Song in Chapter Title: "1979" ~ Smashing Pumpkins)


Full Author Notes are at the End. Go ahead friends. Dive in. Enjoy.

Waiting was probably the worst feeling. The anticipation ate away at me. It was only a few hours, but it seemed like I could feel each second as it passed. Kenny had left to go to Kyle's and the silence was deafening.

I tried to keep myself busy. Kenny had helped me get some of the worst trash out, but there was still more left than I had expected. I continued cleaning the apartment, because there were still beer bottles behind the headboard and for some reason in the back of the closet and I really didn't want Red to find any himself. I took the box of Coronas from the fridge, still nearly full, and carried it outside with the rest of the trash. I knew it wasn't going to be easy going cold turkey again, but I'd do it. I had to do it. I wasn't going to disappoint him again.

I realized I was thinking like Red coming home was a sure thing, like it was the most plausible outcome for the day. Time dragged on, and I started worrying whether Red even wanted to come back. Would he even think it was worth it? I told myself he would, because we'd been through too much together, but was that even a good reason anymore... was surviving each other ever a good reason at all?

I knew he loved me, and I loved him, and we could make this work. I reminded myself of that over and over as I waited for him to show. I'd never noticed if I had abandonment issues but I was seriously starting to consider the possibility as my head started pounding worse and my heart felt like it faltered at every beat. The silence was too much.

Six o'clock took too long to come. My head was still pounding and my throat felt raw. I'd drank about eight dozen cups of water but I still felt detached and irritable. I really should've known better than to start drinking again; the anticipation was killing me and I found myself wondering if anyone had taken the bottles of beer I'd set by the garbage out back or if I could still run out and grab some. One. One would be enough.

Six thirty passed and I started wondering if Red would just come in or if he'd knock or what. I paced around the apartment again and sat down again and wondered if I was just over-reacting with all the emotional crap.

I still felt raw inside. I worried that Red thought of me differently. Every now and then my thoughts hinged themselves uncomfortably on flashbacks of windy nights and playgrounds. For some reason I'd thought that telling Red would somehow have fixed everything, but now with the drunken haze lifting and my thoughts clearing I realized the infection ran deeper than that. Even as I tried to focus on the fact that Red was possibly very close now and that I should think of something to say, to explain, anything - the wind and the leaves and the creak of swing chains hovered at the edge of my awareness. It was quickly dawning on me that I was probably in no state to be having a deep and emotional talk with Red about our relationship.

It was stupid how I thought that a drink could get me through it, dull the thoughts enough to let me focus on what was important. I found myself peeking into the fridge, not looking but not exactly not looking either, some part of me hoping I'd forgotten a bottle behind the near empty milk jug.

I pulled myself away from the fridge and sat at the kitchen table. I cleared my throat though it hurt with how raw it felt and tried to take a few deep breaths. It was a good thing I got the bottles and everything out of the apartment when I had. I wasn't sure I would've been able to trust myself at that moment with them. Thoughts kept rolling around in my head, not actual thoughts but the beginnings and endings of thoughts. I felt stupid and sluggish and anxious and irritated all at the same time.

The sound of the door opening surprised me. I froze at them kitchen table, tilted my head a little like that was somehow going to help me hear better. It had to be Red and suddenly I was terrified. Maybe the kitchen wasn't the place to wait for him, I realized suddenly; the last time I actually saw him he'd been in the kitchen and I'd probably been looking a little homicidal. That wasn't a mood to start anything off with, and I stumbled out of my chair and into the hallway.
Red stood just inside the door, like he wasn't sure if he should be coming inside or not. His expression was sort of unreadable but his eyes glittered oddly, like he was scared or something. He might've been. That was another thing that was all my fault.

I should say something, I thought, though I had no clue what or how to start or what to do and all I ended up doing was blurting out, "You're here," in a surprised sort of way.

"I... I said I'd come." Red replied fidgeting with his keys.

I ran a hand through my hair, suddenly feeling hopelessly lost. How the fuck did I navigate this? I motioned to them living room, "We should sit down, maybe..."

