AN from IBB: So this is it. It was a blast to plan and write, and we're sad to say that its come to a close. Thank you to the dozens of reviewers and hundreds of readers who helped fuel this story. We're so happy that one with so many original characters could survive for as long as it did. And no, we won't be planning a sequel.

AN from FG: We love the ending as it is since it was planned long before chapter one was even typed up. We love you guys, thanks so much for the support! If you do have any questions, as undoubtedly you might, feel free to ask. I don't know if IBB wants to answer any, but I wouldn't mind. Well, without further ado, enjoy our last chapter!

The Reformation of Kyle Broflovski

XVI. The Reformation

When I first came to JV, I didn't really know what to expect. Sure, I knew it was going to be tough keeping up my grades in such a prestigious private school. And I knew that I'd make at least some friends, considering how sociable I was in high school. Other than that, though, my mind was a clean canvas.

I guess I was looking to feel at home some place other than home. And be well liked and enjoy spending time with my dozens of close friends and acquaintances. And I guess I was hoping that things would develop with Kyle. As much as I denied it at first, I'd had a thing for him longer than I care to admit. And seeing that he wanted me here, I was eager to see if it was because he missed my friendship, or if he felt the same way.

But I never dreamed that I'd befriend the only outcast of the school—therefore turning me into one—and find myself on the losing end of a battle between us and the rest of the school. I never thought that I'd be the one who was suspicious of everyone because I never knew who to trust and who were my enemies. I never imagined that I'd be sleeping with Kyle at night and fighting against him during the day because of our differences in beliefs. That I'd be second-guessing my actions and questioning my friend's intentions. If I would've known all of that, who knows where I'd be today? I guarantee I wouldn't be sitting here right now.

I look over at Kyle, who is standing a few feet in front of me. He's grinning down at me, and I know that words cannot express what I mean to him. I realize this now.

After debating over and over whether I should go to one of their meetings, I figured that it couldn't hurt. After all, I had already secretly went to one—what would it matter if I saw another? They couldn't all be as crazy as that freak show I witnessed three months ago. Plus, in all honesty, I was curious to see what my friends were doing when they left me behind.

So I went with him. And I found out that, not only do they hold regular meetings, but they also talk about generally interesting news. They discuss important matters in the world today, but mainly how it affects them as a group. They discuss how to make JV life better for everyone on campus. They're not the selfish, insane creeps I once thought they were. In fact, they have a lot of good in them that I refused to see before.

Now that I think about it, maybe I had let my hatred for the group who stole Kyle consume me, leading me to believe they're some kind of psychotic cult. When in fact, they are just regular guys, most of whom I get along with astoundingly easily. If it weren't for Marc, or Jack, or even Eric, Luke, and some of the other guys, I wouldn't have been able to accept Kyle's invitation. But seeing that the majority of my friends are now HHS, and knowing how cool they all are, I had to tell myself that the meetings—and the rest of the members—couldn't be as bad as what I originally thought.

Turning my attention my left, I see Jack, stone-faced and paying attention. Further down from him is Marc; the sole reason I've been able to bring my grades up to a steady B average. He says I should have no problems acing finals. I fully intend to not let him down.

A few rows back from him are the rest of my buddies, all standing in a clump. I smile to myself, thinking about our group. I fit in so easily with the down-to-earth members, and it's so easy to forget who they are and where they belong. And that's okay, because they're not bad guys.

I'm even finding some common ground with the anal sucks ups, and just the thought of what Jack refers to them as makes me laugh. They are mostly in fact anal and they're most definitely suck ups, but I understand why. They're just another set of guys that take their responsibilities and titles a little differently than everyone else.

And okay, they're still not my favorite, but I can hold a steady, comfortable conversation with all of them. Well, except Miller. That guy and I…we're just never going to get along, and it's not just because of Kyle. It's also for another reason and it took me awhile, but I think I'm starting to figure it out.

And not to toot my own horn, but for a guy that was so resistant to the mere mention of the HHS, I'm pretty damn accepted among them. That's not just due to Kyle's influence either.

When I think about it now, I may have shunned a few kids back when I was younger, but I more or less went along with everyone. Even in college it's no different when I finally accept people for who they are. Imagine my surprise when one of the anal suck up's (ASU's for short), came up to me one day, albeit hesitantly, but still came up to ask me my opinion on something. Marc and Jack were around at the time and I could practically feel them raise their eyebrows in surprise. Because no matter how much the HHS members try to act like one group of best friends, they're really more like brothers. Meaning they do have their fights, physically and verbally at times. And there's always been an invisible barrier between the two groups.

So it was a bit shocking when the ASU, Jay, approached me. But I kept my cool, and before I knew it he was thanking me with a smile and went on his way. It's been like that ever since I started going to the card games. It's something Miller and I, regrettably, share. We're both liked by everyone, and in my personal opinion, I think I'm liked more. And for a guy who thought an entire school detested him, I'd say that's something.

Jack coughs, bringing my attention to where it is needed. He's good at keeping me on track, just like Marc is good at shoving me when I need a good push in the right direction. All of these guys genuinely enjoy my presence, and I'm not about to turn down blossoming friendships just because they do or do not belong to some club I used to hate.

"Stan, pay attention," the guy to my right scolds. I feel like laughing. I don't even know him, but he must know of my habitual tendency to daydream in even the most important of occasions.

I nervously fidget, even though I'm not really nervous at all. Why would I be? I've finally found the friends I've been looking for the entire time I've been at JV. Hell, its only taken me four months to get here, but so what? Now I'm in a room surrounded by them! And they're all here tonight for me.

I gaze at Kyle as he watches the crowd, anticipating their reactions as he begins his speech. If I know Kyle—and I think I do—he's had this thing written since day 1 when he knew what my answer would be. Even if I would've never complied, he'd written it just in case. Because he's anal like that. I chuckle lightly and the guy to left of me nudges my shoulder to shush me, though he is smiling. If anything, one of my goals here is to lighten everyone up. I know it's an important meeting, I know more than anyone else how important this is, but really…there's nothing wrong with having a bit of fun in anything you do, right?

I brush my nose thoughtfully and swipe my hair out of my face. Kyle looks ready to talk so I guess I ought to give him my attention. I'm just as curious as everyone else in this room as to what he wrote and how he'll deliver it. I've never seen Kyle give a public speech of this nature.

"I first met Stan…" his gaze falls on me for a second. "Brother S," he continues. "When we could barely speak proper English."

I want to laugh at the thought—ahh preschool—but hold it in. Kyle will kill me later if he knows I laughed during this important meeting. I know it means a lot to him to give this speech, and I should be a little more appreciative. Especially since he told me the president, AKA Miller, tends to give the induction speeches. Good thing for me Miller still bends over backward to make Kyle happy…it's starting to come in handy for me.

"I was drawn to him from the start," Kyle's voice rings out over the large crowd, echoing powerfully against the thick windowless walls. As I watch him deliver his speech, a speech written for me…allabout me…I feel the power of his words. I completely understand why he is so right for this club, why the HHS wouldn't be whole without him. "He was outgoing, funny, and full of mischievous ideas," and at that I swear I see his eyes twinkle.

