I really channeled Foodstamp while writing this one. This was written for my high school's Creative Writing class and… I kinda got in trouble for it a little bit. Looking back, even though I edited out all of the swear words, this was still a very risqué story and not quite school appropriate. And it's kinda gigantic. In fact, if you copied this, put it into Microsoft Word, made it Times New Roman with 12 size font, single spaced... this story would be 42 pages long. That's like… incredible for me!

I'm so sorry that you guys have to sit through this humongous piece, but I swear, it's really good! Some of my best work, I promise! You'll enjoy it. Oh look at me… rambling. I hope you like this.

(P.S. Oh Foodstamp… ahem… BEAT THAT! But don't actually, because I know that you could easily beat it, and it would just make me look like such a newb)

[Edit: Now that I look back on this while it's on Fanfiction, I realize how NOT up to par I thought it was. I have awkward line breaks, choppy flashbacks, and probably other problems that I haven't seen yet. But I worked so hard on this, I hope you like it anyway. I just wanted to make something that people like Foodstamp and SekritOMG could read and enjoy. Okay... that is all.]

Disclaimer: I don't own South Park, but I hope that I own enough mad skillz dawg that I can write a decent story and have it be enjoyable to you as a reader – please let me know.


Whence We Practice, We Make Perfect

Wendy was always the virtuous one, even way back in elementary school. She had fought for women's rights, against breast cancer, she even did her part to help save the environment. Now, years from high school, decades from middle school, and lifetimes from kindergarten, Wendy Testaburger had retained her ethics and her poise in society. In her fourth year of college, she still fights for breast cancer and recycling, but now a days the only right she fights for is her right to party. "Everyone deserves to let loose once in a while," she had told Kyle in her sophomore year, two far too long years ago. "Even stuck up, goody two shoes like me."

Apparently she had been partying just as hard as all the others had been, if not more – if her swollen stomach the size of a bowling ball was any evidence. Kyle could barely take his eyes off of it, even to drink from his Styrofoam coffee cup. Sitting in her chair, backed up a good three feet from the table to accommodate room, Wendy would longingly trail her hand along her womb and smile softly down upon the slowly growing child.

Kyle had heard the rumors. Hell, everybody had heard the rumors. It wasn't every day righteous, chaste, don't-get-pregnant-until-you're-married Wendy got, well… pregnant. When she wasn't married. But the gossip that really spread the rumor like a wild fire was the fact that nobody knew who the father was yet. Kyle regretted to admit it, but when Wendy had invited him and Stan to coffee (for the first time in forever) he was hoping to be enlightened as to just who could have possibly knocked her up.

The Café Divine was to be their rendezvous point and noon their scheduled meeting time. As always, Kyle wanted to sleep in, expecting Stan to do the same, just as they always did on Saturday mornings. He had planned to wake up at about 11:00 and then he and Stan could shower, get dressed, and walk down to the Café - only a few blocks away from their apartment - with time to spare before Wendy arrived. Unfortunately, with Stan waking up at fucking 6:00 in the morning, this plan was not meant to be. And they didn't shower and get dressed. Well, not together, as Kyle had hoped.

In fact, besides feeling the calculated movements of Stan getting out of bed and hearing the rickety mattress springs creak, the only wake up call Kyle had gotten from his lover was a note scribbled on a napkin thrown hastily upon the kitchen counter. It wasn't even in complete sentences: Couldn't sleep. Need some air. I'll see you at the Café at 12. Love you ~ Stan.

"Well, fuck you," Kyle grumbled as he crumpled up the paper, only half awake, having been unable to fall back asleep an hour later. Even as the curse fluttered from his tired mouth, Kyle knew that he didn't mean it. He couldn't blame Stan for being high strung; he hadn't really spoken to Wendy, his high school Prom date, for a while now. He even confessed late one night that he was still feeling the pangs of guilt from when he had come out to her. Said he'd felt bad for breaking her heart and then running away, distancing himself from her, not even trying to help pick up the pieces.

Kyle was by himself when he walked the four blocks to the Café Divine. It was a bitter, hollow feeling as he reached out to link arms with a person that wasn't there. Stan was never parted from Kyle for long and the times that they were separated Kyle felt like shit; withdrawn, aloof, quiet. The only person he really opened up to anymore was Stan. He could hold conversations with people, to be sure, especially old friends, but they always seemed dull. As if Kyle was just speaking to them because he had to.

The Café Divine was a small, local coffee shop, no where near capable of competing with Starbucks or the like. But neighbors of the place, ne'er do wells, hippies, and high school drop outs were regulars and kept the business alive. The manager, Tweek, took their order once the three of them had all shown up. His dream was to run a coffee shop of his very own, but had hit a plateau on his climb up the corporate ladder. For now he was happy just being manager, but he would often get in trouble for staring off into space and twitching at his daydreams while still on the clock.

Stan was the last to arrive at the table but the first to order his drink. Nervous or not, Stan had a definite quality about him. He always knew what he wanted and never spent more than five minutes on any one decision, if he spent any time on it at all. He had an inherent trait that just let him… know. A trait slow and pensive Kyle envied.

The table was being rocked by Stan's leg as he bounced it up and down, biting his lower lip, and averting his eyes in every way possible on the off chance that he and Wendy made eye contact. He was fumbling absently with his own cup of Heaven House Espresso – possibly the most caffeinated drink the Café Divine had to offer. Stan always ordered with extra whipped cream and mixed the froth right into his drink. Kyle never asked why, it was just something he did.

Wendy smiled at us from across the glass round table, probably hoping to break the silence with a warm greeting. Kyle rolled his eyes. The time for greetings had passed ten minutes ago when they had all sat down together. Now it was just awkward silences and raspy throats that inexplicably needed clearing. Wendy opened her mouth and let it hang there for a while, words on the tip of her tongue that refused to roll off. After a while she realized how stupid she looked and lifted her cup of Chai tea, taking soft sips and pretending that that was what she had intended to do all along.

Kyle rested his chin into his hand and watched a few cars drive by, feeling the wind on his face and smelling the early spring air. He didn't like starting conversations, but if this silence continued any longer, they would be more likely to spontaneously combust from their own self-consciousness than get anything accomplished. Kyle sighed, trying to think of something to say and looked down at his own coffee to stall. It was straight black. He could never decide on anything else.

"You, uh…" he started at last, forcing a friendly grin and gesturing towards Wendy. "You look good."

"Thanks!" Wendy breathed, obviously grateful for the opportunity to talk. "I may be a late bloomer into the whole rebellious phase, but I think short hair looks good on me." She leaned back and ran her hand through her raven locks that were cut so that they didn't reach her shoulders or even cover her ears. She let her arm fall heavily into her lap and her visage dimmed beneath her smile with sad eyes. "Or… were you talking about me being four months pregnant?"

Kyle swallowed, finding the words difficult to pin down. Should he say that he was commenting on her hair, or should he agree and say that he was referring to her baby? Which one was the truth? He didn't really intend on putting her on the spot like this, but she needed an answer. If Stan's hunched over back was any indication, Kyle could be sure that his boyfriend wasn't jumping in to save the day with some profound statement. At last, Kyle decided on, "Whichever."

Wendy politely winced away, a little hurt by his vague answer. She nodded and went in for another sip of tea, reverting back to the silence that defined them all just a minute earlier. Kyle reached his hand under the table to take Stan's, a pre-established signal that he was uncomfortable and wanted him to do something. In the past, Stan had always gotten the message.

This time he jumped at Kyle's touch, his heart skipping a beat, as if being forcefully wrenched back into reality. Stan looked at Kyle, down to Kyle's hand in his, up to Wendy, back down to his hands, and before anyone could blink, slipped from between Kyle's fingers, letting the other's hand fall away.

Kyle furrowed his brow, clenching his jaw, not in anger, but frustration. Stan was acting very skittish, not at all like himself. "So, it's not just a rumor then?" Stan finally asked, his voice low and barely audible. "You really are pregnant."

It wasn't a question, and Wendy was taken aback by his brusque statement. She stuttered over her words while trying to not look embarrassed. "Y-yeah. Word still spreads fast in South Park, doesn't it? I still wonder why you guys never got out of here. Go to college or something like that. You can't work at dead end jobs the rest of your lives, you know."

"Is that 'you' directed at just the two of us or everyone in this town who failed to procure a purpose in life?" Kyle's words were a little sharper than he had intended and he apologized half heartedly to Wendy after a small beat. He didn't really mean to accuse her of… what was he accusing her of? Of being successful? For actually having a future planned out for herself? For being the one person out of South Park that was actually mentally and ethically equipped to achieve that future?

"Well, I was just thinking that there's a whole world out there," Wendy replied, doing her best to not take offence. "So you hit a few bumps on the way. That doesn't mean you three should just give up –"

"No," Kyle interrupted, feeling his chest swell with indignation. "The bumps hit us."

"Kyle," Stan whimpered, the first gentle words he had spoken all day. "Let's not get into that discussion again. It's over. We're all fine now. End of story."

"And yet the fates keep scribing," Kyle murmured, resting his head once again in his palm, trying to look nonchalant, uncaring.

Noticing that the conversation had made a turn for the worst, Wendy sat up in her seat and changed the subject to something she was sure would have a positive reaction. "So, enough about me! How are you two doing? You know, relationship wise?"

Her choice of topic couldn't have been worse….

"What will the neighbors think?" Kyle observed, biting his nails. It was an unsightly habit that he thought he had given up. Apparently, when anxiety was high enough, any amount of conditioning could be undone.

"That we're a progressive couple?" said Stan, scrunching up his face. "What do you want from me, Kyle? Really. No one's going to find out, these walls are thick as hell. And even if anyone just so happens to find out, why should they care? What business is it to them what we do in our own bed?"

"But isn't it a little…" He couldn't decide on the phrase. "Controversial?"

"So you want us to conform stereotypes and not branch out with new experiences?"

"That's not what I mean, and you know it!" Kyle huffed and turned away, practically chewing down his thumbnail to nothing. In his other hand, crinkled and smeared with sweat, he toyed with a tiny slip of paper. Stan caught sight of it, at first confused, but then breathed out in understanding.

"You still have that?" he scoffed, trying to defuse his hot tempered boyfriend with cool words, rubbing his shoulders in a massage - an attempt to get him relaxed.

"Yes, and I'm considering using it," threatened Kyle, barking at Stan, but not refusing his delicate touch as the muscles taught along his back began to unwind.

"Hey, if that's the hill you want to die on."

"Could you spare me the adages," he whimpered, melting into Stan's expert hands and closing his eyes, trying to get lost in the sensation. "Especially if they're going to be as foreboding as to include dying. Not the metaphor I need right now, Stan, honestly."

The two were interrupted by the doorbell ringing, its hollow notes breaking their embrace. Stan looked at him as if to ask 'are you ready?' and stood up to go answer the door. Kyle cast his gaze dismally to the bed he was sitting on, suddenly regretting having not washed the sheets before as he had planned. It wasn't like he would be able to anyway; they were all out of laundry detergent and Kyle hadn't bought any more in days. How was he supposed to choose which detergent to buy if all of the brands offered the same "Spectacular cleaning power!"

