Author: the pink striper

Rating: M for language and sexual humor/situations.
Pairings: Stan/Kyle, Kenny/Butters, Cartman/Wendy, and other minor pairings.

Summary: Stan Marsh has decided that he wants more out of his super best friendship with kyle broflovski. A lot more. What starts as a simple experiment quickly spirals out of control, which, in a town like South Park, is never a good thing. Meanwhile, Kenny McCormick decides that high school is a waste of his time, much to Butters Scotch's horror, and Eric Cartman decides to follow Wendy Testaburger to Harvard. Let the games begin.


"I taste blood every time I think of summer. If that's true, I'm in for quite a treat 'cause I'm beggin' for the sun in a mid-Missouri winter waitin' desperately to get outta town. No, you can't keep a good man down. You've been known to obsess over the future. Do you think you'll get away from the past?"
-Topeka by Ludo




When it came to college, Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski had compiled a list of three requirements:

1) it must be as far away from South Park as continentally possible (Stan's clause, not Kyle's);

2) it must be as far away from Eric Cartman as continentally possible (Kyle's clause, not Stan's) and;

3) they must go there together (both, though Stan said it first).

Given those requirements, they were looking mainly on the East Coast, though Kyle said they shouldn't rule out California because it was a well-known fact that Eric Cartman wouldn't set one fatass foot there.

On the first day of classes, Stan and Kyle found themselves a table in the back of the library and stacked it with every book on colleges that they could get their mitten-covered hands on. Kyle had never messed around when it came to his schoolwork, but, this time, Stan was right there with him. The only thing he wanted more than to get out of South Park was to get out of South Park and never come back. If he had to spend the next two years in the library like a nerd, he'd do it with a smile on his face and love in his heart.

"There are tons of colleges on the East Coast, dude. How are we going to narrow them all down?" Stan asked, leaning forward to read over Kyle's shoulder. "We don't even know what we want to study yet."

Kyle shifted so that Stan's chin fell neatly onto his shoulder and they could both read comfortably. "Speak for yourself. I know exactly what I want to do."

"Don't leave me in suspense or anything."

"I'm going to medical school."

A smile bubbled forward. "A Jewish doctor? Have you told Cartman?"

"That fat piece of shit can kiss my Jewish ass."

The smile turned into a laugh. Stan had never seen two people more devoted to holding a grudge than Cartman and Kyle. From Pre-K right up to junior year, they were still constantly at each other's throats. Kyle had just stopped Cartman from trying to shut down an orphanage three days ago.

In Cartman's defense… he wasn't all that fat anymore. He'd lost the double chin and any fat that was still sagging over his pants was either nonexistent or hidden very well under his hockey jersey. Kyle was the only one who still dared to call Cartman fat; everyone else was too afraid Cartman would sit on them. But, then again, Kyle was the only one who could still take Eric Cartman down with a single punch.

The librarian called for them to shut the fuck up and Stan stifled his laughter, moving back into his own chair just in time for Wendy to arrive in a flurry of pink and purple. She'd traded her trademark yellow skirt and purple beret in for a pair of dark blue skinny jeans and a lavender headband sometime around seventh grade, topping it off with a white t-shirt under her purple form-fitting coat. Stan and Kyle hadn't done very much but get larger sizes of the coat, jeans, and hats they'd been wearing since childhood, but the girls were constantly changing clothes. As though anyone cared what they looked like but them.

Stan cleared the seat next to him of books so Wendy could sit down, remembering when his heart (and stomach) used to flip at the sight of her. He and Wendy had made a pretty good run of it, but when a recently cloned Tyrannosaurus Rex picks up the restaurant you and your girlfriend are on a date in and tries to eat you both twice, you kind of have to figure that God and whoever's watching just plain doesn't want you together. Things like that hadn't stopped happening in South Park, but, at least, they'd stopped happening to Stan.

Besides, between school and football and Kyle, Stan didn't have much time for girls. Thankfully, Kyle hadn't had a girlfriend since he'd broken up with Bebe in eighth grade, which meant that he had just as much time to devote to Stan as Stan did to him. That made it seem a little less pathetic.

"I am so pissed off!" Wendy announced as she pulled a notebook and a glitter pen from her backpack. "Your fat fuck of a friend decided it'd be really fucking funny to come to my Future Democrats of America meeting and throw horse shit at everyone! We're not in fucking fourth grade anymore!"

"Ew," Stan and Kyle said simultaneously, looking Wendy over for stains.

She scoffed. "He didn't get any on me. He's got really bad aim for a hockey player. Anyway, can we just get to work?"

