No matter how much you try to deny it, everyone knows that even the most unholy of ghosts tell little Mary or William exactly what they want to hear; everyone knows that stories are made to keep children indoors when the thunder is screaming outside; everyone knows that stories are the only things keeping the children in bed at night and afraid of the monsters under their bed; everyone knows that stories tell of heroes and damsels in distress and everything ends up happy and good when the hero gets the girl but everyone also knows that that is not true. It was never true.

No dragon is ever slain that once wreaked havoc upon the villagers, no bad King overturned by his country that then basks in the new King's glory, and there was certainly never any prince to save the princess locked away in a tower; no, she was left to fester in her futile whim and wither away into the bricks of time that are built upward, just waiting to collapse on the next poor soul who would be as unfortunate as to stand near the leaning tower of dirty, gray bricks. Poor, poor soul, indeed.

These are the first things we learn as we grow up. It's Big Brother trying to brainwash us with the same song and dance to keep us trained. We're like puppets, aren't we? We're controlled. Taught manners and taught to do this and taught to do that. This is how it's always been.

So, who is he? He's a puppet too. Big Brother and Big Momma pluck his strings; play him like a harp. They teach him what to do and he does it until its embedded in him brain and he's entertained.

When he was little, his mother would read him lullabies like those; the ones with dashing, charming princes and lucky, lucid ladies waiting to be plucked away on a tall, white stallion with that royal man who waited all that time to take her heart. Every night he'd hear those stories and he became brainwashed with them. He loved them. He was brainwashed by love.

But it's been such a long time since then; a long time since those words echoed about in his head and wracked every nerve in his body, filling him to the edge with delight when he finally heard his mother whisper those words that meant the princess was saved or the dragon slain, those words that lulled him to sleep over due time and kept him in peaceful dreams where the scenes replayed in his head. Big Brother's brainwash…

He asked no one, What time is it?

His redhead crumpled the pillow as he turned his head to look at the glowing numbers of the clock. He turned on his side and pushed his hands under the pillow as he laid atop his bed, the sheets kicked down at the foot of the bed. He blinked in the numbers - it couldn't possible be that time. Midnight? No, no, he says. It couldn't be.

He watched the minutes change slowly, the seconds counting up to break even. Every time he blinks, a new minute flashes up.

Twelve-fourteen AM. Blink. Twelve-twenty-two AM. Blink, blink. Twelve-thirty-six AM, Twelve-forty-four AM… Twelve-fifty-nine AM. One-oh-oh AM. One-thirty-nine AM. One-fifty-nine AM. He blinks once.

Two-forty-seven AM.

He closed his caramel coloured eyes. He opened them again. Two-forty-seven AM. He needed to sleep. He sighed and pushed himself up, rolling his feet over the edge of the bed. He put his cold feet on the floor and stood, raising a hand to brush at the back of his neck where the auburn curls bounced and claimed his head as home. On the nightstand, his phone buzzed into life, the light from the screen becoming just about the only light in the room besides that which filtered in through the edges of the blinds over the window. He turned back around, hand on the cool, golden-coloured doorknob to the door of his room, looked over his shoulder. He twisted the doorknob in his hand and then let it go; it latched back into place. He started over, the carpet giving little crunching noises as he started over and stared at the now unlit screen.

His fingers tapped over the cool faux-metal; the plastic making small popping noises as he lifted his fingers each time. He picked it up and it settled into his hand like it was meant to be there. More of Big Brother's brainwash; he's watching, isn't he? He pressed a button and unlocked the device, the name of the person being one that he often said in his restless sleep. He dabbed at his eyes, bruised dark with lack of sleep, covering them from the harsh light the cell phone gave off as he unlocked it. He slowly lifted his hand so he could read the text message and stared down at the bright screen, an icon of a boy with black hair and blue eyes grinning back at him near the edge of the screen next to navy coloured text.

Are you awake?

He blinked, not used to seeing all the words typed out when someone texted him. But this boy was different; he was good like that. His hands flitted over the buttons. He didn't need to look as he typed. It's from all that brainwash. Instead, he stared at the picture of the raven-haired boy. It looked almost like the real thing. But it wasn't even close either. Nothing can catch how something looks to the eye, not even the best camera. The human body is a magical thing like that. How it disgusted him too.

No, I'm texting you in my sleep.

The little message popped up on screen, the text below the picture of the blue-eyed boy, next to his own little icon on the opposite edge of the screen from the other boy. The opposite edge. The losing edge. The winning side. More brainwash.

He'll just never get it.

His pale hand lowered itself and automatically pushed the phone into the left pocket of his jeans. Brainwash, brainwash. He was brainwashed to live like this. It's all automatic. He couldn't do anything about it. He, of course, wouldn't know; he was brainwashed not to think that he was. Controlled society. Constructive destruction. It's all for the greater good.

His hand twists the knob of the door and his feet pad him down the hall quietly. He moved automatically around that little creaky spot on the floor, making his way down the stairs. He turned into the living room and stopped, phone buzzing in his pocket. He pulled it out like it was an instinct to do so and stared down at the screen, the light in the corner of the room allowing more light so he wasn't blinded when he unlocked the phone once again.

The little icon of Stanley Marsh says to him, Well, you think you can wake up so we can hang out?

Fingers flew to keys. Soon, his little icon that floated on the opposite edge of the screen told the one of Stan Marsh, Sure, who cares if its three something in the morning? And the phone made its way magically back into his pocket before he could even think about doing so. He walked over the plush carpet, past the light in the corner and into the kitchen, reaching over to turn the lights on in the room. His phone shook itself back and forth in his pocket.

Stan's icon said, Rockin'. :) Be there soon.

Kyle's icon said, Cool. (: Come in through the back door. It'll be unlocked.

And back to his pocket with his phone. He walked to the back door and his hands raised to the faux-gold latch, turning it until it gave a sharp click. His hand dropped and he turned back around, phone buzzing.

Stan said, Is that a sexual innuendo? :D

Kyle rolled his eyes, smiling.

Kyle said, If you want it to be. ;)

His lips fell back to a placid expression as the phone made its home again in his pocket. And he bent over as he opened the door to the fridge. He looked around a bit. There was lots of food and nothing to eat. Cravings controlled him. He needed something commercial; something you'd see on your 62" HD TV and then rush out to buy, so you have biggest and the best. More and more you need so Big Brother can watch you. That's just what he wanted right now. More and more.

Stan: Lol, fag. xD

Kyle: Only for you, big boy! c:

He closed the door of the fridge. Lots of food; nothing to eat still. He stuck out his tongue. Maybe they could order some pizza. At three in the morning. Hey, someone had to deliver, right? To keep society afloat. Without their fast food, they'd crumble in a panic. Brainwash instilled forever.

The back door opened and closed and the boy in the door posed dramatically, practically marching in with the biggest grin on his face. "Honey, I'm home!"

His heart gave a wild thud. Propaganda. Brainwash. He quirked his nose and blew a kiss to the other, hands on the edge of the cold marble counters as he sat atop it. "Welcome home, dear! How was your day at work?"

Stan laughed as he swung off his jacket and hooked it over the back of a chair, taking off his hat and throwing it down on the table, running a hand through his seemingly-soft black hair, giving his head a little shake. "Killer, dude! So, what's on the agenda? Movie, maybe?" He clapped his hands together, rubbing them as he started over to the redhead, who was still on the counter.

"Yeah, dude. How's a horror sound? We just got this new horror film and I've yet to watch it." He smiles genuinely at Stan and Stan's smile lit up back at him.

"Rad, dude! And your parents aren't home for the weekend, right? So it's okay if you scream when you get scared." He laughed, teasing the redhead as he walked up, leaning down with his elbows on the counter, looking up at him as he did so. He laughed even more as the redhead mocked him by mouthing the words and making indistinguishable noises that matched Stan's tone as he swiveled around on the countertop to face towards the living room again, sliding off the countertop slowly, putting his feet back on the floor again. He padded out onto the carpet and felt Stan staring at the back of his head as he went, which made him raise his hand again and run his hand through the red curls as he wobbled along, squatting and crawling towards the shelves full of movies, fingers grazing over the covers of each, eating in each title and the colours and faces that lined their sides, looking for the one he had in mind. He could feel Stan watching him, but he didn't mind at all.

