Title: The Strange Attraction Syndrome - Chapter Twenty
Summary: Ten years is a long time to have an unrequited crush, but Tweek’s wait is just about over. So much for Craig being asexual.
Point of View: Craig
A subject that is beautiful in itself gives no suggestion to the artist. It lacks imperfection.
Friday evening around six the two blondes chose that opportune moment to show up. I hadn’t even known, busy out in the yard with the dogs because I thought it’d be a regular day, smoking and occasionally singing to them. Usually I got really into taking them outside. We’d race each other down the stairs and then the both of them would beat me into the grass. They’d ridicule my measly human speed by yipping and jumping on me. I’d smoke while we played fetch with whatever large sticks we could find, and then I’d find a random song on my phone and belt it into their faces, smashing their puppy dog features between my hands. Sometimes I even danced a little. Old tunes like Corey Hart or Dexy’s Midnight Runners just went straight to my bones. It was nothing I could control, especially when Come On Eileen played. That song was so catchy even the Julibeagles hopped around with me.
I have no idea how long I was prancing around for before Pretty Lady called for my attention from the second floor landing. The dogs took off for the stairs just as I squinted and recognized the two figures standing next to her. By the giant grin on Tweek’s face, I’d say they’d been watching me for a while. My eyes slid clear down to view my evening attire, although to be truthful I’d just woken up and was only wearing this pair of sweats cut at the knee that belonged to Clyde, an article of which I didn’t even remember putting on; then I scanned the other apartments, both windows and landings, because sometimes I attracted crowds. All I had was a relatively small audience, nothing more than a few children, so I turned the music off and headed after the dogs.
When I made it up the two flights of stairs and was on level ground with the three of them, Kenny called out, “Nice moves, bro!” Yeah, I was pretty sure they’d seen the majority of my performance. Hopefully they’d enjoyed my little snapping number. Nothing was more classy than that. I’d been pretty energetic today, even went out of my way to pick up Julibee and swing her around a couple times. Julibob had danced with me hand in hand. At one point I’d gotten on my butt and put their paws on my shoulders so we’d all be relatively the same height. Sometimes they barked along with me and it felt like we were singing together.
“You think?” I asked, giving him the option to rethink his compliment. He only smirked and held out his arm. We clasped hands and brought each other in for a clap on the back. Maybe the next smoke break I took he’d come with me and I could show him how it was done. As we pulled away, I noticed that Tweek was trying desperately not to look at either of us. I wasn’t about to give some awkward greeting, so I just went with it and looped my arm around his shoulders. He stumbled into me, letting out his breath against my chest. His forehead just nearly came to my collarbone. “Have you always been this short?”
He turned his chin up and looked at me. The color of his eyes—it was something else. I didn’t even know what, but it was unbelievable. That tint of green outlined by his long lashes fixed everything that had been wrong these entire past few weeks. His cheeks were always so pink. Frazzled by my inquiry, he indigently whimpered, “No! I—I grew a lot, dude! I’m just not a f-fucking beanstalk like you.”
“That’s what I am? A beanstalk?” Tweek nodded vigorously. “Alright, green pea.” I let him go and started for the open doorway to my apartment.
“Green pea?” He cried, following after me helplessly.
“Green pea?” I mimicked, my voice a few octaves higher. The julibeagles were settled down on the couch, wagging their tails spastically, more so when I flopped down next to them and rested my head against Julibob’s ribcage.
Tweek’s glare was weak when he pinpointed it at me. “I don’t really sound like that, d-do I?”
“I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t be so easy to fuck with.” That’s when Kenny came up behind him and all I could think was, this poor kid. He was swooped up from around the waist, screaming so violently that it brought Token—worried out of his mind—from his room. Clyde was peeking out of the kitchen to see what was the matter. “Put him on the couch with all of the vagina juice,” I instructed, raising my voice above the voracious blonde’s.
“Hey!” Pretty Lady growled, clearly the only woman who’s juices would be anywhere.
“No!” The word was torn from Tweek’s mouth. Fear in its purest form had taken ahold of his features, pupils dilated, nails clawing into Kenny’s constricting arms. I was fascinated by it.
