You know, generally I would spend another year stressing about this story before posting it, because I've only got seven chapters and lord knows I don't need another incomplete story on my hands. But, hey, I'm bored.

This is an attempt at writing short chapters, by the way.

It was going to be the warmest Christmas break in his memory, but Stan was still pissed. His flight to Denver was only delayed by four hours. "That's what you get for flying back on Christmas Eve," his mother told him over the phone. This pissed Stan off, and he regretted calling his mother to pass the time. He was the sort of person who couldn't wait at airports without draining the battery on his phone, and he'd already burned through half of his friends.

So he paced up and down the terminal, listening to Postal Service songs on his iPod nano, which was an early Christmas gift from Loren. It came preloaded with a few different playlists, which struck Stan as annoying, because what if he didn't want the stupid iPod? What if he'd like to return it and apply the $200 to a new MacBook? And it was blue, which was hideous, and when he'd opened it and kind of gaped stupidly because he didn't know what to say, Loren had smiled a very puerile smile and exclaimed, "Just like your eyes!" And topping off the nauseous upset of this situation was the engraving scratched into the back, Happy Xmas Baby! 3 Loren. Stan ran his fingers over it as he trudged past gate K14 … K12 … K10 … down to gate K2, and then he spun around and headed back past K4, K6 … all the way back to K14. He had been doing this on repeat since he shut the phone on his mother 40 minutes ago.

As he walked by another McDonalds, he felt a man jab him in the shoulder. Stan pulled out his little earphones in a daze and said, "Excuse me?"

"Your phone," the guy clarified. "I think your phone is ringing."

Indeed, his phone was ringing, or rather it was mooing, so he nodded at the man in thanks and slipped the thing out of his pocket, not looking at the caller because he didn't have a screen on the front, and assumed it was his mother calling him back to hassle him about hanging up on her.

"What?" he said shortly, trying to dodge a stroller that was coming straight at him.

"Dude," a voice drawled. "Where the hell are you?"

"Kyle!" Stan cried out in surprise. "Oh my god, my flight is so delayed. I've been at the fucking airport for like three hours."

"Sad," Kyle replied. "Why didn't you leave or something?"

"I don't know, I figured I could wait it out." Stan sighed. "How wrong I was."

"What have you been doing?"

"Wandering around the terminal. Went to Starbucks. Used the bathroom a couple of times."

"I was wondering what kind of action you could get at the Chicago airport."

"No, not like that. Who do you think I am?"

"It's perfectly innocent."

"Yeah, until they arrest you," Stan pointed out. "I don't go looking for anonymous sex."


"Did you call for a reason or something?"

"Actually, yes," Kyle replied. "What are you doing on Saturday night?"

"I don't know," Stan admitted. "That's the day after Christmas. What are you doing?"

"That same thing you're doing."

"And that would be…"

"Going to Butters' party," Kyle said firmly. "We are going to Butters' party."

"Butters is not having a party," Stan scoffed. He paused. "Wow, I never thought I'd say 'Butters' and 'party' in the same sentence, but here we are."

"Yeah, no, he's having the whole grade. Cartman talked him into it."

"Bullshit. I thought Butters was over Cartman."

"Well, you know." Kyle paused. He cleared his throat. "You can never really just get over someone."

Stan swallowed hard and began to sweat. "Oh, dude," he lied quickly. "My flight is boarding now."

"Do you still want me to pick you up from the airpo—"

"No, it's fine," Stan babbled. "My dad can do it, it's fine."

"But Stan, I like—"

"See you in two days," Stan spat out. "Bye now."

He could still hear Kyle saying, "Stan," as he flipped the phone shut.

