The Tweaks needed to take their Christmas spirit down a notch. Their usually homey coffee house was suffering under the tons of decoration that had been growing rapidly in size since the first day of December. It had now reached a critical level that made it difficult for costumers to move around without breaking something.
Craig Tucker had to take off his hat to avoid knocking down several decorative glass balls on his way to his usual booth. Next to him, a mother was carefully steering her son around a pair of plastic snowmen, and an older man had to shakily kneel down to retrieve the Santa figurine his cane had pushed to the floor.
“Here you go, Hon,” Mrs. Tweak said with a smile and put a fresh cup of coffee down in front of him. “Tweek should be done in little while.”
“Thanks a lot,” Craig said and smiled politely at his boyfriend’s mother as she returned to the coffee makers.
He followed her with his eyes until she moved past her son who seized his full attention. Tweek immediately felt the eyes on him and glanced up to flash Craig a radiant smile. Tweek’s parents had forced him into a ridiculously ugly Christmas sweater that he tugged at uncomfortably every few minutes. Still, the boy had managed to wear the damn thing for almost six hours at work now without being too anxious about it, and Craig was genuinely proud of him.
Tweek experienced a great deal of anxiety on a daily basis and usually relied heavily on Craig to calm him down. He couldn’t do that when working, and Craig had spent a lot of time with him, working on ways to make it through whole shifts without panicking. It was nice to see it paying off, even if he did have to sit within a certain distance of Tweek for the last two hours of every shift.
“Hey, Craig!” Clyde shouted excitedly from across five feet’s worth of nativity scene in the center of the shop. Craig waved lazily at him and grinned when his friend knocked over Virgin Mary and two sheep. A conservative-looking woman gasped in horror, and Clyde winked at her as he put the figures back in place on his way to Craig’s table.
“Seriously, dude. Do you live here now?” Clyde laughed and threw himself into a seat opposite of Craig. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in here without seeing you.”
“Maybe you’re stalking me?” Craig shrugged. Clyde snorted.
“You’re allowed to have a life outside of Tweek, you know,” his friend pointed out. “Isn’t it boring to just sit here and wait for him all day?”
“Not particularly,” Craig mumbled and glanced back at Tweek.
“Tsk, well aren’t you romantic,” Clyde mocked and frowned when Craig didn’t respond. “Hey, what are you giving Tweek for Christmas?”
“Huh?” Craig had returned to keeping an eye on Tweek and had consequently missed the question.
“Christmas, Craig,” Clyde whined exasperated. “What are you giving Tweek for Christmas? I don’t know what to give Bebe.”
“I got him some old weird-looking indie game I found at my Grandpa’s,” Craig answered and rolled his eyes. Clyde needed to stop asking him for romantic advice. Bebe and Tweek were not comparable for very obvious reasons.
“And he would be cool with that?” Clyde asked skeptically.
“Why wouldn’t he be?” Craig gave had gotten him something similar every Christmas for as long as they’d been dating. Tweek liked those games.
“No reason,” Clyde held up his hands in mock defense. “Guess it’s easier when it’s a dude, then. Chicks always want it to be so friggin’ special.”
Craig arched an eyebrow at him, not bothering to point out that it was Clyde’s own fault for dating the most materialistic girl in town. Clyde’s skepticism did make him wonder a bit about his present, though. Sure, Tweek was usually happy to get old games, but maybe it was supposed to be different this year. This would be their first Christmas together as an actual couple. It had been eight months since Craig finally acknowledged that his relationship wasn’t just pretend anymore and maybe that counted for something. Did Tweek expect something a bit more thoughtful this year? He looked back to his boyfriend who was finally removing the abominable sweater precisely as the clock struck 5.
Craig should probably find out.
Since the Tweak home was as insufferably over-decorated as the coffee shop, Craig and Tweek had spent the majority of their December time at the Tucker house. Craig was trying to think of the best way to bring up Christmas while Tweek stuck sliced cucumber through the guinea pig cage. The blond frowned when he finally noticed that Craig had attached a nametag to the cage.
“I still can’t believe you named your new pet Tweek,” he muttered, still offended.
Craig grinned. When his last guinea pig died, he had purchased a new one with long, shaggy blonde fur. Originally, he was going to name it Honey after the shade of its fur, but then he’d noticed how every time it heard a noise, it would scream and hide. He’d called his pet Tweek ever since.
To be completely fair, Tweek being offended probably had less to do with the fact that Craig had named a guinea pig after him and more to do with the fact that said guinea pig was female.
Craig wrapped his arms around him, smiling into his messy hair. “Admit it, already. It’s perfect.”
Tweek leaned back into his chest with a snort, but Craig could tell his irritation wouldn’t last long. He also noticed that Tweek had obviously bitten his nails again. He grabbed Tweek’s hand and brought it up to the blond’s face.
“What happened?” he asked as gently as possible, careful not to sound accusing.
“N-nothing,” Tweek stammered and tried to pull his hand away. Craig began stroking the hand with his thumb and the blond stopped struggling.
“It’s usually not ‘nothing’ if you stutter, Tweek,” he said.
He turned his head to stare Tweek in the face. His boyfriend had that tormented look about him again, the look he always got when someone was making him do something or putting pressure on him. Craig knew it wasn’t him.
“Your parents?” he guessed. Tweek nodded.
“Yeah, I was supposed to remember to ask you something, but then I had to work. I was nervous I might forget the question before I’d see you again,” he explained.
