Still three days until the party…

Wendy could barely restrain a yawn as she sat, surrounded by her quasi-friends, listening to a rather in-depth conversation about the benefits and disadvantages of various types of lip-gloss. Or, if she were completely honest with herself, she was trying very hard not to listen.

The five girls that she was sitting with were really more Bebe's friends than hers. Friends by association, as it were. She could tell that the girls—all blondes, though only two of them naturally so—were not altogether impressed with her. However, Bebe's approval won her acceptance, and her own intimidation skills protected her from the veiled insults and chiding that other girls in her position often had to suffer through.

Even if any of them were willing to go against Bebe, the widely recognized ruler of them all, all they had to do was remember a certain incident involving a cheerleader—this one brave enough to dye her hair red, instead of copying Bebe's yellow tresses—who pissed Wendy off. No one had ever been able to prove anything, but most of them still had nightmares about the janitor sweeping all of that lovely copper hair out of the locker room. Of course, even if the rumors about Wendy's involvement were false, the girl would never have lasted very long anyway. Bebe did not tolerate dissenters, and all that red hair was a challenge too grievous to overlook.

It was a well-known truth among the girls of South Park High. Nobody fucked with Bebe Stevens or Wendy Testaburger. Though that really depended on how you used the word, anyway. Technically, Bebe had been fucked with plenty of times--or so she bragged, anyway.

Abruptly, Wendy's patience—already sorely tried by the very unwelcome truths driven home by her earlier discussion with her best friend—wore thin. She pushed her chair back and came to her feet. The crowd of would-be Bebe's abruptly fell silent and eyed her nervously. Wendy surveyed them all quite disdainfully. They all looked so nervous. A bunch of spineless drones, waiting for their orders.

All at once, she came to a realization. She was so tired of people walking around on eggshells for her. Wendy was not the type to worry about popularity, but this went much deeper. Was it so much to ask, really, to have someone just talk to her because they wanted to, and not because they were afraid of her?

She had always enjoyed the unusual freedoms that she possessed. Even Eric Cartman couldn't get away with everything. He had been caught and punished more than once. She, on the other hand, was only just now experiencing her very first detention—and, in her humble opinion, she had done things that were more than equal to his delinquent exploits. But whereas before she had all but exalted in her liberties, now she just felt…well…lonely. Depressed at the thought that her deepest interpersonal connections were merely the result of intimidation and dread. Even Stan seemed jumpy around her lately, and they had been together more than half her life.

She would like to blame her current feelings on Bebe's unwelcome interference, but, if she were honest with herself, the feeling had been coming on for months—if not years, even.

Her thoughts about Stan gave her pause. She had been in a relationship with a boy for almost ten years. It was not as though she had never thought of it, and even joked about it, but suddenly it seemed to really ring home. Ten years. Sure, there had been frequent on and off fazes, but they essentially had went together since childhood. And, while others around them were making out in supply closets, having sex in the back of pick-up trucks, and just generally acting like the overly stimulated young adults that they were, their own relationship had not changed much since they were eight. Nothing more than an occasional kiss that still inspired blushing on both parts. She couldn't even remember the last time they had held hands in public. She hated public displays of affection, and Stan… did Stan hate it too? She really didn't know. They didn't talk to each other. She hadn't even so much as seen him in weeks.

She suddenly realized that she had essentially blanked out, and had been standing there clutching at the top of her chair for God knows how long. The bobble-heads, as she had taken to referring to Bebe's followers in her mind (because they were always nodding at whatever their master said), were still regarding her uneasily. Wendy knew she had to say something but had no idea what. Finally, she simply turned and walked away. It wasn't as though they'd have the guts to remark upon her strange behavior anyway.

She settled with her back against a corner wall, well out of sight of the other tables, with a book in front of her. She wasn't reading it, though. She couldn't get her earlier uneasiness to fade. Her mind kept drifting back to her conversation with Bebe.

"You are not the type of girl who can be satisfied with a nice, normal guy. You need someone bold. Someone who takes what he wants, no questions asked! Someone who isn't going to just lie down and let you push him around!"

She winced. Did Stan really let her push him around? Maybe that was true at one time, but not anymore. Really, Stan didn't come around often enough for her to tell. She had convinced herself that it didn't matter, had pushed it away far enough in her mind that she had convinced herself that she didn't mind. That they were just like an old-married couple, secure enough in themselves and their relationship that they didn't have to constantly cling to one another. But now… she didn't think so anymore.

