before he could start his walk back home, Kenny ran to walk beside him, hand in hand with Karen and planted a kiss on his cheek, leaving the two of them flustered but smiling as Karen simply laughed at her brother. Jealousy .

Chapter Text

Kenny likes playing as the princess, she really does. Some days, she just didn’t want to be the poor boy , or the vigilante hero . Some days, she wanted to don a pretty dress and be a princess for a while. Her friends accepted this, the girls even assisted her, what with Bebe dragging her into her home when she saw Kenny walking down the street in the old princess dress she wore as a child, more ragged than it used to be, and off the two went to school, Kenny wearing a nice, simple sundress and her somewhat long hair braided, Bebe talking animatedly beside her about this or that and demanding she let her do her makeup sometime.

 

It was kind of funny, her friends knew how she was, accepted she would always be different, changing like the weather to match how she felt inside, addressing her as Kenny and calling her a girl with smiles and compliments to her dress or her hair.

 

All except Leo.

 

Leo, who lights up the moment he sees her just like he does every day. Leo, who darts over to her, planting a kiss on her cheek and then her hand as he greets her with a soft, "Well, good mornin', Princess!" Like no one else was around to watch the soft touches and gentle words so early in the day. Kenny glanced elsewhere for a moment to see her friend's stifling laughter and Bebe winking at them. Her blue eyes went back to Leo as he looked up at her with that bright smile she loves so much.

 

So much.

 

She reaches out, tugging him into a hug and sighing her content against his shoulder as warm arms wind around her waist, lips pressing to the side of her head before he was quietly saying, "Gosh, Princess, I'd love to stay here, but we gotta get to class," bursting the little bubble she'd put herself in full of nothing but Leo.

 

She release him regardless, taking one of his hands into hers and giving it a soft squeeze as she uttered, "Is my wonderful paladin and even lovelier boyfriend going to walk with me to class?"

 

He did, staying at her side until they were at the door to the room, and she pressed her lips to his for a moment before murmuring, "I'll see you later, Buttercup." She stepped in as he waved goodbye to her and set off to his own class to start the day. No sign of the teacher yet, and her companion Bebe leaned over from her desk, some comment about how sweet they were together that made Kenny flustered yet gleeful.

 

They sat together at lunch, Cartman voicing his disgust when Kenny practically sat herself on Leo's lap, and then actually did for the sake of affection and being petty all in one. Stan snorted into his drink and Kyle smiled kindly at Kenny and received one in return. Leo didn’t seem to mind, one arm sliding around her waist, not seeming to notice the way she just melted against him as he kept conversation with the others while Kenny’s head settled against his shoulder again. 

 

They walked back together with the rest of their friends, but Leo stopped part way to his own house and Kenny, Bebe and Tweek looked over curiously as Leo reached over to a flower patch and plucked one easily before sidling back up beside Kenny to tuck it so gently behind her ear. She was aware of her reddening cheeks, touched by such a simple gesture as Bebe’s hand went over her chest and Tweek covered his mouth to stifle a fond laugh over their companions. “For the pretty princess.” He hummed before twining his fingers with her and they kept walking.

 

The next day, Kenny set off to school in his old, worn boots, his ripped jeans, a nice blue hoodie he’d stolen off Craig, his hair in a messy bun and a daffodil tucked nicely behind his ear. He smiled almost shyly when Karen commented on it, but she simply said he looked pretty with such a happy look on her face. He once again met up with his friends at the bus stop, Karen’s fingers twined into his, and Leo once again lit up as he saw Kenny, darting over to plant a kiss on his cheek and greet him and Karen both.

 

Kenny was staring at him like he’d hung the sun, moon and stars above them, he may as well have had stars and hearts in his blue eyes as Leo chatted with Karen for a moment before he grabbed Kenny’s hand when the bus showed up. When they were all sat down, Karen with Tricia and Ike and Kenny by the window with Leo at his side, Kenny rested his head against his shoulder, careful of the flower, holding Leo’s hand to his chest as he tried to piece his thoughts together. When he spoke, “Buttercup?” his boyfriend looked at him with such a soft smile and Kenny’s heart was thumping in his chest and all the words he had were gone , replaced with a reverent, “ I love you so, so, so, so much …” and god, the grin on his Buttercup’s face for the sweetened words.


Kenny’s fingers gently touched his flower, and then rested on Leo’s cheek, just staring at him with all the love he had to offer until the bus stopped, and he couldn’t resist the smile pulling at the corner of his lips. Daffodil ...

Chapter Text

“Kenny, I’m bored .” The girl groaned from beside him, and Kenny looked down at his blonde companion as she lays on his bed, head hanging off the edge of his mattress and her feet against the wall. His gaze found the shadow cast on the ground from her form under the old lamp he was amazed still worked. Shadow . He thought about the word, narrowing his eyes as he sat up against his wall and stared down at Bebe until the blonde’s eyes found his and she narrowed hers in turn. It was like staring contest - no, it was a staring contest, until Kenny blinked and whispered, “ Fuck ,” making Bebe giggle like mad.

 

He smiled fondly at his friend, glancing at his door before he stood, dug around in his closet for something, then flicked the lamp off. “What the fuck, man? Now it’s just dark ,” Bebe whined over her giggles, but she calmed, humming curiously when Kenny flicked on a flashlight and set it on his nightstand. “Here, wait…” She looked at the wall, watching as he made a wolf with his hands and gasping delightedly as Kenny softly made a howling sound to match the wolf. “Wait, here,” she took her phone out, taking a video as Kenny made animal shadow puppets and took on strange voices to match as Bebe giggled in the background. “Come on, you’ve done this before - I’ll video, you do it too!” Kenny demanded, taking the phone from her as they switched places.

 

Then it was Bebe giggling like mad as she makes a little bunny, then a cat, then a moose with her hands, attempting to copy the animal noises as well to match. “Ooh, I know!” He set up the phone carefully to stay upright toward the lit up wall as he joined her, making a bird with his hands and giggling himself. “Freedom pals!” He declared. Bebe gasped, then formed a cat again, meowing before saying, “It’s Thumper!”

 

A dog, followed by Kenny barking and then gleefully saying, “It’s Sparky!” They were both so delighted, so audibly gleeful as the two laughed and smiled and made all kinds of puppets with their hands until they were tired and her phone stopped recording. They left the flashlight on, laying on the bed together as their residual giggles faded away to a comfortable silence. Bebe sent the video to their group chat with their classmates before the two lay facing each other with dopey smiles they could barely see. “Shadows are fun sometimes.” Kenny breathed, listening to her agreement under her breath.

 

Soon, the two fell asleep, comfortable and content on Kenny’s bed with the only light being the flashlight forgotten on his nightstand and the messages lighting up Bebe’s phone, waking up hours later curled up together, relaxed and warm in the early morning.

Chapter Text

That wasn’t something he did much, as of late. He wasn’t sure why Kevin gave him that word. Maybe because he’d seemed so sad . Karen wasn’t around much now that she was older and spent more and more time at the Tuckers, but that was okay with him - he missed his sister, but she was better off spending days and days with Tricia. She’d be taken care of. Kevin wasn’t around that much either. He had a job, got a place of his own, didn’t visit at all unless he was meeting Kenny and Karen at a park to spend some time with his favorite people. His friends had better, more interesting people to spend time with than the poor boy who had no hobbies he was willing to share and no will to really go out and cause trouble or pick fights like he used to.

 

He wandered around alone more often than not, taking time after late shifts and too many hours to breathe in the cold night air as he slowly walked home, sometimes turning his back to his home and going somewhere else if the noise was too loud. He’d slowly drag himself across the sidewalk, boots dragging and kicking up snow as he went, sometimes with more force than was necessary just to watch the white powder flung up into the air.

 

He felt particularly uneasy that night, hands shoved in the pockets of his torn jeans as he walked around town in the dead of night with only the streetlights to light the way as he slowly moved further and further away from home, taking little twists and turns only the kids knew about, those that grew up playing games and finding shortcuts all through South Park.

 

A sound had him pausing in the snow, a shiver running down his spine as he stood dead still, listening for anything else before he carried on, perhaps a little quicker than before.

 

He always found himself back at Stark’s Pond, their childhood hangout. He flopped down on the bench, a heavy sigh leaving his lips as he shivered again and stared at the reflection of the moon in the water in wonder, his fingers twisting together for some semblance of warmth. He felt cold for a whole new reason, the ice of winter twisting in his gut. Holidays approached, decorations and merry people out during the day and sometimes late at night, kids around school discussing parties and gifts and the approaching celebrations.

 

No one spoke about the holidays to him since he left in the middle of lunch, dumping what little food he’d gotten (and eaten nothing of) before setting the tray down and stomping out of the lunch room the second Cartman made some backhand comment and someone asked what Kenny would be doing for the holidays. There was no doubt they knew the answer. He’d be home, he’d be alone, and he’d be as tired as he always ways. Or perhaps he’d be working the day away, hoping maybe he could earn a little extra to get Karen something nice. the girl deserved it.

 

He started when someone suddenly sat beside him, and the tension in his shoulders only dropped slightly to see the elementalist hero sat beside him, looking over the pond as well. “Oh, it’s you,” He uttered, unsure if he should even say anything. Kite didn’t even look at him, staring over the water. Kenny joined him, going back to watching the slight ripples that disrupt the gorgeous reflection. He made a mental note to try and paint it later. He’d always loved art.

 

“You weren’t at school today.” The hero stated. He didn’t need to respond, but he still crossed his arms, feeling just a bit defensive all of a sudden. “So? It’s just one day.” “Your friends were worried.” “Psh.”

 

Kite looked at him finally, and he looked away. That was a very interesting rock. Very smooth. Maybe he should put it in his pocket and take it home. Karen would probably like it. Weird nature stuff was her thing. Maybe he could make Kyle explain to him exactly why some rocks are smooth like that.

 

“Rocks are chipped when they bump into each other and that can make them smooth. And sand acts like sandpaper to them.” Kenny looked over, squinting - he hadn’t quite realized he’d uttered the last bit aloud, but it was nice to know. Sandpaper. Huh. Cool. “Weird.” He says instead, watching the slight quirk of Kite’s lips. “Only as weird as you, Kenny McCormick.” God damn it, he shouldn’t be smiling - that was stupid. That was a stupid sentence. He was a dumb hero. “You’re a dumb hero.” He bluntly states, watching Kite choke before laughing, maybe pulling a little smile up on Kenny’s lips - maybe. “Go to school tomorrow.” “Why? School sucks, the people suck, I suck. There’s no point.” Kite considered this, then whispered, “I promise tomorrow will be better.”


He went to school the next day after spending what felt like so long on the bench with Kite, only falling asleep once before he was given help in getting home to bed. He dragged himself along, finding a certain redhead waiting for him by the entrance. Kyle wasted no time in talking his ear off, Ken, thank christ. I was worried when you didn’t show up to school yesterday! Oh, here, you looked cold the other day, I brought you a pair of my spare gloves - don’t give me that look, I can see you shivering, asshole , and Kenny couldn’t help the laughter bubbling up as Kyle took each of his hands, putting a pair of old green gloves in good condition on his cold hands. He smiled a little dopily at Kyle, that cold chill easing a little with a friend at his side and okay, maybe the word wasn’t so bad. Laughter .

Chapter Text

Carol knew, didn’t she? She knows what he goes through, she and Stuart both, even if they don’t remember the details. Immortality was absolute hell on Earth. He’d trade it in a second if he could. Nothing made him any less bitter when Carol gave him a word to use. Sacrifice. It was sick if they knew what he went through and still told him that. Put meaning to the word, figure something out, you’re fine, getting yelled at for arguing, voicing disdain and disgust in the word and in them for giving him such a word.

 

He didn’t stay to listen to Carol’s reasoning, slamming his bedroom door and climbing out of his window in his Mysterion costume with their heart in their hands. No one bothered Mysterion, no one seemed to wonder why the vigilante was out during the day, or why they kept their hands under their back and thus under their cape as they stormed along the sidewalk, the teen bitter and tense, grumbling under their breath and only truly relaxing when they were up atop a building by themself, out of sight, out of mind, they’d think as they slowly moved their hands back out from behind them.

 

In their hands rested a glass heart emitting a warm glow, a mixture of pink, purple and orange swirling around within as it pulsed gently in their palms. They squeezed it just slightly, feeling a slight ache as they gripped the glass before holding it against their chest, letting out a breath as it vanished from their hands, back in place within them. Part of them longed to bring it back, to hold that warm glass in their hands for a little longer, to throw it to the cement below and accept any repercussions for broken glass that may follow the heartless teen.

 

They stayed up there for so long, watching the clouds go by so slowly, naming the shapes in their head and ignoring the incessant ringing of their phone. First a few dings of messages, then ringing nonstop for nearly ten minutes. They texted Karen and Kevin a simple, I’m safe, and the ringing and texting stopped. Finally left in silence.

 

But the silence didn’t last long and once again, as the moon began its ascent into the darkening sky, stars replacing clouds, they could hear voices. Something about hearts, something about some thief wanting their victim’s heart.

 

Sick fucks and their collections of hearts.

 

It disgusts them. They peered over the edge of the building to see another teen - a blond boy backing away from some guys dressed in all black. They felt sick. The guy was stammering, twitching like crazy, demanding they back off. Mysterion only hopped down when a gun pointed their direction by one of them while another pointed theirs at the blond. They shot an apologetic look to Tweek, who looked like either his heart was about to give out from the cold chill of anxiety or he would lose his mind and kill them all. Likely the latter given an opportunity. But with weapons pointed at them and one of them making a comment about how of course Mysterion is here.

 

So the vigilante slowly took a step forward, not minding when the guns pointed to them, but they needed to get Tweek out. They’d come back, they’d survive like they always did. Tweek would not come back. So they had to save him. They closed their eyes and brought their heart back out, colorful and warm as they looked the criminals dead in the eyes.

 

“Take mine, do with it what you will, and let him go. Because if he doesn’t leave right now and go home safe and sound, I’m sure you all know for a fact no one will ever find your bodies, I’ll promise you that. No one will find you and should they do, you’ll never be identified.”

 

It was still nice to know just how badly they could scare people with just their words alone, especially when they took on their Mysterion persona. Someone who didn’t care, someone who would bounce back quickly and put every last inch of focus into taking down anyone responsible for the crime of the day. One of them stepped up, and Tweek stepped back, hissing obscenities at Mysterion. They didn’t care.

 

As long as he made it out okay.

 

As long as he made it out okay, they told themself as they lay on the cold cement in the alley, blood dripping from wounds and a couple glass shards littering the ground around them and even on them and they felt… Empty. They felt empty and cold, nothing in their chest any longer. Their head lolled to the side and saw the two broken halves of their heart, the color dull and gray. Everything looked dull and gray. They were dull and gray and above that, they were tired. As their eyes slowly closed, they heard someone yell their name. They didn’t have the energy to open their eyes back up as footsteps thumped closer and closer.

 

Kenny still forced his eyes open to get a little glimpse of Tweek’s terrified expression before his eyes slowly shut and stayed that way until he was waking up in his bed once more, tired, tired, tired.

 

He dragged himself out of his bed, phone ringing incessantly in his pocket. He considered ignoring it, but when it finished ringing, it started that stupid ringtone up once again and he quickly pulled the device out, pressing it to his ear. “Who is it?” “You need to call Tweek and fix whatever you did. He’s been freaking out all morning.” Kenny furrowed his brows as he heard Craig’s voice in his ear, taking a moment before he quietly agreed. Whatever got the guy off his back. So he hung up and dialed Tweek’s number, barely getting out a quiet, “Hey, Tweek,” before he was immediately bombarded with questions of are you okay, where are you, what the fuck happened why did you do that you didn’t need to get hurt for me what the fuck is your deal kenneth james mccormick-

 

“I’m home.” He interrupted, voice monotone, tired. He was so tired. I’ll be over there in ten, don’t leave! Tweek had shouted into his ear before the call ended. He stood in his bedroom for a good three minutes, still and quiet with his phone in his hand. His heart did not beat inside his chest. He was so cold.

 

He set the phone down, stepped out to the couch and sat down, watching the door closely, no responses for his mother, brother, father or sister. He still squeezed Karen’s hand when she sat beside him. His eyes didn’t leave the door.

 

Tweek scared everyone by slamming the door open, horror on his face that didn’t ease much when his wild blue green eyes landed on Kenny. He ran up to him, seeming to scan him for injuries and Kenny couldn’t even feel guilty that his friend knew - that he somehow remembered.

 

Something was pressed into his hands and he looked down to see his heart in his palms and his eyes widened. He knew his family was staring too. Tweek stood nervously in front of him, twitching like mad as Kenny examined the glass heart, new and improved. The typical heart shape some people opted for. Half of his heart the same as always, chipped to hell, nearly at its breaking point. But the other half… The other half was green and blue. A seaweed green and cobalt blue glow, warm as ever. What really got his attention was how they were fused together. So he’d taken Kenny’s broken heart to a glass shop and fixed it. He slowly looked at Tweek as his soul accepted, the cold glass warming and pulsing softly against his palms as his companion seemed to find the wall very interesting. In his hands was a heart somewhat matching his. One half was chipped and nearly broke, glowing a mixture of purple, pink and orange, and the other half was relatively unscathed, seaweed green and cobalt blue to match his.

 

He could feel again, and with the freight train of emotions came understanding of just what Tweek Tweak did for him.

 

His multicolored eyes went back to Kenny and the teen took a moment to stare, hands slowly bringing the heart closer to his chest, squeezing it gently as it vanished like it should and he could feel it beating in place once again, once again complete. He knew his would break one day. He never saw purpose in fixing it, he always thought he’d either live without his heart or he’d go a lot longer than he did.

 

Kenny was sure he could list on one hand the number of people willing to do such a thing for him. Tweek was at the top of the list, apparently.

 

He stood, felt so shaky as he reached out for Tweek, watching him return his own heart before Kenny was squeezing him close. Tweek’s arms wrapped tight around his waist as Kenny gasped against his neck, fingers twisted tight into his shirt. “Nng, Kenny, I- I thought you fucking- fucking-” He couldn’t spit the word out, but Kenny felt his already tight grip around his waist tightening more when he whispered, “Died.”

 

He felt warm. He was so warm, he was alive, and Tweek clearly wasn’t going to let him out of his sight any time soon. He glanced back to see his family staring at him with mixtures between sadness, confusion and fear. All they knew was his heart broke. All they knew was Tweek Tweak fixed Kenny’s heart by sharing his own.

 

He felt bad. He felt bad that he’d worried Tweek, that the other thought he had to help Kenny by sharing his heart, that Tweek ever had to worry about him to begin with.

 

Kenny realized after a moment that his face was wet with tears, and Tweek was still holding onto him, still twitching, still making uneasy little noises.

 

They both left for Craig’s after a few more minutes, Kenny dragged just behind Tweek from the hand around his wrist. When they arrived, Tweek pushed past Craig and presented his heart.

 

Kenny stayed silent as Tweek told him the whole story, rubbing at his eyes as he texted Stan and Kyle back and forth. When the story was done and told, Kenny was pulled into Craig’s arms as well and the tears came back again, especially when he was squished against Craig with Tweek at his back, hugging him tightly again. His glass heart beat harder in his chest. He normally didn’t cling to anyone but his siblings, but he let himself hold tight to them both.

 

He still hated that word, but he was feeling more than he had in a long time. He couldn’t remember the last time someone other than Karen or Kevin hugged him. Maybe he loves them both, just a little bit...

Chapter Text

“You seem happy.” Kenny’s head jerked up, dopey smile at his phone faltering in favor of a surprised look as Wendy took a seat next to him at the park. He stared at her for a moment before he found himself smiling again, the corner of his lips working up and the dopey smile coming back full force as he breathed an ever so content, “I am ,” that had Wendy giggling as she took a seat beside him. “What’s got you so happy?” He looked around so suspiciously, making her burst out another fit of giggles behind her hand before he leaned closer, conspiratorially. “Can I tell you a secret?”