Kyle slid the book across the table to her and started talking academic programs and scholarships, which was interesting for all of five seconds before Stan started to drift off. Kyle was his super best friend and everything, but he sure could turn on the geek when Wendy was around. They spoke to one another in big words and complex terms that only they seemed to understand. That had pissed Stan off considerably when he and Wendy were still together, but now it just made him wish they wouldn't talk to one another when his brain was around to hear it and implode.

He was saved by the arrival of Kenny, rumpled and satisfied-looking. The chair on the other side of Kyle had originally belonged to Kenny before he'd found out why they were in the library and had taken off to 'find a book'. Considering he'd been gone for a good hour and had no book in his hand, Stan had to assume he'd found the culprit of the loud and erratic breathing that had been coming from two shelves over.

"Your fly's undone," he informed Kenny. "And you're a whore."

Kenny laughed shamelessly, running his fingers through his hair with one hand and pulling up his zipper with the other. "Hey, Stan, if you want some, you're welcome. Forget Kyle; I want to wear your ass as a hat."

"Fuck you, Kenny. I told you to stop bringing that up," Kyle snapped. "That was a long time ago."

"Someone spray painted it on your locker last week."

"Shut up!"

"Guys," said Stan, ever the pacifist. "Relax, Kyle. Kenny's just messing around and you know it. Kenny, leave Kyle alone. You know he takes everything as serious as a heart attack."

Kyle glowered at him, but Wendy, taking Stan's pacifist lead, asked him about DeVry University's business programs and they were suddenly speaking another language again.

Kenny interrupted once more to get Kyle to switch seats with Stan and then, once they were all settled, sighed heavily. "Man, classes just started. Am I really going to have to listen to you guys talk college right up until graduation?"

"You could always talk college with us," Stan said, though he knew the likelihood of that were about as high as Cartman having a genuine change of heart. Even if Kenny could get into college (which, to be perfectly honest, his grades could not guarantee), he had no way of paying for it. The look Kenny gave him clearly said that he saw that Stan was doing and didn't appreciate it. Stan changed the subject. "So, who was it this time? Bebe? Red? Craig?"

"Craig's with Tweek now. It was Sally. Girl's got a mouth like a—"

"Sick, dude. I'll just take your word for it."

"Seriously, Stan," Kenny shook some hair out of his face and then drew up his hood, even though he hadn't gotten a replacement jacket since sixth grade and it was more than a little small on his tall, lanky frame. "You need to get some action. We're sixteen fucking years old and you haven't gotten some since you were eight. I know if you and Wendy so much as try to copulate an earthquake might split your bed in two, but there are like fifty other bitches at school who'd love to get into your pants." Kenny winked. "And I'm one of them."

"Stan, do you mind?" Wendy said without looking up from her book.

"No, not at all," Stan replied and punched Kenny in the arm for her. "I don't need some action, Kenny. What I need is to get into a college far, far away from here. If I'm lucky, it'll be so far my parents won't visit. Shelley went to Stanford and they drive up there all the damn time."

"What about me? You go too far and I'll never see you again. God knows you won't come back and visit."

"You're really planning to stay here after high school, Kenny? You want to waste your life in this little podunk town?"

"You say that like I've got a choice," Kenny shrugged. "I'm poor, Stan. I've got two options after high school: gas station or garage. And I fucking hate cars."

Stan tried to think of something to say in response to that and failed. The wry smile on Kenny's face made it obvious he didn't expect a reply.

"You're such a fucking buzzkill, Marsh. I need a smoke."

He saluted the members of the table and headed off with his shoulders slumped and his hands in his pocket. Stan knew that the more they discussed college and taking off, the more depressed Kenny got, but what the hell was he supposed to do about it? Hide Kenny in his suitcase and hope no one noticed that he didn't actually go to that school?

He turned and joined the discussion Wendy and Kyle were now having about Brown, taking notes about the various programs and extracurriculars Brown had to offer though Kyle had a way better chance of getting into Brown than he did. Stan's grades were average at best, slightly below average at worst. Wendy and Kyle competed with Butters and Cartman for the top spot on the honor roll.

They stayed in the library for another two hours before Wendy noticed the time and realized she'd missed her bus. A round of impressive cursing later, Kyle offered her a ride home with them, and the three of them headed out to the parking lot where Kyle's reasonably priced camero was waiting. They passed Kenny chain-smoking on top of the principal's car and waved, getting a good-natured one finger wave in return.

"He's really irritable when Butters is absent," Wendy observed as they stuffed their bags in the trunk. "And he smokes a lot more, too. He was down to one cigarette a day until today."

