It's certainly been a while. School has messed up my writing schedual so now that summer is finally here I was able to do a lot more. I'm in the process of writing a whole bunch of stuff that may very well never come to fruition... Anyway, I got the idea for this story from watching The Daily Show. Yes, inspiration hits at the most interesting of times. And I decided to make it Stan/Red Goth because there really isn't enough of these two on here and they have SO much potential. You people just don't realize it.
Disclaimer: I'm still coming off of my Gay Pride high, having actually walked in my local Pride Parade, but none of this would justify me claiming to own South Park characters, which I don't. So Matt 'n Trey, don't sue me please - think of this as free publicity. GAY PRIDE!
The problem with driving in Death Valley due west in the late hours of the afternoon is that the sun is always in your eyes. You can't swerve to avoid it because you're on an unfeasibly long stretch of road going only one direction, and shielding your eyes can only help until your hand gets tired. You eventually resort to lowering the sun visor, but that seething sphere of hydrogen and hate only exists to make your life more miserable than it already is and has lowered to the point where its sickeningly cheerful UV rays can still peek from behind the flimsy, padded cardboard.
Or at least this was the biggest problem facing Stan at the moment as he sat behind the wheel of his green 2001 Cadillac, driving due west through Death Valley into the setting sun. He grudgingly came to the conclusion that the Western movie ending of choice wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Especially since he had another whole day of this ahead of him.
Wind tousled hair was appealing within only a narrow set of fields – like romantic walks on the beach or modeling for a launderette magazine, neither of which Stan was currently participating in (though it helped his pride to remind himself that he did in fact model for said magazine, even if they cropped out his head along with the tastefully mussed hair). He constantly had to wipe his pitch-black bangs from his eyes, squinting occasionally as rogue strands dared to fly into his cornea. But there was nothing he could do about it; he was absolutely not speaking to Red.
The other boy sat with his seat as reclined back as it could go, his knees bent almost to his chest so that he could fit his feet onto the dashboard, one hand through the wide open window to allow the smoke from his smoldering cigarette to escape out into the world. Red knew that Stan hated it when the choking haze lingered within that anal-retentive bubble of his, and even though Stan hadn't said a word about it, before lighting up, Red rolled down the window for him.
Red tapped the ash out and looked about to open his mouth to say something. But instead, he placed the butt back between his lips and inhaled without a word. He flipped his fringe to the side only to have it immediately concede to a blast of wind and disband. He too cursed the sun, but unlike Stan, who had to watch the dusty road, complained to himself about the heat. Though, he wasn't so cynical as to not realize that he was so hot because he chose to wear nothing but black. Still, he could displace his emotions any way he wanted to.
A twanging of B-movie country music peeled from the radio (the kind the virgin conformists in those underfunded horror movies listen to on their trip to Camp Decapitation just before their car breaks down; Stan and Red had spent enough caffeinated nights together watching cable television to know) and it was terribly difficult for Red to keep the beat with it. They had soul, but… not much else within their repertoire of sound bytes.
As Stan kept his foot to the gas pedal, Red leaned forward – coughing momentarily at the collapse of his lungs against his rib cage – and played with the dial until he found a station that wasn't too hipster for his liking. Stan's Cadillac ("Little Beastie") didn't have satellite radio, so his options were limited. Satisfied, he leaned into the car seat again and flicked the filter out the window, enjoying the fresh air whisk into his nostrils.
"Sugar pie, honey bunch. You know that I lo-"
Stan jammed the mute button with his thumb before Levi Stubbs could finish his declaration. Red contorted his face in mild frustration and turned the station back on.
"I can't help myself. I need y-"
Stan angrily punched mute again so hard that the button almost broke, rattling the entire dashboard with his misplaced rage and need to deprive Red of anything enjoyable.
Red saw the look in his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself down. One furious person in a car was better than having two furious people in the car, and if anyone was going to keep their cool, it was going to be him.
