Sorry for the wait between updates! This is the final chapter.

ETA: Nhaingen made me move this to the beginning:

So, yes, that's it. Thank you for reading, and of course, I'm open to constructive criticism. If anyone happens to be wondering, I started writing this story in April 2008, so I'm slow, but I will finish everything, I promise. Anyway, I have one huuuuge WTF project I am working on, and then I will get back to RIAT.

There was confusion back at Kyle's, between turmoil from the Broflovski family as to who would be allowed to go where to ring in the new year, and a general mood of low morale from Kyle's parents, who had no plans other than to go to Mr. Mackey's for a champagne toast around 11 p.m. After coming into the house Kyle rushed upstairs, leaving Stan to deal with Sheila Broflovski as she caught him with bags of champagne and a case of beer in his arms. He struggled to keep everything upright as she pestered him.: "Will we see your parents tonight?"

"See them where?" Stan asked.

She patted his shoulder, glancing at his bags. "I hope you're not planning on drinking and driving."

Stan considered saying, "Well, no, that's not something I ever plan on doing, it just happens, when it happens, in fact it's more from a lack of planning than anything else." As she glared at him, her lips pursed, he shrugged and said, "No."

Stan stood there waiting for her to accuse him of the misdeed he was certain Ike had confessed or, even worse, she'd just happened, with her mother's intuition, to intuit. But she just patted him on the shoulder again and said, "Good. I hope you'll look after Kyle tonight. Where are you boys headed?"

"I don't really know." Stan had to shift his weight to maintain his grip on the case of beer cans, which clanked as he trembled. "Ah, I think we have to discuss it—"

"Well, make sure he eats, will you?"


"And that he takes the right meds at the right times — I can give you a list. Do you want me to stick it to the fridge?"

"Ah — yes, of course, that'd be okay…"

"And he can't go out without a jacket! It literally is freezing outside, I can't bear to think of him walking around in that ratty sweatshirt thing."

"I always do my best." Stan hoped this didn't seem like a promise. It was true that he always did his best. It just happened at times that his best felt inadequate.

"Just — take care of him, all right? I hate to make you feel like a babysitter, but, please take care of him."

"All right," Stan agreed. "I will! I promise."

He made good on that promise by taking care of Kyle sexually, or trying to, at least, kissing deep and slow on Kyle's bed, their two bodies fit together in a way that allowed Stan to press his weight into the softness of Kyle's dick. At first Stan was unconcerned, figuring it would harden in time, concentrating on feeling every inch of Kyle's body under his clothes. Much of Kyle's skin was rough like a section of a leather couch that had been sat on too often for too long, and as 20 and then 30 minutes passed, Stan became alarmed.

Perhaps sensing Stan's concern, Kyle pulled away, wiping his mouth with his shirt. "Did you put the beer in the fridge?" he asked.

"Well, yeah." Stan tried to find a sign of arousal in Kyle's eyes, and to Stan's dismay, it seemed not to be there. "Are you enjoying this?" he asked. He rolled aside in order to reach for Kyle's dick through his pants, giving it a gentle squeeze. While Kyle's body tensed, the actual organ remained unexcited. "What's even the point?" Stan asked, wondering if his own pleasure should be put on hold at this time.

"Well, I can get into kissing," Kyle said, "and … touching, and things, but. Lithium is kind of a boner-killer. Sex is usually fantastic when I go off it, though, like — you know what? Stick around and find out."

"Stick around how?"

"Well, if you're going to go back to Chicago in two days, you might never get a chance."

Stan sat up, watching Kyle tug at the utter calamity that was his hair. "Hey, stop that," Stan said, grasping one of Kyle's hands and pulling it into his lap. Stan held it, stroking it, Kyle's dry and cold little hand, the seams worn where Kyle's flesh met his finger nails, blood lingering in the places where he'd bitten away cuticles. "This is fucked up on levels I can't really interpret right now. Do you want to have sex with me? Because making out with me and giving me a blackmail hand job indicate 'maybe,' but beating me up, telling me you hate me, and your general lack of arousal, those things seem to indicate 'no.' Also, you told me we can't be together, and that you don't even enjoy sex, so…"

"I've never said I hated you."

"Well, don't you?"

"No! My feelings for you are beyond any rational articulation. I think maybe one time, over Thanksgiving, I was able to voice something that approximated how I feel about you to a shrink. But it's like, far from a satisfying measure."

"Well, you're doing that thing where you talk in stupid riddles," said Stan, his heart beating fast. "I'll fuck you if you want, if that's what you're trying to tell me."

