The erratic thumping of his heart fills his chest with pains of longing, desperate for the teen across the hall. Fascination swirls in his irises while silently observing his longtime friend and recently discovered crush. The way his whirly blonde strands bounce with his constantly fidgeting frame, and his ever so slightly trembling hands that he balls into fists in an attempt to still them. His shirt presents a new coffee stain that is only partly covered due to several buttons on his flannel being unintentionally left open. Tweek Tweak is the definition of anxiety, and for weeks now, Clyde Donovan has been asking himself just what it is that makes his meek friend so attractive to him. Just as he ponders on this question once more, he nearly chokes on his Gatorade when Tweek lets out a snort. Clyde is certain that it’s the most adorable thing he’s ever witnessed in his life. He roughly swallows and rubs at his throat, a grin spreading across the soccer player’s face as Tweek’s frail shoulders lightly jump with his angelic laughter.
That’s it: Tweek looks like an angel.
He should ask him if his mom was up there before Tweek fell from heaven.
Yeah, that’s surely the best way to hit on your oblivious friend.
In between Tweek’s laughter his eyes go from the floor to the lockers on the opposite side of the hallway before spotting Clyde. Tweek’s mirthful expression explodes with glee at the sight of his friend, and he nods Clyde over. The latter teen melts at the way Tweek’s hair flows with the small action, practically floating over to the group without commanding his body to do so.
“Good morning, Clyde. How are finals treating you?” Clyde slides his arm around Tweek’s slim shoulders and pulls him close, relishing how the blonde feels beside him. He notices Tweek’s protruding collar bone and how soft his hair is as it flattens against him. Words escape him for far too many seconds. He hears Token, Jimmy, and Craig offer their own greetings before he gains back the ability to speak.
“Not gonna lie, Tweekers, I’m surprised that I haven’t collapsed yet. I know there’s only a few more days, but my brain is already on summer vacation!” Clyde’s words earn a nod of approval from everyone else, but he barely notices, too caught up in the way Tweek’s hair tickles his bicep as it moves across exposed skin. He just had to wear a muscle cut shirt, didn’t he? All the other guys said that they’re lame, so why didn’t he listen for once? Clyde suddenly remembers how he had told his team that they were merely jealous of how much bigger his arms are. Well, he can only blame himself for spending so much time developing his arms even though he’s a goddamn soccer player.
“We all feel you, man. Soon we’ll be out of here and then we can chill all we want after our hard work. Don’t give up yet.” Token eyes everyone, who each solemnly swear not to slack off for the remainder of the school year. With a dramatic sigh, Clyde leans over to lay his head on top of Tweek’s, taking in the scent of vanilla that makes him so weak in the knees that he nearly topples over. Craig shoots him a glare, but before Clyde can process it, the former’s face returns to neutral. For a moment, Clyde wonders if it even happened, until Craig uncrosses his arms and grips the back of his tank. Understanding the signal, Clyde releases Tweek from his side, immediately missing the warmth. Tweek shoots him a questioning look that Clyde answers with his own as he and Craig step away from the group. He can feel his friends’ gazes on him, hurrying to catch up to Craig’s long strides. Ordinarily, he’s the slowest of them all, lingering just behind the rest, but suddenly, Craig is anything but lethargic. The space-obsessed tree is nervous, which is quite rare for him. Clyde can tell from the lack of uniformity in each of Craig’s steps that are usually thought out and precise. Clyde considers what Craig is so distraught about that he’s letting it show so much until the latter spins on his toes to face him. The two almost collide, Clyde managing to stop mid-step.
“Dude, what is going on with you? You’re like a machine that’s malfunctioning,” nervous chuckles spill from Clyde’s lips, though he’s quick to shut up when Craig continues to stare blankly at him.
“Do you like Tweek?” With a loud gasp, Clyde takes a large step back and nearly bumps into a passing student. A twitch sparks under Craig’s left eye as he watches Clyde sputter. “What? Me? Tweek? Like? No, nope, not at all! I mean, of course I like him, we all like him! He’s our friend, but that’s all he his to me. Why, uh, do you ask?” Craig doesn’t look convinced, but his eyes drop and his shoulders sag, hands shoved deep in his pockets. Seeing the change in Craig’s demeanor, Clyde wipes the crooked smile from his face and pays close attention to his friend.
