A Lack of Color
A/N: And now for something a little bit different. Some things are better left unsaid, and so they are being left. All I have to say is I hope a person or two or eighty-seven enjoy this story half as much as I liked spending months thinking about writing it.
Please note that this story is operating on a 'what-if' idea. Namely, what if Stan and Kyle had not grown up together, had never been best friends, had never even met. Essentially, Stan grew up in South Park, Kyle did not, and this is that what-if.
Later on in this story, almost at the very end there are a few paragraphs in italics. That is something that one of the characters wrote (if I told you who it would ruin things a bit) but I just wanted to make that very clear.
Disclaimer: I'm not Matt or Trey and I'm also not a member of Death Cab for Cutie. I don't own anything related to the series or the band, unless you count a t-shirt.
Warnings: Possible character death(s), much ado about suicide, a veritable storm of swearing, no promised happy ending and more.
Pairing: Hopefully some original Stan/Kyle, we'll see.
"If you feel discouraged
That there's a lack of color here
Please don't worry lover
It's really bursting at the seams
The spectrum's A to Z"
--A Lack of Color, Death Cab for Cutie
Writing a suicide note, Stan Marsh decided, was easier done than said. He knew that the saying usually went the other way, but not in this case. Whenever he saw someone in a movie or on television writing a suicide note or talking about writing one they made it seem like the hardest thing in the world. Stan thought it was freeing. For Stan it was the second most freeing moment of his life. The first was going to be when he jumped from the roof of his eighteen-story apartment building. He was absolutely sure of that fact.
The past few days of his life had been the best. It was the anticipation, mostly, for the day he planned to jump. January 31st, one day shy of February. Just to be an asshole, since February was supposedly the month with the most suicides. Just to throw statistics off a little bit. It was the least he was allowed to do. Stan tried to be nice to everyone when he could and he never finished last. In fact, he thought, amused, he would be finishing first once he had jumped.
It had all started with the shirt his parents had gotten him for Christmas. Stan had yet to wear the shirt, but that was beside the point. The color of the shirt was the main problem. His father insisted it was red. Cartman, who Stan had later accused of being color blind, said it was pink. Wendy had thought it was a very pretty shade of mauve indeed. Kenny thought it was blood red, but then Kenny had been delirious with mono at the time and died a few hours later. Stan knew it was burgundy.
It wasn't that he hated burgundy or that he wanted to be right or even that he was annoyed because no one else knew the basic spectrum of the color red. It was that he had told each of them that it was burgundy and none of them had listened. Kenny could be forgiven. But his parents had shared a little glance, as if Stan were nine again and he had just tried to tell them his goldfish was killing people. Cartman had scoffed at him and told him he was pussy, especially since the shirt was pink. Wendy had sighed a little and smiled before breaking up with him.
The shirt was not only burgundy, it also seemed to be bad luck. Stan had sworn that the day he wore the shirt would be the day he died. And here he was, sitting on the edge of his bed, staring out the window, waiting for his alarm clock to go off, tell him it was midnight and then he would go up to the roof and do what he had been planning for the last month, all while wearing the burgundy shirt. Stan closed his eyes when the alarm went off.
If there had been anyone else in the room Stan would have asked them to turn off the alarm for him. Then he would have faltered. But no one else was in the room and Stan had to turn off the shrill beeping noise himself. If the phone had rung at that moment Stan would have answered it and called that person his savior. But the phone didn't ring and Stan stood up and left the bedroom. If, when he had reached the elevator, Stan had found the building's resident drag queen, Nancy, inside they would have talked. Stan would have been assured there were still nice people in the universe, even if said people chose to wear dresses and high heels when they were biologically male. But Nancy wasn't in the elevator and Stan pressed the number eighteen and waited.
He couldn't falter. He couldn't be distracted. He couldn't have any doubt. Stan knew this was important. Everything in his life had always hinged on those three things. No matter what he was trying to do if he faltered or was distracted or manifested doubt it was all over. That was why he hadn't gotten the athletic scholarship, that was why he wasn't going to college like everyone else he knew, that was why Wendy had broken up with him. That was why, when he walked up the stairs to the roof, opened the door, and saw him standing out there, he knew he wasn't going to jump.
It was irrational, he knew, the anger that started to fill him. He had been so sure that this would be it. And he had been happy. For the first time in years he had been truly happy, knowing it was all going to be over. No matter what happened after death he knew it would be better than this. Stan didn't care if he went to Hell or Heaven or if he just rotted in the ground. He knew the latter wouldn't happen, he did have a friend who died on a regular basis, but he wouldn't have cared had it been the fate that awaited him when he jumped.
But he was standing out there. Stan knew who he was. Not by name, but by physique, outfit and stupid green hat. He knew that if he turned around Stan would see recluse red curls sticking out of that hat, a few strands the other young man could never quite get into the green ushanka he wore on his head. Stan hated him, though he had no reason to. Around the building Stan knew almost everyone. He was, by nature, the kind of person to watch people. Not in a creepy binoculars and Disturbia-esque way. He just spent a lot of time in the lobby and he saw everyone.