He couldn't help but be embarrassed at how small their bed looked in foresight, and wondered whether or not the mattress was capable of holding three people atop its old, rickety springs. Who cares how thick the walls were, every time he and Stan used it, the bed would groan louder than they did – the neighbors would have to be deaf not to hear something! With a sigh, Kyle brushed a bead of sweat from under his red bangs and quickly went to join Stan in the hallway.

Stan was already opening the door with a nervous flinch that could have far too easily been mistaken for an eager lurch towards the brass knob. Kyle leaned into the frame of their bedroom door and stared somewhat angrily down the narrow corridor. Stan was awfully excited. Awfully.

She was standing there with her hand on her hip, red lipstick shining in the cascade of fluorescent light. Her make-up was layered perfectly; not too heavy, not too transparent. With her elegant black slip, tan hosiery, and four-inch stiletto heels, she looked just like any other brunette ready for a night on the town with a good date. But there was a thin line between night on the town and night on the corner.

"Good evening," Stan greeted, suave and cool, wrapping his arm about her sleek waist and guiding her inside. What a gentleman. "I'm Stan, the one who…" he didn't want to say 'ordered.' "The one who called you the other day. I'm so glad you could make it."

"Do you show up late to your job?" she asked, her voice like honey, her laugh like bubbles in a Champaign glass. What a smile. Kyle was about to vomit from sweetness overload. The woman offered her hand and swished her hips like some runway model. "My name's Coco Tiffany," she grinned. Perfect, white teeth. Kyle ran his tongue along his own incisors. He should have brushed after dinner.

He was standing there, his arms crossed, his lips pursed in a pout, and his eyes downcast to the floor. Coco glided toward him with a bemused grin. She chuckled preemptively, her gloved hand covering her mouth to be polite. What a fake. "And what's your name?" she chortled. "Jill Ted?"

Kyle swallowed with practiced indifference. "I'm so glad you're here, Coco," he spat in return. "I've had this unquenchable craving for chocolate milk. But - woe is me - all I had was the milk. I'm sure a woman of your… epithets… would enjoy a good stir."

Tiffany was undaunted. Her grin merely widened under her glossy lips as she seductively traced her fingers up Kyle's neck and down his chin. "From two strapping, young men such as yourselves, I'd expect nothing less than a lot of milk." Kyle's face was betrayed by a crimson blush, and he jerked away from her hand.

Their guest was brought into the bedroom and almost immediately she began to shed through her layers of clothes, possibly sensing the tension in the air. Tiffany's hurried expectancy was indicative of her hidden want to get everything over with so that she could get paid and out of there before another confrontation could be ignited.

Stan did most of the work. He knew how to touch. How to caress. Where to kiss. Where to hold. When to peck. When to bite. And Tiffany was certainly a professional. It didn't even look like she was pretending. And maybe she wasn't. Kyle, of all people, would know how Stan could get. But throughout it all, Kyle was beginning to feel less like the third wheel and more like the spare tire.

Things were getting hot, but all Kyle could do was focus on Stan. It was almost like a competition, like he was fighting for his own lover's attention, trying to wrench him away from this… whore. The longer it dragged out, the more frustrated Stan was becoming. Eventually, Kyle just sat back and sighed, watching. How could doing that to a girl be enjoyable? How could it be more enjoyable than doing it to him? Obviously it was.

Kyle crawled along the crowded bed, ignoring the hushed cries from their 'guest' and tied his arms around Stan from behind him. He could feel tears of abandonment burning against his eyes as he laid his cheek against the flesh of Stan's ridged back. He gasped with weak breaths and kissed softly along his boyfriend's shoulder, his last attempt to silently scream, "Stop! Stop this! Can't you see that none of us are enjoying it? Can't you just stop?"

But Stan didn't stop. He grunted harder and pushed faster. "Would you stop that?" he growled suddenly, not even looking back. "I'm trying to fucking concentrate! You're distracting me!"

Kyle could have sworn he felt his heart stop beating. Without a word, he got up from the bed and wandered aimlessly into the bathroom where he sat down on the edge of the bathtub, too stunned to cry anymore.

A horrid thought struck him and instantly Kyle's mouth went dry. If Stan was busy being selfish and enjoying himself, then why couldn't he? It was right there. Still hidden. Still secret. Come on, you hadn't touched it in so long, and besides, you deserve a break. Don't you? Don't you?

Kyle was snapped from his prolonged trance by the sound of heavy breathing. He looked up slowly to see Stan in the doorway, looking sweaty, dejected, and, most of all, limp. He panted through his mouth, failing to say what he had come over to say. "I couldn't keep it up," he admitted, and Kyle wanted to sneer, "No duh!" But he didn't.

They went back to the bed to find Coco Tiffany already fully dressed but for her shoes. She carried them by their straps to the front door, the only evidence of tonight's escapade being her tousled hair. "I'm so sorry," said Stan, shaking his head and retrieving an envelope off of the coffee table. "We'll still pay you. Here's your money."

Tiffany shrugged and snatched her dues from Stan's dilapidated hand, suddenly not so friendly. "Yeah, well what did I expect from two fags anyhow?" she said, revealing an unmistakable Brooklyn accent. "If I had known what a backwards place this town was I never would've moved." She thrust open the door and began to walk out, but just before she left, Tiffany turned to face the pair one last time.

"You know," she muttered, wagging her finger like a condescending teacher. "In this day and age I thought people no longer had to lie to themselves to make them feel better. But I guess some people just have a ways to go yet."

Tiffany slammed the door behind her and Stan and Kyle said goodnight to each other.

That night, Kyle slept on the couch.

Kyle dug his fingers so deeply into his coffee cup that he feared he would puncture the sides. Nobody had spoken for what seemed like an eternity, and they all looked as if they had a rotten taste in their mouth.

"Fine," Stan answered at long last.

"Yeah," mumbled Kyle in agreement. "We've been doing just fine."

Wendy let go of her held breathe and smiled, nodding into her Chai tea and drinking it. You would have thought she was parched. As for Kyle, he was saturated. Of coffee, of this conversation, of their substandard life that never seemed to get any easier. He was fed up! But… what could he do about it?

The atmosphere was palpable and their small talk dwindling.

"How's Kenny?" inquired Wendy, daintily padding her mouth dry with a napkin.

"We were just going to visit him after we finished up here." Wendy shot a scathing glance in Stan's direction; it was one of shock and bewilderment. Kyle leaned into the back of his chair and clicked his tongue, feeling subconsciously haughty. Wendy obviously was not so keen on being treated like an objective to be crossed off on some menial 'to-do' list.

"Well then, I wouldn't want to keep you," she said, hurriedly, confirming Kyle's suspicions as she spitefully collected her things to leave. "Tell Ken that I said hello. Give him my regards."

"Of course," Stan promised, taking one last gulp of his drink. With a soggy crunch, he crumpled the Styrofoam into a ball and tossed it into the near-by trash can.

"You could have recycled that," Kyle wanted to say. But he didn't. Instead he decided to passively lead via example and quietly flagged down Tweek, asking him if the Café Divine had a recycling policy. Tweek glowed at the sound his own name and cheerfully offered to take the cup to their recycling bin personally. As he walked – practically skipped – away, Kyle watched him and shook his head in sympathy. In the corporate world, they may give you a nametag, but that doesn't make you any less invisible.

"Are you going to visit Kenny at his house?" Wendy asked, cradling her stomach and grunting softly as she rose from the chair to her feet. Kyle and Stan both stood up at a sympathetic pace, subconsciously joining Wendy in her struggle, weighed down by their own burdens, tangible or otherwise.

"Where else would we see him?" Kyle's rhetoric was dripping with spiteful sarcasm and punctuated with a sigh. Even now, he found it difficult to bring his eyes up to her. She was the exact same person she had always been, and yet somehow, his view of Wendy had been tarnished. How sad that the miracle of life could effect him in such negative ways.

Wendy nodded wordlessly. In the past, she had be so tolerant of Kyle's sardonic retorts – even supportive – but now every syllable was as if a knife was carving itself into her bosom. Was this just a side effect of pregnancy, some sort of morning sickness ill? Or was something else the matter? Deep under the surface. Without so much as a goodbye, Wendy pivoted on her heels and strode down the sidewalk, her head held as high as she could manage with the still foreign mass in her front arching her spine.

Stan lingered even as Kyle tugged impatiently at his arm, watching as the image of the black haired woman was totally consumed by the relentlessly swelling crowd of pedestrians. Eventually, she disappeared into the metal husk of a bus, headed off to God knows where.

"Damn," Kyle cursed, clicking his tongue, blinking his eyes against a chilling gust; Winter's last gasp before giving way to the blossoming spring. "I forgot to ask who the father was. It was the main reason I came out here." He chuckled lightly to himself. A pity laugh, if only to blanket the awkward silence still enveloping the two of them, hiding the insecurity below humor. Stan was not amused.

"Maybe she got it from one of those sperm banks," Stan proposed, setting his legs in motion and turning his back on the rumbling bus as it petered out beyond the horizon.

"Ew," sneered Kyle, linking arms with his lover and joining him as they strolled together down the cement walkway. "I don't know. I mean, she's still Wendy after all. And sperm bank just screams… desperate."

"Yeah, but being Wendy, she probably went into these way over the top calculations and deemed the whole 'relationship' thing a deficit." It was Stan's turn to laugh, but his chortle was also prematurely extinguished by Kyle's frigid indifference.

"Maybe," Kyle answered after a long while. He could have answered sooner, but got lost in his own thoughts, their conversation having become off-settingly pointless. There was a giant stain between them and it was getting harder and harder to ignore and walk around. Sometimes not even the effectual mask of laughing could cover it up forever. Kyle's eyes narrowed in disappointment at… what? Or rather, who? Where was all this pent up frustration coming from? And how to get rid of it? All Kyle ever had anymore were questions. Questions he just couldn't figure out on his own.

"Why did we lie to her?"

"Hm?" Stan cocked an eyebrow, but didn't look down.

"We said we were fine. Why did we lie?"

"Wait a minute. Are you saying that you and I aren't fine?"

Kyle withdrew into himself, his face paling with rejection. "I dunno," he whispered, barely audible over their own footsteps. Maybe he did know. Maybe he was too afraid to bring the beast out into the open. Besides, they were happy together! And that's all that mattered.

Wasn't it?

He was lulled back into the world of the living with the sounds of an alarm clock slowly beeping through his ears. Each beep was hazy and muffled, as if the clock was wrapped in cotton to keep it quiet, but he didn't know why somebody would do that. He tried to move his arms, but all he could manage was a twitch of his pinky finger. Too tired.

The pain didn't fully set in until he had been awake for nearly ten minutes. It wasn't a sharp, nerve-wracking agony, but more of a dull, all around feeling of "Oh… I hurt." I hurt. What a strange thing to think. Why was his brain so fuzzy? And the alarm clock kept beeping with a slow and steady pace, almost like a dying metronome. He wished he could lift his arm to hit the snooze button. Too tired. He also wished he could open his eyes, but even through the veiling lids, he could tell that the room was bright, so he kept them shut.

