"Do you remember how we met silhouetted by the lights? You were drunk and tried to take a mental picture with your hands. I was thinking about that and a bunch of other things. Stop looking at the floor. I need to pour out this expansive dose of words. I can't explain. I need to be alone. I know the timing isn't great, but these things you just can't plan. I just need a little time so I can find myself again. 'Cause I get buried underneath all the things they think you are and I'm too tired to pretend it doesn't hurt to be left out. I had a pocket full of dreams, but I gave them all to you. Now, I think I want them back so can you tell me if I'm crazy or confused? Don't ever change the way you are. I've never loved anyone more."
—The Conversation by Motion City Soundtrack
"Oh, fuck," Stan moaned as he tilted his head back.
Kyle was almost painfully beautiful while he was riding him, all long limbed and scrawny with a bright sheen of sweat covering his pale skin and those pink lips open on a gasp, round and wet. Stan wanted to kiss him, but he couldn't really concentrate on moving and gripping Kyle's hips to keep the rhythm from slowing at the same time. He cracked open an eye, unsure when he had closed them, and his heart got stuck in his throat when he saw that Kyle was watching him. Kyle's pupils were blown wide from pleasure and yet were still so loving and perfect and Kyle. That gave Stan all the strength he needed to reach up, cup the back of Kyle's neck, and drag Kyle down into a sloppy kiss. He rolled them over so that he was on top and drove in deep, shuddering at the ragged, hoarse sounds coming from Kyle's mouth.
"Stan," Kyle breathed, bucking up to meet Stan's thrusts. "Oh, god, Stan, please—"
"Like that?" Stan asked, adjusting the angle with each thrust until Kyle's entire body tensed and then seemed to explode with activity. Kyle clung to him and muttered a near continuous stream of morepleaserighttherestanohgodplease. Stan himself didn't think he was going to last much longer if Kyle didn't stop clenching his internal muscles like that.
"Stan!" Kyle screamed over and over. "Stan! Fuck, Stan! Stan—"
Stan jolted awake, panting and hard. He was disoriented for a moment, sweating so much that his shirt was clinging to his chest, but the disorientation quickly turned to lightheadedness when he saw Kyle straddling his stomach. In light of what he'd just been dreaming about, was it really his fault he got just that much harder at the sight?
"Fuck," Stan sighed, tilting his head back much like he had in his dream only for a completely different reason. "Please tell me I didn't mess up your sheets."
"Well, no," Kyle said quite calmly. "But you were rutting against me like a dog in heat and I swear you were five seconds away from rubbing a hole in my pajama bottoms just big enough for your dick to fit through." A smirk crossed his face. "You animal. Can't keep your dirty hands off me even in your dreams."
That brought back a flash of pale skin and moving hips that Stan really did not need to be seeing right now. He sighed again. "Dude, not funny. Can we talk about something else, please? Because I can't fall asleep with this boner and it's not going to go away what with you sitting five inches away from it."
"What about if I put it in my mouth? Would that help?"
Stan choked on air. "Kyle—"
"Or I could…" Kyle mused, wiggling backwards until his ass was nudging against the bulge in Stan's pants, which twitched in interest. "Whoa, that must have been one hell of a dream."
"Kyle, please," Stan had to fist his hands in the sheets to keep from reaching for Kyle because, if he did, he wouldn't be able to stop. "I'm a seventeen year old boy. I don't have the kind of self-control you seem to be expecting and the things I want to do to you…"
Kyle looked almost surprised for a moment. "…what kinds of things?"
"Sorry, sorry," Kyle climbed off him and off the bed entirely, shifting his weight from foot to foot and looking at anything but Stan. "My parents sleep like the dead, so I think you can probably take a shower without them realizing."
Stan gingerly pushed himself into a sitting position, glancing at Kyle to see him blushing up a storm. He smiled. "You have absolutely no idea how sexy you are, do you?"
Kyle's blush deepened.
"Don't you think there's a reason you're known for having the best ass in school?"
"It's never mattered to me what any of them think," Kyle admitted, still refusing to meet Stan's eye. "None of them are you."
Stan's heart fluttered. "Wow. That was pretty gay, dude."
"You're pretty gay," Kyle retorted immediately. "Or was it not me, a guy, who gave you that boner?"
"You bet your fine ass it was," Stan replied as he jumped off the bed and placed a deliberately damp kiss on Kyle's cheek. He smiled as the soft skin became warm under his lips. "Maybe it's you who can't keep your dirty hands off me, even in my dreams."
"I sense an epic logic failure in what you just said."
"You're an epic logic failure," Stan retorted as he headed for the bathroom.
He heard Kyle huff behind him and tried not to laugh. If he did, Kyle would follow him to the bathroom to argue more and Kyle's presence would not do anything to alleviate the discomfort in his pants.
Once in the hallway, Stan allowed himself one more pleasurable minute of recalling all the intimate details of his dream, then pushed it away with a shiver. There was no doubt in his mind that the cold setting on shower knobs was definitely invented for teenage boys. He just hoped he wouldn't have to find out what would happen when they no longer worked.
By the time he returned to Kyle's room, Kyle was fast asleep in the bed, lying on his back with one hand on his stomach and the other stretched toward Stan's side of the bed. His fingers were curled inward as though they had been expecting Stan to be there and, upon finding the bed empty, had resolved to sulk until he came back. Kyle's head was tilted downward, his lips slightly parted and his chest rising and falling gently with each breath.
Stan leaned against the doorpost and just watched him for a moment, the warmth and happiness he'd come to associate with Kyle filling him to the brim. God, he loved Kyle so much he had no idea how he could have missed it before. It was like a constant presence in his psyche, a quiet sort of contentment that, without warning, could flare into a passion so zealous it put most to shame. It really wasn't much different from the way he'd felt about Kyle when the two of them had been friends, actually, except the passion, when it flared, had usually manifested itself in a worried dedication to his sick, dead, or dying friend that led Stan to go to ridiculous lengths to keep Kyle healthy, happy, and, most importantly, right by his side.
Okay, yeah, that might be why he hadn't noticed it before. He'd been in love with Kyle for so long that he had been incapable of seeing the difference between how he felt now and how he'd felt then. There hadn't been a difference to him. Even now there was no difference; he was just realizing that he'd been filing his love for Kyle under the drastically wrong heading for years. It was kind of a relief to finally realize what was going on. Stan had been so afraid he would hurt Kyle because of his damn inability to feel an emotion he'd already been wallowing in, but now…
Of course, he thought. That's assuming Kyle even feels the same way.
Stan knew his super best friend well enough to know that Kyle definitely felt strongly toward him, strongly enough to get vulnerable whenever he thought Stan didn't want him and to get jealous of Kenny, of all people, as though Stan would have sex with Kenny. Kyle liked him enough to allow Stan to forbid him from studying and to continue to date Stan even after he'd thrown up on him practically every day for almost a week. Kyle liked him enough to let Stan share his bed and hold him and stick his tongue down his throat and hold his hand when they sat together on the couch watching Terrance & Phillip. Since Stan had never seen Kyle do any of these things with another living being, he had to conclude that Kyle liked him a lot.
But how much was a lot? Did Kyle love him? Stan wanted to say yes, but he didn't have the ego required to be one hundred percent sure. Kyle could love him, he knew that, but he wouldn't be sure about anything at all until he heard it from Kyle's own two lips.
He blinked out of his thoughts, realizing that Kyle had rolled over onto his side and his eyes were half-open, peering at him through the dark.
"You're creeping me the fuck out, dude," Kyle said, voice thick with sleep. "Stop staring at me from the doorway and go to sleep!"
Stan smiled, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him. "Gladly."
"California?" Kenny asked as he and Butters shared a pudding cup on his front porch. Well, porch was actually the wrong word for it since Kenny just had a step that was made from a couple of cement blocks they'd dragged down from a construction site, but Butters referred to it as a porch and Kenny liked to think of it that way, too. He'd made the mistake of leaving his last paycheck out for his father to find and now all that money had gone to the vodka and tonic now sitting on the coffee table. It was lucky that Butters had brought a vanilla pudding cup (Kenny's favorite) over with him or Kenny would be more than a little pissed off. "Why California?"
"Th-They want me to look at Stanford and UCLA for college," Butters said, opening his mouth so Kenny could push another spoonful of pudding inside, then swallowing it with a frown. "I'ah got an aunt up there that we'll be staying with and making a whole summer vacation out of it. I'ah wanted to spend time with you this summer."
"Hey, you gotta get into college, Butters," Kenny said in his most soothing voice, setting the pudding cup aside for a moment in order to pull his visibly pouting boyfriend against his side. "And Stanford's a really good one, isn't it? Your parents just want the best for you."
"Oh, hamburgers," Butters didn't stop pouting, but his shoulders slumped in a way that let Kenny know that he acknowledged the point. "What're y-you going to be doing all summer, Kenny?"
"Not you, apparently," Kenny laughed at the stricken expression on Butters' face. "Don't even worry about it, Butters. I'll find something, even if it is just helping my dad polish off those new bottles."
Butters wrinkled his nose in disapproval, but the gesture itself was so cute that Kenny felt compelled to peck him on the cheek. Butters turned his head to meet the kiss and distracted Kenny for a good five minutes with the silken massage of his tongue before Kenny managed to pull away.
