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Mistake My Gagging For A Smile

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ALL CHARACTERS AND EVENTS IN THIS FANFICTION—EVEN THOSE BASED ON A REAL SHOW—ARE ENTIRELY GRATUITOUS. ALL CANONICAL DIALOGUE IS IMPERSONATED ... POORLY. THE FOLLOWING FANFICTION CONTAINS COARSE LANGUAGE AND DUE TO ITS CONTENT IT SHOULD NOT BE READ BY ANYONE.

 

Stan’s front door swung open with an over dramatic yawn coupled by theatric lightning. Cartman half-expected Nosferatu to waltz in—Victorian collar popped, fangs out—but it was Kenny who stepped past the threshold, barely any less vampiric.

 

Cartman slumped back into couch cushions. “About time you showed up,” he grumbled, mildly disappointed.

 

Kyle ejected from his cross-legged position in front of the coffee table. “No kidding! We were getting worried.”

 

“Speak for yourself,” Cartman said.

 

“Sorry,” Kenny muttered. The rainstorm outside quieted to a dull thud as he shut the door. He kept his hand braced on the knob and shucked his waterlogged sneakers, victimizing the whole living room to the rank stench of his mildew-y socks. “My dad took the truck.”

 

Kyle ushered him inside. “Well, come dry off. Cartman—move your fat ass.”

 

Cartman released a long-suffering sigh and contorted himself into the couch’s armrest. Kenny plopped down beside him, a boneless collection of taut strings cut loose. He splayed his lanky alien limbs in a starfish pattern, craned his head back and closed his eyes. His long hair spread in diarrhea-colored rivulets, already seeping a shadowy puddle into the couch that dripped onto Cartman’s shoulder.

 

“Uh,” Kyle said. “Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Kenny replied.

 

Stan materialized in the kitchen doorway, holding a bowl of popcorn. “Kenny! There you are. What the hell happened?”

 

Kenny cracked one eye. “Oh, you know.”

 

“His dad took the truck,” Kyle informed.

 

Stan set the popcorn on the coffee table and stood next to Kyle, the pair of them a couple doting hens.

 

Cartman couldn’t take it anymore. “Would you lay offa him? He’s fine, see?” He reached out and slapped Kenny’s jowls. His skin flashed white then melted back to pink; Cartman did not announce how cold he felt, and Kenny didn’t respond one way or another, so. “Look, he’s alright. Let’s just watch this movie.”

 

Stan and Kyle wouldn’t lay off, though. “You walked the whole way here? You could’ve texted one of us to pick you up,” Stan said.

 

Cartman snorted. “I’m no taxi service.”

 

“My phone died,” Kenny added.

 

“You’re gonna get sick,” Kyle said.

 

Kenny’s jaw tightened. “It’s really not a big deal, guys. I’m serious.”

 

“You’re soaking wet,” Kyle observed. “You need to get out of those clothes. Stan—?”

 

“Already on it,” Stan said. He pivoted towards the staircase; his footsteps pummeled the ceiling above their heads seconds later.

 

“Here.” Kyle thrust the popcorn into Kenny’s lap. “Eat. I’m gonna get, like—coffee, or something. Warm.” He disappeared into the kitchen.

 

Kenny promptly returned the popcorn to the coffee table. He tossed his cigarettes and lighter down while he was up, then flopped back against Cartman’s side. “Jesus Christ,” he huffed, irritation unveiled now that the parents were gone.

 

Cartman looked away from the sodden pack of Marlboros. “Why the hell are you here?”

 

Kenny passed a lazy side glance. “Huh?”

 

“I mean, is movie night worth hiking two miles in the rain?”

 

“Not really,” Kenny admitted, “but.” He turned and stared at the blank television. “I didn’t want to stay home.”

 

He wouldn’t have divulged such information to Kyle or Stan. They’d go red alert and put DCFS on the phone. A beat of silence reigned, punctuated by their friends’ nervous puttering. Cartman took the chance to catalog Kenny’s overall situation.

 

His whole face was cast in a pale pallor that turned his pockmarks and pimples into lunar craters and volcanic mountains. His hair, as previously established, had darkened to a gross yellow-green shitstain in the rain. A few flyaways latched onto a cold sore festering at the corner of his mouth. He smelled like cigarettes and wet dog. He certainly looked like one, too—in line for the euthanasia slab.

 

“That sucks,” Cartman said.

 

“Yeah,” Kenny agreed.

 

“Karen?”

 

“At her friend’s place.”

 

She didn’t walk in the rain either, did she?”

 

Kenny’s rat whiskers scrunched in agitation. “No. I waited till somebody picked her up.”

 

“What about your brother?”

 

“He got in a fight with my dad.”

 

“Oh, damn. PBR and the UFC—it’s never a good mix.”

 

Kenny’s lip curled to reveal crooked teeth. The cold sore cracked and oozed a little pus; he dabbed it with his tongue. “Yeah.”