He just sat there, listening to the bleep of the alarm clock as it gradually got clearer and clearer. It became less of a muffled note and more of a sharp peak. But one thing that remained constant was its steady beat that never once faltered. It was only then that he was aware of the foreign obtrusion embedding itself into one of his veins. He subconsciously got excited and the alarm clock sped up in frustrated disapproval. It wanted to keep slow and constant.

The smells were sickeningly sterile and the undertone of antiseptic blanketed everything, even the far off scent of lilacs. It was unbelievable how tired he felt, and yet, he couldn't sleep. His mind was ensnared with the thought of "I hurt… I hurt…." He thought it in time with the beeps and tried to synchronize it with his breaths, but it was too quick, and he soon grew weary of the game.

"Kyle?" came a voice far away at the door. "Kyle, you awake?"

Reality surged back to him and he opened his dim, emerald eyes to the blinding light of his hospital room; hearing his ever watchful heart monitor, feeling the invading throb of his IV drip just under his skin. Kyle licked his lips and mustered the coherency to turn his head against the over stuffed pillow, glaring at Stan, waiting for his vision to focus.

"They drugged me again…" he reasoned aloud, drawling his words against the prescription to try and sound awake. "I told you… I hate being… being drugged. It messes… messes…." The words were there but his tongue refused to work, his brain sluggish.

"The doctors say it's to keep you from passing out," Stan explained, once again. That must have been the thousandth time.

"How many more weeks are they going to keep me?" Kyle asked, fighting for dominance over his lips and at last able to form sentences. The morphine must have been wearing off, and that's why he was awake. "I'm already healed, they told me that. So why do I hurt so much?"

Stan just smiled weakly and sat down in the closest chair, silently watching over his lover with deep blue eyes broken up by reneged bangs of raven black hair. "I hate this place!" Kyle growled as best he could. "I hate this hospital. They don't tell me anything. They don't talk to me. They just force me to lie here and wait until their done with their God damn experiments."

Stan chuckled softly under his breath and stood up. "Well then," he started, ripping a shred of paper from a ledger and quickly jotting down something in his bold print. Kyle loved the way Stan wrote. "Here's a little gift."

Taking the slip of paper with shaky hands, Kyle looked at it through his blurred vision until he could read it. "One 'Get Out of Hospital Free' Card," he mumbled out loud. "What the hell does that mean?"

"At any time," Stan grinned, lovingly. "Any time at all, you can use this ticket to get me to do anything. Anything your heart desires, and I will do it without fail. On one condition: you have to stay in this hospital for as long as the doctors tell you to, okay?"

"Oh!" Kyle exclaimed, resting his head back down again and staring at the ceiling. "Finally! I need about ten of these, though, for the things I want you to do. Maybe I'll finally be able to get my way for once!" They both laughed together, but not for long. Kyle's body hurt too much. "But seriously, I'll save this for a particularly rainy day."

"Kyle," said Stan, and Kyle was startled at how somber and grim his voice sounded. Stan was gazing at the floor, his mouth in a thin frown, and his brow furrowed with concern. "The reason they're keeping you here so long is not because of the accident. None of us were severely hurt from that. The reason they're keeping you under observation is because… you're going through withdrawal."

The heart monitor blipped faster as Kyle's heart raced. "W-what?"

"Kyle," Stan said, and it was obvious that he meant business. "After running some tests they found traces PCP in your system."

Kyle swallowed hard and looked away, the heart monitor escalating dangerously high.

"Kyle," Stan said again, full of hurt and disappointment. "What were you doing that night before we found you?"

He didn't say anything. He couldn't. Because he had no idea himself.

It takes an average of 32 minutes and 48 seconds to get to Kenny's house by walking. 16 minutes 24 seconds by bus. 5 minutes and 36 seconds by cab. Kyle couldn't force himself to round them up to the next minute. There was something about seconds that seemed so priceless. Each one, in itself, insignificant. But together, they weighed something worth while. And besides, they always walked to Kenny's house anyway.

It would have been so much easier if Stan and Kyle had just walked down the block and crossed the intersection on Route 30, but they always walked through the park when going to Kenny's house. They always avoided roads when they could… ever since the accident.

Trees were already blooming with their infant buds, growing into luscious green leaves that made a sound like rain when the wind blew through them. Kyle once thought that the giant weeping willow towering over the end of the gravel path was his favorite tree in that park. He loved how you could walk through it, push aside its tendrils of yellow branches, and feel them tickle the back of your neck as you walked right through. But the more he thought about it, the more he decided it was impossible to choose which his favorite tree was. Impossible to choose.

One thing Kyle did enjoy was watching the assortment of animals that called the park their home. He enjoyed watching the squirrels scamper about with dizzying determination to find more seeds and nuts to add to their already stockpiled stashes before next winter, already preparing. He could get lost in the melodious chaos of birds twittering, awaiting the emergence of their hatchlings, coaxing them out with the pitches and falls of their intricate whistles. He could lie in the warm, green grass that harbored a myriad of different insects, all busily attending matters as if nothing else mattered.

A bug shot passed Kyle's ear, just within his peripheral, and, like a toddler, he whipped his head about to catch up with it. Breaking from Stan's arm, he raced towards the bush where it had landed and almost lost it within the foliage. It was a deep green with what appeared to be wings shaped like small leaves. It stood adamantly still, even against the trying wind. Kyle gazed on with enraptured eyes as he watched the insect in its solitude, doing its best to look lifeless.

"How do animals know how to camouflage themselves?" he wondered aloud, his mouth hanging open in wonderment. "And yeah, I know we learned this stuff way back in high school but… really? Is it inherent? You know... like evolution? How do they even know they're capable of it in the first place?"

"Maybe they've seen others do it and learn from them," Stan proposed, shuffling back and forth on his feet, losing interest in the motionless creature and cast his eyes on the slowly rolling clouds. He wanted to get on their way, but he knew Kyle wouldn't move until his interest had been satisfied.

"Does an insect really have that level of sentience?" Kyle questioned, extending a finger to prod some life into the leaf. "I mean… to study others of its kind, make note of their experiences, and adapt accordingly?"

"Does anyone really have that level of sentience?" Stan mumbled, folding his hands into his pockets and looking away shamefully. "We humans… we think we're so special - so above the rest. But on the basest of levels, we're nothing but animals ourselves. Nothing more…"

He couldn't bring himself to say 'and nothing less.' He had lied too much already, and at that point in time, absolutely nothing could have been further from the truth….

"C'mon," Stan sighed at last. "Let's get going. Gotta check up on them, remember? You never know what might happen with him."

"I know," Kyle answered. And he meant it, too.

"Kenny?" Kyle called tentatively, peeking his crimson head through the crack in the door. "We know you're here." No response. "We're coming in."

"You don't have to announce it, it's not like he gives a shit," Stan grumbled, pushing past Kyle and ascending the basement stairs to the house proper.

"Hey!" Kyle snapped, finding it difficult, on account of recent events, to reign in his temper. "Stan, take off your shoes! Or at least wipe your feet on the mat. You'll track dirt all over the place."

"So?" Stan shrugged, turning to face the other with an aloof pout. "If I get the place dirty we can always clean it up later."

It wasn't really that they argued…

"Well, if you take off your shoes, you won't make a mess and you can bypass the whole cleaning phase altogether."

It was more like they just… talked right past each other.

"Sometimes making the mess is the fun part. Makes cleaning up well worth it."

Kenny was slumped into the greasy couch, his golden hair covered with a hood from his stained sweatshirt – it probably hadn't been washed in days. His torn jeans were equally as dirty, and his entire body was visibly rank. The TV glowed on the opposite end of the room, producing warm static as the pictures on the screen flickered silently. The word 'mute' flashed green at the very bottom right-hand corner.

The place was a mess. As Stan and Kyle rounded the corner at the top of the stairs, they had to kick away empty bottles, glass and aluminum alike, just to make it to the living room. They clattered under their feet, strewn potato chips crunching beneath their soles as well. Stan raised an eyebrow at Kyle, accompanied by a triumphant grin and pointed down to his shoes.

If Kenny was asleep, then he must have been a very deep sleeper. The noise it took just to get close enough to talk to him was as good as a burglar alarm. Conversely, there was no sign of life from their immobile friend, a cigarette recklessly dropping ash into his lap as it barely hung from the corner of his slack jaw.

"Did he finally die?" Kyle thought out loud, examining Kenny from a distance with a scrutinizing eye. "He doesn't have jaundice. But a liver can only take so much before it gives out."

"With all the alcohol in his system," Stan grumbled, resting his hands disapprovingly on his hips. "I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't even have a liver anymore."

"You wish!" Kenny cursed, sitting up, reluctantly returning from his presumed death. "Why would I die? I can't die! Heaven doesn't want me and Hell won't take me."

"I was under the assumption that we were already in Hell," Kyle commented, aside, hoping that Stan couldn't hear him, but wishing that he could.

"Never assume!" Kenny chastised, his speech garbled with intoxication. He raised his hand to wave a finger at his friend, but it looked more like he was trying to catch a pestering fly, if nothing else. "You make a me out of u and ass! Didn't you know that, dumbshit?"

"There's no need to swear, Ken," Stan said calmly. "Let's not be hostile, we're all in good company."

"There's no need for your face to be so God damn ugly, but you don't do anything about that!"

If there was a final straw that could break Kyle's back today, that was just it. He gritted his teeth and growled like a predator, just catching Kenny's attention. In a blur of movement, he vaulted himself over the small coffee table and landed with one foot on the sofa. He grabbed Kenny by his collar, lifting him up almost the whole way off the coach.

"Listen here, asshole!" he shouted, shaking the drunken bastard like a limp rag-doll. "We don't have to visit you, you know. We could just leave you here to rot. Alone! We don't even mind that the place is a fucking pig sty. But the least you could do is show us a little common courtesy when you open your God damn mouth!"


"Oh, I'm so sorry," Kenny interjected. "But I thought that being on your knees with an open mouth was your job. Isn't that right, Stan?"


"You have no fucking right to talk you little –" Kyle raised his hand in a balled fist as it trembled with adrenaline, his muscles tensing, bracing for impact. A dark and malicious grin spread from ear to ear across Kenny's lips. His eyes grew wide with excitement and his visage grew frenzied.

"What?" he cried, his voice on the verge of hysterical laughter. "What? What are you gonna do, huh? Hit me? Hit me?! Go ahead! I want you to! I want you to!"

Kyle took his fist and brought it down right to the bridge of Kenny's nose, but stopped just before he made contact. He panted with anger, his hand hovering in front of Kenny's face and stared at the eerie, willing eyes that blinked back. "And that's exactly… why I'm not gonna."

"That's enough, you two!" Stan shouted, and they both stopped dead. Stan was always soft spoken and never rose his voice if he could help it. He had told Kyle that he didn't like yelling, that it made him feel like the bad guy – he much preferred to be quiet. But when the occasion called for it… Stan could make the very room you were in quake. Kenny and Kyle let go of each other, verbally knocked into a daze and let Stan take control of the situation.