Kyle nodded. "Butters is going to be pissed when he gets back. He hates it when Kenny lights up."

"I think he hates it even more when Kenny gets head from people in the library unless he's the one giving it," Stan added, joining Kyle in a laugh. Butters wasn't quite as innocent as he used to be, a byproduct of spending so much time with Kenny, but it was obvious to everyone but Kenny that Butters was hot for him.

Stan turned to glance at Kenny one more time, watching the blond cover his eyes with one orange-parka covered arm, and sighed. "I really wish there was something we could do for him. To help out, you know?"

"Me, too, dude." Kyle said as he climbed in the car. "Me, too."


Kenny watched Kyle drive off, watching the road with all the anal retentiveness of Sheila Broflovski at her most thorough, and lit up another cigarette. Kyle would get into a good school. Hell, he could probably get into an Ivy League even if he slept through junior year, his grades were just that good. Wendy wasn't far behind and Stan… well, okay, maybe he wasn't Ivy League material, but with his skill at any sport man had ever invented plus his natural aptitude for leadership he was sure to get in somewhere nice.

Kenny had everything he could see in front of him. He was born in South Park, he'd been raised in South Park, and he'd probably die in South Park. His family ate pop tarts for dinner every night just so he could afford to go to school. College was a joke. When he graduated high school, all he had to look forward to was a minimum wage job that would hopefully pay the bills and not just feed his father's booze habit.

The longer he thought about these things, the more depressed he got. He was only sixteen years old for Pete's sake. He'd been hoping that Kyle wouldn't start talking college until senior year, but it figured Jew boy would want to get on that as soon as possible. Kenny would just have to deal.

It would help if Butters had shown up for school. Kenny had dragged him out to Stark's Pond at midnight to go skinny dipping and Butters had caught a cold that would keep him out of school for at least the next few days.

There was a stack of homework next to him that he was supposed to deliver to the Scotch residence, but there was also a half-finished park of Camels in his pocket that Kenny wanted to finish first. Butters hated it when he smoked which meant he had to get rid of the evidence before he spent all day watching Butters hack up his own lungs and drown in his own phlegm.

With Stan and Kyle being as close as they were and Cartman being, well, Cartman, Kenny had felt a little detached from the other boys. As a result, he'd made friends in odd places: Craig, who he still shared a cigarette with every now and then, Bebe, who gave good head but was otherwise pretty useless to him, and Ike, who called Kenny for advice behind Kyle's back because he knew Kenny wouldn't sugarcoat a little thing like butt sex.

And then there was Butters, who was like the moon to their earth, always orbiting, never quite fitting into their pretty tight-knit group. Kenny could sympathize and the more he'd hung out with Butters, the more he'd realized that the two of them weren't really so different. They liked all of the same things and their differences were more fun than they were annoying. Kenny loved to get Butters all riled up by talking in extremely graphic terms about everything under the sun and Butters just kept surprising him with his endless optimism and childlike innocence.

Kenny took a deep drag on his cigarette and blew the air out slowly. Butters was like a breath of fresh air in his shithole of a life and being without him was a lot like drowning.

"Ugh," Kenny sat up, tossing the cigarette on the ground and jumping off the car to snub it out. "I sound like a fucking girl."

He grabbed Butters' books, grinning at the sweaty imprint of his head against the principal's windshield, and headed out of the parking lot.

It was a long walk to Butters' house, made even longer by Kenny's awareness that it would take five seconds by car. Every little thing seemed to be conspiring to remind Kenny that he was poor, from his parka, which only hit him at mid-chest, to his boots, which had been stolen from a dumpster out behind Mr. Donovan's store three years ago. Kenny wasn't one to waste time wallowing in his own emotional shit, but, damn, being poor sucked balls.

He knocked on the Scotches' door, holding the books up as a peace offering. Mr. and Mrs. Scotch didn't even bother to hide the fact that they didn't like him and that they especially didn't like him hanging around with their son. He imagined that if ever Stephen Scotch got his hands on a shotgun, he'd probably start using Kenny as target practice.

No one answered the door, which meant the Scotches were out but Butters was probably in. Extremely happy to avoid the prerequisite Mexican stand-off, Kenny opened the door and went upstairs.

Butters was nothing more than a lump of blankets on the bed in an overly warm room. Kenny set Butters' homework down on the side table and cracked open a window, taking a seat on the edge of the bed.

"You alive in there, dude?" he asked, grabbing and shaking what he thought was a leg. "Butters?"