But Kenny didn’t listen and the dogs beat it as soon as they caught wind of the impending danger and then all I could think was, poor Craig Tucker. Poor Craig Tucker and his measly human speed.
I’d barely even moved an inch when Tweek was hurled onto the couch. He landed on his stomach, half on top of me, an elbow in my gut. It was more shocking than it was painful. I’m sure that had he landed on his back he would have taken the landing more smoothly. Instead he sat up immediately and screamed, “You fuck, that wasn’t fucking funny!” He was genuinely pissed off, his tone scratching where he got particularly furious, specifically when he cussed. I glimpsed the edge in his eyes when he turned to look at me, a lightning spark that was there and then gone. All of his rage quickly fled as he murmured, “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to land on you.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got abs of steel.” We both looked down at my stomach where I was more skinny than muscular. A redness was beginning to form where he’d elbowed me just beside my bellybutton. Our eyes reconnected and Tweek cracked a smile because I most definitely didn’t have abs of steel. “You know what you should do?” His brows rose in curiosity, enlarging the shape of his eyes. “Just punch him clear across the jaw.”
Tweek peered over his shoulder at Kenny who smirked and motioned for the small blonde to bring it. To me, he asked, “Can you do it for me?”
“It’ll be more satisfying if you do it yourself.”
“Do I look like I know how to punch someone?”
“No.” I sat up next to him and lifted my right hand, curled it into a fist as an example, and told him to do the same. His fingers were so dainty compared to mine. He had some sharp ass knuckles, though. “Keep your thumb below your knuckles and get him right in the jaw.” His eyes followed the movement of my arm and hand as I punched the air, slow enough for him to catch on.
There was this huge smile on his face by the end of my instruction and I inclined my chin toward Kenny. “I hate you so much, Craig,” he said to me as Tweek made to stand in front of him. Clyde and Token bumped fists before stepping closer to watch the inevitable payback. Pretty Lady leaned against the kitchen table, arms crossed, expression amused. Kenny was given no moment to collect his bearings because Tweek’s fist was promptly thrust fast toward his face. There was the sound of bones clashing, a reverberating knock.
Swearing viciously, Tweek cradled his hand against his chest. In the same moment, Kenny stumbled blindly. He just barely caught himself from crashing into the wall, gingerly holding his jaw. It was silent as we all watched him blink almost confusedly. “Sweet Jesus,” Tweek laughed. His cheeks were flushed with excitement. “That was awesome!” And then he saw how out of it Kenny was and all of the color drained from his face. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, Kenny.” He enveloped the taller man in his arms and pet the side of his face. “Are you okay, Kenny? Oh God, oh God, I’m so sorry.”
“There’s only one thing,” Kenny wheezed, clearly faking it—the wheezing, not the pain clearly expressed in his powder blue eyes— “that you can do to earn my forgiveness.”
“What? What is it?” Tweek looked genuinely scared that he was about to lose one of his friends.
“Your body,” Kenny croaked. The smaller blonde asked “what” again, to which Kenny explained: “You must give me your body.”
Tweek shoved him away. “Fuck you.”
Clyde found this funny and laughed. Kenny stumbled happily, sniggering under his breath, steadying himself against the wall. “But really, I just about blacked out for a second. You hit me hard, dude.”
After threatening Kenny with “Yeah, well next time it’s going to be your dick,” he asked where the bathroom was. Pretty Lady directed him down the hallway, first door on the right. When he left, his hands were twitching and his jaw was clenched tight. Clyde questioned Kenny as to what Tweek was doing.
“He’s scrubbing whatever skin touched the couch,” the blonde answered in short.
“Why’d you do that?” I asked shortly after. Kenny wasn’t an asshole unless there was a reason for it.
Wiping his hand down his jaw, he told us, “I wanted you guys to know that he’s got some issues and he’s very serious about them. If there’s at all a possibility that he can hide them, he’ll try. But now one’s out in the open, so he doesn’t need to hide it anymore.”
“But we knew something was wrong. He told us he was a sick,” Pretty Lady said.
“Yeah,” Clyde agreed. “I mean the three of us” —himself, Token, and I— “grew up with him. He’s obviously got problems.”