Red looked a little uneasy, and fuck I realized that that was a bad room too, wasn't it, it was the room where I saw... Was there any place in the apartment that wasn't tainted? I led the way in anyways, sat down on one end of the couch. Red had followed behind me, pocketing his keys as he sat down at the other end.

I wiped my palms on my pants and glanced at Red. He was looking down at something at the floor, and I followed his gaze to see a stray beer bottle cap sitting on the edge of the area rug. Fuck. I swallowed thickly and looked away.

"I'm happy you came." I said finally. "I mean, however tonight ends I just...just want you to know I'm happy that..."

I trailed off. How did I end a sentence like that?

"Is it that bad?" Red asked after a moment.

I turned to face him, found him looking at me with that same unreadable expression on his face. I never did find out why he started wearing a mask, why he wore it so well. There were still a lot of things I didn't know about him, and it was making me sad to think I might not find them out.

"I don't know." I said, and I was fully aware that it was the most truthful thing I had said in years. That didn't make me feel any better.

Red looked away then. He had his hands clasped together like he couldn't trust them to be free.

"I'm so sorry Stan." He said, and even if his mask didn't drop his voice cracked with emotion, but then he looked at me and I realized his mask had dropped after all. He looked so tired but most of all he looked sad and a little scared and I could totally understand because I had no idea where we went from here either. He glanced around, gaze shifting helplessly, focusing back on me finally but he still looked lost.

"I don't know what to say." He said. He still had his hnds clenched together.

I looked away then; I didn't know what I wanted to hear from him. What explanation could he give that wouldn't piss me off? Did I even want to hear any?

"Did... Did you... I mean, was it..." I frowned down at my hands. I was trying hard not to think of all the things I wanted to do to fucking Makowski and failing. "You know, before..."

"No." Red said, quick to answer. "That was the only... That was it."

A long silence. I was still frowning at my hands.

"I was going to tell you." Red said quietly.

I looked at him then. He still had his hands clenched together but now he was half leaning over them. His bangs were shrouding his face.

"Were you?" It wasn't that I didn't believe him. Well, maybe a little. Mostly it was because I didn't know what else to say; 'Thanks for the thought.' 'That would've been nice of you.'

"In high school... We... We used to meet up." Red added, even quieter than before. He still wasn't looking at me, and maybe that was a good thing because I thought my expression at the moment might have been a little nasty. Boyfriend? I thought, but something in the way Red had said it gave me a different feeling...

"So he was your Bebe?" I said, and that earned an actual, if dry, chuckle from Red. I leaned back against the couch and Red finally unclenched his hands and pushed his hair back out of his face.

"In all honesty Bebe was probably the better of the two." Red said with a pained half-grin. His face fell again, though.

I bit my lip, my hands fidgeting in my lap. I could still see the bottle cap on the floor; it felt like it was taunting me, exposing all my weaknesses just by existing there in that spot, teetering on the edge of the rug.

I could Red was piling all the blame on himself, again, something that, I'd realized during the trip, had become the usual way of handling tough moments. I'd do something, Red would react, and even if he would be in the right he'd apologize and I'd say it was all right and there we were again back at step one. And of course most of those things that pissed him off had some connection to Craig, and of course he felt shitty afterwards because Craig was dead and he thought I was apparently subconsciously pining after him, so of course he'd apologize.

It wasn't fair before and it wasn't fair now. What Red did was horrible but I hadn't actually been a wonderful person either. Even if I didn't know it I'd been pushing him away, and how horrible must it have been for him to feel like that. Here I was telling him I loved him, then waxing nostalgic over a dead guy and not even bothering to see how it affected him. Even if most of the time I had succeeded in blocking the actual event from myself so totally that I barely realized what I was doing, that was no excuse.

"I'm sorry," I started. The bottle cap still drew my attention and I couldn't help staring at it as I continued, "I'm sorry I... I made you, put you in... In a space like that..."

I didn't know if I worded myself properly. For a moment Red was silent, and then he shifted on the couch, and I knew he was looking at me.

"Stan, it's not-"

"No." I cut him off because I knew how that would go and that wasn't right. It wasn't the right way. "It is my fault in a way. I know you know, and now I... I'm like consciously aware, that I haven't exactly been a good boyfriend."

