Authors note: Happy 17th season!

Chapter 6 – Casually Cruel

"...A present from down below, spreading joy with a howdy ho! He's seen the love inside of you, cuz he's a piece of poo!"

I snickered and tossed a stray bauble at Kyle's head, effectively cutting off his amazingly in tune song. He turned at just the right moment and caught the ornament before it hit his nose.

"Wow. That was awesome!" Butters said.

"Lucky catch," Kyle said, but the trace hint of a smile graced his lips as he snagged the red ball with a hook. He climbed the two-step stool and stuck it on the artificial tree.

"Have you finally renounced your faith or what?" I asked. I was sitting on the couch with my feet up, pretending to read Mocking Jay, which was ridiculous anyway because I only ever read for college, and classes were out for winter break. Really I had simply been using the book as a cover for watching Kyle's ass as he moved up and down the step-ladder and bent over to dig for ornaments.

He had pulled out the tree and two large Tupperware containers filled with Christmas decor and had been busily turning our living room into a land of twinkling lights and tinsel. Butters had joined in with all the enthusiasm one would expect of someone like...well, Butters, and I couldn't say I minded it when he bent over either.

"Nah," Kyle said cheerfully. "But Stan loves Christmas and I want to surprise him when he gets home."

"Aww, he's gonna love it," said Butters. He was smiling like the putrid romance between those two was actually sweet or something else obscenely incorrect, and handed Kyle the crystal star-topper he had picked out last year.

Stan had been gone for a glorious three weeks, stuck in Denver with his family as they awaited on Shelly's bouncing baby boy to gain enough strength to leave the NICU. Kyle had kept me updated, but I was only interested enough to get my most pressing concerns answered. Namely, "does that mean Stan isn't coming home yet?"

I had been repulsively giddy whenever Kyle had confirmed that Stan had to extend his leave two days, four days, another week. I knew that Kyle missed him, but it hadn't put a damper on his mood and I was loving how much attention I had been getting: movies, one-on-one indoor basketball, trips to the library to "study" (really I just liked to watch his mouth move as he explained the complexities of the Marshmallow theory and other experiments that didn't apply to any of my classes anyway).

"Any idea when he's coming back?" I asked, the words grumbled into the book.

Kyle's sigh was over-dramatic. "No. Soon, I hope."

"You must miss him somethin' terrible, huh?" Butters said this with no small amount of sympathy.

Kyle saddened visibly, and I shot Butters a withering glare. He missed it completely.

"We should all get out of here and do something fun today." I closed the book and set it aside. "A movie maybe?"

"Ah, wish I could," said Butters. "But I've got plans already."

I felt my eyebrows go up. Despite the elation I felt at the prospect of yet another day alone with Kyle, there was a brief flash of jealous curiosity begging me to investigate further. Some part of me still felt overly-protective of Butters.

"Plans?" I asked. "What could possibly be more entertaining than hanging out with your roomies?"

"Craig Tucker." Butters literally gushed the name, his cheeks pinking. "He's pickin' me up any time now."

Unfairly, I felt a portion of my happiness evaporate. "When were you going to tell us this?"

"Ain't got no reason to," Butters said. "It's not like you're my boyfriend or nothin'.

My eyes narrowed and cut back to Kyle. He gave me a pointed look I was obviously supposed to decipher, his mouth a grim line. I felt my mind reel but wasn't quick enough to catch on before he turned back to Butter's and said, "Butters, he's using you for sex."

"Dude, Kyle," I started, but he held up his hand to silence me.

"Yeah, I know," Butters said. It was cheerful and sunny, not at all the pouting protests I had imagined, and his smile didn't waver.

"Wait, you know that he is?" Kyle asked. "Then why are you with him?"

It was none of Kyle's business really, but the same question was burning on the back of my tongue. I waited, realizing I should tell Kyle to butt-out and knowing I wouldn't. Butters continued stringing tinsel along the plastic pine needles.

"It's not like he's trying to pull the wool over my eyes, or nothin'. Oh, he tried to sweet talk me. Worked a little at first, but I ain't no dummy. Finally I just told him if he wanted a fuck buddy, I was game."

Kyle looked at me again, an eyebrow raised and mouth slightly open in unmistakable bewilderment.