"Now, we're all adults here!" Stan growled, angry with all of them. "All evidence to the contrary. But, obviously, we're all old enough to drink, so we should be old enough to at least reason with each other before we blow up in each other's faces." Kyle saw a flash of shameful humanity in Kenny's eyes as he stared vacantly at the floor. But it was only a flash, and, just as quickly, it winked from existence.

"You're such a phony," Kenny hissed under his breath.

The walls rang with shattered glass as a furious Stan hurled an empty glass bottle. The room was silent again as Kyle choked on a gasp. Stan was always cool and collected. Sheer name calling was never enough to get such a rise out of him. Like a cornered animal, Stan whirled around and jabbed one threatening finger straight towards Kenny's derided face. "Kenny," he said through a clenched jaw. "Please… shut up. You don't… you don't know… you don't know anything."

The blonde scraped up a beer bottle from the coffee table, clunked his feet on top of its wooden frame, and took a quick swig. "You'd be surprised," he mumbled with a hiccup, and drank again.

"Wendy called," Stan informed in a low voice, playing with his food, shifting it about is plate with a gloomy visage. He usually loved spaghetti, but today he could barely bring himself to eat a fork full.

"Oh?" Kyle responded after a beat, pretending to sound interested. He was having a hard day at work to begin with and, as horrible as it sounded, wasn't in the mood to deal with Stan's fragile ego. Sometimes he could be so… what was the word to describe it… depressing. "Is she, ahem, is she doing alright?"

"Apparently she's doing great," mumbled Stan, begrudgingly forfeiting his appetite and tossing his silverware on the table with a sigh. Their conversation hung in the air like a fog, but neither of them spoke. It wasn't surprising. It had been like this the past month. There was something between the two of them, and it wasn't just the dinner table.

"That's good," Kyle nodded, returning his attention to the meal at hand. Maybe they should have made breakfast for dinner; that was always fun.

Kyle's generic answer wasn't enough to spur a sufficient response, so Stan went further into his repose before clearing his throat and continuing. Kyle knew that he was supposed to ask about the rumored pregnancy, but he just didn't feel like it. Besides, Stan would tell him in time. He always did.

"She invited us out to coffee," Stan started, as if a suicidal spokesperson pitching his last, futile deal. "Sometime this week. I told her sure."

"I don't know if I could fit it into my work schedule," Kyle said, trying to shoot down the fledgling plan before it could take off. "I'm working double shifts at the restaurant, remember?"

"Yeah, but Wendy said we could get together Saturday," Stan explained, doing his best to not sound nervous. "I told her that's usually our day off, so it would work."

"Well, did she say which coffee house?" Kyle knew this was a stupid question. There were only two places in South Park and they were both only a block from each other, so no matter which they had picked it would be in the same general area.

"Wendy really likes the Café Divine," said Stan, as if he were proposing the idea and not actually telling it. "I agreed with her. It's really homey."

"What time –"

"Noon. Wendy and I thought that would be best."

Kyle stared at his food, reluctant to keep forcing himself to eat it. His stomach was in knots, and it wasn't that good of spaghetti anyway. "Well…" he said shortly. "It sounds to me like you and Wendy already have everything planned out. Why ask me?"

"Because I like to have your opinion on things."

"It's not really much of an opinion, Stan, if everything is already set in stone."

"You don't have to get all up in arms," he whimpered, suddenly exhausted. "I thought it would be enjoyable to catch up with old friends. We hardly speak to anyone anymore. I didn't think something like this was going to start a fight."

"Who's fighting?" Kyle breathed, removing himself from the table and scraping his half eaten meal into the garbage bin. "This isn't a fight – neither of our voices are raised and we're handling it calmly. Seriously, Stan, enough with the saber rattling."

Kyle turned away to wash his dish, turning on the faucet with a rush of water. Stan had mumbled something else, but it was lost in the roar of the pipes. Kyle quickly turned the pressure down and faced the other. "What?"

Stan didn't move. He took a deep breath and then raised his eyes to Kyle's. "I said," he began, slowly, rising from his chair. "I said that I'm done too." And he poured his spaghetti in the garbage as well.

"Where's Butters?" Kyle inquired, at long last, their silence having eaten up a good 45 minutes. The three of them had just sat and stared at the muted television the whole visit, trying to figure out what was going on with the outside world through nothing but the anchorwoman's lips and the limited news crawl at the bottom. "And don't say, 'not here,' cause I know that!" Kyle hissed, preemptively countering Kenny's snide remark. "If he were here, this place wouldn't be such a fucking mess."

"Kicked him out," the blonde informed, nonchalantly. He didn't even take his eyes off the screen. "The little prick was annoying as hell. He wouldn't shut up. If I wanted to keep my sanity, I had to throw him out."

"Your insolence aside," said Stan, glaring at Kenny with a harsh mixture of disbelief and disappointment. "Where's he living now if not here? Did you think of that?"

"Started to," Kenny admitted, strangely focused on the intricate workings of the weatherman's gestures at his backdrop of overcast skies and cheesey, animated lightning bolts. "But then I realized I didn't give a shit."

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Kyle spat, joining Stan in his glare. "You two used to be so in love! You said it to each other all the time. It was practically every two minutes: 'I love you.' 'I love you.' 'I love you.'"

"Just words," Kenny grumbled, leaning back into the disgustingly soft couch, cracking his back with an arch of his spine. "I can say a lot of things, but it doesn't always mean I mean it."

Kyle shook his head, as if trying to knock Kenny's drunken ravings from his brain. They had been perfect for each other - two peas in a pod, birds of a feather, all that cliché junk. Nothing was ever the same since the accident. Nothing at all. What had happened to them?

Kyle paused and swallowed dryly, his mind a throbbing mass of doubt. Who was that question directed to? Kenny and Butters? Or –

"When was the last time?"

"What?" Kyle started, wrenched from his day dream. Or nightmare.

Kenny let out an annoyed sigh and actually turned his head to face Kyle. "If the words mean that much to you, then answer the question. When was the last time Stan told you he loved you?"

Stan went ridged. He was inexplicably compelled to know the inner workings of the recent state of the economy and glued his eyes to the TV set. Kenny smiled maliciously. "When?"

The room was quiet but for the sound of a beating heart. Maybe it was all three of their hearts racing together with adrenaline, suspicion, and uncertainty. "Just this morning," Kyle answered resentfully, sounding a lot more confident than he felt. "He wrote it in the note he left for me when he went for some air."

"Wrote it," Kenny pointed out. "That doesn't count."

"Who says?" Kyle wanted to scream. But he knew it wouldn't amount to anything. He knew that screaming and fighting and getting a rise out of him was all Kenny really wanted. Why? No fucking clue. But he wanted it.

"Kenny, what the fuck are you talking about?" Stan interrupted after Kyle had failed to respond. He looked toward his lover, but couldn't penetrate past his clouded eyes steeped in thought. Kyle was desperately rifling through his memory. When? When was the last time? When did he say it last? But the only "I love you's" Kyle could recall were the ones that had fallen so idly from his own lips.

Kenny curled his lips around the bottle neck of his beer and took a swig, possibly to stimulate his raving antics. He set the glass bottle down with a clatter, steadying it with his hand as it teetered and threatened to spill on its side. With a groan and buckling of legs, he rose to his full height, tearing a sheet of paper from the grimy, beat up journal that must have been left there on the coffee table in a drunken stupor late one night. Kenny shook a pencil in the air and grew very serious – his eyes piercing regardless of their glazed sheen.

"Let me illustrate," he slurred. In a quick motion that was surprisingly dexterous, he met the paper to his pencil and flicked his wrist a few times in faux elegance. With a smirk he flipped the paper around to show off his master piece: two poorly drawn stick figures set in an insinuating and provocative position on a boxy mattress.

"Ha ha ha ha ha!" Kenny laughed, letting the paper fluttering down to earth, holding his sides to keep from falling backwards over the couch. "'Let me illustrate'!" he wheezed through the guffaw. "Whew! Hilarious!"

"I've had enough of this!" Stan mumbled, getting up, his feet overturning a pile of aluminum cans, sending them skidding noisily across the floor. "Shit!" he cursed in a guttural tone, kicking the cans again, but this time on purpose. "That's it. That's it! We're fucking out of here! C'mon, Kyle!"

Kyle stood up in a daze and obediently followed as Kenny called after them. "Take my car, it'll save you the fare," he offered, tossing the keys at Stan who caught them not a moment too soon. "I won't be needing it."

"It's not our fault you're under house arrest, Kenny," Stan yawned, trying to act as if he didn't care. "By bringing it up, the only wound your rubbing salt into is your own." And with that, he slammed the door shut, knowing full well they would both be back next week….

The weatherman's gloomy predictions had come true for once as fat drops of rain began pelting the dirty windshield of Kenny's car as Stan and Kyle drove in it. It was blindingly dark, heavy clouds blocking out the sky, merciless rain hazing the world around them. There was already an inch of water on the ground.

The only light to be seen was from the car's high beams and the occasional streak of lightning that flashed in the distance. The rickety, old 1996 Chevy should have been in the compound. It was on the brink of falling completely apart, but it was the first car Kenny had ever bought, so there was no way he would just let it go. The smell of mold and semen didn't help to sooth the already tense atmosphere, either.

Stan wasn't used to driving, having become accustomed to public transportation and the shoe leather express, and, after taking a few "short cuts," it was blatantly obvious that they had gotten lost on some hick, Colorado back road. The streets weren't even paved anymore, their dirt paths mixing with the torrent of rain to make a soggy and foreboding quagmire.

Kenny's radio didn't work, so they couldn't even be spared the awkward silence between them.

"I hate this car," Kyle spat, indignantly. Stan just rolled his eyes, concentrating on the road. "It reminds me of that night. It was this car. Probably this same God damn fucking road. It's like I'm having déjà vu of what happened all those months ago." He slapped the dash board a few times and sighed. "The radio worked back then, though."

"And we're not drunk," Stan pointed out. "And we're not as stupid anymore. And we're not going a million miles an hour. And Kenny isn't fucking driving, so lay off it. We'll be fine."

Kyle snorted. "Three consecutive D.U.I.s. Three! In a row! I mean, Kenny wasn't always the brightest person around, but you'd think he could learn via repetition."

"Well he's not driving anymore, obviously," said Stan, licking his lips, trying to make sure the worn down tires didn't hydroplane. "And he's attending his A.A. meetings, so…."

Lightning surged and Stan flinched, but he didn't lose control of the steering wheel. "Why do you go to such great lengths to defend him?" Kyle asked, folding his arms across his chest with a haughty sneer.

"Because Kenny's smarter than that!" Stan snapped shortly. Kyle was not intimidated. Anger was swelling up deep inside him and he could sense that Stan was feeling the same. He didn't know where all this confusion and frustration had come from, but it was building up too quickly. It was inevitable that he would explode.

"Smarter than what?" Kyle pushed, but Stan merely scrunched up his face and leaned further into the wheel. "Smarter than who, Stan?"

The only answer was Stan's feet pressing down on the gas peddle, hoping to out run the question.

"Stanley, talk to me."

Silence. The engine roared and the speedometer reeled at an alarming rate.

"Fucking say something!"