There was a groan and then the blankets shifted and one glazed blue eye peeked out. The rest of Butters' head soon followed and Kenny felt a wave of guilt-edged sympathy. Butters looked like shit, his blond hair clinging in limp clumps to his face, his cheeks red, his lips chapped. Kenny thought it had been worth it to get to see Butters naked and damp for a half and hour, but Butters sure didn't look like he agreed.

"W-Well, heya, Kenny," Butters said weakly. "I sure am glad to see ya." He sniffled, then wrinkled his little red nose. "You been smoking again?"

Kenny cleared his throat and pointed behind him. "I brought your homework. We can work on it together if you want. I've got nowhere to be for a couple hours."

Actually, Kenny had nowhere to be period, but he hated staying at Butters' house for dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Scotch were aware he was just looking for a free meal and hated him for that, too.

"That sounds great to me." Butters arranged himself into a sitting position and managed a smile. "Tell me how school went."

Kenny told him about Cartman starting the Sophist Club or, as Kyle described it, "public speaking for assholes" which was… really just public speaking for assholes who wanted to convince anyone to do anything at any time. He told him about Stan and Kyle starting their college search and Cartman's prank on the Future Democrats and even about his altercation with Sally in the library.

Butters wrinkled his nose again. "Stan and Kyle musta made you real upset, huh?"

Sometimes, Kenny really had to marvel at Butters' ability to see right through him. He didn't know if Butters was naturally perceptive or if he was just easy to read, but it sure saved him a lot of time talking.

"I—Yeah, kind of. I don't want to talk about that right now," he climbed over Butters and grabbed the books. "Let's just get to work, okay?"

"Well, alright," Butters sighed. "But we're going to have a long talk about this later, boy howdy."

"Suck my balls, Butters."

"A-And we can do that afterwards."

Kenny was surprised into laughing. "I'm a horrible influence on you."

"So you keep saying."

Kenny smiled as they bent forward and got to work, his leg warm where it was touching Butters. He usually had a hard time concentrating on his homework, mostly because it was hard to concentrate on anything with his parents screaming and yelling just a room away, but he never had that problem when he hung out with Butters. His grades had steadily improved since he'd started doing his homework at Butters' house to the point where he actually sometimes gave a shit where he passed or failed.

"It's like," Kenny began apropos of nothing as he scribbled down a formula. "I know college isn't not an option for people like Stan and Kyle and, well, you, but if I go home and tell my parents I want to go to college, they'll probably just break out laughing. I can barely afford high school let alone college. And, with my grades, I couldn't even get in anywhere. And my parents need whatever money my future job can provide the family with. No matter which way you slice it, I'm going to be stuck in South Park for the rest of my useless fucking life, Butters, so why fight it?"

Butters nudged him with his leg, eyes large and bright with feeling. "I-I don't think you're useless, Kenny."

Kenny laughed humorlessly. "Well, you're the only one."

"We're just juniors, Kenny. It's not like everybody's going to pack up and leave you right now, is it? Don't you wanna enjoy the time you've got left?"

"Wouldn't I just be in everybody's way? Distracting them from their studies? Kyle keeps saying that junior year is the year you really need to work your ass off to impress the collegiates. He's already moodier than a preteen on the rag for the first time and it's only the first day of classes!"

"You're never in my way," Butters insisted, lowering his eyes to the bed. "A-And I'm sure not going anywhere without you."

Kenny waved a hand dismissively. "Don't be stupid, Butters. You're going to go to Stanford or Yale or something and I'll be here pumping gas and thinking about the good old days. If I'm lucky, they won't repossess my house so I'll still have an address for you to write to. If you write."

"I would! Boy howdy, Kenny, I swear I would!" Butters grabbed his arm and shook it to emphasize his point, then dissolved into a fit of sneezes that reminded Kenny that he wasn't the only one with problems. Feeling bad all over again, he crawled up the bed to sit next to Butters and wrapped an arm around Butters' waist.

"You don't have to worry about me, Butters. I accepted this stuff a long time ago. You know how I get sometimes. Some booze and a willing pussy or two and I'll be fine."

Butters sniffled again, snuggling against his side. "I sure wish you wouldn't say things like that, Kenny. It's disrespectful to women."

"Alright, alright. A willing ass or two and I'll be fine. I'm not picky."

Butters jabbed him with his elbow, but there was a smile on his face and Kenny couldn't help but smile back. He could deal with his shit in his own time. Right now, he had to nurse his friend back to health.


Eric Cartman felt sorry for the stupid assholes at his school. Well, that wasn't true. He felt sorry for them if "feeling sorry" for someone really meant "mocking them behind their backs." Because, unlike the useless sacks of idiocy he was forced to put up with every day, he knew exactly what he wanted out of life. And what Eric Cartman wanted was sitting in front of Mr. Mackey's office with her hands holding a copy of The Feminine Mystique.