I knew Butters a good deal better than Kyle ever had. I couldn't say I was shocked at his eagerness to get laid, but I was mildly surprised he was so hard up for it that he went along with Craig's little cowboy setup, content to get some whenever Craig decided to gallop into town and then ride off again.

"HOW can you be okay with that?" Kyle was asking. He'd given up all pretense of helping shred the rest of the decor over the tree and was staring, completely stupefied, as Butters began tossing the empty ornament packages back into the Tupperware container.

"It helps me study, see?" he said. "I find a nice hard roll in the hay clears my mind and helps me focus. Why, I always have one before a big exam. Ain't you never done that?"

Really, I thought Kyle would get offended and start snapping patronizing remarks, but he merely looked curious, his voice a touch higher with intrigue. "No. Hard or gentle, I always pass out afterward. It's the best remedy for a good night's sleep for me."

A rush of warmth spilled pleasurably into my stomach as that mental imagine flourished. Kyle face up on the bed, thighs parted, his breath in my ear, helpless beneath me and screaming my name. Then the hot flash of gratification, and Kyle—weak and exhausted—drifting off comfortably in my arms.

But the sweet joy of the thought quickly soured as I remembered Stan and how he lived that fantasy all the fucking time.

"Well, that's a shame," Butters said, unperturbed.

There was a pronounced double-honk from the kitchen window, which overlooked the parking area. Butters jogged toward it and peered through on tip-toe, then bounced back into the living room.

"Well, that's my booty call," he announced, far too cheerfully. " See ya guys!"

I watched Kyle stare after him as he grabbed a powder blue sweater off the arm of the recliner and practically skipped out the door.

Kyle turned to me when he was gone, the Tupperware lid in his hands. "Wow, dude. Just wow. What happened to the sweet and innocent little kid we knew in High School?"

"Buttercups," I murmured, feeling a vague sense of loss. I hadn't called him that in so long. It felt stale and rusted on my lips. "It was heartbreak. Heartbreak happened to him."

Kyle wasn't listening. He had pulled his buzzing cell phone from his pants pocket and was carefully thumbing a reply to the text that had lit up his whole face.

"Stan's coming home," he said, excitement making him sound a little breathless. He looked up at me, shamrock eyes glittering. "That gives us three hours. A little over that if he stops at Verde Del Mar for one of those greasy, patty-shaped cholesterol blobs on a bun he likes to call a hamburger. And you know he will. Sooo…."

A small bubble of hope began to form in my chest, a jumble of possibilities skittering across my mind, most of which consisted of Kyle without any clothes on.

He smiled and squeezed his hands together. "Want to go Christmas shopping with me?"

The bubble would have popped if he hadn't looked so damn cute.

Kyle was like a girl in subtle ways. For instance, not many guys would be all that thrilled to battle the holiday crowds and find the best values on gifts for family and friends, especially if they didn't celebrate the holiday to begin with. But Kyle showed no signs of frustration prowling the mall, so crowded it was impossible to not brush up against people as we slithered to each store. In fact, he only cursed once, when a lady in a hot pink tunic and black stretch pants snagged the last ginger and spice candle from an end-cap.

"Now what am I supposed to get Butters?" He had asked, miserably.

Despite his little sprinklings of undeniable chick-ism, Kyle was so charmingly boyish; from his steady pace, to his quick- gift-decision-making, to his complete indifference to color coordinating outfits. I'd had to stop him from buying Stan dark green pants with a red sweater, swearing to him that it didn't matter how "Christmas" it was, Stan would look like a pussy and a half in it.

Not that I cared too much about that.

Two hours in and more than half the mall covered, Kyle finally began showing signs of irritation. He fell into one of the green metal chairs in the food court and let his bags clunk to the floor.

"Shopping is a NIGHTMARE." Wisps of hair were sticking to his face, and his cheeks were pink. He certainly looked far less enthused than he had at the start of our little trip, that was for sure.

"Just relax," I said. "I'll get us some lattes."

"Iced, please. Frappuchino," Kyle called out as I began to retreat. "It's hotter than Dante's sixth ring of hell in here."

I chuckled and squeezed my way through to the Star Bucks stand in the corner. The line was surprisingly short, so I didn't have time to stare at Kyle from afar, and didn't realize he had called Stan (probably the instant I turned around) until I was walking back toward the table. He didn't look happy though, which made me think at first that it wasn't Stan. He was frowning as he hung up and slid his phone back into his pocket.