"But most importantly he was a friend, and not just to me. But to everyone who came in contact with him. He's always been that way, drawing people in, even if they didn't want to be. Even our most hated enemies," he's gotta mean Cartman, "felt compelled to stay at his side. And I know you all feel the same way as I do."

Hearing the general murmur of agreement swell through the crowd, I can't even try to contain my blush. For my sake, I hope they don't feel the exact same way. I don't think I can handle a jealous Kyle slaying anyone who touches my shoulder with the slightest bit of affection.

"I have the distinct privilege of formally introducing you all to one of the strongest, most caring individuals you will ever meet," he continues. At this point, I've accepted that my cheeks will be stained with pink throughout his speech. "In addition to his easy-going personality and obvious charm, Brother S has a passion for life that we rarely see in men our age. He shares this passion in everything he does—including his path for a career, his family, his friends, and his relationships. His enthusiasm and quest for the truth will make him an extremely effective communicator, an honest friend, and a loyal member.

"When Brother S first came to JV, a few of us were thrown off by his apparent hatred for our organization. Some of us might've thought he was a bit judgmental," and his eyes flash at me as he voices that word, "before he actually took the time to realize how beneficial a brotherhood like this can be." He shakes his head. "That's neither here nor there, because tonight we celebrate Brother S's forthcoming into our society as one of our own." He turns toward Miller and gestures for him to continue with the induction. Apparently Kyle isn't allowed to do this part.

Slowly rising from where he had been seated, Miller approaches the front of the room and I can just FEEL the atmosphere change. They respect him. I don't think I'll ever understand why, but they do. All eyes are on him and he glances around the room, meeting the eye of what seems like every member in the club until he finally lays his eyes on mine.

He smirks. I smirk back and wait.

"Unlike the rest of you, Brother S did not have my vote of confidence," he begins and I snort and lean back slightly. "I didn't feel that he was the sort of person that would further our plans, or our goals. But I had faith in all of you, in your choices," he pauses. "And while he was under my scrutiny, I did everything in my power to see if I could find the faults in him that I didn't believe some of us could see. Faults that would deem him inappropriate for a club of our standing."

Talk about laying on the insults—and I can't even defend myself. Not while the great Cap-E-tan is talking.

"And yet…" he's looking back at me, and I have to keep my face neutral. "I've been proved wrong. And I, like the rest of you, welcome him into our ranks as a member of the High Honors Society."

Did…he just apologize for his assholish ways?

"Brother S?" He calls out toward me, even going so far as to raise his hand in my general direction. Rows and rows of eyes turn to look at me, but the only ones I care for are Kyle's. He's never looked so proud.

With a bit of a heavy sigh, I shake my head slightly and stand to head toward Miller. His arm lowers as he reaches my side and he glances over behind him, drawing my attention in the same direction.

Two fellow members, dressed in their typical black apparel, step up to the central table from where Kyle just concluded his speech. One I notice, however, has a white towel draped over his outstretched arms. The other is carrying a basin filled with some sort of liquid. Miller gives them a nonverbal cue, and the one holding the basin lowers it to the table. The other carefully situates the towel in front of the basin so that it rests without any wrinkle. I turn back to Miller.

"Brother S, you stand before us today, pledging your allegiance to the brotherhood of the High Honors Society," he begins, and my throat goes dry. I lower my eyes at his every word, absorbing the situation's every detail. So this is it…

"You are aware that we are a nationally ranked honor's society—and that our duties lie far beyond the archetypal societies of our time."

I nod.

"Brother S, once you pledge, you are aware that there is an immortal bond between you and your brothers which hence cannot be broken, and that your allegiance lies, first and foremost, with the High Honors Society. That no other man shall contest your loyalty nor question your methods to keeping this sacred brotherhood a secret."

Again, I nod. "I'm aware."

Without breaking eye contact, Miller extends his hand to the left of him, to yet another member who has seemingly appeared from nowhere. Out of the corner of my eye, I spy a wrapped object, to which Miller seizes and places on the table nearby. "Come, brother," he invites.

I follow his directions and watch as Kyle and the others crowded around us step back. Miller steps on one side of the table, and he motions for me to stand on the other, so that the white towel is between us. Looking down, I notice that Miller is unwrapping what he had just sat down. The material looks velvet and smooth, and I begin to wonder what exactly members do for their induction.

As Miller produces the object out of it's packaging, I feel my heart stop beating.

"Brother S," he continues. "As acting president and fellow member of High Honor's Society, I will now begin the process of induction. Please present your right hand."

Hesitantly, I extend my hand, unable to tear my eyes off of what Miller is gripping in his.

"Look at me Brother S," I hear him say, but my eyes stay where they are. I don't for one second want to take them away from the object he's holding. "Brother S," he repeats, and I gingerly lift my head away from the dagger, though the very idea is piercing through my mind. What is he planning to do?

"It is a rite of passage we have all gone through," he tells me, and for a second I almost hear a bit of sympathy in his voice. "Only look at me," he orders somewhat gently, and I swallow the throw up that's threatening its way up my throat.

My eyes flicker to the side, but I don't see Kyle. Dammit. Dammit! These are the times when I want to see the calm in his eyes, the comfort. I don't want to look only at Miller! Every cell in my body is demanding I wrench my hand away, demanding that I change my mind. That no club is worth anything that sharp gleam of metal has to do with.

Miller fingers the handle of the dagger, positioning it for whatever comes next. I can feel the sweat lining my hair, and I can feel the thumping of my heart as it slams against my chest. My body is all prepared for the flight portion of the fight-or-flight reaction. Just when I get the nerve to slowly move my hand back, Miller reaches out and grabs my wrist, turning it over so that my palm is facing upwards. He tightens his fingers around me and I glare at him. He looks back at me, unmoving, but he keeps a firm grip on my wrist.

He clears his throat slightly, and as if waiting for the mere sound, Kyle appears in my line of vision. Directly behind Miller where I can see him.

I feel my body relax, and I release a slow exhale. The things I do for that guy…

"With eyes on me, repeat the pledge…and try to move your hand as little as possible," he adds. And that's when I see it. That glint in the corner of his eye. The one that lets me know he's enjoying this. I knew the bastard wasn't sorry. Narrowing my eyes at him upon this realization, I feel my entire arm flinch. Miller looks up at me, scolding me with his eyes. Just as quickly as he looks up, his eyes dart downwards, and he slides his hand underneath mine. With his other hand, he relaxes the blade of the dagger into the loose skin between my thumb and index finger. He presses it down, watching with slight amusement as it slices into the first layer of skin.

"Ah!" I cry out upon contact and force my jaw back down. I grind my teeth together and use every bit of energy I have not to cry out further. "Mhm!" I moan out harshly as my lips pucker inward. I clench my left arm to my side, willing it to stay where it is while trying to command the rest of my body not to flee.