The redhead had moved into the building recently and Stan hadn't liked him from the moment he had seen him. First and foremost, he was too rich to be there. He was wearing designer glasses and attending the University of Colorado, he drove a decent car. Most people who lived in the building hadn't finished high school and stole cars like the one the redhead owned. Stan didn't fall into either category. Had he wanted to, he could have lived somewhere better. But he didn't want to, he didn't see the point in it.
Stan hadn't like the redhead the first time he saw him and now he hated him because his plan was ruined. As sure as the sky was starry, Stan couldn't jump with someone around. To him, death was personal. Just like life was personal. Stan had seen enough people die in a lifetime to know it wasn't something he wanted other people to watch. Especially not pretentious douche bags who lived in apartment buildings well below their social class for some, no doubt, non-existent reason. He was probably doing a study on lower classes to see how they lived. And now he was going to see how they died.
Decidedly Stan strode towards the edge of the roof. The redhead apparently heard this and turned slightly to see a raven-haired, tall, young man in a burgundy shirt and Doc Martins - because they pissed off his mom a lot - walking towards him. Stan hoped the redhead would be afraid of lice or something and run back to his own apartment so he could die in peace. The choice he had made, though, was that if the redhead wouldn't leave, he would just jump anyway. No one, especially not the rich asshole in the green hat, was going to stop him.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the rich asshole in the green hat said as Stan purposefully began to pull himself up to stand on the ledge of the wall that went the entire way around the roof. "I was just - did you want - what are you doing?"
Stan sighed lightly and then looked down at the wide green eyes staring up at him. "I'm going to jump," he said, flatly.
"Does this happen often?" the redhead asked, putting a hand to his green hat as a particularly violent breeze threatened to blow it away. "I might not want to read up here if it does."
Stan stared at him for a long moment before carefully sitting down on the ledge so his legs were dangling off the side of the building. "I'm going to kill myself," he informed the book that the redhead was holding.
"That's tragic, we've only just met." The redhead smiled, Stan frowned. He was making it awfully hard to hate him. "I'm Kyle Broflovski."
"That's nice," Stan said, trying to keep the surprise out of his voice. He looked around for hidden cameras, something, anything, that would explain to him why things were going this way. Perhaps God was getting back at him for making out with Wendy in the confessional last Easter. If so he thought this was pretty unfair. "But," he continued, "I really don't want anyone watching, so if you don't mind...?" He gestured towards the door that led to the roof.
"I don't know your name," Kyle offered, like Stan wasn't currently an inch from death.
"It's...why do you care?" Stan spat back, turning towards the skyline. It wasn't a very good skyline, he thought. It was more a plethora of the tops of buildings and then the sky. Whenever he told someone he lived in Denver they gushed about how beautiful it was. Stan thought it was ugly. He hated it, but he didn't like his hometown any better. They were on two opposite ends of the spectrum, South Park and Denver. At least the parts Stan had seen, and he didn't like either end. He wanted somewhere in the middle. He wanted balance.
"Because," Kyle said, exasperated, enunciating each syllable like Stan was a child, "I'm trying to stop you from jumping. You're not making it very easy, you know that?" He set down his book and then took a breath and started spouting out nonsense that sounded, to Stan, as if he had memorized it from some sort of book. "Suicidal individuals don't typically respond well when accosted with the implications of what they are doing up front. A method used that is often times effective, but also dangerous, is reverse psychology." Then he turned and grinned at Stan. "I pretended like I didn't care, but I do."
"Wow, neat," Stan said with a fake smile. "Thanks for saving me with reverse psychology. Maybe you can teach me about it sometime. Let me guess, next time you and all your friends get together you'll tell them all about how you saved some poor boy's life, right? Hell, you know what?" He was getting tired of turning to talk to the redhead so he swung one leg over the ledge and leaned forward slightly. "Maybe you can even brag to a few chicks, get laid. You won't even have to pay them this time."
"So it didn't work?" Kyle muttered, more to himself than to Stan, narrowing his eyes at the roof. "There goes my thesis."
"Jesus, don't tell me you were going to include this as an example for your paper," Stan said, glaring at the redhead. This had gone on much too long for his liking. Stan had planned for everything. He had written his note, he had worn the shirt, he had made sure that an eighteen-story jump would kill him and not just leave him to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He had not planned on anyone being up on the roof.
For the past month Stan had planned it. He had come up to the roof every night and never once had anyone been there. No one, save a bird or two, had ever been there besides Stan and Stan had liked that. People tried to stop you from doing what you wanted to do, especially when you wanted to jump off a building. They tried to convince you it was wrong. Stan supposed he could handle that. In a way he had always been hoping someone would be up on the roof. But he could not handle someone who saw him as an example for a paper they were writing.