Collapsing into a chair at the nearest gate, Stan pocketed his phone, and shook his head. He took the iPod back out and resumed the song he'd been listening to on Loren's Christmas Break playlist. All last night, the only thing he'd heard was, "Oh, baby, I'll miss you. You'll call me every day, right? I don't know if I can survive a month without you." Stan snorted at the memory, because it was ludicrous — Stan spent all of finals week bracing himself, getting ready to dump like he'd never dumped before, and then just as he was getting ready to lower the knife, bam, iPod. Stan felt so sheepishly stupid following this that all he could do was pretend that his gift was on its way. Then, instead of going back to his apartment to pack, he somehow got talked into staying over to watch The Daily Show, then Colbert, then before he knew it, Stan was taking his pants off and getting into bed with someone he'd wanted to dump for the past four months. So what if I can't stand him? Stan asked himself as Loren was taking his usual post-coital piss. He's so fucking hot. And he was.

But he just wasn't Kyle.

On December 26 of his senior year of college, Stan found himself holed up in his bedroom, getting ready to go out. Since running away to Chicago — the suburbs, anyway — to pursue a degree in journalism, Stan had been back every summer and Christmas since he went away. When he came home, he felt like things had never changed — same friendly faces, same shitty identical houses, same never-melting blanket of virgin snow.

But it would all be over soon. After May — after graduation — Stan doubted he'd return to South Park often, let alone permanently. Sure, there would always be Thanksgiving and Christmas (Thanksgiving or Christmas, he reminded himself). But he was young, he was hip, he was (hopefully by the time graduation rolled around going to be) single. Why the fuck would he bother spending the rest of his life sitting around this mountain town for idiots, watching his parents get old and his friends get wasted? There were so many more people to watch get wasted everywhere else.

As he shut the door and started off down the road, he reminded himself of the answer: Kyle. How many times had he walked across town to Kyle's house, which was not very far at all? Even if he hadn't done it at all in the past four months, he was doing it now, and it felt normal. Regular. Right. It was like he had just done it the day before, and the day before that. But he knew there would come a time when he never did it. Would there be a time when he never saw Kyle at all? Stan didn't like to think about it, hoped there wouldn't be. But it was feeling more and more likely.

Loren had begged Stan not to go home for break, and for a brief time Stan had been considering that maybe Loren was right — well, right that he shouldn't go home, not right that he should stay at school with Loren. The boys at Northwestern were smarter, thinner, had better hair, gave better blow jobs. The parties were shorter, had better booze, better music, better conversation. But Stan was romantic; he had ideas about missions that needed completion, and there was a very real fear in his heart that perhaps he would never see Kyle again. So he had decided, back in October, when he was sitting in front of his greasy, fingerprinted white Macintosh, fiddling around on Orbitz, that despite Loren's suggestions, he had to go home again. Not for his mother, or his father, or for Cartman or Kenny or Butters. Only for Kyle, and for that fact that he'd been cradling his confession for too long.

So he was home now — walking to Kyle's house, brushing shaggy hair out of his eyes every few minutes. It was snowy, sure, but it was only 30 degrees out, which was practically spring-like. Unlike in high school, when his baggy jeans would become soaked from the bottoms up, he was impervious to snow in his black, skinny pants. It was his thin-soled, canvas sneakers that were saturated, and Stan regretted that unlike down on the suburban campus streets, there was no organized shoveling in South Park. He had been awkward then, less confident and somehow so much older in a way. Stan figured that if this night was to be the last impression he left on South Park, he had better make it a good one. So he'd thrown on his most tailored blazer and his most ironic T-shirt, his skinniest jeans and his rattiest scarf. When he was syndicated, they could remember him as a sophisticated urbanite, rather than the overly sensitive closet-case kid who cried at graduation in a gray suit that didn't fit.

The Broflovskis' driveway was shoveled, and if Stan had driven he might have given a shit about that, but his shoes were already wetter than he remembered them being in recent memory. He rang the doorbell, and then he waited patiently, one minute and two, before the door flew open.

"Hi," Kyle said glumly. He was wearing a pair of cat's eye sunglasses, which he slipped up into his ratty mess of red hair. "I have bad news."