"What the fuck do you want me to say?!" Stan erupted, lurching toward Kyle with an angry scowl. The pedal was forced completely to the floor and the tires skidded along the mud. Stan gasped and swiftly braked, causing the ancient car to slide along top of the water. The Chevy fishtailed and nearly flew off the road before Stan regained control. There was quiet in the front seat except for Kyle's racing heart.

He breathed heavily for a moment or two, his green eyes wide with terror. "I want out," Kyle said softly, already groping his hand around his seat belt and unlatching it. "I want out, Stan. Stan, I want out. Pull over."

"It's fine, Kyle," Stan tried to convince him. "See? I'm going the speed limit again, and I think I know where we are now. It's gonna be okay."

Kyle was not persuaded. His trembling fingers reached for the handle of the door and there was a loud thunk as he pushed it open. "Kyle, what the hell?!" Stan was forced to slow down as Kyle jumped from the car even as it was still moving. Thankfully, Stan had managed to pull off to the side of the street before he did.

With the rain still pouring down and lightning dancing across the clouds, Kyle slogged through the mud, not entirely sure where he was going. Not entirely sure whether he cared. He heard his name being called from behind him, but he was deaf to the words. His ears perked up at the sound of Stan running towards him, fighting against the slosh of dirt and flood, but he refused to turn around.

His shoulder was gripped and the hand pulled him in, forcing him to pivot sharply on his heels. "Kyle!" Stan shouted over the moaning wind. "Kyle, what do you think you're doing?"

"Tell me!" he screamed back, taking Stan by surprise. "Tell me what's going on! Why do I feel this way?! What the fuck is so terrible that it's tearing us apart?! And why, even though it's so huge as to destroy us completely, can't I see what it is?! Tell me, Stan! Fucking tell me!!"

Stan slumped and backed away, dejected, scared, torn. His voice was cracking and his heart was breaking, but he at last managed to choke out those three all important words….

Lightning struck and thunder boomed as the down pour cascaded relentlessly. Kyle's mouth was agape and his breathing ragged, praying to whatever gods there were left that had not already forsaken him that he had heard incorrectly. That it was all a sadistic trick of the wind. But the tears streaking down Stan's cheeks, even in the rain, were unmistakable.

Stan lost his balance from the hit and fell flat on his back into the mud, his nose blossoming with blood, diluting into a sick pink upon his soaked face. Kyle's clenched fist shook with fury as he tightened the ball. Lightning flickered again, and instantly Kyle was on top of Stan, landing blow after blow upon his undefended head, not satisfied until all of the hurt, all of the pain, and all of the betrayal was sufficiently repaid.

"You're the father?" Kyle growled, grinding his teeth together. "You're the fucking father?!"

"I'm so sorry," Stan wheezed, enduring his beating with the patience of a penitent sinner. "I'm s-so… so s-sorry…."

"How could you?" Kyle snapped. But even as he asked it, he knew he didn't want an answer. All he wanted was to just roll over and die, right then and there. He didn't want to hear anymore of Stan's excuses. His lies!

Kyle stood up, his knuckles bloody and his body quaking with adrenaline. With the rain still falling all around him, he turned and walked away, leaving Stan to sob in his misery alone.

Stan beat Kyle home. Of course he did, he had the fucking car. Kyle would have probably been able to see him drive by if he had been looking. But his eyes were down cast against the wind and his own tears. By the time he made it to the apartment, all of his clothes were entirely soaked through and hanging off of him like a drenched second skin.

It was better that Stan got to the apartment first… Kyle didn't have a key. He might have felt totally degraded and embarrassed to knock on his own door for entry, but he was still much too angry to care. All he wanted was to get inside, change clothes, give himself ten minutes (max!) to pack, and get out.

When Stan opened the door, they didn't even exchange words. Kyle just shoved right past him without so much as a 'humph.'

He must have known instinctively to let Kyle go about his business undisturbed. The air was stale with the culmination of all of their foul emotions swirling together as Kyle tore a leather suitcase from the closet. Like a scolded puppy, Stan trailed behind him at a measured distance, watching with sad eyes as his love essentially grew closer and closer to leaving him.

Feeling Stan's gaze hot upon his back, Kyle shook his red hair dry until it curled again just as it had always done before and began to strip through his drenched layers of clothes until he was fully unsheathed, standing naked in front of Stan. He wanted him to look. He wanted him to feel the loss of his flesh. Kyle sifted through the hangers and pulled on a new shirt and pair of jeans as Stan sniffed and wiped his sleeve against his bruised and bloodied face.

Swiftly moving through the apartment, Kyle collected his things: all of his clothes (except for the articles that Stan had bought him), his toothbrush, toothpaste, towel, and all sorts of possessions that seemed so trivial in malevolently enlightened grand scheme of things.

In the kitchen, Kyle pilfered some extra cash from their cookie jar; a few crinkled hundreds that had once been promised to extravagant restaurants and now forgotten engagement rings. Even as Kyle retrieved the money and stuffed in haphazardly into his wallet, he couldn't help but feel like he was stealing. But this money was his, too, God damn it, if at least just half of it. And it wasn't like Stan was lifting a finger to stop him or anything.

Out of pure habit, Kyle snatched his keys to the apartment into his hand. He was about to drop them into his pocket before the cold burn of the steel reminded him of his bearings. With anger focusing his usually indecisive mind, Kyle glowered down at the keys in his hand, towards the door, up to Stan, back down to the keys, and before either of them could blink, he let them slip from between his fingers and let them clatter to the floor.

He had everything he needed, but not everything that he wanted.

One more thing…. One last wound to inflict.

Kyle strode past a silent Stan into the bathroom. Like metal to a magnet, Kyle was drawn immediately to the sink and opened the bottom cabinet, revealing a plunger, a Fabreeze spritzer, a bottle of Drain-o, and a thick metal pipe that connected to the sink's drain. Wordlessly, Kyle leaned in to the very back of the pipe, his fingers lighting over the plastic and adhesive tape. With a single pull he wrenched the bag from its bonds and clenched his hand around it.

Stan, at the door, dropped even lower in his shock and disillusionment. "Kyle… you didn't…" he whispered, barely able to control his own voice through all the hurt.

Kyle fumbled with the dirty bag, gazing like a mad man at the crystalline powder stored within. He tried once again to brush past Stan, but the other, motivated by compassion and concern, clasped his hand on Kyle's shoulder.

"Don't touch me!" Kyle shrieked, bolting away. "Don't you dare touch me."

Stan cowered away and reverted back to stillness, devoid, a mere shell. Kyle donned his jacket and grabbed the stuffed suitcase, cursing softly at its weight, but pushing on regardless. He turned toward the door and almost collided right into Stan. He sniffled again, trying his hardest not to cry and handed Kyle a box of "Sudafed: Cold and Flu."

"You were out in the rain so long," he mumbled, forcing back the tears to form his words. "You might get sick…."

Kyle stared at the medicine as if it were a trap. He pressed the box back into Stan's chest. "I'm not the one who has a parasite in me," he growled. "Why don't you give your fucking pills to Wendy, since you love her so much!"

Kyle started for the door again, but Stan side-stepped directly in front of him. He was holding two or three twenty dollar bills. "Money for the cab," he explained, sorrowfully. "Or… whatever."

With a hard slap, Kyle batted the money away. "In case you haven't notice, asshole, I've already taken three hundred fucking dollars! What would I need your money for? What do you think this is, anyway, some sort of romantic movie? Where we're going to have some fairy-tale ending, kiss and make up, just because you were willing to shed a few bucks? What was your plan? Win my heart back before the fatal stroke of midnight?! Well fuck you!"

This time… he meant it.

"This is the real world, Stan! You betrayed me, you were unfaithful to me, and you lied to me, for at least four months! Do you honestly think that money o-o-or empathy could win me over, just like that?" Kyle was hysterical, weeping through his rage and backing toward the door and ultimately out it into the hallway, desperate for his escape. "Everything I ever saw in you, everything I ever loved in you, everything I ever thought you were is shattered. Along with my heart."

Stan offered up his hands, begging, pleading, crying. "W-won't you at least g-give me the c-chance to e-explain?"

Kyle squinted his eyes, hardened his face, and slammed the door.

"You're going to pay… with a hundred dollar bill-ah?" the hotel clerk scoffed, snapping her gum in her mouth and shaking her bleach blonde hair. The gaudy, silver loops in her ears jingled as she hesitantly took the money from Kyle's hand, as if it were diseased. "What do you think this is, a five star hotel-ah?"

"Could you just give me my room?" Kyle sighed, his voice still quivering from the fight. He was in not mood to deal with this snotty, Hollywood wanna-be. And this obviously wasn't a five star hotel; it was barely better than a motel. The only thing that looked professional around here was the girl's spotless uniform. But that was probably only because she was a vain, conceited bitch. And she made no attempt to hide it.

Kyle quickly snatched the room key, coaxing an obnoxiously shrill squeak from the unsuspecting clerk. She pulled back her hand from the jowls of depravity (Kyle) and examined her nails to make sure her cherry colored polish hadn't become chipped or tainted. "A-actually," Kyle started, the break in his voice surprising even himself. "Does this place have a laundry room anywhere?" He lifted up the dripping plastic shopping bag that held his soggy clothes to hint at the witless girl. As if she cared.

"Ugh," she breathed, her lips forming an ugly, red oval. God forbid she actually think about the customer while at her job! "Third floor-ah. Coin operated-ah."

Kyle choked on the words "thank you" and ended up not saying them at all. He quietly rode the elevator up to the sixth story, found room 215, and dropped his suitcase inside. With a muffled click, Kyle closed the door behind him.

And just as that door latched shut, the first hard realization of the night's circumstances set their full force upon him, like a heavy kick to his chest. With a gasp of soul-biting agony, Kyle clutched at his mouth in one last ditch effort to dam his tears. But, none-the-less, the sobs broke through, and Kyle's knees buckled beneath him. He slid down the door, shedding tears all the way until he crumpled into a pathetic heap on the ground.

It must have been an hour before he was conscious enough to move. Like a ghost of his former self, Kyle struggled against his woozy head and trembling legs to finally rise back to his feet again. Those clothes weren't going to dry themselves, he realized, and decided with much debate that doing something was better than just rotting there in that room.

Dragging his feet and half heartedly swaying the bag of wet clothes on his fingertips, he managed to find the elevator again. It took him four tries to find the third floor. Each time the double doors opened, Kyle absently stepped out, regardless of what level he was on. Three times he had to sigh, curse to himself, and wait for the elevator again before he got it right. Only until after he had made it to the vacant laundry room did he discover that he had forgotten to grab quarters from his jacket and had to go all the way back up to his room. This time, however, he decided to use the stairs.

Kyle relented when he saw the once empty laundry room had been occupied during his absence. He wanted nothing more than to avoid all forms of life and be alone, but no, he had to have a Laundromat buddy. Fun, fun…. Instead of acknowledging the man's presence, Kyle went about his own business, keeping his head low and his eyes down. Thankfully, the man didn't seem to be too much in a talkative mood either. In fact, if Kyle had been paying attention, he would have seen that the man probably looked just as bad as he did. But, instead, they merely stood together in mutual silence.

