A Note From Ben: Another songfic. Ah, I remember when I swore I'd never write these. Bah. The thing you need to realize about this one is that THE PRONOUNS IN THE SONG DO NOT FIT. I realize this. I thought the message of the song was more important than whether it says "he" or "she" at certain points.

Disclaimer: I do not own Whiskey Lullaby, which was a Brad Paisley/Allison Kraus duet.
Dedication: This story is dedicated to Brat-Child3, who has been such an inspiration.
The Headstone
by Ben Barrett

"Tell us the story, papan!"

A group of kids was gathered around a dual gravestone in South Park Cemetery. Their grandfather, whom they had always referred to as "Papan" was kneeling on the ground beside it. He beckoned them all to move closer, so that all twenty of them could hear him without him having to resort to shouting. Such a thing was disrespectful to the dead.

"There are many legends and stories in every graveyard," he told them, placing his hand on the old vine-covered stone, "and the majority of them involve ghosts."

The kids seemed to have a mixed reaction to this. Some recoiled in terror, and others brightened at the idea of hearing something spooky. He smiled down at them and cleared the moss and vines from the front of the stone. The epitaph read:



"This is the story from many years ago," he continued, "and some of you may be happy to know that there aren't any ghosts involved."

Some of the kids did indeed breathe a sigh of relief at this.

"However," Papan said, "sometimes there are worse things. Sometimes, the things that hurt us aren't ghosts or monsters. Sometimes we are hurt the most by the people we loved the deepest..."

The kids snuggled up closer as their Papan began to give them the story, one name at a time.

I. Kyle

She put him out
like the burnin' end of a midnight cigarette

Kyle had to learn the hard way that life sometimes isn't fair. He had been in love with his best friend Stan for nearly his whole life, with his first amorous feelings popping up right after that whole Blainetology incident. When his friend had risked his life to save his without so much as a second thought about it, his feelings for the boy had grown beyond best friends.

He spent most of his early childhood ignoring it, hoping it would go away. He was fond of saying at times that being in two minorities was just out of the question. He already got enough grief from Cartman for being Jewish, but if he suddenly turned gay, too, well he'd just never hear the end of it. So he had denied the feelings for the better part of five years, until they entered high school.

In their ninth grade year, he finally realized that it wasn't going to go away, that he was really head-over-heels for his best friend. He got little relief from this, however, because he had no idea what to do about it. Should he tell Stan or keep it to himself? Should he simply come to terms with his own feelings and then try to move on In the end, he decided to be honest with Stan, and trust in Stan as his best friend not to betray him.

This was a mistake.

It took Kyle two more years to work up the courage to do it. In eleventh grade, he pulled Stan off to the side and made his confession. Stan's face got as pale as a sheet, and he seemed to struggle with his ability to speak.

"Are you okay, Stan?" Kyle asked, putting a concerned hand on his friend's shoulder.

His hand was slapped away and Stan turned on him like a rabid dog. Before Kyle could think about doing anything to defend himself, his friend descended upon him, fists flying. He broke Kyle's nose that day and knocked out two of his teeth, as well as bruising his ribs by kicking him in the side.

"Don't you ever come near me again, you sorry fucker!" Stan bellowed. "If you do, next time you won't get up!"

She broke his heart
he spent his whole life tryin' to forget

Kyle spent three weeks in the hospital after that incident. He informed everyone that he had no intention of pressing charges against Stan for what happened and that he just wanted to forget about it and move on with his life. Unfortunately, his ability to "forget about" things really wasn't all that great, and he ended up sliding into a deep depression. This, in turn, lead him to try different things to help him deal with his pain. He tried pretty much everything from marijuana to razor blades, seeking comfort from the ache in his broken heart.

We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time
But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind

Kenny and Butters, who had always been Kyle's two closest friends after Stan, tried unsuccessfully to help him and support him, even after he decided the bottle was the best pain reliever available. For several years, they bailed him out of trouble and made sure he got home safely each time he got so plastered he could barely remember his own name.

It started in the high school years, when he'd acquire booze by paying the rednecks a little extra to get him some while they were at the liquor store. They'd find him in the park, a bottle of hooch in one hand and Stan's photo in another. They'd take his bottles away and then escort him home, where he would apologize in a drunken slur and tell them he loved them.

This only got worse when he reached the legal drinking age of twenty-one and could easily get at the bottle any time he had the financial means to do so.

Until the night
He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away her memory

About three months after his twenty-first birthday, he finally did what no one ever thought he would do: he did himself in. He debated it for a long while; a month at least. Did he have a reason to even go on? His own parents couldn't look at him anymore and he was pretty sure they were planning to throw him out of the house. On top of that, his friends were obviously growing tired of taking care of him. They never said anything cruel to him, but he could tell. Oh yeah, he had a sense about these things.

So nobody wants Kyle anymore, he thought bitterly. First Stan, then my parents, then my friends. There's nobody left.

