Kyle didn't want to seem over eager so he was waiting at the bus stop. He woke up two hours before school but was too anxious to stick around his house. He got ready as fast as he could, noticing the sun wasn't even up as he walked out his front door. He felt stupid, or maybe a bit upset, but he didn't feel comfortable going over to Stan's house yet. So he lingered around the bus stop. He stood closest to the sign since that was where Stan usually stood, keeping careful watch over the mountains. The sun started to rise; that meant it was closer to 7am than 6. If he showed up at 6:30- no 6:45 that would seem normal, if things would ever be normal again.
Kyle gritted his teeth and kicked the bus stop sign several times, the sharp metallic clanking shattering the early morning silence. Birds flew out from the forest. Kyle heard something move and stopped; overcome with the feeling someone was watching him. He peered back through the trees but shook it off as his imagination. Well now his foot hurt on top of feeling stupid. Kyle hugged himself and rubbed his hands up and down his arms to keep warm. Dr. Mephesto had told him to watch his temper, now the old genetic engineer was in jail. The lab ransacked. The makeup factory mysteriously burned down. The truck had disappeared into thin air. That whole night would have been a distant memory, just smoldering remains and some unsightly mess but would soon smooth over.
Even Stan himself, well that's why Kyle was up this early. Today would be the first day Stan was well enough to come back to school. Mrs. Marsh was making everyone breakfast before they took off. But Kyle didn't want to impose, which was weird since he was always at Stan's house before this happened. He couldn't tell if things were actually different or it was just in his head.
Stan had been comatose those first few days in the hospital, so all Kyle had during that awful time in the waiting room was Kenny. Butters was there making glittery arts and crafts next to Wendy and her constant crying. If it weren't for Kenny holding him back, he probably would have completely lost it on the other two. Cartman didn't bother to show up. That was probably for the best; Cartman always manipulated horrible situations for his own personal gain. Kyle didn't want to be kicking his ass in the already chaotic waiting room, though that probably would have made him feel better.
After Stan came around and was allowed visitors, Kyle was there every day. Most of the time Wendy would be there as well. When visiting someone in the hospital there wasn't much to do except talk and watch DVDs. On the first day, Kyle showed up with seasons Terrance and Phillip, Wendy had The Powerpuff Girls. Next he showed up with Star Wars and Wendy had Phantom of the Opera. Kyle almost lost his temper again when he showed up with The Wrath of Kahn and Wendy had the Disney version of Peter Pan. This chick didn't know Stan at all.
While being stuck with Wendy and her stupid girly movies, Kyle didn't really watch but kept his eye on his best friend. The DVDs were really just a distraction since Stan wasn't really talking at first. Short sentences, yes. After a while, basic conversations grew and built upon themselves. But as Kyle observed Wendy scoot her way from a chair to the edge of the bed until she was sitting right next to Stan he noticed his best friend wasn't throwing up either.
While watching that idiotic Peter Pan movie, Kyle finally got what he was waiting for.
He had been watching Stan watch the movie when Stan cocked his head thoughtfully to the side. "This is your favorite movie since the girl is named Wendy, right?"
The non-movie Wendy leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Yeah, I told you that ages ago."
Kyle sat up straight; this was the first thing Wendy had done that was useful if it was making Stan remember stuff. "Hey, Stan. What's your favorite movie?"
"Um, either Wrath of Kahn or Asses of Fire."
"You want to watch Star Trek instead?"
"No, this is fine." Stan shrugged.
Kyle leaned forward towards Stan's bed. "Do you want me to get Asses of Fire for you? To relive how awesomely fucked up that time in our lives were?" Stan shook his head; the action looked almost painful from Kyle's perspective. He retreated, feeling bad once again for Stan, but not for Wendy. "You should see it, Wendy. Since it's so important to us."
Wendy waved her hand dismissively. "I think we should finish this movie first."
Kyle jumped up from his chair, the first hope he felt in weeks being dashed by anger. "You know what; I'll go get Asses of Fire for you. Right now, excuse me."