For some reason, Kyle was unusually gentle with the hotel machinery. If he was so angry, why wasn't he slamming doors, throwing soggy shirts around, and purposefully wasting the hotel's laundry detergent to indirectly spite that little bitch at the front desk? In fact, he was acting almost… normal. It made him sick to his stomach to think that he could just fall right back into the routine of life. It made him doubt – no! Don't think that way, don't think that way! No regrets!

He leaned against the dryer, his arms folded and his eyes closed, feeling the warm, metal box hum beneath him and waited patiently for his clothes to dry. It was a good time for him to think back on his life, but he didn't. Or rather, he wouldn't. He wouldn't let himself look back on all the good times they had shared. It would just make him more depressed to remember how much they had loved each other. Or rather thought they had loved each other. The thought that kept piercing his mind was: "Why me? Why me?"

The buzzer ran with a furious note and Kyle slammed his fist into the button without even looking – feeling very satisfied, if only for but an instant. He retrieved his clothes and bundled them up in his arms without even bothering to fold them. Still consumed by solitude, Kyle wordlessly began to leave the room.

"Uh, sir," the man from before called. "U-uh, sir, wait. Your Snuggie. You forgot your Snuggie."

"I don't own a fucking Snuggie," Kyle mumbled back over his shoulder. "Not mine."

"Oh, well then, I wonder – I wonder whose it is."

Kyle stopped dead. Something was familiar here.

"O-oh," the man's voice dropped. "It's Kenny's. Guess I just… forgot. Well, it's not like he ever used it anyway."

Kyle whirled around, wide eyed. "Butters?!"

Butters jumped at the sound of his own name; he probably hadn't heard it spoken in a long time. He turned to face Kyle with shining blue eyes beneath his short blonde hair and gasped. Apparently they had both been so wrapped up in their owns lives that they hadn't even noticed each other. "Oh my God, Kyle," Butters gawked. "W-w-what are you doing here?"

After the initial surprise wore off, Kyle slumped on top of himself. "I suppose the same reason you're here." Butters cocked his head to one side and Kyle breathed a tiny chuckle at his naivety. "Stan and I… had a fight. I stormed out." It felt weird talking about it. Almost as if Kyle was someone else, his real self withdrawn deep into his heart.

An empathetic sheen flashed in Butter's eyes, and he looked away, nodding his head in understanding. "It hurts, doesn't it?" he spoke with experience. "Especially when you don't even know why you fought."

"I know why!" Kyle snapped. What was he trying to do, anyway, defend Stan? Butters always was the referee, the peace keeper, just because he was too timid to pick a side for himself. "I can't forgive him, not after –" The words got caught in this throat. No matter how tormented he was, Kyle couldn't bring himself to tell the secret between Stan and Wendy. For Wendy's sake. Or maybe, for his own.

"And besides," continued Kyle, suddenly raving again. "You do know why Kenny tossed you out on the street! It's the most fucking obvious reason in the world: cause he's an alcoholic douche bag fucking –"

"I don't believe that," Butters interrupted, his calm tone somehow over powering Kyle's rant. "That's a lie. It has to be."

"How can it be a lie? He admitted it to me and Stan! Right to our faces!"

"And just how can you be so sure? Have you ever been able to tell when or when not Kenny was lying?" Kyle stopped, reasoned into submission. "Lies are powerful things. If you're good enough, you can convince anybody of anything. How can you be sure either of them weren't lying, Kenny and Stan?"

"Stan wouldn't lie about this," Kyle grumbled, watching Butter's slender fingers delicately fold his laundry. "He spent months lying just to cover it up. You don't lie about a lie! And besides, if you're so confident that Kenny isn't a drunken menace to society, then why don't you try and win him back?"

"Ha," Butters laughed, letting his sweatshirt fall away, mid-crease. "Because lies are powerful things. Even if I know the truth, that doesn't mean Kenny does." Kyle squinted his eyes in confusion; this conversation was becoming just plain old stupid. Butters saw his look of suspicion and went back to folding. "Kenny is so caught up in his own lies that he's convinced himself they're truths."

He threw down the sweatshirt into a waiting laundry basket and moved on to remove the rest of his clothes from the dryer. "Tell me Kyle, how many lies have you convinced yourself of?"

"Excuse me?" Kyle spat, offended.

"Just wondering," Butters shrugged, smiling, diffusing the question with his innocence. "Have you talked to Stan? The least you could do is hear his side of the story."

"Butters, God damnit," growled Kyle, kicking the closest washing machine. "You live in this perfect little world, this… imagination land, where everything is bunnies and rainbows! Grow the fuck up, why don't you? The world isn't perfect and it's never going to be. Stan lied to me because he doesn't love me. And Kenny kicked you out of his house because he thinks you're an annoying little shit! And don't make him out to be some saint, because I know he hits you when he gets plastered! You've just got a serious case of Stockholm syndrome and can't fess up to it!"

The dryer buzzed loudly again, slicing through the tense atmosphere and shaking Kyle's nerves. Butters gathered his clothes into the laundry basket and hefted it up to his hip. He sniffed, the same way Stan had that very same night, and looked dead into Kyle's eyes. "I can believe what I want to believe," he said, his voice quivering, wiping away a single tear with his sleeve. "Forgive me if I haven't given up on love just yet…."

And with that, he dashed from the room.

Kyle was a little remorseful for having not kept his key to the apartment. He had barely slept all night and just before dawn, he had resolved to give Stan one last chance to explain himself. Unfortunately, he was worried his will would not hold out, seeing as he had to wait for Stan to return from Mass that morning. He had toyed with the idea of getting something to eat, but his stomach was already contorting and it soon became obvious he wouldn't be able to keep anything down.

He wasn't going to chicken out of this one. What Butters had said really struck home with him. He had to at least hear Stan's half of it.

Around 10:00 in the morning, Kyle finally found himself at his apartment door. He knocked loudly and backed awkwardly away from the welcome mat. Stan had bought that mat. He said it made their home more inviting. But to Kyle, it just screamed tacky. But he had shrugged it off because he loved Stan and his quarks that much.

But this. This pregnancy. Kyle just couldn't shrug this off. He needed an explanation.

He knocked again even louder. An old woman down the hall opened her door, peeking her head out, and Kyle had to wave her off politely with a dismissing smile, apologizing for the noise. He knocked a third time, so hard that it rattled the wooden frame and caused the bronze handle to bob in its place.

All at once, the door swung open. Kyle backed up again and attempted a greeting, but couldn't force his lips to move. Stan looked like shit – his hair was tousled and messy, he had a gruff five o' clock shadow, and he was wearing the same clothes he had on yesterday.

"Catholics are supposed to attend church regularly, aren't they?" Kyle chastised spitefully, knowing Stan would never go to Mass looking like that. He was still angry, but he kept his sharper comments to himself.

"Took the day off," Stan whispered, finding his words. "God owes me that much."

"You couldn't sleep either," observed Kyle, shifting his weight from foot to foot anxiously.

"I found it's difficult to dream when you're living a nightmare." Kyle winced. It's hard to remember sometimes that it takes two to have a fight. "Did you forget something here?"

Kyle dugs his hand into his pockets and looked away. After a pause, he revealed his hands and held up a now empty plastic bag that once had held the last of his stash that he had been saving for over four months now. "A peace offering," he explained. "The last of it was flushed down the toilet sometime around 3:00. I'm off the stuff for good, I swear."

By the look on Stan's face, Kyle could tell he was having a hard time accepting that. Hours seemed to pass between them, but at last, Stan opened the door wider and let Kyle through.

"Sorry I look like this," Stan said. "I didn't sleep at all last night. I really didn't."

"Did you spend that time thinking of what you had to say for yourself?"

"So you're willing to hear me out?" Kyle pondered the situation again, but after a while, he nodded. Stan poured a cup of coffee and offered it to Kyle, but he refused. Stan smiled weakly and cleared his throat.

"It's Wendy," he began, turning the cup in his hands. "It was all her idea. She's getting out of college, she already has a job lined up for her, and a list of botched boyfriends a mile long. Through all of the rejection she faced, Wendy started to discover that she was spending more time trying to find love than trying to succeed in school."

Stan sat down the coffee mug on the table and started to get excited, the words spilling out of him on top of each other. "The parties, the dates, the one night stands – she couldn't handle it all. Wendy just wanted to hunker down and start studying again, to be a doctor. But she had this feeling, you know? This feeling that just wouldn't leave her.

"Around that time they were getting into child delivery in her class. The more she learned about it, the more she started to realize that all of this time, she wasn't looking for love. She was looking for a father. She wanted to be a mother. She wanted… a baby. A baby of her own." Stan stopped and stared into Kyle's unmoving eyes and blinked.

Stan inched closer and laid his hand on Kyle's shoulder; the first physical contact they partook in since the contact between Stan's face and Kyle's fist. "You were right about Wendy and the sperm banks… it was too desperate for her. That's when she came to me. She said she trusted me more than anyone else to be her baby's father."

Kyle relaxed, feeling his anger begin to dissipate. "And the prostitute… Coco Tiffany?"

"Practice," Stan smirked. "I don't know about you, but I've never done it with anyone but you. I had to see if I could do it with a woman before I tried with Wendy."

"This plan is extremely convoluted," Kyle chortled, bringing Stan closer. "But why did you have to lie? If you had told me all of this in the first place… God, you know I always wanted to have a kid around, sooner or later! We could have been godparents together. I would have been fine with it!"

"Wendy," Stan breathed. "She wanted it to be a… secret – a surprise! She made me swear not to tell anyone, especially you." He wrapped Kyle in his arms and took a deep, contented sigh. "She wants this baby, Kyle. She really, really wants it."

The apartment resonated with the sound of someone banging on the door. Stan and Kyle both leaped at once and stared at each other in confusion. The door was pounded again and Wendy's muffled voice came through. "Stan?" she called in an indeterminable tone. "Stan, please God, Stan open the door. I have to talk to you."

He motioned for Kyle to stay where he was, in the kitchen, and left to go answer the door, a bead of sweat dripping from his brow. The instant he turned the knob, Wendy flung herself into him, weeping hysterically and gripping him with all her might.

"Oh God, Stan," she sobbed. "I can't do this! I can't do this anymore! I want the abortion after all, I've changed my mind, I need it! I don't care if I've waited too long, there has to be a way! No, Stan, no! Don't you say anything, don't you say anything! I've made up my mind! I can't have this thing inside me anymore! I refuse to do this, and I'm going to find a way to get the abortion and… Kyle…."

Kyle stood in the middle of the hallway, his bangs covering his eyes with a frown dark and menacing upon his face. "She wants this baby, Kyle," he hissed in mockery, already shaking. "She really… really fucking wants it, doesn't she?"

"Listen Kyle –" Stan choked, but was cut off by being shoved into the wall with one powerful push from Kyle.

"How many lies does that make?" he asked, furious. "Four? Five? How many lies have yet to come out? Ten? A hundred? How many more times do you have to strike out before I'm finally tired of getting my heart ripped out and learn my God damn lesson? Huh, Stan? How many?!"