"So I'm thinking," Kenny murmured as Butters, undeterred, kissed his way down Kenny's neck. "Maybe we should have some kind of party before you leave. I mean, if I'm going to spend the whole summer studying, I need a little incentive."
Butters looked up, his eyes shining with happiness at the mere mention of Kenny studying. "Wh-What kind of party? Like Bebe's Christmas party or—"
"Nah, I was thinking something a little more redneck. Like we take a whole bunch of people out to Stark's Pond at night, ply them with a whole bunch of alcohol, and see who ends up making out with who in a bush somewhere before Officer Barbrady comes through with a flashlight. Summer bonfire, maybe?"
"Wouldn't lighting a fire at Stark's Pond bring Officer Barbrady around sooner?" Butters asked and Kenny took it as a personal accomplishment that this was Butters' major concern when, years prior, he would have been more worried that his parents would find out and ground him. "M-Maybe we oughta save that for last."
"Sounds like a plan." Kenny held up the spoon, tossing the empty pudding cup over his shoulder to join the rest of the trash on his floor. "Last spoonful. Want?"
The uncharacteristically devilish smile on Butters' face was the only warning Kenny got before the spoon was taken from his fingers and the pudding was smeared haphazardly across his collarbone.
"Um," Kenny said, his lips twitching with the effort of not smiling. "You missed your mouth by quite a few inches there, Butters."
Still, he obligingly tilted his head back and allowed Butters to lap at his neck like a cat languidly enjoying a bowl of milk. It felt good, better than good considering it was Butters and every time Butters decided to take the initiative it always worked out pleasurably for both of them. Kenny's eyes narrowed as he fought to keep them open and his lips parted so he could breathe despite how difficult it was becoming with Butters sucking at his skin like that.
"Do you have to do that on the front step?" said a familiar voice. Kenny tilted his head back to see an upside-down picture of his brother staring down at him with barely veiled exasperation.
"It's a porch," Kenny corrected, sighing as Butters immediately sat up and looked away, his face red. "And way to interrupt my foreplay just because you're not getting any."
"Mom wants you to take dad's beer bottles down to the recycling center for cash," Kevin said, scratching his stomach idly. "She wants you to do it while you still have pants on."
Kenny sighed again, reaching up to rub the excess pudding off and turning his attention to his embarrassed boyfriend. "Do you want to come with me or just wait here until I get back?"
"I'll watch him for you," Kevin volunteered, giving Butters an appraising look.
"So, you're coming with me," Kenny said firmly, getting to his feet and pulling Butters up with him. "Kevin, go hump the couch or something."
Butters tucked himself against Kenny's side as Kevin wandered back into the house. Kenny could still smell the vanilla pudding on Butters' breath and it made him ache a little.
"I'll go get the bottles. You wait here and try not to get mugged."
When Kyle jogged down the stairs to answer the door, he found Ike already leaning against the doorpost and deep in conversation with Stan. The closer he got, the easier it became for him to pick up words like "Kenny" and "crush" and "okay" and, since it was Kenny, curiosity won out over concern as he came up behind his brother. "What did Kenny get crushed by now?"
Ike whirled around, staring at Kyle all wide-eyed and shocked. Then he huffed. "Seriously, you're such an asshole Kyle. You could at least try and care."
"I cared the first time it happened and I cared the time he was dying of that serious illness. The rest of the time it's just funny."
Kyle was distracted from further explanation by the way Stan was looking at him, all warm and fond and bright like there was nothing else in the room besides Kyle. Which Kyle knew to be a lie because, in addition to the two of them, Sheila was in the kitchen making some sort of complicated vegetable stir-fry and Fillmore, Ike's little friend, was half-asleep on the couch. Or, at least, he had been but Kyle glanced over his shoulder to see him now watching the three of them with narrowed eyes.
"Anyway," Kyle continued loudly. "I care about Kenny and everything, but Stan's here to see me. Not you," he grabbed the back of Ike's shirt and dragged him out of the way. "And we're having dinner at his house so I'll probably be back late. Tell Mom."
He was out the door before Ike had the opportunity to say another word. Stan was smirking when Kyle finally turned to look at him, a smirk which only deepened when he noticed Kyle's eyes on him.
"It's nothing," Stan said before Kyle could complain. "We're making a pit stop before we head to my house. I hope you don't mind."
"Just try not to leave any marks this time. I don't want to have to sit through dinner with your parents with a hickey on my neck."
As soon as they reached the car, Stan grabbed Kyle's wrist and twisted him around until he was trapped between Stan's body and the car door. Then Stan cupped his cheeks and kissed Kyle so deeply he felt it all the way down to his toes. It was one of those moments that made Kyle's heart clench his chest, those moments that reminded him that, yeah, he was in love with this guy.
His hands clenched in the material of Stan's shirt and he couldn't help the little moans that kept falling from his mouth any more than he could help the way a single touch from Stan had the almost annoying habit of unraveling him from the inside out until his precious self-control was nothing more than a distant memory. He would have been happy to stay there, lost in the kiss, if it hadn't been for the seizure-inducing flash of light from beyond his lids.
They broke apart, gasping for air, and Kyle thought for a moment that he could see the same kind of desperate love reflecting from Stan's eyes as was no doubt shining from his own, but he tried not to get his hopes up. Instead, he looked over Stan's shoulder to see his father standing on the porch, flicking the light on and off. When he saw Kyle looking at him, he waved:
"You're making it really hard for your mother and I to ignore that you're sexually active, son! Maybe you should go do that somewhere else!"
"Do you need a condom? I can go get you one, bubbe!" his mother screamed from somewhere within the house. "Oi! Have I lectured you about safe sex yet?"
The heat that had flooded Kyle's body earlier was immediately replaced by embarrassment. "Oh, god, can we please leave? Quick, before she either comes out here or wakes the neighbors."
Stan's hands were massaging the small of his back, easing some of the tension, but not by much.
"Good idea. I'll try to contain myself," Stan said with a wink "But it'll be hard. In more ways than one."
Kyle shoved him playfully and got in the car.
Much to his surprise, Stan drove them out to Stark's Pond. The ice in the lake had started to melt, which meant it was a bit late (or early) in the year for skating, although why Stan would want to stop to do that before having dinner with his parents was beyond Kyle. The remaining ice made the lake too cold to go swimming, too. He glanced at Stan, trying to figure out what he was thinking, but Stan was humming along to a song on the radio with a peaceful look on his face that betrayed absolutely nothing about why they were there.
The car coasted to a stop and Kyle was no closer to figuring out why they were here. Stan turned to look at him and Kyle tried for a smirk.
"Dude, you're supposed to go swimming an hour after eating, not an hour before."
Stan turned off the car without a word and climbed out. Kyle was unsure whether to follow him or not, the sudden change in mood causing his stomach to sink, but the decision was made for him when Stan pulled his door open and held out a hand to help him out. Kyle accepted the help, hesitating for a moment before following Stan to the water's edge and biting the inside of his cheek to keep from asking any questions.
The sun had set less than an hour ago, which meant the sky was just dark enough for some stars to be visible but still light enough that they could see the grassy bank and the murky, icy water. It was sort of romantic.
"I kissed Craig on Valentine's day."
And that sort of ruined it.
"I thought," Kyle said through gritted teeth. "You went on a date with Powder. And I thought Craig was dating Tweek."
Stan wasn't looking at him, but there was a little smile on his face as though there was anything amusing about the situation. Kyle wanted to punch him in the mouth.
"He and Tweek were having dinner in the same restaurant I took Powder to," The smile widened. "I hate Craig so goddamn much. And I know he feels the same way about me. Yet somehow we ended up in the bathroom—"
"Why are you telling me this?"
"—and Craig asked me why I was out with Powder if I was just going to spend all night wishing it was you. Craig knew before I did. That's fucking weak, dude."
"Ah…" Stan finally realized that Kyle was getting more than a little huffy and finally turned to look at him, an appropriately sheepish expression on his face. "The part about kissing Craig isn't really what's important. He was just trying to help me get my priorities in order. Or something. I don't know. There's something wrong with him."
"There's something wrong with you," Kyle snapped. "If you seriously brought me out here to brag about swapping spit with Craig."
Stan ran his fingers through his hair and groaned in frustration. "No, that's not what I'm trying to say. I—Let me try this again." He paused briefly. "Fuck it. Kyle, I love you."
"Does Tweek know you made out with Craig?"
"Wait, what?" Kyle's brain had finally processed Stan's words and now he could hear his own heartbeat, his stomach fluttering with fear or anticipation or… or fear. He laughed nervously. "I love you, too, Stan. Super best friends, right?"
"No. Well, yeah, but… no." Stan reached out and grabbed him by the shoulders, completely ignoring the way Kyle flinched at the contact. Then, Stan kissed him very softly on the mouth and pulled away to look at him so intently that Kyle forgot how to breathe for a minute. "I love you, Kyle. I'm in love with you."
Kyle's lips worked silently for a minute, trying and failing to speak, and the longer the silence dragged on, the more distressed he became. Stan was waiting calmly for his reaction, but Kyle wanted nothing more than to run as fast as he could until he got home and could hide himself in his room so Stan couldn't fuck with him anymore.