“Ah,” Craig nodded in understanding. That had happened before. “What did you need to ask me then?”
“My parents wanted to know if you wanted to spend Christmas at our place?” Tweek asked and tried to scratch his arm, though it was difficult with Craig wrapped so tightly around him. “You know, since your parents are gonna be working anyways.”
Craig was somehow too stunned to answer. He’d thought he would be spending Christmas in front of the television with his sister and grandpa, waiting for his parents to come home. He knew that Tweek’s parents – his father especially – liked having him around their son, but he hadn’t thought they’d actually invite him over for Christmas. Craig was actually somewhat moved by the gesture.
Tweek had gone completely still in his grasp and Craig realized he’d take far too long to answer. He hurriedly hugged the blond even closer.
“Sure, that sounds awesome,” he said. Tweek pulled away from him to look him in the eye.
“You don’t have to if you don’t wanna,” he said in a small voice. Craig’s heart hurt at the look of anxiety taking over his boyfriend’s brain again. He’d seen that look a million times in the six years they’d been together, and he’d done a lot of research into what could help. He opened his arms in a welcoming gesture to make sure he didn’t come across as indifferent or hostile as he sometimes did to certain people.
“I really do want to spend Christmas with you. I promise,” he said and made himself smile. “I just gotta run it by my parents first.”
Tweek still looked somewhat doubting of his answer. Craig knew what tended to be the root of most of Tweek’s insecurities. He pulled the blond back into his arms and said the words he knew would best sooth it.
“Look, no matter what your brain tells you, I’m not going anywhere,” he felt Tweek relax slightly in his arms. “I would love to spent Christmas with you and your family. But my parents have a say in it.”
Tweek smiled weakly before pulling Craig down for a kiss. Craig relaxed into the kiss, relieved that the blond had calmed down so much quicker than normally.
In the end, Craig never really got around to ask Tweek what to do about gift-giving this Christmas.
“Traitor!” Ruby shouted across the dinner table. Craig flipped his little sister off and rolled his eyes. As least Tweek had gone home already and wouldn’t have to freak out over the shouting. Though, Ruby usually behaved better when he was there.
“Enough, dear,” their mother chastised her calmly before turning her attention back to her son. “Of course you can spend Christmas with the Tweaks, Craig.”
Ruby made a noise of disbelief. That left her alone with their grandpa. Their mother ignored her and smiled brightly at Craig.
“That means you and Tweek will be spending Christmas together for the first time! That’s so sweet,” she gushed.
Craig flushed at her reaction, but accepted the permission anyhow while his sister stormed out of the room. His mother sighed and went after her, leaving Craig alone with his father. While Thomas Tucker had accepted his son being with another boy years ago, he had been visibly more uncomfortable recently now that Tweek and Craig were dating for real and were actually caught making out frequently.
His father opened his mouth to say something. Then he coughed awkwardly and threw some money in front of his son, fleeing the room with words about affording a present for Tweek.
Craig stared at the money on the newly abandoned dinner table. Well, now he actually had money to get Tweek a real present. That settled that.
It only took twenty seconds for Craig to remember how much he hated the mall, and people. The place was crowded with stressed customers trying to get their Christmas shopping done without a single care in the world for how much they were in his way! He halted to a stop as the woman in front of him abruptly decided that she had to physically stop moving in order to answer a phone that was already in her hand. He tried moving around her, but that turned out to be almost as slow as not moving entirely because a young couple with the world’s biggest stroller were using that space to not move fast enough. Craig groaned and found himself cussing internally at nearly every single person he could see. He’d been to nearly every store in the mall, and he still had no clue about what to give Tweek for Christmas.
He sat down on the only available bench in sight and pulled out his phone to check the list of stores listed on the mall’s official website. Surely, he’d just missed that one store, the ‘Everything Tweek’ store. It was bound to be here somewhere.
His mental sanctuary was infested by the discomfort of being too close to a stranger again when someone sat down next to him on the bench. He was just about to get up and leave in frustration when he recognized the orange parka.
“Hey you,” Kenny McCormick greeted him with a friendly smile laced with promises of mischief. “Out Christmas shopping?”
“No. I just enjoy torturing myself in my spare time,” Craig answered flatly and rolled his eyes.
“Well, this would be an excellent place for that,” Kenny laughed, completely ignoring Craig’s dismissiveness. He knew Craig didn’t want to be around him, he just didn’t care. Before them, two small kids were running with a skipping rope between them and accidentally tripped an elderly lady who fell harshly to the ground. Her outburst of anger mixed loudly with the children’s cries. Craig winced at the explosive noise as the mother of the two kids yelled that the old woman had no right to reprimand her children.
“This place is literally hell,” Craig groaned and clenched his fist.
“Not really. Close, though,” Kenny murmured under his breath.
“Nothing.” Kenny winked. “So. I’m gonna go ahead and assume from the frustration of your face that you’re shopping for something special today. Tweek?”
Craig didn’t answer.
“Need help?” Kenny grinned, and Craig could swear he genuinely saw whatever devilish scheme McCormick was planning form behind those blue eyes. He wasn’t about to fall victim to it, though. Not again. He stood up abruptly and waved a dismissing hand at the boy.
“No thanks. I got what I came for. See you in school.”
In the end, despite having spend a torturous three hours in a mall full of semi-retarded beings, who made Craig understand why some people became homicidal, Craig left the mall without a present for Tweek.