"What, no hello?" Stan replied with disappointment.

"Well, hi." He lunged forward and grabbed Stan in an all-consuming embracing, intimate like a lover's, but without a trace of sexual longing. "They're making me bring him," Kyle breathed into Stan's ear.

Stan nodded into Kyle's neck, and withdrew. "It won't be so bad," he reasoned. "He's like what now, 18?"

"Fifteen," Kyle corrected. "He's barely in high school." Kyle pulled Stan across the threshold and slammed the door shut. "I'm graduating in June, dude! I hardly need to be babysat. It's an insult!"

Stan nodded in agreement, not because he didn't agree that Kyle needed to be very carefully monitored, but because he was suddenly miffed that Sheila (it was always Sheila, every last time) didn't find him a suitable guardian for her precious wastrel of a son.

Kyle dragged Stan into the living room, where his mother was sitting on the couch resembling nothing more closely than an overgrown hen with a bouffant hairdo. Stan giggled into his sleeve, and Kyle gave him a glance of cautionary understanding. Mrs. Broflovski peeled herself off of the couch and buried her face in his chest.

"Stanley," she sighed. "A sight for sore eyes."

"Sheila," Stan said kindly, gently returning her greeting. "How are you?"

"Oh, I'm good, can't complain. How is Northwestern?" She sat back down and made eyes at the seat next to her. Kyle gave his usually annoyed eye roll, and crossed his arms as Stan sat down.

"It's good," Stan said honestly. "I've got a residency at the Tribune next semester."

"Ah," she said knowingly, although Stan doubted she knew the paper or the meaning of a residency or what sort of work he'd had to do to get it. "Mazel tov."

"You didn't tell me that," Kyle said.

"Well, I—"

Without waiting for an excuse, Kyle huffed and frowned and said, "Look, Ma, this isn't catch-up time. We gotta go."

"Kyle, bubbe, please," his mother sighed in exasperation. "They won't start the party without you."

"Of course they won't," he replied. "Cartman wants Stan and me to help roll the keg in."

"What a lazy ass," Stan remarked, shifting on the couch.

"Did you eat?" Sheila asked her son.

"Yes, I had dinner."

"Did you take your meds?" she pressed.

"Who do you think I am?" Kyle sneered in response.

"All of them?"

"I'm not fucking insane, you know," Kyle said. He gave a short laugh, and sighed as he dragged himself out of the room. Stan, left alone with a woman who he had regularly sort of considered a prospective mother-in-law, began to fidget with his belt loops.

"Kyle says you're dating someone." Sheila tried to be casual, but Stan could clearly see the entrance to a lecture here.

"Yeah," he said without enthusiasm. "Sure am."

"Are you being safe and all?"

"Oh, you know me," Stan said. "I know safety all right."

"All it takes is one mistake, after all."

If there was anything Stan ever wanted to say to Sheila Broflovski, aside from "Will you give me your son's hand in marriage?" it was probably, "You know, I have a mother." But being polite, or at least diplomatic, Stan said nothing except for, "Yes, of course," and then he tensed, waiting for his friend to return. He hoped she didn't cotton onto the fact that he was hiding things and lying through his teeth, not because he felt even moderately bad, but merely because he had no interest in hearing more lectures.

"You know," she continued to blather, "Kyle missed you over Thanksgiving."

"I missed him too."

"We all wish we saw you more often, Stanley. I think it would do him some good if you spent more time with him."

"I'd like that too," Stan agreed amiably, checking his watch. It was 9 p.m.

"He always seems to have these episodes when you're not around. Although I don't blame you. He's no fun to be around during these things, and this last one was a real bitch. I don't blame you for keeping your distance."

"No, it's nothing like that, it's—excuse me?"

"Kyle was hospitalized over Thanksgiving," Sheila clarified. "You didn't know?" Stan shook his head. "I would think he would have told you."