He never stopped to consider the idea that everything was in his head, that he was being paranoid, that people really did still love him. All he could think about was


the people who had turned their backs on him.

Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength he had to get up off his knees

It wasn't hard to do, really. All he had to do was chase a handful of pills, any pills, with a few pulls of the whiskey bottle. Liquor and drugs were a deadly combination, everyone knew that. A few pills and a few swallows, and it would be just like falling asleep for him.

We found him with his face down in the pillow
With a note that said I'll love her till I die

Nobody will ever know if Kyle really did just slip into a painless coma, or if he suffered that night. In the end, it didn't really matter, because he was still dead, and it was still his own mother who found him, cold and lifeless the next morning.

"OH MY GOD!" she screamed. "NOT MY BUBBEE!"

She ran to him and threw herself on the body, which was already beginning to stiffen. She wailed over him and attempted to cradle him in her arms like she used to do when he was a baby, or when he was sick as a child. It was here that Gerald found her five minutes later, absolutely beside herself with grief.

"Come on," he said, trying to pull her away from the body while tears flowed down his own face. "You can't do this."

"Get off of me, Gerald!" she shrieked, taking a swing at him and barely missing. "He was my baby! My BABY! MY BABY!!!"

"I know, Sheila," he said softly, taking her gently into his arms, "but he's gone. He's gone."

He rocked her softly while she cried.

And when we buried him beneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullaby

The funeral took place, as was Jewish custom, as quickly as possible. Kenny and Butters did all they could to help with the preparations. They arranged everything from the floral patterns to the caterers, taking a great deal of stress off of the grieving Brovlofskis.

The event itself was not elegant or grand, but very simple. Kyle had always been a rather private person, and they knew he wouldn't want a big production to be made of it. Members of the Brovlofski family, including cousin Schwartz, showed up, as did most of the people who knew him in his brighter days.

la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la

After the funeral, people dispersed rather quickly, not wanting to stick around to see them fill in the hole. That was just a little too final for most people deal with. It was for this reason that nobody but the grave diggers in their backhoes saw the man with the black hair come out from behind a nearby tree, where he had hidden himself during the entire service.

Stan was alone when he fell to his knees in front of the closed casket and cried.

la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la

II. Stan

The rumors flew
but nobody know how much she blamed herself

In the years that followed, a lot of people talked. They normally do in small towns like South Park. In this situation however, they did it relentlessly, mercilessly. At first it bothered Stan to hear people blame him for his childhood friend's demise. The way the outsiders saw it, he had been Kyle's friend all his life; why hadn't he tried to help when Kyle had started having drinking problems?

The truth, sadly, was that he never went to help Kyle because he blamed himself for it. If his reaction to Kyle's confession had been more positive, Kyle wouldn't have started drinking in the first place. It was that simple. In fact, if you followed that line of thinking to it's conclusion, he was responsible for Kyle's death, just like everyone was saying. God, why did he have to answer Kyle's confession with his fists?!

For years and years
she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath

Stan began to slide into a deep depression, and made little or no effort to change things. After they buried Kyle, he just lost his will to live. He began to spend more and more time sitting alone with a bottle of hooch. He tried to hide it at first, knowing that people wouldn't approve after what had happened to his childhood friend. He would go out of his way to buy his liquor in towns where no one knew him. He would sometimes drive as far as Denver or Greeley out of paranoia before he found a liquor store that he felt was safe to go into.

The cat eventually did come out of the bag. Suspicious of all of Stan's trips out of town, Kenny decided to follow him one day. When he saw his car turn into the parking lot of a place called THIRSTY MAN, he prayed to every deity he could think of that Stan was just pulling in to maybe turn around and go back the other way, or maybe to simply buy a pack of cigarettes. He stopped praying when he saw him take a bottle of whiskey off the shelf.

Kenny confronted him in the parking lot when he came out, screaming that he'd already had to sit by and watch one friend drink himself to death, but he'd be damned if he was going to do it again.

"Walk out then, fuckhead!" Stan bellowed at him. "Take your scrawny little ghetto ass out of here and leave me alone."

She finally drank her pain away a little at a time
But she never could get drunk enough to get him off her mind

Kenny never talked to him again after that, and that was just fine with him. That was just one less person breathing down his neck. With his isolation complete

(first Kyle then Kenny)

and no one to keep him in check, his decline sped up. He would spend all night drinking whiskey, then go on an angry rampage, which landed him in one of Barbrady's holding cells on several different occasions. Barbrady told him he needed to start taking responsibility for his actions, and that message was repeated by his parents, his old teachers, and everyone else who cared about him.

None of this registered in his brain. The only thing that ever seemed to be thinking about was Kyle, and how it was all his fault.

