Disclaimer: This story is just for my entertainment, and is not to be used to make a profit. In fact, as I am doing this rather than putting in more hours at work, I'm actually losing money on the deal. Perhaps I should sue…

Running Interference

Act III – The Best Laid Plans

Author's Notes: And we arrive upon the exciting conclusion. Sorry for the delay. Hope it does not disappoint!

-----

Coach Raymond, Stan had decided, was the quintessential sadistic asshole. More than Mr. Garrison had been; more than Mecha Streisand; he was possibly on the same plane as Cartman.

He therefore wasn't surprised when the coach scheduled an extra practice on Friday of all days, meaning that Stan would have precious little time to take care of various matters before Kyle's Big Date ™. At five-thirty, he was scrambling to gather all his things before rushing out the door to meet Wendy.

He needn't have bothered, however. By the time he had slipped his shirt back on, Wendy had actually stepped into the room.

"W-Wendy!" Stan exclaimed, in what sounded like a remarkable impression of Butters. "This is the boys' locker room!"

"I know," she responded, "but I really need to talk to you. The student council is having an emergency meeting this evening, so I'm not going to be able to help out with Kyle's date tonight after all."

"Emergency meeting?" Stan asked. He didn't think the student council actually did anything but plan dances and other school-wide events, let alone anything that could be labeled 'urgent.'

"Yeah, it's a joint meeting with the PTA. Something about a parent demanding making STD-testing available in school. Don't ask me, I have no clue whose crazy idea this was."

Stan, however, couldn't have cared less about the meeting's purpose. "But…I can't do this alone!" he sputtered, his eye twitching rather violently.

"I know, I know. That's why I've called in reinforcements."

As if on cue, said reinforcements – in the form of two busty blondes, one slightly taller and with frizzier hair – knocked on Stan's door.

"You've got to be kidding me," Stan grumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose. He ignored the confused stares of his basketball teammates, who were gawking at the three girls in their supposedly sacred space and undoubtedly wondering if this meant they were now allowed into the girls' locker room.

"Come on, Stan, you can trust us!" Bebe shot him a bright smile.

"We're experts at this!" Mercedes grinned, readjusting her top (a too-small t-shirt bearing the words 'I'm not gay, but my girlfriend is!').

If Stan were more prudent, he would have taken this turn of events as a sign that the powers that be did not want Stan to intervene in that night's affairs.

But if Stan were more prudent, he wouldn't have been in this situation to begin with.

-----

Kyle calmly sipped his cappuccino, leaning one elbow against the table at which he was sitting.

He was idly flipping through a copy of Vanity Fair that someone had left in Tweak Bros. Coffee Shop – after, of course, wondering who the hell in South Park actually read Vanity Fair – when someone began speaking to him.

"Hey." Kyle looked up and nearly performed a comedic spit-take.

"Token?" he asked, setting the steaming liquid down in order to avoid further injury as the other boy sat down next to him. "You're the guy Stan decided to set me up with?" The tiny part of Kyle's mind that usually yelled at him for ending a sentence with a preposition had the good sense to keep quiet.

Token raised an eyebrow. "I thought he was asking on your behalf."

"No, Stan didn't even tell me. He just told me to be here at seven."

Token pinched the bridge of his nose in a manner that suggested the onset of a sudden migraine. "You've got to be fucking kidding me." He looked back up at Kyle, somewhat confused. "Wait, you let Stan Fucking Marsh set you up on a blind date?"

Kyle nodded, fully realizing what that said about his own level of stupidity. "Yeah, well, he always manages to talk me into this kind of thing." He chuckled. "At least it's better than that time he got me to dig up my dead grandmother to play a prank on some older kids back in third grade."

"…You're joking."

"I wish."

The conversation continued amicably along the same lines for a few more minutes. Kyle was marveling at Token's ability to diffuse tension and awkwardness, and internally conceded that maybe Stan hadn't screwed this one up too badly, when he noticed that the other boy had suddenly stopped speaking.

"Uh, Earth to Token. What's up?"