"That's not true." Red said. I looked at him, was surprised to see he actually looked ticked off, like I'd just insulted his favorite person.

"I don't mean in a... a..." I waved my hands ambiguously. I didn't know what words to use, though, so I just plowed ahead, "I mean, in an emotionally invested sort of way. I should've been there for you, a hundred percent. Been there for us. And... I realize I haven't, and that you've been feeling it all this time. And it's not right. I've always had something else crowding in and, and taking up parts of my head. And I was always sort of distracted in a weird way, and I shouldn't have been."

Red looked at me for a long moment, not angry anymore just sort of sad. His emotions had never been so plainly visible ever before, and I wondered how tired he must've been to not be able to hide them as well as he normally would.

"What you witnessed was a horribly tragic thing, Stan." He said softly. "Of course it was bound to have an effect on you."

"So what?" I said, and ran fingers through my hair, back and forth and back and forth. I was remembering how I broke down at Clyde's and I prayed to whatever gods were listening that I didn't break down again there, in front of Red.

"It doesn't make it right." My voice wavered more than I had expected it to. I swallowed thickly and looked at Red. "I just... I just... What if I'd told someone then? Would…would things've been different? Would I still feel so guilty?"

Red lifted his hand from his lap, moved forward a bit, like a full body twitch in my direction. He caught himself, hand still poised in the air.

"I know you can't answer that. And I can't either..." My voice was really doing a number, I'd probably never sounded so choked up in my life. "I don't know what to do, myself... I don't know how to fix this in my head... I just..."

I buried my face in my hands because I was starting to feel it all creep up on me, the chilly night air and the creaking swings and they just reminded me of how long I'd been fucking up, and it'd been so long. I wanted them out, I wanted them gone, the swings and the leaves and the wind and those blue eyes I wanted them all gone but I didn't know how to do it. I didn't know where to start.

Red's hand was warm on my shoulder. It took a moment for this realization to reach me. I pulled my face out of my hands and looked at him.

"You're going to be okay, Stan." He said with an assuring tone that had always worked to calm me down before. It worked this time too, grounding me, warming me.

"I want us to be okay." I replied, wondering if I sounded like I was whining.

"We will be." Red said with a gentle squeeze on my shoulder. He seemed reassured by the fact I was allowing him to touch me; I guess he thought I might see him as tainted goods after what had happened, but how could I? I loved him so much. What he did hurt so bad but it didn't change the fact that I loved him. So I told him.

"I love you."

"I love you too," Red looked relieved, he looked a little happier, even.

"I want this to work. I don't want to keep making stupid mistakes." I said, shifting so that I sat closer to him.

"We can make this work." Red said firmly. He looked like he believed himself.

I bit my lip again and fidgeted with my hands. Of all the things I had tried to plan ahead of this talk only one thing stuck. It was the most important, I thought, in that it could be the most helpful.

"I don't think we can do it alone." I said slowly. "I think.. I mean, look, I've been thinking about this while...while you were gone, and... I need help. Like actual professional help. I think."

"Like a therapist?" Red asked cautiously.

"Yeah..." I shrugged and wiped a hand across my face for no reason because I wasn't crying or tearing up or anything. "And... Red I think... I mean, if...if you're willing, I guess, I'd...I'd like you to go with me? Not like all the time but sometimes, maybe."

Red's face had grown dark at the mention of the therapist. He seemed to be mulling the thought over.

"We can look into local therapists," Red said finally. He still looked uneasy, guarded

"You don't really like the idea?" I said. Hell, my voice was continuing that wavering thing, and I couldn't make it stop.

"I think... I think it's a good decision." He said slowly, as if he was saying it to himself at the same time he was saying it to me. He had ended up looking somewhere off to the side, but then he turned his eyes back to me and his expression softened. "We'll find someone who knows w+hat they're doing, and I'll go with you, any time you want me to."

