San Francisco friends lost, Stan actually looked forward to seeing his old South Park friends, even if he dreaded whatever trouble Cartman's unstoppable hatred would cause. It would be a relief to be around people who didn't play according to the crazed logic of the San Francisco rulebook. A rulebook which hadn't come with the house, incidentally, nor tucked away in any welcome baskets they received.
His parents were less pleased about their arrivals, although this was largely because they felt Stan didn't deserve such a treat after ruining their relationship with the neighbours. On the other hand, it was less effort to simply sniff 'fine' and let Stan get on with it. So get on with it he did. He meticulously planned every minute of their weekend – it wasn't as if he had friends at school to talk to, or anything exciting to do in the evenings – and hoped it would be enough to keep them all out of trouble.
He knew, even as he hoped, it was completely futile, and it would be a success if they didn't all end up making national news for some horrendous and embarrassing crime.
When Friday rolled around, he sat in an uncomfortable airport seat, his attempts at lounging being constantly thwarted no matter which way he moved. Cold metal numbed his ass and jabbed into his arms if he dared to use the armrests. He wondered if certain firms specialised in making uncomfortable chairs, to be used only in airports and train stations around the country. Maybe it was to dissuade vagrants.
His train of thought was hoisted off course by the sight of a bright red afro running in his direction. He leapt to his feet, collided with the owner in a half-tackle, half-hug hybrid, and remembered that Kyle wasn't alone this time.
"Hey, Kenny. Hey, fat-ass. Did you decide risking catching the gay was worth trying to exterminate the hippies?"
"I'm immune to the gay. Being around your faggy Jew boyfriend is enough inoculation for me," Cartman retorted. Stan wrested his gaze back from Kyle, where it kept falling – totally the fault of the blatantly new jeans he was wearing, which practically demanded his attention – and noticed that Cartman was dressed as a ghostbuster. He had some device strapped to his back, and Stan dreaded learning what it was for.
"Not gay. Not his boyfriend. Need coffee," Kyle said, stifling a yawn with apparent difficulty. "I see coffee. Go get coffee. Come with." He dragged Stan by the arm in the direction of a famous coffee chain.
"Not a San Francisco coffee place!" Cartman hissed, grabbing Stan's other arm. "It's a breeding ground-"
"I'm in," Kenny announced, pushing them all in the direction of the coffee. "I like breeding grounds."
After an hour of caffeine, sugar, Cartman's hatred of everything, Kenny's sexual innuendo being applied to everything, and Kyle rounding everything off with a healthy dose of sanity and sexiness, Stan remembered what it was to be happy with friends again. Already his schedule had been proved superfluous – at this time, they were supposed to be returning to his house after doughnuts on the pier – but he couldn't care anymore. One coffee turned into two and two would have turned into three if Kenny hadn't chosen to hit on a waitress by drawing a crude sketch on a napkin and passing it to her as she collected their empty mugs. They departed hastily, Kyle and Stan yelling at Kenny for being a dick, Cartman yelling at him because she'd had dreadlocks, which, apparently, were the mark of a level 8 hippie. They took a taxi back to Stan's. He didn't trust Cartman and Kenny in the presence of natives any longer than was necessary.
"Mom, dad, my friends are here," he yelled as they entered the house. He led them straight to his room. Kenny stared at the walls and sighed in disgust; Cartman did the same whilst looking out of the window.
"No naked chicks. It's not a real room, dude."
"Hippies. Out there. It's not natural. It's just wrong."
"Cartman, you knew there were hippies here. Kenny, lots of rooms don't have naked girls on the walls. It's fairly common," Stan said, pushing belongings off the bed so they could sit down.
"It's not common for teenage guys to not have naked chicks on the walls," Kenny countered. "You, Kyle and Butters are the only ones I know who don't. Which makes sense..."
"Goddammit, Kenny, I am not gay," Kyle groaned, picking up a ball and throwing it from one hand to the other. "Neither is Butters."
"How do you know? Tried flirting with him?"
"Where am I sleeping tonight?" Cartman interrupted. "I am not sleeping with you or Kyle. You'll sleep-rape me."
"You're the only one with a history of sleep related sexual harassment, Cartman," Stan reminded him. "Didn't you bring a sleeping bag?" Cartman snorted dismissively. Stan sighed. "I'll get dad to find the spare sleeping bag. Kenny, did you bring yours?"
"Yeah. I brought a double." They all turned to stare at him. Kyle's ball fell to the floor. "In case I bring a chick back. Hippies are easy, right?" Stan pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Kenny, you are not, I repeat, not, bringing girls back here," he groaned.
"Why? Aren't your parents cool with it?"
"...I don't bring girls back. Or boys, before you ask."
"What the hell?" Kenny jumped off the chair he had started slouching on and shook Stan by the shoulders. "Dude, the best thing about being gay – that I've heard – is the amount of easy sex, and you're not seizing this sexy opportunity for all that it is worth?" Kyle rolled his eyes and picked up the ball again. Cartman turned away in disgust and glared out of the window.
"Hiiiippiiiies," he hissed, quietly.
"Believe it or not, Kenny, we are not all complete horndogs who are just in it for the sex-"
"And Kyle doesn't like you cheating on him, I guess," Kenny mused.
"Kenny, we – are – not – dating."
"Fine. Handjob buddies? 'Cause I know you've done that." Stan's eyes flicked to Kyle for a millisecond. Had he told? Had he suffered some brain injury that made him spew out everything potentially incriminating?
"Kenny, just because Stan used the word handjob on the phone to me, it doesn't mean we have done it to each other. Ever." Kyle threw the ball at Kenny's head. "Otherwise you'd be the biggest and gayest whore of all."