Token leaned forward and spoke in a low whisper. "I think we're being watched."

"What? By whom?"

Token jutted one thumb out to his side, and Kyle slowly looked in the same direction. Indeed, poorly hidden behind the plant in the corner of the room, were Stan, along with Bebe and Mercedes of all people.

"…the fuck?"

"Come on, let's get out of here and hope they don't follow us."

And with that, they both dashed their way out of the shop.

-----

"Where are they going?" Stan asked, peaking around the overgrown shrubbery at the café's rear corner.

"We'd better follow them," Bebe suggested, crouching as she leapt out form behind the plant in a futile attempt to remain inconspicuous.

The girls walked quickly toward Stan's car, and he hopped in the driver's seat. Then, the unfamiliar voice of reason began wheedling at the back of his mind.

"Hey, guys? Maybe we should leave them alone."

"And let two boys try to stumble their way through a romantic interlude?" Bebe asked, giving him a stare that clearly communicated just how retarded she thought the suggestion was.

Mercedes whipped out her cell phone. "Besides," she said slyly, "I have just the thing to set the mood." She pointed forward while dialing a number with her other hand. "Now follow that car!" she called dramatically, gesturing to Token's car as it made its way out of the parking lot.

-----

They didn't have to follow the boys far. Kyle and Token had ended up at Harbucks, and were on their second round of caffeinated drinks when Mercedes' mood-setting secret weapon arrived.

Stan blinked repeatedly as he stared through his car's windshield into the café, wondering if his mind had finally snapped and he was merely hallucinating. "Is…is that a mariachi band?"

"Fuck!" screeched Mercedes. "That's supposed to be a violin player!"

This was not reassuring. "You were going to hire a violin player to follow them around?"

"You'd be amazed what a little classical music does for one's libido," Bebe interjected, grinning.

"I'm sure I would," Stan mumbled.

The five sombrero-donning men made their way after the boys as they fled their second coffee shop in the space of a half-hour.

-----

"You think we lost them?"

"Yeah, looks like." After being chased through the local mall, the park by Stark's Pond, and three different bookstores, Token and Kyle had taken refuge by the high school's empty football field.

Token plopped down on the bench, clearly exhausted. Kyle joined him, giving him an apologetic look.

"Hey, I'm really sorry about all this."

"I didn't even know there were any mariachi bands in South Park," Token mumbled. He turned to face Kyle. "So, uh, what now?"

Kyle was tempted to make a crack about forgetting ambiance and just making out right there – and he was willing to put money on Token being a pretty good kisser – but thought better of it. Kyle's more conservative response, however, was drowned out by the commencement of a stirring bolero.

"Goddamnit!" Token shouted, jumping to his feet. "How do they keep finding us!?"

Kyle restrained himself from physically attacking one or more band member. "At least things can't get any more bizarre."

Life in South Park should have taught him by then not to tempt fate.

Kyle looked around quickly to ascertain the source of the sudden onslaught of water droplets. "…It appears that the sprinkler system has gone off."

"Well, at least it scared away the vihuela player and the guitarist."

"The trumpet players seem to be sticking around though."

"Yeah. Er, you know Kyle, I think I'm gonna have to take a rain check for tonight." He looked up at the streams of water that were still falling on them. "Uh…no pun intended."

"Right. Yeah, sure. Later."

Kyle was torn between blaming the fates and blaming Stan. Then again, there was probably shared responsibility there.

-----

Stan, Bebe, and Mercedes watched the chaos unfold from the dry sanctity of Stan's car. The members of the band Mercedes and Bebe had hired were scrambling to protect their instruments from the sprinklers, but Kyle and Token merely appeared to be talking. A few moments later, Token was walking away, while Kyle looked up and shook his fist at the sky, presumably cursing God for the unfortunate turn the evening had taken.

"Where the hell is Token going?" When Stan didn't receive a response, he turned around.

"Guys, what do you—oh Christ." Stan turned back to face the windshield. The Date Squad was engaging in what should have been any teenage boy's wet dream, but under the circumstances didn't live up to its erotic potential.