This did not make Kyle stop pulling at his hair; it made him tug harder, until he was grimacing.

"Stop." Stan grabbed both of Kyle's wrists. "I'm not going to let you do that."

"Let me? Do what?"

"Hurt yourself! Stop, okay. I can't have a serious conversation with somebody who just wants to hurt themselves."

"This is a serious conversation, you basically ordering me to have sex with you?"

"I'm not ordering." Stan didn't let go, but he loosened his grasp. "I've never had sex with anyone I actually loved. Have you?"

"No," Kyle admitted. "But sex isn't usually fun for me! I told you—"

"Well, we don't have to do it now..."

"Are you coming back?" Kyle asked. "Let go of my fucking hands! Are you coming back after school? I need to know."

"No." Stan swallowed. He let go. "I don't think so. There's nothing here for me, you know?"

Kyle gasped. "What about me, you dumb fuck?"

"Oh. Well, I didn't mean that."

"Just go." Kyle turned away and pointed at the door.

"Kyle..." Stan was at a loss. Heart pounding, he climbed off the bed. "I just — why would anyone want to be here? You don't even want to be here!"

"I'm not, like, fucking angry," Kyle said. "For once. I just..." His eyes narrowed He pressed his lips together. "You need to go home and take a shower. You smell like motor oil and jizz."

"I've known some guys who might find that a turn-on."

"Oh, shut up! Not everything is about you."

"No, everything is about you." Stan was shocked to hear himself say that.

"If everything were about me we wouldn't be having this fucking conversation! Because you never would have left me to rot in fucking Colorado! I don't think I'm capable of love anyway."

"That's just stupid."

"Why aren't you leaving!"

"All right!" Stan threw his hands in the air. "All right, fine. I'm leaving." He began to do just that, pulling on his shoes, facing away from Kyle on the bed.

"I'll see you at Kenny's. Wait, no — I can't get to Kenny's. Just, come get me in an hour and we'll figure something out. I don't want to spend the last night of the year sitting in my house."

Stan turned around in the doorway, shoving his left heel into one of his green Chucks. "I want to be with you. I do. But I'm not going to come back to South Park if you won't even, I don't know — you keep saying it's not possible and then when I agree you get pissed. So..."

"So what?"

"Sew buttons!" said Stan. He put a hand over his mouth. "Oh my god, why did I say that?"

"Because you're gay, I guess." Kyle shrugged. He seemed neither amused nor placated, just tired and ornery.

"I love you."

"I'm glad." Kyle sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Come back in an hour."


It was an easy climb to the roof of Butters' house, owing to the well-placed trellises Mr. Stotch had installed on either side of the front door in a fit of manic home improvement fervor that had swept through the town, and then dissipated, around the time Butters and his friends had been in middle school. The thing was practically welded onto the facade, and when Cartman realized that Butters' roof was the perfect venue from which to catch glimpses of the Fairplay New Year fireworks display, the trellis supported all of their weight easily. It was snowy on the roof, some of the white blanket marked with bird tracks.

"No reindeer tracks, though," Butters said, brushing some snow away with his mittens before he sat down. When no one replied to him, he added, "You know, 'cause of Santa?"

"Butters, god." Cartman had used his boot to kick away a place to sit. "Santa is fake, get over it."

"I feel like I've met him, though," Stan said, suddenly feeling it was the right thing to do, sticking up for Butters.

"That might be the faggiest thing you've said tonight."

"Oh, fuck you," Stan said, giving Cartman a shove.

"Whoa, fellas." Butters held his beer aloft, peering over the edge of the gutter. "Don't horse around up here. It's dangerous."

Kenny had already lit a cigarette, and was now lighting one for Cartman. "So?"

"So, my parents would be awfully anxious knowing we were on the roof at all, let alone shoving each other around!"

"Oh, fuck your parents." Cartman took an initial drag off the cigarette Kenny had handed him.

Butters pursed his lips. "Yeah, well, generally I'd agree, but you can't go falling off the roof, fellas, okay? They get back on January 2. So if anything gets damaged and I have to fix it on New Year's Day, I'm going to be pretty sore about it."

"Sore about it," Cartman mimicked.

"This isn't me being a pushover! I just want to spend my last night at home probably ever not worrying about re-attaching a damn gutter, okay? Gosh."

"But if we fall off the roof and the house isn't damaged, it's cool?" Cigarette in mouth, Kenny reached into one of the pockets of his vest, pulling out a battered Altoids tin.