"Why…" Kyle licked his hips, his voice a weak whisper. "Why are you telling me this? What am I supposed to say?"
Stan cupped his cheek, stroking the soft skin with his thumb. Kyle failed to suppress a shiver.
"You don't have to say anything." He smiled again, a beautiful smile that made Kyle feel lightheaded. "Eight months ago, I brought you here and I asked you out. At the time, I didn't think anything would really come of it. People have been mistaking us for a couple for years, even people we know, and I didn't really mind because the people we know are retards. I wasn't expecting any of this, but I'm so glad. I wish I was better with words so I could make you understand how happy I am. I've never been more in love with anyone in my life and I feel so peaceful knowing I've found the person I want to spend forever with. Friends or boyfriends, I want to be by your side forever. You don't have to do anything but let me. Okay?"
"Stan," Kyle's eyes stung, but he refused to blink. "Where is this coming from all of a sudden?"
"Let's just say we have some really awesome and patient friends." Stan released him only to check his watch. "Aw, goddamnit, we're going to be late for dinner. If you didn't already know what my dad was like, I'd be terrified. As it is, I'm just scared to subject you to this stupidity."
Kyle was aware that he should be following Stan to the car, but his entire body felt numb. His tongue felt too heavy to speak, but surely Stan could hear his heartbeat? It was so loud that Kyle didn't understand how Stan couldn't. It figured that the years spent anticipating this moment would make him catatonic when it happened. Kyle's life sucked like that.
Stan finally realized that Kyle wasn't following him and turned, brows furrowed. Then, to Kyle's horror, Stan's eyes widened and he looked heartbreakingly upset.
"Shit, I've ruined things, haven't I?" Stan asked, taking two steps toward Kyle before thinking better of it and stopping. "I just wanted you to know how I felt, Kyle. I'm not trying to pressure you into saying it back. Seriously. If you don't want to be with me anymore—"
"No!" Kyle managed at last, stumbling forward until they were face to face again. "No, I—Stan, I—" Why couldn't he say it? "I—"
Stan rested a hand on his head and tugged him into a kiss. "Don't force yourself. It's okay." His smile resurfaced. "I love you."
"Let's go," he caught Kyle's wrist and headed back toward the car.
Kyle's eyes were glued to the ground as he silently berated himself. What the hell was wrong with him? Stan was in love with him. Finally. And Kyle had just stood there like an idiot, asking stupid questions and never saying it back. If Kenny had been present, Kyle would have been the recipient of a well-deserved smack upside the head. Hell, he might still get one later if Kenny ever found out about this.
He glanced at the back of Stan's head, wondering how he could afford to be so calm about this. Kyle would have cut his own tongue out before confessing to Stan first, but Stan had pushed his way through it without even knowing Kyle's feelings and stood by his confession even when Kyle hadn't given him an answer. God, Kyle loved him so much.
They reached the car. As soon as Stan let go of his wrist to flick through his keys, Kyle came up behind him and wrapped his arms around Stan's waist, resting his cheek between Stan's shoulder blades.
"I… I'm sorry," Kyle whispered miserably. "I don't know why I…"
Stan reached behind him to rest one hand on Kyle's hip. Kyle had no idea how long they stayed like that, but eventually he found the strength to let go long enough for Stan to open the car.
The drive to the Marsh home was silent, but not uncomfortably so. Kyle was biting his lower lip and staring out the window—or, more accurately, he was watching Stan's reflection in the mirror. Stan was just as unruffled as he'd been on the ride over, even singing along to the song on the radio. Every so often, Kyle would build up the courage to say something—maybe not that thing, but something—but then Stan would look over at him and smile and Kyle would withdraw into himself again.
Randy was sitting on the front step when Stan finally pulled into the driveway, watching them suspiciously.
"I hope you're ready for this," Stan said, reaching over to grab Kyle's hand and squeeze it reassuringly before climbing out of the car. Kyle hesitated only a moment before following.
It was going to be a long night.
Stan had never hated his parents. He just thought they were stupid. There was a difference. However, the difference was rapidly being lost on him the longer this stupid dinner dragged on.
As soon as he and Kyle had gotten out of the car, his father had practically dragged Kyle away from him to ask him about school and how things were doing and how long Kyle had been buttfucking his son, to which Kyle had stammered out, "Blargh?" before being pulled into the house. Stan had stormed after them with the intention of lecturing his father (again) on acceptable behavior only to find that Kyle was now being forced into helping his mother put the food on the table and looked far more comfortable doing that. Everything was sugar-free and kosher, as she'd promised, and the smell of the food had been enough to lure Stan into a false sense of security. Maybe tonight wouldn't suck as bad as he'd thought. Maybe his dad had just been trying to get a rise out of him. Maybe everything would be okay.
Oh, how naïve he had been twenty minutes ago.
He and Kyle were seated on opposite ends of the table, otherwise Stan might be holding his hand for reassurance though he wasn't sure who needed it more at the moment.
"The end of September, really?" his mother was asking incredulously, either unaware of, or completely ignoring, the way Kyle was staring red-faced at his baby corn. "I would have guessed much earlier or much later. And he just asked you out straight out of the blue? No preamble?"
"Um. Yeah, kind of." Kyle met Stan's eyes briefly, then returned to staring at his baby corn. "But, I mean, no one was really… I think people already assumed that Stan and I were… so there hasn't really been any, you know, outcry about it or whatever. If you're worried about Stan's, um, reputation or… his position on the football team… or something…"
Kyle sounded so uncertain, which was a new thing for him. Stan was more used to him being stubbornly assertive about everything. He wanted to tell his parents to stop interrogating on his boyfriend, but they'd been resolutely ignoring his presence at the table thus far and he knew it wouldn't do much good.
"His reputation?" Randy blinked, sounding surprised. "We're not worried about Stan's reputation! As far as ass-partners go, I don't see how he could have done better than you. You're going places. Hell, you're probably smarter than Stan."
He's definitely smarter than you, would have been Stan's muttered response to that if he hadn't been busy joining Kyle in being stunned.
"Wait," Kyle said, managing to cling to the gift of speech more easily than Stan could. "Wait, but… I thought… you guys didn't approve of—"
"What? The buttfucking?"
"Randy," Sharon hissed before patting Kyle's shoulder reassuringly. "Kyle, we don't care what you and Stan want to get up to in your spare time, sexual or otherwise. We only wanted to make sure that the two of you knew what you were getting into. If we've been giving you a hard time, as I imagine we have been, it's only because we want the two of you to be absolutely sure that you'd chose one another over any obstacles that might come your way because obstacles will come and I don't think either of you could stand to lose one another."
"I've seen you guys fight when you weren't doing each other up the ass," Randy continued. "It's pathetic. I don't want to see my son when he's gotten into a fight with you as your boyfriend. I don't want him wrapping his lips around a gun because he 'can't bear to live without you' or something."
Stan blinked. Then he blinked again.
Kyle looked adorably puzzled. "Wait. What?"
"Look," Sharon said and this time she finally turned to look at Stan as well. "The real reason I wanted to have Kyle over for dinner tonight was to tell the two of you that… we approve. It's been obvious for years that the two of you care about one another and if you've made the mature, well-thought out decision to take your relationship to a new level, we're not going to stand in your way. All we ask is that you're open and honest with us."
"And none of that running up to Canada to get married crap," Randy warned. "Mexico's closer."
Kyle's eyes met Stan's, the expression in them pleading. Stan picked his jaw up off the floor, feeling an overwhelming sense of relief that seemed almost too good to be true. On the one hand, what his parents were saying made a lot of sense. On the other hand, it made too much sense considering these were his parents. He wasn't sure whether or not it was overly paranoid of him to be waiting for the catch.
"So, um, you're… you're okay with me and Kyle?" He narrowed his eyes at his dad in particular. "You're not going to force me out on anymore dates or talk bad about Kyle when he's not here or call us buttfuckers or—"
"No, none of that," Sharon said firmly, though Stan could see her digging her nails into Randy's arm almost hard enough to draw blood. "You guys are free to spend the rest of your time together in peace. Especially since, in all likelihood, you'll probably be going to separate colleges after next year."
The tension that had been coiling in Stan's body since the start of the dinner finally dissipated and he practically melted into his seat. "No, Kyle and I are going to college together. We applied to all the same colleges."
Randy raised a surprised eyebrow, studying Kyle appraisingly. "What, no ivy leagues? I thought you were born with a textbook in your mouth, Kyle."
Stan spaced out of yet another conversation in which the participants tried to subtly gloss over the fact that he was just not Ivy League material, pleasantly surprised by his parents for the first time in his life. He was content enough to actually start eating his dinner rather than picking at it, which was as much of a thank you as they were going to get with Kyle still around.
His parents were okay with this. With them. Stan had expected to be hedging questions about the true nature of his and Kyle's relationship until they went off to college or until his dad came bursting into his room and found him and Kyle attached at the mouth, but this was much better. Less awkward explaining and more—well, he and Kyle probably wouldn't be acting much differently, but hopefully his parents would start knocking.