“I want to ask him out. I’ve wanted to for a long time, but…” His downcast eyes suddenly shoot up to meet Clyde’s, who has been unconsciously leaning forward as Craig spoke, “Are you sure that you don’t feel that way about him? I always thought that you had a thing for him, and if you asked him out, I didn’t think that I could compete.” With each syllable Craig’s voice goes lower just as Clyde’s cheeks burn brighter. He’s mumbling by the time he finishes speaking, and Clyde could easily be mistaken for a tomato. “You mean, you’re intimidated by me?”
Craig sends him another heated glare before directing his gaze downwards again, nodding. Forcing his own feelings for Tweek down, Clyde coughs a bit into his fist, contemplating what to say next. “You, uh, have no reason to be intimidated. I’m totally not into Tweekie anyway, so yeah. If I did, you’d have some real competition, buddy!” Laughing much too enthusiastically, Clyde slaps Craig on the shoulder multiple times before Craig grabs his hand as it’s about to strike again. “Well, if you’re sure…”
“Oh yeah, definitely. Go get ‘em tiger!” With that, Clyde yanks Craig and pushes him back in the direction of their group. He stumbles a little before turning back around to Clyde, hints of red highlighting the tips of his ears.
“If that’s the case, do you think you could help me? I, well, don’t know anything about this stuff and you’re pretty much the complete opposite of me in that department.” A dull ache pools into Clyde’s chest as the situation begins to truly dawn on him: Craig likes Tweek, and he wants his freaking advice. Would Tweek say yes to Craig? Is Craig the right person for Tweek? Craig had said it himself. He and Craig are complete opposites in everything. Clyde is optimistic, athletic, and charismatic. While Craig is a total nerd, he’s also frightening as hell, despite the fact that he’d probably lose in a fight if he provoked a jock enough. His height, even managing to hover over Clyde, also helps, but at heart, Craig is a geek with a passion for the stars, which makes sense considering that he’s always spaced out. Could Craig make Tweek happy? Could Clyde make him happier? Clyde liked to think that he would be better suited for someone like Tweek, who needs reassurance and someone who can listen to him through panic attacks and see him through his worries. He had never thought about this seriously before, but all of a sudden, Tweek has gone from being a beautiful dream to a necessary part of his life. How happy he would be if he could call Tweek his…
“Sure, I’d be glad to assist in your time of need!”
The words flow out of his mouth without his approval.
“What else are friends for?”
Oh, right. Clyde is everyone’s buddy, the shoulder to cry on, the one who's always there to aid those in need. Craig has never been in a relationship, and if he liked anyone else, Clyde would be clicking his heels together in joy that the normally stoic teen is seeking his support in this new endeavor. Why does it have to be Tweek?
“Thanks, I’ll owe you one.”
Why does Clyde have to be such a nice guy?
With Clyde promising to assist Craig in the art of acting like a normal human being for long enough to ask out Tweek, the pair make their way back to the group. Craig seems to walk with an odd spring to his step, but other than that, his rare eagerness is hidden. For once, Clyde is lagging behind, feeling nauseous over the whole situation. He's even a tiny bit angry, both at himself and at Craig.
While Craig may not deserve it, the childish part of him can't help but glare at his friend's hunched back. Why did Clyde have to make that stupid promise? With his help, Craig and Tweek will probably start dating, then they'll get married and have a bunch of babies and argue over who has to go to PTA meetings and teacher conferences and once they get fed up with it all they'll kill their kids and run away to Mexico where Craig will lead a gang and Tweek will sell his body to pay the bills...
One side of Clyde tells him that he's overreacting, that Tweek may turn Craig down regardless of Clyde’s help, but the majority of him thinks that his story has a high chance of happening, and it'll be due to him giving Craig advice.
Maybe he can convince Tweek to leave the country or something, whatever it takes to stop him and Craig from getting together.
Oh, he can tell Tweek that he’s been framed, and that the FBI is hunting him down. The paranoid teen would never doubt him!
Although, once again, Clyde is too nice to put Tweek through that.
Once they return to their meetup spot in the hallway, Clyde notices that Jimmy and Token have already left, the comedian having a free period and the class representative prepping the auditorium for tomorrow's prom. That just leaves Tweek, who's leaning on the wall and attempting to button up the rest of his flannel with shaky hands, only managing one after his conversation with Craig. Before the blonde notices the two, Clyde puts a hand on Craig's shoulder to halt him in his tracks.
“Now’s your chance, big shot. Offer to help him with his buttons. I'm sure little Tweekie will totally appreciate it!”