The blade has well made its way into my skin, and I can't imagine looking at my hand. The feel of the cool metal invading the crease of my palm sends waves of shock and pain throughout my entire body. I try to keep still, but my body refuses and it shivers slightly, telling me, SCREAMING at me to move my hand.

As my heart rate increases once more, I take in deep painful breaths. Gulping in air and gasping as if it's my oxygen that's been taken away. Throughout my ordeal of pain, trying to remain still, and keeping eye contact with Miller a whisper floats through and reaches my ears…it starts out low, but I remember the directions from earlier, I know what it's asking of me.

Repeat the pledge.

So swallowing the gathering saliva, and trying to get a grip on my nerve endings I say the words I remember hearing months ago.

"Now and forever society is true…"

"Brothers together, we'll see the end through…"

"Hail to the high honors…" I have to pause to take in a gulp of air. "Amen Amen…"

"Hail to the Founders, Our Fathers, High Honors…"

"Keeping the Word, Pledging the faith…"

"Eternal bond, Death," Miller pauses and my eyes widen and I gasp in surprise at the feel of him tightening his grip around my hand. Lodging the dagger further into my palm than it already is. "UGN!" I swear out and whip my head to the side, biting my lip and tasting the blood from there. "Does not separate," he finishes and relaxes the pressure. Repeating his words I slowly turn my watering eyes back to him, still breathing in hard, and now starting to feel a bit on the light headed side.

I blink lazily, trying to keep my focus on my "leader". He pries open my injured hand and releases the blade, placing it on the table. As my hand continues to bleed onto the towel below, the member who carried in the basin quickly grabs the dagger, dipping it into the liquid. I watch as he washes my blood clean from the sharp edge like I'm witnessing this event from someone else's point-of-view. I take a deep breath and swallow, trying to regain some sort of composure about what just happened.

"Congratulations, Brother S," Miller says with little celebration. "You are a member of High Honor's Society, JV chapter." He leans over and pulls me back to vertical, as I can feel myself slipping backwards. "Do you care to make a speech?"

I plant a firm foot behind me, forcing me to stay in one spot long enough to turn to the crowd. Before doing so, however, Miller snatches the towel from below me and begins to harshly blot my hand dry. I allow him this privilege of cleaning me up while I look onwards at the many faces I now know and can (but won't) call my brothers.

"Thank you," I state simply. "Thank you for believing in me." I'm saying this mostly to the guys I know truly deserve it—Kyle, Marc, Jack…but I'm also saying it to those who blindly recruited me. Even when they knew how much I despised them. That's an impressive loyalty that I hope to withhold to them as the years go on.

I turn back to Miller, letting him know that I'm finished. He nods once and gives me the towel, leaving me to mend myself. Shortly after, he walks away. Kyle rushes over to me and gives me a meaningful hug. I return the favor.

"You okay?" he mutters to me and though I'm not—I mean, I just had a dagger carved into my hand—I nod to reassure him. He smiles in relief and I give him one back before turning my attention back to Miller who is now addressing the crowd once more.

"With Brother S having successfully completed one of our most sacred rituals, I would like everyone to join me in welcoming him into the strongest brotherhood the likes of which he has never seen."

He turns his head to smirk at me, inclining his head in an almost nod of welcome, but it might not have been that at all knowing his personality. His reaction doesn't matter to me though. What does is the eruption of cheers, whistles, and clapping that comes from the HHS members. There's a sudden surge forward as they all seem to rise to their feet together and abandon the seats they had been occupying.

I sigh in relief at the sight of Marc and Jack leading the group. Kyle and I are gently squashed together as I'm slapped on the back and on the shoulder by more people than I can count. I can't contain the smile on my face and I do my best to ignore the stinging in my hand. I can't help but to feed off their excitement for me.

"How's the hand? Hurt like hell?" Jack asks, grinning as he practically yells over the cheers.

I grin at him and nod my head, mockingly glaring at him, Marc, and Kyle. "Like a bitch," I smirk. "It would have been nice to have been told this was going to happen in advance."

"That's against the rules," Marc says slyly. "Besides it's something we all had to endure. Though you were quite impressive at handling it, Jack screamed like a baby," he finishes with a chuckle, and I laugh right along, all while listening to Jack's protests that he did no such thing.

I turn to Kyle once again, who's beaming like an underprivileged mother whose son just graduated from law school. I almost think he's about to ruffle my hair affectionately, but thank God he just squeezes my shoulders instead. I lean over and give him a kiss in the middle of it all. By now, anyone who knows me or knows Kyle knows we're together. And so far, no one's had a problem with it. And I don't think anyone ever will.

"Knock it off guys, this is a public place," I hear Jack whine through a smile.

Kyle and I break apart and I find more and more faces swarming around us—and I'm the central hub of it all. I lose track of the new faces that match names I've heard before. This brotherhood is quite a bit more extensive than what I had originally thought. There seem to be even more guys in here than there were for Jason's branding ceremony! Could it be that they all wanted to be here to celebrate with me? In honor of my induction? Nah, I'm probably just feeling overwhelmed right now, that's all.

"Stan," a familiar voice rings out over the crowd, echoing high above the endless chatter. I acknowledge its owner with a raise of my brow.

"Stan," Miller voices again. I guess the formalities of Brother S and Brother M are disregarded at the after-party. Is that what this is?

I feel Kyle push me in Miller's direction. "He must need to talk to you," he informs me, and I reluctantly travel away from the circle of friends and loved ones I'm comfortable around to stand near the one person I'll never like.

"Miller," I say with a nod of my head, unsure of why he's singling me out like this. Maybe this is protocol for the newest member of the HHS.

"One moment," he says. "As president, it's my duty to personally welcome you…and," he pauses. "Offer my assistance to you in any way should you need it."

I give him a look. "Uh, no thanks. If I need help you'll be the last person I turn to." It's blunt and harsh, but there's no point in us pretending to be allies if we aren't.

Miller doesn't bother to hide his sneer and I see little reason not to glare back at him. "I'll remind you Stan that you may be a member of this Society, but I am and always will be your president."

"Doesn't mean I have to like you," I respond and clutch my hand when it suddenly stings. "Don't think I didn't feel you pressing that damn blade into my hand harder than was necessary."

"Though I have no idea what you're talking about, how do you know what sort of pressure was necessary?" He questions back, but that innocent bullshit doesn't fool me for a second.

I shake my head in disgust, "Whatever, I'm through with you. We may be in the same club, and you may be the president, but you're not my president. And when it's all said and done I have the one thing you'll never have."

"Oh?" He looks disbelieving. "And what's that? I'm the star pitcher you so foolishly hoped to be, I'm the leader of a great society, and the idol of most, if not all, of it's members. What could you possibly have that I never will?"

I study my hand for a second before I loll my head to the side where Kyle is standing amongst our more mutual friends. He's smiling and laughing along with him, but as if he feels me looking at him, he glances over and beams at me. It radiates warmth inside me that soothes away any hostility I was just feeling, and gives me courage I never knew I had.