"—an?" he heard his father say distantly. Stan blinked back to the present to see all the occupants at the table staring at him, although Kyle looked more sheepish about it than his parents did.
He watched them all back warily. "What?"
"You're the one who announced that you and Kyle are going to college together, son," Randy repeated. "How are you planning to get into Yale?"
"I'm not applying to Yale."
"Well, then what happens if Kyle gets in and you don't?"
Stan, feeling distinctly like he and his father were having two different conversations, directed his wary look at Kyle. "What?"
"Kyle was just telling us about how his mother was helping him apply to Yale," Sharon said with all the pride of a mother who might not have raised the kid herself, but could still take pride in their accomplishments. "And I think it's wonderful. Yale's got a great medical library."
"Helped is kind of an understatement," Kyle explained solely for Stan's benefit. "As are any verbs that aren't pressured, pushed, or forced."
"If you're going to be a doctor, a degree from Yale under your belt is really going to help you on your way." Randy grinned. "Maybe you'll even get involved with the Skull & Bones society and end up ruling the world with an iron fist."
Kyle paled. "Oh, god, Cartman."
"May I be excused?" Stan interrupted, pushing his plate away and getting up before anyone could say a word.
He was barely conscious of climbing the stairs up to his room, but he must have done so because one minute he was in the dining room and the next minute he was standing by his desk staring at a picture of himself and Kyle mooning cars from the rearview window of Cartman's car. His stomach turned at the sight of it. He set it face down and climbed onto the bed, lying on his back and staring pensively at the ceiling like he seemed to be doing a lot lately.
Kyle entered the room about five minutes later, closing and locking the door behind him. "Your parents said we can do whatever we want in here as long as they don't hear any noises," he whispered, slowly making his way over to the bed. "Are you mad at me?"
"I don't know," Stan answered honestly, shifting to make room for Kyle on the bed. "I don't think so." Instead of folding himself into the space Stan had made for him, Kyle threw himself down half on top of Stan anyway. It was hard for Stan not to smile as he wrapped his arms around Kyle and pulled him closer. "No, I'm not mad at you."
"Good, because it was all my mom's fault and I'm not going to Yale. She threw the hissy fit to end all hissy fits when she found out I hadn't sent my test scores to any ivy leagues. It was either apply to one or move out," Kyle sighed, trailing a finger along Stan's cheek. "I would have told you if I'd thought it was important."
"I know," Stan murmured, eyes sliding shut at the soothing sensation. "It's just… If you want to go to Yale, I don't want you to feel obligated to turn it down just because of some silly promise. I don't… I don't want to hold you back. You're the smartest fucking kid in South Park. You deserve to have everyone know that."
Kyle's lips touched his forehead, prompting Stan to open his eyes and take note of the quiet solemnity in his best friend's face. "I wouldn't be the smartest kid in South Park if I cared what everyone thought, Stan. You're the one who's always been there supporting me, saving me…" Kyle's cheeks went red. "Loving me. You're the only one who matters. Don't get me wrong. I don't want to have to follow you anywhere and I don't want you to have to follow me anywhere either. Wherever we go, I want us to end up there together. Because we both want to be there."
"I… Kyle, I…"
Words failed him, but Kyle seemed to understand. He leaned down just as Stan was reaching up and their lips met halfway, mouths opening simultaneously and tongues dueling for dominance. Kyle's kisses were particularly fierce, his hands everywhere they could reach, his tongue dragging along the roof of Stan's mouth and drawing a gasp. Stan's hands involuntarily slid from Kyle's lower back to Kyle's ass and squeezed.
"God, Stan," Kyle breathed and, in the next second, Stan's wrists were pinned down on either side of his head and he was left panting and lightheaded and confused. Kyle kissed him again, but didn't let go of his wrists.
"What are you—"
"…um," Stan wondered what it said about him that he was unapologetically turned on by this. "Okay."
Kyle eyed him for another minute to confirm that, no, Stan wasn't planning to say anything else. Then, Kyle's lips attached themselves to the side of Stan's neck and Stan's mouth opened on a groan as Kyle bit down hard and swirled his tongue around the area to soothe it. With a warning squeeze that told Stan that moving was still not advisable, Kyle let go of one wrist in order to slide his hand under the material of Stan's shirt and gently stroke over his stomach, his chest, tracing one pert nipple.
Stan was torn between squirming away and arching closer and his body just settled for shaking indecisively as Kyle finished work on the hickey and pulled up Stan's shirt the rest of the way in order to replace his hand with his mouth.
Stan's fingers itched with the desire to reach down and tangle in Kyle's hair, but they didn't move as if pinned down by some invisible force which Stan's mind was helpfully identifying as 'Kyle's sex appeal'. Kyle's lips slid down Stan's stomach, tongue dipping into his belly button, hands massaging high on his thighs, and Stan had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out from how good it felt because his parents were home and he was still weirded out by that whole 'trust' thing they were trying.
Then, to his surprise, Kyle started undoing his belt.
Kyle's fingers were cold, but that quickly stopped mattering once he started moving them. His grip was too loose at first, a hesitant jerking of the wrist, but then he suddenly tightened his grip and tugged and stars exploded behind Stan's eyes. Stan hadn't gotten laid in an extremely long time and the rapid squeeze and tug felt so good and his lungs felt like they were going to explode out of his chest cavity and Kyle hadn't even gotten a good rhythm going before Stan was coming with a whimper, eyes squeezed shut and lower lip clenched between his teeth. He heard Kyle shuffling about, but only vaguely what with his heart pounding in his ears, and then Kyle was back, murmuring something against his mouth as he leaned in for one more kiss.
"What?" Stan asked breathlessly, reaching for Kyle in order to reciprocate.
Kyle evaded his hands until he stopped trying, then settled down on top of Stan again. "I said… well, I… I mean… It was nothing. I'm good, don't worry."
"That was…" Any adjective he came up with seemed woefully inadequate. "God, Kyle, where did that come from?"
Kyle's only response was to rest his head directly over Stan's still-stuttering heartbeat and sigh contentedly. Stan was a little too exhausted to pursue the matter further. He kissed the top of Kyle's forehead and closed his eyes, falling asleep almost instantly.
Wendy wasn't the 'halfaversary' celebrating type, but she hadn't bothered to mention that before she'd agreed to go out with Token that night. In all honesty, she'd kind of forgotten that the two of them had been dating for a full six months. After all, it wasn't like she'd spent most of that time thinking about him. She was pretty sure the only reason they'd lasted so long was because she often forgot they were even together. She was also pretty sure knowing that should make her feel bad, especially since she'd only agreed to go out with Token to give her the upper hand over a sociopathic teenage boy she'd ended up pursuing anyway, but Wendy was sure most of her conscience had gone on strike.
The pieces that were left were nagging at her, however, just enough for her to allow Token to kiss her hello and hold her hand as they walked down the street. Token had wanted to take his Bentley or even a town car, but Wendy had insisted against such showy things. She was a simple girl with simple tastes and Token tended to forget that. If he wanted to lavish all his money on a girl, he'd have to date someone else.
Token didn't seem to mind. He'd been talking in one of Wendy's ears and out the other for the last few blocks with no indication of being aware that she wasn't listening. They came to a stop at a corner and Wendy tuned in for a second to see what the next monosyllabic but appropriate response should be.
"—for the best that I stay nearby, anyway," Token finally looked down at her for a smile. "Too bad we can't go to college together, huh?"
Wendy blinked owlishly at him. "College?"
"…you haven't been listening to me this entire time, have you?" Token let go of her hand to sigh with a mixture of exasperation and exhaustion. "Wendy…"
The way he said her name made Wendy let go of his hand before he had the chance to let go of hers. Wendy recognized that tone. It was the tone Stan had used before he'd sat her down and told her that their relationship was going to end up getting them both killed. It was the tone she'd used on Token the last time she'd had to tell him that she'd had it up to here with being flown to Aruba on the weekends and couldn't take this anymore. It was the tone, the I'm tired of you or I want something else or I can't do this anymore tone. It was a tone that, despite the fact that Wendy barely treated him like a boyfriend, she was horrified to hear.
"What?" she asked with an edge to her voice, hugging herself to prepare for the inevitable blow. "I was just distracted."
"You've been distracted for the last six months," Token said patiently. "And I've been putting up with it for about as long because I really like you."
Wendy conscience made an appearance to privately agree with him, but she said nothing. He'd caught her off-guard. Honestly, she hadn't imagined them lasting until college let alone going there together. They weren't Stan and Kyle. Wendy had an easier time imagining her life without Token than with him. She'd thought he understood that or, at the very least, hadn't been taking them, this seriously. The fact that she had been wrong, and that he would have the audacity to break up with her when she didn't even like him to begin with, made her very, very tired.
"Can we not do this right now?" she asked quietly.
"We're not doing anything right now. I just need you to meet me halfway here. If you want me to be your boyfriend when it's convenient for you, that's a completely different story—"
"No," Wendy hesitated only briefly before taking a step forward, placing her hands on his chest, and tilting her head up to capture his in a kiss. Token was unresponsive for a moment, but when his arms closed around her waist and he began to return the kiss leisurely. She pulled away and smiled. "I'm sorry. Tell me everything again. I'll listen this time."