 

Wendy tilted her head just so, nodding as she leaned over as well. A light glow drew her attention, and she gasped softly to see the patchwork heart in his hands. A few chips here and there on the smooth heart in his hands, the mixture of colors within so intricate and deliberate. Purple, green and blue twisting and swirling together to make a pretty pattern, a design he so loves to look at. It was as warm as she expected when he let her hold it for a moment, so much trust in the gesture she had to fight off tears for a moment.

 

Kenny never seemed to trust anyone near as much as the others they grew up with, keeping himself distant in a way. Lately, though, she’d seen him out more, socializing more. At times, his fingers would twist into his drawstrings, a little fidgety and off balance, but he’s been doing good . She’s proud of him. She gently rests the warm, softly beating heart back into his hands, noting the relief on his face that this act of trust didn’t go wrong, but she returned it with her own.

 

His gasp had her laughing a little again. In her hands was her own heart shaped into a smooth edged star, swirling colors of purple, green and blue together almost matching his and making him laugh softly when he noticed. “You too?” He whispered, and Wendy nodded, letting him hold hers as well, running his fingers slowly over the smooth edges of the star with delight in his expression before he passed it back, the two returning the glass hearts to their place within.

 

“How’s Stan and Kyle?” Kenny asked, genuine interest in his tone, a warm look on his face as Wendy got a dopey smile of her own pulling at her lips. “They’re doing good. They’re doing so good. I think Stan’s improving, and Kyle’s taking more breaks to spend time with us. How’s Craig and Tweek?” He looked at his phone, moving it so she could glance, and she accepted the silent offer, seeing a few simple messages in a group chat that only had Kenny, Tweek and Craig in it. Simple messages, words of love and delight and how they couldn’t wait for movie night and how, in Craig’s opinion, the library was a lot less interesting without the two of them. Kenny offered to go save him, and Craig gleefully accepted as she leaned back from looking over the simple messages.

 

“You in? We can get Stan and Kyle too.” Kenny asked, a more mischievous grin replacing that dopey, sweet smile as he stood up from the bench. Wendy wasted no time in standing as well with a hand from him, giggling. “Let’s go save our boys.”

 

God, they’re so in love.

Chapter Text

“Can I borrow five bucks?” Kenny didn’t have to fake the innocent look when Kyle looked over at him with furrowed brows, wondering. He was Kenny’s best bet - all his own money was going toward bills, food, Karen’s college fund. Her birthday was coming up, and Kyle was Kenny’s best bet for assistance. “What for?” He asked, and Kenny thought for a second, making his words near unbelievable as he responded, “Bubble soap.” Kyle narrowed his eyes, disbelief obvious as he crossed his arms. “What’s it really for, Kenny?”

 

Maybe his worry was warranted, but Kenny couldn’t help the slightest bit of offence. He barely even smoked and he rarely drank - he refused to to be like his parents. He had to be better . That’s not to say he didn’t do such things, but… “Bubble soap. You know, the bottle shit for little kids?” Kenny tried to explain, watching Kyle’s expression slowly change from suspicion to cautious curiosity, and then understanding. “Karen?” His friend asked, voice softer this time, and any bitterness Kenny had faded out with a tiny smile. “Her birthday’s comin’ up. It was the only idea I had…”

 

Kyle’s face truly softened this time, and Kenny accepted the warm hand in his as he was dragged off to the store with Kyle. They said their hellos to relatives and friends as they went, and Kenny really didn’t feel like arguing when Kyle found a pair of warm skeleton gloves and a black parka. As much as he didn’t interact with Kenny’s siblings, he knew the girl was the absolute center of Kenny’s world; even as a little kid, the moment he laid eyes on the little girl, he was done for - he’d do anything for her.

 

So he got the coat and gloves, and when Kenny reached for one of the small bottles of bubble soap, Kyle pushed his hand back and grabbed one of the oversized ones instead.

 

Kenny refused to give Karen the gifts himself, claiming he’d only planned on bubble soap. He’d have to give her, her birthday gifts from him, himself. So he did, getting a simple little gift bag for them and heading for the McCormick residence on her birthday to see Kenny sat on the porch with Karen on his lap, both blowing bubbles from the bottle. Kenny lit up on seeing him, and so did Karen. Kyle had to smile wide as he set the bag down and greeted both of them with a tight hug. “Happy birthday, Karen.” He said, offering her the bag and noting the look on Kenny’s face, wonder and worry and absolute love and affection as he looked from Kyle to his little sister while she looked into the bag.

 

The coat fit her perfectly, thick and warm, and the second she had the gloves on, she refused to take them off. All three of them sat on the porch for a good long while, perhaps over two hours, just chatting away as they blew bubbles and told stories.

Chapter Text

They kept doing this. They kept brushing him off or not responding or acting as if he weren’t there. They’d have conversations that came to a halt when Kenny arrives and carry on when he leaves. They wouldn’t respond to his questions of, “Got any plans?” or, “Wanna hang out today?” and that bothered him.

 

He covered most emotions with humor usually, but being ignored wore him down quicker than he’d like to admit, until he sat at lunch around his silent friends, chin in hand as he muttered something about being brushed aside like an ugly stripper and oh, the looks his friends gave him but he didn’t have the energy to do much else.

 

He wasn’t sure if his choice was the right one, but the moment he glanced to the side and saw Wendy at her table with the girls, Kenny got to his feet and went over to their table instead, sitting beside her and slumping over the table with a sigh as they exchanged looks before he felt her hand slowly rubbing his back and that eased the exhaustion a little, mumbling a little, “Everything sucks,” when he heard her softly ask what was wrong. An exaggeration from his tired, sad mind, but then Heidi’s fingers were in his hair while she, Wendy and the girls carried on their conversation and let him be otherwise, and he had to take a moment to be thankful for that and them altogether.

 

His real relief came from returning home after another long day of being ignored by those he called friends . Even Tucker and his squad weren’t talking to him. It was all putting him off balance, leaving him with a nauseous feeling that prevented him from keeping anything down during lunch.

 

Returning home was one of his favorite parts of the day. His parents put a damper on it, but it felt good to walk right up to Kevin and wrap his arms around his brother tightly, whining softly into his shirt as his arms wound around Kenny. “What’s wrong, Ken?” He asked softly, and Kenny frowned, lifting his head off the fabric long enough to state bluntly, “My friends are dicks and I hate them.”

 

Kevin just chuckled, ruffing Kenny’s hair with one hand while he kept the other securely around him, stating, “We both know that ain’t true,” as he led Kenny over to the couch and sat down with him at his side. Kenny couldn’t help the small smile on his lips when Karen immediately shifted closer, wrapping her arms around one of his and offering him a smile. He pulled her over he and Kevin’s laps, curling up somewhat to his brother as his arms wrapped around Karen. They hadn’t just laid together since he was tiny, but it still provided relief and comfort as his sister and brother just held him, letting him relax.

 

And maybe fall asleep.

 

He still woke up in his bed, though he had his siblings there with him still, making him smile. He smiled all through the morning, even as he slowly got up and woke Karen for school, walked to the bus stop with her smaller hand in his, ignored the looks and words directed at him from his friends and smiled wider when Karen decided to loudly tell them to stop being mean to Kenny.

 

Smiled as he walked into school and went straight to wrap his arms around Wendy as she got stuff out of her locker, kids they didn’t know laughing or making jokes and rumors about how close he was to her, but neither cared. She finished with her locker even with Kenny plastered to her back, and turned to wrap her arms around his neck in a gentle hug and finally say good morning with a matching smile on her face.

Chapter Text

He smiled through class, he smiled through lunch, smiled as he took things out of his locker and put things back in, as Leo held his hand while they walked through the halls til their next class, as he announced to Wendy that her boyfriends were being dicks (and as he had to ask her to not physically hurt them). Kenny smiled all through the day, and when the day was over, he stopped smiling. Stan, Kyle and Eric approached him, and his smile was gone in an instant, replaced with a more forlorn look.

 

He hummed to himself as Heidi’s arm wrapped around his neck, Wendy’s hand squeezing his. His soft tune an attempt at easing the tangle of his thoughts and twisting in his gut from the looks on his friends’ faces as they walked up, stopped and stared. And then apologized.

 

He kind of expected some kind of joke about the girls, or about how much of a baby he’d been over being ignored for about a week, or really anything - but not that . Not them looking at each other like that, not them clearly doing the same as him - getting their thoughts sorted. Not Stan being the first to whisper a weak, “I’m sorry, Kenny.”

 

His heart dropped, a cold bit in his gut that had him pressing a hand to his stomach over his shirt as Eric and Kyle softly uttered apologies as well. “We were… Planning something for you. We just- we didn’t go about it the right way.” Kyle offered, seemingly oblivious to how fast his heart beat in his chest, leaving him a little lightheaded and shaky (his hand was probably shaking so much, a chill down his spine and a desire to leave and maybe not face how he felt as Wendy and Heidi looked at him, obvious in their concern). “We’re sorry, Ken. We didn’t mean to- I mean-” “We didn’t mean to ignore you.” Eric said so bluntly, apologetic in his way. In the way he did look sorry, in the way he uttered, “We’re sorry, Kinny,” with the others, in the way his hand gripped his necklace, tugged it a few times as some source of comfort as they apologized.

 

Kenny’s hand on his stomach trailed up his chest, tugging his own necklace out from under his shirt to hold it in his own palm. He saw Eric’s small smile at the action.

 

They kept apologizing, trying to explain until Kenny released his necklace to reach a hand out for them. Kyle was the first to step closer, wrapping his arms around his shorter friend as Kenny’s arms wrapped tight around him. The girls simply watched, small smiles on their faces as Stan and Eric were spurred on by Kyle’s actions, stepping close to wrap their arms around Kenny as well. Kenny didn’t say anything, just hanging onto them as much as he could. Maybe he shouldn’t have forgiven them so easily for ignoring him, but what could he say? He couldn’t resist hugs, and they gave some of the best.

 

At some point he started using Kyle more as a way to stay on his feet as his head spun, grinning sheepishly when they asked if he was okay and answering with a little, “Dizzy. Haven’t eaten today.”


So they all walked back together, each parting ways as they got to their homes until Kyle was dragging Kenny to his home, asking his mom if he could stay for dinner. Kenny felt a bit awkward, picking at the food in front of him as he answered questions from Kyle’s mom but otherwise stayed quiet. He refused to stay the night, claiming he can’t just not go home without telling his siblings, but it felt good to be able to wrap his arms around Kyle tight for another moment as his goodbye, jokingly saying so fondly, “Lemon boy.” before he was headed home, hugging his siblings tight as he told them how it went. How everything was a little brighter. Lemon boy and I, we’re gonna live forever, like Snufkin and Little My, we’ll get around wherever. It’s actually pretty easy being nice to a bitter boy like him, ‘cause we’re the bitterest boys in town, yeah, we’re the bitterest guys around and I got myself a citrus friend.

Chapter Text

Bebe and Kenny had been friends since they were little. It wasn’t made obvious to anyone until their Stick Of Truth game they played as little kids and Bebe joined them, a role they all kept between her, Wendy and Kenny until Bebe, hair braided down her back, clothes surprisingly fancy - her parents must have helped her with her costume, appeared when everyone was together.

 

There was Wendy at her side, dressed as a knight and grinning when she caught Stan’s eyes, but everyone was staring at Bebe and her clothes. When Eric asked who she was, what she was doing there, age old confusion and frustration with surprises that eased as he grew. In that moment, everyone stared at them as Wendy kept a hand on the hilt of her sword, prepared in case the meeting went south.

 

And Kenny, she slowly moved over, grinning herself as she reached a hand out and took Bebe’s as Eric caught her other wrist, demanding what she was doing, she’s the princess of Kupa Keep - she was on their side. Bebe did her best to keep a serious look on her face, but clearly she was stifling laughter at the faces Kenny was making that Eric couldn’t see. “My sister should be with her family,” she stated, biting her lip as Kenny audibly snorted at the gasps and questions that quickly followed. “Two princesses?” Stan asked in confusion.

 

Now Bebe laughed a little, tugging Kenny from Eric’s now loose grasp and twirling her briefly before Kenny stood at her side, giggling madly as Bebe announced, “No, the princess and the prince !”


It took a moment for it to process,  and it became a sort of inside joke Kenny never let fade with time, referring to Wendy as his big sister and Bebe as his brother, no hesitation each time he said it, and Bebe never seemed to mind as she mussed up his hair and stated so gleefully how she wouldn’t mind doing the princess’s makeup again if Kenny felt up to it. Their friends would all laugh or make faces, and when questions arose from such jokes - questions of why , Kenny would remember his princess dress and Bebe’s prince costume as the two claimed to be siblings, both royalty from Kupa Keep, and he would answer with a grin, “What can I say? We’re nobles .”

Chapter Text

The day Kenny got his life together and realized he was actually in a good place, he was beyond excited. The teen barely slept at all through the night and still practically radiated excitement and sunshine as he woke early to make breakfast for Kevin and Karen and cookies for later before they woke up in their new apartment. He was bouncing on his heels on a cold Saturday morning and where usually storm clouds and hard rain seemed to bring some people down, Kenny could barely wait to throw on his coat and run out the door to see his friends.

 

He’d clearly woken Stan up, bouncing on his heels as he shoved a plastic covered plate in his face, causing him to jerk back. Kenny wasn’t at all surprised and didn’t falter at all when Kyle and Wendy walked up behind him to see what the disturbance was so early in the morning (eight AM wasn’t that early, was it?) only to see their friend, soaked to the bone and visibly bouncing on his heels as Stan slowly accepted the plate from him, looking down just to see a portion of the cookies Kenny had made, still warm and protected by the plastic.

 

They ushered him in, making him stand in front of the now closed door while Kyle rushed off to get him a towel and Stan took the plate to the kitchen. Wendy, big sister Wendy with soft eyes and warm hands pressed said warm hands against his cheeks, asking what he was doing out so early on a Saturday, why he was practically vibrating , almost shaking in physical restraint from pulling her into a hug. The towel dropped over his head distracted him from his glee, and they could only stare in confused, fond amusement as Kenny pressed the bunched up towel into his face and screamed .

 

Wendy laughed a little, Stan questioning if Kenny was okay as Kyle snorted, taking the towel out of Kenny’s hands to dry his hair off because clearly he was too shaky and excited to do it himself.

 

Kenny just giggled like mad as Kyle ruffled his hair dry himself, their hearts melting as the towel was lifted a little to show Kenny’s beaming, toothy grin and bright eyes. The coat was tugged off and hung up to dry, the towel draped over his shoulders as they led him to sit on the couch. Kyle and Wendy sat on either side of him while Stan sat close against Wendy, head against her shoulder. He was still so sleepy, but his tired blue eyes stayed on Kenny, watching curiously as he covered his mouth to stifle another all-too-loud laugh against his palm before he was explaining.

 

He stuttered through words, paused in the middle of a few sentences or stopped a sentence to start saying something else entirely. It took a little while to actually get his thoughts aired out, but he felt relief knowing he was understood as Wendy took one of his hands and squeezed it tight, Stan and Kyle smiling so widely at him. Some level of fondness and pride he used to never want to think about.

 

That’s all he wanted to think about at the time being.

 

He explained, and his heart calmed in his chest as his friends voiced their understanding. Of course Kenny would be excited - he lived in an apartment with his brother and sister where he woke up early and made them breakfast almost every day. They could afford food, Kenny had a steady job alongside his schoolwork, Kevin had a job, they still found time to spend time together, as well as Kenny finding time every once in a while to go to movies and concerts and lunch with people he cares about. He had his life together, he was excited and just as important to them, he was healthy and happy

 

They waited until the rain lightened up, just a few short hours later before they let Kenny be on his way, though Kyle insisted on driving him back. He was still giddy and giggly as he sat in the passenger seat of Kyle’s car, buckled up and listening to music play on the radio - even singing along loudly - as his friend drove him home.

 

Kenny was about to get out of the car when something hit him and the two stared at each other due to Kenny pausing as he opened the car door, then he laughed again, smiling at Kyle as he said sheepishly, “Forgot my coat at your place.” Kyle snorted quietly, shaking his head in amusement before responding, “When we come by with your birthday gift later, I’ll make sure we bring your coat.” A pause. “I don’t know why you don’t just buy a new one though. You’ve had that ratty old thing since you were little - you can’t even zip it anymore.” 

 

Kenny’s expression dropped a little, and Kyle didn’t have a chance to apologize for whatever it was he said before Kenny responded, “Well, it’s kind of like… A good and bad luck charm. You guys still don’t believe the… thing,” he looked away at the confused, and then concerned look on Kyle’s face, the energy and delight of the day fading away despite it only being ten AM. “But that jacket got me through everything, from shitty weeks to really bad anxiety. I can’t just toss it, y’know?”

 

Yeah, he could get that - he still kept his green hat around. Kenny was surprised to be pulled over the console in a hug before he could get out of the car, held tight for a solid minute before Kyle released him as he said, “You’re doing good, Ken. Go hang out with Karen, we’ll be by later. I’ll even wash your coat for you.” Kenny absolutely beamed and Kyle found himself smiling fondly once more as his friend got out of the car to go pester Karen for a couple hours.

 

Even she noticed his quieter mood when he returned, but questioning it held no results other than Kenny not so subtly changing the topic to anything else that came to mind, like what she wanted to do on Sunday, or what she felt like having for dinner.

 

A knock on the door an hour later halted tired back and forth conversation and Kenny stood to answer it as Karen played with her phone. He was delighted to see his friends, wasting no time in ushering Stan, Kyle and Wendy inside. Karen hopped up to greet them with hugs and before Kenny could speak and thank Kyle for bringing his coat when Stan stopped him, “Hey, you should open your gift now,” as he held a box toward him so Kenny could pull the lid off. He quirked an eyebrow, ready to ask when a soft sound came from the slightly shifting box and Kenny shut his mouth.

 

He slowly reached out, hesitantly lifting the lid off the box and letting it drop to his feet when a head poked out, big brown eyes meeting his. His heart thumped in his chest, baby blue eyes getting watery as he stared at the animal before looking at the three of them, seeing looks of apprehension on their faces and awed delight on Karen’s. She didn’t step in or say a word.

 

“Happy late birthday, Kenny,” Wendy said softly, getting his attention as she smiled at him. “We know how hard you worked to get everything in order, to get a good job and a proper place for you guys to stay. You worked really hard, we thought you deserved the best gift.”

 

He was sure the tears were dripping down his cheeks by now. He wondered how his boyfriends would feel about the pup as he gently lifted her from the box, holding the dog so gently against his chest as she squirmed and licked him. A soft huff of breath left him, and while Wendy and Karen stared in startled confusion, Stan and Kyle were at his sides in an instant, arms around him and the dog as Kenny held the little pup and stifled a sob against Stan’s shirt. They were what kept him on his feet as he shook, eventually needing to pass the dog to Karen so he could cling to his friends properly. “What’s wrong?” He heard Wendy ask so softly, heard Stan’s whispered response of, “he’ll be okay - he gets like this sometimes.”

 

It wasn’t a thing meant to be offensive or rude - he did get like that at times; overwhelmed and weak kneed. And he’d get through it like he did every time before. For now, he just cried against Stan’s shoulder, hands white knuckled in their grip on his shirt, but he didn’t seem to mind as one hand ran along his back where Kyle wasn’t pressed close, fingers running through his messy hair, barely audible words of comfort leaving his lips.

 

When he had his composure back somewhat, he was still sniffling, sat on the floor with the dog placed gently in his lap and Stan, Kyle and Wendy sat close by him, Karen at his side with her head on his shoulder as he wiggles his fingers at the dog, weak laughter leaving him as the puppy played. “What’ll you name her?” Wendy asked, and he had to think for a moment, wracking his brain for something that would make sense, that wouldn’t be stupid. He still found himself saying, “Princess,” and causing an ugly snort to leave Kyle as Stan laughed openly, Karen grinned and Wendy smiled so fondly at him and the dog. He met their eyes after a moment, swallowing thickly as he held the dog - his dog - against his chest and uttered, “Th- thank you guys so much. God, I- I love her so much already…” his voice cracked a little, but he didn’t feel any shame over it. It was all okay, and he had a new addition to the family he couldn’t wait to tell Kevin, Tweek and Craig about.