"Something wrong?" I asked, sliding his mocha grande toward him. "Was it Ike threatening to get a nose ring again?"

Kyle shook his head and tapped open a straw. "Thanks for the drink. No, it wasn't Ike. It was Stan."

He was still frowning, which was completely unlike him when the dickward Marsh was around.

"Are you fighting?" I asked, trying hard not to let the hopefulness creep into my voice.

"No?" He answered, but it sounded like a question, and he was staring puzzled at the table. I raised a quizzical eyebrow at him. He looked up, smiled uneasily and said, "I'm just a little concerned about something he said." Here he paused and made a slow celebration of poking at his whipped cream.

"Are you ever going to tell me what that something is?" I finally asked.

"I need to ask you something, and it's going to sound really blunt." He licked the whipped cream off his lip, then plunged the straw back into the cup as if he had suddenly resigned himself to jumping out a plane window. Very quickly, he asked, "Kenny, are you still in love with me?"

Years of practice made it too easy for me to internalize the surprise I felt and stare back at him without a hint of change in my expression. Inside, though, my blood had erupted like lava. I could only hope he couldn't see the erratic dance of my pulse. My focus zeroed in on the single fleck of gold in his iris, intensifying the surrounding color to a sharp leaf-green.

A strip of images played through my mind, like a projector rolling an old, silent French film: Me, falling dramatically to my knees and taking the delighted Kyle's hand in mine, professing the depths of my fiery love; dipping him backward and kissing him like I'd die if I had to go another second without it; the two of us catching a one way train somewhere far away, where no one could ever find us, where nothing and no one would get in the way; someplace we'd never see Stan again, ever.

Then the warning of Stan's words a few weeks early clanged through my head like a siren: "I'll pack mine and his things and move as far away from you as I can possibly get."

All of this took mere seconds to run through my head, but the brief pause was enough to cause a fractional widening of Kyle's eyes, disbelief beginning to crack through his dubious expression. Rather than answer the question-which I feared would be like leaning over a boat to scoop up a valuable gem floating just within reach, only to overbalance and drown-I replied without actually answering.

"That was a long time ago."

"I know." He held my gaze, unwavering. "But Stan is so paranoid that you're trying to steal me away from him. And he isn't one to over exaggerate and make something out of nothing. I claimed that title back in elementary school."

A half smile overcame me. "Maybe Stan just feels threatened by all my overwhelming sexiness."

Kyle scoffed good-naturedly, but his face remained serious. "I thought that maybe he was just feeling territorial since moving in together since the both of you are so used to being the alpha-"

"Are you seriously going to sit there and compare me and your precious boyfriend to canine hierarchy?"

Kyle's lips pursed, obviously annoyed. "Oh, you know what I mean!"

"Alright," I said, holding up my hands. "I'm sorry."

As a psychology major, Kyle sometimes used terminology that was, for lack of better words, pretty fucking geeky. I thought it was adorable as all hell, and normally could tease him about it, get him to laugh. But obviously he wasn't in a playful mood, and I was going to have to confront this seriously.

I took a deep breath, ready to speak, then cut off short, blindsided by the feel of Kyle's hand settling over mine.

"I'm sorry," he said, and pulled it away. My skin tingled where his had been. It took a moment for me to remind myself to breathe.

"It's okay. " I twiddled absently with the SP High ring on my thumb. We all had one; Kyle, Cartman, Stan, and me. Same hand, same finger. "I guess you're pretty worried about this."

"I don't like seeing you guys fight." There was a conviction in his tone, solid and powerful. I rubbed the back of my head, unable to meet his gaze. He was so much like a Chihuahua- cute and sweet until you so much as looked at him wrong.

I pulled my cup toward me and tilted it to my mouth. "I don't like it either," I muttered, and was surprised to find that I meant it.

"Then stop," Kyle's words had taken on a pleading tone.

"It's not that simple."

He shifted uncomfortably, centering a napkin, looking all too obvious that he was bracing himself for something. "Like I was saying, I thought it was just dominate tension. But Stan kept complaining about your advances toward me and that's why..." his words trailed off for a moment, then he looked up. "The day we found out about Cartman's wedding, with the sweater... I... were you going to kiss me?"

I was pleased to note his face was flushed as he asked this.

"Were you going to let me?" I shot back, a hesitant hope building steadily inside my chest.