Token shook his head, grinning. "I don't think you've earned it. You're going to have to do better than that if you want to make this up to me."
"I talk to you, don't I?" Wendy teased although she was half-serious. "Why isn't that enough for you?
"It's enough," Token prattled on obliviously. "For now."
He kissed her again and Wendy wondered to herself, and not for the first time, why she didn't feel anything when she was with him. Cartman had pressed her up against a locker and just touched her and every nerve ending she had had felt like it was on fire. Token had stuck his tongue down her throat before and nothing. Why did Cartman have to be such an asshole? Or, better yet, why did Wendy have to be such a bitch? That may have made them sort of perfect for each other, but, in that annoying time between her acknowledgement of her feelings and Cartman's admittance of his, all Wendy could feel was guilty that she couldn't want someone well adjusted.
Token pulled away, laced their fingers together, and started walking again. "So, my parents are thinking of spending a month in Hawaii since it's never really summer in South Park. I would've invited you, but I know you've got your internship."
"When are you leaving?" asked Wendy, managing not to sound eager.
"July. I don't hear any sobbing."
"I'm… trying to be strong." Putting off breaking up with Token until he got back in July was something that required fortitude. The fortitude not to look too excited about his departure. The fortitude not to start thinking blasphemous things, like if Cartman would act differently around her knowing that Token was sort of out of the way. The fortitude not to take that amused, fond little smile off Token's face by informing him that she had not, was not, and probably never would be into him the way he was into her. Wendy had to be strong alright. Really, really strong. "I'll cry myself to sleep tonight."
Token kissed her temple affectionately. "Thanks."
"Anytime," Wendy sighed.
They cut through the park, passing the basketball court where Stan and Cartman were busy playing one-on-one basketball. Token stopped even before she did to watch Stan go for a slam-dunk and get body slammed by Cartman. The ball still went in, but Stan hit the floor cursing and Cartman retrieved the ball, also cursing.
"Foul, fatass! Foul!" Stan snapped as he got to his feet and brushed himself off. "We're playing basketball, but hockey!"
"Don't blame me because you can't fucking make a shot, Marsh!"
"The ball went in!"
"Only because you cheated! Do over!"
That was about when Cartman caught sight of first Wendy, then Token, and his mouth curved into a pissy little smile. "I see our resident love birds are on their way to find a bush for their latest bout of romantic public fucking on this, the night of their six month anniversary."
"Shut up, Cartman," Token said at the same time that Wendy asked, "How did you know it's our six month anniversary?"
Cartman ignored both of them and began bouncing the ball again.
Stan jogged over, staring between Wendy and Token with the same expression he'd been wearing when he'd found out that they were dating to begin with, then smiled. "It's your anniversary, huh? Congratulations."
Wendy heard Token thanking him, but her eyes were on Cartman. Cartman was shooting hoops alone in Stan's temporary absence, his shirt damp with sweat and clinging to his body in a way that allowed Wendy to see his muscle work and shift underneath it and—Token was taking her hand, forcing Wendy to tune back into the conversation in time to see Stan blush.
"I'm not sure what kind of anniversary Kyle and I would celebrate," he was saying with a shy little smile. "We've… hit a lot of milestones, the same one technically twice. Plus, anniversaries are kind of gay."
Token lifted an eyebrow at him. "Yes, because you and Kyle would never want to come off as kind of gay. I see." He laughed when Wendy nudged him with her shoulder. "Haven't the two of you being going out since September? Isn't that like eight months now?"
"Extenuating circumstances," Stan said, giving Wendy a meaningful look before returning his gaze to Token. "Maybe when we hit a full year I'll get him a pony or something."
"Yes, Token. A pony. Or something of equal or greater value. Kyle's not picky."
And while Stan and Token dissolved into an argument about the validity of a pony as an anniversary present, Wendy couldn't help letting her attention wander and her body wandered with it until she was standing on the basketball court and catching the ball as it bounced off the hoop, drawing Cartman's attention to her. He narrowed his eyes at her as though he expected her to throw the ball at his head, but, instead, she simply tossed it over her shoulder and smiled at the way his face switched from annoyed to impressed.
"What the hell was that, bitch?" Cartman asked, picking up the ball and watching her warily. It was the same wary look he'd given her at the Christmas party, when she'd surprised him by taking a drink from the bottle, a look that suggested that his opinion of her was changing and he was waiting for her to prove him right or wrong.
Her smile widened. "I'm full of surprises."
Something like a smile flashed over his lips so quickly that she almost missed it. Almost, but not quite.
"I didn't know you could play basketball, Wendy," said Stan as he and Token approached them. Cartman's face closed off at the same time Wendy's did.
She turned to Stan and shrugged. "I don't suck, but I'm not joining the WNBA anytime soon either."
"Good. None of those bitches can actually play," Cartman said, tossing Stan the ball. Wendy felt her hackles rise, but before she had the chance to speak up in the defense of her gender in the professional basketball league, Stan was putting a hand on her shoulder to stop her before she started and spinning the ball on a finger.
"You guys headed somewhere or do you want to play for awhile?"
"Nowhere in particular, but," Token looked at Wendy, who was looking at him. This wasn't exactly the most conventional way to spend an anniversary, but Wendy didn't like conventional. And, as though he had finally picked up on that, he smiled. "Sounds like fun, actually."
Wendy was actually on her tiptoes and kissing Token's cheek before she realized what she was doing, the rush of affection as surprising as it was unfamiliar. Even Token looked a bit stunned, but he recovered quickly and grinned at her. Wendy didn't dare look at Stan or Cartman to see how they had taken her display.
"You choose the oddest dates," Token said, kissing her forehead. "But at least I know you don't just want me for my money."
"Alright, me and Wendy against Cartman and Token," Stan said as he handed the ball to Token. "Your ball and try not to cry when we beat you."
Cartman snorted, shoving Stan out of the way as he went to get into position for the game. "Yeah fucking right, Marsh. I've got a black guy on my side. You and the ho don't stand a chance."
Token rolled his eyes and Wendy stifled a laugh and then the game was on.
Kenny had just finished brushing up on the easiest way to hotwire a Volkswagen beetle when Kyle shuffled into the garage, looked around nervously, and headed in his direction. Kenny wasn't technically supposed to sit on the cars and eat his lunch, but his boss didn't seem to care what he did as long as he did it on his break and Kenny appreciated the don't ask, don't tell policy since it fit rather neatly into his deviant lifestyle. Not having his friends in the garage had become a moot point since Butters made it a point to visit Kenny at least once a day. So, really, as long as Kenny didn't make out with people in the cars (again), he pretty much had free reign in the garage for about forty-five minutes every day. It was a lot better than school, he had to give it that much. He knew Kyle would respectfully disagree, though, but that was another argument for another day
"How did you and Stan fuck up your relationship now?" Kenny asked in-between bites of peanut butter and jelly. "Condense it for me. I only have ten more minutes left."
Kyle fidgeted for a moment, pushing his hat up off his forehead so he could rearrange his curls then pulling it back down almost low enough to cover his eyes. "Stan told me he loved me and I didn't say it back."
Kenny stopped eating. "What?"
The only thing, the only thing, that kept Kenny from screaming it was the fact that Kyle was already flinching like he was expecting it and Kenny hated to be predictable. You couldn't get through to Kyle by saying what he expected you to say. The little genius would have countered all your arguments in his head long before he ever arrived to talk. No, to get through to Kyle, Kenny knew he had to outsmart him in the one area where he failed: people skills.
"Tell me what happened," Kenny said calmly, hopping down off the beetle. "Don't leave anything out."
Kyle sighed like he'd been expecting this, too, and related the entire story to Kenny from Stan's arrival to his house right down to the hand job he'd given Stan before they fell asleep tangled together. Kenny had been hoping for a little more detail on that part of the story, but Kyle glossed right over it like he gave handjobs so often they weren't worth remembering. Which… Kenny could think about later when he was in bed.
"And in the morning, I had to leave while he was still sleeping and I tried to say it then but I couldn't even though he was fucking unconscious," Kyle kicked over a nearby toolbox in frustration. "I love Stan. I'm in love with Stan. I can tell you. Why can't I tell him?"
Kenny's obvious answer to that question—"because you, my friend, are a fucking moron"—was scrapped in favor of a more understanding answer. "Honestly, I'm surprised you haven't blurted it out in the heat of the moment before now. You're not exactly known for your patience, Broflovski."
Kyle looked so exhausted for a moment that Kenny couldn't help but scoop him up into a hug that very easily turned into a shameless grope that had Kyle stiffening and replacing that miserable exhaustion with righteous indignation. Kenny laughed as he was shoved back, noting from the shift in Kyle's expression that Kyle had caught on and was grateful.
"Look," Kenny said, popping the last piece of his sandwich in his mouth. "Stop worrying about it. Stan can read your moods better than anyone else. He's going to be able to tell you're uncomfortable and he's going to figure it's because of what he said and then you're going to have an even bigger problem on your hands. Stan's a giant pussy. He'd say or do anything to make you happy. Even," he continued as casually as he could. "Take it back."