There was really no excuse. Craig had brought this upon himself. After so many years, he really should know better than to sit by the same table as Cartman and Kyle. A fight was inevitable, that was common knowledge.
“Santa’s not a creepy perv, Fat-Ass,” Kyle barked.
“Is too! Sees you when you’re sleeping? What kind of creep watches other people’s sleeping kids?!” Cartman said and shoved another forkful of potatoes into his mouth.
Craig rolled his eyes and cursed himself internally for not sitting down at another table. It was the last day of school before Christmas. He deserved a break. Tweek was beginning to anxiously tap his finger against the tabletop, Craig assumed more due to the volume of the conversation rather than the actual topic. He placed his hand on top of Tweek’s to make it stop tapping. Tweek in turn entwined their fingers.
“Dude, we’ve met Santa. He was not a creepy pervert,” Kyle argued. Stan made a noise of agreement next to him.
“Of course he was! He sneaks into people’s houses at night, when they’re asleep. Textbook creep,” Cartman said even louder.
Tweek made a jumpy noise and accidentally made eye contact with Cartman. Cartman’s whole face lit up as he saw the potential in his new audience.
“You get it, right Tweek?” he asked. Tweek audibly swallowed and clutched Craig’s hand harder.
“No, he doesn’t,” Craig said and glared at the fat teen. The last thing he needed on top of his day was another one of Tweek’s anxiety attacks. He stroked his boyfriend’s hand soothingly with his thumb.
“Damn, Tweek. That’s some impressive ventriloquist skills you got there. Didn’t even see your lips move,” Kenny teased across from Craig. Cartman sniggered.
Craig moved his glare from Cartman to Kenny. He didn’t know Tweek the way Craig did. He didn’t understand how impressionable he was when he was already stressed. On top of that, Craig still hadn’t forgiven Kenny for hitting on Tweek eight months ago. Granted, he claimed it had all been a part of his greater scheme of making Craig jealous enough to realize his true feelings for his then pretend-boyfriend. But that didn’t mean he’d forgiven McCormick for kissing Tweek. Craig felt well within his rights to be pissed about that until the end of time.
Tweek bit his lower lip before finally murmuring, “I don’t think Santa could be that bad …”
“You don’t?” Cartman exclaimed in fake disbelief. “Dude! He makes little kids sit on his lap. He breaks into your house in the middle of the night and watches you sleep.”
Tweek opened and closed his mouth a few times before settling for a desperate glance at Craig. Craig took the hint.
“Dude, nobody cares about your theories. We’re too old for Santa to come visit anyway,” he said as monotonously as possible, squeezing Tweek’s hand at the last sentence to remind him why this shouldn’t make his already too long list of concerns.
Cartman huffed when he realized that he wasn’t getting the attention he wanted for his theory and instead turned his attention to his phone. Craig held back a sigh of relief.
“Did you talk to your parents?”
“Did you talk to your parents? About Christmas?” Tweek clarified. The blond tried start tapping his finger nervously again, but Craig continued to hold his hand down.
“Oh, yeah. I did. It’s fine. I mean, Ruby hates me for it, but it’s fine,” he answered his boyfriend with a reassuring smile. He hadn’t forgotten how insecure Tweek had been about it the other day.
“Your parents won’t mind?” Tweek asked.
“You don’t have to if you don’t wa-“
“I want to,” Craig interrupted firmly, once more setting the record straight. “I really want to spend Christmas with you. You’re stuck with me.”
Tweek visibly relaxed and his whole face lit up in a huge smile. When he smiled like that, there was absolutely nothing Craig could do to resist the near-magnetic pull. He closed the distance between their faces to place a kiss on that perfect smile. Kenny wolf-whistled at them, and Craig pulled away from Tweek to glare at him. The moment gone, Tweek returned to the book he had been reading before the Santa Claus Conspiracy Argument. Craig eyed the title.
“You’re still reading that one?” he asked. “You’ve been reading that since forever. Are you really not done yet?”
“I finished it. Several times, actually.” Tweek grinned.
“That good?” Now that he mentioned it, Craig did notice how worn out the book looked. Tweek nodded enthusiastically.
“It’s amazing!” he exclaimed before shrugging and adding, “You might not like it, though. It revolves a lot around the main character’s struggle with anxiety and OCD.”
“I might like it,” Craig said, raising an eyebrow. “If you can keep reading the same book over and over, it can’t be a total piece of crap.”
Tweek blushed and clutched the book closer. “Honestly, I mostly keep reading it because I haven’t had the opportunity to get the sequel yet. I feel like, if I keep being in the middle of it then I won’t be so annoyed with not having the next one in my hands yet.”
Craig nodded and waited until Tweek turned his attention back to the book before smiling. He knew what he was getting Tweek for their first real Christmas together.
Craig wasn’t entirely sure how he was going to be able to buy Tweek the book he wanted. They had already made plans to spend the day together after all, and Craig didn’t want cancel on that. Especially not when Tweek appeared slightly jumpier than normal. Craig worried that Tweek might be having an anxious day, and he didn’t want the blond to blame himself for Craig cancelling. So he accepted that he wouldn’t leave Tweek’s side for the day and slid an arm around his shoulders as they walked through the hallway.
“Oh! Oh! Oh! GUYS! Stop!” Bebe yelled at them before they could take the final steps to their lockers.
The girl smirked and pointed towards the mistletoe hanging above them. “You know the rules.”
“That’s really cliché, Bebe. Even for you,” Craig said stoically.
