Tickling any sensitive places either made Stripe #4 purr or popcorn, and Tweek thought both reactions were hilarious, so he kept doing it. The guinea pig was in a towel-lined cardboard box lid on Craig's bed, Tweek stretched out on his stomach in front of it, feet kicking against Craig's headboard gently.
"You're getting him all wound up," Craig said, but it wasn't much of a scold, Craig's eyes still on the television. "He's gonna pee on you." He was sitting the other way, shoulders propped up against his headboard with both pillows. Both of them were in pajama pants and worn t-shirts, Tweek's borrowed from Craig and cutely oversized, and unusually clean. Craig's mother had taken one look at them trooping into her kitchen, covered in mud and scratches from playing superheroes, and ordered them to drop everything right there on the linoleum and march up for a bath right that instant.
Now both of them were warm and full from dinner, too tired out to do anything besides watch TV in Craig's room. It wasn't even bedtime yet and Craig looked like he might fall asleep any second, eyelids heavy when Tweek snuck a look over his shoulder.
"He likes it," Tweek answered, confident. At the beginning he never would have dared argue with Craig about his own guinea pig, but after months Tweek wasn't too bothered about reading either Stripe's moods or Craig's. Stripe butted his head up against Tweek's palm and purred again as if agreeing. "See?"
Craig reached out without looking, Tweek assumed to pet Stripe, so he smothered a laugh when Craig's hand landed on Tweek's head instead. Craig didn't move it though, scrunching Tweek's hair just roughly enough to make him squirm. "Craig!"
"You like it." Craig imitated Tweek's words and pitch, the corner of his mouth twitching when Tweek whined. Tweek let his face drop onto his arm, hoping the angle hid the way his face was going pink from Craig. It put him at eye-level with Stripe, peering over the edge of the box lid. Stripe blinked at him once with his liquid black eyes, like he was saying I saw that, and then popcorned for no reason like the two of them were hilarious.
"Shut up," Tweek muttered at the guinea pig. He bumped his fist into Stripe's side gently, sending him scuttling to the other side of the lid. They played chase that way for a few passes back and forth, Tweek's fist roughly the same shape as another guinea pig who wanted to play, before Stripe stopped. When Tweek nudged him again, Stripe just licked at his knuckles, licking the salt off his skin. "Grr, you weirdo."
"Takes one to know one," Craig murmured. Tweek twisted to see, expecting Craig to still be watching the TV, but instead Craig was staring right at him, sending a little thrill through Tweek when their eyes met. "What?"
"Nothing!" Tweek snapped his head back around. Then he shuffled himself over, just a little, until he could feel Craig's hip pressed against his.
They weren't fake anymore. They hadn't been for a few days, since the fight in the gym with Mackey's weird little mediators, and Tweek had thought that everything would go back to normal after they made up from their fight, but he'd been wrong. It wasn't bad different, just different, but Tweek had understood pretty well what was expected of him as Craig's fake boyfriend because they had talked it out at the beginning. He wasn't sure at all what he was supposed to be doing as Craig's actual boyfriend, either in public or when it was just the two of them.
But he knew he liked being close to Craig, warmth spreading over his side from the point of contact with Craig's hip. When Craig's hand, palm warm and big, settled on the small of Tweek's back, Tweek liked that too. When Tweek scratched gently at Stripe's back, Craig flexed his fingers too. Tweek petted Stripe from head to butt, making Stripe's eyes fall half-shut in pleasure, and Craig's hand slid up too, high enough to brush through the mess of Tweek's still-damp hair.
It was silly, but Tweek resisted the urge to either laugh or turn around, afraid of breaking the spell. Testing his theory, Tweek rubbed one of Stripe's cute floppy ears between his fingers, and then couldn't help the "Eek!" he let out when Craig traced fingers so lightly around the shell of his own ear. He squirmed; the touch didn't exactly tickle but it felt like too much in sort of the same way, felt like a lot. This time he couldn't help but look. Craig's mouth was pressed tight like he was struggling not to smile, eyes sparking with mischief.
Looking Craig dead in the eye, Tweek rubbed the stripe down Stripe's nose firmly up and down. Craig let go of Tweek's ear to rub knuckles down the bridge of Tweek's nose, pinching it shut at the end. This time he did laugh as Tweek squeaked and slapped his hand away.
"CRAIIIG!" Tweek shrieked, launching himself to his knees, heart skipping every other beat. "What was THAT?!" Behind him, there was the soft scuffle of Stripe skittering away at the sudden movement, and a plaintive wheeeek at his loss of attention.
Craig shrugged, still relaxed against his pillows even as Tweek loomed over him. "I was thinking of something Clyde said ages ago. He said I only liked you because you were like a guinea pig."
"I'm NOT a guinea pig!" Tweek exclaimed, twisting his fingers in Craig's blankets.
"Shh, Mom'll hear," Craig shushed him. It was a little surprising she hadn't come up to yell at them about toothbrushes and bed and school already, but it was the first time Tweek had been over since they'd made up from the big fight, so Craig's parents seemed like they were giving them a little more space than usual. "And I know that. He said you were like a guinea pig. Cute and big hair and kind of squeaky."
"What?!" Tweek demanded, face twisting up. He didn't know how to answer that because he liked that Craig had called him cute but the rest of that description wasn't exactly flattering.
"You do make weird noises," Craig continued, reasonable. "And you're jumpy. Although you're a lot smarter, at least."
"Wheek!" protested Stripe, like Heyyyyy.
"Eergh," Tweek grumbled, fight going out of his shoulders. "Is that why?"
"Of course not," Craig answered, but he didn't elaborate. Before Tweek could decide how to pry into that, or if he even wanted to, Stripe started fussing more pointedly. "He probably wants to go home, he's been out a while."