He pressed his face against soft fur, felt a hand rest on his shoulder, one on his back, soft words of affection and shared delight in his ears, and he was certain it was the best day he’d ever had.

Chapter Text

There were a few reasons Kenny lived with his siblings and not his boyfriends. Two in particular.

 

The first is how new the relationship still was. Kenny didn’t want to risk messing anything up when they were only a few short months into the relationship, still figuring out how they all worked together.

 

Another was how restless he was at night, as plagued by nightmares as ever (they hadn’t even seen him cry yet and he was determined to put such things off for as long as he humanly could).

 

It felt better to wake up his own bed, to have his little sister creep quietly into the room when he woke late into the night with a scream on the tip of his tongue, to have Karen hold him tight as tears fell down his pale, freckled cheeks, to have Kevin wake him up with a firm hand on his shoulder, gentle, uttered reassurances or a warm cup of something pressed into his palms (never anything alcoholic or bad for him. That was how Kenny learned Kevin could make really good hot cocoa).

 

All this for the fact that Kevin had been surprised upon arriving home from his work later in the day to find Kenny in tears on their livingroom floor. They hadn’t had to deal with Kenny in such a state during the day before, letting their brother calm down and hide away under the cover of night time and the exhaustion that follows the moon, but there was Kenny, openly sobbing with Karen at his side and a puppy in his arms. Kevin floundered as he stepped closer, stopped by a look from Karen. She looked so worried, about as confused as he felt, Kenny’s cries being the only sound in the room as Kevin softly shut the door.

 

That was how he ended up talking to Kenny’s boyfriends personally, borrowing Karen’s phone and calling them up the moment he was out of the room. He wasn’t sure what to say when Tweek answered, opening and closing his mouth before Tweek asked, “Karen? Are you there?” and Kevin spoke - a quick apology and explanation that he’d borrowed her phone, and then the statement to add further confusion. “You and- you and Craig know where our apartment is, yeah?” A pause before Tweek answered an affirmative, and Kevin bit his lip for a moment. “Think Ken needs you.” “What?”

 

Hesitant for only a moment, Kevin moved closer to the living room, hearing the dead silence from Tweek’s end when Kenny’s voice rang from the living room, nothing but choked sobs and whines of his sister’s name and the whining from the dog.

 

It was barely ten minutes after they hung up before Craig and Tweek were at the door, clear worry on their faces. Concern only increased when Kenny’s red rimmed blue eyes shot up as their voices reached his ears and he released the dog in favor of hiding his face in his arms, so Kevin took Karen’s hand and led her to the kitchen to give them some space as the two moved over to him, making sure the door shut behind them.

 

The living room was rather quiet now, no sound in the apartment but the clacks and tings of dishes as Kevin and Karen made dinner. Karen peered into the living room after a while to check on them, Kevin reluctantly following only for the two to see Kenny curled up against Craig, fingers twisted tight in Tweek’s shirt as the two talked to him in low tones, concern prevalent. 

 

Kenny, for his part, felt nauseous, Tweek’s hands over his own and preventing him from any attempt at hiding away. He wished he had thought to put his parka on - at least then he could have hid himself away in the ratty jacket’s hood. He cursed himself for letting this happen, as if their looks of worry and gentle touches to his skin were part of the worst possible outcome.

 

Another gentle touch brought him out of his thoughts, his gaze slowly sliding up from his grip on Tweek’s shirt to see the two staring at him with those looks and he felt even further nauseated knowing he’d ever worried them to begin with. He worried for half a moment that he might actually throw up when Craig was quietly asking if he could tell them what happened, why was he crying so much?

 

Kenny’s gaze drew to the dog chasing her tail in circles, leading them to look at her too. His words were shaky, occasionally getting a little too choked up to speak. It took time to get through the short explanation, simple as it was. Something about Kyle, Wendy and Stan being the greatest friends he’d ever had, how he had his life together and he’d been doing good and they’d given him a dog and what did he do to deserve such good things, much less such wonderful boyfriends, family, a dog ?

 

They were quiet for a few minutes, and Kenny chanced a look at them, flustered to see the small smiles on their faces. “Thought somethin’ was really wrong… We love you, honey.” Craig said simply while Tweek leaned closer to press a firm kiss to Kenny’s forehead. Kenny felt his cheeks heat up, bringing one hand up to rub at his eyes slowly as Tweek stood to pick up the dog and set her in Kenny’s lap again. “It’s- It’s okay, Kenny, Wh- what’s her name?” He asked, and Kenny only grew more flustered as he wrapped his arms gently around the dog as her tail wagged like crazy. “It- It’s, uh.. Princess…”

 

Things seemed to calm from there, Craig only getting up once to get a cool cloth for his face while Kenny calmed down, letting the dog run around and chase her tail again while he laid on Tweek, doing nothing more than just existing.

 

His siblings looked relieved too, getting a rundown of what happened by Craig while Kenny chatted with Tweek. It all kind of made sense - he wasn’t used to having good things in his life, much less things as permanent as a dog or things he could really keep . His boyfriends seemed to enjoy playing with the dog as well, but they didn’t separate from Kenny unless they absolutely had to, swapping who had their arms wrapped tight around the shaky blond. Kevin brought plates of dinner straight to them, told them they could stay the night when it got late.

 

Kenny struggled to keep his eyes open as they slowly moved to the bed, getting settled and letting Princess curl up at the end of Kenny’s bed. He pressed his face into Tweek’s shirt, taking a deep breath and sighing as his heart and mind both calmed, uttering a muffled little, “Love you both…” against the soft fabric, not missing the arms tightening around him, lips pressed to his shoulder and forehead as he dropped off, any off balance feelings fading away in favor of something softer and sweeter.

Chapter Text

It was strange, how Eric suddenly decided he wanted something to do with Kenny. They’d spent a couple years drifting away as the joys of childhood faded away while they turned into exhausted teenagers, already so tired of their old antics. Kyle and Stan stuck together and left the group together - of course they did. The super best friends did everything together.

 

Without Stan and Kyle, Kenny and Eric fell apart too, in their own ways (they would never be privy to the breakdowns of the boys realizing what they lost). Maybe that’s why a few short months after the two were left alone, Eric was calling Kenny up with a request to hang out, and could Kenny he blamed for jumping at the opportunity to spend time with an old friend?

 

It still felt so strange to be curled up into the corner of Eric’s couch months after their friends left, after they left each other , and it felt like no time passed at all as something played on the TV. Kenny wasn’t paying enough attention to know what the show was, especially when Eric’s old cat climbed onto the couch between them, headbutted Kenny’s arm and purred. Clearly there’s more important things to focus on than some show Eric put on while they hung out in strangely comfortable silence.

 

His mind wandered as his fingers ran gently over soft fur, their last meetings fresh in his mind when his blue eyes flickered up to Eric’s, then back down to the cat, his brows furrowing when his friend’s gaze drifted from the TV to him, both staring in tired silence.

 

Kenny was so tired of this, of acting like nothing was wrong, of watching the world move and grow around him while he stood still, stayed the same as he always had. Frustration and sadness twisted his insides in a cold grip when Stan and Kyle turned their backs on Kenny and Eric. Anger and despair made his blood boil beneath his skin, scorching him when he finally exploded when Eric said he was done, “So here’s the thing, I’m doing fine - I know that I’m not worth your time !”

 

They had the audacity to turn around and watch the fight, to rest hands on Kenny and Eric and put a stop to the storm they created when they became little more than the ghosts that haunt the blond’s every move, every thought, every day . He still vividly remembered pressing hands to Kyle’s chest and shoving him away (and to the floor) with all his strength, startling everyone. He was usually so passive, so calm. What happened to Kenny? His face felt overheated (so red and flustered), his fingers clenched in tight, white knuckled fists before he threw his arms out, staring the three down with all the resentment and misery his shattered heart and dull blue eyes had to offer. “You need a change, I’m still the same! Took everything but my name !”

 

Kenny blinked slowly, the tall boy pulling his feet up and wrapping his arms around his knees. Eric didn’t comment on his attempt at hiding, and Kenny didn’t comment when he scooted closer, moving the cat to his lap so he could drape a warm arm over Kenny’s back. Kenny didn’t look up when the door opened, he didn’t look up when another hand landed gently on his back, and he didn’t look away when Kyle knelt in front of him, worry in green eyes as he looked between Kenny’s own. He was sure he didn’t look to be in good shape with tired eyes, pale skin and lack of movement, did he look as dead as he felt?

 

Maybe I won’t die this time.

 

“Ken?” His voice was soft, and Kenny didn’t reply. Why were they here? Was Kenny too quiet? Did Eric call them? Was he not the only one invited to hang out? Stan and Eric were talking in hushed voices, and Kyle’s eyes were on Kenny, unrelenting, determination. “Please say something.” His voice was so quiet, so soft. Say something. Open your mouth and say something . His mouth opened and closed slowly for a moment. Say something. Speak .

 

Silence.

 

... Sorry .”

 

Kyle’s face softened, and Kenny hid his face in his arms, only his eyes peering out at his friend, watching, waiting. Kyle didn’t move, and neither did he for a minute.

 

That only changed when Kenny let his feet slowly rest back onto the ground and Kyle’s hands gently rested on his knees. He didn’t mind. He especially didn’t mind when his arms reached out and Kyle took the hint to lean down and wrap his arms around him, letting Kenny hide his face against his neck as his fingers twisted into his shirt.

 

When he finally released Kyle, he sat on Eric’s other side with Stan, and Kenny had no problem leaning against Eric, brows furrowed. He felt lost, unable to get his thoughts together, only occasionally interrupted from his tired attempts when one of their soft voices called his name or he felt gentle touches, such as Eric’s arm winding around his shoulders, or Kyle reaching over to hold his hand, or Stan ruffling his hair when he stood to get some water. He didn’t know when he’d begun to doze off, when he actually fell asleep.

 

When Kenny slowly awoke, his head was resting in Eric’s lap, gentle fingers in his hair that had him melting. He shifted, and a slight pull around his neck had him glancing down to see a necklace clasped around his neck that made him tilt his head a little in curiosity. Half a heart with the lettering, part i cr . His brows furrowed and he slowly sat up, catching the attention of Stan - the last one awake, who looked at the necklace and smiled a little as he gestured to Eric and okay, it was understandable that Kenny tugging Eric’s necklace out of his shirt would wake him up. His wide, heterochromatic eyes stared at Kenny as the blond pressed the sides of their necklaces together and smiled wider than he had in a good while. Partners in crime . He looked at Eric, the two staring before Kenny wrapped his arms around his neck and hugged his friend, feeling the other’s arms hesitantly wrap around his waist.

 

Maybe I’ll be fine this time .

 

He seemed more lively from there, voicing soft delight and sharing big toothy smiles with Eric over the surprise necklaces (Eric would claim each time Kenny brought it up that Kenny’s next hug nearly squeezed the fucking life out of him (“You’re so fucking scrawny, how are you so strong?”)). When he was done fawning over the new jewelry that Eric explained was supposed to be for his birthday but a certain someone had to be sad all day (“You looked like someone kicked a dog- wait, no, you looked like the dog all fucking day,”), Kenny threw himself over all three of their laps, staring rather scathingly up at Stan and Kyle when he startled the redhead awake while Stan just watched with a raised eyebrow.

 

They were silent as Eric lifted Kenny’s legs and escaped for the sake of gathering food, and when Kyle quietly asked how he was feeling, Kenny replied with a bitter, “Been doin’ fine. For three months. By myself,” because maybe he wanted them to feel as bad as he had. Even if hugs were nice. Hugs were not a way out - oh no, they wouldn’t be spared of the scorn of Kenneth J. McCormick just because Kyle gave nice hugs. “You left us.” His voice was accusing, bitter, and they didn’t hide from it. No excuses, no lies. Just reasoning of being stupid, a lack of thinking - of trying to grow up only to find themselves missing their two friends not long after. Of Eric trying to talk to him all afternoon and receiving no response so he called them up because Kyle always somehow managed to get Kenny to focus, whether it be when he’d be spacing out, or when he needed to focus on a page of homework and couldn’t get his head together.

 

Kenny didn’t move from their laps as Eric returned, only lifting his legs so his friend could lie down again. They spent the remainder of the afternoon talking about everything as Kenny lay silent across their laps, fiddling with his necklace as Eric, Stan and Kyle chatted away, his head tilted to the side to watch TV and only really looking up when they directed questions to him or poked at him. It felt weird, to act as if time hadn’t passed, but when had fights and abandonment ever truly get in the way of the four of them?

 

Kenny gave his necklace a little tug, making eye contact with Eric for a moment and making him halt mid sentence, thus catching Stan and Kyle’s attention, and Kenny took a moment before he muttered, “‘m always doin’ fine, but…” A pause, then he raised a fist up, grinning toothily at Eric as his fist met Kenny’s, his other hand wrapping gently around his own necklace much like Kenny was as he said, “I do better with my partner.”

Chapter Text

He was one of her best friends, much to everyone’s surprise. No one expected the poor kid to be so close with Wendy Testaburger, and it continued to shock everyone to the extent the two would go for each other. When Kenny didn’t eat any lunch or seemed at all withdrawn, when Wendy and Stan broke up again and she became withdrawn much like he had so many times in the past. And it was a surprise for everyone when Kenny skipped straight past his lunch table with Stan, Kyle and Eric to take a seat beside Wendy and wind his arms around her immediately - something that immediately caught everyone’s attention and became part of the school gossip that had Stan glaring down at his food.

 

All sorts of rumors flew around, some meeting their ears, but they never put up a fuss about it. They didn’t get mad, or frustrated, or raise their voices. They didn’t prove or disprove. If their friends asked, they’d be honest, and that was that.

 

It was one day, with Kenny laying side-by-side with Wendy in the grass, the sunshine of Fall warm on their faces as other kids ran around them and the park they were lounging at, that Kenny turned his head to look at her, blond hair falling in his face as he watched her stare up at the near cloudless sky, pretty hazel brown eyes watching the clouds make shapes above them.

 

In the light of the day… ” The words left his lips without thought, at ease as his blue eyes slowly flickered back up to the pretty sky above them, aware of her warm gaze now on him as his mind made shapes in the white fluff drifting through the sky. “ In the dark of the night… when you’re raring to go, when you’re tired from the fight When you’re losing your mind, ” His eyes slid right back to hers, watching the curious expression as he breathed, “ Let me give you a thought …” Kenny lifted a hand, watching Wendy slowly copy the motion and let him twine their fingers together, giving her hand an affectionate squeeze. “ I’m gonna be right by your side no matter what .”

 

They both sat up, smiles on their faces, fingers still clasped comfortably between them. Neither seemed to mind as Kenny slowly got to his feet without releasing her hand, using it to help tug her up to her feet. “ In the dark of the night, in the light of the day, when you’re rising to shine, when you’re hitting the hay ,” Kenny didn’t even notice his other friends that had left the two to their own devices ages ago staring at them now, his apparent declaration of platonic love and affection for Wendy far more important than questions of who would win in a fight or Stan’s scornful gaze directed at their linked hands. He let the soft tune leave him as he used their linked hands to spin Wendy, making her giggle like mad. “ I’ll be hanging around if you like it or not !”

 

The two shared a grin, letting the sweet song flow from both of them as he finally started tugging her over to their friends, mischief and delight in baby blues. “ I’m gonna be right by your side no matter what !”

 

Their end to the day lingered in his mind for hours after, left Stan more at ease with a calm explanation, the girls practically accepting the blond boy as one of their own, and Kenny covering his face with his hands as he lay in bed, a grin of delight from ear to ear on his lips. No strange thoughts, or unnecessary comments.

 

No worries about where he stood or what she thought of him when her arms wrapped around his shoulders in a gentle hug he wished he had more of (and he made a mental note to maybe hug Wendy more often), her lips pressed to his cheek in a quick, affectionate peck leaving him stumped for a second before he absolutely beamed at her, assuaging his bitter friend beside him’s jealousy as he gleefully called as she walked up to her door to return home, “ I love you too, night sis !”

 

Because he did. Kenny McCormick loves Wendy Testaburger, because she’s a kind, passionate person with a good moral compass, pretty eyes, and a big heart - because she’s practically a sister to him and his siblings, and that’s all he ever really wanted.

Chapter Text

When he began to open up and perhaps trust them more, when he wouldn’t lie about bruises or scratches or why he was so exhausted some days, he went to Kyle first. Not by physically going to him, or knocking on his door, or telling him he had a bad day. It started with Kenny leaning on him at lunch. Kyle was surprised the first time - and a few times after the first, but he never woke Kenny up from where he’d fallen asleep against him, and he never let anyone wake him up unless he had to. He always woke him up five minutes before they had to return to class.

 

Kenny wakes up slow, a soft groan from the back of his throat as his eyes fluttered back open, tired and warm and wanting nothing more than to go home, curl up and sleep. But he stayed awake, put in his best effort to wake up as Kyle lay a hand gently on his back, softly promising to help him with the homework later.

 

So he goes through class, waking up a second time slowly throughout the day, and found himself on Kyle’s bed when school time came to an end, blinking slowly, quiet and calm as Kyle explained history and English and chemistry. 

 

When the ten year old does go to Kyle’s home, he’s frustrated, he’s tired, and he has a scrape on his knee, visible through the hole in his pants, and a scratch on his cheek. He paused to mentally thank any god listening when Kyle answered the door rather than his parents or brother, and he let himself be pulled into the house, into Kyle’s room.

 

He let his mind drift, paying no mind to anything until Kyle’s fingers gently rested close to the scratch and Kenny flinched back. He focused on Kyle as his friend rolled up his pant leg and used a warm rag to run over the tiny injuries. Kenny softly voiced his lack of desire to talk about it, and Kyle didn’t push, pressing colorful band aids over his knee and cheek. Kenny didn’t even wince, letting him cover his wounds. Then Kyle surprised him again by pressing his lips softly over each bandage; first the purple one on his cheek, then the blue one on his knee.

 

Kenny had no words, just blinking as he stared at Kyle with wide eyes and parted lips as his friend smiled a bit shyly. He felt warm, and he had no problem curling up against Kyle, planting a light kiss on his cheek and laughing at the way his nose scrunches up at the surprise affection, yet he makes no effort to push Kenny away. “My mom still does that for me,” he tells Kenny, taking one of his hands and holding it in his own. “To make the pain go away.” Kenny looks thoughtful, then tugs his hand back only to wrap his arms around Kyle altogether and relax with a little grin. It was a moment he hopes their other friends never see, lest Kyle be tormented for being soft .

 

That was okay though. Kenny liked being soft with him when they could lay around peacefully, warm and sleepy and content, dozing off against him yet again, frustration fading away, nothing in his mind but soft kisses over colorful band aids.

Chapter Text

It started with dreams. Nasty dreams that kept waking him up late into the night, sweat and tears and awful anxiety twisting in his gut as the dream lingered in his head clear as day for hours. First it was hazy, images he near forgot the next morning, but didn’t forget the feelings they gave. Images - memories soaked in someone he knew and held dear’s blood. Someone crying, sobbing out his name, begging, pleading for a presence at his side, for a hand in his, for warmth and comfort and someone to tell him that it’ll be okay, that he isn’t alone, that they’re there for him. Then the dreams get more specific, more vivid as time goes on.

 

He still walks past him, a blank expression on his face as he steps over the bloodied body. Black shoes tracking blood into the school halls as a student bleeds out by his locker, sobs of all kinds of pain unheard by everyone around him, forgotten and alone yet again.