The words are out of his mouth before Clyde can really consider if his idea is a good one. Part of him thinks that meek, adorable Tweek will indeed be grateful for the support. However, Tweek may be insecure, but he's also feisty and stubborn. There's a very real chance of him resenting anyone offering help despite the kind intentions. Now that he's told Craig, whose already moved away to do as he instructed, Clyde is curious about which path Tweek will take. He's certain that if a stranger or acquaintance had attempted to fix Tweek’s shirt, the blonde would lash out.
Not one of his friends has ever attempted to button it up, probably used to the signature component to his attire. As Craig strolls up to Tweek, stiffer than a statue from his clearly on edge nerves, Clyde feels his own body tensing merely from watching the upcoming display. Then, Clyde realizes that just because Craig is going to make a move doesn't mean that he has to stand five feet away, so he forces his legs to unfreeze and follow Craig.
Tweek’s gaze peeks up from his chest, and he quickly drops his hands, embarrassment obvious in his slightly rosy cheeks. Still, his turquoise eyes glow at the sight of his returned friends, and he offers a bright smile that makes both Craig and Clyde’s heart pound.
‘He's too cute for this world!’
With Clyde beside Craig, he waits anxiously for his friend to initiate the plan. The two are visibly anxious but Tweek doesn't comment on it, still shrugging off the shame of being caught failing at such a simple task. Craig inches closer to the blonde, opening and closing his mouth several times while searching for the right words. If Clyde weren't as nervous, he'd laugh and point out how Craig appears to be a fish trying to breathe air.
Tweek eyes his tallest friend with confusion and concern, his gaze shifting back and forth between him and Clyde, who doesn't notice since he's internally begging Craig to start speaking. Despite wanting to be happy that his awkward friend has finally developed feelings for someone, Clyde can't help the tiny part of himself that is enjoying Craig’s struggle, and is rooting for him to fail. Why does Craig have to like Tweek, of all people? Doesn't he know how ecstatic Clyde would be for Craig if he had a crush on anyone else? He'd even support Craig if he'd developed feelings for Cartman!
Clyde nearly jumps out of his skin once Craig begins to speak, so lost in his thoughts and the eternal silence among the trio.
“Tweek, your buttons are undone.”
The statement might as well have come from the announcement speakers the way Craig stated the obvious fact. Clyde holds in the urge to snicker. There's no way Craig can pull this off, let alone manage to ask Tweek out. He pities him, but Clyde is also grateful. Maybe it means he can still have a chance with Tweek. Said blonde is dumbfounded by Craig, going from shocked to a mix of embarrassed and irritated. He looks as if someone has ripped open his shower curtains and he's completely, and rudely, exposed.
“Thanks for the acute observation, Craig. I- I’m so glad you pointed that out to me.”
That's it, Craig isn't suited for Tweek. Craig may be book smart, but Clyde is apt in observing people's behavior and knowing how to best interact with them. He could take care of Tweek, make him laugh and smile with ease, while Craig would fumble through it all. Coming to this conclusion on a whim, Clyde steps in front of Craig, who has been a stuttering mess, at a loss on how to respond.
“I can button them for you, if you want. My fingers were practically made for the sole purpose of sliding tiny objects into even tinier holes.”
Clyde winks at Tweek, who laughs at his words, but as the brunette moves closer to fix his flannel, Tweek steps away and shakes his head.
“Thanks, but don't bother. I have to take this off for PE class in another minute anyway, so your top notch skills would be going to waste.”
Quick to hide the disappointment threatening to slip onto his face, Clyde nods and pulls back, not bothering to spare a glance at what expression Craig is sporting. Tweek motions for him and Craig to get going, but Clyde reaches behind him a bit to discreetly tug at Craig's jacket sleeve. Understanding the notion, Craig stays in place.
“You go ahead, Tweek. I'll meet you in the locker room.”
Tweek appears perplexed but shrugs his shoulders and heads off with a wave to his friends. Once out of sight, Clyde turns to look up at Craig. The taller teen glares down at Clyde, anger and hurt evident in his stare.
“Why did you do that? I thought you were going to help me.”
Clyde stammers for a moment, but then images of a happy Tweek flash in his mind. He makes peace with himself for what he's about to do next.
“Look, the truth is that I really like Tweek. I like him a lot, okay? He needs someone who can cater to his emotions, and you, my friend, are not capable of doing that.”
Momentarily stunned by the confession, Craig’s mouth hangs open. Once he finishes processing the information, Craig jabs a finger into Clyde’s chest.
“Who the fuck do you think you are? I may not be like you, but that doesn't mean I can't be there for Tweek. You may have muscle and charm and a goofy personality, but that doesn't mean I'm nothing.”