He finally found it and slid it out of the rack, flashing the case at Stan, who arched both his eyebrows at him as he wiggled the case back and forth as if he was waving with it. Kyle grinned at him. "Think we could order pizza too? Or would it be too early for that, ya think?" He asked as he popped the case open, curling his fingers around the edge of the disk to take it out of its fitted space inside the movie case with yet another pop noise. So much noise for such a simple task. Probably more brainwash.

He crawled across the floor on his hands and knees to the DVD player that was hooked up to that giant HD TV that every family had nowadays. Commercial propaganda. Your friend has it, you gotta be better than them. So you buy and buy bigger, more and more. Just what everyone needed.

"I dunno, 3 AM's not all that early." The redhead laughed and he could just hear Stan grinned after he said that. He glanced at him. Bingo. He knew him so well. He looked back and slid the disk into the DVD player which then took back the disk with a small churning noise and hum. Kyle grinned too and turned back to Stan, shrugging slightly. "Hey, you never know! They could still be open." Twenty-four-seven service. Just what everyone needed. Proselytization to the social religion that keeps the economy afloat and stock brokers on Wall Street filthy rich. He tilted his head slightly in a way that would have seemed almost flirtatious. Stan just laughed, giving that big and absolutely ridiculous smile that he only gave Kyle - his Kyle smile.

With that, Kyle dropped the CD case, pushed himself off the ground and grabbed the channel changer, fingers knowing exactly what to do like they did on his phone, knowing every key. The TV switched to a blue screen, then blipped and went to a green screen with white writing, showing previews for other movies, allowing the two to share their feelings about how they wanted to see it because it looked good or maybe that that one chick flick comedy they just saw the preview of they were definitely not going to see.

After a few previews, Kyle looked back at Stan. "Well?"

"Well what?" Stan asked, looking back at him.

"Aren't you gonna call?"

"Call who?" Stan slightly tilted his head.

Kyle pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance but laughed. "The pizza, dude!"

"Dude, they're not gonna be open!"

"I bet you they will."

"Five bucks says they won't."

"You're on!"

And with that, Stan whipped out his phone, scrolling down his contacts list to Shakey's Pizza. He hit the call button and held the phone to his ear, grinning at Kyle as it rang, rang, rang, and Stan counted three rings, counted four, counted five-- "Shakey's Pizza, how can we help you?" Stan practically threw the phone from his face, letting out a silent and exasperated sigh, though he was smiling widely. He bit his knuckle and shook his head at Kyle, pressing the phone back to his ear, getting ready to order. Kyle grinned at him, TV mute of all sound.

"Scratch the five bucks - you're paying for it." Stan quirked his nose at him, and continued to order, knowing exactly what the both of them wanted. The same they always ordered. Kyle kicked back once he sat down on the couch, remote in his hand, finger hovering over that sideways triangle that all of humanity knew to be the ever-loved Play button. He hit it instantly as Stan hung up, but his coffee eyes never left Stan. He shoved his phone into his pocket and gave him a nod.

"They said they'll be here in thirty minutes or so." Kyle smiled that Kyle smile, that one that was distinctly only ever held for his super best friend. He stuck his tongue out, grinning widely in that way that Stan knew he did when he was about to say something like 'told ya so.' Stan smirked and held his hand up. "Don't even say it, I'm already paying. I'm going through enough torture as is with that," he said in a slightly sing-song way as he flopped down on the couch next to his fiery-haired best friend, turning his head away from the big screened HD TV to give him a playfully puppy pout that Stan had become renown for with Kyle. Kyle just laughed.

"Hey, you bet first and agreed! Don't blame me," he smiled, shrugging as light from the TV shifted as the picture changed from the last of the previews to a dark night with soft white text that proclaimed the opening credits, the rainy scene behind the letters completely archetypal to any movie. "At least I'm being a good friend and not making you pay for both the five bucks that you originally bet andthe pizza." Stan stared at him with a fake gasp, a hand going to his mouth.

"You wouldn't dare!" Kyle smirked back at him, head rolling to look back up at him, eyebrows raised slightly.

"Wouldn't I?" Stan mocked him the way he had earlier when Kyle was sitting on the counter, making those dumb little noises and chewing his tongue over the nonsensical words in Kyle's own tone as he turned back to the movie, which now showed that typical blond bimbo walking down the street, arms over her chest as she tried to hold her jacket closed from the rain as she held out a thumb when she saw headlights in the distance. The driver of the car hit the brakes and slowed to a stop in front of her. She opened the door and started onto a tangent of "thank you" and all her problems after her car broke down in the middle of nowhere.

Kyle sat back more into the couch after dropping the remote onto the table. He already knew where this was going when the camera switched to look at the guy and all that you could see of him was his silhouette under a brimmed hat. The redhead crossed his arms over his chest. He had this all planned out, this movie. It was just like all the rest; the same plot line he'd seen in every movie. But he'd continue to watch nonetheless as the man on the screen grabbed a roll of duct tape and pulled it, making the girl turn and ask what he was doing with that. She'd struggle, fight, cough, plead. She'd lose in the end. Cue the missing person posters in the high school where they'd meet the main characters. The first kids they met, Stan and Kyle learned, were named Chris Kuhl and Seth Marsell. Kyle looked over at Stan, who was gazing at the screen with a serious expression. Kyle wanted to laugh at him, but he just turned back to the screen and shifted himself slightly in his seat, getting more comfortable.

On screen, Chris and Seth were at what looked like the school fair. They were enjoying themselves, just having fun together and play games. They were laughing about how Seth almost tripped over a little freshmen kid when he wasn't paying attention, and suddenly, Seth stopped mid-step and turned to Chris, pointing out that the biggest crush of his life was walking their way.

Kyle knew where this was going to - Seth would desert Chris for the girl, and after Seth defeats the bad guy and Chris is long gone, Seth will get together with the girl of his dreams and everyone would live happily ever after.

Kyle sunk further down in the couch as he watched Seth leave, leaving Chris on his own, who held a single red balloon in his hand. Of course, Chris was smiling and told Seth it was okay for him to go and try and woo his girl, even wishing him good luck.

"What a dick move," Kyle heard Stan grumble from across the couch. Stan had his arms crossed over his chest too, sunk low down into the cushions. Kyle smirked and raised an eyebrow at him.

"Well, Chris told him it was okay, dude," Kyle explained, to which Stan gave an exasperated nod and then pouted a moment longer before sitting up with a sigh.

"But, still, dude," Stan sighed and looked at him. "I mean, Chris looks really bummed out now, ya know?" He shifted back upright in his seat on the couch, looking at the screen, where Chris had his eyes set on the ground as he walks, his little red balloon in his hand - until he runs into a hulking mass of a man and Chris looks upwards with a grunt. He apologizes to the man who smiles down at him and tells him its okay, that it was his fault. Suddenly, the man reaches up and grabs the balloon before it can float up to the sky too far, handing it back to Chris with a smile. Chris just stares at the man, who just smiles at him. The man tells him to "have a good day now" and starts off on his way, while Chris just stares after him. Chris then looks up at his little red balloon and then starts on his way as well.

The camera switches to Seth and Kyle no longer finds himself caring to watch, as he figures out the rest of the plot instantaneously. The beginnings of all the movies are the same anyway. He'll start paying attention again when Seth isn't trying to woo that girl of his into a late night soirée.

"Hey…"

"What?" Kyle looked up slightly, turning to Stan.

"Isn't our school fair in, like, two days?" Stan looked back at him.

"Yeah, why?" Kyle nodded. That meant he has to go to school tomorrow and help set up. That's what he got for joining Student Government, on which he just barely scraped up enough votes to hold presidential position over Wendy Testaburger, meaning she was out of SGA and she'd have all the time in the world tomorrow to do whatever the hell she wanted. Lucky, lucky.