It was then, as two of his ex-girlfriends made out in his backseat while his best friend stormed off in an enraged (not to mention soaked) huff, that Stan decided Kyle probably had the right idea – God hated them.

-----

When Kyle didn't answer any of Stan's calls all weekend, Stan at least had the good sense not to press the issue by trying to visit him at home. After the disaster that had turned out to be Friday night, after all, Kyle probably needed some time to cool off.

By Monday, however, Stan figured this had gone on long enough. He put up being avoided through the first half of the day and during lunch, but by sixth period resolved to make Kyle at least listen long enough to hear an apology.

Stan would have gone to where the track team met right away, but had to stay behind to discuss a particularly low quiz grade with his math teacher before being allowed to leave. When she questioned him on what he could possibly have been doing the weekend before to distract him so completely from his studies, Stan opted not to answer out of sheer embarrassment. His teacher, of course, interpreted this as merely being difficult, which made the meeting that much longer and more painful.

After she finally let him go, Stan made his way through hallway where his locker was located. Most of Stan's schoolmates had left for the day, and only a few students who were staying after school for various club meetings or activities were milling about.

Stan was therefore surprised to see Token of all people still at school. Judging from the portfolio he was carrying, he was more than likely working on a photo project. Stan didn't question his luck – he just ran up toward Token, hoping to get in a few words with him before going to find Kyle.

"Token!" he called out, running up to the other boy when he didn't respond. "Hey, Token, wait up!"

Token stopped, finally turning to acknowledge him. "What do you want, Stan?"

Stan took a moment to catch his breath. "Look, I just wanted to apologize for the other night. Everything going wrong…the sprinklers, the mariachi band, all of it, it was my fault."

Token shrugged. "You know what? Don't sweat it. Really, you did me a favor."

"Huh?"

"After a night so phenomenally humiliating, I don't think I'll ever be embarrassed by anything again."

He would have called Token a smartass, had he not still been ridden with guilt about the whole affair.

"Er…yeah. Anyway, I'm gonna go find Kyle and try to sort things out with him. I guess I just wanted to clear the air."

Token shook his head. "Don't worry about it too much." He paused. "Though, if you're going to be hunting down Kyle anyway, can you give him this for me?" Token pulled a small white envelope from his backpack, handing it to Stan.

"Uh, sure," Stan said, taking it. "What is it?"

"That's not really any of your business."

"Fair enough," Stan replied, tucking it away in his own jacket. "I'll catch you later."

"Later," Token said, picking up the portfolio he had set down and making his way down the hallway.

Stan began heading in the opposite direction, hoping to catch Kyle before practice, when a shrill voice called out his name.

"Stan!"

"Oh, crap," Stan mumbled under his breath, stopping in the middle of the hall. This was not what he wanted to deal with right then.

Heidi stalked up to him. "Where are you going?"

"Not now, Heidi," Stan said curtly, making to step away from her.

"Don't walk away from me, Stan!" She grabbed his shoulder, pulling him back and forcing him to face her.

Stan wrenched his way out of her grip. "I'll be back soon, I just need to take care of something. Besides, don't you have practice?"

"Don't you?"

"I just need to find Kyle first. I'll head to basketball practice after that."

"So you'll risk the wrath of Coach Raymond to find Kyle, but you can't find five minutes to spare for me?" Heidi crossed her arms, glaring.

Stan sighed. Why was his girlfriend making such a bug deal out of nothing? "Heidi, please. This isn't about us, and I don't have time to argue with you."

"Of course you don't!" she shouted, ignoring the stares of the confused chess team members who were unfortunate enough to walk by at that particular moment. "You never have time. You'll drop everything for Kyle or Wendy in a heartbeat, but I have to be penciled into your schedule."

"Wendy?" Stan began to get a sinking feeling regarding what this argument was really about. "What the hell does she have to do with any of this?"

"Stan, I'm used to you canceling plans with me because something comes up that you have to see Wendy about, but this has gotten out of hand. You've practically been living with her for the past couple of weeks."