Predictably, Kyle's face paled. "You think he'd—"
"Not on his own. I know Stan and he wouldn't have said it if he wasn't completely sure he was feeling it. But if it was killing your relationship?" Kenny placed a comforting hand on his shoulder even as he said the words he knew would have Kyle stressing himself into an early grave for the rest of the week. "He'd either take it back or break up with you, because he thinks it's what you want."
"But—what I want—All I've ever wanted—"
"I know," Kenny said. "Tell him."
Kyle's knees almost seemed to give out as he sank down on the hood of a nearby car, staring at his feet in shock. Kenny was smug in the knowledge that whatever Kyle had expected him to say, it hadn't been that and though he felt bad for upsetting one of his best friends so completely it would be worth it if it got him and Stan to sort their shit out. Keeping an eye on the clock, he moved until he was standing in front of Kyle and placed his hands on Kyle's shoulders.
"Broflovski," he said as gently as he could. Kyle stared up at him with sad, sad eyes. "We know you're the only Jew in South Park. We know Cartman's made it pretty much impossible for you to ever let your guard down. But it's Stan. If you can't let him in, after all he's done for you and all the years the two of you have spent together, then you may as well give up. And Stan's never given up on you."
Kyle's shoulders slumped in defeat and Kenny took the victory for what it was, checking the time again. "I have to get back to work. Are you going to be okay?"
"Yeah, I'm," Kyle sighed and stood. "I needed to hear all that."
"I know. I mean, it's not like you ever come see me to talk about me."
Kyle looked indignant for a second—even though it was completely true—but Kenny waved him off and started picking up the tools Kyle had kicked over, effectively ending the discussion. He heard Kyle's footsteps fade slowly away and chuckled to himself. Who ever thought there'd come a day when Kenny McCormick was the only one in a healthy, balanced relationship? Although, if Stan and Kyle couldn't figure it out, Kenny didn't have much hope for the rest of the world.
Kyle was out sick again, which left Stan to hang out with Cartman and Butters during lunch since Wendy was sitting with Token. Cartman was watching the actually happy couple with thinly veiled disdain, Butters was constructing a volcano out of his mashed potatoes, and Stan was considering using his free period to swing by Kyle's house and bring him some joy and some Kleenex, but he didn't want to seem all obsessive and clingy especially so soon after telling Kyle that he loved him. Then again, swinging by Kyle's house to check on him was exactly the kind of thing Stan would have done even back when they were just friends and he hadn't gone a full day without seeing Kyle for about as far back as he could remember.
"I can't wait until those two break up," Cartman said, snapping Stan out of his thoughts. "Even if they shock me by lasting until we graduate, there's no way Token can hang onto Wendy when she and I are at Harvard and Token's at the University of Colorado."
"Token's going to the University of Colorado?" Stan asked in surprise, watching Token offer Wendy a bite of his jello.
"Obviously. He's nowhere near as smart as that hippie ho he's screwing around with. The only way he could get into an ivy is if he asked his parents to buy them a new building like the black asshole he is."
Butters dumped the gravy into the indentation in his potatoes. "Y-You shouldn't call Token an asshole, Eric. It's not nice. And he's plenty smart."
"Not smart enough for Wendy," Cartman muttered, glancing over at Butters then slamming his hand down on the mashed potato volcano mercilessly. The potatoes splashed all over Butters' shirt and Butters looked down at the mess for a moment, then sighed but didn't complain. Stan was a little too tired to do it for him.
"Who are you to decide whether or not someone is smart enough to be with Wendy, fatass?" Stan asked instead of asking the obvious, which was how he had managed to miss the part where Wendy and Cartman were on a first name basis with each other. Because something about what Cartman was saying was making his throat close up. "Maybe it's not about that for her."
Cartman gave him a look.
"Wendy Testaburger is a fucking genius who's probably going to end up winning a bunch of Nobel Prizes for medicine and literature and all that shit she's always protesting about and Token's going to stand out like a slave in all her photographs if she doesn't dump him like a drug habit and get herself someone who can actually stand next to her with achievements of his own. Like, say," Cartman puffed out his chest. "A chain of theme parks and plans for world domination. Token's just holding her back."
Stan looked over at Wendy and Token, who were now talking to Bebe and Clyde respectively, then stared down at the table. "Maybe he loves her. Maybe Wendy doesn't mind."
"How much can he really love her if he's going to sit around and pretend she doesn't deserve to have everything she wants, even if it doesn't include him?"
"I'ah know Token wouldn't do that to Wendy," Butters said without glancing up from his futile attempts to clean the mess off his shirt. "H-He really likes her and he wants what's best for her."
What's best for her… Stan's mind repeated, thinking not of Wendy but of Kyle. Kyle, who was applying to Yale and not going because they both knew Stan couldn't get in. Kyle, who hadn't said that he loved Stan but was still willing to give up going to Yale for him, even though Kyle wanted to be a doctor and a degree from Yale would look a hell of a lot better than a degree from a college Stan could actually get into. Was it selfish of Stan to just let Kyle give up such a big part of his future? Did that somehow mean that Stan loved him less?
"What if what's best for someone isn't something they think they want?" Stan asked no one in particular. "What if you know they'll fight you if you try to give them what they deserve?"
Cartman and Butters both looked at him, the former as though he'd lost his mind and the latter in absolute confusion.
"I know you probably don't have experience with this considering you and the dirty Jew are butt pirating each other all day long, but sometimes your woman doesn't know what she wants," and for some reason, Cartman returned to glaring at Wendy and Token as he spoke. "And sometimes you've got to show her. Cruelly. Viciously. Often, mercilessly. It's called tough love."
Butters glanced between Cartman and Stan silently for a moment, then grabbed a hold of Stan's sleeve and tugged. "I-I'm not sure Eric is the best person to go to for advice in this situation, Stan. Maybe you oughta talk to Kenny instead?"
"Maybe," Stan murmured distractedly, shoving his tray away and getting to his feet. "Throw that out for me, would you? Tell our teacher I went home sick."
Stan heard Butters calling his name, but didn't stop walking until he was out in the parking lot and then climbing behind the wheel of his car. He was beginning to think he was wrong, earlier. Wanting Kyle with him didn't mean that Stan loved him any less. Stan wanted all the same things Kyle wanted and Kyle had made it clear that what he wanted was Stan. Did giving himself to Kyle make Stan selfish because doing so meant Kyle would give up going to a school he'd been working his whole life to get into? Why should Kyle have to make that kind of sacrifice without Stan having to give up something as well?
He was at Kyle's house before he knew it, knocking on the door and waiting until Kyle appeared, wrapped in a blanket with his nose very red and his eyes very shiny. He sniffled, staring up at Stan with warm surprise.
"Shouldn't you be at school?" Kyle managed to ask before Stan was pulling him into a hug, the feel of Kyle, too hot yet so perfect, in his arms doing wonders to calm his troubled mind. Kyle tensed for the briefest of moments before relaxing into Stan's embrace, resting his cheek against Stan's collarbone and pressing closer to Stan's chest. Stan held on for as long as he could, then finally let go and stepped into the house so Kyle could shut the door behind him. And still he didn't say anything.
Kyle walked over to the couch, where he had apparently taken up residence if the vat of sugar-free vanilla ice cream, TV remote, and telephone sticking out of the mass of blankets there were anything to go by, and arranged himself until Stan could see nothing of him but his eyes. Even then, Stan didn't have a hard time reading Kyle's emotions. Kyle was confused, but wasn't going to ask out of respect for Stan's privacy because he rightly guessed that if Stan wanted to talk, he would have done so already. Stan knelt down in front of the blanket mass, reaching in until his hands found either side of Kyle's face, then pulled the boy into a kiss so deep they were both panting when it ended.
"Shouldn't you be at school?" Kyle repeated, sounding a bit more dazed this time around.
Stan smiled. "Move over."
Kyle made room for him in the blanket pile and Stan climbed in, wrapping his arms around Kyle and pressing a kiss just below his ear. Kyle sighed in contentment, stifling a cough with the back of his hand.
"I love you," Stan said softly. "Maybe too much."
"Kyle, I think… I think you should go to Yale." He felt Kyle tensing in his arms and tightened his hold on him. "Hear me out. Yale's got a great medical college and I know you're going to make a great doctor one day. You shouldn't let me stop you from getting the best education you can. And Yale's the best. I… I don't want you missing out just because… I…"
Kyle turned around until they were pressed stomach to stomach, not unlike the first time they'd had this conversation. Except Stan wasn't going to let Kyle distract him with his magic fingers. Not this time.
"Just promise me you'll think about it?" Stan pleaded, his throat closing again. "At least promise me that."
"Promise me, Kyle."
Kyle rolled his eyes. "I promise. Shit, dude, I leave you alone for one day and suddenly you want me to go to Yale?" He paused. "Have you been fucking talking to Cartman?"
Stan didn't bother to dignify that with a response. He talked to Cartman all the time and Kyle never usually came up in conversation. They hadn't even been talking about Kyle, not really. Not in the way Kyle was probably thinking.
Kyle sighed and then nearly fell off the couch trying to get far enough away from Stan to sneeze without getting germs all over him. Stan hid a smile.
"So, how about I stay over tonight and help your mother make you some soup later?"
Kyle blew his nose, then snuggled up close again. "That sounds awesome, dude."