Until the night
She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away his memory

Stan finally couldn't take any more. He always dealt with the guilt; the raw, gnawing guilt. It was driving him insane. The worst part about it was the thoughts of how wonderful things could have been, how he and Kyle could have built a life together. They could have had a nice little house on a mountain top with a view that went on for miles. They could have been so happy.

It didn't have to be this way, he thought. It wouldn't have been if it weren't for my macho attitude and my "friends" in high school.

He thought back on how the other guys on the football team had made remarks on just how close he and Kyle were. They said it wasn't natural for two guys to be so friendly with each other, and surely the star athlete of South Park High School wasn't gay? He had tried to assure them that he most definitely was not, but they knew just as well as he did that verbal assurance wouldn't be good enough. He would have to prove how straight he was if he wanted to keep the respect of the others.

He was, of course, very much in love with his best friend in those days. He had been since they were very young kids. He knew it, and there was no use lying to himself about it. However, he had been presented with a choice the day Kyle pulled him aside: embrace Kyle's feelings and remain true to his lifelong friend, or betray Kyle for the sake of his macho reputation.

He made the wrong decision, and the consequences had been disastrous.

I'm gonna make it all right, though. I'm gonna make it all right. I swear that to you, Kyle.

Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength she had to get up off her knees

There wasn't going to be any falling asleep peacefully for Stan, oh no. He didn't feel he deserved it at all. After what he did to the person who meant the most to him, he felt he deserved to die slowly, painfully. Maybe that would be a good way to atone for his most grievous sin.

A mixture of poisons, chemicals, and booze would do the trick. It would be painful, downright unbearable, but it would be a good death.

Love you Kyle. Forgive me.

We found her with her face down in the pillow
Clinging to his picture for dear life

Stan was found a mere fifteen minutes after his heart stopped beating. It was Kenny, coming over to try and make peace with his old friend and maybe talk to him about checking into a rehab program. He just couldn't bear to think of another friend going down the road Kyle went down, and he was planning to do all he could to prevent it.

I won't just walk away from him, Kenny swore. Not after all we've been through together.

When he got to Stan's apartment, he immediately sensed that something wasn't right. First of all, when he knocked, the door swung open ever so slightly. It wasn't like Stan to leave the door unlocked and open. In fact, he had an obnoxious habit of locking every door behind him, regardless of where he was.

This cannot be good.

"Stan?" he called, pushing it all the way open and walking in.

When he found Stan's body two minutes later, his screams of sorrow could be heard all the way to Stark's Pond.

We laid her next to him beneath the willow
While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby

Stan was laid to rest next to Kyle. They had always been together in life, and their family and friends thought it only appropriate that they be together in death as well.

Butters fell apart during the ceremony and had to be sedated. He had just watched two of his best friends in the world destroy themselves, and he had been powerless to stop it both times. It wasn't until later on that evening that he was even able to compose himself enough to speak coherently.

"Why did it have to be them?" he asked.

"I don't know, Butters," Kenny said, sitting at his bedside and looking down at him with great concern, "but we can't let it consume us like this, or it'll happen to us, too."

Butters nodded and reached out for him. Kenny took him into his arms and held him while he cried in great dry, heaving sobs.

la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la

la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la

The story was over, and it was time to go home. The sun was setting, and no kid wants to be in the cemetery after dark, so all of Papan's grandchildren were making their way toward the gate. He called after them to please be careful and stay by the car until he got there, and then noticed that one lone boy hadn't gone on with the others. It was Andrew, who was six years old and had a bad habit of sucking his thumb.

"What's the matter, Andrew?" he asked. "Aren't you worried about the ghosts?"

"No," he said, taking his thumb out of his mouth just long enough to answer. He was clinging tightly to his grandfather's pantleg.

"Why not?"

"Just cause."

"Big brave boy, eh?"

"No, Stan and Kyle told me it'd be okay."

Papan froze to the spot.

"What do you mean they 'told' you it'd be okay?" he asked.

"They were the people I was talking to before the story started," Andrew replied. "'member?"

Papan did. He recalled seeing Andrew walking by himself around the dual headstone before any of the others had even noticed it, talking to...well, Papan had just assumed he was talking to himself. It was only because of Andrew being over there by himself in the first place, looking down at the stone, that he had found himself telling the story at all. Andrew's fascination with the headstone had prompted the other kids to ask about it.

"You...saw them," Papan said, feeling his eyes grow moist.

"Yeah," Andrew said, giggling. "Kyle said 'tell your grandpa Butters we said thanks for comin to visit so offen.' Why did they call you Butters when you were a kid?"

"Andrew," Papan asked, "do you know where Stan and Kyle are now?"

"Sure," the boy responded, pointing toward a group of really large headstones nearby, "they're playing tag over there."

Papan turned to look in the direction his grandson was pointing. He thought he saw, for just a fraction of a second, two people chasing each other through the markers. What he saw mostly were two blurs, one with black hair and the other with red, gone before he could even focus on them. Later, Papan would question whether he had seen them at all.