 

He only brought it all up when it was more vivid, when he couldn’t sleep because all he saw behind his eyelids was Kenny’s face, bloodied and desperate, sobs and pleas dripping like blood on his lips and he wanted to reach out, to hold Kenneth’s hands tight in his own and let his own words fall, soft assurances that no, you're not alone Ken, I’m so sorry I couldn’t say this before I’m so so so sorry, you’re going to be okay, I promise-

 

Something drew him out of his bed, early in the morning. He changed into his jeans and sweater slowly, draping one of his hoodies over his arm before he picked up his phone and left. It was light out, but early enough that barely anyone was out just yet. Fine by him - his parents would think he left for school early. And he could do that, but… He needed to see Kenny. His pace along the sidewalk quickened until Leopold was running down the pavement until he was stepping over the tracks, going around back to Kenny’s bedroom window and knocking carefully  on the glass, waiting for a couple minutes before the window was opened.

 

Kenny was a sight that still had his heart racing in his chest, quick as a bunny , he thought to himself as he took in the sight before him with a weak smile. Kenny, in little more than boxers and his unzipped parka with the hood down, blue eyes lidded with his clear exhaustion, his usually messy blond hair an absolute birds nest. Then his eyes landed on the pretty smile on Kenny’s lips and the other’s soft, sleep addled voice reached his ears, “Like whatcha see, Buttercup?”

 

Leo didn’t say anything for a minute, simply gazing at him for he softly asked, “Can I come in, Ken? I need to talk to you…” Kenny’s dreamy, sleepy look faltered to something more confused and concerned, but he nodded, pushing the window up further and offering a hand to help him into his room. Kenny wasted no time plopping down on his own bed, and Leo more slowly - calmly went to sit carefully beside his boyfriend, considering anything he could say.

 

He wasn’t sure what to say - he felt a level of distress high enough that he felt calm as he took one of Kenny’s hands into his own, smiling faintly when the other automatically held his in a gentle grip. “Ken… I… I don’t know how to say this…” He offered quietly, and looked over to see Kenny looking at him with a soft gaze, his grip tightening on Butters’ hand. “Take your time, Leo, I’m patient.” He murmured. Of course, once Leopold actually asked his question, Kenny looked far less eager to listen. He paled, in fact, and Leo couldn’t help but think about how his freckles were so much more visible like this. He preferred when Kenny blushed, rather than him looking scared

 

“You remember ?” Kenny’s words were breathed into the air between them, and Leo thought about it for a moment before slowly nodding. “Golly, Ken, I’m sorry I didn’t remember before…” Ken sputtered, both hands grabbing onto Leo’s as he tried to find words, to stop any apologies that could escape before Butters’ free hand pressed against his cheek, silencing any protests before they could leave Kenny. The two stared for a moment, letting everything catch up to them as they waited for something - anything.

 

For the tears to form in Leo’s eyes, for them to drip down Kenny’s cheeks. For heartbroken apologies spilling from Leo’s lips, for Kenny to wrap his arms tight around him as he responded to each one with a simple, it’s okay, I was never mad at you, you didn’t mean to forget, Buttercup, it’s okay - you’re okay and I’m okay, please don’t cry

 

After a while, Leo leaned back just enough to look at Kenny, staying as close as he could still while he whispered, “Gosh, Ken… why aren’t you mad at me or- or upset or anythin’?” Kenny thought about it for a moment before he pressed a soft kiss to his cheek, one hand running through messy, undercut blond hair as he whispered against his cheek, “Leo, you’re… I don’t… You’re just-...” A frustrated noise escaped him, and Leo squeezed him gently, peppering kisses to his cheek and neck in an attempt to soothe him. Kenny took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “Leo… Buttercup, you’re like… mm… You’re like my home …” Kenny finally said so quietly.

 

“You’re- you’re warm , you’re good , you’re safe … I love you, Leo, you’re like my home , I- I could never be mad at you, none of this was your fault, it’s… It’s the fucking curse..” He hissed the past words, and Butters understood. He slid his hands under Kenny’s parka, smiling against his neck at the gasp that escaped his boyfriend while he pressed cool hands to his warm back. Kenny didn’t push him away though, simply holding him closer.

 

Under hushed breaths, they made plans for the afternoon after school that Kenny never made it to, and Leo barely breathed as he ran down the pavement and across the tracks to that same opened window to see Kenny laying flat on his bed, hands folded over his stomach, once again in his parka. He felt sick as he climbed through, waking Kenny up with soft kisses pressed to his face and gentle hands on his cheeks. Kenny was roused slowly, groaning softly as his eyes fluttered open, horror on his face as he processed that oh, Leo is here. Oh, there’s only one reason Leo would be here looking so scared like that .

 

They made their plans again, and Leo spent the night at Kenny’s, both wrapped up tight in each other, doing little more than breathing and relaxing.

 

When it was time for their plans yet again, they met up at Stark’s Pond, a basket in Leo’s hand and a blanket in Kenny’s. The two shared a grin as they set up a picnic where the snow melted off the grass, a makeshift picnic date by the lake where they teased each other and shared kisses, hugs and sweetened words, honest and true. Something to improve the week after the hell of the last few days they’d had.

 

And they did start to feel better, leaning into each other, Kenny alive and there , holding his hand tight and chattering about his nail polish and how Leo should let him and Karen do his too, how he should come with Kenny to see Bebe to do their makeup again sometime soon, his plans to destroy Kyle in basketball and maybe buy supplies to make Stan a cake for his upcoming birthday and how no one can make hot cocoa as good as Eric Cartman does. Leo just listened, a fond smile on his face as the normally quiet boy rambled about this and that, whatever came to mind.

 

Then his words trailed off, causing Butters to look over to find pretty blue eyes locked on him. They shared a sweet smile and another kiss before he whispered against him, “You’re my home too, Ken…”

Chapter Text

The little sob was what woke him up. A choked sound meant to be muffled. He was curled up in bed between Kenny and Craig, but one was clearly missing from the bed. Another soft sound had him slowly sitting up, carefully extricating himself from Craig’s arms. He replaced his empty spot with a pillow and wandered out to the living room of their apartment.

 

There was Kenny, sat on the couch with his head in his hands. A few of his heartbroken sounds were louder than others, and after what he seemed to consider was a too-loud sob, his pale hands slapped over his mouth to further muffle any sound that may escape his lips. When Tweek slowly stepped over and sat down beside Kenny, his boyfriend tensed up, breath heavy and filling the silence for a minute before he was uttering, “I- I’m sorry, Tweekers, didn’t- didn’t mean to wake you…”

 

Tweek’s arm slung around his shoulders, dragging him closer and listening to the sigh Kenny let out as he pulled his socked feet up onto the couch and curled into Tweek, twisting his fingers into the hem of his nightshirt as his head rested against his collarbone, sniffling softly as the salty tears dried on his cheeks.

 

He wasn’t sure when he fell asleep, but he could understand how. He was still so tired, Kenny was warm against him, and perhaps Kenny actually fell before him, dozing more easily with one of his boyfriends’ arms tight around him, offering comfort for something Tweek didn’t even know yet. He was woken up later on in the morning, and he wasn’t sure what time it was, but Kenny was still out against him. The two were laying on the couch by then, the blond’s arms tight around him, a peaceful look on his face Tweek always wanted to see on his sweet face. The smell of coffee drifted through their little apartment, and Tweek smiled faintly as his fingers carded through Kenny’s birds nest of hair, looking up and smiling wider when Craig walked into the room, his own black hair an utter mess and two cups in his hands.

 

He was careful to help Tweek sit up with Kenny against him, letting him have his cup when he was settled. Whispered words passed between them, uttered questions and loving smiles and sentences spoken of love and delight and morning greetings until Kenny was roused from Tweek’s lap. He groaned softly, peering up reluctantly at the two with tired blue eyes before hiding his face in Tweek’s shirt, muttered words embarrassed and reluctant to leave his spot until Craig got him a cool cloth and Tweek held him tight in his arms ‘til their boyfriend returned.

 

Craig sat at Kenny’s other side, holding his face in one hand as he gently cleaned up and cooled his face down while Tweek held Kenny’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze every so often.

 

After a while, Tweek had to head off to work, leaving just Kenny and Craig curled up together on the couch. They were quiet for a while, the TV providing a soft background noise as they laid in what would otherwise be silence. It was in that silence that Kenny whispered words that were missed in distraction until Craig’s gaze drifted from the TV to the blond in his lap and Kenny’s cheeks turned pink as he looked away, still snuggling closer to him as Craig softly asked him to repeat himself.

 

Kenny hunched his shoulders, but the tension still slowly left him as Craig’s hands gently rubbed his sides, eventually melting back against him once again as he slowly spoke again, “I- I said you’re my savior …”

 

Craig’s head tilted, and Kenny tipped his head back against him, looking up and smiling faintly at him as the flush in his cheeks became more prevalent. “What do you mean, Kenny?” He asked quietly, and the other thought about it for a moment before turning, straddling his lap as his arms wound around Craig’s neck, giving him a soft kiss to the corner of his lips. “I mean… I… If you didn’t visit the store with Tricia, if- if you didn’t bring Tweekers with you, if you didn’t give me the time of day, I…” He couldn’t finish his sentence, but Craig didn’t seem to mind, returning the gentle kiss with one of his own.

 

“I get it, Kenny.” He whispered, gentle hands rising to rest against his cheeks before they went back to rubbing along his sides over the night shirt Kenny wore (likely one of Tweek’s). “It’s okay, Ken… We’re glad we have you, we’re glad you’re here with us… Wouldn’t change it for the world.” The kiss to his forehead had him melting, tucking his nose against Craig’s neck as he held him tight and simply breathed, a dopey smile on his flushed face as the other’s arms wrapped tight around his waist again.

 

“You’re our savior too, Kenny.”

Chapter Text

It started with a tickle in his throat. A tickle that forced soft coughs past his lips in the middle of class. He waved his teacher and friends off with a smile under the excuse of, “Just a hair in my throat, we’re good.” That wasn’t a problem - everyone brushed it off like he hoped they would, and they went about their day. No, the problem was coughing harder into the bathroom sink back home, feeling the problem slowly coming back up his throat. He heaved a few times, tears falling as he finally coughed it up. A petal.

 

His heart dropped to his gut as he slowly picked up the spit covered petal, turning it this way and that as knowledge from years ago, a memory of flipping through a random book set out in the library popped back into his head. Lavender rose: love at first sight .

 

He threw up.

 

He skipped school for the next couple days, thoughts running rampant as he coughed up more and more petals every day, spent more time curled up in bed as blood stained his pillow than he did finding a solution, than he did telling his concerned siblings who panicked the second they saw blood.

 

There was no telling Kevin to let it be, to leave him alone when his older brother scooped him up into his arms, running him out their front door with Karen at their heels as Kenny coughed and coughed and he felt sick , red coating his clothes and lips as he heaved, all kinds of petals falling from his lips, lodging in his throat, sprouting in his lungs.

 

He hated slow deaths.

 

He would never take the surgery option and they knew that.

 

Kenneth would rather die day in, day out than to lose his heartbeat, to lose what made him human , what reminded him that he was , in fact, technically a human.

 

Technically.

 

Tweek seemed curious when Kenny told him about the pretty flowers he’d planted out back in the midst of spring. “Did you know hydrangeas generally mean gratitude in being understood?” A tilt of the other blond’s head had Kenny’s mouth running as he sat on the porch, elbows on his knees and chin in his hands as he gazed at the array of flowers along the garden along the fencing. “All kinds’a flowers have different meanings depending on the colors and types. You could make a bouquet that looks pretty on the outside and says a good, clear ‘fuck you’ on the inside and no one would ever know, that’s pretty cool…”

 

His friend couldn’t help a soft laugh at the thought. It was something Craig and maybe even Kyle would pull on someone - something to be polite that no one would ever know the meaning of unless they searched it. “Like what you planted - lavender heathers tend to mean admiration, and gardenias tend to mean stuff like secret love, purity and sweetness.” he wasn’t thinking about his ramblings. Like inside, he knew Tweek wouldn’t hush him, wouldn’t ask him to be quiet or stop his ramblings of the flowers and what the pretty, multicolored petals mean.

 

“What about roses?” Kenny looked over, a curious look as Tweek gestured to the two bushes his mother planted on either side of the back porch. “What do roses mean? Do you know?” Nothing sarcastic or teasing. Nothing but genuine curiosity. “U- uh, well…” Kenny rubbed the back of his neck, the shorter teen straightened up, looking at the roses as he wracked his mind before his mouth was moving again. “W- well, roses… white roses have all kinds of meanings. Mainly shit like new meanings, purity, reverence… Red roses always mean love and passion.”

 

His fingers twisted together before he covered his lips with his fingers as he spoke softly. “Pink is for happiness and gentleness, yellow is for joy, friendship, promise of new beginnings…” How his heart longed for such things. “Orange is desire and enthusiasm, coral is modesty, friendship and sympathy. And Lavender…”

 

Craig chose that moment to rejoin them, greeting Kenny with a small smile and Tweek with a kiss that had Kenny’s heart both racing in his chest and turning to ice as he turned his head away, fingers pressing harder against his lips as he whispered under his breath while Tweek’s attention turned to his boyfriend and the coffee he held for Tweek, “Love at first sight…”

 

He could name every single flower petal that fell from his throat, thrown up onto his hospital bed and into his lap, sending his siblings into a panic every time his weak sentences were interrupted. He could remember the small moments clearly. Things he both did and didn’t want to remember as he met his end by the curse and the cursed disease for the nth time that year. He could remember Craig, tu rning his back to Kenny as he left the shorter boy in favor of Tweek and yeah, Kenny could understand that - his boyfriend took precedence over spending time with Kenny, but it still stung , was he worth that little? Kenny tried to not look hurt or let any longing show as the two shared a kiss.

 

He hesitated before turning his own back, walking away from the heartbreaking scene.

 

He didn’t notice another presence coming up behind him as he shoved his hands into his pockets, slumped his shoulders as words left him without thought. “Don’t leave me here alone, I don’t wanna be alone…”

 

He didn’t realize he’d spoken out loud, tears falling from his eyes as weak sobs and pain wracked his small frame. Kevin’s hand rested firmly against his back, rubbing slowly as Karen ran to get the doctor. Kenny found he had a hard time keeping his eyes open, blood dripping down off his lips to join the stains on the once white bed sheet covering his lap. Kevin looked petrified. His own parents looked haggard. Kyle, who he hadn’t even noticed was there with others, looked just as terrified as Kevin.

 

Stan stood beside him, tears falling down his face as he held Wendy against his chest. Tweek and Craig were nowhere to be seen.

 

His heart ached.

 

Anemone. Fading hope.

Daffodil. Unrequited love.

Gardenia. Secret love.

Peony. Shame.

Sunflower. Dedicated love.

Lavender rose. Love at first sight.

 

Sweet pea. Departure after having a good time.

Dark crimson rose. Mourning.

Chapter Text

He was getting all too good at the art of avoidance. Perhaps too much. He liked to avoid thinking about that too as he hid in Stan’s room sketching all kinds of things in a book with blood stains on some pages, that he hid away from Stan as efficiently as he could, or breathing heavily as he sat on Bebe’s floor, staring at the polish she applied to his nails to avoid meeting her worried stares for his heavy breaths and the occasional cough.

 

“We know you die and come back, Kenny. We want to help you. We know you’re sick...” Tweek had said softly, keeping his voice down, Craig even looking worried as he stood beside him and Kenny tensed up, eyes sliding to the side to peer at them as he faced his locker. “If you won’t get the surgery, maybe we can talk to whoever it is, you know? Maybe we can fix this together.”

 

He didn’t pay it much mind. He’d shrugged it off. And that was a mistake, because all of a sudden Tweek was relentless, guessing person after person, any name he could think of because Kenny wasn’t going to give him any hints. Not the slightest - not ever.

 

“.... What about me and Craig?”

 

Could he be blamed for his wince? For the lavender rose and purple hydrangea petals tickling his throat, threatening another coughing attack as Tweek’s eyes widened slowly. Kenny didn’t offer any other hints, no other reaction as he swallowed, tried to breathe slowly. “... Kenny? Do… I mean… K- Kenny, ngh, are you--?” 

 

It only took seconds to stand and bolt, leaving his backpack where it was on the floor. Nothing was more important than escaping. Nothing was more important than keeping himself out of the way of their love. Nothing was more important than ensuring that no matter what, they never found out, and already he’d fucked up his own plans. It was a stroke of bad luck, and he didn’t think he could face them.

 

Their love that he’d indirectly caused, all because he’d had the great idea that maybe love notes would help. Cute little notes with scribbled hearts and flowery language and reminders for self care and little smiles. Craig thought they came from Tweek. Tweek thought they came from Craig. The notes didn’t come up in conversation enough to cause a problem, and soon the news of the two dating was all anyone could talk about as the two walked the halls hand in hand with matching smiles on their faces.

 

Kenny never smiled at them together once. It hurt.

 

He reached into his mouth to pull out the source of the tickle in his throat, and the story starts all over again with new colors. Carnation petals, the colors of dark red and yellow. Love and affection. Disappointment and rejection .

 

He’d died so many times. Suffocation sucked, especially knowing what caused it. He couldn’t help how alone he felt, but he could never tell them and take the risk of destroying what made them so happy. He was never supposed to catch feelings for both sides of the unattainable power couple, he wasn’t supposed to fall in love. He wasn’t supposed to hurt like this, was he?

 

The warm arms of Kyle wrapped around him as sobs shook him, tears falling onto his homework he’d been doing. His mind ran wild and he shook in his friend’s arms, well aware of Eric and Stan’s staring as he cried out his pain into the soft green sweater. He himself was aware of what it looked like. Maybe they thought he was having a breakdown over schoolwork, or the petals they didn’t know were lodged in his lungs.

 

From doing math in Kyle’s room with their friends in silence broken by the occasional question or Kyle softly offering assistance when any of them came across hard questions, to Kenny sniffling softly and catching their attention, unresponsive and shivery, to the teen full-blown sobbing into first his book, and then Kyle’s shirt.

 

His words had the three frozen and confused, worry and suspicion and horror on their faces as Kenny coughed between his cries, petals of lavender rose and yellow hyacinth falling off his tongue as he gasped and wheezed, “ Is it supposed to hurt this much? What did I do to deserve this, Ky? What did I do ?”

 

A firm hand running up and down his back, fingers in messy, perhaps greasy blond hair, warm assurances that would do nothing.

 

Nothing to prevent tears and blood on hospital beds, bruised knuckles from punching holes in his bedroom walls when he’s alone and it’s all too much, tear stains smearing ink and lead on homework pages he likely couldn’t get new copies of.

 

Well aware of Tweek and Craig’s eyes locked on him as the teacher called him to the front, quietly asked him what happened to his page. Everyone’s confusion and worry when Kenny cried in the middle of class, tearfully telling the teacher he’d spilled water on it (lies, li es lies ), and crying even harder when she offered to give him a copy and let him retake it. He had to leave the classroom to calm down, shuddery breaths filling the boys room as his fingers pressed hard into the counters.

 

He could avoid them all he wanted, but there was no avoiding them when they ambushed him. Kenny’s tired eyes fluttered open to see wide blue-green eyes staring down at him. He gulped back the horrified shriek that wanted to escape, staring back unfalteringly. As he began to sit up, Tweek let him - until Kenny hopped to his feet, and then the taller teen was plastered to his side, arms tight around him as rambled pleas to not leave met his ears. Please listen to us, don’t run away again Kenny, don’t leave us alone .

 

He thought back to his words of the past, a sickening ache within him as he uttered the meanings to flowers Tweek planted. Don’t leave me alone .

 

Now he had to swallow back a sob as he looked over to see Craig sat against his door, arms crossed as he watched them, a look in his eyes Kenny couldn’t place. It didn’t stop the twisting panic in his gut as he flailed, tried to push Tweek away so he could run again, escape the conversation he didn’t want as Tweek’s voice rose by his ear, demands that he sat back down and fucking listened to them.