"That's pretty mature," said Kyle, grasping for the tin.

Kenny pulled it away. "What's mature?"

"If it's your kid on someone's roof, you're just gonna be like, that's all right, so long as no one's house sustains damage that needs repairing?"

"If you want a cigarette you'd better stop nagging me like you're channeling your mom."

"I'm not channeling my mom," said Kyle. "I'm asking, if when your son or daughter is able to talk back, and wants to climb up on the roof of your, I dunno—"

"Trailer," Cartman suggested.


"—your trailer, do you really think you're going to say, 'Cool, all right, sure, go ahead and climb up on the goddamn roof'?"

"Oh, for fuck's sake." Kenny shook open the tin, revealing a treasure of four immaculate joints, and a small lighter.

Stan, who had been about to open a beer, planted it into a bank of snow in one of the gutters. "All right," he said. "What time is it?" The five of them were facing the back yard, where the snow had been cleared away for the party less than a week before. But the roofs of the other houses were all topped with snow, frosted like gingerbread houses shellacked with muted primary-color icings. Though in Stan's memory there were more visible stars in the night sky over Park County, he counted the ones he could see. Stan knew nothing about astronomy, could name only one constellation — and he spotted it, Orion's belt. It was dim, but there nonetheless. The sight of it made Stan smile. His smile grew when Kenny handed him the lighter, and then a joint.

"If we're seeing you off in two days," Kenny said, exhaling two lungs full of cigarette smoke, "you may as well do the honors."

Stan rolled the tightly bound thing in his hands. It had been a weird day, a long, hard, weird day, and Stan wondered whether, if he got high, he would see more constellations, or whether if he would be able to coax Kyle into bed, if Kyle were high as well.

"I think this should go to you," Stan said, handing it to Kyle.

"Oh." Kyle put it to his lips.

"Figures," Cartman said.

Ignoring him, Stan lit the joint for Kyle, who inhaled deeply, and reached for Stan's beer in the gutter before he'd exhaled entirely.

"Well," Kyle said, over the hissing of the beer can. He raised it as if he were going to say something. "Okay," was all he managed, slurping the cold beer from the lip of can.

It was cold outside, but they sat there under the light of the waning gibbous moon, not quite full but almost as bright. Kenny texted at length, his fingers flying over keys, pausing only to smoke. Butters took one hit, and Stan suspected, watching Butters' jaw, that he hadn't even inhaled. But he smiled stupidly as he handed the joint back to Kyle, saying, "I'm not a total melvin, am I?"

"Of course not," said Kyle, though Stan could hear in Kyle's voice that yes, Kyle thought Butters was a total melvin; possibly even worse.

Cartman was by far at his most insatiable when high, and he offered no one any of the bag of mini Snickers bars he 'd apparently been stashing in his jacket. He let the wrappers flutter away, into the gutter, and catching a glare from Kyle, he began to ball them — and toss them into the gutter.

"Don't leave those on my roof," Butters said.

"Blow me," said Cartman. "Actually, no, you'd enjoy it too much."

"Right." Butters clapped his mittened hands together. "Well, this is nice!"

No one agreed with him — but no one contradicted, either.

After finishing his bag of Snickers, and stuffing the empty plastic sack into the gutter, Cartman leaned back. "I just realized something."

"What?" Kyle asked.

"I'm … really normal."

For a few moments, they were all silent. Then, predictably, Kyle gasped out, "What?"

"I'm really normal, you guys, really. Of all the people on this roof, I'm normal, and you four assholes are all fucked-up. Why have I never realized this before?"

"Because it's not true, fat ass," Stan said.



"Yes, yes it is, you guys. Think about it: Stan, you're a fa — you're gay, and you can't keep it in your pants and you just run away from all of your problems. You're chasing after a career in an industry that doesn't even exist anymore. Kyle here is mentally unstable — no offense, Jew, it's just true."

"None taken."

"Kenny, you got a chick pregnant out of wedlock…"

"I've gotten a few chicks pregnant out of wedlock," Kenny correct. "Trish is just the first who wouldn't take care of it."

"Okay, that's disgusting," Kyle said.

Kenny shrugged. "I'm not proud of it."

"How am I messed up?" Butters asked.

"Excuse me?" Cartman sputtered. "Butters, you're gay."

Butters crossed his arms. "How is being gay messed up?"

"You have sex with men."

"But that doesn't make me messed up! I think I'm nice and balanced, thanks."