Turning back to Miller I give him my most genuine smile, which startles him from the look of it. "I got the guy," I say simply and excuse myself to return to said guy.

Upon reaching Kyle, I lay yet another smacker right on his lips forcefully. Kyle bends backwards in surprise, causing me to wrap my uninjured hand around his waist to keep him from falling. Squinting my eyes open slightly, I can feel Miller's glare penetrating into Kyle and I's bond, and it causes me to kiss my boyfriend even deeper. I know its childish and unnecessary—after all, I think I've proven my point—but my relationship with Kyle seems that much sweeter knowing that Miller never really stood a chance. I catch myself laughing into Kyle's mouth, to which he pulls away.

"You're delirious," he guesses, because at this point, all of the guys that were once surrounding us have looked away in favor of conversation with less affectionate friends.

Kyle steadies himself upright again and grabs my back as I feel myself stumble. Dammit, maybe he's right.

"You've soaked that towel through, Stan," he tells me, lifting my hand to inspect the damage and showing off his caring side. He smiles warmly at me and pulls me toward the table where I was initiated into the club. "I'll get you all bandaged up."

I nod, suddenly feeling lightheaded. Perhaps it's the power of suggestion, but as I look down to my hand I realize that I am losing a lot of blood. Kyle parts the hoards of people now congregating once again until he's reached the table. He spins around on his heels, looking into my eyes. "Wait here. You can use the table to hold yourself up if you feel faint."

"I don't feel faint," I tell him.

He eyes me suspiciously before yelling for Jack and Marc to come over. They do, and he disappears. I've all but seen stars and psychedelic colors when he returns, carrying a bandage in his left hand. I hold out my hand and he takes it, dressing it up neatly and expertly, as if he's done something like this before. When he's done, I stare at it, marveling on what a great job he's done.

I can feel him looking at me. "Want to get out of here?" he quietly asks.

I focus my attention on his lips. Did he really just ask me that? Kyle? Wants to ditch the HHS? In favor of doing what!

"Hell yeah!" I almost yell out, causing a bit of attention to return our way. Smiling sheepishly, I press my head into his shoulder in slight embarrassment. "I didn't mean to be so loud," I mutter as I feel him rub my back gently.

He chuckles lightly and brushes his mouth along my ear. "That's okay. I'm happy to hear you're so excited."

The breath of Kyle's voice sends a little chill down my body and I pull away so that we can leave together. A few feet away I'm met with Marc and Jack's feral grins.

"Leaving your own reception so soon?" Jack asks.

"We've got other things to do Jack," Kyle says as he starts to walk away, pulling me in tow. "But don't you guys stop the get together for our sakes."

"We'll keep it going. You take care of our newest member," Marc says, and as I look over my shoulder to wave at them, I see Marc give a wink before turning back to Jack and entering a conversation with a few other members.

"Was he winking at you or me?" I ask curiously as Kyle continues to pull me along.

"It doesn't matter," I hear him say, and I decide it doesn't.

Before leaving the building we discard of our HHS garb in favor of ordinary college clothes to set out across the campus quad. Kyle seems to be rushing and in my lightheaded state I'm finding it a little hard to keep up with him. When he said he wanted to get out of there, I had no idea he was this eager. And not that I'm not, but… "Kyle could you slow down a bit? I'm getting kinda dizzy walking this fast." He slows down without a word, the night trees and passing buildings becoming less blurry as he does so.

He continues to hold tight to my uninjured hand as we finally reach Windermere and we climb the steps to our home of about four and a half months.

Jesus, you'd think I'd lost a pint of blood or something with the way I'm so tired, and Kyle and I haven't done anything yet…not that he's wasting even a second to start. Once the door's locked he's gently rested me against it as he worms his hands under my shirt, shimming it up and over my head, being careful of my bandaged hand.

"Kyle…wha?" I start to ask but am stopped when he pushes his lips onto mine.

"Hush," he mutters and I do as he says. He breaks our kiss and bends down, taking a firm hold of my waistband as he goes. I can hardly contain the moan in the back of my throat at just watching him lower himself. I close my eyes in contentment as he unlatches my belt and slowly pulls down my jeans. I make a movement to lift my legs in order to kick them aside.

Kyle's stood back up the second I've done so and I look at him a little surprised. Instead of doing what I figured he was going to do, he urges me forward with his hand and pulls me down onto his bed. It's cute. He's never cared before if we made it to the bed or not. But I guess this is a special night.

As he pushes me onto my back, he climbs on top so that he's hovering above me. Leaning down to nip at my neck, my ears, my chest…ugh God, he's trailing his lips down my chest. He continues to make them light and airy, and just as I imagine he's reached a rather good destination, I hear him laugh lightly before he leans back up and plants one soundly on my lips.

"You need to get some rest," he mutters and pulls away from me, only to turn and land directly to my left, on his side.

"-Zwha?" I question intelligently and he laughs again.

"I said you need to get some rest."

I turn my head to look at him surprise. "Are you serious?" I manage out.

"Yes," his eyes narrowly in concern. "You look a bit pale. You really did lose a lot of blood, more than I've ever seen. And your cut for some reason looked deeper than anyone else's has."

"I knew it!" I blurt out, throwing my head up violently and feeling the effects that Kyle had mentioned.

"You poor thing," he whispers, reaching out to my head and laying it gently back down onto the pillow. "Rest up, and I'll be right here when you wake up. I'm not done with you yet." His words are mischievous and his smile is contagious. I find myself extending a grin from ear to ear.

I lean into the curvature of his hand and close my eyes. "I can't argue with that."

"Good. Then sleep, Stan. You deserve it."

"Mmhmm," I mumble, feeling myself slip into slumber quicker than expected. Kyle's constant breath on my neck is enough to lull me into a deep rest, complete with intoxicating dreams of he and I going on many more camping trips together. Or sneaking off in the middle of the night together. Even if we were just going to a meeting, there's something intimate about that setting. And we could always take a detour afterwards.

What about next year? Where will we live? It'd be a fucking dream to live in the Main St house with Marc, Jack, and Kyle. I wonder if we'll be able to pull it off. I'm just a newbie—will I really be able to get that much power?

I feel Kyle press up against me as I'm sleeping, his fingers grazing my upper body delicately. I can feel him lay a sweet pattern of kisses all around and embrace me tightly. It all feels like a dream. Having Kyle here, being here with him…it's a fantasy that's come true, and I'm so thankful. I don't think I've ever been happier.

I belong here, with him, like this. It's something I've wanted for so long and I wonder if it's fair that I'm so lucky. I haven't done anything extraordinary in life, I didn't find the cure for AIDS, I didn't provide the answers for world peace and yet my life now is so perfect. What did I do to deserve this? To deserve him, and all the amazing friends I've made since I've been here?

The last conscious thing I remember is his soft fingers caressing my throat as his smooth lips follow suit with their warm soothing air. As he bites a bit of my skin carefully I swear I hear him mutter, "you'll die before I let you leave me."

But that could have been my imagination.