Tweek sniggered into his locker and turned towards Craig to pull him flush against him and press their mouths together. Graciously accepting his fate, Craig grabbed hold of his boyfriend’s narrow hips to close what little distance still remained between their bodies. He could hear Bebe’s phone take a picture – probably for Wendy – but ignored it to fully appreciate Tweek’s tongue sliding against his own. When they pulled apart, Craig smiled at the relaxed look on the blond’s face. At least that seemed to have effectively pushed a lot of his anxiety away.
“Damn. I’ll hand it to you guys, you deliver,” Bebe laughed and winked as she finally allowed Craig access to his locker. “You should have seen Stan and Kyle. They nearly had a panic attack over a goddamn peck on the cheek!”
“What? Really?” Tweek asked.
“Yeah, those two got issues,” Bebe said with a shrug. “Though you wouldn’t think so with all those sleepovers.”
“They’ll figure it out,” Craig mumbled and pulled Tweek with him out of the building.
Despite the claustrophobia it awakened in Craig, they would be spending the afternoon and evening at the Tweak home. Craig winced when they entered the house. There were even more decorations than the last time he’d been there.
“Your dad’s lost it, you know,” he said as they shoved three stuffed Santas off the couch. Tweek eyed their jolly expressions suspiciously before eventually turning each of their faces away.
“He just likes Christmas. A lot. Should we maybe put these in another room?” Tweek asked, refusing to look away from the stuffed perverts.
Craig rolled his eyes. Cartman was such an asshole. He sat down on the couch and pulled Tweek down with him. “They’re just fabric and stuffing, dude. We’re good.”
Tweek bit his lip, but nodded in acceptance of Craig’s reasoning. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Craig said and snuck an arm around the blond’s waist. “You’re allowed to feel every one of your emotions.”
Tweek leaned his weight against him, snuggling his face into Craig’s neck as they laid themselves down on the couch to watch some TV. “But it’s stupid …”
“Doesn’t mean you have to apologize for it,” Craig ran a gently hand up and down Tweek’s back. Good thing he had followed the blond home today. He didn’t like Tweek going through these kinds of days alone. The last time that happened, the poor boy had had a full-fledged anxiety attack. He’d called Craig, shaky and breathless, sounding like the whole world was coming down on him. Craig had run through a snowstorm with no jacket that night, concern making him careless about his own wellbeing. If he could prevent his boyfriend from suffering that again, he’d gladly content himself to never leave his side.
Tweek loosened up after about an hour of mindless TV and cuddling, despite the presence of the creepy Santa dolls. Craig wondered if he should ask Mr. Tweak to get rid of them or purposely avoid it so Tweek would have an actual chance of getting over his paranoia. He heard the sound of the front door opening and knew from the sound of clacking heels that Tweek’s mom had come home. She usually left the coffee house one or two hours before closing time so she could cook dinner before her husband came home.
There had been a time when the sound of a parent coming home would have the two boys separate immediately. They didn’t bother anymore. Their parents had accepted the boys’ clinginess so long ago, they hardly noticed anymore.
“Hello boys,” Mrs. Tweak greeted them with a kind smile as she entered the living room. Her eyes fixed immediately on Craig’s hand still rubbing her son’s back. “How was your day?” she asked cautiously. She knew the signs.
“Fine,” Tweek mumbled into Craig’s collarbone. The blond didn’t notice the way his mother and boyfriend exchanged glances. Today was not fine. Mrs. Tweak smiled at them again, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes this time.
“Alright, I’ll go ahead and start dinner. You boys let me know if you need anything.”
Craig wasn’t sure exactly when it had happened, but both of the boys had fallen asleep in front of the television by the time Tweek’s mother came back to let them know dinner was ready. He woke up to a soft hand tapping his shoulder and looked up into Mrs. Tweak’s face.
“Dinner’s ready,” she said in a soft voice that didn’t wake up Tweek. She smiled at the relaxed expression on her son’s face. “You know, you really have a way with him.”
Then she left the room to set the table, leaving Craig to gently shake Tweek back to consciousness.
Nothing in the world could stop Craig from getting up early the next day to start searching for Tweek’s present. Except the actual Tweek, who’d asked him to stay the night and play videogames, and completely ruined his chances at getting back home before noon. It was well into the afternoon already, and Craig was furiously scrolling through countless websites of nearby bookstores who might have the damn book whose mere (and elusive) existence caused his boyfriend to read the same pages repeatedly.
“Fuuuuck,” Craig groaned in frustration as the bookstore of the mall had the nerve to be sold-out of the only thing he would ever consider purchasing there.
“Why don’t you try the wannabe-hipster one by the old pharmacy?” Ruby suggested while hovering irritatingly over his left shoulder. Craig swatted her face away when another drop of her spit hit his cheek. He might just be looking even more forward to her braces coming off than she was.
“Which one was that again?” he asked.
“I’d almost tell you,” she said. “If not for the fact that you’re a no good traitor for abandoning me!”
Craig rolled his eyes. He didn’t have time for this. “Abandonment is a bit of a hard way to describe me leaving you with an old man who is literally incapable of telling you no. You might actually be able to sweet-talk your way to that new phone you want now that mom and dad are away.”
Ruby narrowed her eyes thoughtfully for a minute before shaking the idea out of her head, hell-bent on making his day more difficult than necessary. “You’re still leaving me alone with a boring old man just to spend time with your stupid boyfriend.”