"Butters, you don't drink."

"I do so drink! I'm just not comfortable drinking when I feel socially awkward, which to be fair, Eric, is like 60 percent of the time I'm around you!"

"Dude, you're in love with Cartman," Stan said. "That's pretty messed up."

"I ain't in love with Eric! I got a really nice boyfriend, he's in law school, he bought me a puppy I named 'Cassidy' and when I told him I couldn't bring Cassidy home for Christmas he said he'd look after the doggy at his place, and—"

"Sure, okay, Butters, whatever. Clearly you are overcompensating." Cartman coughed into his hand. "And then, gentlemen, there's me. I am well-adjusted. I am in my final year of college, I am going to graduate on time…" Cartman counted off on his fingers. "I had sex with a girl by the time I was 19. I am going to get into law school and move to Washington and leave all you assholes behind and be someone, and stuff. I think I did it, you guys."

"Did what?" Kenny asked.

"Cartman." Kyle shook his head. "You are such a fat ass."

"And you're a Jew."

"I guess so." Kyle shrugged.

"What's the fun in being normal, though?" Stan asked, surprised to hear himself say it. He glanced at Kyle, who was grinning at him. It felt genuine, and it had been so long since Kyle had smiled at him, for him, that Stan's heart leapt.

"I didn't say it was fun," Cartman replied. "Just that it's surprising."

"So you admit you were some fucked-up little bitch of a kid," Kyle said.

"Hey! Shut up, Jew."

"Oh, he's still a little bitch," Kenny said, looking up from his phone, "crying about his mom's boyfriend."

"Kenny, I was not crying!"


"Whatever, Kenny. You guys are just jealous because I'm so well-adjusted."

"Right," said Kyle, "you're the very picture of well-adjustment."

"Yeah, like I'm gonna take your valuation of emotional stability seriously."

"Maybe because I'm not I have greater insight into who else isn't!"

Stan was patting his pockets, and realized that he was, habitually, feeling for a pack of cigarettes.

"Don't fight!" Butters was holding the butt end of the first joint, and Kenny snatched it away. Don't fight on my roof," he said, "I mean it. It's nice up here and — and you're all cheapening it. You're cheapening the moment."

To Stan this was inherently idiotic. "Right, we're cheapening getting high on the roof of a suburban tract home."

"What's wrong with tract housing?" Kenny asked. "I would kill to be able to afford a house like this." He was rolling the stub of pot in his fingers, as if it were a Guatemalan worry doll, absorbing all his frustrations. "It's like, the more a person has, the less they appreciate it."

"That is so incredibly deep," Kyle said.

"Consider the amount of money you owe me I'd like to think you'd at least fake finding my observations deep." From a pocket of his vest, Kenny produced a pack of cigarettes. It was half full, and it crinkled when he passed it to Kyle. "My resolution this year is to stop enabling you. So, consider this a parting gift."

Kyle wasn't sure what to say, and held the pack in his raw, trembling hands, starting at it, until Stan said, "Here," and leaned over, offering to light one. Leaning in, Kyle made a point to exhale in Stan's face.

"My god," Cartman groaned. "How is it only 10?"

"I got stuff for s'mores," said Butters, "we could go in and—"

"Fuck no," said Cartman, "I'm not climbing back down again until it's the new year." And that was the end of that discussion.

The butt of Kyle's cigarette landed in the gutter as he tossed it away, making Butters sigh, and Kyle pulled another from the package, the crinkling of the wrapper barely audible under Kenny's texting and Cartman's labored animal breathing. The streets were quiet, and in the bedroom windows visible from Butters' roof, little was discernible. Most houses were festooned with strings of Christmas bulbs, garish colors like ice blue and stop light red, some flickering on programmed timers, some twisted by the breeze.

Pulling off a polyester knit glove, Stan ignited the small BIC lighter that he'd been clenching in anticipation.

"The wind," Kyle said, shifting away. "It's blowing the flame out. Here." He indicated the space in front of him, the yard-length slope of the roof from Kyle's feet to the gutter.

Stan maneuvered his way to Kyle's front, the two of them locking eyes, Kyle's face flush from the wind. Somehow, up in the air like this, Stan had failed to notice that it was cold out. He remembered hearing, before he came home last week, that it was going to be the warmest Christmas break in Park Country in 10 years. Even so, he had talked Kyle into wearing a proper winter coat, a ski jacket with high collar. It made Kyle look especially needy.

"Now, don't fall off the roof," Butter said, clenching his fists inside the pockets of his parka.