I think because of my blood loss my dreams are warped and extremely abstract. They don't make a lot of sense and on some level they frighten me, but every time I feel a creeping chill, warm hands envelope me, pulling me close toward safety. Coming to a conscious state, I sigh contentedly and try to fight off the feeling of waking up. There's a nagging feeling in my head though, and as I try to turn to ignore it, I find myself stuck. Or more correctly, I find one arm stuck.

"Mhm," I mutter out and slowly open my eyes, so as not to be overwhelmed with the morning light. The room is somewhat blurry and not that bright, but it's clearly morning. As I move to run the sleep out of my eyes I find that one arm, the same arm that belongs to the injured hand, refuses to budge. "What the…" I grumble and fully open my eyes, gasping slightly at the sight before me. Kyle's perched two inches from my face and he's running a hand over my hair as he brushes my bangs from my face.

"Morning, sweet," he whispers and closes our very short gap, kissing me senseless. I respond by instinct alone and he groans loudly into our shared kiss, making each and every part of my body wake up. Wanting to rush a hand through his curls I find I'm unable…and finally my confusion sets in. I press my head into the pillow, even going as far to turn my head away. "Where do you think you're going?" he asks gruffly.

"I'm just-" I start, then stop and allow my jaw to drop even though I'm lying horizontal on my bed. "Kyle?" I ask slowly and keep my eyes and head to the side, away from his alluring scent.

"Hm?" he questions, probably not even listening.

"Kyle, why is my hand tied up?" I ask quite bluntly given the circumstances, and Kyle halts in his attentions to my torso and face.

He rises slowly and for the first time I notice he's completely without clothing…and for that matter, so am I. Though I distinctively remember having my boxers on, and him being fully dressed when I fell asleep.

Smiling at me, he adjusts his position so that his body is no longer halfway leaning over me. Rather he climbs completely on top of me, and I swallow an extremely large lump as I watch every curve of his body and how he finally rests himself on top of my torso. "I was being helpful," he finally says calmly.

I'm trying my best to focus on the fact that one of my arms is tied to the corner bedpost by rope, which (where the hell did he get rope from) is holding tight to my wrist…rather than every movement he's making against my chest.

"Helpful…how exactly?" I manage out as he adjusts himself slightly.

"Well..." he glances at the wall thoughtfully. "You have a tendency to grip things in the heat of the moment. Me, the bed sheets, the lamp..." he chuckles lightly. "I didn't want you to injure your already cut hand," he says simply and leans over to kiss my hand gently before resting back on top of me.

I open my mouth for a rebuttal, but quickly snap my jaw shut. What the hell am I even doing questioning his motives? He told me he wasn't through with me yet, and I fully intend to get rewarded for my good deed of joining his club.

"Have you been up this whole time?" I question as he grins wildly at me, as if he's preparing a not-so-sneaky attack. His fingertips begin to draw little patterns on my bare chest and he lifts his body and leans up again, I guess to make sure the rope is secured tight enough.

I blink to adjust my vision and lift my usable arm to push him back down to my view. He squeezes his thighs together, and I feel every one of his muscles flex on my legs. I grunt in response. "Kyle…" I protest weakly.

"You are fucking amazing, Stan," he praises. "Do you honestly think I plan on letting you out of my sight this morning?"

"I-" I begin, feeling his hands skim my sides until he finds the area that always tickles. I twitch instead, to which he buckles his body down even firmer.

"Now shut up. You're distracting me."

"I'm distracting you?" I repeat, dumbfounded at his aggression. Kyle is usually the dominator, but I've never seen him as heated as he is now. He leans in, deliberately pressing his dick against me, and bites my lip to stop me from talking. I squirm, wanting my hand to be free. I take advantage of the other one, running my hand down the side of his back and grabbing hold of his clenched backside.

Reaching behind him, he seizes my free hand and slams it down on the bed beside me. "I haven't given you your present yet," he informs me before pressing his lips passionately against mine.

I pull my head away, breathless and more turned on than I've ever felt in my entire life. "I get a present?"

"You won't if you keep talking," he answers in a low voice.

With that, I succumb completely to his advances. He nips at my neck and creates a seductive swirl pattern with his tongue around my skin, all while he's holding both of my arms down. I writhe with pleasure, unable to handle the lack of my appendages. I feel his body slide up and down on mine as he continues to flirt with my neck, ears, throat, and chest.

Suddenly, he releases my arm, and I all but attack him with a pent up force I didn't know I had. My other arm starts to burn, like I'm trying to yank it out of its socket, but as Kyle drops his entire body to below my navel, I lose interest in that sensation in favor of a new one.

I hiss as his hand closes around my erection and begins pumping at a euphoric rhythm. I drop my head back into the pillow and close my eyes, letting my body be overtaken by the intense pleasure I feel every time he touches me. It's like a pulse of energy shooting through my veins upon contact, and I contract my stomach muscles, unable to withstand the intensity. His warm breath and succulent lips poised just right make me want to scream out.

"Fuck Kyle," I breathe as he kisses and bites my thighs. I clench every muscle from my chest on down and buck my hips, wanting so badly to be freed.

I crack an eye open and lower my vision southwards just in time for him to meet my eyes. He waggles his eyebrows once and lifts his head a bit. "Already?" The grin on his face is obvious. "You don't like to waste much time, do you Stan."

I dip my uninhibited shoulder down to scoop him up to my level again to kiss him. That's not exactly what I meant, but I think I might explode if we waste another minute on his taunting.

Kyle drops back down and continues to pump with one hand. The other hand musters all his strength to push me up near the head of the head. I scoot up at his body's demand, and he settles down on top of me. My body folds like an accordion and my arm stays limp as Kyle lifts my legs over his shoulder. He grips his own dick, preparing himself.

I grit my teeth as he pushes in, allowing myself the time to relax before we continue. It's the same old routine as every day only this time, there's something more. Kyle is even more passionate, if that's possible. I can feel him inside of me, and not just physically. I close my eyes and feel a deeper connection—one that holds no boundaries. His force field is down. He's himself again.

Long after I've lost feeling in my arm, Kyle is still thrusting into me, an unforgettable gleam in his eyes. I didn't know it meant this much to him, but I am definitely thankful I've made him happy too. I could get used to him expressing his thanks.

When we're both spent, Kyle makes a move to pull out and fall to my side, but I reach out with my available arm and stop him from leaving.

"Just…" my voice comes out slightly haggard and breathless. "Just stay there for a second."

He smiles down at me, but a feral grin starts to form on his face again. "If you say it like that I'll just get hard again."

I give him a weak smile back before pulling him closer so that he's resting on my chest. His face firmly planted against the crook of my neck. "Stan?" he questions and I shush him as I trail a few fingers behind his neck, fingering the bottom tips of his hair.

For some reason I really want to take in this moment. I never want to forget it. What it felt like after Kyle and I were together for the first time since I've joined the HHS. I don't want to think of what I've lost by joining. I want to think of what I've gained and this body above me, still resting inside me is my biggest prize.

As I move to wrap both my arms around him as he continues to breathe quietly, the mood is suddenly broken. Which is okay, since there'll be others.