"No," Kyle replied, quickly, holding up a hand as if he was answering a question in elementary school. "It's not for a paper. Well it is. But it's not. I want to be a journalist and I need a spot on the school paper to even begin hoping that I have a chance. We have to turn in an article by the end of Febraury on a current issue and I'm doing mine on suicide."
"And if I do jump you're going to going to change it around so it says that reverse psychology doesn't do shit to help suicidal people," Stan stated, smiling morbidly at the redhead who, if it was possible, turned a little whiter. "Sorry, but it doesn't work. You might as well have pushed me off of here. As it is I'm giving you the chance to leave before you're scarred for life by seeing this happen."
"You'll be scarred for life," Kyle pointed out. "You might end up surviving the fall."
"Duly noted," Stan said, making a check mark in the cool night air. Had it not been the light above the door to the roof he wouldn't have been able to see the slight anger that flashed over the redhead's face for a quick moment. "I know what I'm doing, Broflovski, you don't have to warn me about the dangers. I've thought about this for a whole month, I can't take it anymore, and I'm going to do this. Go back to your apartment. In the morning when people are talking about this, pretend you have no idea what they mean and forget about it."
"You just said my last name," Kyle said, his eyes even wider than before, the words practically melting into an indiscernible jumble. Stan raised as an eyebrow, as if to say 'so what?' "It usually takes people - forever to get my name right. It only took you once."
"Aw, you know, I feel really bad about this," Stan simpered as he put a hand to his heart, "but I'm not really into ostentatious dickheads who think they have the God-given right to save me from what I want to do. I know your heart is telling you 'Oh, goodness, it's your soul mate,' but I'm telling you to stay the fuck away and let me do this. How about it?"
Kyle scowled at him, but didn't move to leave the roof. Instead he moved to get up on the ledge next to Stan.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Stan cried, trying to push the redhead away.
"I want to jump too," he nearly growled, pushing Stan's hands away and unsteadily making his way onto the ledge.
"No you don't, you're - " And then Stan remembered he didn't know much of anything about Kyle besides what he had assumed and he had no idea why or why not Kyle should want to jump. Just that he didn't want Kyle to jump with him. It was out of the question. Stan didn't want people to think they were lovers or anything. He tried to remember exactly what his note said and if it ever hinted towards gayness. Then he remembered it didn't really matter whether the note insinuated it or not, enough people knew that after certain events he had become pretty open-minded.
"You don't have a note," he said, finally, just as Kyle looked very ready to plummet to his death.
"Fuck," the redhead swore. He was having a hard time balancing and Stan found himself reaching out to grab Kyle's elbow so he wouldn't fall. "Help me write one."
Had anyone else suggested this Stan would have turned to them and laughed. He would have told them to fuck off. He would have waited for them to leave. Then he would have jumped. He was still convicted, he still knew what he wanted, yet when he turned to Kyle, who was sitting next to him now, he couldn't laugh. Kyle was looking at him earnestly, like all he wanted in the world was for the fucked up guy in the burgundy shirt to help him write a suicide note. And Stan wanted to just say no. But in this case it was easier said that done.
Stan couldn't say no to Kyle.
As they walked down the stairs and waited for the elevator Stan began to have a few nagging thoughts. When Kyle hummed and asked him what floor he lived on Stan started to have serious doubts. Then, when Kyle fled from the elevator like a very excited, redheaded, woodland creature, Stan was almost sure that this was all a ploy and Kyle was going to lock him in the bathroom with a phone the number of some sort of Suicide Hotline.
"You should dust," Kyle told him, matter-of-factly, dragging his hand along the coffee table that sat in-between the television and the couch.
"Thank you, Mr. Clean," Stan shot back, kicking off his shoes and then going into the kitchen to look through some of the drawers.
"You're welcome," Kyle responded, his voice fainter. "This is the exact same layout as my apartment. I think your bedroom is bigger than mine." Stan would have liked to punch Kyle in the face at that point, but he was too busy trying to find a pen that worked to walk down the hallway and do so. Every pen he tried seemed to have run out of ink and the only one that did work had purple ink, which Stan remembered was a Christmas present from Kenny. He glared at it and reminded himself that, of all things, purple pens were not at the top of his list of worries right now.
Redheaded nuisances were, however. "Look what I found!" Kyle announced as he returned to the living room and kitchen area, holding a Star Trek Nemesis DVD in his hands. Stan knew that was what it was because, like any good fan of the series, he could recognize the disinterest of a non-fan with a simple glance. Kyle was not a fan. Or, at least, when Stan glanced at him he didn't appear to be. "Doesn't this movie, like, suck major balls?"
"Don't touch that," Stan snapped, grabbing the DVD away and handing Kyle a notebook and a pen. "There you go."
Stan could tell Kyle had no idea what to write. The redhead kept starting little conversations and Stan kept finding ways to kill them.
"Who are you voting for?"
"I think I'll just write in someone, like Jesus."