He took the empty seat across from her (and part of the empty seat next to that), cleared his throat, and announced, "What the hell are you doing here, hippie?"

Wendy Testaburger glowered at him over the top of her book. "I'm seeing Mr. Mackey for college advice, obviously. What are you doing here? Set some small children on fire out back again?"

"'Course not, bitch," Cartman scoffed. "I did that last week. Keep the fuck up."

Wendy rolled her eyes and went back to reading, missing the smile that crossed his face. She was so easy to rile up, almost as easy as Kyle. However, where he riled up Kyle for the sheer satisfaction the Jew's misery brought him, he pissed Wendy off because… well, just because.

"Still smells like shit in the Future Democrats room," Cartman said idly. "Someone should do something about that. It's been like two weeks. They must have a crappy president. Ha-ha, get it? Crappy?"

"I will kick your fucking ass here and now if you don't shut up, Cartman."

"I'd like to see you try, ho." Actually, all things considered, he really wouldn't. A quick change of subject was in order. "Anyway, I don't see what you're bothering Mr. Mackey for. You and I both know you can't get into college. Universities hate hippies more than I do."

"Cartman, I swear to god…"

"Where are you applying, anyway? Good old FBRU—Fat Bitches on the Rag University?" He laughed at his own joke while Wendy continued to give him the look of death over the top of her book. He didn't know why she didn't just put the thing down. She hadn't turned the page since he'd sat down. "Or maybe you'll just have to repeat a year here so Garrison can make you even stupider than you already are."

"For your information, fatass," Wendy exploded, throwing the book down and getting to her feet. Her eyes were spitting fire, her fists were clenched, and she looked like a demon that had just been loosed from hell to bring fiery retribution down on the Jews. It was sweet. "I'm applying to Harvard!"

"Ey! Don't call me fat, you fucking bitch." Cartman said because he had to, his tone more smug than angry. "And, by the way, Harvard really hates hippies so if you want to get in, you might want to stop smoking pot and rallying against tittie killing."

Wendy opened her mouth to bitch some more, but then Mr. Mackey's door opened and Craig stepped out, flipping him off on the way. Wendy gave Cartman another death glare and stomped into the office, leaving her book and her bag behind her. Cartman waited a good five minutes to make sure she wasn't about to come back out and claim them, then started rifling through her shit.

Wendy's bag contained the following: iced tea flavored lip-gloss (which, mmm), a heart-shaped hand mirror, some girly makeup shit, a tampon (which, ew), a breast cancer ribbon, a half-finished bag of skittles, a pamphlet on the US's top rated colleges, and a crumpled piece of paper.

Cartman stuffed the skittles in his pockets and unfolded the paper, recognizing it immediately as a scribbled list of colleges, Harvard at the top. In addition to Wendy's girly handwriting, he also recognized the Jew's shitty print, adding stuff like "intensive business program" and "heavy competition for law firm partnerships" under Wendy's college choices.

He didn't know whose idea it was to let Wendy go cavorting around with dirty Jews, but it sure as hell pissed him off. If Stan had managed to hold onto the bitch for longer than a week at a time, then maybe she would have been too busy to mind-fuck Kyle all the goddamn time. If it were him, he'd have been like, bitch, stop talking to that scrawny daywalking Jew and go make me a fucking sandwich! And she'd have been like, Oh, of course, Cartman, but, first, you should totally plow me on the dinner table with your hot hockey body. And he'd have been like, hell yes.

But, no, his life could never be that simple. He had to sweet-talk her and shit first. Because Wendy was the classy type of girl who wanted a man who would either let her do whatever she wanted (like Stan, the pussy) or let her do whatever she wanted and give her good sex (like Token, the fag). And, apparently, she also wanted someone to have intelligent discussions with (hence her mind-fucking with the Jew).

All of that sounded a lot like work to Cartman, but luckily he'd had plenty of time to work on it. First, he'd pulled up his grades until he, Butters, Wendy, and the Jew were in constant competition for coming in first on the honor roll. And, yeah, sure, he had to lock Butters in remote locations and sabotage a couple of calculators sometimes, but, hey. He was bettering himself for his woman. Bitch needed to fucking appreciate it.

Then, of course, there was the sex part. Because apparently girls were afraid of disappearing into his fat rolls, never to be seen again, much like that handful of cheesy poofs he'd found like a month after eating him. Which meant that he'd had to get buff and actually work out. He'd started running in the mornings, lifting weights, picking Kyle (or Butters) up and throwing them into things. He hadn't slimmed down so much as he'd bulked up, but the result was the same.