"Christ, Butters, I'm not going to fall off the roof." Stan could feel how stable he was in this position, crouching on the treads in worn-down soles. Though gravity was against him, his weight, and his history of football, helped him balance. He had the sense memory of running from opponents, trying to stay upright.

Nodding when his cigarette was lit, Kyle leaned back and breathed a curl of smoke that, because Stan was facing the roof, caught no light and served only to mask Kyle's features for a moment, which were already hidden by the blur of his hair and the collar of his coat. Smoke stungStan's eyes, making them water, just a bit.

"Hey." Kyle reached out to wipe under Stan's lashes with his thumb. "I know."

"Know what?" Stan asked, hoping the other three weren't paying attention to them. He wished Kyle would kiss him.

Sighing, Kyle drew back his leg. For a moment, it seemed to Stan that Kyle was making an invitation, maybe asking Stan to crawl up to Kyle's chest and sit with him, huddled together for warmth. It was disorienting to realize that this was not what Kyle wanted at all, and as Stan lost his balance, there was a surreal quality to the moment.

Stan felt disconnected from himself, from South Park, from everything around him. He was two storeys up, and then he wasn't; he was lying on the hard, cold ground, looking up at the stars in the night sky and at the gutter that hung from Butter's roof. He heard scuffling, and someone with a high voice saying, "Holy shit!" It was Kenny, who was the first to peer down at Stan, his mouth gaping. A cigarette fell from his fingers, and again, he said, "Holy shit, oh my god!"

Staring up at Kenny, Stan wanted to ask, "What's the problem?" But nothing came out of his mouth, shock and adrenaline masking not only the pain growing in his shoulders, in his leg, and in the back of his head, but also his ability to form words, to say anything.

"Are you okay?" Kenny called.

Finding that in fact he could move his fingers, Stan tried to lift his hand, indicating that yes, he was fine, thumbs up. Up above, it sounded as though someone was crying.

Then Cartman peered over the ledge. "Well!" he barked. "That was pretty messed up, Jew."

Finally, Kyle climbed to the ledge and looked over, smirking down at Stan. He matched Stan's thumbs up, the cigarette Stan had lit for Kyle hanging from his mouth. It was apparent that, for once, he had not been crying.


Stan really did dislike waking in an unfamiliar place, not knowing where he was. When he blinked his eyes open on January 1, he found himself disoriented, at a loss. But then he felt the bite of cheap, sterile sheets in his shoulder blades, and the sting of daylight, which made him squint.

"Kyle?" Stan tried to prop himself up on his elbows, but he felt rubbery and unstable, and flopped back down onto his back, hitting his head against an anemic pillow. "Where—?"


A hand clapped over Stan's mouth.

"Don't even say that. It's kind of sick how cliché it is, and I don't want to hear it. Not unless you want to make me sick. You're at Hell's Pass. Emergency room. You landed on your feet and your left Lisfranc joint is shattered and dislocated, and they think you might need surgery, lots and lots of pins. They told me this because I said I was your sister."

"Where are the rest? Kenny and those guys, where—"

Kyle snorted. "Where do you think? They like you, Stan, but it was New Year's. They weren't about to spend the rest of it in a fucking hospital. Though I think Butters is traumatized for life."

"Oh." Stan blinked. "Kyle, you don't look like my sister."

"Who would know? No one's seen her around here in some time." Kyle would not meet Stan's gaze. "Does it hurt?"

Stan tried to wiggle his toes. He found he couldn't. His whole foot felt heavy, dead. Like a piece of meat, not part of him. "No," he whispered. "I…" His voice cracked. "I can't even feel it." He turned his head. Kyle was slouched in his chair, elbows on his flanks, fingers tented.

"Oh." Kyle sat up straighter. "I'm sorry. I know what that's like."

"How many pain killers am I on?"

"Well. That's an interesting question. My god I need a cigarette. Do you mind?" His hand flew to his pocket.

"Kyle." Stan blinked. "It's a hospital."

"Oh, you care?"


Kyle's hand dropped from his pocket. "Whatever, Stan."

"The ones Kenny gave you?"

"Oh, no, I smoked through those hours ago. Ike gave me a pack, too."

Stan screwed his mouth up.

"He's the one who got us to the emergency room, by the way."

"How? He doesn't drive. Kyle, he's 15, as you are so fond of reminding me."

"Well, I just said Ike got us here, not Ike drove us here. Fillmore did. That kid's 16."