"It was just for this whole situation with Kyle. I needed a woman's advice."

"And you couldn't ask me?" Heidi asked accusatorily.

"Er…Wendy's different." The second Stan uttered that, however, he knew he'd said exactly the wrong thing.

"Of course she's different." Heidi sighed. "You know, if you're going to consistently blow me off for another girl, the least you can do is actually admit your feelings for her."

"What!?" Stan cried out defensively. "I am not—"

"Obsessed over her? You don't respect her opinion more than anyone else's? You're not always seeking her approval?"

"I—"

"Are you telling me you wouldn't rather be with her right now than me?"

He wracked his brain, trying to think up an appropriate response, but came up empty. "Heidi…" Stan trailed off.

"Stan, between Kyle and Wendy, there just isn't enough room in your life for anyone else. Including me." Stan didn't reply, so she continued. "So go find Kyle. But then, please go talk to Wendy. I don't need this sort of frustration, and you don't need to spend all your time pining after someone who's well within your grasp."

Stan stood silently as Heidi turned her back and walked down the hallway, presumably to join the rest of the cheer squad.

That's when Stan realized, despite the enjoyment he derived from Heidi's company, how little being dumped by her – in public, no less – actually hurt.

"…Aw, shit."

-----

"Come on, Kyle, you can't keep me locked out here forever!" Stan shouted. When he hadn't found Kyle at track practice, he drove himself to Kyle's house, figuring that he probably went straight home after his last class. He'd been right, of course, but what he hadn't counted on was just how pissed Kyle would be. So, while Mrs. Broflovski had let him into the house, Kyle had quickly locked Stan out of his room when he realized who it was that had come calling.

"Watch me!" Kyle shouted back from inside.

Stan kept knocking. "I'm not leaving you alone until you let me talk to you!" He started jiggling with the door handle and pushing himself against the door, knowing it probably wouldn't work even as he attempted to force his way in.

"Oof!" Stan fell forward and landed at Kyle's feet – apparently, he'd gotten sick of the noise and opened the door in an attempt to get rid of him more quickly. Kyle stalked back toward his bed, picking up his copy of Siddhartha and resuming his reading.

"Haven't you read that, like, ten times?" Stan asked, standing up and dusting himself off.

"I read it whenever I need to find inner serenity and remind myself not to go and kill anyone who pisses me off," Kyle replied coldly, not bothering to look up.

Stan winced. Well, that answered the question of just how angry Kyle was. "I, er, stopped by the track. Your coach said you hadn't shown, so I wanted to come by and see if everything was okay before getting back to practice."

"Everything's fine. Or, at least, it was until someone decided that he couldn't just leave well enough alone."

Stan's initial impulse was to argue back, but he knew it was no use. He also knew Kyle was right. "Kyle…look, I'm sorry."

"Uh huh."

"I was wrong. I'm admitting it." Damnit, couldn't Kyle see just how bad he felt about the whole debacle?

"Good for you," the redhead responded dismissively. "Now get back to practice before Coach Raymond makes you run laps for being late again."

"Kyle, please, just let me fin—"

"I got it. You're sorry, I'm still pissed, and I'll talk to you when I'm less infuriated. Now, will you please get out of here and go play football like a good little heterosexual?" he said, massaging his temples with one hand.

"Uh, it's basketball season."

"I don't care if it's fucking rabbit season!" Kyle shouted, throwing down his book. "You just had to keep pushing and pushing, no matter how many times I told you to piss off, and now I look like a complete ass, thanks to you. So just leave me alone to wallow in my utter humiliation, okay?"

Stan looked down at his feet and shuffled them awkwardly. He stood there for a minute before turning around and heading toward the door. Well, that was that; Stan just hoped Kyle would calm down enough to actually speak to him in a few days time. He shoved his hands into his jacket's pockets, stopping suddenly as his hand came upon a slightly crumpled piece of paper.

"Oh, shit, I almost forgot," he said, heading back toward Kyle and handing him the envelope Token had given him. "This is probably the last thing you want right now, but, er, Token asked me to give it to you."