Kenny nodded as though he were agreeing, but then he said, “But did you know that anything he touches that his brain perceives as dirty sends him into a mild episode?” Nobody could say they did. “He’s a bit of a germaphobe, but it’s not a severe case of OCD. Not like his other compulsions. You should see him in a motel room. You’re lucky that he knows you guys, otherwise he wouldn’t be handling any of this as well as he is.”
“He told me pretty easily,” I mused, referring to our conversation over the phone a few days prior. I wasn’t sure if Kenny knew that I knew about the general overview of Tweek’s medication.
“That’s because,” the blonde began, sifting through a couple of bags on the kitchen table that must’ve belonged to either of them, “you’re different.” He picked out a backpack and threw it at me. It hit me in the chest before tumbling to the ground. “Give that to Tweek, alright? He’ll want his own soap and shit.”
“I’m different,” I repeated, picking up the backpack before heading toward the bathroom. The door was shut and the light was on. I could hear the water running but I hoped he wasn’t using the toilet because I was about to walk in on him.
Inside, I was honestly dumbfounded by what I saw. Tweek was bent over the sink, his arms fully submerged under the water, and from the water, steam was rolling. His arms were a sunburn red and his fingers were trembling.
The blonde jumped at my intrusion. When he saw where I was looking, he took his arms away and held them against his chest. “I-I’m not usually this bad,” he defended. “I—I just— I started thinking about it and then I couldn’t… Bacteria dies in boiling water, right?”
“You were trying to boil your arms?” I asked, setting down his backpack in favor of turning the water off and taking one of his limbs in my hands. He flinched when I touched his skin, though I didn’t think he was burnt. It was like when the bath water was too hot and you stepped out all red, except a little bit worse. I could tell by the expression he wore that he was ashamed.
“Don’t look at them.”
I wouldn’t let him take his arm away. Instead, I smoothed it out between the palms of my hands and asked, “Can I draw you?”
“Right now?” His tone was incredulous and his cheeks turned pink when I nodded my head. “O-Okay.”
Momentarily, I left to go grab a drawing pad and some charcoal. When I came back, the backpack was open revealing multiple prescribed pill bottles and Tweek was splashing water on his face hopefully at a temperature that was significantly less harmful. He made to wipe his face dry, but I stopped him. I liked the little droplets collecting at his chin and the moisture clumping his lashes together. With a wet hand, he nervously pushed his bangs away from his forehead. The water tracks gave him a delicate appearance, made him glisten.
We sat down on the wall of the bathtub where he could watch his portrait unfold from upside down. Our knees touched briefly, occasionally. The more he looked down at himself, the more the light in his eyes softened. He began to come across as content rather than sad, while his image on the paper did the same. His lips were parted, head cocked slightly to the side. At one point he said, “You make me look better than I actually do.” It got me to laugh, because sometimes people had such low self-esteem, and it must’ve been the sound of my laughter that got a little smile out of him. It’d been breathless but it had existed, and I knew that I would sketch it later as well as all of the things I had seen from him since he’s been back. That fear and anger, his hint of regret for temporarily ruining his arms, all of those different lights in his eyes.
I’d draw him any way and every way that I saw him. I encouraged any way and every way from him. Maybe we could experiment. Maybe we could play around with the light and backgrounds and angles. We could diverge from his face and I could capture his entire body. I wanted his hands and his legs and how slender his neck and shoulders were. This would be fun. Excitement and inspiration was something I rarely found but for some reason I could leach it from this quirky, little blonde. He was my Stripe in human form. We could help each other.
I took my red charcoal and drew two lines on either side of him. It registered immediately what those two sunburn stripes represented; Tweek didn’t like it, not one bit. His jaw tightened and he looked away, arms drawn against his chest self-consciously. I turned the paper toward him so that he could see himself directly. “What do you look like?” He didn’t say anything or remove his eyes from their focused stare on the sink. “Do you look angry? Or sad? You don’t look ashamed do you?” That was the key word that forced him into glancing at his portrait. Timidly, he shook his head, bangs returning to his forehead.
“It’s okay that you did that,” I said to him. “It’s okay to feel disgusted, and it’s okay to clean yourself off. Don’t be upset. You just handle things a little differently than other people.”