“Fine, tell me what you can offer Tweek.”
“We're not talking about me right now!”
Clyde is taken aback by the raised volume of Craig's ordinarily monotone voice, but holds his ground. He's made up his mind, but before he can get another word in, Craig elbows past Clyde.
“I’m not experienced like you, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying. I'll ask Tweek out my own way.”
Just as Clyde opens his mouth to shout a response to Craig's retreating back, Craig lifts his arm above his head, and flips Clyde off. His face tingling with exasperation, Clyde storms off in the opposite direction, already planning ways to get closer to Tweek.
Clyde has always agreed with the whole ‘bros before hoes’ concept, but Tweek is no one night stand or temporary pretty face to obtain. No, Tweek is a freaking prince, and Clyde is his noble knight, who will give everything he has to protecting his majesty from the evil, antisocial dragon.
Once the dragon is out of the picture, the knight will dedicate himself to making his prince happy in every way imaginable.
He's not being entirely selfish, right? After all, Clyde knows that he can provide more to Tweek than Craig ever could in a relationship on all levels. It's not complicated: Craig isn’t equipped to handle someone like Tweek, and Clyde is just more experienced being with another person, connecting to them mentally, emotionally, sexually…
The thought of Tweek beneath him sends a shiver down his spine. Cheeks heating up, Clyde shoves his hands into his pockets and speedwalks to soccer practice.
Craig has never liked sports, and neither has Tweek. While they both don’t hate physical exercise, it’s certainly not as enjoyable to them in comparison to people like Stan and Kyle, who are both heavily defined by soccer and basketball, respectively. Clyde is the same way, but Craig refuses to think about him right now, pushing the arrogant prick out of his mind.
Returning to the point, Craig prefers to read over running around. He’s never been equipped with the competitive spirit that the aforementioned power couple has, not for sports or anything else, besides his growing interest in space that started when he was a kid. Although Tweek is more competitive than he is, the much smaller teen becomes too overwhelmed by all the chaos that occurs during any sort of match to properly play. When forced to exercise for class, they both prefer running laps because it's systematic and simple: Craig can mindlessly run without everyone else yelling at him for not trying hard enough, and Tweek finds it much more peaceful without the pressure and constant change of pace that sports entail.
For Craig, running comes fairly easy to him with his long legs, which his more athletic peers have deemed an unfair waste since he doesn’t use them for any physical exertion except when he has to, not minding the useless advantage as he sits on them when reading. With his little exercise mixed with bland eating, Craig's body more so resembles a stick than anything else. His elongated limbs are his most prominent features, while the rest of his form is practically useless. Craig is definitely not weak, but he could spare some more time building himself up. At least, that's what others have told him, and while he's responded every time with his signature finger, only now does Craig consider working out.
After all, he meant what he said to Clyde about being intimidated by the soccer player. Clyde is popular, and able to get just about anybody he wants, given his strength and natural charm. Looking at it objectively, Clyde does have him beat in several areas like plentiful relationship experience and charisma. There's also the matter of him being in top shape, and for once, Craig takes his appearance into consideration. Staring down at his chest, Craig pokes at his stomach, suddenly irritated at his lack of ab muscle, becoming further annoyed that a six pack hasn't sprouted out yet from his intense scrutiny. He's never been one to care about what other people think, but if Tweek might like him better with more muscle, then maybe he should start some sort of exercise regimen. Craig hates that his next immediate thought is to ask Clyde to make him one.
“You, uh, looking for something in your belly button? I-I don't know how you could lose something in there, but you should hurry up and find it or we're gonna be marked tardy.”
Broken out of his trance, Craig’s eyes gradually climb up to meet Tweek’s own, taking in the blonde’s thin legs and how the smallest PE uniform still manages to be so baggy on him. As Tweek sends him a nervous grin, Craig realizing that he still hasn't said anything in response and has yet again made another conversation awkward as hell, he thinks Tweek is the most beautiful person he's ever seen. In fact, he's too beautiful, too kind and quirky for someone like him. Is Clyde right? Tweek deserves the best, and while Craig doesn't think he's that terrible, he's no prince charming.
He's not like Clyde, and for that, Craig momentarily despises everything about himself.
“Dude, please stop staring at me. I know I-I can't make jokes like C-Clyde can, so just forget what I said and let's get going.”