"Just wondering," Stan said and looked back to the screen. Kyle just watched him still. He knew that 'just wondering' isn't just wondering. There is always a little curiosity behind every 'just wondering,' and that's something Kyle knew well - especially in Stan's case. But he wasn't willing to fight, so he turns his attention back to the screen.

Kyle felt his heart flutter with anxiety as he looked back to the screen, and suddenly, the camera is on what looks like prom, and Kyle knew he'll have to start planning for that tomorrow too, the fair and senior prom being the same day. God, he had a lot to do tomorrow. Nervous anxiety.

Prom becomes locked down. The few "main" characters got separated from the big group that was partying inside the gymnasium. Until the killer manages to blow them up, at least. Then the killer realized that the main party is still out there, and he goes after them. He's killed two girls and a boy already besides the once partying hull of the characters inside the gym.

The camera view showed Seth, Chris and two girls, each girl clinging to each boy's arm, respectively, with the girl Seth was hitting on at the fair clung to him, a classmate stuck to Chris' own arm as they creep through pitch black hallways with flashlights in their hands. They click them on and off, off and on, just in case the crazy monster of a killer is nearby.

"Don't you wish life was like this?" Kyle asked and can instantly feel Stan's gaze on him. Kyle looked back at him, ignoring the screen where the pairs get separated, and separated further and something about one of the girls crawling through an air duct in order to elude getting his eyes gouged out and made into the mystery meat they were going to serve in the cafeteria the next day.

"What?" Stan asked, just staring at him in disbelief that he would say such a thing. "You want to be stalked by a crazy psycho killer and chased around the school at night after prom, before you can even lose your virginity?" Kyle half-glared at him for that, pushing him slightly.

"No, I just mean how it ends," he explained, adding a little retort to call Stan stupid, to which Stan reacted by punching him in the shoulder. They turned their attention back to the screen, where the girl was being stabbed at through the air duct metal, the blade just barely missing her face, her hand, her stomach, her leg. She crawls as fast as she can through the duct, barely eluding the killer below her. With a stroke of luck, she turns when the air vent does, and all you can hear is soft, muffled cursing as the killer finds himself stuck, probably as she turned into another room.

"Just how it ends."

Blink.

Five-twenty-four AM.

He tried to sit up, only to find a heavy weight on top of him. Stan's legs. He sighed softly and scuttled out from under his friend, curling up more on the pillow. He looked at the TV, which was just rolling through the credits. A box pizza was sitting open on the table albeit its empty interior, the bottom streaked with eight lines from the center and a ring around the edges, showing its small size of the object that left each mark. He looked over at Stan, whose eyes are barely open as they stare at the screen, barely able to stay open, barely able to focus on anything except the screen, engrossed in the text that floats up the screen slowly. He was barely able to look over at Kyle without seeming over the edge of exhaustion. Stan's lips moved in a way that look like they said "hey," though no sound seemed to leave his mouth.

"I have to go to school." Stan just stared at Kyle with those eyes that mirror the fact that he's on the brink of sleep while his feet push up against the redheaded teen's shins gently. They sat quietly for a minute before Stan's eyes went frantic and wide. He shot up straight on the couch and rolled off, nearly missing his head on the coffee table as he does so, scrambling to get up as a string of curses left his mouth. Stan grabbed the edge of the table and hauled himself up just slightly, his legs spread far back behind him and he stares forward at the TV and to the clock. Five-twenty-five AM. He twisted his head around to Kyle, pure panic showing in his eyes. Then the fear in the ocean orbs falters as it finally clicks that it's five AM on a Saturday morning.

Stan turned himself over slowly, eyes on his feet a moment before looking up to Kyle again. "Wait… it's Saturday." He paused, biting his lip a moment, eyebrows arched. "Isn't it?"

"Yeah," Kyle answered easily, his hands threading between his toes with his knees up against his chest as he sits on the pillow. Stan's eyebrows knit together. Kyle flashed him a smile of apology. "I have SGA duty today. We have to start setting up the grounds for the fair and then the gymnasium for prom and stuff." Stan stared at him a moment longer, then his arms drop out from behind him and he collapsed to the ground, palms now pressed up against his eyes.

"Fuck, dude, you scared the shit out of me! I seriously thought it was time to go to school and everything," Stan groaned, pressing the heels of his hands farther into his eyes. Kyle laughed. If Stan didn't have his hands over his eyes, he'd be glaring at him, that much Kyle can tell from as the frown on Stan's lip deepened.

"Well at least it was a good wake up call?" Kyle laughed with a hesitant tone.

"Yeah, a wake up call for a heart attack."

A silence fell between them another moment, Kyle's grip on his feet getting a little tighter, until Stan blew a raspberry with his lips and let his arms fall beside him, eyes up on the ceiling before looking to Kyle. "What time do you have to go? I'm pretty sure you won't now, since it's, like, the crack of dawn. Not even."

Kyle shook his head. "Nah, I have to be there at eleven."

Stan glared at him. "Then go to sleep. Six hours isn't enough."

Kyle smiled at him, but doesn't move. "Yeah."

Stan felt his stomach turn over in an unpleasant way as he looks at his best friend. "What's that mean?"

Kyle doesn't move. His smile doesn't falter. "Let's get some sleep."

Stan swallowed. It goes down thick and hard, like he just tried to sip a fried chicken through a crazy straw. "You okay, dude?"

That smile doesn't slip. It just gets wider. "Of course."

Stomach turning over inside him, Stan got up and Kyle reached down for the remote, aiming at the TV like it were a gun, and when he pulled the trigger, the screen went dark.

Blink.

Seven-forty-one AM.

Blink, blink.

Eight-eighteen AM, ten-oh-seven AM.

Kyle had left Stan to sleep at his house as he went to school, the day proving itself to be busy as he would have guessed it would be. It spent them a few hours out of the day, even with help from their Interact club and a few volunteers (which, honestly, Kyle was surprised to find at all, seeing as South Park was usually as sparse as the middle of the Sahara desert for volunteer work aside himself and Wendy and possibly a few other kids), and Kyle realized that when his watch beeped rampantly on his wrist for five-o-clock PM that it was time to call it a day.

Blink: five-twenty-six AM.

Kyle lowered his watch from his face and grabbed at his keys, thrusting them into the door and turning the deadbolt, opening the door. He stepped in and kicked off his shoes. His eyes scan nothingness. "I'm home," he tells nobody. And nobody's response is all he gets back.

It's just what he expected though. Stan had better things to do than wait around for him to get home.

Kyle clutched his stomach as it gave a painful twist, his hand clutching the wall for support. He groaned lowly and it echoed through the house. The air settled soundlessly again almost instantly as his stomach settled too, but he can still feel the way it twisted so sharply. But he didn't feel sick at all.

Ding-dong.

He turned around and looked at the door, blinking in two figures. He opened the door and two strange and familiar characters greeted him with big smiles.

"Hey, Stan. Hey, Kenny." Kyle stared at them, and Kenny slightly tilted his head at the other with a smile.

"You seem so uninviting," Kenny said, laughing.

"You okay?" Stan asked, smiling at him with his eyebrows knitted together in worry.

"Yeah, just a little tired."

Then Stan and Kenny tried to speak all at once and all Kyle could pick up from it was something about wanting to hang out, so, wide-eyed with slight freight, Kyle nodded at them and his hat slipped slightly over his eyebrows when he did so.

Kyle turned around and bent over, moving to slip his shoes on.

"Ow!" Kyle stood up straight, hand flying to his ass to rub slightly there. "What the hell, guys?"

Stan and Kenny pointed at each other.

With Kyle in his shoes, they stepped out. Kenny walked with his hands folded behind his head as he walked tall. Stan's hands swayed at this sides as he walked. Kyle had his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground most of the time. His pace was slower than the other two teens, and he fell behind them slightly, but the two boys in front of him continued talking. He stayed a few steps behind them.

"What should we do?" Stan asked.

"I dunno, there isn't much to do in this hick town."

"That's true… well, what about a game at Stark's?"

"What game?"

"Uh… football?" Kenny looked at Stan with a blank expression that was made of the word 'no'. Stan laughed nervously. "Soccer?"