Quietly, Red set his Converse clad feet down to the floor mat and reached up above Stan's head. Stan had a row of re-writable CDs attached to his sun visor that held a mix of some of his favorite songs. Stan rigidly tilted away from Red as he invaded into the aura of morose he was building, trying to keep his attention focused. But Red's armpit was right there, his left arm wrapped around his neck as those pale fingers searched the sleeves of his CD case, smelling like a fresh coating of faint deodorant with an undertone of musk that made Stan's heart beat faster – even if it was against his will.
The boy plopped back down with a huff, his left hand tracing over the neck hairs of Stan's frame just a touch longer than culturally acceptable and slid in a random CD before turning off the mute a second time. He crossed his arms and looked over his shoulder to the arid landscape around them, not commenting on how he didn't particularly like Stan's taste in music, but was willing to put up with it anyway if it meant making him happy.
Stan let the minutes tick away for a while longer, hoping that the songs would sooth his racing mind. But all it did was to cause his finger to tap to the beat while he clutched tightly at the wheel. Finally, he glanced over at Red, his brow furrowed, and sighed.
"How much longer are we going to keep this up?"
"Keep what up?" Red's tone of voice was aggravatingly apathetic, and it made Stan's blood boil once again.
"This," Stan hissed, as if it weren't obvious.
"Tip-toeing around your fragile ego?" Red guessed. "Cause I'm perfectly fine with keeping that up, if you want. I'm used to the cold shoulder treatment by now."
"I wasn't giving you the cold shoulder, I was giving you time to apologize to me."
"Could you turn your projection down just a few notches? It's starting to get ironic in here."
"Maybe if you weren't so disingenuous…."
"I'm sensing that you're pissed."
Stan slammed his palm into the car horn, letting out a short burst in place of a scream. "Damn right, I am! I have the right to be pissed at you."
Red didn't respond. It wasn't worth it. But Stan was on his soap box now, and this issue wasn't going to go away any time soon. Still, it was a little ridiculous. Red bit into his lip ring and contemplated switching it out for one of his spares to spice things up a bit. You know, to match the LA scene. He mumbled under his breath, "This was supposed to be a life changing vacation."
"How do you think I feel?" Stan snapped. Red shrugged off his momentary lapse into surprise; he hadn't really intended to say that out loud. Stan switched his head back and forth between the windshield and the boy in the passenger's seat. "Hm? Do you ever think about how I feel?"
Stan flared his nose at the silence like an enraged bull and gritted his teeth. "How am I supposed to feel when I pick you up and we're not even a mile into our drive and you lean over and say with that half-lidded look you do, 'I'm dumping you.' How am I supposed to take that and then blissfully spend a whole week with you in Los Angeles? I can't. You can't just drop that bomb on people – it's like breaking up with someone right before Christmas but asking if you can still get your present."
Red pursed his lips, the least amount of emotion he told himself he could display. "Fuck."
The car revved as Stan weighed his foot on the gas. "That's all you have to say?"
"Relationships can't function without proper communication, Red!"
"Well, damn," Red breathed, a frown plastered across his face (the typical accessory to his despondently black wardrobe). "It's a good thing you and I aren't a couple anymore then, isn't it?" An angry shiver coursed up Stan's spine as Red continued:
"Face it, Stan. You and I had a good run, but obviously one of us is not as committed to the whole 'dating' aspect of having a fuck buddy. But, hey, I hear the fag scene up in LA is to die for. A few one night stands and you'll be good as new. So maybe instead of fixating on the emotional scars from all this psychological cutting you've been doing, you can maybe – I don't know – not give a shit and move on. Because two hopeless people are sad. But two hopeless people together? That's just tragic."
Stan could feel his knuckles going white as his heart threatened to jump right out of his throat. Before, he'd never understood the term "seeing red." Ignoring the unfortunate pun that came along with his (freshly) ex-boyfriend's name, Stan grasped the concept. The blood was pulsing so hard with adrenaline that he could even feel it in his retinas. His irises constricted and his mouth curled into a malicious half-scowl. Before he even had time to think out his plan, Stan's hands started turning the wheel.