"Whatever. If either of you gets gay with the other, I will puke my guts out," Cartman announced. Kyle's eyes lit up.
"What? Really?" he asked, delightedly. "So we'd never have to hear, see or acknowledge you ever again?"
"Shut your Jew mouth," Cartman said, but without his usual venom. He was making some notes on a pad of paper. Stan craned his neck to get a better look, but Cartman quickly put it away. "So, what's for dinner?"
The cool breeze of San Francisco night wind on their faces, they wandered aimlessly around the city. At least, in Stan, Kenny and Kyle's minds, it was aimless. Cartman kept screaming if they made a turning he didn't approve of, but Stan just attributed that to Cartman being a fucking bitch and ignored him.
"Relax, fat-ass," he would say. "We're going the right way for the ice cream." And Cartman would pout and making whining noises, but none of them cared. After a while of this, in what seemed to be a perfectly normal street, Cartman suddenly ran like Shakey's Pizza was having a free all you could eat buffet. Kyle automatically darted after him and Stan made to dart after Kyle, but Kenny held him back.
"Let them go," he said, dragging Stan in the direction of the sparkling lights of the pier. "They have our phone numbers. They know where you live. Let's go have fun."
"Fun?" Stan repeated, suspiciously. "What kind of fun?"
"Let's sneak into a gay bar. You can get laid, I can find the chicks who go with their gay guy friends and hit on them. My chances will totally skyrocket."
"Give me five good reasons why you're turning this offer down. Or did the main one just run off after our lard-ass?"
"Yeah. Yeah, he did. Happy?" Kenny frowned.
"Yeah." Stan kicked a can that had blown out of the recycling bin. Can kicking opportunities were rare here – thank you, hippies – but he took them when possible, and now a pretty can-kickable moment. "I'm totally into Kyle. Except not literally."
"Huh. Why not?"
"Because he's straight."
"If he's straight, I'm..." Kenny sought for a decent metaphor. He gave up. "He's totally not straight. He's always talking about you, trying to visit you, plotting insane ways to get you back..."
"Because he's my friend."
"Have you tried seducing him?" Kenny asked, clearly testing out a different track.
"He was into it at first, then he wasn't. And no, we didn't get far."
"Maybe he doesn't like things up his ass?"
"We didn't get far, Kenny."
"Oh. Maybe you should have cut to the chase sooner. God knows he needs to get laid."
"You think everyone needs to get laid." Stan began ticking off on his fingers. "Cartman needed to get laid so he would stop hating everything. Then Bebe needed to get laid so she'd stop being mad about you wrapping her shoes in salami. Token needed to get laid so he'd stop doing so well in school..."
"Yeah, but Kyle really needs to get laid. Especially since you left. In fact, I kinda assumed you'd been fucking before that, because you wouldn't believe how tense and crabby he was afterwards-"
"-Because I'm his best friend and he missed me-"
"Okay, so why doesn't he go out with chicks? Bebe asked him to prom, Jen asked him if they wanted to go to a movie...there were probably other times, too. And he turns them down."
"Maybe he's just not interested in them?" Stan sagged onto a bench. "I don't know. But I know that he's not interested in me. And I'd rather that was because he doesn't like guys than because he just doesn't like me in that way, to be honest."
Kenny shrugged and sat down beside Stan. He stared off into the distance as Stan stared glumly at the ground.
"How far did you get?"
"Huh?" Stan looked up. Kenny was still looking away.
"How far did you get with Kyle? Making out?"
"...not further. Uh. Lesser?"
"Well, that's further than anyone else has ever been with Kyle, right?"
"Kenny, there's no award for that."
"But still. Maybe he does wanna fuck you and just being a blushing, innocent little flower about it."
"What part of that sentence reminds you of Kyle, exactly?"
Kyle's phone rang in his pocket. Stan took it out, noting the unknown number, as Kenny sighed.
"Goddammit you actually swapped phones, you soppy bastards..." Stan shushed him and answered the phone.
"Stan, it's me," Kyle gabbled. "We're in the police station. Can you bail me out? And never, ever mention this to my mom?" Kenny grabbed the phone.
"Sure, Stan'll do that-"
"-well, duh-" Stan interrupted.
"-but you have to make out with him for five minutes afterwards. Cartman has to watch."
"Sure. How quickly can you get here? We're sharing the cell with some anti-pollution protesters. Cartman is – HOLY SHIT HOW THE HELL DID YOU SMUGGLE THAT IN HERE?"
Bail paid, Cartman and Kyle were led out of their cell. Kyle looked angrier than Stan had seen him in months, his teeth gritted and fists clenched. Cartman also looked angry, but they'd already been told by the officer that he'd been pissed off about having his mini-mace taken away.
"What happened?" Stan asked, glaring at Cartman.
"Cartman tried to ruin a hippie convention. By filling it with foam. Since foam is artificial or some crap."
"It was the Organic Obsessives' Kindred Spirits Meeting. The foam wasn't organic. People died making that foam."
"Really?" Kenny asked, although he didn't look away from the redhead police officer at the front desk.
"Uh huh. Kyle, you have a deal to complete."
"Oh, right. You want me to do that here?"
"What? What deal?" Cartman asked.
"Nah, let's get outside before lard-butt does any more damage." They left the building, Cartman casting glares at everything he passed.
"You do so much for the law, and it just bites you in the nuts."
"Like anyone could find your nuts under that belly, fat-ass," said Stan. He was going to continue (Cartman had just lost him about a hundred bucks which he really could have used on anything else) when he found himself pressed against a wall and his mouth being very pleasantly examined by Kyle's.
"Aw, sick!" Cartman shouted.
"I'm timing," Kenny said. Stan didn't look over to see if he really was.