"He lived down the street from me."
Each conversation lasted for fewer and fewer minutes as Kyle paced down the hallway and back, stopping periodically at the notebook and picking up the pen as if to write something, then walking away again. Stan sat on the couch and watched the entire thing, content. Stan knew it was only a matter of time before Kyle gave up on him and then he would be able to do what he wanted. Granted, he would have to do it the next night since he had planned on doing it right around midnight, but he supposed it was better than nothing.
"Can I see yours?" Kyle asked as Stan watched the clock on his DVD player tell him it was one in the morning. Stan looked up at Kyle who sighed. "Your note, can I see it?"
"Dude, no, that's personal," Stan said, waving a hand in the air. But Kyle whined for a few more minutes and Stan convinced himself that he gave in just to shut him up. "Fine, fine, here," he said, reaching in the pocket of the black slacks he was wearing and throwing his wallet at Kyle, who stared at it before opening it and watching a small, folded, piece of paper flit to the ground. Kyle picked it up quickly, muttering an apology before reading it.
"It's...short," Kyle assessed after a few silent minutes, looking up at Stan who just shrugged. "But I like it. In a good way. Not that I want you to die or anything, but, it's - I feel the same way." Then he handed the note back to Stan and sat began to write in the notebook. Stan was speechless.
He looked from his note to Kyle and then back again. Out of all the things that Stan had been expecting Kyle to say that had been the last thing he would have expected. No one ever understood what Stan was talking about. When he said he felt alone and disconnected. Most of all when he tried to describe the Emptiness. Kyle had to be lying, he couldn't really understand what it felt like.
As far as Stan was concerned he was the only person in the world who had the Emptiness. It was a dull feeling, a dead feeling, like something had been growing inside of him and he had neglected it and it had wilted. It was firmly rooted in every part of his body, especially his mind, and it had started when he had started pre-school. Everyone else had made friends easily. Stan had made friends too, but no one who really stood out. And that was when he had first felt the Emptiness, when they had gone outside to play and Stan had stood on the outskirts of the playground and watched everyone else.
Stan had never had anyone. Sure there had been Cartman and Kenny, and they had been - there. Cartman constantly ridiculed him for being a pussy in front of other people, but when they were alone together it wasn't so bad. They both liked video games, although Cartman sucked ass at Guitar Hero. Kenny was Cartman's friend first and Stan's friend second, making it obvious that, had the choice arisen, he wouldn't have saved either one of them, but he would have thought about saving Cartman.
Stan felt the Emptiness all the time, it was always there, like a very light headache. Certain things made it worse. When Kenny died and Stan felt compelled to say something along the lines of: 'Oh my God, they killed Kenny,' there was a pang of Emptiness that made him feel like he was missing something. Odd things that shouldn't have made him as upset as they did. Being the only one to fully realize how stupid his parents were and, for some reason, the thought of San Fransisco. It all made the Emptiness that much more prominent and controlling in his life.
Then, as he watched Kyle chew on the pen, thinking, probably, of a more eloquent word than 'die,' Stan realized the Emptiness was gone. Not fully, but definitely gone. Gone in the way that a magician made things disappear. As if someone had taken the Emptiness, put it under some fancy, flowy handkerchief, and then waved their hand over it and revealed the Emptiness to be gone. That someone was wearing a stupid green hat and designer glasses. It was all just smoke and mirrors. The Emptiness was somewhere, but Stan barely noticed it.
"Done," Kyle said. He held the notebook in his hands, staring at the page in front of him like he had just finished a triathalon. "Do you want to read it?"
"Sorry to disappoint," Stan said with a forced smile, "but Elaborate Plan B, fool the suicidal kid into thinking you're suicidal too and then, instead of writing a suicide note write a sentimental anecdote about why he shouldn't kill himself and have him read it, yeah, it's not working."
"Actually, it's more elaborate than that," Kyle said in answer, walking over to hand the notebook to Stan. "See, I wrote a suicide note, but I figured I could somehow get you to connect with me through it and then I would decide not to do it and you would have no choice but to follow."
"Shitty plan," Stan replied, closing the notebook without reading Kyle had written.
The redhead cocked his head to the side. "Oh?"
"If you knew me," Stan began, standing up and pushing the notebook back into Kyle's hands before heading towards the bathroom, "you would know that I would do it anyway. You weren't part of the plan, you aren't part of the plan and you will never be part of the plan. Even if you were I would have the choice to not follow you. I don't blindly follow people." He opened the medical cabinet over the sink and searched around until he found an amber-tinted bottle and threw it towards Kyle. "Now," he continued, walking to the door of his apartment and opening it, "those are sleeping pills. If you want to do it, if you really intend to kill yourself, I've given you the means. You have a note now, you don't need my help. I'm going to be up on the roof tomorrow at midnight and I really, really don't want to see up there."
Kyle walked to the door and opened his mouth to say something, but Stan shook his head.