Craig snorted. “Oh, yeah. ‘Cause you mind Tweek so much.”
Ruby blushed and turned away from him with a huff, finally forfeiting the ridiculous attempt at a fight. “Artie’s Bookshelf. Dot com,” she said and stared pointedly on Guinea Pig-Tweek who squealed and ran for cover.
Craig smirked at the easy win and typed in the address. He damn near howled with relief when the book actually turned up after he’d entered the title to the search bar.
“They got it,” he breathed and smiled. It was over. He could relax.
“In stock? It’s Christmas tomorrow, and it’s a small store,” Ruby added, back still turned in childish defiance.
Craig’s smile fell. She had a point. He would have to make absolutely sure. Ruby caught his train of thought before he even really finished it and handed him his phone. He hurriedly called up the store’s listed number. It rang four times before someone finally answered and gave him his breath back.
“Artie’s Bookshelf, this is Cheryl. How may I help you?”
“Um hey,” Craig started awkwardly. He hated speaking to strangers on the phone. “I was wondering if you have this book in stock. It’s pretty urgent.” Because I’m an idiot who shops for presents the day before Christmas.
He gave the overly cheerful woman the title and author of the book and could literally feel his own heartbeat in the moments it took her to check for it. His guinea pig filled the silence with another loud squeal from her hiding place underneath a shoebox.
“You’re lucky, sir. I have one left!” she told him happily. Craig felt like laughing hysterically.
“Awesome. Thanks! Could you maybe set it aside for me … please?”
Ruby snickered next to him. He had to remember the please and thank-yous on his own when Tweek wasn’t there to be polite for him. He swatted at her again, but she held up her hand in time and turned his dismissal into a lame high-five. He flipped her off.
“No problem, sir. What’s your name?”
“Um ... it's ... Er ... Craig … Tucker,” he muttered and glared at his sister who was now full on laughing at her brother’s inability to remember his own name.
“Alright, Craig. I’ve put that aside for you. No worries. Just a quick reminder, because of the holidays we’ll be closing at five today.”
He eyed the clock on his wall. He had about an hour. He bit his lip, but ultimately accepted the challenge.
“That’s fine. I’ll be there,” he told Cheryl who hung up after a high-pitched goodbye. Ruby smirked.
“You’re fucked, you know.”
“I still have an hour. I’ll just get it now,” he said and got up to grab his wallet.
“Yeah, but you’re forgetting one small yet very important thing,” she said. “This is South Park.”
As it turned out, Ruby had a point. What Craig had failed to realize was that he did indeed live in South Park, and if there was one thing this town was, it was riddled with freaky co-incidences and unpredictable side-quests.
He’d done his best to walk fast and avoid eye contact. He had already had to take a longer route to the store in order to avoid Stan, Kyle and Kenny who looked to be neck-deep in whatever crazy Christmas adventure they’d gotten themselves involved in this year. It didn’t matter that the new route was considerably longer than the one he’d originally planned to take. He was not getting involved with those people today. Bad things always happened if you accidentally spent too long in their company. That’s how people end up in Peru.
The streets were icy. It had rained the evening before and overnight the water had frozen and laminated the sidewalks and roads. On top of that, since people in town never did their jobs properly, no on had bothered to spread some salt. Craig had nearly fallen to his ass five times already.
It didn’t matter. It was just one more obstacle he could easily overcome in order to buy Tweek the damn book he wanted. He walked slower and put great care into each and every step, and then barely noticed the blue car sliding uncontrollably as the driver made a right turn.
The car didn’t crash or slide off the road, but it did nearly hit a young girl on a bicycle. The girl successfully evaded the car, but lost control of her bike. She fell brutally onto the sidewalk.
“Shit,” Craig muttered and hurried to her side. He quickly recognized the girl. She was one of Ruby’s friends, and Kenny’s little sister.
“Karen, are you okay?” he asked her and helped move the bicycle off her.
She sniffed and tried to stand, but had to sit down again immediately.
“No. My foot hurts!” she said and tears began falling down her cheeks.
Craig eyed the foot she was clutching. He actually really didn’t have time. Karen whimpered, and he sighed. He couldn’t just leave her on her own when she couldn’t walk.
“Hey, don’t cry. It’s all right. You’re gonna be fine,” he said and put a comforting hand on her tiny shoulder. “Do you need me to help you home?”
“I-I can’t come home y-yet. No one’s h-home and I forgot m-my key,” she said through the tears. “I was g-gonna meet Kenny d-downtown.”
Craig nodded in understanding and dug his phone out of his pocket. “Alright, hang on. I’ll call him, okay?” Karen nodded and continued to cry and rub her foot.
“Sup?” Kenny’s happy voice greeted him. He could hear Stan and Kyle arguing with someone in the back.
“Dude, I’m with your sister. You need to get here,” Craig said.
“Karen? Is she okay? Is she hurt? What happened?” Kenny asked in a drastically different voice. He was famously overprotective of his sister, and Craig felt instantly better knowing that for all his tricks and pranks, at least he could take this seriously.
“She fell of her bike and hurt her foot. She can’t stand on her own. I need you to come get her. I can’t stay much longer,” Craig explained.
“Okay. Thanks, I’m coming as fast as I can!”
“Don’t leave!” Karen whined and grabbed his arm. Guilt flooded his system, but checking the time, he knew he was already dangerously close to not making it to the store in time. If he didn’t make it, he would have to give Tweek that crappy free game instead, and that just seemed like such a poor substitute for the book now that he knew it existed. He made a quick decision.