"Why don't we not do that?" Kenny sighed as he recalled the last time when the ball hit him in the face and seemed to magically tear his head off. Good times with paranoia.

"Then why don't we go to the Arcade or something?"

"I'm broke."

"I can pay for you…"

"I don't take pity pays, you should know this by now."

"Yeah… well, then, why don't we…"

Kyle's thoughts drifted off the conversation as he haunched over in stride, eyes on his feet as he followed up behind Stan and Kyle. As he walked slowly along, he noticed a little ant on the ground. He stared at it as it crawled along the cement. That single ant was all alone. He wondered if it was trying to find someone else to be with, to find its colony and get home to where it -- "Kyle?"

Kyle looked up with his eyes. "Yeah?"

"You okay?" Stan asked, a look of concern on his face.

Railroad tracks. Camera lenses. Hats and sunglasses. Little ants on the sidewalk. Blue veins pumping red blood.

He smiled real wide for Stan, looking up with his whole face now.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

Cigarettes. Boardwalks. End of the road. Lying politicians. Crushed ants on the sidewalk. A teddy bear in someone's arms.

"Well, you wanna do that?"

Chocolate-caramel eyes flashed between two blue sets. "Do what?"

"Go to the gas station and pick up some snacks, then just pig out and do nothing."

"Sounds like a plan."

"Radical, dude."

"Yeah." Kenny agreed with a nod.

The same routine went as they walked. They walked, walked, walked until they got to the gas station. Kyle and Stan, of course, were paying, and Kenny refused to get anything. He had too much pride to do that. After, they went to Stan's house. His parents were out working and Shelly had long since moved out, meaning they had the house to themselves. So they cranked up the volume on the stereo. They sang along with the songs they knew. They chatted. The sun touched the horizon. It sank slowly. The night arose.

Kyle looked at Stan, who was lounging in his chair, tipping backwards with his feet on the desk, throwing popcorn into his mouth. Kenny was laying on the floor, eagle spread. Kyle was sitting on the edge of Stan's desk, hands set in front of him and gripping the edge. Stan glanced up at him, letting the front two legs of the chair fall back to the ground once more as he sat up more in the seat, popcorn bag in his hands. "I think I'm gonna go home." Kenny groaned from the floor and waved his have uselessly at Kyle, telling him silently that he shouldn't go.

"You can't go," the blond retorted, not moving otherwise after the words and the awkward flailing in his general direction.

"Yeah, you can't go! It's only -" Stan glanced at the clock "- ten thirty!"

"Well, I have stuff to do…"

"Yeah? Like what?" Kenny asked, rolling over onto his stomach to look at Kyle. Stan was also looked at Kyle, poking him in the leg with one of his feet that was one the desk still while parroting what Kenny said in a more annoying tone.

Kyle groaned. "Like, the fact that tomorrow is the school fair thing? And I'm the class president? So I kinda have to be there?"

It wasn't a lie, but Kyle just wanted to leave already.

He stood and grabbed his jacket, ignoring the protests of the others. With a smile, he waved goodbye to them as he slowly shut the door to Stan's room behind him.

For a long time, it was quiet between Stan and Kenny. Kenny had by this point sat up, his hands clasped together and resting on his knees. Stan was facing the door as well, leaning forward onto his forearms, forearms onto his knees, hands clasped together. His eyes darted to Kenny after a long time of staring at the door, after a long time of nothing, even the front door closed downstairs. Kenny looked back at him.

Neither knew what to say to the other, but they both knew what the other wanted to ask and that question between them rang through every decibel of the twenty that built up silence.

Outside, the night rang loud. The rustling leaves conjured ten decibels, ten decibels quieter than the silence in which the two he left behind him sat. Kyle's ten decibels of breathing mixed into the sound of the rustling leaves as he walked. His mind swirled with pictures and nothingness all at once as the soles of his shoes made small whap-tap sounds against the pavement that they crossed over. He watched his feet as he walked, knowing where each turn was and when exactly he should. The night whispered softly to him and he echoed it quietly, under his breath.

The wind whispered against his skin and he shivered, hugging himself tightly, leaning over slightly to contain his own warmth. He knew he didn't live all that far from Stan's house, but he still wished that someone would come by and swoop him up in their arms, like a prince on a tall white stallion.

He says to no one, Is this what I really want?

He says, What am I this world but another object taking up space?

But all he sees is Stan.

He tips in one direction slightly, shaking his head as he forced himself to get rid of the Prince Stan idea and to shove his hands into his pockets, where he touched his phone, where he touched his iPod, where he touched his big television, where he touched his desktop computer. And all he felt was the cool, uncaring metal under his hand; the metal of Big Brother's propagandizing brainwash. He gripped them like they were all he had left.

To him, they were.

He stumbled into faith and thought as he looked to the sky, asking the empty, black sky, God, is this all there is? Is this the divine purpose that blesses me? But he stared back down at his feet and no answer ever came to him. He shook his head, telling himself and the abyssal night, It was pointless to ask anything of a person who doesn't exist. That's what he believes, but it doesn't matter anyway. He wonders if a part of his soul will tie his life to the next, or maybe the last. But of that, he's still not sure. He's only sure that he's different from the world. He guessed that everyone would know that. All the answer he got from the person he wished was in the sky was glittering stars and black nothing as he opened the door and stepped inside.

-

The school fair was busy as it was every year. It was like that time when the independent film awards thing came to town and took over. Except it wasn't Hollywood - it was just a bunch of hicks crowded onto a high school campus around tents, cotton candy makers, games and small children running about to each in order to play them all before the fair ended later that day.

Kyle, however, wasn't running around like the children and adults, playing games. Instead, he was stuck watching people come and go as he stood to make sure everything was running smoothly. That was his job. He held a megaphone in his hand, a roll of tickets, a small ant.

The megaphone came into use as he crawled onto the top of the bleachers and announced that the fair was closing due to inclement weather. The clouds seemed to circle over his head as he said that, like a dark halo. The light that shined through the eye was eclipsed after he got off the bleachers and listened and watched as each of the people attending left. Then no one was left but him, and he left too, walking through the maze of a ghost town of tents and ticket stands and games and helium tanks to leave.

Kyle walked down the street, focusing on a pebble he kept kicking along as he walked. He was bored now without the fair going on. Like the night before. Really bored. Alone. Always so alone - by himself - beside himself. The only one beside him was his shadow. The other him. The better him? Still, with the fair ending, that meant that Spring break was around the corner and he had no idea what he was going to do. He sighed and looked up at the grey clouds that once swirled over him like a threatening tornado. It was gloomy, and it looked like it was just going to rain now instead. He blinked as a raindrop hit his cheek. Then another. And another. He dropped his head and picked up his pace as water started to fall from the sky, soaking through his jacket. He looked at the street signs, and headed towards Stan's house. It was closest from where he was. Besides, maybe they could do something now that the fair was over. That is, if he wasn't out with Wendy already from the fair. He paused. Wendy. He stood there for a minute, before realizing that he was getting soaked even more with each falling drop than he already was, and he ducked into the nearest store. That just happened to be Tweak's Coffee Shop. He sighed and sat in one of the plush chairs, debating on whether he should buy a coffee or just sit. He tossed the idea around in his head as he heard the door chime, signaling someone walking in. He looked up and saw Stan. His heart rose for a second, before dropping again as he saw Wendy walking behind him. They were holding hands. In Stan's other hand was a red balloon from the fair. He wondered why he didn't notice them. He dropped his head again, turning to face the wall, hoping that Stan wouldn't notice him, causing him to ruin their date.

"Kyle?"

He heard Stan's cheery voice and winced slightly, feeling like a failure in trying to avoid him and Wendy, before turning around and putting on his best smile, the smile of the actor that is spectating the show. He watched with that smile as Stan pulled Wendy over to him. Wendy smiled the same smile back at him. She wasn't amused, especially as Stan sat down across from Kyle and then scooted over on the plush seat of the booth, pulling Wendy down next to him by her hand; his prince with a different princess. He couldn't wait for this ending. The red balloon pushed up to the corner along the wall and Stan smiled at him.

"Hey, dude, how's it going?"