Craig’s eyes narrow at that name being brought up and coming from Tweek’s lips. Scratching the back of his neck, Tweek releases a low, self-deprecating laugh, waiting for Craig to follow him out of the locker room. Instead, Craig continues to stare at him. Tweek has never been the best at reading people, but he doesn't think that anyone is able to crack what is going on inside this human enigma. Well, Clyde comes the closest to understanding, but even he can't always put the pieces together. The blonde starts to get anxious under Craig's intense gaze, but isn't sure what else to say to get his friend to move. He swallows and begins to pull at his fingers, at a loss of what to do. Just as the anxious teen starts to wonder if Craig has been replaced by a cyborg, the brunette blinks at him several times, but says nothing. Tweek wants to scream.
‘What am I supposed to do with that?! Is he trying to communicate with Morse code? Oh man, I don't know any! Why didn’t I learn it at some point? Now I'm screwed!’
“It was funny.”
Nearly gasping from surprise that Craig actually spoke, Tweek spends several moments doing his own staring, snapping his head to the side.
Tweek applauds himself for not shouting, still utterly confused. Instead, his words are whispered, and would've gone unheard if they weren't the only two present.
“Your joke. It was funny, so don't put yourself down like that.”
That's not a good enough response.
“Right, uh, thank you. I-I'm glad that you....liked it?”
Tweek knows that his next attempt is no better, but he can't help it. He's never been complimented by Craig, nor has he heard the quiet giant ever compliment anyone before. It feels strange...but nice.
Craig leaves him no more time to fret about the interaction as he finally throws on his shirt and lifts himself off the bench, walking past Tweek without another word. Unsatisfied, Tweek desperately wants to say more, to let Craig know that he appreciates what he said. Being complimented by Craig sent a jolt through his chest. He feels, though he hates to use the word, special from the sudden attention from the teen who is always ridiculously neutral about everything.
Rushing out of the locker room, he reaches up to grab Craig's shoulder before he steps onto the gymnasium floor. Tweek almost slips from having to extend his arm so high, given that his head doesn't even meet Craig's shoulders. Craig turns to face his friend, who, now that he has his attention, is unsure of what to do next. With newfound determination, Tweek’s fists ball at his sides and his eyes glimmer as he peers at Craig with an expression he's never seen before.
“Thank you. I’m sure that I'm making this a bigger deal than it is, but what you said means a lot to me.”
Craig's eyes widen at the heartfelt reply. A smile blossoms onto his face before he can comprehend just how happy he is, and it grows when Tweek does the same. A deep chuckle spills out of the taller teen, and Tweek’s smile falters for a moment, unused to the sound. His grin quickly returns, still processing that he somehow managed to make Craig laugh, overjoyed at his accomplishment. He’s hit with a strong desire to hear more of it.
“You slackers get your butts over here already or I'll mark you absent!”
Tweek flinches at their teacher’s call, who’s clearly irritated with the two. Craig merely glances over his shoulder at the red-faced man, then offers Tweek a small smile.
“You're welcome. I'm glad I could make you happy.”
“Let's go already, you freaking brats!”
With that, the two share another moment of new understandings as they head over to the center of the gymnasium, both knowing that they've reached unexplored territory in their friendship.
Feeling a burst of confidence pool into his veins, Craig wraps his arm around Tweek's shoulders and pulls him close, just as Clyde had earlier. If only that cocky dipshit could see him now...
Barely arriving on time, Craig and Tweek move to sit on the bottom bleachers. Their teacher seems tempted to scold them further but after a final disapproving glance he clears his throat to address the class.
“All right, I know most of you have been working hard these past few weeks with the end of the year so close. Therefore, I’ve decided that we can have a little fun. Instead of laps, how does dodgeball sound?”
Craig and Tweek stare at each other in identical horror while nearly everyone else voices their approval with glee. Both don’t enjoy the generally beloved game due to their similar lack of athletic spirit. Craig may have a powerful throw, but he’s usually one of the first to get out from his refusal to move much. Still, the giant manages to remove several players from the game beforehand, though that’s only because the other students force the rubber weapons into his hands so he can chuck as many balls as possible while he stands in place, merely waiting for someone on the other team to strike him down.
Tweek is the opposite: his agile reflexes and panicked mind allow him to be one of the final players left, if not the last one. Despite his graceless maneuvering, Tweek’s little strength and inability to aim whilst terrified makes him a moving target rather than a substantial hope for victory. If he’s the only player remaining, it’s a waiting game until an opposing player finally nicks him. It can take an eternity for a match to end if Tweek is the final opponent. There have even been times where their teacher ended the game with Tweek’s team as the victor because no one managed to hit him throughout the entire class period. Although his teammates applaud him, Tweek doesn’t dodge for them: he moves as if his life depends on it, which is how his brain tends to function in most situations. This leaves Tweek more like a cornered animal than someone who just wants to win, even if his flaring nerves consequently lead to him being victorious. Cornered animals always fight the hardest, and Tweek is a perfect example of that.