 

He did so reluctantly, hands shaking as Tweek sat beside him, refusing to release his hold on Kenny as Craig stood to join them on Kenny’s bed, sitting on the taller blond’s other side. It was silent for a few minutes before Kenny spoke, his voice barely above a weak whisper, “O- okay, I know I’ve been… Not around -”

 

“Fancy way to say avoiding-”

 

“Shut up, Craig - a- and you guys are probably pissed, but… Can you like, maybe not deck me or anything? Suffocation is rough.” Tweek’s grip on him tightened. Craig’s hand reached over Tweek, grabbed Kenny’s in a tight grip. He regretted his choice of words right away. Tweek’s face pressed against his bare chest where the parka was unzipped, and Kenny felt his face warm. Couldn’t Death put him in some proper clothes or something every once in a while? Boxers were cold and the parka did fuck all when it was unzipped. “Explain.” was all Craig said, and the words fell like rain.

 

Both their holds on him tightened further, to the point he winced, but he didn’t ask to be released - didn’t think they would . But there was the story laid out in full for them - the story of Kenny’s heart deciding it wanted, needed the unattainable. Karen, suggesting he write love notes, and Kenny calling the idea dumb and yet still going through with it because there was always that what if chance. He’d been wrong.

 

What if . What if was a question of its own, threatening both negative and positive results.

 

What if Tweek and Craig fell in love, and moved on without him?

 

What if Kenny spent the rest of his days dying for them because he couldn’t lose that piece of his humanity, that piece that meant more to him than anything?

 

What if they returned the sentiments?

 

It was a what if he never entertained for even a moment. But perhaps he should have.

 

Craig’s hand rose to card through his hair, his other on Tweek’s back to calm his boyfriend as he explained their side of things that they’d wanted to for a while.

 

Kenny coughed into his lap again, horrifying them both for a few minutes until he was done, shaky and exhausted all over again. It was the last time he ever coughed, holding up the petals to allow them to gaze at bloodied lavender rose and pink hydrangea. What does it mean , they asked without words, and Kenny let himself say. “Pi- pink hydrangeas… Mean heartfelt emotions.” He murmured, feeling more than hearing Tweek’s tearful cries against his chest as Kenny whispered uneasily, “Lavender rose… it- it means love at first sight…”

 

Craig’s arms wrapped around both of them the best that he could. Kenny wasn’t sure when his own cries joined Tweek’s, but soon they were little more than a teary, clingy mess together, and the tickle in his throat was gone altogether when Tweek mumbled over and over against him and on Kenny’s request, Craig translated words he’d always wanted to hear, “ I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you …”

 

They spent the day in Kenny’s bed, all tangled up and refusing to let go, but that was okay. For the most part, they didn’t say anything, soft kisses and tight hugs saying everything they ever needed to and then some.

 

Kenny thought they were both asleep as the moon rose in the sky, as he murmured his own, “I  love you both with all my heart… ” before he dropped off quickly, missing the matching smiles on both their faces as Tweek and Craig held him that much closer, that much tighter, tangled up and warm and ready to face any new challenges the world had for them together.

 

Daisy. Loyal love.

Lavender rose. Love at first sight.

White rose. A fresh start.

Amaryllis. Worth beyond beauty.

Gladiolus. Faithfulness.

Hydrangea. Gratitude for understanding.

 

Lily of the valley. Purity of heart.

Sunflower. Dedicated love.

Chapter Text

Things always ended up like this. With Kenny tied, with some double classed villain he recognized as an ex of Karen’s threatening his immortal life, with the heroes on their way as the villain laughed in his face and god, he couldn’t warn them about a trap. He felt something practically burning him from the inside out, leaving him thrashing in his bonds and knocking the chair over, the villain having to right him each time until they didn’t, cackling when he demanded to know where Karen was, if she was okay, if you laid a finger on her, I swear-

 

He refuses to be a villain, he refuses to play into this guy’s hands, he refuses to sit back and let him hurt Karen. But that burn intensifies and he went limp, forehead pressed to the cool ground as he gasped for breath, he ard the telltale shatter of glass in the distance. He had no energy to call out as the man laughed.

 

“No matter what tricks Karen tries to pull,” a loud creaking, “What’s happening?” a groan from somewhere in the building. “There’s no ending for the likes of us. Not anymore.”

 

Kenny looking up into near black eyes, more evil within the other than anyone else he’d ever met. Someone willing to do what it took to live up to the title of ‘villain’. Eyes he once felt little more than mild caution about when he met the guy at dinner with Karen at his side, eyes his little sister fell in love with.

 

Eyes she fell out of love with as the man got into a screaming match with the one person who’d always been by her side. He wasn’t allowed to raise his voice like that at Karen, and even as Kenny spat blood after he hit the cement ground, head bouncing off the pavement, he struggled to get up just to put himself between his sister and the guy. Protect her, keep her safe, shield her from the hell that is the world they live in.

 

Kenny McCormick would do anything to keep his baby sister safe. He swore that ages ago when he sat in a hospital room at three years old, little arms holding his much tinier newborn sister. She looked up at him with big brown eyes and the happiest smile and he swore to every God in existence he would do anything for that little life.

 

They both still went home with bruises on their faces, fingers twisted tight together. His significant others asked, worry in their eyes, but it was clear Kenneth was finished speaking for a while. Karen was the same.

 

what did you do, what did you do, what did you do, what did you do

 

“Kenny? It’s time to wake up .”

 

The thump drew their attention, and the villain was gone as the door was kicked open. Kenny struggled to breathe. He wasn’t sure why. The chair was quickly pushed upright, his form offering no assistance. He slumped in the chair as he was untied, arms hanging limp at his sides as her gentle fingers caressed his cheek, checking him for further injuries than his bloody nose and bruised up body.

 

His dull blue eyes slid up from the ground slowly and met her honey brown. Mysterion - Karen. He wasn’t surprised at all.

 

She looked furious.

 

He looked exhausted.

 

The door she came through slammed shut. She ran to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. Kicking did nothing. The room was barren, not even a window. “Trap,” he’d uttered as she ran back to his side.

 

“Are you alright?” She’d asked so softly, both hands warm on his cheeks before she began searching around the room, perhaps looking for some sort of exit. He felt so dizzy, but he stood up anyway. “No, I’m not alright! I’ve never been less alright!” That man was the bane of their existence. He didn’t bother to remember his villain name. He felt longing for a face more friendly than his own sister.

 

Kenny didn’t tell her about the wounds under his parka, soaking the black shirt he wore underneath, somehow not dripping off to the cement ground they stood on. He didn’t feel it much anymore. He didn’t feel the pain, the sharp aches when he turned or moved his arm or stood from the chair. He felt fury , exhaustion, a level of distress he didn’t know he could ever feel. He mentally compared his own heart to that of a hummingbird and didn’t even have the energy to laugh.

 

“I’m so sick of being a pawn in other people’s games… Just give me a straight answer. For once …” Kenny sounded so desperate, a hand reached out with intent to grab her and hold her close and no desire to be touched whatsoever. Karen didn’t move from her place by the wall, staring at him with stricken eyes. “Karen… Am I… Am I-” “No!”

 

He couldn’t finish his sentence. She wouldn’t let him.

 

Am I dead?

 

“I’m so tired…” Each footstep felt like too much as he stepped closer to her as she adjusted the cowl, pulled it further over her face much like Kenny did with his parka. He pulled his hood back up and tightened the strings, kept it unzipped enough that he could speak. It was a waiting game for the other heroes to show up to the address Mysterion had sent them. Kenny stood by her side as he always had, always would. “Everything I’ve done, I’ve done to protect you…”

 

They could hear the creaking of pipes, footsteps, sirens. “But I was too late. Too sloppy… He’s undone everything now. But he hasn’t won yet .”

 

Kenny swallowed thickly. “Karen… You can’t keep this up…” He remembered what it was like to be Mysterion. He remembered the stress, the pain, the worry, the loneliness. A mantle of a hero he dropped for a reason. A mantle she should have never picked up.  

 

She looked fucking furious . “Shut up! You have no idea what I’m capable of!” How many times had he underestimated her in the past? Stood between her and the world, sheltered her from what she needed to learn and taught her things would always be sunshine and rainbows and a perfection they both longed for so, so often?

 

Let me help you !”

 

His words silenced her.

 

How many times had he come home bruised and bloodied, all because he got in a fight he shouldn’t have, tried to protect Karen, scare their parents, save his friends? How often was he overlooking the fact she was an adult?

 

How often was she overlooking the fact he’d been through so much more, all for her, always for her?

 

His fingers reached out again, and her own shaking hand slowly took his.

 

“I rem ember now… I remember what he did .” A pause, thoughts drifting back to the bruises. To his inability to protect them. To his failed efforts. To her failed efforts to protect him … “I remember what we did.” His baby sister looked so pained. Her arms slowly wrapped around his middle and he didn’t hesitate to wrap her up in a tight hug. “You can’t protect me forever,” he’d whispered into her hair and felt the tight squeeze she gave in return.

 

“It’s- it’s not just about protecting you,” Mysterion whispered into his shoulder, and Kenny listened intently. “Everything’s different now… The mistakes I’ve made, the people I’ve used , the things I’ve had to do to keep you alive !” His arms tightened around her, and she looked up at her brother. She saw him as he was - the tired adult that matured all too quickly, who was too skinny and unfit to win in a fight but still tried his best, who sometimes tripped over his shoelaces when he walks only to return home and pay bills and make dinner and be the adult he always had been. The adult he grew into just for her . “Karen… Some things just can’t be fixed…” His hard look softened, and she could feel tears welling up in her eyes. “And I’m okay with that… But if you let me help you, then maybe, together , we can start to set things right...”

 

Tears filled his own eyes. They heard a loud thump against the door to the room they’d been trapped in for who knows how long. He could see blood staining the green question mark on her top. He knew it was his own, his bright orange parka destroyed, dyed crimson as an eternal reminder of the night.

 

He felt lightheaded. She held him tighter. He winced, hiding it as he pressed a kiss to the side of her head. The bangs on the other side of the door grew louder. Mysterion released him, eyeing him before a horrified look crossed her face as her gaze landed on the stains. Kenny didn’t say anything. He felt so tired, so dizzy.

 

Blood dripped onto the ground. Kenny fell on his ass as the door slammed open. He was sure they looked a sight, blood and tears on them both as Mysterion crouched at his side. Wonder’s shriek met his ears first, and Super touched him first, a firm hand on his back as he struggled to keep his head up. He felt like he was underwater, overwhelmed and drowning and any touch to pull him up was too much .

 

His eyes slid shut, half feeling frustrated and angry, and half just tired , tired, safe, too many people too many voices too many touches .

 

His eyes opened to a stark white room. He felt a little better, and yet not at all. Kenny swore he could hear their voices, yet he was all alone in the room.

 

“He’s losing a lot of blood-”

“I- Ngh, I know that!”

“Calm down, Wonder. Let’s just get him out of here.”

“God, there’s so much blood. He’s so pale…”

 

His middle hurt like a motherfucker , but he still slowly pushed himself to sit upright.

 

“Let me help you!” Karen had yelled at him so many times in the past. Kevin never bothered with raising his voice at his siblings or fighting them on it. No one else has mastered the ability to silence Kenny with a single look like Kevin had, a sharp glare daring him to say a word when his brother carried his backpack for him or made him food or sat down to help him with his homework.

 

“Let me help you!” Kenny had echoed the words, the memories of his bruised up little sister fresh in his head. Blood dripping down Kenneth’s face, his arm loosely draped over Karen’s neck as they stumbled home together. Black and blue marred his pretty face, a splash of color on his pale, freckled cheek and it hurt to take deep breaths. His sister sported quite the black eye, and as proud of her as he was, he wanted to destroy that man for even considering raising a hand to her.

 

She protected him , and she paid the price he was so used to.

 

“L e t m e h e l p y o u.”

 

A hand touched his shoulder to push him down and he jerked back, a sharp cry of pain pulled from his lips when the movement jostled his words. Apologies were instant, and as his arms wound around his own waist as he coughed and gasped, he glanced up to see Craig and Stan. It had been Stan’s hand. He wasn’t sure what to do. The touch startled him. He took one more deep breath, wincing as he slowly laid himself back down, a hand reaching out and letting Stan hold it.

 

He didn’t utter a single word as to how or why any of this happened, or how or why he and Mysterion knew the douchebag. Kenny was glad when he was released, taken home to curl up on their couch and sleep as more pain killers eased his suffering. He tried not to think about the hospital visit.

 

how much was it how much did they owe how much did kenny have to his name how did they even stay with him throughout all of that?

 

Can’t be anxious if he slept like the dead, right?

 

He did feel better finding Karen sat on his legs hours later when his eyes fluttered open. He didn’t say anything, and she didn’t make a fuss when he saw her brown eyes slide to the side, frustrated expression melting into something more calm.

 

His wounds ache, and he wishes he could do more. Holding her hand tight in his own in a show of support would have to do.

Chapter Text

It started off sweet. It always started sweet.

 

Laying in a field with Craig on one side and Tweek on the other, the three of them content and sleepy and watching the stars in the clear sky above them from Craig’s backyard with sleepy smiles and entwined fingers. It was sweet, everything he’d ever wanted. Laying out in soft grass in the midst of Summer, a smile lighting up his freckled face, free of his parka as his fingers gently squeezed both their hands. His heart felt so full, slow and happy in his chest as he found constellations and asked Craig for information on each one.

 

Then he blinked and he was on his feet, a familiar cowl over his head and mask on his bloodied, bruised face as he stared at Wonder who looked at him with… with scorn. With anger and frustration and hatred . He felt sick. He was sore, beaten, and Wonder was… Disappointed. What had he done? Did he hurt them? Did he do something wrong? His fingers reached up without a thought, pulling down the cowl and tugging off the mask. “What did I do?” He asked. Wonder turned his back on Myst- no, Kenny. He walked away, and he didn’t come back. 

 

They were stood, just Kenny and Tweek in a dark room. He couldn’t see anything but his blond companion beside him, lit up as if there was a light above him. “Tweek?” Kenny asked softly. Tweek didn’t reply, staring straight ahead. Kenny’s heart dropped to his gut when the blood started to drip from his lips and soak his shirt, so he stepped closer, tried to grab him but his hands went right through him. “Tweekers? Tweek? Tell me you can see me, please Tweek, I’m not dead - I didn’t die this time…” His voice was weak, and Tweek looked right at him. Red rimmed eyes, blood stained lips, pretty face beaten and bruised. Fuck. What happened? Who hurt him? Kenny felt a sting, looked down to see his knuckles bruised.

 

Oh god.

 

Oh god, no. He’d just made friends with them. He’d just really met them. He was still new to them. Why would he hurt Tweek? Why did Tweek look so haunted?

 

He foolishly tried to reach out again, but Tweek was gone in the blink of an eye. He was all alone in this dark room, wondering what he did and where it went wrong. “Tweek?” He called. The disembodied voice of the aforementioned boy answered him. “Why do you think you’ll do better with us?” Kenny looked around, turning this way and that as if something would appear and give him the answers he was lacking. His hands hurt. His head hurt. He cried out for Tweek again, tears welling up in his blue eyes.

 

“You’ll never change, Kenneth James McCormick. You’ll always be weak. You’ll never be better, you’ll never do better. You’re the worst of the worst.”

 

The ghostly face of Tweek behind him when he turned around had him shrieking, falling on his ass as he looked up at the transparent teen, looking down on him with a mixture of disappointment and lack of interest. That shouldn’t hurt as much as it did. Perhaps it was because Kenny really, truly thought they were friends, he thought Tweek cared for him. Perhaps it was because, as much as he’d like to adamantly deny it, he was in love . And didn’t it hurt that much more to know that not only was it not reciprocated, Tweek hated him altogether?

 

As if reading his thoughts, “Oh, Kenneth… I don’t hate you.” His voice had this soft, comforting tone - the one Kenny used whenever he comforted Karen from bad dreams or when her doll ripped. Perhaps he was reading his thoughts. Kenny tried reaching for him again, and Tweek took his hand in his, pulling him to his feet. That face he’d fallen in love with so, so close to his  own. His heart and head hurt bad, and he just wanted- he didn’t know. He wanted hands in his, assurance that perhaps this was all some sick joke and they could laugh it off and Tweek would hold his hand and promise he didn’t mean any of it.

 

But that wasn’t the case, was it? “You’re the worst. And I don’t hate you. But I don’t love you either.” A cruel smile tugged at the twitchy boy’s lips, multicolored eyes dark and as cruel as that grin. He was enjoying the hell he was putting Kenny through, leaning closer until their lips nearly brushed. Kenny felt his cold breath against his lips as Tweek whispered, “You’re nothing to me.”

 

A shove, and Kenny fell. Fell deep, no solid ground beneath him. Skydiving could be fun, skydiving in the void was nowhere close.

 

“I thought Mysterion would be someone smart, strong, impressive!” The voice taunted him. He couldn’t close his eyes, staring up at where Tweek stared down at him, more disappointment than anything on his face. “Not some stupid little kid who never grew up!”

 

That’s all he was, wasn’t it? A stupid little kid who never grew up. Kenny’s eyes finally slid shut, falling, falling, falling, waiting until he crashed to the ground as the voice shouted one final thing that would haunt him as long as he lived, “You’re nothing to us, Kenneth McCormick, and you’ll never be!”

 

“Kenny!” He jolted upright in bed, overheated yet freezing all the same. Kenny didn’t look toward the voice, he didn’t move, breathing heavy as he shook and shivered. Warm hands rested on his cheeks, turning his head to the side in order to make him look toward the one calling his name. Fuck, had he woken Karen up? A brief glance down to the right proved it was morning - time to go to school. “I’m good.” He whispered. The look on her face said she didn’t believe him whatsoever , but, bless her and everything she was, she didn’t push. “G… Go get ready. We’ll go to the bus stop together.” Kenny told her softly, and she shook her head.

 

“Kenny, I could hear you crying… What happened?” She almost sounded scared, the eleven year old’s hands staying on his cheeks. He could feel his sweat drying and sticking his old, ratty t-shirt to his body. “Jus’ a bad dream, kay?” He murmured, pressing their foreheads together for a moment and forcing a smile for the sake of the girl. “I’m okay. Or,” He backtracked at the dry look she gave him. “I will be okay. Please go get ready.”

 

It took a minute before she left, reluctantly walking out to get her coat and shoes on. He was slow as he pulled out his old parka, pulling the coat on. He’d have to get a new one eventually - it was staying together by little more than string and a patchwork of other fabrics sewn in and the grace of God apparently. Jeans, boots, hood up. One hand shoved into his pocket and the other holding his sister’s as they left. He didn’t say a word to his parents, nor did he meet Kevin’s concerned gaze.

 

He didn’t look up from the snow at his feet as he stood at the bus stop with Karen close at his side, still holding his cold hand tightly. He wanted to hide in his coat when Stan, Kyle and Eric wouldn’t stop staring. Perhaps it was the look on his face when Eric muttered, “What’s wrong with you ? Up late whoring yourself out again?” that spurred Karen on. God, she was so much like him it could be scary at times. “Leave Kenny alone, you ass! He didn’t sleep good!” The girl snapped, wrapping her small arms around his waist. Kenny bent down just slightly, silent as he wrapped his arms tight around his sister, pressing a kiss to her hair as she seethed and glared at Eric over Kenny’s shoulder.

 

When the bus arrived, he sat all the way in the back and she sat right beside him, holding his hand tight in her own. He missed the worried looks from some of the others in the bus, namely Stan and Kyle. Karen and Kenny went their separate ways when they were in the building, but not before Kenny leaned down and pressed a firm kiss to the top of her head with a promise that he was, in fact, okay.

 

He stood at his locker unnecessarily long, slowly getting what he needed from it and dropping off his backpack. Kenny walked to class, barely even taking notes, barely staying awake as each class droned on, nothing he could focus on.

 

He didn’t care about the scene he caused or the staring he received in the lunchroom. He dropped his backpack right there on the ground the second he laid eyes on Tweek. The thump drew his new friends’ attention, and it seemed so easy to grab the somewhat nervous boy’s arm in a gentle grip, tugging his shirt as he said, “Need t’talk to you, Tweekers,” interrupted before any of them could, “It’s important.”