Kyle smiled at Stan. "Fine, how about you two?" He added the word 'two' with a slight hesitation, not wanting to pair them together. But if he was going to lie about him being 'fine' then he could deny them being together.

"Just fine as well," Stan laughed at him cheerily. He noticed Stan wince slightly though and he glanced over at Wendy, who was looking at Stan with a grumpy expression. Stan smiled apologetically at her, then turned back to Kyle as he tugged down the balloon slightly. "So, dude, we're going out to eat, but I'll see you later, okay?" Stan smiled at him with promise, and his blue eyes seemed to have more of a shimmer to them as he did so than before.

Kyle nodded, "Yeah. Do you have an umbrella? It's raining."

Stan looked at him curiously. "It's not raining, dude."

"What? Yes it is, dude," he said.

Even Wendy looked at him curiously. Kyle looked between their questioning looks. Then he noticed that neither of them was wet - not a single drop. He looked up at the red balloon that floated high in the air by its red string, and still, not a single drop of rain was clinging to the balloon. He looked down at himself. He was dry. But why did he feel so cold and wet, like a drowned rat?

He laughed faintly, looking back up at the two in front of him. "I guess not. Well, still, it might start later, so be careful at least, okay?" He smiled at them, and they just gave him that same curious look.

"Kyle," Stan said. "The sky hasn't had a single cloud for days now."

"What?"

"He's right," Wendy affirmed with a nod at Kyle. "There hasn't been a single cloud in the sky at all recently." Kyle looked down at his watch. Four-forty-five PM. Fifteen minutes to the closing of the fair.

"Oh." Kyle lowered his wrist slowly and looked back up at them. "I guess not."

Silence settled between them and Kyle could have sworn he heard the rain spatter, tap, sing against the windows. And all was quiet except for the door chime as Craig and Clyde walked in to greet Tweek who was working behind the counter, washing glasses. Wendy cleared her throat, looking at Stan from the corner of her eye. Stan snapped to attention.

"Oh, yeah!" Stan laughed an apology to Wendy, then looked back to Kyle. "Hold out your hand."

Kyle raised an eyebrow at his super best friend. "Excuse me?"

Stan nodded and let go of Wendy's hand, moving both hands - and the balloon included - onto the table. He made a grabbing motion with his empty hand at Kyle. "You heard me - give me your hand, dude." Kyle didn't move, just stared at Stan, who rolled his eyes. "Come on, Kye, I'm not going to bite your hand off or something, just gimme your hand." Kyle obliged and Stan shifted slightly forward in his seat, leaning over the table as he grabbed the string of the balloon with both hands. He stuck his tongue out in concentration as he laid the string under Kyle's wrist and bit it slightly as he tied a knot, then a bow. Stan sucked his tongue back in and let go of the string, then sat back in his seat with a wide smile. "There we go," Stan said in that sing-song voice of his as he took Wendy's hand again. Kyle followed the string up, up, up and looked at the shiny red balloon. He looked back to Stan, who smiled at him. "It's for you," Stan added over small laughter between the three on the other side of the room. The door chimed once more; Stan and Wendy were gone out to eat now. Kyle stared up at the balloon blankly for a while, arms laying on the top of the table.

"Present from your boyfriend, Brof?"

Kyle turned to glare at Craig, who stood in front of a giggling Clyde and a nervous Tweek who glanced apologetically between the redhead and the boy with the blue chullo that was leaning against the counter. "Shut up, Tucker," Kyle shook his head. "He's not my boyfriend."

"I think someone's just in denial." Craig smirked at him. Kyle rolled his eyes and shifted to get out of the booth, the balloon following right after him. He heard Clyde tap Craig lightly on the shoulder playfully, telling him to "Be nice." He glanced up as he pushed himself off the seat to see Craig shrug back at Clyde.

"Yeah, be nice in bed, Tucker. You don't wanna bruise Clyde before the football game," Kyle retorted lamely, although it seemed to make Craig blush furiously and Clyde downcast his eyes to the ground with the same blush. Craig huffed and flared his nostrils, raising a hand to give him that signature move that was undeniably Craig Tucker - the bird. Tweek glanced between them with wide eyes, then dropped the glass he was scrubbing at furiously before. The door chimed again as Kyle left, leaving behind a profusely apologizing Tweek Tweak and the blushing brides that were Craig Tucker and Clyde Donovan.

As he walked, the balloon kept floating up higher, pulling his arm up with it. He'd stop occasionally and try to pull it back down, which took much longer than he would have expected it to. It was almost as if the balloon was heavy - heavy in the sense that gravity for the balloon was backwards. His mind boggled over the thought and twisted around itself in confusion at the prospect of the red balloon on his wrist every time his wrist would become closer and closer to the sky, the red balloon rising and rising like it was trying to touch the sky. Attached to his wrist, it felt like the little red balloon was going to pick him up off the ground into the clear blue sky.

"You need some help, Kyle?" Kyle looked up at the sound of his name, finding Token heading in his direction with a smile across his lips but his eyes on the balloon that was beginning to pull Kyle off the ground.

Standing on the tips of his toes, he shook his head and smiled back, "No, I got it." Token raised his eyebrows a quick moment, hands in his pockets. "You going to see Craig and them?" Token nodded at him faintly. "They're at the Tweak's shop." Token smiled widely and took a hand out of his pocket to wave slightly as they finally passed, Kyle smiling back with his feet flat on the ground and his hands in his pockets as well. Token called him a thanks before he turned into the coffee shop but Kyle was in the clouds with his little red balloon.

Finally, Kyle turned onto his driveway, his shoes still making the same whap-tap against the blacktop, each whap-tap clicking the button on the megaphone in his head. On, Off. On, Off. On, Off. Off, On. On, Off.

He kicked his shoes off and padded down the foyer and up the stairs, the megaphone stuck On and screaming that it's okay, it's okay, it's okay to burn fuel on an empty tank. The phone screamed at him. The 62' LED backlight HD TV screamed at him. The alarm clock, the oven, the microwave - all screaming, It's okay, It's okay, It's okay. On, Off. But he heard nothing but the phone ringing.

"Hello, Broflovski residence, this is Kyle," he said as he picked up the phone. He was answered by silence. "Hello?" He asked the silence on the line as the red balloon pushed upwards into the corner of the kitchen ceiling as he stood at the phone. He blinked. His stomach rolled nervously at the silence and he looked around the room almost nervously. Licking his lips, his "Hello?" was only met by silence still. So he hung up.

Turning around, he rubbed the back of his neck nervously, eyes darting around. The red balloon shifted slightly in the corner. He went like that - paranoia and all - up into his room. He shut the door behind him after the red balloon crawled up and under the door way, touching the ceiling on its little string and tugging his hand up with it. It continued to graze the ceiling as he walked over to his bed, sitting on the edge of it. He looked around the dark room then slowly swung his legs over the edge so he could lay down. As he did, however, the balloon tugged his arm upwards still so it was hanging in midair, his hand laying limp through the string. His chocolate eyes followed the red string upwards from his wrist, upwards from the string, upwards to the balloon. It was Stan's balloon, attached to his wrist. He stared at it. Blink, seven-fifty-three PM. He rolled onto his side, curling up with his hands under the pillow, but the balloon fought back, pulling his right hand out from under the pillow. He sighed, shutting his eyes with a slightly angry expression. He glared at the red balloon. "You're a balloon. Why are you so fucking stubborn?" It might have been just the fact that the balloon hit the ceiling with his arm now fully extended now, but it looked like it twitched slightly in response to him. "Don't give me that," he glared at it more as it bounced against the ceiling again. He sighed. "You're just like Stan, jeez," he groaned, then his eyes flew wide open and he almost growled. "Dear god, I'm talking to a balloon…" he grimaced as the balloon tapped the ceiling again, like it was trying to talk to him. He glared back at it. "You shut your whore mouth - I'm not insane."