"You can't change my mind, Kyle," he said, softly, pushing the redhead out into the hallway. "I'm sorry, I really am, you seem like a nice person, but you don't know me. I don't know you."
"We could get to know each other," Kyle insisted, a hopeful smile forming on his face.
"It's too late for that." And Stan shut the door, then locked it and put a hand to his head. The Emptiness was back.
Stan had decided that the motions of life were necessary to create the illusion that he wanted to live. Sometimes he had to wonder if he was just fooling the part of his brain that thought killing himself was a bad idea. Stan would never be sure, but sometimes when he was doing something pertaining to his suicide, like writing his note or standing on the roof and thinking about it, he thought that some part of him, beyond the Emptiness, beyond his conscious mind, was telling him it was a bad idea.
Stan wasn't stupid. He wasn't a genius, but he wasn't stupid. He knew basic things, he was competant, he could have been better in school had he 'applied himself' or, as he saw it, had someone to explain things to him. Teachers made no sense to him. There was something about adults that he didn't trust, maybe it all stemmed from his parents and the mistakes they often made because of their blatent misunderstandings of life. Whatever the reason, Stan couldn't learn from teachers and he had never had anyone else to learn from.
School had been a matter of: Get there, get through and get out. He was content with average grades although everyone else around him was so sure he could do better. Stan knew he could do better he just had no drive to do so and never had. That was another tenant of the Emptiness, the feeling that he should have had someone to help him. At least someone who would let him copy a few answers off of them had he not finished his homework the night before. But Stan had never had that, and with a grade point average as low as his had become, no hope for a scholarship and no drive to do anything about it, Stan had simply faded off into the distance.
Community college had always been there and his parents pretended that was good enough. They were no geniuses themselves, but Stan knew they had hoped he would do better than them. Stan had not done better than them and he felt like an immense failure because of that. But he wasn't very bothered by it, they had Shelley and Shelley had gotten a scholarship to some school in another state that Stan never liked to think about, because whenever someone brought up scholarships it reminded him that he hadn't gotten the athletic one that had been his only hope of going somewhere decent.
Stan went to bed, he slept a good six hours, although the 'good' was debatable, and he woke up like he had every morning of his life. To silence. Stan had what could, at a basic level, be called an alarm clock in his mind. It let him sleep as much as he had to, and no longer, and then it woke him up. No noise, no bad dreams and no person could wake up Stan before this time and no amount of exhaustion could make him sleep any longer. It had made sleepovers a bitch.
Waking up was easy, it was waking up alive that bothered him. It was a day he had never planned on seeing, the sun just visible outside of his window and above the building across the street. Another thing Stan had never wanted to see was the sun. That was why he wanted to jump at night. Stan didn't hate the sun any more than he hated the shirt his parents had gotten him for Christmas. It was on principal, mainly, that he didn't like the sun. It was too bright and cheerful and it fooled people into thinking the day was going to be a good one. Stan disliked what the sun stood for, not the sun itself.
Stan ate, he changed his clothes except for his shirt, and he left his apartment. He had to keep the shirt on, it felt wrong to take it off now. It would be like cheating death. Even though it looked odd because the burgundy shirt was a dress shirt and he wasn't doing anything different than what he did every day. He couldn't take it off because of what it represented to him. Had it been any other shirt Stan wouldn't have thought about it. Either he would have just not cared and worn it for the rest of the day or he would have changed it if, for some reason, it bothered him.
The lobby - which was more of a small area that led to the doors of the apartment building, and where the owner, Mr. Cottswald, tried to sell you an apartment - was almost completely devoid of people as was usual at around eight in the morning. The apartment building that Stan lived in was independantly owned rather than being run by a company, which was part of the reason that so many people without jobs or an education lived there. They could all be late on payments at times without much punishment. Mr. Cottswald's daughter, Rebecca was reading on the ratty couch that sat a few feet from the door and she smiled at Stan and he smiled back.
"Oh, Mr. Marsh!" she exclaimed, jumping up from the couch and running towards the front desk, which was covered in brouchures and Post-It notes. "Someone was looking for you."
"You don't have to call me Mr. Marsh," Stan reminded her, following her to the desk with a sigh.
"Ah, I know, but my dad would kill me if he found I didn't," she said, pushing aside brochures for the deals on apartments they were offering. "Now, where is it?" she muttered to herself, absentmindedly. "I'm sorry, I wrote down who it was and - well, he was going to class at the university, so he couldn't wait for you even though I told him, you know, 'Mr. Marsh always comes down here at eight.' Because you always do."
"I know," Stan said, feigning a smile. "It wasn't Kyle Broflovski, by any chance?"
"Yes," Rebecca conceded, looking up from the desk and nodding. "I can't believe I forgot. That's why I write everything down, so I remember, but I have no idea where I wrote that down. I shouldn't have forgotten that, he seemed kind of worried and, ah, he left these" - she produced a bottle of pills from behind a binder that had a Post-It note stuck to them. "Oh, here it is," she said with a small laugh. "Told me it was important."