 

He left his backpack in the middle of the floor, dragging Tweek to the bathroom to talk to him. He seemed unsure, nervous for either himself or Kenny - he wasn’t sure. It seemed so easy in theory, to rest his hands on Tweek’s shoulders and ask him straight, do you hate me?

 

It was messy in practice, with Kenny blinking hard to fight off tears the moment his eyes met Tweek’s as his fingers gripped the other’s green plaid shirt tightly.

 

It felt hard to breathe for a moment, and Kenny dropped his head, breathing audible as he stared at the ground, only looking up again when Tweek’s hands came into view, wrapping around his waist and tugging him close. He was solid, warm - he was there , holding Kenny tightly. No words or taunts or insults, no torment or comments on his worth, and no comments on the little sob that left his lips as he tucked his face into the other’s neck.

 

He told him about the nightmare slowly in a weak, occasionally cracking voice, stopping mid sentence to change words or to talk about another part of the dream. He entirely omitted the part about being in love, replaced nightmare Tweek’s ‘I don't love you’ with ‘I don’t like you’. Tweek didn’t release him once as he did, and he didn’t say anything about Kenny’s wet face or the tears soaking his shirt. He did, however, reassure him every now and then, whispered words of, “Ke- Kenny, it’s okay, it- ngh, it was just a dream …”

 

When they returned to the table, Kenny’s red rimmed eyes wouldn’t move from the table and Tweek wouldn’t release his hand, eating with his free one and assuring them Kenny just didn’t sleep well, but he was okay. When they were getting up to return to class, Tweek gave him a quick, tight hug and Craig ruffled his already messy blond hair a little as he pressed his old backpack’s strap into his hands. 

 

The day dragged on slowly, but his heavy heart felt lighter as the day came to a close and he met up with Karen outside. He gave her a few updates of the day under his breath, holding onto her hand as they moved to walk home, but stopped when someone called his name. They both looked up in time for Tweek to scare the life out of Kenny by throwing his arms around his neck, pulling him into a tight hug.

 

When Kenny and Karen finally returned home, he felt far more okay than he had when the day began. And when he curled up in bed to sleep, his phone’s text tone went off and he smiled faintly as he read it over a few times before his eyes closed.

 

Tweek T: goodnight, kenny. you can call me if you need to.

Chapter Text

Her blood was on his hands.

 

She looked up at him with dead eyes, her heart still in her chest. His tears dripped down his cheeks and off his nose as he stared down at her dull honey brown eyes. The blood puddled below them, staining already dark jeans. Her pale face, smooth skin dripping copper scented crimson that colored his own skin as his fingers frantically brushed her cheek, pressed under her neck to feel her pulse (or lack thereof), grabbed at her arms and shook as if that would undo what has already been done.

 

He knew how to fight. He put all his strength in all kinds of ways into protecting his siblings. He did everything he could think of, started working at ten years old, did everything in his power to defend, care for and love those close to him. To defend, care for and love Karen .

 

And he’d failed.

 

“You didn’t save me.” Her voice was echoing, bouncing off the buildings around them as he knelt in the street with her in his arms. “You didn’t protect me, Kenny…” Her voice wasn’t coming from her, but he knew somewhere that it was, indeed, her voice. “Why didn’t you save me? You should have saved me.” His tears dripped off his face and onto hers as a sob left his lips, warm hand pressing to her cold cheek. “Don’t go, Kare,” He whispered, dragging fingers gently through her messy brown hair. “Please, Kare-bear, don’t go, you’re too young, this was never supposed to happen…”

 

“You didn’t try hard enough.” Her voice was low, soft, she sounded like what he’d connect to the words ethereal and horror . “I was attacked, taken long before my time,” She’d whispered, the voice not at all connected to her body despite her body slowly starting to move it’s lips to her words. “And where were you? Where were you, Kenny? Out with your friends? Forgetting your family?” A pause. “Who’s more important, Ken? Me,” A cruel smile on the lips of her cold, dead body, something twisted and awful, unpleasant and unfriendly. “or Craig and Tweek?”

 

His heart was racing in his chest, threatening to burst out in a far more horrifying mess of blood, to put an end to him and his suffering as he gripped her tight, held her close. It was all he had left. “You can’t do that to me,” He croaked. Her body’s eyes slid closed. “You can’t make me do that. This can’t be real. You were just at Tricia’s, you were having a sleepover, why did you have to leave? Why did you get hurt?”

 

“Oh, but Kenny, there was no way I could stay,” Her words, her voice pulled at his heartstrings despite the obvious pain and manipulation. “I missed my brother. Don’t I have a right to spend time with my favorite person?” Her hand raised limply, pressing to his cheek, her skin chilled.

 

Her eyes opened. Bloody, crimson red.

 

That of a demon.

 

Kenny jerked up in bed again. His heart thumped in his chest as he breathed heavily, pressing a hand over his heart as if it was hurting him. He stayed there for a good amount of time, doing little more than breathing, letting his racing heart calm in his chest before he pushed himself out of bed, stumbling out the door and toward the shared room of Kevin and Karen.

 

He wasn’t all that surprised that his footsteps, his opening and closing of their door woke them up - with parents like theirs, it was habit. Regardless, Kenny knew what he was doing, ignoring the concerned stares from Kevin and Karen in favor of sitting on her bed and wrapping his arms around the eleven year old, holding her close to his chest. The action had her arms wrapping tightly around his middle as Kevin stood, going to take a seat beside him and wrap an arm around his little brother.

 

“Did you have a bad dream?” Kevin asked quietly, and Kenny had to fight back tears like before as he nodded against Karen’s shoulder, choking back tears as he ran a hand through Karen’s hair, only releasing her to cup her cheeks in his hands, looking her over as if he’d find injuries only seen in the worst of his nightmares, but there was nothing. No blood, no wounds, and no anger in her eyes. Only love and concern for her brother. “You were dead.” Kenny breathed, and Karen sat up more so she could press a kiss to his cheek. “I’m alive,” she promised softly, wrapping her arms around Kenny’s neck and hugging him tightly. “It’s okay, Kenny, I’m okay, everything’s okay…”

 

God, he had the best siblings in the world . He held onto them both, breathing easier with his little sister’s quiet reassurances, promises that she was, in fact, alive. That it had only been a bad dream, it would never come true.

 

The next morning, Kenny awoke warm and comfortable, kind of squished between a still sleeping Kevin and Karen. It took some effort to squirm out from their holds on him, sneaking out of the room to get dressed in his proper clothes.


When the two finally left their room Kenny was nearly finished making them breakfast, offering a cheerful, “Good morning!” and a big smile. They sat down, not even trying to hide the concerned stares until Kenny pressed a kiss to Karen’s forehead and assured her, “As long as you’re careful and call us when you need to, Kare-bear, I promise I’m okay.”

Chapter Text

Kenny likes a wide array of music, but that’s not always a good thing.

 

He was drowning in a sea of brown liquid, something cold filling his lungs and burning him from the inside out as he thrashed, gasped for air he wasn’t going to get as he sunk deeper, seeing only the light reflected from the top of the liquid. He blinked once and he was on the surface - on a dock, looking out over the sickly brown sea. He could still feel the burning in his lungs, something awful, something addictive.

 

Something he found himself longing for despite everything. Despite where he came from, despite his friends, despite the promises he made himself.

 

He swore he wouldn’t become them, that he’d be different. He’d raise her up good and teach her the dangers, ensure she swore off such addictive, sweet tasting killers as well.

 

Their own brother hadn’t stuck to his promise, but that was okay. He’d be okay. Hopefully. Kenny didn’t know what he’d do if Kevin wasn’t okay. How would he care for him? How would he care for Karen ?

 

A thrashing drew his attention, and he looked down to feel his heart sink in his chest.

 

Stan’s tired blue eyes looking up at him from beneath that brown, burning sea, lips open as he pleaded for help, for Kenny to jump back in to rescue him, to accept the burning in his lungs and suffocation by the liquid altogether in return for Stan’s life.

 

Kenny jumped in the second Stan’s eyes slid shut as he sunk deeper and deeper.

 

He held his breath, grabbed him by his sweater sleeve and pulled, pulled, pulled, swimming against some current that came out of nowhere, a violent force trying to pull them down further into the dark sea and suffocate them, holding them down against the ocean floor, to never be found again.

 

Something pulling, fingers curling into Kenny’s shirt and pulling him up as a firm voice, a voice be recognized told him, “It’s not your time, Ken, nor is it his. This isn’t you, this isn’t your fate. Breathe.”

 

Suddenly, despite his head sunk under the sea, he could breathe. He had strength, and he used it to pull Stan out and onto the docks. He could h e a r the sloshing, pressing his hands to his limp friend’s stomach, heart racing with the wind in his ears as he pushed, up and down, up and down until Stan rolled to his side, lips parted as everything flowed out from his mouth.

 

Everything.

 

He wasn’t breathing, he was so still, he was so pale. So dead .

 

He looked up to see their friends and family staring at Kenny, disapproving of him and his inability to save one of his best friends. “I tried my best!” He protested, could hear the car alarms in his ears as he shook his head, tears falling.

 

“It’s not my fault, it’s not my fa ult, it's not my fault!”

 

Kenny sat upright in bed, chest heaving and tears falling onto his lap, sweat sticking his shirt and pj pants to his sticky, chilled skin.

 

He gasped and wrapped his own fingers around his throat, breath heavy and shoulders shaking. No siblings bursting into his room and oh right, Kevin was just out , angry at their parents and Karen was at Tricia’s.

 

What to do, what to do?

 

He shoved his blankets off and looked at the clock. Sunday afternoon. Good morning texts from hours ago on his phone from Kyle, Karen, Eric, Tweek, Wendy… Stan.

 

Stan, Stan, Stan .

 

Barely had his parka on before he was running out barefoot, snow and rocks stinging his bare feet as he ran down the sidewalk in just pj pants, his t-shirt and his parka with one destination in mind. It wasn’t all that far away, but he still heard the confused or horrified calls of people on the sidewalk, Kyle even leaning out his window to ask what the fuck he thought he was doing, running barefoot in winter?

 

He didn’t stop until he was at Stan’s door, pounding furiously before someone answered - not Stan. He looked so lost for a second before weakly smiling at Sharon Marsh, hesitantly asking to see Stan, “I forgot I had something I really need to talk to Stan about, Mrs. Marsh… Is he home?”

 

He was directed to Stan’s room, and he was justified in shrieking and ripping the bottle of whiskey out of his hands, wasn’t he?

 

Stan looked shocked and bitter over the action until he saw the stricken look on Kenny’s face, sweat sticking blond locks to his forehead as he stood there still as a statue, staring in horror at Stan as he held the whiskey bottle captive close to his chest

 

He was unsteady, looked almost as drunk as Stan wished he could be until Kenny set the bottle down slow on his desk, and then darted over to his side on the bed, immediately wrapping his arms right around Stan Marsh, knocking him back into the bed as Kenny clung tight , hands white-knuckled where his fingers dug into his t-shirt. Stan, Stan, Stan...

 

He didn’t know he was sobbing, loud, openly into Stan’s shirt, dark spots left by tears pouring like rain until Stan spoke, voice weak as gentle fingers ran through blond locks, one hand gentle against the back of his head and the other slowly rubbing his back as his mind caught up to what the fuck was happening. He didn’t understand why . Why was Kenny there, in his pajamas no less, why did Kenny rip his whiskey out of his hands, why was Kenny sobbing into his shirt like that?

 

The hand on Kenny’s head left to grab his phone when it went off, saw their group chat on his lockscreen. He sighed, setting it down and squeezing the other gently, the only sound in the room being Kenny’s sobs quieting to little hiccups and sniffling after a couple minutes.

 

Kyle: Is Kenny okay, Stan? I saw him run to your place barefoot a couple minutes ago.

 

Stan glanced down, furrowed his brows at the sight of the old, once white pj pants and his bare feet. He paused a moment before nudging Kenny, wincing when his friend clung tighter, shook his head. He didn’t want to let go of him. He managed to sit up with Kenny in his lap, still holding tight, but that was okay. He kept one arm around the other, resting his cheek against blond hair as he unlocked his phone with his free hand, slow to message back but still surprised by some of the messages.

 

Tweek T: he probably had a nightmare. he had one the other day abt me. dont think he handles them well

 

Oh, a name they don’t often see come up in their group.

 

Karen: He had one yesterday with me, too! i don’t know what’s wrong with kenny but hes not sleeping good :/

 

Stan bit his lip, looking down at Kenny, who’s lidded eyes were staring at Stan’s shirt. He wasn’t moving, almost like a statue in his lap, but he was breathing, sniffling every now and then. Stan stared for a few minutes until blue eyes flickered up to him and freckled cheeks went a little pink. He didn’t look away.

 

It was silent for even longer, before Stan quietly asked, “Did you have a nightmare?” and Kenny winced, but slowly nodded, only adding more questions to the many Stan already had. First things first.

 

“Was it about me?” another slow nod. God, how did they do things like this? Stan leaned more toward drinking his woes away, less thinking and more whiskey burning such worries out of his throat.

 

But he clearly couldn’t do that with Kenny in his lap, looking ready to just start crying again any moment. 

 

Kenny was mumbling, and Stan had to lean down slightly to catch what he was saying. When he did hear, however, he paused, held Kenny just a little tighter. I did my best it’s not my fault it’s not my fault i tried to save him

 

Kenny spent the rest of the day at Stan’s, clinging to his friend and following him around his house unless it was to the bathroom. Each time he had to go to the bathroom or asked Kenny to just wait there, “Dude, I’m just going to the kitchen to get us something to eat. Count, okay? Count the seconds to five minutes, and I’ll be back,” he’d come back and find Kenny curled up on his bed, his pillow in his arms looking a little lost at sea.

 

It felt a little difficult to get him to act like he used to. He kept eyeing the whiskey until Stan took it downstairs, put it away proper and swore to Kenny he wouldn’t touch it. “No whiskey.” Kenny had whispered with their pinkies linked together. “No whiskey.” Stan agreed easily, giving a firm nod.

 

Kenny’s breath hitched for a moment and before Stan could ask what was wrong, his finger tightened around Stan’s. “No drowning.” He whispered, and Stan frowned, eyes narrowing just slightly. He nodded regardless. “No drowning.”

 

So he’d been clued in on Kenny’s dream so subtly. Kenny was more relaxed at his side as the day progressed, accepting a warmer, bigger shirt from Stan’s closet at one point and leaving his parka on the floor. He kept tugging the collar up over his mouth. Stan didn’t comment. 

 

When Tweek and Kyle showed up at his door, he could take a guess what they were there for, and Kenny was pulled off the couch for the sake of tight hugs and questions on if he’s okay. Kenny didn’t answer the questions, but he melted into the hugs and smiled reassuringly at his friends, willingly let himself be tugged off into the kitchen with Tweek while Kyle stayed with Stan. It was easy enough to tell Tweek about the dream, easy to melt into the tight hug and assure him that yeah, he was okay, or he would be, at the very least.

 

They stuck around a while longer, and when Kenny and Stan were talking in the kitchen, Stan noticed the wide-eyed stare Kenny had when he saw his friend glance toward the liquor cabinet.

 

The obvious worry melted away when he grabbed sodas from the fridge for them instead, pressing one into Kenny’s hand before bumping his can with Kenny’s and saying with a smile that soothed any worry and fear he had, “I made a promise, didn’t I?”

Chapter Text

Everyone who had ever come across Karen McCormick either loves her, or loved her. She was a kind girl with a sweet voice, a gold heart and love for everyone who got to know her, and who didn’t.

 

He never understood why this happened, no matter how hard he tried. Humans were complex creatures. He was, too.

 

He only let himself feel when he was alone.

 

Old notepads and sketchbooks and parchment with the same face drawn on near every page. The same girl with the same pigtails, the same warm eyes, the same sweet smile. Stars and rainbows and cute clouds surrounding her, bright and happy things to reflect the bright and happy look on the girl’s face.

 

Sometimes it was himself, always hurt, always dead. Blood dripping from his lips, bruises and wounds no one would ever recover from, the page stained in crimson ink. Skulls and stars floating around his head to reflect the dead stare he always had in his eyes as the blood pooled beneath him while his life faded.

 

His significant others never understood. He wished he could erase the looks of horror, confusion, anger and distress from their faces when they caught sight of the sketchbook, left out in the open.

 

Those looks haunted him almost as much as Karen’s.

 

So much had happened in such a short time. But nothing haunted and hurt him as much as what happened to his sister.

 

Nothing would ever amount to the pain that stabbed through him at the memory and reminders, to the nightmares that haunted him day in and day out that he never spoke a word of, in the vacant looks on his face and the exhaustion weighing him down and the tears that dripped onto old parchment and ruined painstakingly smooth strokes of ink to form her face, line her eyes and destroy the failed attempts at copying the smile he would never see again.

 

He never cried so much in his life as he did that day, sitting close to Karen in the ambulance and holding her hand as they tried in vain to save her life, her precious life not yet lived to the fullest. He cursed everything that ever lined up to let such a travesty happen.

 

Tears fell from her eyes too, blood covering her smooth skin and her sweet smile so weak, so pained as her hand rose, shaking just so as it pressed to his cheek, thumb swiping away the tears that poured down tan, freckled cheeks while words left her lips, even as he pleaded for her to stop under his breath, begged her to not give up. You’ll be okay, Kare-bear, you’ll be fine, please stop, don’t leave, Karen

 

And still, she sung so softly, voice weak, cracking, words halting for coughed up blood every once in a while as the ambulance sped past cars and honked at traffic.

 

He told me that I was Apollo 13. On that very last day, he said, “shoot for your dreams, little girl, to the stars.” Well, I’m taking you with me. Now this one is ours, and I know what you’d say, you’d say, “On with the show,” so on we go.

 

He never cried harder in his life, felt his heart shattering within his chest when her eyes slipped closed, her breath forming her final words to him. See you later, Magical Max ...

 

When they met him in the flower field in the midst of the woods weeks later, he looked more composed than they expected, and yet just as broken as they thought he would be.

 

Kenny didn’t smile, not once that entire visit. He walked through wet grass and flowers barefoot, no mind for the water soaking through his jeans as his hands pulled from his dark hoodie’s pockets to hook a simple, silver chain necklace with a single lavender pearl hanging off around Tricia ‘Ruby’ Tucker’s neck. His hands pressed gently to her cheeks, surprising everyone with a firm kiss on her forehead and a whisper of, “My sister loved you. She trusted you. She spoke so highly of you, higher than anyone else. Convinced you were much like me - an angel, but without the wings.”

 

They were staring. His eyes stayed locked on Tricia as his hands rested against her arms. One hand moved to touch the pearl. “Her heart and soul went into each one of these trinkets. Something for those she loved, cared for and trusted to remember her by. I’m sorry I didn’t attend the funeral.” She barely had a moment to look angry before he stopped her with a far more tired look. “I was so close, I did what I could to save her, and it was still not enough. Not this time… The least I can do for her, the grounded angel that was my sister, is to be there for those she loved. Still loves, no matter where she is.” Her face softened, and Kenny released her.

 

They didn’t know how he had so many little trinkets in his pocket, but they didn’t comment. Personalized little things the siblings somehow knew they would like. They didn’t know he was serious in his words, that her heart and soul was in each one. He didn’t feel the need to explain, and they didn’t feel the need to ask.

 

It felt like someone hit a fast forward button - something that had days, weeks, months fly by like nothing . One moment he was alone, sitting among stars and clouds and sketching her face on every piece of paper, heart aching in his loneliness and exhaustion, and the next, he was curled up on the couch, his head in Kyle’s lap and his legs over Stan’s as he stared almost unblinking up at the ceiling, feeling gentle hands in his hair as the two watched movies, discussed them and bickered over his body.

 

He didn’t know when the tears started falling, sliding down the sides of his head as his cheeks reddened, heterochromatic blue and purple eyes going from staring at the ceiling, to staring up at Kyle, watching the looks on his face as he argued over some stupid plotline Kenny couldn’t care less about over him. He only noticed when Tweek knelt on the ground in front of Kyle, rested a hand on Kenny’s cheek as Wendy and Craig leaned over the back of the couch, their looks of concern enough to have him squeeze his eyes shut, turning his head to bury his face into Kyle’s shirt.