Stan was too shocked to speak, his breathing short and ragged.

"You don't have an answer?"

"K-kyle, I… I…"

"Oh, don't worry, Stan," Kyle spat, seething with contempt. "You don't have to answer; I'll do it for you. NONE! We're through."

"Oh my God," Wendy whispered, trembling with horror, barely audible. "I remember now… I remember…."

"Kyle, you have to let me explain!" Stan shouted over top of her, but Kyle flailed his arms and ran past him through the apartment door.

"I already did!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. He glared at Stan and Wendy as they embraced in fear. "I hope you enjoy your lives together. God fucking knows you deserve each other."

Six months passed. Stan and Kyle never once saw each other.

"The lights aren't bright enough, we can't see shit!" Craig yelled from the stage, cupping his mouth with his hand. "Poor Ike down here is in the dark, in more ways than one."

"Watch your language, please," Butters scolded as he walked by, lugging strips of cloth, felt hats, and other costuming equipment. "This is a high school theatre club, remember? Not a gutter mouth convention where you can corrupt their young, impressionable minds."

"Sorry, ma," Craig mocked, sticking out his tongue. "Didn't know the Ethics Brigade was part of our staff. You're just lucky Thomas isn't here today, then."

"That's different," said Butters, frustrated. "He has Tourettes Syndrome. At least he can't help it, unlike you."

"Butters, God damnit," Kyle called from the light board, more annoyed than angry. "Craig's swearing is the least of our worries; we gotta get these lights fixed!"

"Bring up 35B to half," commanded Craig, staring into the blinding orbs.

"Hey, aren't you the fucking technical director?" Kyle jabbed back, struggling to find the correct keys to punch. "You should be up here doing this shit, how am I supposed to know this stuff? Isn't the school paying you to do your job? I volunteered for free only because my brother conned me into it."

"Thanks again, Kyle," Ike shouted coyly, a cheeky grin spreading from ear to ear.

"Yeah, yeah," Kyle mumbled under his breath. "Who ever heard of an assistant director? What a joke." He flicked a few random switches and turned a few big knobs and stuck out his lips in a pout. "Not even getting paid…."

"There – perfect!" Craig exclaimed, flipping Kyle his middle finger rather than giving a thumbs up sign. He did that sometimes; Kyle was starting to wonder whether he was conscious of it or not. Craig jumped off the stage like a rock star and sprinted up the far left aisle towards the closest spotlight, never breaking stride. "Mark it, cue it, and moving on! Thanks for the help, bud!"

Kyle vaulted to his feet and stomped down to the stage to talk with Ike. "You got your lines memorized?"

"We're a week from opening, Kyle," Ike sighed, rolling his eyes. "Of course I do; you can stop asking me that."

"You're the lead," reminded Kyle, patting his brother on the head. "Gotta carry on the family legacy of –"

"Failure and humiliation?"

"Not funny… but yeah." They chuckled together, and it made Kyle feel better that they were one thing that hadn't failed.

"Hello? Oh, Jesus… h-hello?" Tweek appeared from the back stage entrance and had wandered out from the wings. "Is this South Park High?"

"Tweek, finally!" Kyle greeted, pulling the nervous man center stage. He was carrying two car board cup holders in his hands, four holes in each, and each hold containing a Styrofoam cup. "Yeah, of course this is South Park High, you only attended school here for four years, you know."

The blonde twitched and shuddered under the lights, his ADHD and caffeine fueled paranoia going hay-wire. He nearly lost his balance and spilled the lattes everywhere. "You can never be sure, man. It's too much pressure! I could have sworn I had the wrong place!"

Watching the cups shiver threateningly in their high perch, Kyle quickly snatched the racks away from Tweek's unsteady hands. "Oh!" he gasped, rummaging through his jacket pocket (buttoned up incorrectly, as always) and procured a slip of paper and read it out loud: "We, here at the Café Divine, thank you humbly for your continued service."

"Tweek, calm down, we're all friends here. Maybe… you should lay off the coffee, huh? 23 years old and you're going to die of a panic attack."


"Is that Tweek?" Butters called, running on stage from the dressing rooms, bobby pins still hanging comically from his mouth. He took a beat to compose himself and coughed nervously. "I- I mean… is the coffee here? Oh, Tweek, you delivered? Fancy that, I had no idea… no idea at all, heh."

A crimson blush crept over Tweek's face, and he fiddled with the hems of his shirt. "Uh… hi… hi Butters."

"It's good to see you again, Tweek," Butters said, smiling warmly.

"It is?!"

"Well, of course!"

"Jesus Christ!"

Butters laughed and Kyle's face dimmed. And it wasn't just because Craig was back up at the light board fussing with the lights. There was a metallic thunk and a burst of light cascaded down, encompassing Butters and Tweek in a wide spotlight. That was Craig fussing with the lights.

Even as Craig burst into a roaring guffaw, Tweek shrieked and fell backwards, landing flat on his ass in an attempt to separate himself from Butters. Butters' face went beet red as he tried frantically to get Tweek up. The two of them kept losing their balance and skidding about in their sneakers until eventually they ended up both falling, Tweek with his back on the ground and Butters on top of him, their faces just inches apart.

Craig was doubling over in hysterics, clutching his stomach. "Tweek and Butters sittin' in a tree," he sang. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

"What are you, Craig, four years old?" Kyle snapped as Tweek scurried to his feet and ran away, Butters on his coat tails.

"What?" he responded between snickers. "I was just setting the mood for the love birds!"

Kyle started for the door, running his hand through his hair. "I'm going after them, to make sure they'll be okay. I swear to God, those two are a train wreck waiting to happen."

Kyle would have been more accurate to say "car wreck." Just as he stepped outside into the cold November breeze, he saw Tweek drive away in his car with Butters in the passenger seat. Kyle clicked his tongue and started walking. It was a 46 minute and 23 second walk to the Café Divine from here, and that's obviously where they were headed. Tweek was still clocked in.

He didn't enjoy walking quite as much anymore. It was such a lonely activity, and it always got the cogs in his brain turning. Kyle would even go so far as to say that he hated walks. It wasn't the strolling idly down the sidewalk that bothered him, but the stroll down memory lane that inevitably accompanied it.

And he always thought about Stan.

Kyle could have kicked himself, and in some cases, he did. He always imagined he'd be stronger than that; that he could move on and get over the break up. But it was easier to jump off a bridge than forget about Stan. But the worst of it all was that Stan had been able to forget him. Kyle had even heard rumors that he had started a band and was actually becoming pretty successful as a local attraction. It was a dream of his that Kyle had always written off as wishful thinking.

"Well, I bet he's glad I'm not around to hold him back from his music anymore," he murmured lowly, out loud. "I suppose that's one thing he can thank me for." Kyle meandered to a stop and bit his lip. "That'll be the day."

Exhausted, in every definition of the term, Kyle hailed a cab for the rest of the trip. He arrived on the other side of the road of the Café Divine and spied on Butters and Tweek.

It must have been Tweek's break, because they were sitting together outside, sipping coffee… at the same table Kyle, Stan, and Wendy had sat at, half a year ago. Lifetimes ago. They were carrying on, talking, enjoying each other's company, finding any excuse at all to touch each other. It was sickeningly adorable.

Speaking of 'sick,' Kyle's memory was sparked, and he pulled out his wallet. From there, bent, crinkled, and creased, he retrieved a card.

"Celebrating the birth of our lovely baby boy, Desmond," it read, flushed with a robin's egg blue. It had a picture of Stan and Wendy on it, smiling. Kyle scrunched up his face. Wendy had let her hair grow out past her shoulders again, even after raving about how she much more preferred it short. What a hypocrite.

The invitation continued in hand-written cursive, obviously Wendy's: "You're welcome too, Kyle." You could see the spot right between the "too" and "Kyle" where Wendy's hand faltered and she debated whether or not to finish the sentence. He sneered and curled his upper lip in disgust. How dare they? How dare they! With a small grunt, Kyle tore the card in half, over and over again, letting the pieces fall and scatter to the wind.

"I guess that means you're not gong?" someone from behind him asked, and Kyle jumped in surprise.

"K-kenny?" he stammered, and the blonde saluted, smirking devilishly. "But you're under… you're under house arrest! What are you doing out? Oh God, don't tell me you're running away, cause I'm in no financial position to hide you anywhere. You're on your own, dude!"

Kenny laughed, a gently wafting laugh that instantly disarmed Kyle. "I'm free, fair and square, Kyle. Don't worry."

"B-but how?"

"Good behavior," Kenny explained shortly, lifting up his pant leg to reveal a bare ankle in confirmation. "My probation officer let me go early, since I was doing so well."

"Good behavior? From a drunken –"

"I've been sober this past year."

Kyle swallowed his criticism with wide eyes. "But… all those times we visited you… you were always wasted!"

"Lies," Kenny murmured, waving his hand as if brushing away the accusations. But there was still shame, deep inside his voice. "It was all an act."

Kyle was stunned speechless and Kenny shuffled on his feet, failing miserable at trying to look cheerful. "Those three DUIs," he started again, keeping his voice small, almost as if he didn't want anyone to hear him. "I was trying to recreate the accident. You know, that car crash. I was so full of guilt for having put all of you through that, I mean… I was the one driving. I thought that if I could do it all over again, it would turned out right, and I would die like I was supposed to. But each time I was caught by the police before I could pull it off."

"Butters knew how depressed I was. He tried to stop me so many times. I was so mad at him. 'How?' I kept asking myself. 'How can he still love me, a suicidal alcoholic? Why me? Why me?' But he did."

"I didn't want to hurt him," Kenny continued, his tone wavering. "I knew that if he stayed with me I would only end up hurting him. Emotionally, physically, it didn't matter. So I pretended to get angry with him and, like a dog, I kicked him out into the street. It was all for his sake. I knew that anywhere – anywhere at all – would be better than staying with me."

They both glanced at Butters. He was snickering at Tweek who had dropped his coffee cup and spilled it all over himself. But… he wasn't wigging out about it. He was… Tweek was actually laughing along with him, completely unabashed. It was a miracle.

"Looks like Butters finally gave up on love," Kyle mused, recollecting that night in the laundry room with him.

"No," Kenny quietly disagreed. "Just on loving me."

Then something strange happened, something phenomenal, something even rarer sight than seeing Tweek not freak out.

Kenny began to cry.

Tears streaked down his face and his chest rose and fell with his sobs. He wiped his wet cheeks in vain, as the tears just kept coming. Kyle had no idea what to do, so he just stood at his side and rubbed Kenny's back, trying to comfort him.

"I'm s-so… h-happy f-for him," Kenny wept, falling into Kyle's arms, staining his jacket with heavy tear drops. "H-he's finally with some-someone h-he deserves." Kyle nodded. This was the absolute truth. There was no way Kenny be lying or acting now. These had to have been tears of joy, because Kenny had never looked so beautiful.

Battle of the Bands was always held in South Park High's auditorium, much to theatre club's chagrin. It was only five days until opening night, and their must-have rehearsals were being overridden by this spectator's event. But there was nothing they could do about it; the sponsors were paying the theatre club 500 dollars – money they desperately needed.