"I would have stopped you just before you did. But Stan came home and you pulled away. What would you have done if I hadn't stopped you? How far would you have gone?"

"I guess I never really thought that far ahead," I told him. "I'm so used to being rejected by you that I hadn't thought about what I'd do if you stopped stopping me."

"Do you want me to stop stopping you?"

I finally look at him again, really looked. Trying to see him for what he was instead of who he was, which was Stan's boyfriend. But all I could see when I looked at him was MINE.

"I need to know, Kenny," he continued, when I didn't say anything. "Is Stan paranoid, or am I blind?"

I sat back and forced my face into neutrality, not wanting him to see just how much it hurt me that he truly didn't know, and how much the thought of making up with Stan made me want to claw out my own eyes. I couldn't be happy for them, no matter how hard I tried. But I could fake it. Stan threatening me was one thing, but Kyle... Kyle staring at me from across the table, eyes huge and imploring in his soft, pale face was something I couldn't sit back and do nothing about. And for him, I'd pluck the moon out of the sky and gift-wrap it, if only he asked me to.

"I think what's happening," I ventured, very slowly. "Is that I take for granted how serious the two of you have become. I'm a shameless flirt, and Stan feels disrespected that I haven't reigned in my devastatingly devilish charms when it comes to you. I guess I didn't want anything to change after high school, but everything did." I let my hand drop and smiled up at him. "I'll apologize to Stan when he gets back, and I'll exercise my talents on SINGLE unsuspecting victims only."

He was still looking at me, slight apprehension apparent in the furrow of his brow. "Really? You'll make up with him?"

"Of course."

"And you don't have those kinds of feelings for me anymore?"

I'm so in love with you it makes Cupid look like an anti-romance demon, I thought wryly, my smile plastered firmly in place. "It's like I said, that was a long time ago."

"That's good because I wanted to talk to you about Butters." He had pulled off the clear, plastic lid on his cup and began slurping out the whipped cream, now half-melted. I bit into my bottom lip.

"Butters?" I said absently, watching his tongue run the perimeter of his lips.

"You know he's crazy about you, right? Has been since, hell, eighth grade, I think."

"He's been banging Craig like a bongo drum for months. I'm pretty certain the little squirt is over it."

Kyle paused as a group of teenage girls walked by, pretty close to the table, clearly ogling. I winked and cast them a lopsided grin. As they shuffled away in a cloud of dense giggling, Kyle sighed, his eyes heavenward.

"That's just it, Kenny. No, he hasn't been. Well...," he looked uncomfortably down at the table. "Not until last week, anyway."

"I don't understand what in the name of-"

"He was trying to make you jealous. He thinks you're in love with me too, so he thought maybe if you thought he was unavailable and not interested, you'd take an interest in him again."

I just stared at him a moment, watching as the sun beamed in through the skylight above, lighting up the metal table and Kyle along with it, then ducked behind a cloud again.

"You're telling me Butters has been pretending to ride Craig with the intent of getting my attention and when that failed he decided to really do it?"

"I know it sounds kind of-"

"Flattering?" I asked, smirking. "I can't believe he'd go to all that trouble."

"And I can't believe you like that!" Kyle said, looking completely disgusted.

"It's not that I like the idea of him messing around with that bastard. I sincerely don't. Trust me on that one."

Kyle waved his hand at me dismissively. "Whatever. I seriously don't get the way you think and I hope to God I never do. The point is that you could really have something with him."

"Tried it once," I said. "Things just didn't work out."

"Because of me," said Kyle, not unkindly. "Butters told me about it. But like you said, that was a long time ago. What about now?"

I leaned back until the front legs of the chair were off the ground. I had trained myself long ago to stop thinking about Butters that way. Or practically any way, since thoughts about him inevitably turned into thoughts of sex. I had broken his heart and I saw no reason to drag that out or string him along.

"Buttercups..." I said, and let the chair fall. "He's one of those 'relationship' people. It would have to be serious, or at least be on the course to seriousness."

Kyle raised a slim eyebrow. "And the problem with that would be?"

"Look at me, Kyle." I spread my arms wide. "I'm not the commitment type."

"No," he said, in a measured tone. "You're not. But you aren't incapable of falling in love."

I couldn't help it. I laughed. The irony, it was just too much. And Kyle, precious Kyle, of course misunderstood the gesture.

"You're not," he said firmly. "And when you fall in love commitment becomes a lot less scary."