He swung his feet back over the bed and stood up, the balloon tugging his hand up still as it bounced along the ceiling when he walked across the room. Kyle was most certainly starting to get annoyed with the floating red orb. It bothered him the way it tapped at the ceiling with that little squeak-tap noise that it made as it made its way across the smooth ceiling and then tapped when the rubber could no longer take the friction and tension and finally moved from its position. It squealed and tapped continuously as he made his way down the stairs, but he refused to take it off his wrist, even as he made his way into the kitchen and it got in the way of his opening the refrigerator and the cabinets so he could fish out something for sustenance, even as he sat down on top of the cool marble counter top and it brushed the top of his head repeatedly as he ate a sandwich, even as he turned on Big, Honkin' Jewish Momma's HD TV and the red balloon got in his way of watching Ugly Americans, dancing in front of his vision like it was trying to reclaim his attention. He patted his hands together softly as he finished his sandwich and pushed the balloon out of the way. But the red orb begged to differ and followed back after his retreating hand quickly, like it was statically clung to him. He growled softly at it. But he refused to take it off. Even when it danced in front of his view of the clock - blink, blink. The phone rang and his phone thrummed itself into life in his pocket as the TV displayed Comedy Central and demon babies who made succubus lactate fire. He sighed and let the phone ring.

"Kyle?"

He glanced over at the front door, where it closed with a gentle click. "You here, Kyle?"

"Stan?" Stan looked around a moment at his name, confused as to where it came from. He disappeared from view for a second - probably checking the living room - then peered around the corner and smiled as he noticed the redhead on the counter. He laughed, nodding at him as he then kicked off his shoes while he spoke. "Your front door was open, so I just let myself in…"

Kyle nodded, "You know I don't mind." Stan smiled up at him as he slipped his jacket off, tossing it carelessly next to the couch. He stuffed his hands into his pockets, thumbs sticking out to wiggle slightly as he spoke and made his way over to Kyle.

"Whatcha watchin', dude?" Stan asked, glancing back at the TV as he took his space by leaning against the countertop. Kyle glanced from him to the TV.

"Ugly Americans. It's this new show on Comedy Central. The previews looked funny so I thought I'd watch it."

"Oh yeah, I watched it," Stan said, grinning widely. "I like it. It's a little creepy in its own way but it's very… um…"

"True?" Kyle asked, glancing down at him as he leaned forward slightly on the counter.

Stan looked back at him. Their faces were close, kinda. Just a little more and they could probably-- "Yeah. True."

Kyle smiled, then leaned back to watch TV again. Silence settled between them as they watched, getting absorbed into the show until it flickered to commercials and Stan crossed his arms over his chest. Kyle looked back down at him as the techno remix of the Slap Chop came on. "Hey, aren't you supposed to be with Wendy?"

Stan looked back up at him, drawn out of his trance from the techno music. "Dude… it's ten thirty at night." He stared at his redheaded best friend incredulously.

Kyle blinked and looked down slightly. "Well, yeah, but… you know what I mean."

Stan looked back at the TV. "I broke up with her."

"That's a first."

Stan rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, I don't like her anymore."

"And I see we're back to step one."

"Shut up - I'm serious. I'm not going to go out with her again. Ever."

"You said that the last time. And the time before that, and before that, and the last twenty times before that, and -"

"Shut up, Kye. I seriously won't."

"You said that last time too." The raven-haired boy glared back at him. Kyle shrugged limply. "Well, you did." Stan looked down at his feet. "You know you're just gonna get back together with her eventually."

"Do I detect a hint of jealousy?" Stan smirked. Kyle growled.

"No."

"I think I do."

"You're also an idiot."

"Yes, but I'm your idiot."

"For now."

"So your are jealous?"

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to."

"But I'm not."

"But you are."

"I hate you."

"I love you." Stan grinned back at him. Kyle stared back at him with a rather blank expression.

"Liar."

"No, no, I'm not liar."

"Yes you are."

"No I'm not."

"Not not a liar."

"Yeah."

"So you are a liar."

"Wait, what? That's not fair, you cheater!" Stan huffed, pushing Kyle's shoulder. Kyle pushed back.

"Well, at least I'm not a liar!" They sneered at each other. Then Stan grinned.

"You really are jealous, aren't you?" Kyle flushed out.

"I am not!" The redhead roared at his super best friend.

"Aw, you're blushing! You're jealous, you're jealous," he said in a sing-song voice, poking his sides so Kyle squirmed and thrust his hands at him to push him away, sliding across the countertop as he continued to argue that he wasn't jealous about Stan having been with Wendy. "You so were, you so were! Just admit it!"

"Fine! I was jealous, just stop tickling me!" Kyle growled as he relented to the attack, but Stan wasn't going to back down at all.

"Oh, so you were, weren't you? Say it again," Stan said, laughing about it as he attacked Kyle's sides, tickling him and pulling him closer instead of away so he could continue to tickle him. As he leaned over Kyle, who was leaning away still, Stan laughed, and the red balloon hit him in the face as Kyle tugged his hand down and back. Stan pushed the balloon aside and it clung to his hand in static as laughter dribbled from his lips and from Kyle's as well. "You're still wearing that?" Kyle nodded.

"You didn't notice I was when you walked in?" Stan shook his head and laughed, looking like he was flushing out. Kyle stared at him a moment. Stan placed his hands on the counter. On either side of Kyle. Stan stood in front of him. Leaning forward on his hands. Stan stared back at him.

"What's with you lately?"

Kyle blinked at his super best friend. He notices the pained look on his friend's face. "What do you mean? I'm fine."

"No, you're not." Stan reached up with his left hand, touching his cheek lightly. "You're really the liar here, not me." Kyle stared at him, star-struck.

"No, really, Stan, I'm fine."

"Kyle," Stan said, letting out a slow, soft sigh. "I've known you since, well, since I was born. Being the genius that you are, you can fool a lot of people for a long time. But you can't fool me. Because I know you, Kyle, and when I say that, I mean it. I know you. I really know you. I know you so well that I could describe what your innards look like to a T and any doctor out there could tell me I was correct if they cut you open on one of those damned surgical table things that look more like they belong more in a morgue than a hospital. I know you that well and I -"

"I have to go."

"What?" Stan stared at Kyle, who now had his head hung and his eyes down cast. The raven-haired teen was flabbergasted.

"I said, I have to go. I have to go home."

"You idiot - this is your house," he growled at his friend in confusion.

"Well, then I guess I'm going out to walk," Kyle said and he slid off the counter, hands still gripping the edges. His chest bumped Stan's. Stan's hands stayed on the counter and he stared at his super best friend, his eyebrows knitted together in concern.

"You can't go out - it's like ten-thirty at night or something," Stan said, not daring to move his eyes from the redhead for a second to check the clock in fear that if he did, Kyle might be gone when he looked back. He was good at being a ninja like that. Silence settled between them, aside the TV, but that was ignored by both boys now. The balloon tapped the ceiling.

The backdoor flew open and Stan found himself holding the back of the couch behind him now. He glanced up and realized Kyle was gone - having pushed him to get free after moments of nothingness and then left through the backdoor. Stan growled and yelled after his friend, calling his name.

The balloon added resistance against the redhead as he ran down the street. The black pavement dug into the palms of his feet, the little loose rocks of the street catching and sticking to his feet as he ran, the balloon whistling in the wind behind him. His feet ached already. Kyle ran down the middle of each street, knowing no one in this hick town would be out now for fear of getting raped or jumped or something. They think bad things happen in cities, but bad things happened more in Podunk shitholes like this. He crossed street about street, barefoot with his toes aching against the pavement more with each step. The only reason know no one knew was because, well, no one did know. Hicks keep other hicks' secrets. His breath was white against his face and broke in the midnight air as the balloon passed through it, whipping around the air straight behind him. The balloon felt heavy as he ran; heavier and heavier as he went farther and farther away.