"Thank him for me."

Kyle snorted. "I don't talk to Fillmore. The last time I dared speak to him he screamed and jumped six feet into the air. I think he thought I was going to surreptitiously poison his smoothie or something. He's always drinking smoothies, that kid, and giving me the evil eye. Poisoning's not my style, anyhow, and besides, I find him boring as dirt. Stanley. I was so worried."

Stan's throat felt dry, but he didn't think to ask for water. "You were?"

Kyle nodded slowly. "For a moment, when you passed out, I thought maybe I'd killed you. That would have been kinda scary."

"Killed me? Dude."

"Well, it's fine, you're obviously not dead."

"It feels like my foot is dead. My whole leg, actually."

"Oh, it'll get better. It'll wake up. They'll have to slice it open and pin it back together with little metal daggers and snip all your tendons and sew the incision up like they're trussing a leg of lamb. But medical science is so brilliant, dude. They'll just fix you. It's easy."

"Ugh, that doesn't sound easy." Stan realized that he did feel something: nauseated.

"Well." Kyle touched a thin cigarette to his lips. "I've been put back together enough times. Though, not like this. But I imagine you'll need someone to look after you! So it's a good thing I'm moving to Chicago."

It took Stan a delirious moment to catch this. He tried to jerk up in bed, but it wasn't exactly easy. So instead, he just burst out with, "What."

"Oh, yes." Kyle fidgeted, shifting his hips, trying to get at something. "Mmm, yes. All right. Here." He pulled a well-worn envelope, folded in half, from his pocket. He proffered it to Stan, who could make out only the maroon typesetting of a return address flanked by a sigil. "Want to read it?"

Stan shook his head. "Not particularly." His eyes ached, or the part of his brain beyond his eyes ached, and his vision was blurred and he felt that reading, even holding a letter, would be too arduous. "Can you just explain it to me?"

"What? Oh." Kyle blushed, and stuffed the enveloped into the pocket of his hoodie. "I've been writing to a professor in the social thought program, and I've made an application. I don't like to be too cocky, you know, but I'm all but assured a place."

"And the letter is to that effect?" Stan asked. This was dizzying information.

"It's a letter from my would-be advisor, yes, saying she'd like to work with me. I can't have a real job, you know. This is the best I can do."

Stan wasn't sure what to say. A feeling of nausea filled his consciousness, rocking back and forth inside his chest. He probably didn't have anything to throw up, as it had been some time since he'd eaten, but all the same, he wanted to be sick.

"You look a bit green," Kyle said, noticing as much. "If you want to puke you can puke into my hands."

"I don't want to puke," said Stan, although he did; he was just certain he couldn't. He couldn't feel anything beyond the dreadful want to purge himself of this room, conversation, awful fucking Christmas break.

"Good." Kyle folded up his legs, so that he was sitting Indian-style in his chair. "If you puked at this I'd be offended."

"Did you seriously push me off a roof?" Stan asked. He was shocked at how hoarse he sounded to himself. He felt unsafe, suddenly, and wished he could get up and run out of the room.

"If you need the kind of surgery I think you need," Kyle continued, "you won't be leaving South Park, or at least Colorado, for a while. I don't know what kind of reconstructive surgery they can do at Hell's Pass, actually. So who knows. Point is, though, I think you're grounded here for a while. But maybe, maybe, when I need to go to graduate school, you'll need to get back there, too, and you can drive with me. Would that be fun? Maybe we can rent a car and you can drive with me. Would you like that?"

Stan tensed. He wanted to say, "No, fuck no, you just pushed me off a roof, you crazy bastard. I'm afraid of you!" But he didn't. Stan turned to look at Kyle, curled up in his hospital armchair. Almost instinctually, Stan said, "Sure, dude, that sounds like fun," and for a moment, it did sound fun, until he realized he couldn't feel his entire left leg.

Kyle shook his head. "Are you really not getting it?"

Of course Stan got it, but he smiled wanly and said, "Not getting what?"

There was a look of horror on Kyle's face, but only for a moment. He seemed to swallow back his discomfort, and took Stan's hand. "Well," he said, "I can't say I didn't warn you."

Stan's hand trembled in Kyle's, and he thought about pulling it away. But he didn't. Stan squeezed Kyle's hand tightly. "In sickness and in health," he said. It was the only thing he could think of. Even as Stan said it, he was aware that it was wrong, that he was on far too much pain medication to make good life decisions.

Kyle had no response, really, except to squeeze back.

- end -

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