"Kyle?" I ask, finding my voice and hearing its hardened tone. "You can take the rope off me now."

Kyle raises his head to look down at me, amusement dancing in his eyes. Finally pulling out, he leans over and begins to pull at the complex ties of the rope. He loosens up the ends and then unwinds it from the bedpost. My hand falls down and I instantly cradle it, wincing at its new appearance. Kyle was right about one thing. I DO have a tendency to grip things in the heat of the moment, and being tied to the side of the bed didn't change my hands instincts to want to do so. There's a bright red angry burn around my wrist from my constant tugging against the coarse fiber.

I glare at my boyfriend as he gets himself up. Seeing my glare, he leans down and gives me a chaste kiss on the forehead before smiling again.

"Guess you'll have to wear long sleeves for awhile huh?" He smirks, not even apologizing.

"Guess I'll have to invest in a new wardrobe," I bite back. "At this rate the only skin I'll be able to show is my face."

"That's fine, no one besides me needs to see anything else."

I give him a pained look. "You know," I start and watch as he slowly dresses himself. I know he's giving me a bit of show as I continue to rest on the bed. "The possessive thing is only hot every once in awhile. Don't think I didn't see the looks you gave people when they were only going to give me a friendly pat on the shoulder of congrats last night."

"You can never be sure," he says disinterestedly.

"Tone it down Ky," I demand. As much as I love the guy, I don't exactly love him scaring away people who come in close contact with me.

He holds my eye contact for a while before he turns away. I'm not sure if he's agreed.

"I'll go get us some breakfast," he says and I sigh internally. I don't think I got through to him. Oh well, I'll keep pestering him about it later.

"Get me some waffles," I say, realizing that's what I'm craving. "And some sausage…" I say as an afterthought. "Oh and actually, what I think I really want is some-"

"Stan," he interrupts me. "I know your stomach. I know to get you a lot of everything."

Laughing, I realize how true that is. I stop abruptly when I notice Kyle is slipping on his jacket. "Wait you're not going to go to the cafeteria now, are you?"

"Why not?"

"Well because!" I protest. "You probably look…and you probably smell…dude, take a shower first!"

Kyle looks confused, but only for a second, and when the confusion is gone he bursts out laughing. Which…surprises me. Kyle hasn't laughed like that in…ages. "You mean I reek of sex?" He asks with a raised eyebrow and I redden accordingly. "Yeah, you're probably right," he says looking down at himself. "Okay, I'll pop in the showers real quick and then I'll head to get us some food. Better?"

"Much," I nod.

I study him as he sheds the clothes he put on only minutes before. He wastes no time in pulling on a pair of gym shorts, grabbing a towel, and slipping on some shower shoes. He turns so that his back faces me, and it occurs to me that he no longer tries to hide that crest of his. In fact, I've seen him walk around without a shirt on now more than ever. Is he getting careless, or is it because I was the only one he was trying to hide it from? And if so, is there really something to earning one of those? Something he's ashamed of?

His waggling eyebrows divert my thoughts. "Feel free to stay exactly the way you are until I get back."

I grin at his suggestion. "Kyle that will defeat the purpose of you showering. Go," I tell him, shooing him with my hand and walking over to the door. I issue him a brief goodbye kiss before he opens the door and I duck behind it. Through the crack in the door, I see him sling his towel over his shoulder upon entering the hallway, thus completely covering up his branding.

I close the door behind him and search the room for some clean shorts. All of mine seemed to have mysteriously vanished. Sighing, I run over to Kyle's drawer and climb into a pair of his navy blue track pants, the kind that button up the sides. Then I attempt to finger through my hair so it doesn't look like I just weathered a violent storm. I know I probably smell and look like a train wreck, but at this point, the only person who's going to see me is Kyle. And he's the one who made me this way.

"Get your smelly ass out of my sweatpants." I whirl around just in time to see Kyle slam the door, strip off his clothes, and stand there, buck naked. I look at him unsurely, wondering if he's serious because he doesn't want me to dirty his clothes, or because he wants me out of clothes for good.

Another three seconds gives me my answer. And another forty minutes later, Kyle is finally on his way to go get us something to eat.

I throw my head back in exhaustion at the sound of the door latching shut. Taking a few deep breaths, I decide it best to not budge until I can feel all of my limbs again. Just as I settle into a comfortable relaxation of absolutely no movement whatsoever, my phone lights up with a familiar tune. I lift my head to connect where the sound is coming from and see my phone on the floor, just below Kyle's nightstand. I stretch out over the bed and drop my palms to the ground, walking my hands out to the damn noisemaker. I grab it and stare into the display, deciding to pick up.

"I'm not interrupting anything am I, Stan?" Kenny asks.

I grunt noisily in reply and climb back up into bed.

"Good, cause I'd hate to ever do that," he replies huskily.

"Hey Kenny," I manage as I settle into Kyle's warm bedspread. "To what do I owe this glorious surprise?"

"Since when is a phone call a surprise? I just wanted to make sure you haven't died and forgot to tell me or something."

I laugh at his comment. "I'm fine, I've just been pretty busy."

To this, Kenny huffs. "Tell Kyle he has to learn how to share. You can't ignore your other friends all the time. That's just rude."

"I'm not ignoring you," I protest, though I realize it may be somewhat untruthful. I haven't spoken to Kenny in months. Not since I've been getting involved with the HHS. Part of me has avoided him simply because I know he's affiliated with Austin. It's not like Kenny would give a damn about what I decide.

"Because I'm always in your thoughts, is that it?" he fires back. "Stanley, I know you better than that. How the hell are you?"

I shrug. "Pretty good. And you?"

"Can't complain. Austin keeps me on my toes. He's got a different goddamn conspiracy theory every day. I enjoy the entertainment."

I laugh again. Looks like it wasn't just JV doing it to him. "That sounds like Austin."

I can hear Kenny smile, and it saddens me. I suddenly regret avoiding him. He's one of my best friends. "But we miss you, man. I don't wait by the phone for you to call or anything, but I would appreciate a check up every now and then. Just so I know you haven't fallen to the dark side."

I choke on nonexistent spit and force a chuckle. "Yeah."

Kenny pauses, and somehow I know that bastard knows. He's just intuitive with things like that. "So you and Kyle doing good then, I bet," he continues conversation as if there is some sort of nonverbal agreement not to talk about what he just found out.

"Better than ever," I admit.

"I figured…" his voice trails off. "Well, Austin wants to say a few words too, so I'll hand the phone over to him. You take care, Stan. Don't be a stranger."

"Yeah," I say noncommittally.

"I said, don't. Be. A. Stranger." At this he suddenly lowers his voice. "I'll make sure Austin is out if you ever want to swing by."

"Ken," I say with a strain in my voice.

"Hey it was inevitable really," he says, cutting me off. "When one of you jumps the other isn't too far from doing the same. Just know I'll still be around holding your life line, okay?"

I nod. I know he can't see it, but it's Kenny so he'll understand nevertheless.