Kyle looked up, making eye contact with Stan for the first time since he had walked in. "What is it?" he said, reaching for it.

"I don't know, he didn't tell me. Just asked me to give it to you."

Kyle opened it. His eyes widened as he sat up tossed the now-empty envelope into his trashcan, continuing to stare at the slip of paper in his hand.

"Ky? What is it?"

Kyle grinned and turned the sheet around, showing Stan. "It's a rain check. An actual rain check."

Stan chuckled. "You gonna cash it in?"

"I think I need to talk to him first. But I might, yeah."

Stan looked at Kyle hopefully. "So…does that also mean you forgive me for meddling?"

"Damnit, you know I can't stay mad at you." Kyle set down the piece of paper before looking back at his best friend. "Seriously, though, don't you need to get to practice?"

"Yeah, I should," Stan conceded. "Just have one more thing to take care of before that."

Kyle watched Stan exit his room before retrieving the note Token had written him.

Well, since he'd taken the afternoon off anyway

-----

Monday was the only day of the week Wendy didn't stay after school for student council meetings, the school newspaper, or the debate team. That being the case, it was rather fortunate that Kyle and Wendy lived so close to one another; five minutes after leaving his best friend's domicile, he'd managed to make his way to Wendy's front door. He knocked on it, trying to gather his thoughts and figure out what, exactly, he was going to say. 'I love you' would probably have been rather out of left field; 'do you want to start going out, yet again' would be likely to get him smacked upside the head.

Wendy opened the door, preempting his ill-conceived attempt at a grand speech. "Stan!" she said, apparently surprised at seeing him. "Uh…how did things go on Friday?"

All thoughts of romantically declaring his adoration at her doorstep lay forgotten. How did she always manage to bring up exactly the thing he least wanted to talk about?

"Oh, just fucking perfect. Your reinforcements did a fantastic job of making sure the night went well, right through the brightly clad mariachi band!"

He knew it wasn't fair to yell at Wendy about that, especially since Kyle had already forgiven him. But that didn't mean he wasn't still pissed off about being abandoned at the last minute.

"Don't blame me for your bad ideas!" Wendy shouted back. "I told you it wouldn't work and would probably just get Kyle pissed off at you!"

"And you still agreed to help me out!" Stan responded, only vaguely aware that the escalating volume of their conversation was beginning to attract curious onlookers. It was just one of those days.

"Because you would have been even more clueless and lost without me!"

"Augh!" Stan shouted in exasperation, slamming his forehead against the house's doorframe. "You are so fucking infuriating!"

Wendy stood there, seething but not saying anything. Stan took that as license to continue.

"You're arrogant. You're judgmental. You're manipulative and passive-aggressive and a little bit nuts and Christ are you scary."

Wendy glared at him coldly. "Are you done yet?"

"No, I'm not. You drive me insane, and I still can't stop thinking about you. It's like…" Stan took a moment to gather his thoughts, pulling back from the doorframe and actually making eye contact. "I'm pretty sure the only flaws you lack are the ones I have. I'm oversensitive and frankly pretty slow on the uptake, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships. It's like the only thing we really have in common is that we both get irrationally jealous."

Wendy frowned, confused by this new track the conversation had taken. "What, exactly, are you getting at?"

"You make me crazy. Because despite whatever crap may be between us, I love spending time around you." He sucked in a breath, steeling himself for the forthcoming declaration. "I was wrong. I don't think we can stay friends. Even at your worst moments – and they are really fucking bad – I can't get over the fact that I just want to be with you."

Wendy stepped away slightly, clearly somewhat taken aback. "Stan…" she began cautiously. "That sounded really, really gay."

Reality check. "Yeah, I know. Must be spending too much time around Kyle."

"No, Kyle would never say anything that romantic."

"Shut up," he grumbled, rather embarrassed at his outburst.

Then again, she had said romantic, rather than stupid.

"So. Does that mean you're not going to laugh in my face?"