 

He was kind of incredibly disgusting. Cartman was kind of totally into it. Before they could carry on discussing things like intelligent adults, Kyle and Stan returned to make Kenny their baby doll.

 

Stan foisted a stack of clothes and a towel. Kenny went up to the bathroom to change. He plodded down the stairs with his hair frizzed out to its usual hay bale shade, Stan’s Broncos hoodie hanging off his skinny torso. His legs were too damn long, though, bony ankles and bare feet left exposed under the hem of Stan’s sweatpants. Kyle forced some coffee down his gullet the second his ass hit the couch, whilst Stan left to put his actual clothes in the dryer.

 

“Alright,” Cartman said once everybody was back in place. “Are we done, now? May we proceed?”

 

Kenny snorted into his coffee. Droplets of hot liquid sprayed onto Cartman’s jeans. “Oh, sorry—” He rubbed Cartman’s thigh with the sleeve of Stan’s hoodie.

 

“Don’t be an ass, Cartman,” Kyle said.

 

Stan hit the lights, then inserted himself next to Kyle. “Let’s just chill, guys, okay?”

 

Netflix’s home screen burst to life. Stan located the newest Terrance & Phillip flick and hit play.

 

“I heard this got, like, a thirty on Rotten Tomatoes,” he said.

 

“Unsurprising,” Kyle commented.

 

“Oh, my God,” Cartman said. “Shut up, you guys.”

 

Kyle tossed a handful of popcorn at him without looking. It spilled across front of his sweater. Kenny’s gremlin fingers dove into the valleys between his fat deposits before he could retaliate one way or another. He flinched at the cold appendages. Kenny gave his stomach an apologetic pat. Cartman batted his hand away and focused on the movie.

 

Terrance and Phillip tottered around ripping massive farts, all middle-aged and grimy. It was torturous. But they were indebted to these guys for constructing practically their whole childhood. Cartman didn’t have what people called morals, but he was loyal to certain things, one of them being Terrance & Phillip, another possibly Kenny McCormick. But he didn’t like thinking too much about the latter.

 

This was made difficult by the fact that Kenny kept draping over him. It was a gradual takeover. First Kenny’s naked big toe bumped his ankle. Cartman moved his foot to avoid Kenny’s untrimmed toenail. Kenny redoubled the offense, bent his leg at the knee so it jabbed Cartman’s thigh. He resituated his coffee, held it close to his chest and aimed his elbow at Cartman’s left tit. Every joint in his body was sharp as a nail.

 

“You’re crucifying me,” Cartman whispered.

 

Kenny popped a piece of Cartman-flavored popcorn in his mouth. “Sorry.”

 

“Just cut it out, wouldja?”

 

Kenny leaned forward and shoved his arm between Stan and Kyle. He deposited his coffee on the table named for such services then sat back again. This time he kept his gross feet and long legs to himself.

 

Cartman relaxed, thinking the worst of it was over, until Kenny laid an arm over his shoulders. “Is this better?” His thumb swiped the curls spilling out of Cartman’s beanie.

 

“Jesus—!”

 

Cartman leapt off the couch. His knee hit the coffee table; he fumbled back to catch his weight—all two hundred something pounds of which smashed Kyle’s fingers. Kyle yelped and shoved him away. The popcorn bowl spilled all over the place. Stan stood up to figure out what the hell was going on. Kenny laid horizontal across the couch and snickered.

 

“I gotta take a shit,” Cartman said.

 

“Fucking hell, fatass,” Kyle snapped, cradling his hand to his chest. “You about broke my hand.”

 

Stan paused the movie. “You made a mess, too.”

 

“Sorry,” Cartman said. He raced towards the stairs. “You can bill me later.”

 

He exploded into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind him, taking in deep lungfuls of perfumed air. He screwed his eyes and tried thinking of all the disgusting, abhorrent things that went on here. Shelly putting tampons in. Sharon’s gross old lady body in the shower. Randy’s gross old man body in the shower. Stan, flat-ironing his hair every morning in sixth grade. None of it killed the immortal chub in his jeans.

 

The door rustled. Cartman whirled around, but it was too late—Kenny slipped in and turned the lock. “Hey,” he said.

 

“Fucking bitch,” Cartman accused. “I told you to cut it out!”

 

“C’mon, babe—” Kenny darted forward and boxed him in against the toilet. Cartman had no choice but to sit down and accept Kenny into his lap.

 

“Would you—slow down, for a second?” He braced Kenny’s hips with his hands. “You’re gonna fall and bust your head.”

 

“I’m not that lucky,” Kenny said. He nosed Cartman’s earlobe.

 

Cartman spat his damp hair out of his mouth. “I can’t take you seriously wearing Stan’s clothes. It’s revolting.”

 

“Okay.” Kenny pulled Stan’s hoodie over his head. “Is this better?”