Red's expression cracked with genuine shock as the car drifted over the faded yellow lines of the street. It was like a slow breeze had knocked them off course and set them into the danger zone, and now they were speeding sixty miles an hour on the wrong side of the road.
"Stan," Red called as if to a kidnapper totting a hostage. "What are you doing?"
"Taking a new spin on 'my way or the highway.'" Red didn't like that unmistakable sincerity in his voice.
"And just what does that mean?"
"You said it yourself," Stan sneered, nigh hysterical. "You and I? We're hopeless. So what's the point of going on? I'm going to kill you, Red. I'm on the highway to Hell, and I'm taking you with me."
Red found himself preparing to lunge at the wheel – an inherent instinct that he actually had to force himself to overcome. A few tense seconds dragged over them like sand from an impossibly slow hour glass, and soon, Red started to ease up… and sit back.
"Okay," he shrugged; almost as if he were shirking off any and all responsibility.
Stan lurched, broken completely from his homicidal trance. "I…" he stammered in bewilderment. "I mean it! I-I'm going to kill us both!"
Stan blinked. "The next car that comes over that horizon, I'm ramming us right into."
Red unfolded his arms from across his chest, laid his hand gently on top of Stan's knee, and stared deeply into those blueberry eyes of his with unflinching conviction. He nodded his head up and down for emphasis before whispering assuredly: "Okay."
They kept driving for another mile before Stan looked over with a confused grimace. "You're okay with this?" All Red offered as a response was a light chuckle.
As Stan kept his sweaty hands to the wheel, Red pulled out another cigarette. With a spark from his lighter, he watched as the paper burned steadily down to the hilt and smiled at the infinitely flat land in front of them. Stan swallowed dryly, but remained determined, continuing their harrowing adventure in the left lane, waiting for a pair of headlights to shine in the distance.
A few hours had passed and the sun was sinking lower to the earth. It was on the verge of kissing the horizon and sending the two boys into a twilight evening. Stan was beginning to wonder whether they were the only two people left on the planet as they had seen absolutely no other vehicles that could have threatened to end their lives. But that didn't stop Stan's heart from pounding in anxious fear.
Red, on the other hand, looked positively bored. As if nothing was out of the ordinary whatsoever. "How can you be so heartless?" Stan asked at last. "You really don't care about me. You've made no attempt to stop me; no attempt to make amends."
"That's because you and I are so alike."
"And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Do you think this song is about you?" Red asked, pointing a deft finger towards the CD player. Stan let his eyes fall briefly to the small screen to see which song Red was talking about, but he didn't answer. "It's just… you're so vain. You probably think this song is about you."
Any other time – any point in time that wasn't this one – Stan would have commended Red on being clever. But this coy game of "I don't care" was beginning to play on Stan's last nerve. He found himself imagining an eighteen-wheeler coming over the edge of the road and colliding with them for the fifth time that day, but no car beyond the scope of his fantasy came anywhere close.
"Do you really think this is some sort of joke?" Stan wondered aloud.
"I find myself to be hilarious," Red confirmed, nonchalantly. "But, in all honesty… no. I really do expect you to kill us. And I mean that."
"That's so like you," Stan huffed, glowering. "Nothing matters. Nothing ever mattered."
"You know what's really funny? That you're the one with your hands on the reins, and yet I'm the one who's already made peace with my death. In most cases, it should be the other way around."
"I fail to see the humor in such things."
"You always do."
"I really like how you blame me for everything. It's never about you, Red. It's always me."
"Eureka! He's finally admitted it!"
"Don't you dare make the claim that this has nothing to do with you."
A pregnant pause wafted over them. Red fidgeted in his seat.
"Okay, you're right. I guess this is, in some indirect way, my fault."
"God –" Stan honked Little Beastie's horn again. "Damn it, Red. That's what I hate about you; that's exactly what I hate about you the most. Nothing ever sticks. You're like jello – no satisfying hits."