"Alright give your significant other a big wet one from me. I'm gonna hand the phone over to Austin now. The guy's practically humping me to get to the phone," he says, his voice louder.

"I am NOT!" I hear Austin's distinct voice in the background and a smile has already formed on my face as I hear the sounds of the phone being passed from one friend to another. "I was not practically humping him," is the first thing Austin says to me and I chuckle at that.

"I didn't think you were," I tell him honestly.

"Anyway, dude how're you doing?" He asks, his tone softens into concern, and I bite my lip at the thought.

"I'm good, doing good…what about you and Ken? You guys seem to be getting along even more so than a few months ago." I question, rushing to change the subject far from me and how and what I've been doing as of late.

Austin snorts, but I can tell its all for show. I know he and Ken have hit it off more than I would have thought possible. But at the same time I had always thought they were similar…in different degrees of course, but similar nonetheless.

"We're fine, though I'm still trying to get used to his…lets call them quirks."

"Ah," I state knowingly. "Has he told you all about the guacamole parliament?"

"…The what?" Austin asks puzzled and I shake my head, laughing as I imagine his face.

"Then you don't know the half of his quirks. But you'll get there," I say, grinning into the phone.

"I wonder if I want to know," he muses, and after that statement is when a lull in conversation holds. At first I feel slightly awkward about it—that is until I realize that it's Austin hesitating about something.

"What is it?" I ask him curiously.

He's still hesitating and if I could see him I'd bet he was exchanging looks with Kenny right now. And I'll bet Kenny is silently urging him on.

"What?" I ask again.

"Danny called me a few weeks back," he finally states and I suddenly find myself holding my breath. I never had called Austin about Jason's departure. I also never told Jason Austin's number…so I wonder how he got it. "And…Stan how come you never told me he left JV?"

"I…it slipped my mind," I answer pathetically. It honestly had slipped my mind with everything that had happened those weeks after Jason had left. "How's he doing, I haven't talked to him since he left."

"He's okay…he's a bit…I don't know…off, I guess since having left. I think he's still coming to terms with what Miller did. But anyway, the point is we're talking again. Things are a little strained though, but it's weird because in a way I'm slowly getting my best friend back."

"What am I, chopped liver!" I hear Kenny scream directly into the phone, releasing the tension that has built up around the sudden topic shift. And though he may be joking, I think part of Kenny might be serious about this. He never gets to be the best friend—he's always the awesome guy who's around…for the lifeline, like he said. I suddenly feel sad again.

"Austin," I begin, my courage trailing off the minute I address him. But it's too late. I've got his attention already.

"Yeah?" he asks hopeful.

"I…I'm glad you two are talking again. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to him too, this much I can tell." I hear Austin sigh, but I continue. "And…dude I wouldn't have even given him a chance to be my friend if you hadn't left. I think that was when it all started changing."

"What all started changing?" he questions, and I bite my lip from having said too much. Austin will catch on to anything now—his ears are like a radar trying to pick up on HHS-related practice.

"Well, you know…my friendship with Danny. We really opened up to each other after you were gone and I got to see the guy he was before Miller tainted him."

Austin chuckles. "Still loving that Miller I can tell."

I growl. "I will hate the bastard until the day I die. But…he doesn't bother me all that much anymore."

"How come?"

I shrug. "Because he will never win me over." Shaking my head, I stray from Miller and the HHS. "But anyway it's great to hear about you and Danny. But don't forget about Ken. Between you and me, I think he needs someone to love him too."

"Stan, don't try to spread your gay on me. We all know where that ends up. Speaking of, had anymore encounters with a vacuum lately?"

"SHUT UP!" I yell into the phone through laughter. I miss Austin. I really do. "That was one time."

"That I know of. And anyway, I told you already that I'm happy for you." His pitch shifts and suddenly he darkens with seriousness. "Is Kyle still hopelessly devoted to that cult we don't speak of?"

"…Yes," I answer hesitantly.

"And what about you?"

"We've…worked it out," I answer, trying my best to dodge the question.

If I could see Austin, I swear he's nodding with the kind of understanding that will result in the end of our friendship. "Well…good for you, Stan. I'm happy you two are together."

"Thanks, man."

There is a long pause of silence in which the both of us are coming to terms with what we now know.

He's the first to speak up. "I really must be going. Kenny's cooking me a meal tonight in honor of our second month of living together. Even though that happened four weeks ago. He says he's behind. I can't complain, its free food."

"Kenny's not a half-bad cook either," I note, feeling pangs of envy in my stomach. "Enjoy."

"I will. And Stan…I'm really glad I got to know you. Thanks for being there for me."

The finality of that statement gives me the shivers. But we both have to face reality. The time of the Stan and Austin reign is over. And though it could be a sad occasion, we are both happy in the paths we've chosen to take. Even so, I can't help but miss my old friend.

"You too, Austin. See you later," I finish, knowing full well that won't be happening.

"Yeah. Later, Stan. Good luck." And with that, the line goes dead. I turn to face the display and see the minutes flashing in my eyes. It takes me a few moments to absorb my past conversation, and it's at that point that I hear the door click open. Kyle has returned with much-needed and wanted fuel.

He's balancing four Styrofoam take out boxes in one hand as he steps into the door. I stand up, brushing my nose slightly as I pick up two of them to help him out. I can tell he's about to express his thanks before I notice something in his eye glint. As I turn to set the boxes on my desk I listen as he closes the door before quickly grabbing a hold of my good wrist.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

"Nothing," I say automatically. I watch as his eyes narrow in disbelief. They slide away from me and I see as they absorb everything in our dorm room, as if they're looking for something. And they must have found it. His eyes stop movement and I turn my head around to see what his eyes have landed on. My cell phone.

"Who were you talking to?" he asks just as to the point as he did before.

I hesitate and I almost tell him it was no one. But that's too much of a bold face lie. Instead I think its better to say it was just my mom, checking up on me, but staring at the phone…I can't do that.

"Kenny…and Austin," I say.

The hand holding my wrist drops as he looks back and searches my eyes.

"How's Kenny?"

I nod, "good. It's Kenny after all. And he wants me to give you a big wet kiss, by the way."

Neither of us moves and Kyle knows that I have no intention of doing such a thing, even if it is in Ken's honor. I can tell he's more interested with the other person I talked with. But he doesn't want to ask. He hates Austin too much to want to ask, but he's curious.

"Why was Kenny hanging out with him?" He questions as he emphasizes the word him.

"They're roommates," I bluntly inform Kyle. His eyebrows rise in surprise, though I feel no need to tell him anything more concerning that. "We were just saying our goodbyes as you walked in."

"Goodbyes?"

"Yeah, after all we both got what we wanted in the end. We're happy in our separate worlds. We'll be fine…even without each other."

I watch as Kyle puts down the Styrofoam boxes before gripping the sides of my arms tightly. "Really? You'll be fine without each other?"

"'Course," I say though I find it a little hard to say. "I've got you, don't I?"