 

“No! None of this is an improvement!” Cartman’s rage cut short. There were lateral cuts all up and down Kenny’s torso, highlighted against a backdrop of bruises, some of the scabs not yet congealed. “—I thought you said Kevin got in a fight with your dad.”

 

“It’s no big deal,” Kenny said.

 

Cartman tipped his head against the wall. “Look—if you wanted to leave, you should have said so. I’m not gonna screw in Stan’s bathroom.”

 

“I’m not a slut.”

 

“I didn’t say you were! You’ve got slutty tendencies, though, you have to admit.”

 

“What the hell would you have told Stan and Kyle, anyway?” Kenny asked.

 

Cartman rolled his eyes. “I dunno. What genius excuse to you give ‘em to come in here?”

 

“There’s more than one bathroom, jackass.” Kenny climbed off Cartman’s lap and dug through Stan’s hoodie. He procured his pack of cigarettes and sat on the bathtub’s edge. “Probably think I’m smoking. But they’re all soaked.”

 

“Any of ‘em break?”

 

“No.”

 

Kenny pulled out a wet cigarette and commenced the long process of drying it off. He pinched the filter between forefinger and thumb, passing his lighter back and forth along the paper’s underbelly, rotating it as needed. His patchy facial hair glinted in the light like fish wire, eclipsed by the long slant of his thin nose. His hair curled around his pronounced clavicle, starting to dry a little.

 

Cartman kicked his shin. He glanced up. “What?”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Now Kenny rolled his eyes. “The only reason I talk to you is ‘cause you don’t ask stupid shit like that.”

 

“Well, jeeze. I’ll remember not to give a damn the next time you beg for attention.”

 

“I wasn’t begging—” Kenny clicked his lighter off. “Can you get the vent?”

 

Cartman heaved himself onto his feet and flicked the metal grate on the ceiling, then walked towards the door and hit the switch. The whole bathroom started to shake. They were in a rocket ship on their way to the moon.

 

Kenny placed his elbows on his knees, stuck the cigarette between the gap in his front teeth. All his pimples coalesced into the hollows of his cheeks, then loosened as he exhaled. He really was a disgusting cretin. The smoke threw up a screen and hid most of his ugly from view. Cartman kind of missed it, now that he couldn’t see it anymore.

 

Thankfully the vent did its work. Save for the trail wafting off Kenny’s cigarette, the smoke dissipated to reveal his dead stare. “Nothing happened,” he insisted.

 

“Bullshit,” Cartman snarked back. “You look like you were run over by a damn train. Your liver’s probably leaking into your colon as we speak.”

 

Kenny answered with a noncommittal grunt. Fuck it, Cartman thought. He pushed off the counter and bullied Kenny aside to make space on the bathtub’s edge.

 

“What the fuck are you doing?”

 

“Just shut the hell up, Kenny.”

 

“Don’t fucking touch me—”

 

“C’mere!”

 

“No!”

 

Cartman finally grabbed Kenny’s wrists. The cigarette fell into the bathtub, rolled towards the drain, fizzled with a wet hiss. “Screw you,” Kenny snarled. “What the fuck, man—”

 

Cartman punched him in the stomach. “How’s that feel, huh?”

 

Kenny’s eyes bugged out and leaked tears. “Shit—”

 

He careened to the floor right on top of his pack of cigarettes. Cartman was more concerned about how his head smacked into the tile. He got on all fours over Kenny and started palpitating Kenny’s bruised body. “How’s that feel?”

 

“It fucking hurts,” Kenny gasped. “Stop it—”

 

“I gotta check,” Cartman said. “Just hold on.”

 

Kenny writhed. His neck snapped into a rigid arc. He twisted his head and coughed phlegm and blood onto the tile.

 

“Oh, shit,” Cartman said. “Oh, fuck.”

 

“It’s fine,” Kenny said. “It’s no big deal.”

 

“You’re dying, kid.”

 

Kenny laughed. His teeth were all covered in blood. Cartman laid on top of him so he wouldn’t have to look at it anymore, using his body like a damn weighted blanket. Kenny’s legs and arms flailed. He gripped onto the shower curtain, ripped it off its hinges. It fell over them like tarpaulin, or a body bag.

 

“It’s alright,” Cartman said. He moved onto his side and held Kenny in his arms, ignorant to the snot and spit and blood Kenny drooled between them. “It’s gonna be alright.”

 

Kenny’s breath hitched. He wormed his nose under the warmth of Cartman’s chin flab, his birdcage sternum jackrabbitting with panic.

 

“Don’t start with that,” Cartman ordered. “I’ll be here when you wake up, okay? Just go to bed.”

 

Kenny gave a tired nod. His eyes were already half shut, losing color.

 

“Goddamn it,” Cartman sighed. He slotted his lips against Kenny’s cold sore ridden mouth. It was a kiss of death, not of resuscitation—and it sure tasted like it, too.