"And sex becomes a lot more stale," I added, raising my cup in a mock toast.

"How would you know?"

I eyed him critically. "I never hear you bragging about your sex life."

"My sex life is insanely orgasmic and therefore I have no need to brag," he said, completely unabashed. "The only reason people brag is because they need other people to be impressed for it to matter to them, and I'm one hundred and fifty percent satisfied."

My jaw almost hit the floor. Kyle had never been one to talk about his sex life, or sex in general, for that matter. He always kept it private. Granted, he had kept it quiet because he'd had a boner for Stan since God knew how long and wasn't always so willing to open up about it.

"Wow," I said, unable to help myself. "Did you seriously just tell me that? You're usually such a prude."

"I'm not a prude, I'm a fiend," he said. "A straight-up addict. I'm just not interested in indulging my weakness with anyone other than Stan. That's the only difference between you and I."

"Must be getting old," I said, curiosity blazing through me. "Three years with the same person sounds pretty boring."

What I wanted, desperately, was for him to divulge to me that things with Stan were, in fact, cooling off. That he needed passion to satisfy all that want and Stan just wasn't making the cut anymore. It was a wild hope, one I knew was pointless, but I still clung to it like the last cookie on the Christmas platter. But Kyle only laughed.

"Kenny, it gets BETTER. Don't get me wrong, it was exciting at first. It was new and thrilling and kind of frightening, too. But it was also clumsy and awkward. We knocked heads a few times, clashed teeth, bit too hard."

His eyes were glassy, and he looked a million miles away from me. A little smile played about his lips, soft and gentle.

"I think... I think it was mostly my fault. I was completely new at all of it, and I tried too hard sometimes." His eyes refocused and he looked back up at me. "It gets to a point when it's not a guessing game anymore. You can just let yourself go and you know what works and what doesn't, what gets the kind of reaction you're wanting at the time, and how to ask without words for exactly what you want, and knowing you're going to get it. You reach a point where every round leaves you breathless and amazed and completely satisfied."

He spoke with such raw intimacy in his voice that I swallowed dryly, my breath slightly hitched. I was in the food court in the city mall, surrounded by hundreds of people, a fat Santa Clause stationed just off the mouth of the main walkway next to a candy store, and I was getting hard.

But I also had this horrible swooping feeling in my stomach, like the drop of an unpleasant rollercoaster, and I felt sick. Bitterly, blindingly sick.

I hated Stan. I hated Stan.

"I'm not pushing you to do anything," Kyle went on, completely unaware that he killed a piece of me every second his eyes continued dancing with thoughts of his ass-wipe boyfriend. "I'm just telling you that it's worth it, and that Butters really, really cares for you."

Unable to say anything, and still-for some twisted reason-wanting to drag him across the table and tear savagely into his clothes, I simply nodded. His smile widened.

"Good. Now, do you want to see Shelly's baby?" Apparently, he had no idea that talking like that had the possibility of reducing other's brains to pudding.

I didn't answer as he pulled from his pocket his cell phone and bent his auburn head over it, pressing buttons. When he handed it to me, the image of a pudgy-faced newborn swaddled in a pink and blue pinstriped blanket stared out of the screen.

It had eyes the exact shape and color of Stan's.

My stomach lurched with nausea, and I covered the gag sound with a cough.

"His name's Conner," Kyle said. "Not a name I would have picked, but he's fucking beautiful."

"He has Stan's eyes," I said, blankly.

"I know," he said, with the same fluttering inflection a 13-year-old girl might if you had just complimented her dream crush. "Those eyes just kill me."

Wordlessly, I handed back his phone.

Kyle looked at the picture, still smiling. "One day, Stan and I will have our own babies."

His words hit me like a physical blow to my gut, and I winced.

"And when we do, I want them to look just like him."

Snow was coming down like thick feathers when we pulled into the parking space of the apartment. I shifted into park but didn't cut the engine. The heater was pouring warm air on us, lightly fogging the windows.

My car was old, but it was reliable. A banged up blue Toyota I'd worked two full time jobs to buy the summer of senior year. Stan's car was a cool silver mustang with a coat of acrylic gloss and sparkling hubcaps. He'd worked one full time job the same year to pay for part of it-the rest of it had been paid for by his Grandpa, who still referred to him as "Billy."