Five minutes later, Kyle was fast asleep on top of him. Outside their cocoon of blankets, Stan could hear Kyle's parents moving around upstairs, had to avoid Sheila's hand once as she reached in to ruffle Kyle's hair, and eventually heard Ike come home, talk with Fillmore about his brother's weak immune system, then stomp up the stairs. Kyle didn't stir the entire time and Stan held him with a sad smile, knowing that the time he had left to spend with Kyle was now getting limited. Because he knew Kyle better than he knew himself and he knew for a fact that Kyle wasn't going to Yale unless something drastic happened to change his mind about staying with Stan.
It's called tough love.
Kyle murmured something that sounded a lot like Stan's name.
Stan held back a sigh.
Red was attempting to teach Wendy how to French braid hair to help prepare her for her internship since Wendy thought French braids were powerful and distinguished but couldn't do one to save her life. The two of them had already showered and changed out of their sweaty baby tees and shorts now that cheerleading practice was over, but Bebe kept two different outfits in her locker and was having a hard time deciding between them. She kept one ear on the one-sided conversation going on behind her, but most of her attention was trying to decide between the rose pink eye shadow and the matching button-down shirt or the true blue eye shadow and the matching off-the-shoulder top. It was a very important decision.
"Kenny's been doing pretty well for himself since he dropped out, you know," Red said cheerfully. "I dropped by his garage the other day, he's got all these new muscles and everything and he was all dirty. I was this close to hitting on him before I got closer and realized he was pinning Butters down on the hood of a car and not, you know, fixing one like he's getting paid to do. How do you get that kind of job at seventeen?"
"Lie about your age," Wendy and Bebe said simultaneously.
Red hummed thoughtfully. "That makes sense. Anyway, with all the guys getting taken by other girls and even other guys, pretty soon, the only one left's going to be, like… Cartman. Although…"
"Patty Nelson's got her claws in Cartman," Wendy surprised Bebe by saying. "She's on the list and everything."
"Like the list matters," Red cut herself off when she saw how fiercely Bebe was glaring at her through the locker mirror and cleared her throat. "Well, anyway, that's irrelevant. If Cartman suddenly got interested in me, technically, I wouldn't have done anything to actively force him to and, technically, I wouldn't have breached the stipulations of the almighty list."
Red's bag vibrated before either Bebe or Wendy could respond and she dug through it, grabbed her phone, and checked the display. "Oh, my dad's here. I'll finish showing you tomorrow, Wendy, but you can probably wear that out if you rubber band the rest. Bye, girls!"
As soon as the locker room door slammed behind her, Wendy announced, "I think I'm going to have to break up with Token."
Bebe finally decided on the rose pink.
"Well, let's see Wendy. You two have been dating for six months, you didn't like him then, you don't like him now, and you're in love with Cartman. But, no, please, feel free to enlighten me with whatever bullshit reason you've finally decided to go with instead of just admitting you're in love with Cartman."
There was a very long pause. Then Wendy murmured, "Well, aside from the fact that I'm—Aside from Cartman, Token's going to Hawaii for the summer and we're going to college on two different sides of the country and I already know I'm not going to miss him and I think he knows it, too. So. Might as well."
"And maybe I'll be a super bitch and break up with him over the phone while he's gone to eliminate any chance of him wanting to repeat this horrible experience at any point during senior year."
"And then I was thinking I might let Cartman knock me up. You know, give up my future to raise another baby psychopath."
"You're not listening to me at all, are you?"
Bebe removed her towel and replaced it with a white tank top, her pink button-down shirt, and her denim jeans that hugged her hips in all the right places. She followed this with her trusty red jacket and grey mittens.
"I'm listening. You're breaking up with Token for Cartman. The whys don't really matter." Bebe finished blending her eye shadow until she was satisfied and catching sight of the paper sticking out of her bag. She held in a sigh, checked herself in the mirror one more time, then steeled herself as she grabbed her bag and turned. "Look, I'm going to tell you something and you can't hate me for it, okay? I cannot stress enough how important it is that you don't hate me."
Wendy looked appropriately puzzled as Bebe threw a leg over the bench and sat down, biting her lower lip. It wasn't so much that she was afraid Wendy would be hurt. Being hurt would require caring, and they both knew Wendy didn't. It was more Wendy's pride Bebe was afraid of and what would happen if Bebe so much as dented it.
"My moral compass has never exactly pointed north, which is probably why I've been supporting you no matter what you decide about Token. But you should know…" She tugged the list of out her bag, flipped it to the right page, then slid it across the bench to Wendy and waited.
Wendy still looked puzzled even as she scanned it, but then realization dawned on her face and she stared at Bebe incredulously over the paper. "You're next on the list for Token?"
"You like Token?"
"I don't hate him."
Wendy narrowed her eyes.
"Okay, god, maybe I kind of do," Bebe huffed, lowering her own. "If you'd give him a chance, you'd notice he's actually really down to earth and funny and not rubbing his money in your face to be an asshole, it's unintentional and—I'm not the one who broke up with him back when we were dating, you know? He broke up with me."
"I thought you liked Kyle," was Wendy's idea of a response. Her tone revealed nothing about how she was taking this and Bebe didn't know whether she should prepare to run or stop talking or what. Wendy was kind of a bitch like that.
"I did. Kyle's hot. But I got over it." Bebe carefully reached over and took the list back, stuffing it in her bag again. "Aside from the part where he left me for you, Token always treated me really well. We get along. His parents can't stand me, though. They think I'm a gold digging whore and I'm pretty sure they threatened to disinherit him if he kept dating me. They like you, even though you're inconsistent and don't even pretend to like Token very much. Everyone likes you. I consoled myself by thinking he only dumped me for you because his parents made him, but sometimes…"
"What happened to him 'really liking' me?" Wendy asked in the same tone of voice.
Bebe sighed. "Look, if you're pissed, just be pissed, but otherwise I'm going home."
She got as far as the door before she heard something that sounded suspiciously like a snort and turned to see Wendy covering her mouth with her hand and Wendy's shoulders shaking with unmistakable laughter. Bebe didn't know whether to be confused or outraged.
"Did you… did you seriously think I was going to get jealous over Token? I have to keep Patty Nelson from whoring her way into Cartman's pants; I don't give a shit if you want in Token's!" Wendy managed in between her giggles. "You'd be doing me a favor."
Bebe was too stunned to even speak for a moment.
Wendy giggled again. "Seriously, Bebe, it's Token. Give me a break."
"I… You are so cool," Bebe smiled. "Did you know… at my Christmas party, I got so wasted after Kyle turned me down. Token came upstairs and he took the bottle away and tried to get me to sleep it off, but I wouldn't listen to him. I don't remember much, something about body shots, whatever, but when I woke up the next morning…" Her cheeks turned a bit pink. "There was a glass of water and some aspirin and a note that said to call him when I felt better so he wouldn't worry. And I'd been ignoring him if not outright hostile to him up until that point. He's such a nice guy, Wendy."
Wendy returned the smile. "So, you date him then."
"Don't you think I would be if I could've? He certainly bitches about you often enough. That's the thing, though. I'm tired of hearing about you. And it's been a long time since fifth grade, he's probably over me." Bebe covered her eyes with her hands, then peered at Wendy through the cracks in her fingers. It felt so good to finally be talking about it to someone other than Red, who would just stare wide-eyed at her and tell her that Wendy was going to claw her eyes out. "You're really not mad?"
"I'm really not mad."
"Cool." Bebe paused. "So… I heard you spent your anniversary with Token and Cartman?"
"Is it just me," Kyle said as he dropped his books on the table in the library where Butters and Cartman were sitting. "Or is Stan avoiding me? What did you say to him, fatass?"
Cartman stared at him, bored. "Kyle. I have told him that you are diabetic, sickly, and a fucking asshole. I've told him you're a selfish, shortsighted, neurotic dick who couldn't keep your huge Jew nose out of other people's business if you were dead and sixty thousand leagues under the sea. I even told him you were a soulless, Jesus-killing Jew. For some reason, he's still fucking you. Why don't you tell me what I said so I can say it first the next time he thinks about living in sin with you?"
Kyle considered that for a moment, then fell silent as he unpacked his things and scanned the library for any sign of his absent boyfriend. Predictably, Stan was nowhere to be seen.
"Stan seemed real upset the other day when we were talking about Token and Wendy," Butters said helpfully. "Stan didn't like the idea of Wendy being too good for Token and how they're going to different colleges."
"He went running off right after." Butters lowered his voice so that Cartman, who was busy making spitballs to terrorize the students with, couldn't hear him. "I'm pretty sure he was getting worried about the two of you, but I'ah don't know why. D-Did you two have a fight?"
"Not… exactly?" Kyle had been a little too out of it to dig too deeply into anything Stan had been trying to impress upon him while he'd been sick. He'd fallen asleep on Stan but when he had woken up, Stan was gone and there was a note stuck to his Nyquil that said 'think about it'. It was only then that Kyle had remembered that Stan was suddenly trying to back out of their promise, but Stan wasn't returning his calls and when Kyle had driven to his house, Stan's car had been gone. "I'm not sure, actually. I didn't think we had, but maybe we did."