 

He never addressed the things Professor Chaos had said to him, the kidnapping, his terror and sadness with their injuries, all received for trying to protect the demigod. Wasn’t he supposed to be strong and powerful?

 

Protests, reassurance and words of love reached his ears when he accidentally uttered aloud, “ I’m not supposed to c r y anymore …”

 

The real breakdown came that night, sitting cross-legged in bed. His heroes refused to do any hero work that night from his tears earlier in the day. They were doing nightly routines or watching movies or reading. He’d opted to go to bed early, assured them he’d be okay by himself for a little while until they joined him - he could use some time to get himself together.

 

And it was hard being alone, even for the short time it was. Hard to stare at the wall as he sat in the middle of his bed in little more than his boxers and his favorite hoodie. Hard, because the tears just wouldn’t stop. Hard, because when Tweek poked his head in from the doorway to check on Kenny, he was met by the sight of the blond sobbing into one of their pillows, gasping for breath between weak cries that shook him. He was only a little relieved that Tweek didn’t call for the others, instead crossing the room to wrap his arms around Kenny tightly. Craig followed shortly, then Kyle, Stan, Wendy. He couldn’t stop crying and he wouldn’t let them take the pillow away, wouldn’t let them uncover his reddened, tear stained face, but he had no issue leaning into the gentle touches, the tight hugs and kisses to his shoulders and neck and fingers through his hair.

 

When he could breathe again, he told them. In a cracking voice muffled against the soft pillow, he told them those words he’d heard before, something they had known all along but he hadn’t. He killed her, he was the one that took my baby sister from me, I’ll never see her again because of him and I was still powerless to stop him from hurting you all this time. What kind of demigod am I, what kind of guardian angel can’t even protect his loved ones? What kind of person am I that I can’t even protect those I love?

 

He wouldn’t believe their reassurances that the words weren’t true, not this time, but it was far more comforting to have Wendy push the pillow down slowly and softly tell him, “We love you for who you are. There’s more to you than that. You protect us from ourselves. Let us protect you from everything else.”


He let them take the pillow away, choosing instead to wrap his arms tight around her middle and breathe at last.

Chapter Text

Kenny got upset rather easily when his sister was born.

 

He hadn’t wanted a sister. He really hadn’t. It would change everything and there would be too many kids in a dilapidated house that barely qualified, under the care of alcoholic drug addicted parents who would sooner spend their money on weed and pabst blue ribbon than food and water. He didn’t want a sister complicating the hell he and Kevin lived in already, but there was no fixing the problem.

 

He changed his mind when she was born. Baby Karen was put gently in his arms, as he sat on his mother’s hospital bed, wondering how they’d afford all this. He opened his mouth to refuse, but the look his parents shot him silenced him and Kenny held the baby girl so carefully, looking down at her with squinting eyes, a look of mild disdain that softened exponentially when her brown eyes looked up at him with an already curious stare.

 

He loved her. He did. With all his heart, he loved his sister and swore to protect her. But that didn’t make him any less upset when his mother blew off any vague plans she made with her sons when sober in favor of playing with her daughter, buying her food, clothes, toys. Sobering up to spoil her with what little they had. Kevin understood far better than Kenny did, often wrapping an arm tight around his little brother’s shoulders when he grew agitated. He loves Karen - they both do, but does that truly make it any better, that their mother would try so hard to change for her, but appear to simply forget she had two other children?

 

It was harder when he didn’t have Kevin around. Kevin found odd jobs, did what he could to support himself and his brother while Kenny went to school and Carol cared for Karen. Even at school, Kenny was on edge, snappy and bitter. He didn’t put up with the usual insults from his friends, walking away or snapping back. If they were quieter around him by the end of the day, it was because they’d taken notice of his piss poor mood.

 

He’d asked his mom if she could help him with his homework when he returned home. Carol said yes, she’d help him.

 

He didn’t bother to remind her or speak up when he saw her drawing with Karen instead, prior engagements completely forgotten. He could barely focus on the papers in front of him on their coffee table.

 

The one time he’d complained that she’d forgotten about Kenny and Kevin both, their father snapped at him for having an attitude over the new baby in the family. Kenny never spoke of it out loud again, not at home. He started having little meetings with Butters and Tweek in a corner of the playground, hood pushed down so the three could vent together and voice their dismay and sadness in their home lives together.

 

He couldn’t stand his friends complaining about their parents.

 

My mom sent me to bed early like the bitch she is , Eric hissed. Mom almost made me late for school because she’s overbearing , Kyle rolled his eyes. Mom forgot she said she’d make my favorite for dinner and made something else , Stan pouted.

 

All complaints silenced by Kenny shoving his hood down and slamming his hands on the table, a snarl on the little boy’s lips as he glared at his friends. Well aware of the eyes of two certain blonds on him. Oh, boo hoo, mommy sent me to bed early, mommy made sure I had everything I needed, mommy didn’t make the right thing for dinner, he mocked bitterly, no mercy or care in his heart for the startled or even hurt looks on their faces. Fuck all of you! Fuck you guys and fuck your stupid families!

 

Tweek and Butters found him curled up in the corner of the playground they usually met at, face pressed into the fabric of his old pants. The hand on his back and in his hair had words spilling off chapped lips as his tears soaked his pants. She doesn’t make us dinner. She doesn’t say good morning or make me lunch. She doesn’t kiss me goodnight and she never read us stories or sends us to bed early because we were bad .

 

They understood. They always understood. It soothed his heart a little to cling to his two friends, hiding his face in Butters’ shoulder when his other so-called friends stepped out in search of their fourth. Found their fourth sobbing into Butters’ shoulder as he and Tweek rubbed his back. They didn’t understand. They never understood. Wanted a mom like theirs… Someone who- who would look at Kevin and I, and remember they had more than one kid, s- someone who would make us snacks and help us with homework and comfort us when we cry

 

He wasn’t sure what hurt more. His friends’ lack of understanding and lack of attempts to understand, or the way his mother barely bat an eye at his red, tear stained face when he returned home.

 

It felt nice to have Kevin acknowledge him, though, cold hands pressing against his heated cheeks to tip his face up and make his brother look up at his worried expression. He didn’t bother to ask about Kenny’s day, or ask what made him so sad, or some ‘who hurt you’ type questions. Probably because he already knew - it wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. It felt nice to wrap his arms around his brother’s middle, and receive some type of comfort from at least one of his family members.

 

He still played with Karen when he had the chance and isn’t it just that much worse, to have his mother glance at him with fondness or actually acknowledge his presence when he joined them, or when she sat by them when he was playing with her.

 

Regardless of whatever mild disdain he held for his baby sister, he still cried like a bitch when her first word hadn’t been ‘mama’ or ‘dada’. ‘enny!

 

Eventually, he had her saying Ken , and even if she messed it up, he still teared up and hugged her close every time.

 

He still wondered, every single time he saw his mother’s soft look to the little girl, why weren’t Kevin and I worth changing for?

 

No one ever offered an answer, least of all her. There was no happy ending to the story. Kenneth McCormick grew tired, jaded, and lonely. Withdrawn and angry.

 

He never explained to his confused, concerned friends who saw these things at his side when they went to his house and didn’t bat an eye at the behavior, didn’t get why Kenny would want a mother who forced him to sleep early or made him eat things he didn’t want to eat ( he did eat things he didn’t want to eat, he scowled at the thought, at his friends, at everything they stood for because they couldn’t open their eyes ). 


They never understood, and Kenny slowly separated himself from them, barely batting an eye at their angry outbursts of why are you choosing them over us what do they do that we can’t it’s always been the four of us you can’t leave now before he would turn his back, let Leo take his hand and Tweek drape his arm over Kenny’s shoulders as the three walked off. If his ‘family’ wouldn’t choose him like he tried to choose them , he’d find a new one.

Chapter Text

Karen learned about all of this when she was seven, slowly but surely noticing the forlorn look on her idolized older brother’s face as their mom doted on her, helped her with homework, kept her clothed and fed and happy. Slowly but surely noticing that Kenny and Kevin never once received the same treatment.

 

Once, six year old Karen had asked her mother, mommy, you love kenny and kevin, right? and her mother had scrunched her nose up in confusion, responded an easy, of course i love them, baby only for Kenny to snap the book in his hands shut, startling both of them. Found cold silver and blue eyes staring at Carol as poison dripped from his words, didn’t anyone tell you it’s not good to lie?

 

He went to his room, and he didn’t leave once all night. If Karen heard the loud bang! in the dead of night, found blood seeping out from under his doorway, didn’t see Kenny the next day, Karen really didn’t remember.

 

So she asked Kenny that question one day. Looked up at her big brother as he helped her draw flowers on the walls of the room she shared with Kevin and watched his face. His easy smile, relaxed look as he drew a heart, a flower, a unicorn horn for her. Kenny, does mommy love you and Kevin?

 

He went still, the smile becoming more… Plastic was the best word she could think of.

 

Fake .

 

Yes, she does. He’d answered softly. She knew he was lying. Mom just shows it in weird ways. Don’t worry about it, Kare-bear .

 

His false happiness, lies and excuses came to a full stop when Karen stepped out of school and saw her brother leaning down slightly, hugging Tweek Tweak tightly as Leopold ‘Butters’ Stotch patted his back, weak but fond smiles on their faces. Maybe it wasn’t right to question him then and there, but at the time, it seemed harmless. She didn’t understand what was so wrong, or why Tweek gave Kenny such a horrified, angry look as her words registered with him. Hey, Kenny? I didn’t get to ask this morning, but did you spill red kool aid or something outside your room? The carpet looked all red…

 

He assured her he’d clean it when he got home. He texted her a little while later after she’d gone home that he wouldn’t make it back, that he was staying with a friend.

 

While Karen did her homework with Carol at the coffee table back home, listening to her mother teach her mathematics and English, Kenny was at the Tweak residence, sat on Tweek’s bed crying out apologies into his green shirt as his friend ran fingers through his hair, slowly soothing his tears silently. god tweekers i’m so sorry please don’t hate me it’s just too much it’s too much i just didn’t want you to worry -

 

They ended up sleeping curled up together on Tweek’s bed, with Kenny half laying on his friend, one leg over Tweek’s hand hand gripping his shirt. They skipped school, Kenny soothed Tweek’s irritation and frustration when his parents didn’t even check on the boys, and they spent the day laying in bed, cursing their families, Tweek messing with legos and Kenny drawing him pictures as he watched the lego crafts form.

 

They took solace in other things sometimes. In Craig’s hand holding Tweek’s tightly on a bad day in order to calm him down, pressed the occasional kiss to the back of his hand, or the soft, shared kisses between Kenny and Butters, smooches presses to cheeks and foreheads to offer support, love and comfort.

 

Word of them being official went without them saying, and angry as he was at his other friends,  it warmed him a little to see the softer expressions, hear Stan’s breathy laughter as he called Kenny and his boyfriend cute . And yeah, that word suited them, Kenny agreed easily. Together because Tweek dropped off first, leaving Kenny to walk Butters home, to be surprised when Leo stopped outside his home, turned and planted one on a surprised Kenny before darting inside, not staying to watch the reaction.

 

Kenny greeted him with a kiss and a hand to hold the next day.

Chapter Text

He wasn’t really used to looking out for himself properly.

 

Kenny has worked at the gas station for ages, used to boring days and nights sat at the register reading magazines, playing with his outdated phone and waiting for customers or for his shift to end so he could clock out and walk home or to the safety of a friend’s house. He was used to a tired, boring job waiting for customers or people who needed gas. He was used to the monotonous days of doing the same things over and over and over until the day ended and he was free. He had more than one job, and he’d never told anyone, least of all him , but his favorite job was at the repair shop with his father and Kevin, listening to Stuart tell him about certain tools and machinery they worked with.

 

But the gas station warred with that, warred with which was his favorite when that change was made.

 

When his favorite person walked in with her girlfriend.

 

Her warm honey brown eyes watching with delight that matched her grin as sky blue eyes lit up the moment he saw her. “Whatcha doin’ ‘ere?” Kenny drawled, a lazy grin on his face as he stretched over the counter, knew Ruby Tucker and his own baby sister wouldn’t judge him for such a silly motion. He felt both impossibly light, and impossibly excited when Karen announced, “We’re gonna be working here with you from now on, Ken!”

 

God, he couldn’t decide on his favorite. Working at the gas station with Karen and Ruby, or working at the repair shop with Kevin and his father.

 

He liked making memories with the girls. He liked walking up and down aisles stocking shelves as he belted out, “ She’s so high, like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Aphrodite !” in time with the radio playing softly, and listening to the girls giggle and laugh by the register as Karen’s big brother made a delightful fool of himself for his own entertainment, not to mention theirs.

 

He liked knowing he could protect them in such close proximity. Liked being able to spot some creeper leaning over the counter chatting up Ruby and being able to stroll over, seamlessly taking her place. Ignoring the look of confusion and worry on Tricia Tucker’s face as he shooed her away, smirked at the creep and leaned right into his space on the counter as he said, absolute venom beneath his sickly sweet tone, “ What do you think you’re doing chatting up my employees ?”

 

He liked being able to stop Karen from stepping out to help some weirdo pump their gas, giving his sister a peck atop her head before winking at her and relieving her of dealing with the creeps with an easy, “I got this one, kiddo.”

 

He didn’t hesitate to put himself between his girls and creepy older guys and girls that tried to chat them up. He liked the power he had in his position, he liked his ability to protect them and teach them.

 

He was teased relentlessly for having what was practically heart eyes for the gay power couple of town when they strolled into the station with Ruby who was off for the day. Karen greeted her with a big smile, and Kenny had trouble finding his words around a shy smile.

 

Until he was stocking in the same aisle Tricia and some other guy was on, her brother and his boyfriend waiting for her at the register to pick the snack she wanted to get. Had trouble finding words until he glanced over, saw her tense up as the creeper rested a hand on her ass. Saw red .

 

Now, some things are pushed back so far in his mind he has trouble remembering them clearly.

 

He had trouble remembering exactly what happened as he sat cross legged on the floor in front of the register, blood on his face and bruised up knuckles while they waited for the police to arrive and deal with the guy knocked out in a bit of a bloody mess in aisle three. He stared straight ahead with lidded eyes as Karen sat beside him holding Ruby tightly, as Tweek and Craig knelt beside Kenny, trying to get the story from him before Craig’s sister explained. Told a short story of Kenny spotting a guy being a disgusting creep to her, of Kenny laying into him without hesitation because how dare someone touch his employee, his minor employee and his sister’s girlfriend no less?

 

The police took down the story from Ruby, Craig, Karen and Tweek, and the few mumbles they could get out of Kenny before they left with the guy in the back of their car, leaving them alone.

 

They took him home. It seemed as if he was in a whole other world, a little drifty. It had been so long since he’d been in a proper fight, so long since he’d lost his mind with rage , since he needed to know how to throw a punch.

 

My hands hurt , he noted absently, sat on the couch and letting his head hang down against his chest as he raised a hand to look at it, look at the bruises and blood that wasn’t his. Or was it? He wasn’t sure. His attention was caught when Kevin crouched in front of him, expression sympathetic as he rolled some bandages over Kenny’s knuckles, spoke words Kenny couldn’t hear to the others in the room as he handled his brother.

 

Kenny didn’t pay attention. Not until Karen snapped her fingers in front of his lidded gaze hours later, had his head jerking up so he could stare at her. “Bed time.” She said, voice softer than the action. They were privy to the sight of the girl pulling her brother up by his wrist, leading him off to his room to tuck him in.

 

The next time Kenny saw Tweek and Craig, it was under more unfortunate circumstances.

 

He was kind of drifting through the day, exhausted from a lack of sleep all night, from some bout of insomnia he truly didn’t appreciate. Thankfully, the girls didn’t mind taking over stocking and helping people fill their cars with gas while he handled checkouts.

 

Not so thankfully, in a town like the one they lived in, people were either too friendly, or not friendly enough. Some were neutral as could be, but he couldn’t really find his tongue to speak when someone older than him started hitting on the tall blond, strange compliments to his hair and his eyes and his freckles, no regard for Karen’s hard stare. Kenny didn’t put up a fuss he like normally did over people like that - it was directed at him , not his girls. He could handle such things. He was used to it. He’d spare them from it as long as he could.

 

He couldn’t even try to hide his surprise that day. That day the guy was back yet again with words he thought were smooth, propositions he thought were subtle. Like each time before, Kenny didn’t speak beyond what he had to, fighting off a smile as he entertained himself with a thought of, I’m not gay but 20$ is 20$ , and how he’d rather drop than consider the guy.

 

He was leaning over the counter, smirking at Kenny, and Ruby had a phone to her ear, Karen at her side glowering at the guy as Kenny slowly bagged his things - alcohol, cigarettes, things he used to partake in. Things he had more of a reign on now. An alcoholic isn’t a good role model for kids , he’d tell himself. He’d consider raiding Stuart’s stash, only to see Karen and Ruby’s faces in his mind and the idea was gone in a flash.

 

And there was that wide eyed shock when a certain boy with black hair and his blond boyfriend stepped into the station. Ruby wasted no time in speaking under her breath to them, and when Kenny slowly handed the man his bag and change and the other didn’t leave, Karen decided it’d be okay to say, “Sir, your transaction is done and he’s supposed to go on lunch with his boyfriends.”

 

The two didn’t bat an eye at the statement, but the guy narrowed his eyes at it and the flush spreading across pale, freckled cheeks before he left. He gaped like a fish as Karen grinned at him, as Ruby snorted, as Tweek and Craig gave him those smiles he was weak in the knees for and asked if he actually did want to go to lunch with them, let the girls handle the station for a bit.

 

With the looks the girls gave him, he had no choice but to agree, flustered and fidgeting in the middle back seat of Craig’s car as he took them to some restaurant he didn’t pay attention to the name of for a quick lunch before he had to get back to work. His hands pressed into the pockets of his jeans, parka at home around Karen’s shoulders more often than not since she outgrew hers.

 

At the restaurant was where Craig quietly thanked him for taking care of Ruby. Kenny blinked slowly before he eyed the table, aware of their stares as he said softly, “Don’t thank me for that.”

 

Before Craig could argue, Kenny smiled slowly at the table, slumped a little in his seat. “She’s one of the best people I’ve worked with. I know you guys aren’t always on the best terms, but… She talks highly of you a lot, man, and she’s good at her job - good in general, it- she- I-” His words were gone all of a sudden, but they seemed to understand with matching kind smiles, assurance he didn’t need to speak. It was strange to see such a soft look on Craig Tucker’s face. His stomach was doing flips and his heart was thumping in his chest when he grinned back.

 

It showed how far they would go for him when they were all out again, taking a walk on his day off. He’d stayed under the counter all day playing on his PSP until Ruby demanded he go elsewhere, only receive a wink and a teasing, bored of me already, Ruby? Man, thought you loved me . He didn’t tease her anymore when she shamelessly texted her brother and he showed up within half an hour, simply telling him, “Stop bothering Ruby. Come on,” and off he went, dragged out on a walk with Tucker and his boyfriend, walking between them and when did this happen, exactly? He could’ve sworn he’d been walking beside Tweek, kept the other blond between he and Craig. Tweek must’ve changed that when he wasn’t focusing.

 

But then they were standing around outside the park, distracted by a little story from Kenny about Ruby and Karen when his words halted, lodged in his throat when someone’s hands touched him. The feeling of disgust directed at more than just the creepy guy came instantly, and just as quickly, he was on the cement ground with his nose either broken or something close to that by Tweek .

 

The twitchy man wrapped a gentle hand around his bicep while his other took Craig’s and they took cover in the park, sat under some trees together as Kenny sat between them, flustered and sputtering all kinds of things between words of gratefulness and apologies for the guy in the first place.