"I'lltakehim," Tweek said quickly, almost face-planting on the floor in his hurry to slide off the bed. He scooped up Stripe in his towel, careful not to scatter poops all over, and went to take the guinea pig back to his basement cage. He was a little jumpy about getting cornered by Craig's family, but his sister's door was shut when Tweek came out into the hall. Downstairs, his mother and father were in the kitchen still, and Tweek eased past the doorway to the basement door without any problem.
Setting down Stripe in his cage with a flurry of kicked wood chips, Tweek eyed Stripe's food and water to make sure he had enough of both before dumping in a big fistful of timothy hay. Stripe chirped in excitement as he buried his face in the pile, and Tweek huffed a tiny laugh. He wished all it took to make him content with life was new hay.
"Night, Stripe," Tweek told him, patting his back one last time and getting a loud purr in return.
By the time he'd gotten back upstairs, Tweek had made his decision.
"Could you get the light?" Craig asked when Tweek pushed the door open. Tweek flipped the switch, leaving only the soft orange glow of Craig's bedside lamp, the room dim enough that the stars stuck to his ceiling were glowing faintly. Craig had switched from Netflix over to a basketball game, which meant he'd realized he was going to fall asleep in the middle of something pretty soon. "Thanks, babe."
"Craig?" Tweek asked before he lost his nerve, padding across the carpet and hovering anxiously at the edge of Craig's bed. "Can we, nngh, talk about something?"
"Hm? Sure." Craig was already under the blankets and held up the edge for Tweek to slide in too, shoulder to shoulder so Tweek could share the pillows. Craig grimaced as Tweek's cold toes came in contact with his ankle. "Christ! What's up?"
"It's just…" Tweek fiddled with the edge of the blanket. "I don't know what I'm doing. What we're…what I'm supposed to…gahhh." Tweek dragged in a painful breath again. "We're supposed to be boyfriends but, god, what's that even MEAN?"
"It means I like you." Craig was frowning slightly, but not an angry frown, more like he didn't understand the problem. "And you like me. Right? Are you mad Clyde called you a guinea pig?"
"N-NO, not…really." Tweek chewed on his lip, wincing as the chapped skin split a little. "I just…the first time, we made a list."
Craig blinked slowly. "You want to make a list?"
No, but it seemed easier, so Tweek agreed, "Yes!" He was already pulling out his phone, scrolling through his notes app until he found the original one. "Look, this is what the old one said."
"You still have it?" Craig asked, mildly surprised. He took the phone from Tweek, eyes tracking back forth as he read them. After a second he laughed softly. "Hold hands a lot. Sit together on the bus. Use cute names instead of 'asshole.' Bake Craig cupcakes." Craig elbowed Tweek. "Hey, where are my cupcakes? This seems like a pretty good list to me."
"But then it's not different." Tweek reached up to twist his fingers in a chunk of hair. "I don't know what's supposed to be different!"
"I don't think it's gonna be that different," Craig tried to soothe him, but Tweek wasn't having it.
"AAGH, then what was the POINT?!" he demanded. "Why'd we even FIGHT? SHIT!"
"Well…" Craig's shoulders hunched a little, uncomfortable. Tweek was tempted to give him an out, to say forget it, but he forced himself to stay quiet and waited for whatever Craig was going to say. "I think we might have been fighting because we liked each other too much."
"THAT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!" Tweek snapped.
"Yeah, it does." Craig reached for Tweek's hand, peeling it away from Tweek's hair to slide his fingers through Tweek's. "Because it wasn't fake even though we said it was. So there wasn't any way to show each other that we really did like each other, now. I was frustrated. You were too, right? Like I didn't understand what you were trying to show me?"
"Yeah," Tweek agreed, clutching Craig's hand tighter. He still felt guilty about blowing up at Craig over Cartman's stupid game. "I thought you didn't care about being a team as much as I did. I got so mad I couldn't even think."
"I should have told you that I did." Craig nodded. "I was mad you didn't already know. We both blow up when we're mad. Then it was easier to stay mad than to try and tell you sorry. Because it was your fault too!"
"Asshole," Tweek muttered, but he didn't resist as Craig dragged him into a tight hug.
"Shh, you're breaking rule #5." Craig was silent for a minute before he added, "Anyway, I'm glad we fought."
"What the hell?" Tweek asked, arms snaking around Craig's waist to hug him back. He hated fighting with Craig and he didn't want to ever do it again.
"Because real friends fight sometimes. Boyfriends fight. My mom and dad fight. Because they aren't scared to tell each other they're wrong, or they're being an asshole. And then they make up. People who won't fight at all, they're the ones who're fake. Because they're too scared to be real."
"Fuck, Craig," Tweek said, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to breathe through the sudden lump in his throat. The realness of Craig's words clawed at the inside of Tweek's chest, but it settled as Craig rubbed his back. "I don't wanna fight with you!"
"That's what's different, though." Craig let go of Tweek with one hand. Tweek whimpered, clinging tighter, but a few seconds later, Craig shoved his phone in his face, poking his cheek with the corner of it.
Tweek cracked an eye open and saw that Craig had added two notes at the bottom: 'fight sometimes' and 'say we're sorry after.' He'd also deleted the word 'FAKE' from the header Tweek had typed, so that now it read 'THINGS BOYFRIENDS DO.'
"See? All set." Craig was waiting for Tweek's reaction. Tweek drew a breath to try and pull himself together.
"Only if it's important," Tweek stipulated. "And you have to do both! They're both on the list!"
"Yeah," Craig agreed solemnly. Relief filled up Tweek's chest like he was a lopsided water balloon, making him slump even more awkwardly into Craig's side. "Pinky swear."