His words were genuine. He still looked uneasy but his eyes weren't so scared anymore.
My hands were trembling and my throat felt like it was trying to close itself off and my stomach was starting to do barrel rolls and I was terrified because when the words were in my head it felt like I was thinking about some story or something but now that I'd said it out loud I realized, this is real life I was talking about. Real decisions. We were nineteen years old. I was pretty sure the world shouldn't be throwing shit at us like this but it was, and I didn't know if I'd ever have a grasp of the situation, really.

I looked at Red and realized again just how terrifying life would've become if he wasn't next to me right then, if we hadn't talked, if we had just let it all slip away from us. Maybe I'd grown too dependent on him but I couldn't imagine life without him.

He shifted a little, his bangs fell over his face again and he lifted a hand to push them back, but I lifted mine first, reached out to gently brush them back and behind his ear. His hair was longer than it had been in a while, I wondered if he was going to cut it soon or not. Anything worked. He always looked good.

I let my fingers trail down the side of his face; he was always shaving ten million times a day because he despised his natural hair color but apparently he'd missed a shave because I could feel the stubble on his chin, and I grinned.

"What?" He said in a slightly uneasy tone, like he was worried his big secret was out. His hand had trailed off my shoulder to my lower back, when I couldn't tell, but I didn't mind. I was starting to feel hopeful again, I could feel it gathering at my core like this warm ball of fluff. Maybe a kitten. Maybe I'd eaten a kitten. That actually would explain why I could feel warm and fuzzy while also feeling like my stomach was getting all clawed up inside.

"Nothing." I said with a grin. With my stomach still being a pain I thought it was going to be a long night, probably. Probably a very long night. "You hungry?"

I realized the hand I had on Red's face was trembling slightly, and he was looking at me with worry in his eyes.

"Yeah." He said.

"Come on, let's find some menus," I said, standing up. I didn't like the loss of connection when we parted, when my hand left his face and his hand left my back as I got up, so I reached back and caught one if his hands in mine. "I don't think there's much in the fridge."

Red's hand tightened around mine as he got up, and we walked over to the kitchen together. I was starting to feel that twitch again, my breath came uneasy. There were leaves creeping into the edges of my awareness, rolling along the ground, and I wanted them to stop, stop, stop. Red gripped my hand tighter, like he could feel something was off about me right then, and I gave him a shaky grin. I'd be fine, we'd be fine.

"Thai, pizza, Mexican, or Indian," I said, opening a drawer and pulling out a handful of menus with one hand.

"Thai?" Red suggested. I nodded, because it was the only one of the four options that usually sat well with me even if my stomach was revolting. Red knew that, of course. Red always knew.

We had to let go of each other's hands so I could call the order in. Red poked around the kitchen, grabbing utensils and napkins and plates.

"There is no need to be uncivilized, Stanley." he said when I told him we could just eat from the containers. It almost felt like normal again.

I pulled out some sodas and Red opened up a top cabinet to pull out a couple of cups. Instead of reaching in, though, he just stood there staring inside with another one of those unreadable looks on his face.

"What?" I asked, and he glanced at me. Then he reached up and heaved an entire 24-can case of Coors out of the cabinet. He gave me an odd look I couldn't place. I felt the blood drain out of my face.

"Oh. Fuck." I gasped. "I...uh, I didn't know that was there."

"The only reason I believe you is because I know you." Red said with a sigh, and I heard the silent addition of when you're drunk in that sigh. He placed the case on the floor. He looked at it a moment longer, then shoved it over with his foot, farther away from me.

Fucking awkward. I wondered if I missed anything else.

"Maybe you can take it to Kyle's later." Red suggested. He didn't even sound mad. Maybe a little weary.

"That's an idea." I said, fiddling with the plates and the forks

"What did you do with the rest of it?" Red asked as he grabbed the cups finally and carried them to the table.

"Threw it out." I admitted quietly. He gave me an odd look as he set the cups on the table. He was standing close to me, so close we were almost touching. I wondered if it was okay to bridge gaps like that yet. I wondered, if it wasn't, then when would it be okay? I touched his face, could I touch his side? Maybe bump into him? Just a little?