Had Stan simply gotten tired of being bossed around by her? Could she have driven him away? She liked to think that she was mature enough to recognize the possibility. Though it hurt her, she could distance herself to the extent that she could admit she was not an easy person to be around. Bebe called her complicated. Now, for the first time, she wondered about that. Was she complicated? Or was she just a bitch?

Wendy's self-reflection was abruptly interrupted, as she suddenly noticed a rather large shadow behind the bookcase to her left. She stiffened instantly, and rose to her feet. Contemplating her own flaws always left her frustrated, and she thought that she had just spotted the perfect outlet for her discontent.

She rose to her feet, casually stepping towards the bookcase in question, making as if she were going to replace the book in her hand with another. Her hands skimmed the spines of the books on the shelf. Reference books, she noted. Nice and thick and heavy. Without warning, she shoved them back with all her might. From behind the shelf came a flurry of curses so vile they could only emanate from one outlet. She smiled in self-satisfaction, inwardly thanking Eric Cartman. It was the first time she'd felt really good about herself all day. Just what she'd needed.

Just as she'd returned to her seat on the floor, Cartman came out from behind the shelf, rubbing at the blood trickling slowly from his nose and snarling. It wasn't a description she'd typically assign to a human, but there was really no other word for the way he was growling and practically foaming at the mouth. Then again, Cartman's humanity was debatable anyway.

The whole episode left her in rather a contented mood, which was only magnified by the darkness of the thoughts she'd been entertaining before he showed up. She was feeling so charitable towards him for providing such a welcome distraction, she didn't even bother to respond in kind to the death threats he was currently throwing her way. Instead, she laughed at him. When she didn't bother to get pissed off at his comments, he really was the most ridiculously funny and entertaining person she knew. She supposed that she'd noticed it a few times, but it was so rare for her not to be pissed off at him that she was mildly surprised each time that the realization struck home again.

He seemed taken aback by her reaction, and she smiled again at catching him off guard. It really was quite satisfying. She knew Cartman well enough to realize that, like her, he weighed each circumstance carefully and entered into altercations with a strategy prepared for any possible situation that may arise. She had caught him now, and he would have to completely regroup. Wendy waited for his next insult rather impatiently. Whatever it was, it was sure to be something special. He truly did work best under pressure.

It was her turn to be surprised when, instead of firing a come-back at her, he instead took a seat against the wall next to her. However, the glint in his eye suggested that he knew exactly where he was going with this new strategy. She resolved to keep her guard up, despite his suddenly easy-going manner.

"You know, Wendy," he said in a deceivingly conversational tone, trying his best to raise his knees to his chest in an imitation of how she was sitting, and failing miserably. "It's not very nice to throw books at unsuspecting library patrons." His manner was so decidedly angelic, she couldn't help but feel slightly uneasy.

"Don't you pull that garbage with me, Cartman. 'Unsuspecting patron' my eye. You were clearly spying on me."

His mocking guffaws echoed throughout the area. "Spying on you? Please. And just why would I spy on you, of all people."

Perhaps one less experienced than she would not have noticed the uneasiness in those brown eyes. She had been analyzing them for years, though, and could read him as easily as John Knowles—really a fit comparison. They were both irritating as hell.

Wendy would typically string him along a little more, really piss him off, but she decided that acting out of character had thus far been her ally in this particular altercation. Why not continue, and call his bluff? "You really think that I don't know, Cartman?" she asked, staring dramatically into his eyes and licking her lips for effect.

His reaction was much more pronounced than she would have expected. Typically he was sort of half with her; some of his attention focused on her and a larger part on planning his next response. Now, for the first time she could remember, his attention was fixed squarely upon her. He was completely alert, eyes focused on her face, body strangely tense. Wendy nearly jumped back as a sudden thought occurred to her. Focused on her like this, like everything depended on her response, he seemed strangely magnetic. His body was drawn up to full height—or as much as it could be, sitting down—instead of all slumped like he usually was. His features were sharp, his eyes, darker than usual, unwaveringly tracking her. Like this, he looked almost…well, not really, but sort of…he looked kind of hot.

She was suddenly acutely aware of how close they were sitting, and the way his leg was casually brushing hers. To her amazement, she didn't pull back. A moment passed, during which neither of them spoke and Wendy had to consciously remind herself to breathe.

Then, like a splash of cold water, Cartman rolled his eyes. And she realized that, if she had forgotten to breath, she had definitely been the only one.

"Well," he said. What exactly is it that you think you know?"