Wendy grinned and grabbed Stan by the collar of his jacket. "Some reactions other than laughter are coming to mind."

-----

Kyle stepped off the bus at the stop nearest Token's house, looking at his watch. He'd forgotten just how far Token actually lived – it had taken almost forty-five minutes to get there.

He hesitantly took two steps toward the mansion before coming to a standstill. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea – maybe he should just leave things as they were, and not give Stan the smug satisfaction of knowing that he had succeeded in forcibly shoving Kyle into the dating scene.

He had just about decided to turn around and go home when the door unexpectedly opened. There Token stood, clearly surprised.

"Kyle?" Token frowned in curiosity. "I thought it was you."

"You saw me?"

Token jutted a thumb backwards. "Windows. The latest in home surveillance technology."

"Er, right," Kyle said. He swallowed loudly before continuing. "Anyway, I came here because I think I owe you an apology."

"What for? Having an unbelievably stupid best friend?"

Kyle laughed nervously. "Yeah, partially. But, hell, I let him set me up, against my better judgment. So last night was really just as much my fault as his."

"I wouldn't worry about it too much. I'll just chalk it up as one of those bizarre once-in-a-lifetime experiences I hear so much about." He paused. "I hope, anyway."

"Point." Kyle inhaled deeply, giving himself a moment to gather his thoughts before pulling out the hand-drawn 'rain check.' "And, uh, this?"

"Yeah. I guess that's my cheesy way of asking if you would be interested in going out for coffee or something some time. No sprinklers."

"Ah, sure." He grinned. "So, are you asking me out on a date? Like, legitimately?"

"Yes. As long as Stan is far, far away. And, for that matter, there aren't any blonde dykes for miles around." Token smiled back. "You know, I'm kinda glad this whole ordeal happened. I might not have gotten the guts to ask you out otherwise."

"Hm? Why not?"

"Well, you're pretty intimidating."

Kyle frowned. Sure, he was temperamental and a bit off-kilter, but what did that have to do with his dateability? "Come on, I'm not really that scary."

"I meant romantically, you dip."

"What?" Kyle was rather surprised at this assessment. "But you're, like, a total catch."

"Yeah, well, one can never tell with you."

"What the hell are you talking about? I'm kind of a slut. If you were interested, you could have just said something."

"Yeah, hooking up with you, no big deal. But actually asking you out – you're kind of notorious in the heartbreaking department."

"What? Really?"

"…And I guess the rumors about your obliviousness are accurate too."

"Oh, I'm not that bad!" Kyle protested.

"You really are," Token countered. "I was trying to pull you away to somewhere private – by which I mean, anywhere out of Stan's range of vision – all evening."

"What?" Kyle rolled his eyes. "I thought you were just trying to evade the Mexican Hat Dance."

"Okay, yeah, maybe that was part of it."

Kyle cast a sidelong glance back at Token. "So, does this mean you're not going to give up on men and go back into the closet?"

"What do you think?" The next thing Kyle knew, a hand had quickly pulled him closer by the small of his back, and his earlier suspicions were confirmed – Token was a really good kisser. Token pulled away, however, as laughter started bubbling up from Kyle's throat.

"What?"

Kyle kept chortling. "I think it doesn't really count as a goodnight kiss if it's in the middle of the afternoon two days later."

Token facepalmed, grumbling. "And people say I'm a smartass."

-----

When Stan was late for basketball practice, yet again, he didn't have to explain. Coach Raymond just tossed him his jersey and told him to get onto the goddamn court, or he was getting himself a new starting center.

He didn't notice Heidi shoot him a sly grin from the bleachers before picking up her pompoms and returning to cheerleader practice.

After all, she figured, there really wasn't any shame in admitting defeat to Wendy Testaburger.

-----

Author's Notes: Well, that's it! Hope you enjoyed the story. Again, since I did originally plan (and largely write) this as a one-shot, I'm a bit concerned that the chapter breaks seemed a bit awkward.

Anyway, as usual, please review to send me any questions, comments, or concerns!