He turned suddenly and found himself at Stark's pond, standing a few feet away from the water's edge. His toes dug into the cold, moist grass beneath his feet. He panted, his breath white hot against the chill, dark air that surrounded him like dark matter in space. That's where his head was - with the stars. He touched the nebulae with his fingertips as he reached out to the sky and the balloon floated up. The balloon touched the nebulae too. The balloon seemed to reach even farther and he stood on his tiptoes as it pulled it wrist upwards. He clutched at the dark and starry sky as the red balloon seemed to touch the heavens, pulling him up, up, up, up and away, up so his feet left the ground. He floated into space, the balloon pulling him up. He didn't dare look down. He knew his feet had left the ground, and he could no longer feel to dew settled on his toes as the drops had been on the ground or the way the grass tickled his feet when it stood up between his toes. The balloon reached higher and higher and he could no longer breathe at all. Slowly, it seemed, that the stars were becoming more hazy the closer he got to them. They spread outwards, warped, shining dust in the vast epitome of space and time, floating like glitter on a dark canvas. He touched each sparkling speck of space and it breathed itself out and around his fingers as they went through them, twirling as they danced around his hands.

He felt dizzy as he got lost in the dark matter, the nova, the nebula, the star, the quasar, the pulsar, the vast bolides and black holes of reality and fantasy, his eyes catching supernovas and explosions of life that would collapse society and Big Brother and everything that he had ever built up to this day, his eyes breathing in the very essence of the asteroids, the meteors, the falling stars, the comets as they whizzed past him, making little woosh-wish noises as they passed in the silent void of space and time and nothing at all. They fell behind him and he didn't dare look down, even as his hat fell off and floated upwards against the currents of the falling constellations and the twirling galaxies, slowly upwards to push through a star that glittered and twirled past his face, the specks of star dust catching on his eyelashes and cheeks and in his curly red hair as it floated upwards too, and his clothes pulled towards the horizon line of his vision with his limbs, his feet far up towards his hat that was steadily getting farther, floating upwards like he was in water. His mouth hung open and he felt dizzy with all the glittering assembly of stars floating past him. His arms floated up and on the edge of the spinning stars he could see his red balloon, sitting on the point where his hat was going to, floating to, reaching for.

Suddenly, the constellations all broke up all around him and became absorbed into the dark matter, like a black hole was sucking everything up. So why was it, he wondered in his hazy mind, that he could see the blurred white circle of the moon and the obscure picture of Stan's balloon, his balloon as it bumped his hat, that finally reached it? Something breached the edge of his vision with a circle of white and bubbles and his balloon, Stan's balloon, looked like it followed a current, a ripple in the surface that pushed it away. A hand thrust through the bubbles and groped uselessly in the darkness of space, then grabbed his, pulling him out of space and back to somewhere he couldn't recognize anymore in all its glory and technology, the constellations crumbling behind him in a whimsical fashion that reminded him of Stanley Marsh, the Stanley Marsh stars floating over his fingertips as he yearned for them, for him, to be in his hand, in his reach, just out of his reach, once again.

He felt something against his lips, then choked and hiccupped roughly, water pouring out of his lungs and dribbling down his chin. He coughed and turned onto his side as the water spat itself onto the ground with each thrust of compression to his lungs from someone else's hand plus his own that clutched his water-soaked jacket. Kyle continued to cough roughly as the water emptied itself from his lungs and onto the grass. He panted as he finished, wiping his mouth.

"You idiot! Were you trying to kill yourself? You goddamned idiot!"

Kyle turned back around and he was met with a blurry image of a sobbing Stanley Marsh that he saw in the constellations and the balloon as it reached for the moon, tapping against Stan's shoulder. "You scared the shit out of me," Stan explained as Kyle felt a droplet of water - a tear? - hit his already wet cheeks, Stan leaning over him on his hands and knees. Kyle felt weak and collapsed onto the soft, cold grass below him, unable to hold himself as he watched Stan cry, the other boy's tears slipping past his lips and into his open mouth. "You scared the fucking shit out of me." Kyle blinked. "I mean, you, you… you just - you're an idiot…" Stan repeated and hiccupped the last word slightly. "You leave me behind and, and you come out here and fall into the fucking pond and just magically you forget how to swim or something, you fucking idiot… God fucks, Kyle…"

The balloon beat at the air and pulled his arms up, even though its only attached to one. They wrapped around Stan's neck and pulled him down slowly. He whispered apologies to Stan, but they don't meet anything but the empty night and Stan's babbling about it not being alright.

"Let's go home now, okay?"

The only thing Kyle knew next is that he was on Stan's back, getting a piggyback ride from him as they make their way back to Kyle's house. Stan told him that he needs to get out of the cold and into some warm, dry clothes.

It might just have been Kyle's waterlogged mind, but he next found them sitting in his room, Kyle's wet clothes soaking the carpet below him as he sat limply and lifelessly against his bed. His caramel and coffee and golden brown eyes followed Stan as he walked to his dressed, fishing out clothes for him to wear. Stan knew which drawers too, and pulled the clothes out quickly. He sat them on Kyle's bed, looking down at his dripping friend. The raven-haired boy extended a hand out to him, which Kyle took slowly, and helped to pull him up. Kyle hadn't said a single word the entire time. His gaze was distant and down cast; his mind was filled with stars and falling, spinning nebulae.

"I'm gonna go get you a towel so you can dry off a little more so you don't catch cold." Kyle only nodded at him and Stan left the room, throwing one last look of concern at him from the doorway.

Kyle turned towards his bed and crossed his arms over his stomach, clutching the ends of his shirt to pull it up over his head. He tossed it aside carelessly, his obsessive-ness for everything to be order that Big Momma taught him to keep not even kicking in as he did. He looked over at the clock as he clasped the button of his jeans and undid it. He blinked. He couldn't read the clock from there. He looked down at his hands and let his jeans drop down, the heavy weight of the denim pulling his wet boxers down as well so they pooled at his ankles. He stepped out of them and shook his head slightly so the now slightly dry curls bounced on his forehead and then curled up again as a few droplets of water fell from their red tuffs. He smiled meekly.

He turned around slightly as he felt Stan's gaze burn into his back and looked up at Stan, who was trying very hard not to look down. Stan reached out and offered him the towels that were draped over his hands. "Here," he said and Kyle stared at it quietly a moment, finally reaching out to take one. Stan stared down then, averting his gaze to the floor instead of Kyle's ass or worse yet. His blue eyes traced the scattered wet garments that were his pants and boxers, then flitted over to the shirt that pooled below the window. He sighed softly and walked over to the window, pulling the curtains so no one could take a peek in on his best friend when he was only in his birthday suit. He looked back at Kyle and laughed softly, smiling. "You gotta keep 'em closed so those pedos don't see in, ya know?"

Hitting the joke, Kyle nodded and laughed back softly. "Yeah, guess so. Sorry."

"Yeah, yeah, it's all good," Stan said with a little laugh as he sat down on the end of Kyle's bed, staring down at his feet. "Just get dressed."

"Yeah," Kyle agreed, though he didn't move. He just stared down at his feet as well. A few quiet moments passed, then Stan looked up from his wiggling toes to his redheaded friend.

"Well? Aren't you gonna get dressed?"

"Yeah, but…" Kyle said, and then closed his mouth as he trailed off. He kept opening it and closing it again like he was trying to think of something to say or had something to say, but it just wouldn't come out at all. "Hey, Stan?"

"Yeah?" Stan asked, looking at him like it was nothing at all now.

"I…"

"You?"

"Nevermind," Kyle said and shook his head, taking a step to his bed to grab the clothes. Stan's hand grabbed his wrist and Kyle's caramel-colored eyes flickered to him. "Stan?" He heard Stan swallow hard in a gulp as he stared back at Kyle, a frown plastered on his lips.

"You're okay, right? And you didn't try to drown yourself, right?" Kyle stared at him for a few seconds, then blinked. "Right?"

"No, of course I didn't try to kill myself. I think I slipped and was too shocked to realize I was in the water." Stan stared at him, searching his eyes for a few moments. He nodded slightly. Kyle wriggled his hand in Stan's grasp. "So, uh, can I get changed now?" Stan nodded at him, but neither of them moved, not even their gazes flickered off each other. Slowly, unsurely, Kyle moved, taking a step away from the clothes and around the corner post of the bed, stepping in front of Stan, whose gaze stayed on his eyes the whole time. They both swallowed dryly in their stares, in sync. Synchronized, they both leaned forward at once. They stopped for a second, eyes half closed in their stares, halfway there. They leaned forward and their lips met softly. With Kyle's wrist still in his hand, Stan used it after a long moment of just a simple kiss, pulling slightly so Kyle fell right into his lap, legs moving onto his and then onto either side of him.