Red attempted to collect his thoughts. He wasn't one to say anything without thinking about it first.
"I'm sorry that I can't be more animated like you."
"You never watched that movie, did you?" Stan asked accusingly. "Angels in America. I bought that for you. I spent money on that for you, and yet I can tell you never took the time to watch it."
"I spent the majority of my childhood as an angry person."
"You would have loved the character Prior. Just like you. A brooding drama queen. A cynical, brooding drama queen. A cynical, acidic, brooding drama queen."
"And over the years, I just decided that it was easier to not show emotion. Because people don't really care about what you're feeling."
"I could have used that money for something else. You know, I probably could have bought something for someone who would have appreciated a heartfelt gift."
Red glared at Stan with fiery, hurt eyes, but the other didn't notice. "All people care about are themselves. So I do them a favor, and I spare them from having to suffer my own emotions. It gives them more time to spend with their own."
"Have I been a bad boyfriend?" Stan asked, biting his bottom lip in frustration. "Have I not been good to you? Did you just get bored with me in bed, so now it's over? Did I not go to a fucking community college to stay with you because you didn't want to go to a real one? Did I not get a job so that I could ensure we had a stable income, even though it affected my studies? Have I not put up with all of your gloomy shit through the years? And none of this is enough for you?"
Red winced away and gaze out his window. "I never asked you to do those things."
"And you never thanked me for them either. You didn't need to ask, but I did hope that you could at least be grateful."
"Alright, you Dan Savage whore," Red growled, crossing his arms. "I am thankful for those things, but I shouldn't have to outright say that I am. Relationships are supposed to be mutual, no? GGG. Good, giving, game. You put up with my shit, and I put up with yours."
"And what, pray tell, is the shit I make you put up with? Huh?"
Stan settled back into driving, assuming that Red would say nothing, as he was wont to do. Assuming that Red had nothing to say about him. Instead:
"You don't listen."
Stan sat up, frowning. "What?"
Red let out an exasperated sigh and rolled his eyes. "Exactly, Stan. Exactly."
"No, don't do that! I was just taken off guard, and you know it. What do you mean by I don't listen?"
"I've learned from all the years you and I were together that I shouldn't speak my mind, because you don't listen to me anyway. You just go on with whatever plan you had to begin with. You asked for my opinion, but never liked the answers I gave. And when I stopped giving answers, you were ecstatic – admit it. You loved having no opposition, you loved being in control."
"That's not true!" Stan denied angrily. "I always made every attempt to make sure you were involved in our decision making."
Red took a deep breath and leered at Stan. "Would you excuse me for just one second?" Stan raised an eyebrow, but didn't object as Red rolled down his window as far as it could go. He placed his hands on the roof and hoisted himself halfway outside of the car. Once there, he closed his eyes, sucked in a whoosh of air, and screamed at the top of his lungs until they were empty.
It took everything Stan had to not swerve the car. When Red was firmly back into his seat, Stan's face had fallen, heavy with guilt. "You…" he started, hesitating. "You really should wear a seatbelt."
"Why? You're just going to kill us anyway."
Stan didn't reply.
An hour later, Red cleared his throat with an intentional cough. He leaned over and pressed the mute button on the stereo, and rested his skull against the headrest of the passenger's seat. For a moment, Stan thought he was going to take a nap.
"I know you boned that Kyle kid."
Stan's head dropped in anguish, but he kept the car moving. If he had known this was going to turn into a full blown intervention, he would have stopped the car and kicked Red out the moment they broke up.
It was Stan's turn to awkwardly clear his throat. "How… how did you find out?"
"Kyle told me."
Red took a moment to stretch his arms. "I always thought… we had something really great. A love that could withstand the ages. And I'm fucking goth, so that means a lot for me to be saying something so sappy. But I really did think it. I always thought that I was level headed, that I could handle things like this. That I could be a forgiving boyfriend. And you were so good to me – I really had no excuse to not do everything in my power to make it work."