Kyle had tried every excuse in the book to try and get out of going, but he was assistant director (thanks a heap, Ike!) so he was required to go and watch over the events. The night before was a quick rehearsal for the bands so that everyone knew when it was their turn to go on stage and that all of their instruments were properly hooked up.

"The Ravens?" senior director Garrison called to the back stage. "Ravens? Is that you're bands name? Yeah, you're up next for the rehearsal. Just play your little song or whatever you do and move on, it doesn't have to be fancy. Just making sure the monitors and shit work."

Kyle sunk even further down into the auditorium's hard seats, trying to cover his face with his clip board. That was Stan's band….

The first person who walked on was a tall, college grade kid with a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. He had dark bags under his eyes and frizzed, curly hair. Not to mention a big nose. Trailing behind him, walking just as sulkily, was a boy about Ike's age. For a second, Kyle thought it was Ike, since the kid had pitch black hair, but it obviously wasn't; this kid was too pale. The boy took his place at the large drum set that nearly dwarfed him in size.

A guy with healing pock marks over his face and a larger girl who looked like she just lost twenty pounds – and was none too happy about it – walked on stage next. They were holding hands, but not even remotely smiling. The guy flipped his hair out of the way, and it flashed with red highlights. Oh yeah, Kyle knew these dweebs. They were the Goth Kids. Nobody knew their real names. Even since elementary school, they were always just known as the Goth Kids. Everybody also knew, however, that their band could play. The other rinky-dink garage bands didn't stand a goth of a chance.

Especially since the final member of the band, with his black and purple electric guitar strapped along his torso and his naturally raven black hair shining in the artificial light, had just sauntered on stage. Even with the heavy mascara under his eyes and depressingly dark clothing, Kyle couldn't help but feel his heart leap in his chest.

Ladies and gentlemen… Stan had entered the building.

"C'mon, c'mon, chop, chop!" Garrison clapped, staring at his watch. "You can do all the preppy look good things the night of the actual show! Just run through your song a bit and move on, we don't have all day!"

Kyle snuck a peak into his clip board, mainly to avoid making direct eye contact with Stan, but also to figure out just what they were playing. It was an original piece entitled: "A Haiku (But Not Really)." That had 'Stan' written all over it, and as he took his place center mike, it was blatantly clear that he was singing vocals.

"I have to go to the bathroom," Kyle said suddenly, getting up from his seat. "You don't mind, do you?" Garrison sort of shrugged and waved Kyle back, so he took that as a "no."

The girl at the piano starting keying a few notes that melodiously floated through the air. Kyle tried not to hear it. Stan put his lips to the mike, strummed a few chords on his guitar and sang, smooth and slow.

"Now hear me or not,

This love that we had, I will

Always remember."

Kyle tripped over himself, instantly entranced by Stan's voice, all hope for escaping tarnished. The music swelled into a chorus of instruments as the other Goth Kids started playing: two bass guitars from curly and red, heavy drums keeping the fast but steady tempo by shorty, and an electronic piano skimming the high notes in an elegant flurry, creating harmony by the other girl. And of course, the electric guitar rocking out, tying them all together in a heart pounding crash of chords that could only have been strummed by an absolute master.

"You can drown this empty glass with your tears,

But that won't make it half full.

And make a toast to battlements and tiers

That surround this throne I rule.

We'll drink to your health and the lies I told

Honey, this indifference is getting old.

And we'll make a toast

We'll make a toast

And drink that Kool-Aid down.

I hit the floor

Even way before

I can sputter out a sound."

"Alright, that's enough," Garrison shouted over the beautiful song. "Move along, children."

"What, are you kidding me?" the guy with the red highlighted hair shouted, nearly throwing down his guitar. "We were just starting to jam! Didn't even make it to the fucking chorus!"

"Whatever," the director scoffed. "I told you, this is just practice. Your instruments work, don't they? That's all we wanted to know. Next up: The Barbershop Quartet… oh dear Jesus, here we go…."

Kyle had never been more furious with Garrison in his entire life. Despite his better judgment, Kyle wanted them to finish the song.

It was obviously about him….

By the next day, Kyle had come to his senses, once again hating Stan and attempting to avoid him. Thank God Kenny had come to Kyle for help. Kenny wanted him to accompany him to his very last Alcoholics Anonymous meeting because he "Didn't want to get caught crying again." Kyle didn't object; besides, now he could opt out of going to the Battle of the Bands. And after this meeting, Kenny would be scot-free, no longer a prisoner of the law.

Unfortunately, Kyle had not anticipated how awkward it was going to be.

"And then I just screamed at her," a large, grungy man was saying, his voice growing in intensity with each passing second. "I said to her, I said, 'Don't you talk to me that way,' I said. And then, I don' know what I was doing, but… I hit her. I hit her, and I hit her, again and again!"

With every syllable, Kyle pressed himself further into the back of his metal folding chair, wincing in sympathetic pain for the poor woman. The man eventually calmed down and plopped back into his seat, panting and wide eyed. "That was very good, Rory," the instructor cooed in her impressively calm voice. "Just get it all out. That's why we don't drink excessively, right? So we don't commit spousal abuse. Now, who wants to share their story next?"

Kyle leaned over to Kenny, who looked as if he was sleeping, and whispered, "Are you sure this is an A.A. meeting and not an anger management course?" Kenny shrugged and looked away.

"Excuse me?" the instructor called from across the circle of chairs. "Excuse me, do we have a new member? You're name's not on my list for today. Hello, I'm Charlotte. Are you… an alcoholic?" She said it as if coaxing the truth from a toddler.

"No, I –"

"Ooh-ah! The first step to getting better is accepting that you have a disease!"

"He's not an alcoholic," Kenny interjected, and Kyle breathed a sigh of relief. "His name is Kyle and he's addicted to angel dust."

Kyle nearly fell from his seat, glaring daggers at Kenny. The room gasped as if it were the most horrible thing in the world. Well, at least he didn't beat his… oh… right. "I quit!" Kyle stuttered hastily, trying to be convincing. "I've been off, cold turkey… nine, maybe ten months!" Charlotte looked to Kenny for confirmation, and he nodded reassuringly.

"Now, this isn't really my expertise," she admitted, fidgeting with her pen and clip board. "But if you were an alcohol abuser, I'd ask: And how are you feeling now?" Kyle was a little shocked. She actually sounded genuinely concerned.

"Fine, I'm fine!" Kyle growled, feeling like the unwelcomed center of attention. He started to sweat and felt a long, pent up confession coming on. Kenny merely smirked triumphantly and sat up to pay full attention.

"I was never a heavy user. But I did have binges, every once in a while. At parties, if I got too crazy, I'd maybe blow a whole stash in one night. Incredibly, I never went over the edge and overdosed. Stan and… ugh… Stan and I would just ride it out, you know? I'd black out, and he'd drive me home from the bar. Ten hours later, I'd wake up and have no recollection of what happened at all. Often times I'd hallucinate, think I see people when there aren't any there, talk to inanimate objects, things like that. Stan, though, he always just thought that I was a poor drunk and couldn't hold my liquor. He never knew that I… not until after the accident."

"God," Kyle cursed, cradling his head in his hands with the burden of the memories. "That night of the accident especially was – is! – such a blur to me. I don't even remember the car crashing, I was so smashed; just waking up in the hospital, Stan watching over me, saying how disappointed he was. We were at a rave. Everybody was there: me, Stan, Kenny, Wendy, even a few people I didn't know. I got over excited, slipped into the bathroom, locked the door and… you know."

"Though… now that I think about it, cause I try not to, I think at some point, Stan and I – oh, he's my uh… my lover – we 'did it' that night, you know? I do remember him walking me to the car, asking what happened. We did it in an alley way for some reason. God damn, he screamed a lot that night. I must have been so aggressive with him. I think I grabbed his hair at one point, said something crazy like… how unusually soft he was –"

"Oh my, look at the time!" Charlotte interrupted with a fake laugh. "That's all the time we have for today's meeting. Kenny, so glad to see you're fully recovered. You and your… friend… have a safe trip home."

"Don't worry, dude," Kenny consoled, lacing his arm around Kyle's shoulders as they left. "She'd get that way when I talked about Butters, too. She's a little uncomfortable with guys of our disposition, if you catch my drift."

"Kenny," Kyle mumbled in a daze. "You were there that night. What happened?"

He pulled away and scratched his head, thinking of what to say. "I remember getting drunk as hell. I remember arguing with Stan about having to drive Wendy home."

"But we didn't drive her home," Kyle remembered, his mind a fog of confusion. "If we did, she would have been in the car accident with us."

Kenny shrugged. "Truth is, at the time, we had no idea where Wendy went. She sort of just… left. Took the back door. You don't remember any of this?"

Kyle didn't want to admit it, but he couldn't. Kenny could tell just by his dark visage. "Here," he said at long last, slapping a sheet of lined paper into Kyle's chest. "This'll refresh your memory." It was the drawing Kenny had made six months ago; the two stick figures having sex.

"Me and Stan?" Kyle asked, trying to recall their conversation from that day. Kenny begrudged himself an amused smile and shook his head glumly. "This one has long hair," Kyle observed. "Stan and Wendy? You… you knew all along? About them?"

Kenny started to walk away, waving goodbye lazily over his shoulder. "You'd be surprised…" he called back, full of morose.

Kyle's memory sparked and his heart stopped beating. His deep emerald eyes grew wide as his pupils dilated in terror. Like a flash of lightning, that night played back through his mind. He saw everything like some grotesque panoramic movie, and his very breath was stolen away with the realization.

With a hushed cry, Kyle took to his feet and sprinted as fast as his legs could carry him towards Stan's apartment.

When the door opened, neither Stan nor Kyle spoke. Kyle couldn't even bring his sad eyes up to Stan's. It took a minute, but the understanding eventually dawned on Stan. They didn't say a word, only embraced each other for a brief, heart wrenching moment. When Kyle stepped back, he took Stan's hand in his and dropped off that item. Today… was a particularly rainy day.

"Wait for me here," Kyle pleaded, his voice quivering and far off. Stan stared at the floor and stepped aside, allowing him through. Kyle took slow, deliberate steps into the apartment, fighting against his pounding heart. It had to have been a lie.

"Stan, who's at the door?" Wendy called, coming through the kitchen. She saw Kyle and gasped. "You let him in? Stan!"

Kyle kept walking. His former apartment was almost foreign to him, but he was able to find his way to the bedroom at the very end of the hall.

"Stan, stop him!" Wendy kept begging. "Not like this… not like this! Stop him!" She was too overwhelmed to do anything else but cry. Stan remained idle in the doorway, his gaze down cast, dripping with silent tears. In his hand he gripped small slip of paper torn from a ledger. It read:

"One 'Get Out of Hospital Free' Card"

Kyle had his hand on the knob. It had to have been a lie. It had to have been a lie. He opened the door. It had to have been a lie. He stepped inside and approached the wooden cradle, the innocent infant within. It had to have been a lie!

He looked down at the baby, a smile spread across its chubby cheeks.

Green eyes.

Red hair.

Kyle's son.