In summation, neither of them are thrilled to play, unlike the rest of their eager peers. Everyone is throwing their arms around, begging to be a team captain. Through all the youthful enthusiasm and yelling, Tweek’s stare is pleading for it not to be true. His wide eyes are fearful and dreading, the sorry sight puncturing Craig’s very soul. His grip on the blonde’s shoulder tightening, Craig frets over what comes next, unsure of what to say or do. He's never been the best at dealing with other people's emotions, let alone comforting them. That's Clyde’s thing, he always knows how to cheer someone up and says all the right words.
Why doesn't Craig know what those words are? Why does Clyde have to constantly be better than him?
Well, Craig may not be a man of talk, and he certainly is not one to take action, but today, he can at least be there for Tweek. He'll show his friend how much he cares.
“Don't worry, I'll protect you. This time, I promise to try, so just stay close.”
The panic in Tweek’s fluttering gaze fades a little at his sudden declaration. Tweek focuses less on the upcoming war and instead finds himself drawn to the newfound expression on Craig's face. He looks more determined than Tweek has ever seen. It fills Tweek with hope that maybe he'll get through this. Soon enough, he'll turn into a flailing mess, but, in this moment, the idea of Craig protecting him makes him feel safe. After all, Craig hardly ever applies his full self to anything, so seeing him prepped to work hard is incredibly reassuring.
For the second time today, Tweek can't help feeling special at the attention Craig has been dedicating to him. Craig is known for not giving a shit about anything, and though Tweek considers him more aloof than uncaring, this sprout of kindness from him makes Tweek’s insides feel out of place. More than usual, at least...but in a good way?
‘What is wrong with me?!’
Realizing that he hasn't said anything in response, Tweek’s lips part, only to be silenced by a screeching whistle. Tweek flinches at the harsh sound, and the pair turn away from each other to face their teacher, who is ready to burst.
“If you all can't act your age then I'll make this easy for you. I can only allow so much ruckus, so to keep it simple, we'll do boys versus girls.”
Groans seem to echo off of each other at the sheer amount of them emitted by the disappointed students, but they only receive a pointed glare from their teacher before gradually sliding off the benches. The girls occupy one side of the basketball court while the guys fill the other. Despite not being able to pick their own teams, the competitive aura shared by every student is still firing with excitement.
Well, almost every student.
Tweek is doing his best not to tremble. His knees are on the verge of giving out as they turn into jelly and his palms already begin to sweat. Once the game starts, Tweek’s body will be fueled by the usual wave of adrenaline surging through his flimsy frame, but until then, he's a malfunctioning mess. Nausea floods his senses, and he mindlessly leans on Craig for support, whose heavy arm is still wrapped around him.
Tweek attempts to ground himself through Craig's sturdy form. Understanding this, the human tree pulls him closer. Craig's eyes shoot from his friend to the other guys lined up facing the girls, both groups equally menacing. He then looks to the teacher, who is raising his whistle to his mouth. Staring down at Tweek again, Craig removes his hold on him and steps towards the center of the line, motioning for the blonde to follow. The others are in awe as Craig steps in between them. Normally, Craig stands on the edge of the court, causing his teammates to rush at him with all their obtained ammunition in order for him to get out as many people as possible before being inevitability struck. Now, for reasons beyond them, Craig has voluntarily moved to a more strategic position. On the opposite end of the court, the girls peer over in disbelief.
“Give all the balls to me. I'm going to give a shit for once.”
Craig's commonly curt tongue has never sounded so poetic to Tweek.
Standing tall, Craig has the attention of everyone in the gymnasium; even their teacher is stumped by the sudden energy his laziest student is displaying. His eyes are no longer dull, and instead, are bright and focused as he stares down the girls on the other end of the basketball court. He leans forward and bends his knees, twisting on his toes to be directly facing the set of balls lined up in the center. Several jaws drop at the new, ferocious aura emanating off of the giant, who is already intimidating without putting in any effort. While Craig is not usually able to read the room, even he recognizes the newfound weight heavying the air and the attention he has on him. Craig sends a glance to each of his teammates, causing some of them to flinch at the sudden eye contact.