"I'm sure." Stan took the bottle of pills and shoved it into the pocket of his jeans.
"He was cute," Rebecca said. Stan wasn't sure if she was talking to herself or if he was meant to respond, but he didn't. Kyle Broflovski, he thought as he left the building, was not cute. He was a very annoying thorn in Stan's side. He was a magician who made things seem better when it was just an illusion. He had given Stan false hope and made things even worse than they had been before. Above all else, he was not cute.
Stan was relatively easy-going when it came to admitting that, to him, gender wasn't so much an issue as the integrity of a person was. Stan had to trust a person and be close to them to consider a relationship with them. He could easily admit when someone was attractive, but that didn't mean anything to him. People could attractive without being good for you and people could be unattractive and be perfect. For Stan it wasn't a problem of who, it was a problem of when and why and how.
Who Kyle was could not have possibly been as important as when he had come into Stan's life, why he had and how he had. As far as Stan was concerned, all three of those things were negative and he had no need to find out who Kyle was any more than he already had. So, maybe, Kyle was cute, but Stan wasn't going to admit it himself or anyone else, because it didn't matter. Stan had no reason to think about what someone looked like, especially if that person was the reason he was going to work again when he had planned never to come back.
Work was as life was. Stan went through the motions and nothing else. He worked at a generic restaurant, at the register and faked everything. He smiled when there was no reason, he told people to have a good day when he knew it was pointless and he let his heart beat when he didn't want to. His boss yelled at him an hour into the day to take off his hat and Stan did it grudgingly, as if taking off his hat was a matter of life and death. The one thing about his job was that he was allowed to wear pretty much what he wanted as long as it was nice, wasn't a hat and he had his nametag on.
The nametag was something Stan hated with a passion. He very rarely hated things that couldn't talk, but his nametag was one exception. Though he had told his boss a million times that no one called him Stanley and absolutely everyone called him Stan, his boss didn't listen and his nametag introduced him as Stanley. No one besides Stan himself seemed to find it to be a big deal. And Stan didn't expect them to, but it was just another thing to add to the list of things that bothered him about his life. Kyle seemed to very much want a place on that list.
"Stanley," he said, thoughtfully as he leaned against the cash register. "It says that on your driver's lisense too." Then he handed Stan his wallet and it had taken Stan several minutes to realize what was going on. He had given Kyle his wallet the night before, it was noon and Kyle was probably out of class by this point and Rebecca knew where he worked so Kyle wasn't technically stalking him, he had probably just gotten information from the girl.
"It does," Stan said, lamely, staring at the wallet in his hands.
"You're an organ doner," Kyle said, happily. "I think that's nice. I had to get a kidney donated one time, I still have the scar, want to see?"
"No." Stan reached out and pushed Kyle to the side so that two girls could pay for their order.
"Oh, sorry," Kyle said with a smile to the girls who both smiled back and said something about how it wasn't a big deal while Stan, wordlessly, collected the money from one of them and then gave them their change.
"Have a nice day," he told them, bored, as they left. "And, please, Kyle, I don't want to see your scar anymore than I want to see you here."
"Rebecca told me you worked here," Kyle informed him, letting Stan know his earlier assessment had been correct. "She seems to like you. You know, I'm sure a lot of people like you and I'm sure - "
"You can't be sure of anything, really, about me," Stan pointed out, motioning for Kyle to move out of the way as an eldery couple made there way towards him to pay. "Eight dollars and fifty-three cents. From ten dollars, your change is one dollar and forty-seven cents. Have a nice day." A fake smile was offered. "You don't know me," he continued to Kyle, "you don't know whether anyone really likes me or not."
"You have to have friends," Kyle decided, leaning against the cash register again. No one else was coming to pay at the moment and Stan wasn't sure what to do besides listen. Stan wanted people to listen to him, so the least he could do was listen to the people who tried to talk to him. "Friends are part of life, you would have been dead a while ago if you had no one."
"Maybe I've been thinking about it for years," Stan countered.
"No, you said you've been thinking about it for a month," Kyle recalled, waving his hand in the air like he could wave away Stan's statement. "I'm the one who's been thinking about it for years."
"Marsh, if you're going to socialize, take your break and do it somewhere else." Stan's boss seemed to appear out of nowhere, like he always did and usually Stan would yell in surprise. It was one of the reasons that he had been hired, because his boss liked to surprise people and Stan had the perfect reaction to being surprised, he acted like a girl. But this time Stan just nodded and threw his nametag down on the the counter next to the register, grabbed Kyle's arm and pulled him out of the restaurant.
"Where do you get off," he spat angrily as soon as they were outside, "lying about shit like that? Last night was one thing, hell, it was the middle of the night, maybe you just didn't have enough sleep. But do not act like you can relate to me, especially not when you already have a track record for lying to me to get the results your poor little heart is oh-so hoping for."