And, once he'd joined the hockey team, he'd been getting so much pussy thrown at him that going to school felt a lot like going to Raisins. Of course, the tail result of that had been that he'd garnered himself a reputation both as a good lay and a whore almost as big as Kenny, but, again, he was bettering himself for his woman.

The last thing he figured he could have a leeway on. After all, Wendy never let him do whatever the hell he wanted. She was always bitching. If he wanted to go to her Future Democrats of America meets and throw horse shit at all the stupid hippie liberals who were obviously only there to get in Wendy's skinny jeans (as though the ho didn't notice she was the only girl there), then that was his fucking business. Case closed. The end.

He heard the doorknob turning and quickly shoved Wendy's stuff back into her bag, zipped it up, and made it back to his seat in time for her to stare at him suspiciously. Cartman heard his pants crinkle as he shifted and cursed.

"You went into my bag and stole my skittles?" Wendy asked, eyes narrowed. "God, you really are a fatass."


Mr. Mackey cleared his throat. "Eric, you shouldn't go in Wendy's bag, mmkay. It's just unkind, mmkay."

Eric considered lying, but it wasn't worth it. Instead, he shrugged, got up, and made sure to bump into Wendy and sent her tumbling over as he passed. His eyes went wide and innocent. "Oh, gee, I'm sorry, Wendy. Here, let me help you."

He grabbed her gently around the waist and picked her up amid her protests, setting her on her feet and flexing a little for good measure. Wendy socked him in the ribs.

"Ow, bitch! What the fuck was that for?"

"For being the biggest. Asshole. Ever." Wendy hissed, grabbing her things in a fit of righteous indignation. "Seriously."

She stomped off yet again and Eric watched her butt sway from side to side in those blessedly tight jeans of hers, wondering what song they would play at their wedding.

"Eric?" Mr. Mackey interrupted. "It's your turn now, mmkay?"

"Right, right." He put his thoughts on hold (for the moment) and headed into the office, taking his customary lounging position in one of the chairs before the desk. "Well, first off, my top choice for college is definitely Harvard…"


Kyle found Stan outside in the schoolyard, dozing off under a tree despite the fact that it was fucking cold as always and the grass was buried under a light sprinkling of snow. Before Stan could catch hypothermia, if he hadn't already, Kyle removed his coat and tossed it over Stan's head. Stan didn't even stir.

Kyle rolled his eyes and took a seat. Stan had been working himself pretty hard in the three weeks since classes had started, keeping his grades high while he tried to decide what to do and what college to do it in. Kyle had been working too hard for too long to get exhausted by it now but Stan wasn't used to caring this much about his schoolwork, especially not in South Park. Everything Stan knew about life, he got from television and his karate teacher. Everything he knew about anything else, he got from Kyle.

Stan shifted against the tree, his head slipping and falling neatly onto Kyle's shoulder. It was less surprising than one might think. He and Stan were constantly gravitating around one another, like magnets that inevitably snapped together in just the right way. Cartman was always calling them fags because of it, but Stan and Kyle had been Stan and Kyle for so long that personal space was kind of a myth between the two of them. And, honestly, that was just the way Kyle liked it.

It sounded creepy and pathetic when he thought about it, but Kyle lived for these moments. When he could stare at Stan uninterrupted, without having to explain it away by pretending that there was something on Stan's face or something over his shoulder or some other transparent excuse like those. Truth was, at times like this, Kyle could acknowledge to himself that Stan was beautiful with his clear blue eyes and his permanently messy black hair falling across soft, tan skin…

Damn, creepy and pathetic didn't even begin to cover it.

He took out his books and got to work, freezing his nads off while Stan slept like a dead man on his shoulder. He had just finished Calculus when Stan mumbled something about tacos and lifted his head. Unfocused blue eyes stared blankly at Kyle for a moment before Stan lifted a hand and began to rub them.

"Kyle…?" he asked exhaustedly, running his fingers through his hat-less hair. Stan had retired the red poofball hat in the summer before freshman year. Kyle still wore his ushanka to hide his hair, but only when it was below freezing. "When'd you get here?"

"Like an hour ago, dude. When did you get out here?"

"I don't know." Stan yawned again, slowly joining the world of the conscious. "I had eighth free and kind of wandered out here sometime around then. How'd your meeting with Mr. Mackey go?"

"Pretty good, I guess. He didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know and, like everybody else, he thinks I'm jumping on the whole college band wagon a little too early."