I wondered if he'd stay the night. I wanted him to, even if we weren't going to touch each other or whatever. The thought that he was there, in the apartment, back home, made me so happy it kept the worst of the memories at bay. I didn't know how well the night would go if he didn't stay. My entire being felt raw, from the inside out, as if coming clean about what happened with Craig and this talk with Red and seeing Kenny after two years and everything that had happened the last few weeks had scraped open a gigantic scab inside of me. My stomach twisted fitfully and I grimaced and reminded myself that Red was there, and Red loved me and I loved him and we were going to be okay.

I wanted to ask Red to stay. I really did. I didn't know if I could get the words out yet. Worse, a part of me was terrified that he wouldn't say yes.

"Would you mind if I put some music on?" Red asked.

"Go for it." I said with a grin. He stepped around me and headed back towards the living room; I thought I felt the slight pressure of fingertips on my back as he passed, but it could've been my imagination. But it could've been real, too.

I smiled to myself when I heard the song he started with: Smashing Pumpkins, 1979. Bittersweet nostalgia.

Whether he stayed that night or not didn't matter, I realized. We were happy in that moment, I thought, with the plates and forks and cups on the table and food on its way and music crooning softly from the stereo.

I heard Red's footsteps nearing the kitchen and I turned and smiled at him as he leaned against the doorframe. He finally looked relaxed, his guard down, flicking his bangs out of his face and eyeing them crossly as they flopped back down.

I wanted to laugh but I didn't. Instead I walked over and wrapped my arms around him and buried my face against his neck. And for a moment I worried that maybe I shouldn't have given in to impulse because he stiffened slightly within my arms. Then I felt him lean back against me, felt his warmth as his arms wrapped around my body. His breath tickled my neck and he smelled so great, like cloves and chocolate and spices and a million other things that were just all amazing and that I didn't have words for. I wouldn't have minded if we'd stay lost in that moment forever.

I paused for a moment in front of the apartment door, eyeing it warily. I could hear loud noise behind it, speakers blasting at full power. I could only imagine the battle scene I was about to walk into, and I was sure it wasn't pretty. Fixing my grip on the case of Coors, I knocked as loud as I could.

The noise blasted louder as the door opened, and I wince as I followed a grinning Kenny inside.

"You f-f-fucking dick, just p-put your f-fucking hearing aid in you j-j-jackass!"

Kyle fumed in the living room, glaring at the nonchalant Frenchmen slouching on the couch.

"Je ne comprends pas, mon ami," Christoph said, and lit a cigarette, his eyes glued to the TV screen.

"D-don't smoke in the f-fucking apartment, d-douche!"

I raised an eyebrow and looked at Kenny as I set the box of Coors on the table, then leaned against it.

"Nice, ain't it?" Kenny said, a curious grin on his face, and nodded towards the two. "This… thing they got."

I shrugged, watching them. They were amusing, at least. Fucking loud, but amusing.

"I guess," I said, "They seem to be good roomies."

"Yeah," Kenny said, eyeing me oddly for a moment. Then he laughed. "Yeah. Right."

I raised an eyebrow at his cryptic remark, but let it slide. He looked amused as he watched them, but it was a secretive sort of amused, like he was seeing something no one else did.

"Hey," I said, and the blonde turned his attention back to me. "Kenny, I just wanted to apologize. For yesterday. I was... I shouldn't have been such a dick."

"You were definitely a dick," Kenny nodded in agreement. I sighed, and he shook his head and chuckled. "You sort of had a reason behind why you were being a dick though."

"Yeah, but that doesn't…." I started, but he interrupted with another laugh.

"Don't worry about it," He said, and when I started to try to talk he interrupted again, "We all do shit, Stan."

I looked at him, trying not to look dejected. That was a bit of an understatement, I thought. Besides, other than leaving us without a word and disappearing for two years, when had Kenny ever been a dick to anyone?

"We do, all right? Fuck, Stan, no one's perfect," Kenny said, "I've done shit, Stan, I've made mistakes, you know? I made big ones. Fuck, I made a huge one I thought I was never gonna be able to live with…"

I watched the look on his face get solemn, his eyes serious. I realized that the past two years must have been as difficult for him as they were for the rest of us. For a certain one of the rest of us.