"I'm not lying," Kyle said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, like he was nervous to be around Stan. "I have been thinking about it for years. Especially after I got the kidney transplant. I was just a kid at the time, but I came pretty close to dying and that's when I first started thinking about what it would be like to die." He lifted up his orange shirt slightly to reveal his stomach, much more than Stan wanted to see, and a scar that ran farther than Stan would have imagined. "Wasn't very fun."
"Can you put your shirt down?" Stan said after a few seconds of silence. Kyle shrugged and obliged the request, like it didn't matter to him either way. "That's a nice story and all. I'm sure you could - I don't know, write a book about it or something, but that's not the problem here. I mean, I sure as hell don't believe you and even if I did, I'm doing it alone and there's no reason for you to be involved at all with this."
"I want to be involved," Kyle stated, as if he was signing up for a book club rather than saying that he wanted to kill himself. "It's like your note said. I don't want to be - "
"Don't," Stan said, forcefully, narrowing his eyes. "Don't say anything about the note. I wish I hadn't let you read it, but I did. I had the common courtesy to not read yours. It's a very private thing in my opinion and I don't need you quoting my note any more than I'm sure you want me to read yours."
"Okay," Kyle agreed with a small smile. "But you know, I did offer to let you read mine and that offer still stands."
"I don't care why you want to do it," Stan lied. Stan was not a very good liar, he let his emotions take control over him far to easy. Had he been completely honest he would have admitted he did care, very much, although he barely knew Kyle. Death, as he had admitted, was a very personal thing to him. Stan was fine with killing himself. He didn't think it would solve everything or that everyone, even himself, would be happy with the outcome, but it was all he could think to do. Kyle, though, seemed to not have any reason to do so.
But, then, Stan didn't know Kyle any better than Kyle knew Stan.
"Well," Kyle said, "did Rebecca give you the pills?"
"Uh," was all Stan said before reaching in his pocket and pulling the bottle, along with the Post-It note that was attatched to it, out. "Yeah."
"You're retarded, you know that?" Kyle said, with a kind smile. Stan had to fight the urge to return it. Kyle took the bottle and held it up to the light. "Does that look like pills to you?" Stan looked and shook his head and felt that, yes, he did know he was retarded. "I folded it up, like, a fucking million times, just so it would fit," Kyle explained, handing the bottle that held his suicide note back to Stan. "I dumped the pills and then put that in there and of course, you being your retarded self, never even thought to check that the pills were still there. So, there you go, you can read it or not."
"I thought you needed it," Stan said, half heartedly holding the bottle out to the redhead.
"I can always write another one, I know it by heart anyway." Kyle pushed the bottle away. "It was for you anyway, you were right about that. I can write a better one if I need to. I think you need to read it. I'm not telling you what to do, but I'm just asking you to take the chance to read it and then think. I know you said you thought about it for a month, but, you know, just think about it for another day. You don't ever have to talk to me again, I won't come here or even acknowledge you if you don't want me to, but just...think about it."
Then, pulling another magic trick, Kyle was gone and Stan was left with a bottle full of a suicide note that he desperately wanted to read. But he had work to do and no matter what he had to appease that part of his brain that thought this was all a bad idea. That part of his brain that really, really liked Kyle. That part of his brain that was always telling him what Kyle had just said, to think about it. That part of his brain that thought Rebecca was right, Kyle was cute.
Stan's shift ended at three in the afternoon and he went back to his apartment. Rebecca asked him if Kyle had found him at work and Stan told her that he had and, not to worry about it, he wasn't angry that she had told him where he worked. Kyle had been right, Rebecca did like Stan. When Stan had first moved in she had done something that could have been considered flirting. Stan felt bad, as he had been dating Wendy at the time, and because Rebecca seemed like the kind of person who had never had any sort of relationship.
He touched her shoulder, the first real physical contact that they had ever had, and she lit up slightly, before he went to the elevator.
Once in his apartment Stan found himself staring the at the bottle, moving it around with him and watching it like it was going to burst into flames at any second. Stan didn't know what was wrong with him. He changed his shirt three times before putting on the burgundy one again. He turned on the television but nothing held his interest. He tried to eat something, but everything tasted the same. Then he gave in and read the note.
And Stan read it again and again. Stan read the note more times than he could count, trying to ignore the words that were written at the bottom, the words that weren't part of the note, but that were a message to Stan more than anything. He read the note until certain words didn't seem to even be words anymore he had seen them so many times. He read it until he could have recited it from memory had Kyle asked him to.
Until he felt that he had known Kyle for his entire life.
Stan wasn't sure whether Kyle would be on the roof or not, nor did he care. It seemed like the place to go. It was the place he went to think and had been since he had moved into the apartment building a year ago. When he had first moved out of his house and away from his parents and realized how lonely the world really was. Sometimes he hoped that there were other people doing the same thing. Staring up at the sky, thinking, alone.