Stan settled back against the tree. "Well… who can blame you in a town like this? I don't know how you and I have managed to keep our sanity this far. I mean, remember seventh grade? When Dr. Mephesto accidentally brought those pumpkins to life and we had to stop them from killing all the Canadians—by which I mean just your brother?"

"Or fifth grade when Bebe had that bomb jammed up Token's ass because he dumped her for Wendy," Kyle said with a shake of his head. "Or fourth grade when your parents hired that guy to pretend to be your future self and scare you off drugs, then chopped off his hand when you tried to force them to tell you the truth?"

"Or third grade, when Cartman nearly got us all raped by NAMBLA…" Stan had to laugh. "Seriously, dude, we need to get the fuck out of here before any more weird shit happens or we become as stupid as everybody else we know."

Kyle didn't really think that was possible considering the sheer level of stupidity they were faced with every day, but he wasn't willing to stay in South Park and take the chance.

He nudged Stan with his shoulder. "We'll get out of here. We have to."

Stan's smile was slow and warm which in turn made Kyle feel warm despite the freezing temperature. And, of course, he had to smile back. Stan had the kind of easygoing attitude that made people feel at ease in his presence and he had the kind of addicting smile that made the people around him want to smile, too. Stan had charisma, plain and simple, and not in the crazy sociopathic way that Cartman did, but more in the noble and courageous way that made people want to follow him anywhere because they knew he could get a job done.

"Dude, you're staring," Stan said, breaking Kyle out of his thoughts. "What's up?"

Kyle closed his textbook. "Nothing. It's just—"

"Hello Fag brothers, Hippie and Jew." Cartman greeted as he approached from the side door of the school building. He was twirling his hat around his fingers, red coat unbuttoned to reveal the black and white jersey underneath, and his hair had been cut and spiked into what he referred to as a "tough jock cut" but what Kyle thought was better described as "wannabe jackass". His mood, which had been so mellow and happy before, quickly went sour the faster Cartman approached. "What's going on?"

"None of your business, fatass. Don't you have another group of kindergarteners you should be trying to sell for beer money?"

Cartman snorted as he pushed his way in between Stan and Kyle until Kyle and Stan were on opposite sides of the tree and Cartman's bulk was taking up one whole side by itself. "That was last week, Jew. Keep the fuck up."

Kyle had no idea why he even still spoke to Cartman, except for maybe out of a sick, twisted masochistic mockery of camaraderie. He hated Cartman and Cartman hated him. He had to stop Cartman from doing something morally reprehensible at least once a week and Cartman was always going out of his way to bully or otherwise humiliate Kyle at least twice as often. And yet he and the fat tub of lard still spent way too much time in each other's company to truly be considered enemies.

Still, he fucking hated Cartman and Stan knew it. Kyle was gearing up to chew Cartman out for being such a rude, lazy, stupid ball of pig-fucking shit, but Stan cut him off, instead engaging Cartman in a lively conversation about the differences between hockey plays and football plays. Kyle swallowed his anger, though he was missing the warmth of Stan's leg and shoulder pressing against his already. Instead of that comforting familiarity, his bony shoulder was touching Cartman's pudgy one.

Kyle fucking hated Cartman.

Just when he was about to get up and relocate to the library until Stan was ready to go home, he caught sight of Kenny making his way back onto school grounds. Kenny spent just as much time out of school as he did inside it, but, luckily for him, his teachers just assumed he'd died rather than acknowledge that he was skipping.

Kyle lifted an arm and waved, catching Kenny's attention, and shifted away from Cartman in time for Kenny to take a seat on the final side of the tree.

"Where's Butters?" Kyle had to ask, because Kenny was far more well-behaved when he had Butters around to keep him in check. "And does he know you're—"

"No, and you're not going to tell him," Kenny warned, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. "He's in cheerleading practice. Bebe flagged him down seventh period asking if he'd come help them with the routine. I don't think she realizes he's got a dick."

"And how come you're not in there watching the cheerleaders, lardo?" Kyle drawled sarcastically. "Bebe finally take a restraining order out on you?"

"Says the guy she dumped because he wouldn't put out," Cartman snapped. "And you wonder why people call you a fag."

"I thought people called him a fag because he and Stan play hide the sausage on the weekends," Kenny said around a ring of smoke. "And, you know, whenever else they can find the time."

"For the last time, you guys, Stan and I are not—"

"—telling you anything about your sex lives so stop asking."

"What?" Cartman, Kenny, and Kyle said simultaneously.

Cartman groaned in disgust. "Lame! I don't want to be thinking about that all day!"