“Here, I’ll leave my phone with you, and you can keep talking to Kenny until he get’s here, okay?” he said.
“ … Okay,” she agreed reluctantly and released his sleeve.
“Kenny, I’m giving Karen my cell. Stay on the phone with her until you get here, okay?” he said.
“Okay. Thanks a lot, Craig. Really,” Kenny responded, and Craig handed the girl his phone and prayed he wouldn’t need it too much as he hurried on his way.
How was it possible for such a small mountain town, with barely any residents, to somehow still manage to make it impossible for Craig to move? The entire street was so crowded with people it might as well have been blocked. Craig kept trying to squeeze past the people who for some reason weren’t capable of moving like regular human beings.
Sir, could you maybe walk a little slower, we’re not quite standing still yet, Craig thought aggressively. He hated crowds, he hated people, and he hated moving at this slow pace! He groaned loudly and received a glare from Sheila Broflovski. He didn’t care. It didn’t matter a goddamn thing if he was being rude and impatient. He did not have time for this.
He reached for his pocket, thinking maybe he could call the store and ask them to have pity on him and wait a little longer, but then he remembered. There was no phone in his pocket. Karen McCormick had it, and there was a good chance he would not be getting it back until after Christmas. He briefly fell bad about not informing Tweek that he could no longer reach him on his phone – that was sure to put some paranoid thoughts in the boy’s head – but he reminded himself of the very reason he was out and phoneless, Tweek’s present.
Finally accepting his inner monster of rudeness, he cut through the crowd mercilessly, jabbing his sharp elbows into anyone who dared not moving out of his way quick enough. He heard the many cries of outrage behind him, but he didn’t have it in him to be bothered by them. He made it to the end of the street and realized what had caused the traffic jam, Eric fucking Cartman.
“As it should now be plain to all of you, Santa Claus is no saint. He is no friend to the community, he is a danger to our children, and he should be annihilated for being a thread to this beautiful town of South Park!” the fat teen yelled from the top of a parade float he must have had leftover from his last anti-ginger festival.
“What the fuck, dude?” Craig yelled at him. He’d tried to climb over the obstructing vehicle and Cartman had sprayed him with what Craig prayed was just water. With Cartman, you could never really be sure.
“Stay off my float, Tucker! I have to spread this important message to the people,” Cartman yelled.
“I don’t give a fuck! I have to be somewhere. Soon,” Craig shouted back. Behind him the crowd was starting to push at him.
“Tough shit,” the fat teen said. “I’m not moving until everyone has heard what I have to say about old Saint Nick.”
“Shut your goddamn mouth, Fat-Ass!” a new voice screamed from above them.
Craig and Cartman looked up in time to see a grand red sleigh circling the sky above the crowd. In the sleigh sat Kyle, Stan and…
“Santa?!” Cartman shouted, dread taking over his face. Sure enough, the big mythical man towered behind their two classmates in the sleigh. He eyed Cartman and the crowd with obvious disapproval on his bearded face.
“Erik Cartman,” his voice boomed, efficiently silencing the crowd. “You have been very naughty.”
Cartman’s eyes widened, first in fear and then in pretend-innocence. “What? No, I haven’t, Santa. I promise. I’ve been so good this year!”
“Don’t bother, Cartman. We figured you out,” Stan said. “You only wanted to destroy Santa and his reputation because he’s not bringing you presents anymore.”
Cartman dropped his false expression of innocence and exchanged it for outrage instead. “He should bring me presents!” he shouted. “I deserve them. If other people still get them, I deserve some goddamn Christmas presents too!”
“You’re not a child, Fat-Ass. Santa only brings presents to kids,” Kyle yelled, nearly falling off the sleigh in his passionate outburst. Stan discreetly snaked an arm around his waist to prevent it from happening again before agreeing, “Yeah! Stop ruining Santa just because you’re too old!”
“I’m not too old! You’re too old!”
Sensing an opening, Craig crawled over the float to the other side of the road while Cartman was still distracted by Santa Claus, Stan and Kyle. As soon as he made it out of the crowd on the other side, he ran, not giving a single fuck about how icy the streets were.
He didn’t make it. The steel shutters covering the windows gleamed mockingly at him. He tried knocking on the door now sporting a ‘Sorry, We’re Closed’-sign, thinking maybe someone was still in there to let him in. Nothing happened.
He sank to the cold ground and slammed his fist into the pavement. He had failed. He hadn’t gotten here on time to get the book, and now he would have to give Tweek that stupid vintage game that he hadn’t even spent any money on.
His eyes stung. He was a shitty boyfriend. Tweek deserved better. Tweek deserved someone who didn’t wait until the last minute to figure out what would make an ideal Christmas gift. He covered his face in his hands and cursed himself for a full ten minutes before leaving with nothing but self-loathing.
He wasn’t able to sleep that night. He’d been lying in bed next to his laptop for the past three hours. As it turned out, he’d been right. Tweek had not been okay with the sudden break in contact when Craig had handed over his phone to Karen. You should never leave Tweek alone with his paranoid thoughts for too long. By the time Craig reached him on FaceTime, the blond had already reached the conclusion that Craig had dumped him, been kidnapped, tortured and murdered by aliens.
Now he was staring vacantly at the screen where Tweek’s face had been. He should probably be attempting to sleep, but it didn’t really feel like much of an option. He also didn’t feel like he deserved it. Sleep was for winners and good boyfriends. Besides, it wasn’t like he wouldn’t be able to drown himself in coffee at the Tweaks the next day.