"I learned, you know, it's not… it's not good to live in the past," His voice was just barely loud enough for me to hear over the noise of the apartment. I nodded, bit my lip, and for a moment neither one of us said a thing.

"You talk to Red?" Kenny asked. I appreciated the fact that he didn't say it gently, or gingerly, or whatever, that he wasn't trying to act like he had to be wary about it. He just asked.

"He's at the apartment," I said, cleared my throat. "We're… we need work." I nodded, and then added. "I need work."

Kenny just gave me that long look he was so good at but never pulled out much, the one where it seemed like he was looking straight into you and reading all the things you weren't saying. Telepathic Kenny, right? I sighed, playing with a ripped edge of the Coors case.

"You know, I'm not going to be like, I don't know, Disney-idyllic believing in happily ever after," I s-aid. "And I'm not going to keep acting like I still have tomorrow, because that's crap. If I mess up today I'm not going to have a tomorrow. And hell, I need to work through previous tomorrows before I can start looking ahead to the ones that are coming. Fuck. Does that make sense?"

Kenny just grinned, a sort of odd grin because it was a little sad and a little happy at the same time.

"I just… I figured out, I need help to stop living in the past." I said. Kenny looked puzzled then, and I sighed. "I'll tell you. Later. But it's going to be okay."

Kenny didn't say anything. He just slung an arm over my shoulders in a sort of sideways bro-hug and leaned back against the table. It was nice to have Kenny back. Kenny was back, and Red and me were getting back on track, and Kyle was okay now he really was and Cartman was far, far away from us and it felt like things were finally falling into place. It felt like these were good moments to be alive in. I didn't even hear the leaves all that much right then, thinking on how things were going. I didn't hear them at all.

We listened to Kyle and Christophe argue for a while. I tapped my fingers on the Coors box and Kenny got a sort of faraway look in his eyes.

"So I guess the light's back on at the end of the tunnel?"

I started a bit at Kenny's sudden words. A faint memory triggered, tumbled to the front of my mind. I chuckled, and grinned.

"Yeah, I guess it is."

That is it my friends. You've waited forever for it. Probably forgot about it, but here it is.

The last chapter.

Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing. I love you all. You're the fuel to my writing flames.

And a special thanks to Shannello for consistently kicking my ass into gear

I hope you enjoyed. You've all been a wonderful audience to write for, and you've all made my day multiple times. I can only hope that by finishing this story I've been able to give you some sort of closure.

I know I don't write 'easy' stories, or, er, you know, stories where things go smooth eventually. I know they make for difficult reads sometimes, they're not flip-through and they're not here to make you feel fluffy and good. I guess. I guess I try to write something that could be realistic in a some way. Something that actually feels like life and not a story. Stories need drama, and mine have more than enough, but I hope it's at least a realistic drama. I try not to jump the shark. (I'm probably wrong on all counts here but I try.)

I apologize if the style changed too much between the last chapter and this one. It's been a while since I wrote Stan (and why did I stop? I feel horrid about it. I love Stan.)

Anyways, I'm going to write some things here that I think may help you understand the story, or might give some closure to at least some elements. Maybe.

I'm sorry I don't write more Cartman. (My next story will have him in it more). I didn't feel Stan and Red and Kyle needed his presence at this stage in their lives, he would have only been an unnecessary catalyst in this story and I already had one to deal with (the road trip and the ensuing effects).

Anyways – characters! I had a sort of character introspecting in Pink I'm going to do something similar here in a way. I'm going to focus on Red and Stan because this story is their story in a way Pink never was. I tried to really point, in a way, at how their relationship functions. I sort of started in Pink but I hoped I develop it in BMI in a subtle way, and then end up dismantling it during the road trip.

At the base their relationship is emotionally negative, if you get me. They aren't building it on anything substantial, but on a formula that is bound to fail. A big part of it is their respective emotional states. Another part of it is their respective characters. When it comes to showing emotions they're opposites, Red reveals little and Stan sometimes reveals too much. They both feel a lot and they're both emphatic, though Red shows it more than Stan because Stan is fogged up by the, let's call it, 'sin of his past'.