I didn't see the Mustang now and knew he still hadn't come home. Relieved, I turned to Kyle. His hair had been capped by his ushanka, and he was wrapped in a soft down coat, grey with black buttons. His gloves were dark green like his hat; like when we were kids. He was on the phone with his mom-had been the whole drive home, which had taken a half hour in the holiday weekend traffic.

He had jabbered along with her effortlessly, switching to Hebrew once or twice when they bickered, which always happened when he spoke to his mom. From Kyle's end of the conversation, I could tell she was asking a lot about Stan. Sheila adored him.

His whole family did, in fact. I often wondered how okay they would have been with Kyle being in a romantic relationship with another boy had it been anyone else in the world besides pretty, perfect Stan.


I blinked out of my thoughts and realized I was gripping the steering wheel so hard my joints hurt. I let go and looked over at Kyle. His face was a mask of concern.

"Are you alright? I had to call your name twice." His reached out to touch me, his hand warm on my shoulder. With horrification, I felt my eyes prickle with the onset of tears. Kyle's lips parted worriedly. "What's wrong?"

The world is wrong. This is wrong. You and Stan are wrong, I felt like screaming. Love me. Love me because I can't breathe without you.

"Hey." He leaned into me, hugging me close. He began rubbing gentle circles into my back. I closed my eyes and clung to him, dizzy with the notion that I'd have to let him go eventually but wasn't sure I could.

"I'm sorry," I managed after a few moments. It was choked, pathetic. "I just… oh god, Kyle." Despite my doubt, it was surprisingly easy to pull back. I keep my hands circled around his biceps. They were trembling, but my gaze was steady on his. Blood was humming in my ears from too much adrenalin because I knew what I was going to say before my mind could even shape the words. I had to tell him.

It was one of those moments when you know all hope is lost; when the game is over but you keep hitting the buttons on the controller, trying to resurrect your defeat. You can change a mind, but you can't change a heart.

And still... My mind was turning like steamship propellers, whirling maddeningly. There had to be something I could say, something I could do to get through to him. Something to make him at least hesitate, even for a moment; make him consider the possibility of coming into my arms.

I was willing to be his second man-his dirty little secret. I would be willing to let Stan have him most of the time if I could have him in stolen, private moments. It was against my morals, but I was crazed with desperation. I needed him. Needed him.

It was wrong to do this to him, I knew. The odds were not in my favor. I knew that too. And yet…if there was a chance… If there was even a fraction of a fractional chance…

I leaned in closer, about to lift my hand to his jaw to hold his face steady when headlights flashed across the car. Kyle turned his head, eyes lighting up like July firecrackers.

Stan, I thought with cold hatred before I even looked up. When I did, I saw a flash of familiar silver hubcaps.

The parking lot was shaped like a horseshoe around the buildings, and he had driven in from the opposite side and into one of the free spaces. He hadn't seen us, there was still time.

But when I looked back to Kyle, his face flushed with excitement, I could only stare and wonder bitterly why God hated me.

"What is it, Kenny?" he said patiently. "I'm listening."

But I could tell he was itching to get to his boyfriend. I knew I had lost, had never been in the running to begin with.

"It's just..." I murmured, and said the first lie that came into my head. "Do you think I really deserve Butters after hurting him so badly?"

Kyle exhaled a soft laugh. "Are you kidding? Kenny, you're a great person. Really. It's not like you go around breaking hearts on purpose. You did what you had to at the time. Now you can mend them." He touched my cheek lightly. "Butters is crazy about you."

And I... I'm delirious with love for you.

He patted my cheek twice and then opened the door. "I'll come back for my bags later. I don't want Stan to see his presents."

Before I even had time to nod, he had closed the door and was racing across the parking lot. I heard him call out to Stan, who paused halfway up the walkway and turned. Kyle ran full speed into his arms and stuck to him like Velcro.

I watched them in the rearview mirror, feeling the absence of Kyle's presence like a blast of arctic air. I could still feel the movement of his hands on my back, his breath riffling my hair and cheek.

Violently, I jammed the car into reverse and took a quick, careless loop out of the parking space. As I sped away, tires screeching against snow hardening to ice, I caught a flash of Stan's blue gaze in the side mirror, confused and somber. I gritted my teeth and wished there was some way he could be eliminated from both mine and Kyle's life permanently.

The thought was fleeting, but it was there.

A/N: The next chapter is about done. To be continued….