“Just to clarify what’s going on right now, I haven’t gained any interest in this stupid game. My goal is to protect Tweek and end this shit as quickly as possible, so you all barricade him with your bodies if you have to. Do that, and I’ll lead us to victory, but if you let him get hit, I stop the second he’s out. Got it?”
Unable to do much else, each boy nods in unison. Tweek is so caught up in the spectacle that he nods with them, until the words fully process in his head. Craig is actually going to try...for him? This sudden kindness from Craig all at once goes from being appreciated by Tweek to becoming absolutely terrifying. Somehow, Tweek has seemingly awakened another side of Craig that he has never shown to the world before. Since when did Craig care so much about him? Where is this coming from, and why? It makes no sense, and as much as Tweek admits to himself that he is pleasantly flabbergasted by what Craig has done for him within the past couple of minutes, not knowing the reasoning behind the odd behavior is now making Tweek want to pull at his hair. He has to know what’s going on with his longtime friend and he needs to know right now or he’s going to lose it!
As he makes his way closer to Craig, four of his classmates step in front of him, forming a protective wall. Tweek moves to go around them, but three more come in to block his way. Each of them are staring him down, causing Tweek’s legs to tremble. He takes a step back only to hit the chest of another classmate. In a matter of seconds, the blonde has been encircled by a handful of his teammates, but it’s not exactly comforting to have a bunch of serious looking guys looming over you. Tweek swallows and begins to pull at his fingers.
“I-I just want to talk to Craig for a second. Plus, you guys don’t have to do this, uh, you all know I’m pretty good at getting out of the way…”
He adds a forced chuckle at the end, but when he’s met with stony silence, Tweek rubs at his neck. What is he supposed to do now? Rising to his toes, Tweek manages to steal a peek at Craig, who is huddling with the rest of the boys, most likely discussing some sort of strategy. Not like Tweek would know. When forced to play this evil game, his only objective is getting himself out of the line of danger, so he can only imagine what sort of planning is involved in such a fast paced game consisting of mere throwing and dodging. A strong tug on his wrist nearly leads to Tweek toppling over, and he’s thrust directly under the tallest of his undesired defenders.
“Sorry shortie, but you’re not leaving this circle. If Craig is actually going to give a fuck for once, we’re going to make sure we get to watch him kick ass for as long as we can by keeping you covered at all times. Just move as we do and you’ll stay out of sight.”
Unable to do much else, Tweek simply nods, but he can’t hold back his bubbling frustration as he yanks his arm back. Not that he cares about winning, but Tweek usually survives far longer than most without other people’s help, and they all should know that by now! Nevertheless, he’s surrounded by his peers like he’s made of glass. Embarrassment floods through him, and he finds himself shaking for a new reason. His face flushes with shame at his inability to fight his way out of the living prison, feeling like a princess trapped in a tower. Well, he doesn’t have to take this. Tweek sucks in a large breath, preparing to call out to Craig, who will certainly rid him of this barricade of bodies made up of ridiculously competitive assholes that prefer a win without doing anything themselves to earn it.
Just as he separates his lips, the harsh blow of the whistle fills his ears, along with the immediate shuffling of rapid feet rushing across the gym floor. Tweek can’t make out what’s happening above him from his enclosure. Once the game seems to be in full swing, the boys surrounding him begin move as one whenever necessary. Since he’s not able to see, Tweek can only do his best to follow the direction of their movements. If he doesn’t move fast enough, one of his teammates will yank him around. His lack of sight starts to make Tweek anxious. He’s so skilled at dodging because his body shoots into overdrive when faced with peril, and, being blind to the game, the action is only discernible through the chaotic noises, which do nothing but put him on edge. He continuously freezes, his fight or flight response failing him, which causes his teammates to pull at him harder.
One by one, bits of his wall start to fall, and while another classmate comes in to cover the opening, Tweek’s constant freezing makes it harder for his moving barricade to push him fast enough. More and more gaps form in the circle, to the point that there’s a clear view of Tweek’s side of the court. His gaze immediately scans for Craig, and when Tweek spots him, he doubts his vision for the implausible reality he’s faced with. Numerous male students run to Craig, each one carrying rubber ammunition for him. Mechanically, Craig reaches down to grab a ball and releases one over and over again. He appears to be the only one throwing, but by the sound of impact that hits Tweek’s ears every time Craig releases a ball, the giant must be getting out another girl with each calculated peg.