Tap, tap, tap. Craig nearly fell out of bed at the sound of something tapping on his bedroom window.
The blond boy sat comfortably on the tree branch outside and gestured for him to open his window. When Craig let him in, he dumped himself heavily onto the bed.
“Any particular reason for breaking into my house, McCormick?” Craig asked. Kenny grinned.
“Glad you ask.”
“Of course I’m asking, it’s 4 AM, and you just crawled through my window,” Craig spat back.
“Careful, Craig,” Kenny smirked. “Or I might decide not to help you after all.”
Craig raised a skeptical eyebrow, and Kenny dug through his worn messenger bag. The first thing he pulled out was Craig’s phone.
“Karen says thanks,” he smiled, more genuinely this time. Then he handed Craig the second item. Craig stared at it in disbelief.
“How did you get this?”
It was the book. The very book Craig had failed so miserably to get. Kenny winked.
“I’m very resourceful,” he said. “Also, I overheard your conversation with Tweek. Karen told me which direction she saw you leave, so I figured you were probably going for that hipster place.”
“And you just guessed that I wasn’t gonna make it in time?” Craig asked while gently running his finger along the back of the book.
Kenny laughed and said, “Well, I knew for a fact that Cartman was up to something. I was actually about to help Stan and Kyle stop him when you called me.”
“So… what?” Craig asked. “You found another place who sold the book?”
“Not quite,” Kenny said.
“You stole it?” Craig asked in only slightly mild disbelief.
“I left them some money… not enough to fix the door I broke on my way in, but definitely enough for the book,” Kenny said with a cheeky grin. Craig wondered if he would see Mysterion on the news the next day. He could be a good sport and not say anything, but he still felt a bit skeptical and confused.
“Why would you go through so much trouble?” he asked. “We’re not that close.”
Kenny flashed him another smile that held none of his usual mischief. It was starting to unnerve Craig a little. If this kept happening, he might start viewing McCormick as an actual person.
“I wanted to pay you back for helping my sister,” the blond said. “It meant a lot to me. You would have probably made it to the store in time if you hadn’t stopped to help her. You would have definitely been able to sneak around Cartman. I just figured the least I could do was to help you out.”
Craig looked at him in silence before nodding his head gravely. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” Kenny laughed and got off the bed. “I should probably get going. Merry Christmas.”
With that he crawled out of the window with the grace of a burglar and left Craig to cradle Tweek’s gift close to his chest.
It was so rarely ever Tweek himself who got to open the door when Craig rang the doorbell. Mr. Tweak nearly pulled the door off its hinges in his enthusiasm to let Craig into their home.
“Craig! It’s great to see you!” he welcomed and gave Craig’s arm the same treatment as the door when he pulled him inside. “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas,” Craig told him back. A wave of disgust crashed on him when he took in his surroundings. There was actually even more decorations than the last time he’d been there. How was that even possible?
Tweek pushed his way through the decorations like an explorer cut through vines in the jungle so he could finally reach Craig’s side and claim his hello-hug.
“I’m really sorry. I told him not to put up more stuff,” the blond whispered into his ear.
“I’ll live,” Craig said and clutched Tweek extra close before letting him go.
Tweek’s mother entered the living room from the kitchen to greet him with a warm smile and a hug the rivaled her son’s in strength. Craig felt himself relax. There was just something about Tweek’s family. Originally, he’d always felt out of place and crowded when visiting since they were much friendlier than his own family. There was no sneering, insults or overcompensation of sarcasm. It had really freaked him out. He hadn’t known how to be friendly with a family without fighting or flipping someone off. The Tweak couple was always happy to have him over, too. The father might be slightly too into his son’s relationship for Craig to ever fully accept him as sane, but at least he felt welcome in their home.
Mrs. Tweak had outdone herself with the dinner, and Craig honestly couldn’t remember the last time he’d stuffed his face so much. It was a good thing this wasn’t a regular occurrence or he would be able to compete with Cartman for largest circumference. They all had a laugh about the Santa Incident in town the day before when Tweek’s father apologized for not having made it to the store for even more decorations due to the traffic it had caused. Tweek and Craig exchanged a look over the empty plates at that. Craig reckoned the house was only about four elves away from exploding.
“It’s so great you could come, Craig. I’m glad Tweek wasn’t right about you being murdered by gnomes,” Mr. Tweak said.
“Aliens, dad,” Tweek muttered.
“Right. Sorry, son. I’m really glad the aliens didn’t get you,” Mr. Tweak corrected.
Craig sniggered. “Yeah, no. I just lost my phone for a few hours.”
“I figured,” said the man and laughed despite his son’s embarrassed blush.
Craig touched his and Tweek’s feet together in a weak apology, a bit annoyed that he couldn’t reach his hand from under the table. He refused to reach for it above the tabletop. He’d done that once years ago, and it made Mr. Tweak downright insufferable in his gushing.
Tweek looked up at him and grinned when he noticed Craig being bothered by the distance. Then the blond got up to help clear off the table in an obvious attempt to get to the point of the evening when the boys could be justly excused and leave for his room.
“It’s like your room isn’t even part of the same house,” Craig said when they entered the blissfully decoration-free bedroom. The room was just plain and messy as usual. No creepy santas or blinding Christmas lights.