"I'm really sorry, Red."
He waved his hand at Stan's face to shut him up. "You just don't get it, Stan. I've already forgiven you. It was forgiven, it was in the past. Biology tells us that humans aren't supposed to be monogamous, I get it. And I was willing to over look the fact that you tried to keep it secret from me… the first time."
Stan's heartbeat quickened, but not because he was still driving in the left lane.
"I thought it suspicious for a second that you wanted to spend the night before our road trip by yourself in a motel, but I was sure you had your reasons. But, because I wanted to be a good boyfriend, and because I cared about you, I decided to visit you just to make sure you were alright. Little did I know that you were more than alright."
"I walked in on you two, and you didn't even notice. The ambient noise of a sleazy motel room, crusty sheets, and the sound of stretching, latex condoms probably covered up me opening your door. But even in the dim light I could see his copper hair. I sat outside your room and listened to you with an increasingly pained heart. And then the door opened… and Kyle stepped outside… and he gave me this look. An indomitable 'que-sera-sera' glare that destroyed me."
"Red, I swear I didn't know."
"Of course you didn't. Why would you? So, the very next morning… I broke up with you. I knew that I would have to be the one to do it. Because I'm the one with 'no emotions,' I'm 'heartless,' 'nothing matters to me.' You obviously couldn't bring yourself to admit that you didn't love me anymore… so I saved you the trouble. Cause, despite what you may think, I care about you a lot. And so here we are. You know, in my heart of hearts, I truly dreamed that one day you and I would die together. I just never imagined it would be on such sour terms."
Red had agreed to pay for the gas and also offered to buy a few snacks for Stan as he purchased a new pack of cigarettes. Stan, in the mean time, pumped gas in a stagnant niche, his eyes set intently on the concrete around his feet. He sniffed, partly happy to be stretching his legs, partly happy to be out of that car for a while, and partly shaken by Red's absence. He knew that he had no right to be angry – he thought that since he was cheating on Red that Red was invariably cheating on him too. Isn't that how shit like this works?
Stan sniffed again, holding back tears from behind his burning eyelids, smelling that intoxicating scent of gasoline as Little Beastie gulped it down.
Inside the gas station, Red was at the counter with his medley of items for purchase. "Hey," he called out, pointing to the magazine rack behind the man at the register. "Throw in one of those too."
The man reached back and slapped down a copy of Big Jugs.
Red gagged. "Who the fuck do you think I am?" he spat. "Do I look like a guy who's into twat? Give me a fag rag, asshole. The one to your right, if you don't mind."
The man snorted and rang up the items without a word.
Stan was waiting patiently, leaning against the driver's side door, deep in thought. Red sauntered over with a new cigarette already lit up between his lips, smoke leaking into the darkening sky.
"Look, Red," Stan initiated timidly. "Thanks for paying and everything, I –"
"It's cool, dude," Red assured. "How are you supposed to crash us into something if you don't have gas?" He slapped the magazine into Stan's chest. "Here. Think of it as a peace offering."
Stan looked down at the cover and laughed softly at the title: Ménage a Trois.
Red got into the Cadillac and slapped the dashboard to get Stan's attention. "We going or what? Suicide attempts are always cooler at night."
Stan nodded and got in, throwing the magazine into the backseat before peeling out onto the street and into the left lane, practically daring for potential oncoming traffic.
Red cast his gaze over to Stan in the driver's seat and played with his lip ring. They hadn't said a word for a while, and now the sun was disappearing below the horizon. A new day would soon be dawning – but would it be just another ordinary day or one waking to the blast of trumpets signaling the end of the world? Red feared it would be the former.
It was a miracle that for all the hours they had been on that road, not a single car came from the other direction. Well, "miracle" wasn't the word Stan would use to describe it. It was like the world was mocking Stan and his death wish. Even now, as he watched the speedometer incrementally inch its way higher, his resolve to bring their lives crashing down had never shown any signs of being sated.