Tweek is so mesmerized by Craig’s gloriously flinging form that he stills completely, only managing to move thanks to his remaining guardians yanking him along the court. Despite the danger he knows is occurring all around him, Tweek can’t rip his eyes away from this magnificent show of strength several yards away. His feet refuse to move, not wanting to miss a second of Craig’s remarkable skill. He only returns his attention to himself when he realizes that there’s only three of his teammates left; two of them are still pulling him this way and that while the other is supplying Craig with ammunition. Energy rushes into his legs at it hits Tweek that, soon, he’s going to be on his own and needs to be ready. Regardless of the common anxiety that begins to fuel Tweek’s scrambling, he can’t help but wonder if, once the guy helping Craig gets out, will Craig will move by himself to grab more firepower. After all, he won’t have a choice at that point, but all the work Craig has already put in is extraordinary in itself. Is there a limit to how much effort he’ll put in, even when he decides to try?
With the end of that thought, the last two of Tweek’s protection squad is knocked out one after the other. The opposite side of the court is fully revealed, showing the few girls remaining. Now that Tweek is completely exposed, the remaining girls direct their shots at him, likely remembering that Craig would stop if he is removed from the game. Still, Tweek dodges well as he normally does as adrenaline fills him. Going against his survival instincts telling him to run to the empty areas of the court, Tweek moves close to Craig, his desire to stand by his side momentarily outweighing his need for safety. Craig glances at him in shock, just as taken aback as Tweek’s reflexes. Now, the only players are grouped in the center, making for much easier targets.
“Dude, get out of the way. You’ll get hit!”
Craig’s words are a premonition. The teammate securing Craig’s ammo supply is suddenly struck, leaving Tweek and Craig alone. Craig sends his last ball into another girl, which rebounds off of her and into another. It’s two on one now, but she has all of the balls on her side. There’s so much going through Tweek’s mind as he faces Craig, his previous questions about the giant’s attitude change returning to the forefront of his mind. The lack of answers are all he can think about despite the danger they’re in at the moment.
“Craig, what’s gotten into you today? Why are you being so nice to me? I-I don’t get it!”
The competitive seriousness on Craig’s face melts away at Tweek’s questions, unsure of how to respond to what feels like a poorly timed interrogation. Both are locked in place, being made useless by their racing, confused emotions. Craig is broken out of the brief lapse in judgment when a ball rushes towards Tweek. Not reacting soon enough for both of them to escape unscathed, Craig dives onto his unsuspecting friend, whose mind is far from the game.
Letting out a low grunt from the impact, Craig looks down at a wide-eyed Tweek and does his best to control the reawakened flame stirring inside his gut.
It’s all Tweek manages to say as Craig gradually moves off of him. Surprising Tweek for the millionth time today, Craig offers him a small smile and lets out a light laugh.
“Of course I did.”
Tweek doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand any of this. How can he? Craig’s shift is just too much, it’s all too much!
Yet, the way Craig answered, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, gives Tweek a new drive. Before Craig can even exit the court, Tweek snatches the ball used to knock him out. With a warrior’s cry, he chucks it in the final girl’s direction with power he didn’t know he possessed, nicking her in the shoulder before she could even process that Tweek had picked up a ball for the first time ever. The room goes silent, before the boys bellow out a triumphant cheer and race off the bleachers to commend Tweek. The blonde’s body, still high on adrenaline, briefly acknowledges his teammates and the fact that he just won as he makes his way to Craig. The giant is in awe, gazing down at Tweek in shock and admiration.
“Tweek, you’re amazing.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Tweek stands directly under Craig, shifting his determination back to its original objective.
“You haven’t answered me. Why have you been so...kind to me all of a sudden?”
Craig’s lips set into a firm line, the only bit of evidence showing his discomfort. The two engage in a staring contest until their teacher slaps them both on the back.
“You two have really blossomed, great work out there! Now, who’s ready for another match?”
The other students voice their approval while Tweek and Craig react silently to the unpleasant news. Everyone else moves to line up again, and the teacher leaves the pair alone, but motions for them to step back into place. Tweek lets out a disappointed sigh, but when Craig places a hand on his head, annoyance at the situation pulses through him. He hates it when people pat his hair, for too many do it just to mock his height, but as Tweek is about to slap Craig’s fingers away, he catches a glimpse at his friend, who looks far from condescending. His expression is full of something warm and considerate, and it’s so odd seeing Craig so utterly compassionate, but Tweek feels his cheeks heating up at how that strange, yet pleasant look is directed at him.
“We’ll talk about it later. For now, let’s go kick some ass together.”
Tweek has never felt so motivated to play a sport before. With an enthusiastic nod, the two join their teammates on the court for round two.