“I know. My dad keeps putting stuff up when I’m away so I think I’ve spent the whole month moving figurines out,” Tweek said with a grin and sat down on his bed.
Craig lifted the bag he’d brought. “So. Wanna swap gifts now, or do you wanna wait for later?”
“Now, but you should probably go first,” Tweek said. “My present for you is gonna distract you for the rest of the evening, I think. You might just forget all about me.”
“Confident,” Craig commented.
Tweek smirked. “I know you”
“Hmm. Maybe.” Craig reached into the bag and pulled out Tweek’s newly wrapped present. “Just a heads up, if you’ve somehow already gotten it since the last time we talked, I will go hang myself in your garage.”
“Not funny,” the blond said with narrowed eyes.
“Bit funny.” Craig handed him the present and sat back in the chair by Tweek’s desk as he opened it. As soon as Tweek uncovered an inch of the title, he tore off the rest of the paper savagely. Craig watched in amusement as his boyfriend stared at the cover of the book in what could only be described as pure excitement.
“Oh my God. This is…” the blond shook his head and looked up with a smile so bright it took Craig’s breath away. “Thank you so much!”
“Well…. Yeah …” Craig scratched the back of his head, feeling a bit awkward. No old game had ever caused that smile for sure. “I’m glad you like it…”
“I love it!” Tweek pounced on him, knocking him out of the chair to a floor-based hug. Craig made a little noise to let him know he couldn’t breathe, and Tweek moved to straddle him instead of crushing his lungs.
“At least you won’t have to read that old book again for a little while now,” Craig joked.
“Thank you so much,” Tweek said again and leaned down join their lips. Craig allowed Tweek’s tongue to explore his mouth while he snuck his own hands under the blond’s shirt, lightly caressing his stomach. Tweek sighed into his mouth contently before pulling away to stare down at Craig’s head on the floor beneath him. Craig tried to pull him back down for more, but Tweek evaded him with a kiss on the nose instead. Then the blond pushed off the floor and started to walk towards the door.
“Wait here,” he said, excitement still present in his voice. “I’m gonna go get her.”
Craig sat upright. “Her?”
Tweek disappeared out of the room and was gone for almost three minutes before he reentered with a big cage in his arms.
“What the…” Craig started and hurried to his feet to help put the cage down before Tweek could drop it. Inside the cage, a chubby black guinea pig looked back at him calmly. It was fucking adorable. Craig poked his finger through the bars of the cage without even bothering to ask if it was tame yet. Tweek sat down next to him, watching him watch the animal.
“I did some research,” he spoke, “and unless the Internet is lying to me again, your other guinea pig-“
“Tweek,” Craig corrected. Tweek rolled his eyes.
“… your hopefully-soon-to-be-renamed guinea pig might just be a little stressed and lonely. One of the websites suggested giving her a more docile friend. It’s supposed balance her out and calm her down to have a companion.” Tweek bit his lip. “You know, like you calm me down”
Craig finally tore his gaze away from the fur ball to look at his boyfriend again. “Tweek.”
“Seriously, rename it.”
Craig laughed. “No, I mean you-Tweek.”
“That’s really sweet,” he said.
“You like her?” Tweek asked. It didn’t sound much like a question. Tweek had obviously known Craig well enough that even his usual attack of doubts wouldn’t rattle his belief that another guinea pig would always be welcome at the Tucker home.
Craig opened the cage and lifted the chubby ball of cuteness out. She didn’t attempt to bite him or escape. She might just really be the calming presence Guinea Pig-Tweek needed to settle down.
“I love her.”
“I was right. You’re distracted already,” Tweek said in his I-know-you voice.
Tweek sighed dramatically with faux exasperation. “Can’t believe I have to compete with rodents for your attention.”
“What? You have my attention…” Craig said, still without taking his eyes off his new pet’s cute little nose and whiskers.
“No, I don’t,” Tweek said, playfulness laced his words. “But I will.”
Craig nearly dropped the pet as a pair of arms wrapped around him from behind and he felt a pair of soft lips on his neck. His breath caught as Tweek began to nip and suck on the sensitive skin, and he realized that he should probably surrender his attention and put the animal back in the safety of its cage.
After having done so, he turned around in the embrace to capture Tweek’s lips and felt them smirk against his own before he pushed them apart to let their tongues meet again. Tweek’s fingers buried themselves in Craig’s hair, pulling slightly and making him moan against his mouth. Craig was suddenly utterly grateful that he’d put the guinea pig back in the cage. He would have dropped or squished the poor thing. It would appear that if there was one thing that was more distracting for Craig than a guinea pig, it was Tweek.
He grabbed hold of Tweek’s waist and gently pushed him down on his back. When they pulled apart for air, he grinned down at his red-lipped boyfriend who stared back at him with a pleased smile. Craig leaned down to hover just above Tweek’s face.
“I love you,” he whispered against the other’s lips. Tweek forcefully pulled him all the way down to lie on the floor next to him.
“Love you, too,” he said and kissed him on the corner of his mouth.
The guinea pig made squealing sound from the cage as if complaining about feeling left out. Craig eyed the creature fondly.
“What should I name her?” he asked.
Tweek snorted. “Craig, obviously.”
“So is the other one!” argued the blond.
Craig stuck his tongue out. “That’s different,” he said.
“Is not,” Tweek said. “Her name should be Craig. Fair’s fair.”
And that’s how Gwen the Guinea Pig was introduced to her new caretaker on the first Christmas that Tweek and Craig spend together as a real couple.