"Oh, I'm sorry," was what Kyle greeted him with, once again, looking up from his book like he had been expecting the raven-haired male to show up any second.
"I'm going to jump," Stan breathed in reply, his voice barely audible.
Kyle heard him somehow. "Still?" he asked, taking a few steps closer to Stan, his voice full of more hurt than Stan would have expected.
"I'm going to kill myself," Stan asserted, walked past the the redhead and towards the edge of the roof.
"That's tragic," he heart Kyle say, softly, "we've only just met."
Stan sat on the ledge of the wall that ran all the way around the edge of the roof and Kyle turned to see him. "Tell me your name," Stan insisted as went to stand up on the ledge.
"Kyle Broflovski," Kyle said, slowly, cautiously approaching the ledge, like if he made a sudden movement Stan was going to attack him.
"I can't remember what bullshit I said to you after that," Stan admitted. "Just tell me...tell me that what you wrote in the note wasn't a lie."
"It wasn't," Kyle said, reaching out his hand. "None of it was a lie. I know it was all pretty gay, but I meant all of it. That's how I feel every day."
Stan took Kyle's hand and allowed himself to be pulled down from where he stood so he was standing next to Kyle on the roof. Stan thought it felt right. Stan thought that the Emptiness would probably never go away. Stan didn't believe in anything at first sight, love least of all. He didn't think that one day of knowing someone was enough to say anything at all. He knew that Kyle was the only one who came close to whatever a soul mate was. Stan hadn't known Kyle very long, but that felt like a mistake. He felt that by now they should have been something more than two people who barely knew each other.
"Are you alright?" Kyle asked, his voice so concerned that Stan almost laughed.
"I'm fine," he replied. "I'm fine."
"Oh," Kyle said, smiling lightly. "I forgot to mention, I like your shirt."
Then Stan did laugh, because it seemed like the most absurd thing to say. "What color do you think my shirt is?" he asked.
Kyle just shrugged. "It's your shirt, you tell me." And Stan did. Stan told Kyle everything, he told him about the Emptiness and where he had grown up and who his friends were and who they weren't. He told him about everything he had ever wanted and everything he had never understood. In the beginning Stan had thought that Kyle, with his designer glasses, unmanageable red hair and stupid green hat, was the one who had ruined everything.
But then he had read the note.
I don't know who I'm writing this to. I guess I just want people to know that I don't think of suicide as a hopeless thing. For me it's very much a hopeful thing. It's the one real choice I'll ever have. I've always been pushed into things, by my parents, the few friends I have and everyone I've ever met. I've always felt that there was something missing. When I almost died at nine years old and the only people who visited were my parents and my brother. When my dad died and I had to deal with it on my own. When my mom gave me the choice between staying at home and living on my own with no money from her. I never had a support system. I never really lived. So what's the big deal, really? What's the point in trying to hold onto something that you never really had in the first place? Something is missing and I doubt I'll ever find it.
I'm sorry, but don't see it as giving up. See it as moving on to something better.
Something was, then, written in what Stan suspected was Hebrew, although he couldn't be sure. And then there was the hurried writing that Stan knew was a message, meant for him to see and no one else.
One second in the World-to-Come is more pleasurable than the whole life in this world. But one good deed in this world is more important than the whole eternity of the World-to-Come. It's from the Jewish book of law, and while I know you'll hardly care Stan, I just want to let you know what my reasoning is. It was never a matter of trying to stop you from what you wanted, it was trying to make you realize that maybe you didn't want it as much as you thought. Stan, I think you might be what's always been missing from my life.
Stan, I think you might be what's always been missing from my life.
Stan thought that, for the first time in his life, someone understood. Someone who, despite everything, was still there and always would be. A constant in his life while everything else was changing. Someone who was more than a friend or even a best friend, someone who he could laugh with about how stupid everyone else was and someone who would laugh at him when he was being stupid. Stan hadn't been waiting for Kyle for his entire life.
His entire life had started when he had met him.
"This is fact not fiction
For the first time in years."
--A Lack of Color, Death Cab for Cutie
A/N: This story has been rewritten so many times. In most of the endings Kyle died, I hate to admit it, or Stan died. There used to be more about how Kyle's dad died but it just didn't seem very important no matter how I introduced it. This ended being a lot more focused on Kyle and Stan than it originally was. There used to be Kenny and Wendy and even Christophe in this, but it works a lot better with only the little hints towards other characters. Rebecca is only in here because or else it would have been hard to explain how Kyle got to Stan's work.
I think that you really don't have to view this story as a romance, even though it is intended as such. You can view it as just the beginnings of a very close friendship like the one they have on the show. The reason that they are able to become so close in the matter of, pretty much exactly, one day, is because I view the two as soul mates (in the platonic or romantic way, I think either way exists) and I think that destiny would place them together no matter what. So there you go.
If you read this I really would appreciate a review, even if it isn't much.
Either way, thank you for reading!