 

And he did that, kept going and rambling about how grateful he was, how they didn’t have to do that, worries over Tweek’s knuckles and what would happen to them, rambling about this or that until two soft kisses were pressed to either of his cheeks, leaving him more flustered than usual and suddenly speechless as he stared at their soft smiles. Looks of worry for the scruffy blond boy melting into expressions of fond affection. He found himself longing for his parka to hide within the safety of the faux fur hood like he used to, to twist the strings around his fingers and yank them tight. 

 

He wasn’t sure what to say, scrunching up his nose as the two laughed softly.

 

Shut them both up with quick kisses pressed to both their cheeks before his face was hidden in his knees, hiding his confused fluster and his dreamy smile when their hands rested on him, warm comfort on his back and in his hair.

Chapter Text

Kenny likes working with his dad a lot more than he expected.

 

Where part of him worries it would be terrible, worries his father will lose it on him if he does wrong or if he doesn’t work hard enough.

 

Worries he won’t be good enough.

 

Pleasantly surprised when on one of the first days he worked with his father when he worked on a car til lunch, surprised his old man with refusal to eat despite his growling stomach until he was finished with what he was doing and rolled out from under the car. Stuart wore an almost fond smile as he helped his son up, slapped his own hat on Kenny’s head and used his stern tone as he told him to go take his lunch and let his dad take care of the rest.

 

He decided he liked working with his dad.

 

Stuart didn’t ask for his hat back. Kevin tugged the bill over his face and told him it suits him when his brother arrived to work. He’d never loved his brother and father more, never smiled wider. Some new found hope in his chest that just maybe he could make them proud.

 

Maybe his dad would be proud of him.

 

He wore the Scotch hat all day, until the end of work at the repair shop, he wore it as he walked into the gas station, he wore it the entirety of his shift, as his sister and Ruby step into the station for their own shifts, as his sister eyes it curiously before smiling brightly at him.

 

Looks away when his boyfriends Tweek and Craig show up, knowing full well how everyone feels about his father, but smiles, heart feeling lighter in his chest when they tell him how it suits him.

 

He wears it when they go home, and pulls the collar of his shirt over his lips to hide his ear splitting grin when his dad takes one look at him, lifts the hat to ruffle his hair and then puts it right back with a simple, “Keep it,” before his attention is back on the pabst can in his hand.

 

Kenny is softer than his friends give him credit before.

 

Stan, Kyle and Eric - well, Stan and Kyle think Kenny is little more than the pervert they grew up with. A disaster boy willing to do anything for a quick buck, someone who ate school lunches and always helped Eric with whatever scheme of the week he came up with. Tucker’s squad used to avoid him for the very same reasons.

 

Kenny sometimes had to pause and remind himself to breathe when he thought about the boy he grew up with going from insults and swears toward Kenny to fond looks and soft kisses pressed to Kenny’s skin with Tweek. 

 

If any of them saw Kenny at home, though, they’d know he was soft.

 

They’d get to see him making breakfast, humming little songs to himself as he flipped pancakes and french toast before waking Karen and Kevin up with soft calls and the temptations of something other than cereal or pop-tarts for food. He knew Kevin favored french toast. He knows Karen prefers blueberry pancakes. He knows he has taught himself to excel at making both, and he lets himself take joy and pride in not only Karen eating with a big smile on her face, but his parents’ tired smiles of approval and gratitude when he wakes them up for breakfast as well.

 

No one acknowledges the plate of french toast no one was eating. Not when they understood.

 

He doesn’t make enough to screw around like his friends. He does make enough to make and bring a good amount of muffins to school simply for his friends. He makes enough to not worry about his family eating, to work himself into the grave to make sure his family was taken care of.

 

The first time he made and brought muffins, he delighted in the looks of surprise and delight on his friends’ faces as he plopped the brown bag down and took out the homemade muffins for his friends. Eric didn’t question it, but Kyle did, looking over in concern at Kenny when he placed one in front of him, what’s this, Ken? and Kenny grinned at him, happiness infectious enough to make Stan, Leo and the others light up too. Got paid, so I thought I’d do something with the leftovers after bills and stuff .

 

They looked concerned at the mention of bills. From experience in the past, they didn’t ask him about it. delighting in the surprise gifts.

 

Kenny never acknowledged that Kevin stopped coming in to work. He shut down conversation with Stuart with a big smile and a far away look as he talked about how he couldn’t wait to tell Kevin what he’d learned, couldn’t wait to impress his big brother by showing him he knew how to fix their truck now.

 

Maybe if he pretended he didn’t understand hard enough, he could forget what happened and truly not understand.

 

He wouldn’t break. He wouldn’t cry. He wouldn’t let them see the cracks in his armor.

 

He would attend the funeral in a cheap suit. He would hold Karen tight to his chest as she cried. He would stare at the casket and he wouldn’t shed a tear .

 

Even while his friends held onto him. Even while his mother cried into his chest. Even when his dad’s firm hand rested on his shoulder as a tear fell down his old man’s face. 

 

They all worried. They all asked, and they all got nowhere with him. Kenny would look his friends and his boyfriends in the eyes, smile and ask, what do you mean? Kevin’s not gone. He wouldn’t ditch his shift at the repair shop with me .

 

His smile would falter, his gaze would lock on the cement below his feet and he would tell himself he didn’t understand why they looked so sad all of a sudden.

 

They all knew how he went out, protecting his little brother from the less than savory people that liked to hang around their house under the cover of the moon. It was never kept a secret from the moment Stuart called the police to the day of the funeral. It was no secret that Kenny got into a bit of a yelling match with their drunken father in defense of his siblings and Kevin took him outside to cool off. It was no secret that some crackhead with a knife decided to take things a step further when intimidation tactics didn’t work, and Kevin wouldn’t let them lay a single hand on his baby brother.

 

It was no secret to his friends and boyfriends when they showed up at the house following the flashing red and blue lights to see Kenny, covered in blood that for the most part wasn’t his, tears pouring down his cheeks as he sat close to his all too still brother’s side. 

 

No, no. He shook his head. The teacher drones on to the class. Kenny doesn’t listen.

 

He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand . Kevin isn’t gone, is he? He promised to pick Kenny up from school from then on, that night. Told his brother they’d hang out more, work on the truck, go fishing, typical guy shit together . The teacher voiced complaints and worry when Kenny shoved himself out of his chair, bolting out of the classroom. He couldn’t breathe. It was too stuffy. His thoughts were running a mile a minute.

 

He woke up every day expecting Kevin to be there at his side, scolding him for sleeping in or nearly missing school. He barely noticed Craig and Tweek until he was pressed between them, sobbing into a familiar blue hoodie as hands rubbed up and down his back and sides. The teacher must’ve sent them after him, or perhaps they went without asking.

 

He couldn’t breathe. Kevin wasn’t gone. Kevin wasn’t gone . He couldn’t be. Could he?

 

Stuart didn’t push Kenny, doing little more than calling one or two of his friends when Kenny wouldn’t be able to pick himself up off the floor of the shop, tears leaking as he mumbled, over and over. He’s not gone, he’s not gone. He’s late for his shift. He promised to pick me up .

 

He started this job with excitement and joy in his heart. Kenny couldn’t wait to work with his father and brother. Stan and Kyle showed up to take him out of the shop. Stuart pressed a kiss to his forehead and put the Scotch hat on Kenny’s head before he left. Kenny had never felt so loved by his father before, insides twisting as he fidgeted until one of Kyle’s arms wrapped around his shoulders and Stan’s hand took one of his own.

 

They didn’t go to Stan or Kyle’s house. They found themselves laying around on Wendy’s floor as the girl tapped away at her laptop, no questions, no pushing. Kenny would tip his head back into the carpet and look up at where she sat cross legged on her bed, and she would meet his eyes with a tired look and he knew she would understand.

 

His mouth opened and closed for a minute, keeping Wendy’s attention. Her fingers halting over her keys caught Stan, Kyle, Bebe and his boyfriends’ attention. All was quiet until Kenny finally spoke, voice low. Fighting off inevitable tears. Kevin liked french toast , he’d whisper. Tweek’s fingers twisted into his greasy blond locks. They understood, and they let him speak. Kevin liked french toast. It was- it- I- Craig’s hand found his, a firm squeeze halting his rambles for a moment, long enough to sort his thoughts.

 

I liked working with him. I liked setting the table for him. He was kind of a dick. He liked action movies, he liked french toast, and he liked working at the shop with me . He wouldn’t say goodbye today, but maybe he could get somewhere close to okay at least. It was amazing, how so much could happen in such a short time. He hadn’t been working at the shop for very long before that night.

 

He still had loud nightmares he didn’t tell anyone about except Karen. He kind of had to when he was waking the girl up almost every night with loud noises from his room proving to be anything but sinful, but did she really have to go and tell Tweek, Craig and Ruby?

 

It was bad enough he couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten a full, good night’s sleep, but it felt like it only added insult to injury when they insisted on something of a sleepover, only to be woken in the dead of the night by Kenny’s cries barely stifled into Craig’s shirt that only quieted down when they woke him up too. It was bad enough he had to look at them in the darkness, blue eyes red rimmed and so, so tired and tell them - confirm for them that yeah, he was dreaming about what happened. He was dreaming about Kevin.

 

He only properly got back to work after he visited the cemetery with Karen.

 

She cried over the grave as she told him how things had been going in the past couple months since he left. Kenny didn’t cry until he knelt beside her, barely noticing the tears rolling down his cheeks as he gazed at the headstone. Kevin Thomas McCormick, beloved brother and son, remembered by all .

 

Kenny only noticed his tears when Karen’s hand slowly lifted to wipe them away before her arms were tight around his neck, hugging her brother tight. He returned the affection quickly, folding her into his arms and holding her on his lap as they cried over their brother, mourned together for the first time.

 

When he returned to work with Stuart, he didn’t mention Kevin, and neither did his father. They didn’t mention it, but the acknowledgement was there in Kenny’s arms wrapped tight around his father.

 

No tears this time, but the comfort, love and acknowledgement was in the few tears pricking Kenny and Stuart’s eyes and the hat adjusted over blond hair.

Chapter Text

Kenny sometimes had trouble sleeping, and though his friends and family worried about him, it wasn’t ever really much of a surprise to see dark circles under his eyes or for him to fall asleep during class or lunch sometimes if he wasn’t focused. Most of the time his friends just let him sleep unless he actually needed to wake up, often finding himself sleeping through lunch and a few of his classes because of late shifts at work or staying up for Karen when his parents drink or get high.

 

It was nice that his friends didn’t mind that much, though, generally ensuring that he gets to sleep as long as he can and sometimes even offering him sleeping pills or a sleepover at their place so he has somewhere safe and warm to be in order to catch up on the sleep he was so clearly lacking.

 

He’d decided that day he didn’t want to go to school. Exhaustion was weighing him down, and Kenny hadn’t had time to even study for the test of the day, so he saved himself the trouble.

 

He took his sketchbook to Stark’s Pond, aiming for some quiet time to put thoughts running rampant down on paper on a cold yet sunny day. That’s what he got for a while, feeling almost sleepy as he slowly sketched out trees and the waters of the lake, the birds in the trees and the rabbits and squirrels on the ground. Kenny sat comfortably on the bench at the empty pond, eventually laying down when his arms got tired. He set his sketchbook underneath his legs, hood of his parka bunched up under his neck as he looked up at the clouds, just relaxing, breathing.

 

He wasn’t quite sure when he fell asleep, surprisingly peaceful dreams of shaped clouds and friendly faces and spring flowers. Charcoal on his skin and clothes, pretty sunsets and his favorite people. It was one of the best dreams he’d had in a while.

 

When Kenny was awoken to a little shake to his arm, he was bleary eyed, still laying on his sketchbook and looking up sleepily to see the familiar faces. He greeted them with a tired grin and a soft, “Fancy seein’ you here, ladies,” as he sat up slowly, listening to Bebe and Heidi’s giggles as Wendy rolled her eyes at him fondly before she plopped down beside him. “Tired?” She asked, watching Kenny rub his eyes as he nodded, casually leaning his head on her shoulder as he spoke quietly. “Mm, fell asleep on accident.” Heidi took a spot next to Kenny, and he offered her a smile as she took his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “I’m glad you’re still drawing. You’re really good at it.” She got an appreciative grin for her comment as Bebe went and leaned over the back of the bench to smile at him as well and man, no wonder he made so many boys jealous at school.

 

“What were you working on?” Bebe asked, prompting him to adjust and pick the book up from under him, flipping to the most recent page, prompting gasps and words of concern from the girls as they gazed at the page. Even he began feeling a little uneasy the longer he stared at his most recent creation. Something terrifying and threatening hidden within the darkness and shadows it was birthed in, something after him. Something that has never given up before and will not give up now. Not until it has him, not until the mistake has been amended and his existence is destroyed like it should have been so long ago, a fate written in the stars from the day he was born-

 

Kenny shoved himself up from the bench, hand releasing Heidi’s, his sketchbook knocked down into the dirt and grass in his rapid motions. It was close to the edge of the lake. Kenny didn’t notice, or perhaps he didn’t care as Bebe went and grabbed it while Heidi jumped to her feet to grab onto his hand and keep him from bolting. Wendy stood as well, words of soft reassurance meant to calm flowing from her lips as her hands pressed along his jaw, forcing his wild silver and blue eyes to meet hers as she spoke. “Calm down, Kenny,” she breathed. “Deep breaths. It’s okay, just breathe . Follow my lead.”

 

When she had him breathing more slowly, Wendy finally asked as her fingers ran through her hair, Bebe coming to stand at her side with the book behind her back, “Now what’s the problem, Kenny? What made you draw that?” He started shaking his head, breathing uneasily as he stared near unblinkingly at Wendy. He was trembling just slightly, a little shake to his body as he blinked slowly. “I didn’t.” He breathed. “I don’t- wait, I don’t think I did, but- but it’s there, it’s there and it’s going to come after me- oh, god , Wendy-”

 

She pulled him into a tight hug, hands running up and down his sides as his own wrapped tight around her shoulders, confused fear stretching him thin as the girls tried to soothe him and his worries that came out of seemingly nowhere - horrors that jumped off his page and down his throat instead.

 

“Do you want us to call someone?” Bebe asked softly after a few minutes when he’d calmed down again. He huffed a fake laugh and shook his head, smiling weakly at Bebe as he took his book from her, arms winding around to hold it to his chest. “Nah, it’s okay, I- I’ll be fine. Nightmares, you know?”

 

Wendy didn’t seem to believe him. She didn’t argue, though. A quick, firm kiss was pressed to his cheek by Bebe before Heidi told him, “Straight home, Kenny. You don’t want to get sick or anything.” The boy paused a moment before he nodded slowly, repeating slowly, “Straight home, I don’t want to get sick…”

 

That was how he ended up slowly walking home alone, the girls left to go to Bebe’s house. He refused the hangout offer - straight home, don’t get sick. Straight home, don’t get sick.

 

He was stopped only by a certain vigilante and villain up ahead. He knew they’d stop fighting if they took notice of him, always fretting over the civilian that had no clue who they were.

 

Raised voices, loud , yelling swears and insults and threats, raised fists to attack further, loud loud loud -

 

His sketchbook thumped against the pavement when he dropped it and they both froze, gazes sliding over to stare at the blond. He felt bleary eyed and tired, mind running a mile a minute, sounds muffled and- oh, his hands were over his ears. He lowered them slowly, reaching down to pick up the sketchbook off the ground and brush the dirt off. When he stood back up, the two were there, looking at him in different ways. Mysterion, brown eyes narrowed - suspicious, bitter, what the fuck are you doing here? Chaos, blue eyes wide - fear, worry, what happened are you okay?

 

He swallowed thickly, uttered the words Heidi told him again. “ Straight home, don’t get sick …”

 

Bitter brown eyes more sympathetic and soft. Chaos offering to walk him home, and it wasn’t exactly a secret that he has a thing for Kenny. He reminded Kenny so much of his boyfriend. Always laughed off Karen’s occasional comment of Leo kinda looks like Chaos, doesn’t he?

 

He walked home with Chaos close at his side. He was tucked into his bed under thin sheets, his sketchbook dropped off on the carpet elsewhere in the room. Blue eyes watched him curiously, asked what happened. Mumbles had the villain opening the sketchbook and promising to stay there while he slept.

 

Kenny slept okay for the first time in weeks, warm and content under the arm of Professor Chaos who stayed at his side while he slept, stayed true to his cross heart promise. He left after Kenny woke him up, and the blond met up with his boyfriend on the school bus. Head rested on his shoulder, responding to his soft, “Are you tired, Ken?” With a big smile and a kiss to his cheek, the dark page out of his book burning in the fire pit back home.

 

“Wide awake.”

Chapter Text

His dreams felt far more cruel than usual this time around.

 

Images of those he held dear, namely a certain raven haired girl soaked in blood. Blood, dripping off her skin and onto his own as he stared up in horror at her. You failed me , he could hear her whisper. Soft motions and touches he only ever felt from her when he was suffering. Soft motions and touches tainted by crimson and a sickly pale complexion. 

 

He could watch the slow decay of her, his hands on her cheeks and her hands against his sides as he watched the blood ooze from her lips, nose, eyes, a crimson smile on Wendy’s face as wounds appeared, cuts and gashes, rot tearing through her cheeks and neck and shoulders. A pretty face he was so closely acquainted with changing into something dark, blood seeping through his fingers as he looked desperately into her warm eyes despite her cruel words. Her fingers dug painfully into his sides, claws he didn’t know she had ripping through his flesh as she whispered inches from him, you failed me, Kenneth. You said you’d protect me and you failed.

 

No, no, I’m so sorry, Wendy please, Kenny choked out, wincing against the sharp pain stabbing into his sides as she dug deeper, deeper, her soft look fading in favor of cold eyes and an angry snarl as his arms wrapped around her neck, hugging her close as she tore into him. Please Wends, please forgive me, I’m so sorry, I tried to save you, I tried real hard, I’m sorry . The tears fell down his cheeks as she dragged her hands around his sides to curl around his waist, those black claws digging into him once more. Maybe it’s time you go with me , she hummed, merciless and cold and so, so unlike the Wendy he knew and loved.

 

Wherever I go, Kenneth James McCormick, you’re going with me. You’re going down w i t h me .

 

He didn’t jerk up in bed this time, he didn’t scream or draw attention. Kenny sat up slowly, his sore neck being the first thing to remind him he wasn’t home - or in bed, for that matter. His expression was something exhausted, swore he had circles or bags under his eyes as he observed his surroundings. Curled up on Wendy’s couch with Heidi, Wendy, Nichole and Bebe likely up in her room sleeping, Red draped over the back of the couch, her hand close to Kenny’s shoulder.

 

He pushed himself off the couch slowly, bare feet taking him up the stairs to find the raven haired girl. He did, found her curled up against Bebe’s back while Bebe’s arms were wrapped comfortably around Nichole.

 

It wasn’t hard to wake Wendy up, a cool hand against her warm shoulder startling her for a moment, surprise fading into concern with one glance at the look on his face, the drying tear tracks on his cheeks.

 

He didn’t speak until they were in her kitchen, sat at the table with a cup of water in his hands. “Had a dream about you.” He murmured. She didn’t look too surprised, and he made a note to ask Karen to stop talking about him to his friends. He was too exhausted to really worry about the embarrassment he’d feel later.

 

For now, Kenny just sipped at his water, held a worried Wendy’s hand across the table and let any tension from the dream fade from his shoulders as they spoke under their breath, talked the night away until he was nearly falling asleep on the table. 

 

He told her about the dream in a tired tone as he dragged himself out of the chair to follow her back to the couch nearly an hour later, plopping down when she pushed him lightly and shutting up. It wasn’t too difficult to curl back up with Heidi, relaxing back into the couch with her head on his shoulder and melting under the feeling of Wendy scratching gently at his scalp for a moment as she sat on the edge of the coffee table, watching for a long moment. “Sleep well, Kenny,” she uttered, careful to not wake their other friends. “I’ll make breakfast tomorrow. It’s okay, Ken, just sleep for now…”

 

He fell back asleep with surprising ease.