"I'm so sorry," Stan mumbled in his most sincere tone. "Is he all right?"

"He's been worse," she explained. "But he's been better."

"Oh," Stan said, conclusive and miserably. "Poor Kyle."

It was at this awkward juncture that Kyle stomped back into the room, trailed by what Stan initially thought was some kind of butch version of a gothic lolita. It took him a moment to register that this was not a girl, it was in fact Ike Broflovski, who was clad in tight black pants very similar to Stan's, although his were outfitted with a wallet chain. His slick black hair was swept romantically across his face, and he seemed to be wearing eyeliner.

"Mom," Ike sighed wearily. "Kyle won't wear a coat."

"I don't need a fucking coat," Kyle explained. "It's hella warm out."

"Warm enough to jump naked into Stark's Pond I bet," Ike mused.

"I bet!" Kyle replied. "Talk about pregaming!"

"No," Sheila growled, getting up off the couch. She disappeared for a few moments, during which time Ike slumped against the living room wall, and Kyle mouthed something to Stan that he couldn't make out.

Mrs. Broflovski returned, brandishing a hoodie. "Kyle," his mother pleaded, holding out the sweatshirt. "You need a jacket, or a sweatshirt, or something! It's what, 30 degrees out? Think about how cold you'll be!"

"I'm not going to be cold, Ma," Kyle argued. "I'm perfectly fine in a T-shirt."

"Dude," Stan said emphatically.

"Stop being a baby," Ike suggested, "and just wear the fucking sweatshirt."

Kyle squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his fists. "I'm not cold," he insisted. "I'm not fucking cold and I don't want to be hot! Godammit I'm a fucking senior in college and if I want to go out in fucking below zero without a fucking jacket it's my right!"

"Kyle Broflovski," Sheila hissed, grabbing him by the arm and beginning to twist it into a sleeve. "If you attempt to leave this house without a jacket you will not be leaving at all."

Kyle held his head up defiantly as he let his mother dress him.

"There," she said warmly, folding her arms. "Not so bad, hmm?"

"I hate you," was Kyle's bitter reply. He stormed out of the house, door slamming behind him.

"Remember what I told you, bubbe," Sheila said to Ike, ignoring Stan for the moment. "If he gets out of control—"

"—straight home," Ike filled in. He saluted his mother in jest. "Aye aye, captain lady."

She pinched her son's cheek and gave him a lipsticky kiss. "Have fun."

"Please," Ike sneered, ineffectively wiping his cheek. "If I wanted to have fun, I'd be out with Fillmore instead of trailing Calamity Jane to the kegger to make sure he doesn't stick any forks in any electrical outlets."

"You make damn sure he doesn't." But Ike was already out of the house when she finished this thought, so she turned her attention to Stan. "You have fun tonight," she repeated for him. "We're all glad you're back."

"I'm glad to be back," Stan admitted. "There is no place like home."

"How true," she mused, before giving him a peck on the cheek as well.

Outside, the brothers were both smoking cigarettes, and Kyle was kicking the side of the house and repeating "dammit dammit dammit" over and over again. With his women's sunglasses back on and his short stature, he looked like a girl. Ike smiled at Stan through his exhalation.

"Tell me you're not smoking, like, Virginia Slims," Stan sighed.

"They're Ike's," Kyle muttered, giving the wall a final kick.

"Well, what are you smoking his fag cigarettes for?" Stan asked.

"Kyle doesn't have any money," Ike said smarmily. "He'll smoke what I give him to smoke."

"I see." Stan put his hands in his pockets, and smiled when he felt an arm around his waist. He was no giant, but Kyle was tiny, and Stan felt good about sheltering his little body, lending him some protection. He wrapped an arm around Kyle's shoulder.

"To Butters'?" Kyle asked.

"To Butters'," Stan agreed. They set off into the night, Ike ambling after them.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. Thanks for reading!