"I do," Kenny said brightly. "Details, please. Give me a minute to get my fly open and…"

Cartman cried out in protest of that, but Kyle had checked out of the conversation sometime around "sex" and now he couldn't seem to hear anything over the pounding of his own heart. Stan generally tended to take the frequent gay references a lot more easily than Kyle did; while Kyle reacted in defensive anger, Stan was more likely to ignore it or just brush it off. But neither of them had ever added fire to the flames. Not… not verbally. Kyle had no idea how to react.

"Goddammit!" Cartman shouted, getting to his feet. "Screw you guys, I'm going home!"

Kyle watched him storm off, muttering about faggy Jews and even faggier pussies, and wondered if he was aware that he was heading for the gymnasium, not the parking lot. On his other side, Kenny was checking the time on his five-finger discounted watch.

"Cheerleading practice is over. If you guys aren't about to make my lower half very happy, then I'm going to go get Butters and spend the rest of the afternoon playing Hello Kitty Island Adventure."

"We'd better head home, too, Kyle," Stan said casually. "Unless we're waiting for Wendy?"

Kyle fumbled awkwardly with his bag for a moment before responding, "Nah, dude. Let's just go."

It wasn't until he was safely buckled into the front seat of Stan's Honda hybrid that he finally decided to ask.

"What was that about? You realize that Cartman's probably going to tell everybody he runs into that we're sleeping together, right? Hell, he'll probably take out a billboard on all the major highways!"

"You act like they'll be surprised," was Stan's line of defense. "Everybody already thinks we're sleeping together."

"Thinks being the operative word here, Stan! They didn't have any evidence until you went and gave it to them!"

Stan stopped at a red light and gave Kyle a puzzled look. "Why is this bothering you so much, dude? It was just a joke."

"I—" Anger and fear warred for dominance but neither emotion could supply an appropriate response. He deflated against the seat. "Nothing. I'm just overreacting. You… you know how Cartman pisses me off and that's when we don't supply him with ample teasing material and—Dude, this isn't my house."

Stan had brought the car to a stop in front of Stark's Pond and was getting out. "Come on, Kyle," he said when Kyle failed to follow his example, rapping lightly on the window. "We need to talk."

Which was about the least reassuring thing Stan could have possibly said. Though he trusted Stan way, way more than he trusted Cartman, Kyle couldn't help but remember Cartman taking him out on a boat in order to off him with a wiffle bat.

Stan sat down on the bench and Kyle warily sat down next to him, getting more and more nervous the longer Stan went without speaking. He usually prided himself on being able to read Stan like a book, but he couldn't see anything beyond the air of casualness. It was unnerving. Kyle felt everything but casual.

"You ever wonder," Stan said so abruptly that Kyle jumped the slightest bit. "Why it is that everyone thinks we're gay? I mean, I play football, you play basketball, those are pretty masculine things, right?"

"Um. Well. According to Kenny, it's the way we act around each other. He says that we, um," Kyle tried to think of the best way to put it. "We act like we share a lung and when we're not around each other, we can't breathe properly. And it's… the way we look at each other like nothing's more important and… the way we touch each other like we're not aware we're not… y'know. I mean, according to Kenny, but Kenny thinks everyone is fucking everyone and all of life's problems can be solved by sex."

"I've thought about it before, you know," Stan said quietly, now looking at everything that wasn't Kyle. "People start suggesting something to you enough times, you kind of have to think about it. I don't think I'm a flamer or anything, but since I broke up with Wendy and you broke up with Bebe it's been like… there's no one more important to me than you. That's weird, isn't it?"

Kyle licked his suddenly dry lips. "I-It's not weird if I feel the same way. You're my super best friend." He wanted, considering the tone of the conversation, to talk to Stan about Bebe, tell him that Cartman was a stupid fuck and they hadn't broken up because Kyle wouldn't put out, but bit his lip instead. "Stan, where are you going with this?"

"Okay," Stan got to his feet and started pacing. "Look, we're juniors now and next year we'll be applying to college and getting in and we've got to be prepared for the possibility that we might not get into all the same schools and that we might end up in completely different towns or cities or states or whatever. We might not even be super best friends anymore."


"And I don't want to make things weird or anything, Kyle, but this may be our only shot and if everybody we've ever come in contact ever seems to think we have a boner for each other, then maybe… maybe there might be some truth to it? Maybe we're missing out?"


"So, I mean," Stan came to a stop in front of him and placed his hands on Kyle's shoulders. "I think we should see."

"See what?" Kyle asked, trying valiantly to keep up with the conversation despite the fact that he was feeling more than a little lightheaded now. "What are we seeing?"

"Kyle… will you be my boyfriend?"