Kyle continues to stare intently at me. Maybe he's waiting for me to change my mind, to take what I said back. But I don't and eventually he pulls me toward him in a bone-crushing hug. "That's right," he says softly. "You've got me, and you don't need anything or anyone else." At that my stomach rumbles and Kyle pulls away slightly so we both can get a good look at my stomach.

"I might need food too," I say thoughtfully and he grins and lets out a sigh of…it sounds like relief, before he releases me and grabs his boxes.

"Like I told you when I left, I come baring A LOT of everything," he says and we settle down on our bed, in our dorm room, to eat our meal. Together.

-

"I must admit I was quite surprised to see you have made it this far. But, as would happen with any other member, when you reach a certain calibration of Excellency, we reward you with our second highest honor. And your day has come, brother," Miller begins more to me than to anyone else in the room, even though all eyes are on my shirtless torso and quivering stomach. Just because I've reached this point doesn't mean I want to go through with it. I've been in this situation before when I witnessed my first meeting. I know what comes next.

Miller turns to address the crowd. "My brothers, Brother S is here today because of the strengths and skills he possesses as an Architect. Here in the society, we seek roles for every lifelong member." I sigh as I recall the exact line being used at Jason's ceremony. This solidifies my suspicions that Miller says the same thing for each guy, replacing only the appropriate letter. "Not long ago we suffered a tragic loss with the disappearance of our beloved architectural member, Brother J." I scoff at his choice of words. "But Brother S has proven that he can not only fill the empty shoes, but he can also overcome an insurmountable amount of odds to get himself there. And with such remarkable dedication too. You are hereby granted into the elite cluster of the Architect Brothers before us."

I take a big gulp and look at my friends surrounding me. It's been only a month and one week to the day from my initiation ceremony, and we're all back celebrating in my honor for a different reason tonight. Tonight, I pledge a part of my physical being to this club that I've grown to recognize as my own.

To say that it's a fast acceptance into the higher ranks of the HHS would be an understatement. Other than Kyle (and Miller of course), NO ONE has received this honor in less than three months. It's just unheard of. But I guess I have an impressive resume for getting the job done, and I never quit a job half-assed. Plus it could have to do with the fact that my boyfriend has a lot of pull with the higher ups. Hell, he IS a higher up. In addition, this is the last Sunday meeting of the school year. Kyle and I decided it would be best to end my first semester with a bang.

Marc was speechless when I told him I had successfully completed what needed to be done in order to gain second rank status. Jack about shit a brick. They're still my boys, and I'll never ditch them for the anal suck-up crowd, but to know that I'll be somewhat of their superior is kind of cool.

I can't really see it as that though. If it weren't for Marc, I wouldn't even be standing here today. I'd be at home, cowering in shame from my failed grades for sure. But, thanks to him, I passed every exam with an A- or above, and I'm even lined up to take some advanced architect classes next year.

And if it weren't for Jack, I wouldn't feel like myself in the group. That guy walks, talks, and acts like me so much I think we're sharing the same brain sometimes. Even though I've lost a true friend in Austin, I've gained one and then some through Jack. I just wish I could've met him sooner.

"You have proven your loyalty to everything this society holds dear. You have given us your trust, and in turn we trust you with our darkest and most well kept secrets," Miller continues his spiel, and my concentration is brought back to the present. Miller ushers me beside him and the fire, where the coals are starting to burn a glowing amber hue. The fire poker rests on the side of the fireplace, and I lift my eyes to connect with Kyle's soothing green ones. He's standing with one hand positioned over the handle of the fire poker.

I'd love to say that what's about to happen is going to be painless. But I know that's a damn lie. It'll be just as hellish—if not more—than that piercing dagger through my palm. But I can relax just a little bit about it all, because I know it's not Miller who will be laying a finger on me this time. I found out just recently that the branding gets to be done by the member's most trusted brother. And that sure as fuck is not Miller for me. I grin weakly at Kyle as he picks the poker up and stirs it in the fire.

"Hesitations, Brother S?" Miller asks on cue.

Hesitations? When I had the initiation I had hesitations then…and while I don't like the look of that poker reddening against the flaming hot coals of the fire, it's weird, but I feel…calm. Do I have hesitations? Not on his fucking life. I know why I'm here, where I stand…I know what I'll have the skills to become. It won't be easy, but I have another goal in mind. If Miller can be the president, who's to say I cant one day be the same?

"Not at all," I tell him, giving him my best winning smile. He falters at it momentarily. I think I saw him wince, but he says nothing. Rather he nods his head sharply before gesturing toward Kyle.

My eyes instantly fall on him, not giving Miller a second thought or glance. Kyle holds out his free hand to me and I latch onto it instantly. Feeling the warmth, the hope, the security…the love of the gesture.

He pulls me toward him and situates himself so that his chest is just brushing my arm. I can feel his breath and his warmth. Being together with him has been no easy ride. He fought me so hard, or perhaps maybe it's me that was fighting. Either way I've done things here at Jackson Vanderbilt that I've done nowhere else.

After today is over I'll be going home in a week. Not just to see my parents who are starting to wonder at my health, but to see Kenny. I owe it to him, and to be perfectly honest, as necessary and as right as it felt to let go of Austin, I can't do the same for Kenny. But then after that I will return here to JV, back in my room with Kyle, and we'll spend the summer here together, with a handful of others.

I can't help but wonder how I'll hide the brand from Kenny. If I'll feel the need to do so. If I don't, he'll ask about it…and I wonder if I'll have the courage to tell him just what it is I had to do to get this coat of arms burnt onto my back, even if it is against policy to tell outsiders. But I don't think I'll be able to tell him. Not because of the rules, but because I wouldn't want to watch his reaction, to see his rarely serious eyes turn cold. I wouldn't want to be less in his eyes. He'd understand, but we'd never be as close.

When Kyle brushes his thumb over my cheek I realize my mind wandered off. He smiles at me, and I smile back, already hearing Marc's reaction at having my mind wander off even as a hot poker threatens its way toward my back.

But enough about other people. For once I do need to focus on the here and now. Kyle drops his hand from my cheek and I suddenly feel as he envelops me the best way he can with only one arm. That means it's coming. I'm sure about this, I am. Really.

But even so a thousand things flash in my mind. Kyle, Marc, Jack, and Eric…they all know why I'm doing this and respect me for it. But…Kenny, Austin, Danny, and my parents…they'd never fully understand. So as I close my eyes and feel the end of the poker hover above its mark, my mind screams. Am I sure? AM I SURE?!

Kyle's hold around me suddenly tightens and I feel as his head nuzzles the side of my ear. He knows I started to panic. As he breathes lightly into my ear and even bites the lobe lightly, lovingly, I release a very low sigh of contentment.

I close my eyes and feel as the embers sear my flesh. I take a deep breath, but have no reason to cry out. Kyle holds me tighter in his arms and, suddenly, the pain isn't so fierce. I know he'll be there when I open my eyes, and we'll be together. Forever.

Because I did this for him. It was always for him.

The End.

- Indiana Beach Bum and Faery Goddyss