Like a slow motion accident, Stan gradually let go of Kyle's wrist and moved his hands to his sides, tracing his fingers down to hold his hips in his palms, Kyle's own hands slowly wrapping around Stan's neck to deepen their kiss. All they were was holding breath as they kissed, slow and steady. Lost in coffee rings and fingerprints and absolute time, they pulled back to breathe, then immediately came back together again, this time with more force. They plunged back into the kiss and Stan prodded Kyle's lower lip with his tongue, who immediately let him in before he really had to ask with his actions. Their tongues wrestled with ferocious effort from years of pent up anxiety and absolute feeling, love and all those feelings that sound like a corny line from a too-cliché independent film. They, together, are a misfired attempt at an action scene, a beautiful rose that may eventually withers after its amazing crescendo into life.

Stan turned slightly and Kyle fell back onto the bed, his arms around his neck keeping their kiss intact and they bounced on the mattress together, their hips hitting unintentionally as they do. They gasped against each other's mouths at the immediate friction and, like Kyle, Stan immediately wished he was naked. He pulled back and Kyle's hand slid knowingly from his neck like they're operating on the same brainwaves, the same radio frequency of thought apart from Big Brother and Stan threw his shirt off. Kyle pushed himself up the bed and sat himself up against the headboard. Stan looked up at him and Kyle nodded at him.

The raven-haired teen nodded back slightly and licked his now just barely-swollen lips, crawling on his hands and knees on the bed over to Kyle and up between his legs. He put his hands back on his hips and Kyle placed his hands back around Stan's neck as Stan leaned forward, kissing his lips one last time before kissing down his jawline, each kiss chaste and leaving a slightly cold feeling as the air attacked the slightly wet flesh that was left behind after. He kissed down his neck and nipped at the tender flesh of his collarbone as Kyle's hands found their way into his hair at the back of his neck, spinning curls that constellations clung to with his fingers. The stars danced and fell of Stan's hair in streams, dancing down onto Kyle's chest, stomach, thighs, arms as Stan made his way down.

In an instant of what seemed like nothing more than anything at all, one of Stan's hands danced across his thigh, leaving teased feeling behind to play out on his legs. Neither really had any clue as to what they were doing. Even if they had done things before, which they may or may not have, neither of them had delved in any kind of thing with each other this far in this way - much less at all. It wasn't like they knew exactly how to have any kind of relation in this way - they weren't even sure if they were gay or straight or some middleman that no one seemed to know or remember about. Stan's fingers danced up his twitching length, wrapping around it slowly. It wasn't at all like they constantly searched how to have gay sex - they never even thought about it before then. He stroked slowly at first, pulling back slightly from licking at one of his nipples that gave off a rather girly reaction to watch the other when he did. All they could do really was reciprocate what they'd done to themselves or seen in skin-flicks onto each other, every painful moment of it growing stronger as knots in their stomachs burned with need for release, neither knowing how, why or what. Kyle jerked his hips and his cheeks flushed out, the rosy color spreading like osmosis over his entire body. It was cute in a way, and slightly sexy in its own, that he'd turn all red when he blushed like that. It made Stan continue.

"Does that feel good?" Stan asked, a worried smile set on his lips as he continued to stroke the redheaded teen, who only nodded and bucked his hips as he did, his head setting itself back against the headboard with a gentle thud-dud as he let out a moan that made it seem like he was suffocating, but the way Kyle moved in reaction to his hand around his manhood only let him know that he wasn't dying, but quite enjoying the pace instead. It made Stan continue.

"God, please, Stan," Kyle murmured through flush red cheeks and swollen red lips under his curled red hair. He was the epitome of red as he called for Stan, saying something around the lines of "do something, please - just do it" around moans and shivers and gasps for air that his muscles ached for as they grew tense with the pleasure and pain of the whole situation. Stan had to continue.

"I don't know, I don't know how," Stan murmured back at him as he leaned back up, pressing chaste kisses to Kyle's red cheeks and lips and chin, his hand still busy at its own work down under himself, where he could feel his own erection starting to throb with annoyance at the fact that his boxers and denim jeans were still present. He stroked the teen more and more though, until Kyle rolled his head around and let out a steamy moan that someone was sure to have heard besides them, aside the fact that Kyle's family was gone for the time. He finally let go, much to Kyle's apparent dismay with a whimpering gasp in urgency at the situation, and sat up slightly, hands clutching at the clasp furiously to get it to undo itself, which it did in time as Stan's fingers flailed about it with the same urgency. He pushed his thumbs into his boxers and pants and pushed them down as quickly as he could, not even bothering to get them past his knees. He looked back up, virtually naked aside the bottom half of his legs, up at Kyle, who was sitting with his hands on either side of himself, legs parted and panting his name. He shivered slightly and swallowed hard, his mouth full of nothing but hot air, his throat and tongue dry and hot, tight shut as his body ached for something, anything - some kind of contact to just get him the fuck through this already.

Stan didn't need to ask and Kyle didn't need to answer as the raven-haired teen crawled back up between his legs, the constellations that made up Kyle glittered in the dark matter of lust in his blue eyes that reflected back what galaxies Kyle held in his own. Stan scooted up between his legs more so Kyle was on his lap, straddling his hips as he wrapped his arms around Stan's neck and Stan placed his hands on his hips. They had no idea how to make this loss of something intangible from this friendship, this love, this ache shaped from parallel lines and misshapenly figured memories. They swallow in rhythm and Stan just probes his entrance like he would a girl - did boys need lubricant to enter? Kyle hissed in pain and Stan wondered if he should pull back, but the look of pain reformed itself on Kyle's face. Did girls need lubricant to enter?

The riding was terrible and hot as Stan pushed himself in, took himself out, pushed himself in, into Kyle against the headboard, the eventual speed of it picking up. It was a storm of love and nothing, a raging flood down a hill, an avalanche down the mountain where hikers waited unknowingly for moments before the snow breached, a musical with a tempo that increased over time, and as they reached their crescendos, they descended back down the hill of heat and want - the homes at the bottom of the hill saved, the hikers alive, the storm clear, but the music plays on in their breaths that pooled over each other, each descending peak of breath that would appear with their heartbeats on the LCD the same, even, exhausted in synchronization to a manifestation of love that was lust, building passion, lost words that they clung to that built up an indefinable word such as love that Big Brother had created, molded, brainwashed them to believe in. As Kyle clung to Stan, he clung to his unspoken words too. No I Love You's were needed, and none were to be heard, because they already knew how they felt, and that's what they clung to - the static on the radio waves of their brains the same as they held onto each other.

Kyle opened his eyes just a little as he pushed his face into the crook of Stan's neck. He watched the last of the constellations fall off of his hair and stream down his back and onto their feet below him. He memorized the features as he went, and with each gentle, soft curve of Stan's back, the urge to cry, the urge to run, the urge to scream ran up his spine, but he didn't care. It was a childish excuse to keep the lights turned off, but he'd keep it and cling to it - cling to Stan, even as the red balloon tapped against the window from outside and then found its way in through the open window and pushed itself up with the gasps for air and nothing that left the two boys, pushed itself up into the corner of the room that was Kyle's pure refuge aside Stan. But Kyle doesn't care what comes after this - not anymore.

It was the war of loneliness - the pictures in his head. Bullets of seclusion. Isolation. Solitude. They rain from the sky. Flowers of white sit in bloom over stone markers. One soldier stands in No Man's Land. Flowers of black. And next to him, hand in hand with him, is another. Flowers of navy, maroon, yellow - all the colors that make up the sun and the moon and the nebulae of distant galaxies in eleven different dimensions. They wear different uniforms. All the color of the universe is just color. Paint is paint; two men in the field are just two men. The red balloon in the sky. The ant on the sidewalk. The prince on his white stallion. Everything else is simply everything else.

And next to him is Stan.