With a coy simper, Red adjusted himself in his seat. Stan didn't notice as he made deliberate but inconspicuous advances toward him until Red was practically in his lap.
"Raven," he breathed hotly, calling Stan by his pet name, and bit the lobe of his former boyfriend's ear. Stan fought against the shivers that tickled every nerve in his body to shoulder Red forcefully away from him.
"I'm trying to concentrate on the road," he grumbled, the venom in his voice palpable.
"No, you're trying to concentrate on getting us killed." Stan glared at Red and clenched his jaw tight in defiance. "Look, I know you're one who would want to go out in style, Stan. So I'm not trying to detract from your road rage, just trying to give you road head."
Stan lifted his chin like a proud and jilted lover, his eyes focused in front of him.
"It's not like it's going to make your driving any less dangerous than it already is."
Stan didn't say a word, the blood rushing from his head. He hesitated only a minute before reaching down to his jeans and undoing his zipper. Red smiled, bending forward.
Stan's vision started going fuzzy as he gasped and chewed on his bottom lip. It was like he couldn't get enough air with so many emotions choking him up. His foot involuntarily pressed harder against the gas pedal and Little Beastie threatened to go 80. With Red in his lap like that, Stan didn't think he'd be able to move his leg to the brake if there was an emergency. But he was forgetting himself – he wanted to die.
But for some reason, the tears formed anyway.
"And just like that?" Stan sobbed through his shallow inhales, without looking down at Red. "Just like that… everything's fine again?"
Red stopped. He cast those piercing eyes of his upward, looking astonishingly serious considering the act his was indulging in. "Not unless you're fine, Stan."
"I'm not," Stan cried, his voicing cracking, the wheel shaking in his grasp. "Nothing about this is fine. I'm not fine."
Red was asleep when Stan finally got the nerve to say what was on his mind. Perhaps, even, he was waiting for Red to fall asleep before he could confess.
He looked so cute with his head titled back, his mouth agape. So still and quiet. If Red's slumber was a work of art, Stan knew it would be titled: "Peace." Because that's exactly what he was. Peaceful.
"I don't think I was ever angry at you," Stan whispered so low that even if Red were awake he couldn't have heard it. The weight of that one sentence alone was enough for Stan's stone heart to crumble. He had to pause and catch his breath before continuing on with the speech he had been planning for the past twenty miles; the speech Red would never hear.
"Kyle was a mistake. A crush I had ever since high school. I was overjoyed when he asked me to sleep with him. I never once thought of you, except for afterwards. And the regrets." Stan looked over at Red. He hadn't moved – dim stars shimmering faintly through his window like a backdrop. The image burned itself into Stan's brain and he had to look away.
"Fuck," Stan whimpered. "Two days ago I would have thought that the most selfish thing I have ever done was to sleep with Kyle and not tell you. But right now, I know that this is the most selfish thing anyone could ever do. I hate myself so much that I want to kill myself… but here I am, dragging you down with me. What kind of asshole am I?"
Red squinted and flinched at the light in his eyes. The sudden burst of light was enough to jerk him from his sleep and he bolted upright with a moan. His pupils constricted as he stared directly into the high beams of an oncoming eighteen wheeler tankard.
Stan felt his heart leap and could have sworn he heard Red's thumping in his rib cage as well. This was it. The moment they had been waiting for: their imminent demise.
"I can never forgive myself," Stan admitted, staring into those bright lights. The truck honked its horn, but Stan did not waver.
"You don't have to forgive yourself," Red mumbled, joining his gaze out the windshield, staring death in the face with more bravery than Stan could ever wish for. "I forgive you. And that's something you don't have to ask for. Isn't that enough?"
Red placed his hand onto Stan's knee, but his trembling fingers and quivering voice betrayed the grim and stoic expression on his face. "I love you."
Stan barely heard Red over the blaring of the truck's horn as it increased in intensity and volume, desperate to convince the fragile, green 2001 Cadillac to get out of its way.
Stan narrowed his eyes and gripped his hands firmly on the wheel.