"C'mon, Kyle, please?" Stan Marsh was hugging his best friend's thighs in an overtly gay way, clearly attempting to spare his own dignity.
Kyle Broflovski, for his part, was not swayed by the dramatic begging in the crowded school hallway. "Dude, no," said a brilliantly colored Kyle, pushing Stan off his legs. "I HAVE to go to the DECA meeting and I have a shit-ton of homework to do." Kyle turned to his locker and fiddled with the dial.
Stan stood up, pouting. "Kyle, no teachers actually check the homework. You can fill in crap answers in five minutes and get the same 'A.' And DECA's just doing another head count. You can TOTALLY miss that!"
"That's not the point, Stan." Kyle sighed and shut his locker. He turned toward his biology class. But a familiar "tsk"ing sound stopped him in his tracks. He knew that tone of "tsk." It made his blood run cold.
"Wow, Kyle," said Stan, coming up behind his friend. "I didn't realize you'd forgotten already. But I guess that's what friends are for, right? To remind us what's important?"
Kyle turned a brilliant crimson. "Don't," he said shakily.
"Oh, JON!" yelled Stan loudly. He walked to the middle of the hallway and passing students looked at him like a crazy person. "Jon, your arms are so STRONG! Yeah, show me the Emmy! SHOW ME THE EMMY!" A group of students stopped around Stan, giggling. "I totally agree with all your snarky opinions, you smooth, smooth operator!"
"Okay, Stan!" Kyle shouted. "I think that's enough for one day!"
Stan grinned widely and sauntered over to Kyle as the crowd dispersed. Kyle glared at the floor as if it had done him a great personal wrong.
"Fine." Kyle kicked the malevolent floor that had kept him from sinking into the ground during Stan's outburst. "I'll be there."
"Yay!" cried Stan, hugging Kyle tightly. "Oh, Kyle, words cannot express the depth of my love for you right now! With you as the wind beneath my wings, I can fly anywhere!"
The auditorium was South Park High's greatest attribute. Or, so Kyle had heard- he'd never had a reason to be there except for lame seminars on alcohol, sexting, or Manbearpig. And frankly, during those seminars he was either messing around with Stan or texting Stan if they had to be separated.
So Kyle had to agree that the auditorium was pretty great, if just for the total "Stan-ness" of it. The stage was elegant, but not pompous; the seats were sinfully comfortable; the acoustics were fantastic. And the blue paint and fabric and the fact that whenever he was here, so was Stan- all of it reinforced the Stan-ness of the auditorium.
Kyle was one of the only students sitting in the seats, so he took the liberty of the center row. His backpack and Stan's pile-of-rags-that-miraculously-held-everything-Stan-mercilessly-stuffed-into-them sat in the seat beside him. He watched the drama geeks do their faggy warm-ups and Stan shyly wave at him from the corner of the stage. Butters was talking animatedly to Stan, and Kyle could tell that his best friend was just too nervous to take in anything the smallish blond was saying.
Kyle sighed and took out his phone. He quickly typed a message to Stan and pressed "SEND." He watched Stan take out his vibrating phone and read the text. A grin passed over Stan's face and he looked at Kyle. Kyle smiled and mouthed his text. "You're brilliant and you've got this part in the bag."
Stan blew an elaborate kiss and Kyle rolled his eyes. When the gay rumors had circulated around Kyle during middle school, Stan saw how much they bothered him and adopted Big Gay Al's big gay mannerisms to shield his friend from the cruel jokes. And because Stan was blatantly heterosexual, the school just figured that the two were both straight, just a tiny bit gay for each other. Except for Cartman, no student ever made fun of either boy again. So when Stan hugged Kyle's thighs or blew him a kiss or tried to play with his hair, Kyle knew it was his way of saying, "I'm here for you, man."
And Kyle was only returning a portion of the favor by sitting front and center in the cool auditorium, silently cheering on his best friend of nearly 16 years. Even if Shakespeare was totally lame, even if Romeo and Juliet was the lousiest, most clichéd high school play in history, Kyle was going to hoot and holler and let Stan know he was here for him.
"Okie-diddlikins," said a Big Gay Voice. "Is everyone ready for the audition?" Everyone turned to see Big Gay Al walk in with his husband, Mr. Slave. All 40 students crowded the apron of the stage to proclaim their readiness.
"Super, let's get this show on the road!"
For the next hour, Kyle didn't look up from his math book except when Stan or Kenny, another good friend, worked a scene.
Since Kenny had taken off the horrible orange parka in the 6th grade, he had blossomed into a tall, beautiful young man who oozed confidence that bordered on arrogance. Kenny was only auditioning "for the chicks," though. Sad. Kyle noticed how wonderfully his voice projected.
Stan read a few different scenes, once as Romeo, twice as Mercutio, and once as Tybalt. Kyle counted. But it was Romeo's soliloquy as the peeping tom in Act 2 that caught Kyle's heart in his throat.
Stan had started shakily, nervously scanning the auditorium for some support. The lights on stage were so bright that he didn't spot Kyle until "Her vestal livery". At "green," he caught Kyle's eye and paused, smiling. The rest of the monologue was flawless, if the tears in Mr. Slave's eyes were any indication. When he'd finished, Kyle stood up and cheered, though he was the only one making a sound. Stan grinned and flashed him a thumbs up.
When everything was finished, Big Gay Al and Mr. Slave tearfully thanked everyone for coming and promised to have the cast list up first thing the next morning. Stan leapt off the stage and ran down the row to hug Kyle.
"Thanks, man," he said. "For a minute there, I thought I was sunk!"
"Dude, you were great," Kyle replied, patting his friend on the back. "You totally got Mercutio!"
Stan's eyes shone as he pulled away.
"Hey, Stan!" Both boys turned to the voice. Wendy was waving him over with Bebe, Kenny, Butters and Clyde. Stan looked at Kyle, who playfully pushed him toward the group. Stan smiled and dashed off as Kyle collected their bags and sighed.
"Hi, Kyle." Kyle jumped a little at his name and turned around to see Mr. Slave. Mr. Slave smiled. "I noticed you didn't fill out a techie form."
"Uh, yeah," replied Kyle. "I'm just here to support my friends."
"Oh, that's such a shame! We need a stage manager to organize everything Al-likins and I don't have time for."
"I'm sure you'll find someone." Kyle turned to walk toward Stan and the group, who were frantically jumping and calling his name.
"Oh well. It looks really good on college applications."
At this Kyle froze. Ambitious as he was, he had never turned down an opportunity to pad his applications.
He turned around. "Does it really?"