"K-Kenny told me you—hey, there's Stan. Hey, Stan!" Butters waved Stan down as soon as he stepped into the library. Kyle tried not to be offended when Stan smiled distantly, took two steps toward them, spotted Kyle, and hesitated.
"Hey, Butters," Stan said once he finally stopped being a giant pussy and sat down. "Cartman. Kyle."
Cartman had been seconds away from aiming a spitball at Lola's head that hit Stan instead when he turned to greet him.
Stan wiped his cheek. "Sick, dude."
Kyle was glaring at him from across the table, but Stan seemed quite content to ignore him unless Kyle did something drastic. And by "drastic" he meant something like "snatching the freshly loaded spitball straw out of Cartman's mouth and nailing Stan right between the eyes with one."
Stan glared back, wiping his forehead. "Real mature, Kyle."
"Almost as mature as ignoring your goddamn boyfriend for no reason, Stan."
"Kyle, always with the sand in your vagina," Cartman said helpfully, rolling his eyes and taking his spitball straw back. He then peered at it in disgusting. "You got your fucking Jew germs all over it. Now what am I supposed to use?"
Kyle continued to glower at Stan until Stan got uncomfortable, pushed his chair out, and stood. "God, dude, let's go before you burn a hole in my face with your eyes."
"Y-You aren't gonna fight, are you fellas?" Butters asked as Kyle gathered his things, but both boys ignored him in favor of leaving the library without a word. Kyle couldn't even wait until they'd found an empty class room or something, shoving Stan forward and feeling cruelly satisfied when Stan stumbled and nearly fell.
Stan whirled around and shoved him back, grabbing Kyle's arms a second later to keep him from flinging himself on top of Stan and turning this into an all out fight. Kyle struggled against him for a moment, then gave up, instead settling for transferring all of his hostility into his gaze.
"You can't just tell me you love me and then ignore me, you fucking dick!" he snapped, yanking his arms back. "You were supposed to get better at this, not worse!"
Stan ran his fingers through his hair, looking at Kyle in frustration. Kyle's chin was lifted defiantly, his eyes were burning with anger he was sure, and his fists were clenched at his side and ready to punch Stan in the mouth if it had to come to that, but his heart was pounding a terrified beat in his chest because Kenny's words were running through his head the longer Stan stared at him and Kyle was so prepared for Stan to break his heart right then that he barely heard what Stan actually said.
"What?" Kyle asked, trying to listen over the sound of his own pulse pounding in his ears.
"I said I love you," Stan repeated, shoulders slumping in defeat. "And I don't want you to go to Yale."
"Okay," Kyle could not understand why they were still even having this conversation, let alone why standing was acting not wanting Kyle to go to Yale was some kind of capital punishment for which he expected to be shot. Hadn't he made himself clear about this already. "Then I won't."
For some reason, his words only made Stan more upset. "I know. That's why you have to."
"Stan…" Kyle could tell that Stan was about to interrupt with something stupid and if he had to hear the word 'Yale' one more time in this conversation he would probably punch Stan in the mouth. He solved both of these problems by surging forward and kissing Stan instead, his lips reacquainting themselves with the feel and shape of Stan's. He very nearly lost himself in the kiss, so long had it been, but Stan's hands were cupping his cheeks and the warm sensation reminded Kyle of his point and the fact that he had one. He pulled back with an air of determination. "Come by my house later."
"We're in the middle of a serious discussion here, Kyle," Stan said, but he sounded breathless and appropriately distracted. "I'm not going to let you—"
"Just come by my house later," Kyle backed up until there was enough distance between himself and Stan for Stan to understand that he was serious. "We can finish this conversation then, but just… do it, okay?"
Stan might have been about to argue again, but then the bell rang and kids began to pour out into the hallway and Kyle took the opportunity to disappear into the crowd. Between now and Stan's arrival he had a lot of work to do.
Stan didn't actually get around to going to Kyle's house until late afternoon. Kyle had called him twice and each time Stan had just stared at the phone until it had stopped ringing, thinking about calling Kyle to cancel, thinking of just avoiding Kyle entirely until graduation. But, in the end, Stan couldn't do that. Not simply because he didn't want but because he really couldn't. Kyle went to school with him, they had most of the same classes, and Kyle knew five different ways to sneak into his house. No matter what he did, Stan was pretty much boned.
It was with much trepidation that he let himself into Kyle's house and headed up to Kyle's room. The boy in question was suspiciously absent, but it didn't take Stan very long to notice that there had been a bit of interior decorating. Arranged in a collage over his bed were all of the scraps of paper that Stan had given him, all of the reasons Stan had given for loving him, and right in the center of the collage was what Stan presumed Kyle had chosen as the most important reason of all:
Reason 2: I like your hat. You only wear it every once in awhile now, but it's still the greatest hat I've ever known.
"Finally," he heard from behind him and turned to see Kyle stepped into the room and closing the door behind him. Kyle's hair was damp and he was wearing his pajamas, but the top was soaked through and there was a towel around his neck, which meant that Kyle was fresh from a shower and Stan was a little turned on. Kyle carried on obliviously, "I want to do this properly so give me a second."
Stan nodded vaguely and sat down on the bed while Kyle moved around, drying his hair with the towel, then tossing it in the laundry hamper. Then Kyle was standing in front of him, his eyes earnest, and Stan got to his feet because he really didn't think he wanted to be sitting down for this.
"I… earlier… weeks ago, when you told me you loved me, I didn't say anything back. And it wasn't because I didn't feel the same way." Kyle started, sounding nervous at first, but then getting matter-of-fact with a tinge of embarrassed anger that made Stan's heart ache. "It just seemed too good to be true and part of me didn't want to accept it, but I don't want you to think I don't love you. Because I do." Kyle reached up and touched his cheek. "I really fucking love you… even when you're being a total dick."
Stan laughed, but it was a breathless sort of laugh because he was so happy and yet he was seconds away from crying. He covered Kyle's hand with his own, then removed it, bringing it to his lips instead for a kiss. And then he was tugging Kyle closer and kissing him, hot and demanding, his tongue sweeping into Kyle's mouth without preamble, his hands wandering the length of Kyle's body. Kyle moaned into his mouth, his hands under Stan's shirt before Stan could stop them, tracing his stomach in light, teasing motions, making Stan want more. His body remembered well the feel of Kyle's hand wrapped around him and he was already aching to feel it again.
Somehow, he managed to drag his lips away—but then Kyle only began nibbling at his neck, his hands tracing the top of Stan's jeans as though he meant to rid Stan of them as soon as possible. Stan's body said good plan, but his mind and heart forced him to seize Kyle's hands and push the boy away.
"I shouldn't have," he said by way of explanation, averting his gaze from Kyle's confused expression. "Kyle, I didn't come over for… for that. I'm breaking up with you."
Kyle's voice, when it finally came, was flat. "You realize that isn't funny?"
"I'm not joking." Stan couldn't look at him, instead focusing on the carpet, one hand reaching up to trail through his hair nervously. "I can't do this anymore, okay? I love you, but I just can't—"
"You love me?" Kyle laughed, but it was an ugly, bitter sound. "Stan, I love you, okay? I know what it's like to love you. I know what it's like to wake up every morning dying to see you and go to bed every night thinking today wasn't enough. I know what it's like to hang on your every word, remember your every like and dislike, hate girls for getting to touch you the way I can't, and wish desperately that you'd look at me the way I looked at you, even if it was just for a second. And when you finally, when you finally wanted me, I knew what it was like to get everything and nothing I wanted all at the same time. And now you're… you're just going to end it? And why? Is this about fucking Yale?"
Stan shook his head although, yes, yes it really was. Because he knew Kyle and he knew that if he dared say yes, Kyle would never so much as think about Yale again, just to spite him. "I just can't do this anymore, Kyle. It's—It's weird and it's too hard and—"
"Stan!" There was a desperate warning in Kyle's voice, but Stan ignored it and pushed past him before he did something stupid—like too it back. "Stan!" Kyle called again, but Stan didn't stop, didn't turn, and didn't slow down until he was back in his car and careening down the street back to his house. His cell phone rang once—twice—three times on his way back, but Stan ignored it and left his phone in the car as he made his way inside.
"Stanley," his dad greeted as he walked in, lounging on the couch with a bottle of Heineken and his free arm around the back of his couch.
Sharon sat next to him in the circle of his arm and she smiled at Stan, a smile that soon faded as she stared at him. "Stan, sweetie? What's the matter? You're crying."
Stan blinked at her in response, reaching up to touch his face and noting that he was, in fact, crying. When had that happened?
"Stanley," his dad repeated in a more worried tone and Stan found this whole thing just so fun he began to laugh and couldn't stop. Warm arms wrapped around him and Stan found himself being hugged by his mother like he hadn't since he was very, very small and he stopped laughing just long enough to say, "Kyle," in a hoarse little voice, tears falling even faster.
"Oh, honey…" Sharon murmured, hugging him tighter and Stan closed his eyes and cried and cried and cried.
Author's Note: What do you mean it's not still May? On the bright side, the story is now officially half-finished. And it is just in time for the birthday of the person who whom I started writing this story. Er. Happy birthday, love?