Wendy blinked. She felt sort of strange. Not like herself at all. "Know? Know what?"

"You dumb bitch, what do you think that you know!"

She snapped out of her fog in a hurry, grabbing her things and eyeing him contemptuously as she rose to her feet. "I know that you're an asshole, Cartman!"

Before walking away, she turned on her heel and looked back at him, embarrassed, disappointed, and she didn't even know why. "And if I ever catch you spying on me again, trying to find something to make fun of me for, I'll do worse than throw a couple of books at you!"

Cartman stared at her retreating form, and then thunked his head back against the wall. What a freaking moron.

He wasn't sure if he was thinking it of her or of himself, but the sentiment was definitely there.

Two days until the party…

Stan sat on his favorite park bench, newly repaired cap pulled low over his ears and coat buttoned up to his chin. The cold had always bothered him more than his other friends. More than Kenny, who had more important things to worry about. Like making his inevitable… episodes… as painless as possible. More than Cartman, who, naturally, came equipped with his own personal insulation. Even more so than Kyle, who, despite being the tallest of them all, was also the thinnest.

And he was back at Kyle again.

Stan fought back pangs of guilt for the five-hundred and sixth time in the last few days, and took his frustration out on the pond in front of him, flinging a pebble at it with all his might. It just pinged off the iced over body of water, frozen as it was all but one month a year. Damn South Park.

Not that it was the weather he was angry at. Or Kyle. It was himself.

Try as he might, he could not understand what had come over him lately. Why he had been acting like such a bastard. All that he knew was that it was somehow tied into his relationship with Kyle.

Kyle, of all people. Who had been his best friend since before he'd learnt how to walk. Why was he so angry at him?

Only, it wasn't anger. Not really. It was frustration. But why was he frustrated? The whole thing made no sense at all, and all he wanted to do was go back to how they'd been before.

But not.


But, he shook his head, forehead scrunched up in confusion, what did he mean by 'different'?

Stan knew that he wasn't stupid. He had many times considered that he and Kyle would not be able to spend the rest of their lives as best friends, as they were now. They would always be friends, but would inevitably have to get jobs and have their own families and not be able to spend every waking moment hanging out together, as they had so far.

But, somehow, Stan had always seen himself, not Kyle, as the one who would end up marrying and settling down when he was ready—which wouldn't be for a while. He had never considered until recently that Kyle might be the one to take off first.

But, since his conversation with Token the other day, he had realized that he wasn't the only one with a prospective life. That Kyle was just as likely to meet some stupid chick and move off with her as he was—only not, because he had Wendy.

Sometimes he forgot about that.

It seemed an unlikely jump to go from an obscure discussion about sex to this state, but somehow it made sense to him. The loss of virginity was, after all, the beginning of adulthood. And that was a big part of it. Stan didn't want to grow up, and he didn't want his best friend to either. Because growing up meant losing childhood friends, and he didn't think that he was even close to being ready to lose Kyle.

That wasn't all. He was pretty sure that there was more to what he was feeling. But he was sick and tired of thinking about it, and his ridiculous, unconnected ramblings had at least bought him some measure of comfort.

One thing was certain, anyway. Even if he didn't know what was going on in his own head, he owed his best friend an apology.


Hey guys. Yeah, it's been a while, I know. Sorry about that, but I've been dealing with perhaps the most severe case of writer's block I've ever had. And my new job (I'm a summer runner at a law office) hasn't really given me a lot of time to work on it. This chapter alone took me about a month to write, and finally came out about 100 times different than I initially envisioned it.

I've decided, though, to try and find a Beta reader. It won't take a lot of effort with spell-checking and grammar, I really just need someone to read through what I have and give me ideas every now and then, and to yell at me if I don't update often enough. I really think it'd help me out, so please Private Message me on if you have the time.

I recently learned from my lovely roommate kkat84 (pimping her stories here!), that this site does not like you to reply to reviews inside your stories. I personally prefer to do it that way, but I understand the logic. So, starting now, I will have to reply to you by pm. I'm not going to go back and do it to all of those who already reviewed last chapter, because too much time has passed and you've all probably forgotten even leaving a review by now. But do understand that I appreciate every comment you take the time to make—the good, the bad, I love it all.

I am still excited to a freakish degree by the fanart! Seaouryou made me. Check out Kenny and Bebe on deviant art. I can't figure out how to do a link, and the site won't let me write the address out, so just take the spaces out: www. deviantart. com/ deviation/ 33867884/