Stan is emotionally dependent despite trying to take care of anything himself, while Red is a natural-born nurturer despite his seemingly cold and unreadable exterior. It leads to a relationship that, without proper awareness, could lead to a debilitating form of emotional dependence on either side.

Stan tries to be considerate and he usually succeeds, but he still can't read Red properly because, as we've seen as BMI progressed, he isn't looking he's just playing it by ear (or at least I hope you've noticed that). Red on the other hand finds himself in a Catch-22; he thinks Stan and Craig had a thing and that Stan's subconscious focus on Craig (which Stan never wants to acknowledge) is a leftover from that. He's deeply jealous and at the same time deeply sympathetic, and it leads him to overnurtue Stan emotionally, consistently going beyond Stan's emotional needs to make up for the guilt he feels of being jealous of a dead boy.

At the same time, Stan, subconsciously overwhelmed by the guilt of that fateful night, goes through life partially detached. He's emotionally-responsively-repressed. He says he loves Red, he says it over and over, but if you can show me an outward sign of it in this story I will uh… write you a drabble. I'm not even joking. On the other hand, Red the nurturer, continues to overnurture and overcompensate – he has absolutely no reason to go on the road trip, but he goes because it means a lot to Stan. He becomes increasingly angry about Stan's subconscious fixations (protip: the motel wasn't the first time Stan talked in his sleep, as he mentioned, but it also wasn't the first time his sleep talking made references to Craig) but he continues to be 'good' to Stan in ways. Even after he blows up at Stan he tries to make amends, taking the heat himself to keep Stan from freaking out more.

I could go on for DAYS probably but if you have any questions about Stan or Red or their relationship in these two stories please feel free to message me. I'd love to answer them for you.

Onwards, we have Kyle, who we don't get to feel much because, well, even though Stan calls him his super best… He's not paying much attention there either, not until after the motel (isn't it funny how Stan is dejected and alone and drunk and he doesn't go to Kyle? There's something to think about) and we get this one-shade version of Kyle in this story that is seriously lacking in detail, don't you think? (I think I should add here how Kyle and Christophe ended up rooming together: they met together at a therapists office while Kyle was recovering from his near-death-experience and Christophe was recovering from one of his own that took most of his hearing. The rest is glorious history.) Kyle's grown up by the time BMI starts up – he's an adult in a way that neither Stan or Red are. Yet he's still caught by the past too, held back because of it. While the major realization this story focuses on, of course, is the one involving Stan and Red, Kyle experiences his own around the same time. Not in the motel, but out when he finds Kenny and he fully realizes how selfish he is being. He didn't chicken out. He backed out because for the first time he put Kenny before himself. In the end it was the best thing that could've happened – while we didn't get to hear their conversation before the group leaves the motel and heads back home, it was being able to see Kenny and not focus on himself that helped Kyle leave that day. I could write an essay on Kyle himself, really, but I'm going to stop here. Of course, questions? Ask away.

Hm, Kenny. Kenny who did not have much air time but who was still an essential part of the positive side of the catalyst. Stan trusts Kenny in a way he doesn't trust anyone, and maybe even Stan wouldn't be able to say why. But when Kenny tells him he needs to open up, not deal with things by himself all the time, Stan listens, if only inwardly. Because Kenny knows what it's like to keep secrets bottled up inside and he knows how they eat away at you. Kenny seems like the typical wise sage character but the truth is he's a little dulled, a little dimmed, by the way life has gone for him. He's seen too much and experienced too much too soon and he hasn't been able to keep his verve for life going. It's not that he's this quiet dude who can see into you, it's just that he knows what a fuck life could be and he can read the signs better than most. Of all the characters Kenny is the most emphatic but he's also the most aware of his own limitations.

What else? Both Kenny and Kyle and every kid in South Park knows that Craig called Stan that night. But true to his word Stan never told anyone exactly what happened that night, until he told Red. Kenny and Kyle only knew that Stan was affected badly by being the person Craig reached out to, and knowing Stan they figured he was, not overreacting, but emotionally overwhelmed by it.

I'm trying to think of other loose ends to tie up for you all but I can't right now. If you have any questions feel free to ask away, I'll answer all of them.

Thanks for taking the ride with me.