He slipped into the hallway, not wanting to show to Stan or Wendy what he was trying to figure out. Actually from an outsider's perspective Kyle couldn't imagine what they thought. The halfassed story he gave was he, Stan and Cartman were camping in the woods when Stan took a nasty fall. He and Cartman went to Dr. Mephesto for help. The "mad" scientist held the boys hostage to do experiments on them. That alibi did seem tangible given how bad of shape Stan had been in and Cartman being suddenly twenty pounds lighter. After Kyle realized Stan wasn't going to die and Cartman would easily gain that weight back with a few months of over eating, his new problem was how to clear the genetic engineer's name. Kyle owed Stan's life to Dr. Mephesto; the least he could do was get him out of jail in a timely manner.
Kyle's guilty thoughts were interrupted as the perfect person to test the what happened that night from an outsider's perspective alibi on stepped off the elevator. "Oh hey, Kenny. Glad you came. Stan and Wendy are inside."
"Is that why you're waiting in the hall?"
"I stepped outside to think for a bit. Wendy's stupid movie was driving me crazy." Kyle sighed as he stepped onto the elevator.
"Maybe that was her plan all along. Make you want to leave the room so she could have Stan all to herself." Kenny said leaning casually against the wall next to the elevator.
"What?" Kyle asked, hesitating to press the bottom floor button.
"Should I hold off going in if his hand's up her shirt or something? I don't wanna cock block poor Stan." Kenny tried to keep his voice perfectly even to see if Kyle would catch on to what he was doing.
"I seriously doubt they started doing that in the one minute since I left the room. What the hell is wrong with you, Kenny?"
"Exactly what will be wrong with you in a year or two?" Kenny shook his head, poor Kyle, he was oblivious as ever.
"If I'm gonna be like you in two years what will you be like?" Kyle asked, crossing his arms.
"Hopefully not a virgin anymore." Kenny covered his mouth trying to suppress his laughter as he watched Kyle jab the elevator button over and over. Kenny stuck his hand in the door to not let it shut, a risky move considering the luck he had. "I'm sorry. All joking aside I'm happy Wendy got appreciative of Stan again."
"I appreciated Stan before all this bullshit happened. I'm just leaving to go to the store for him right now." Kyle tried to push Kenny's hand out of the door to the elevator.
"Yeah but you can't get at the store what Wendy can give him right now."
"Damnit, Kenny, is sex all you think about?"
Actually, Kenny was thinking of the look on Wendy's face before she slapped his hand away like Kyle was trying to do now. She had screamed for him to get out of her room before he could figure out what happened. He rushed home in his Mysterion costume and changed clothes but his parents had had no news. He hated being the last to know what happened to his friends due to circumstances out of his control even if he had the clues first.
"If I see Wendy's boobs, I'll be sure to describe them to you, okay, Kyle?" He finally burst out laughing as Kyle rolled his eyes as the elevator door shut.
Kenny was getting better at covering up anxiety by cracking sexual jokes. It was better than crying, anything was better than that. Kenny hated when people cried over him. Though he and Stan were in totally different situations.
He made damn sure to knock before he entered that hospital room.
Now Kyle stood in front of his best friend's house. He was armed with the small bit of hope that things really were back to normal. Stan had slowly been getting back to his old self, Kyle trying to pick up on hints of Stan's personality. His last bit of evidence was Randy bursting into hospital room to turn Asses of Fire to the new episode of Man Vs Wild and Stan yelling at him. Stan always got annoyed with idiotic behavior. That had been the second fact on Kyle's list after the first fact, which described what a great best friend he was. That had been the last day the boys saw each other since Kenny got the brilliant idea to bring in a DVD of his own that had gotten their visiting privileges revoked.
Kyle paced a few times around the street before losing his nerve. He continued past the Marsh house, across the train tracks to the McCormick shack and knocked on Kenny's window.
Luckily, or maybe sadly, Kenny hadn't died since setting the Glimmer Corp building on fire so he hadn't been sleeping very well. He opened his eyes and checked the hand me down digital sport watch he used as an alarm clock before throwing it at the window where the annoying knocking was coming from. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"Do you know what day it is?"
Kyle smacked the glass on Kenny's window so the pane rattled against the cheap frame. "Come on dude."
"Five more minutes?"
"Maybe I wouldn't be so anxious to see Stan if you didn't think soft core porn was hospital appropriate."
"Fine, you got me there." Kenny sat up and stretched but remained firmly in bed.
"Well?" Kyle asked.
"Don't watch me change clothes. Its kinda gay, dude."
"Fine, I'll be waiting at your front door. Five minutes, okay?"
When he was sure Kyle had left, Kenny tossed his blanket over his head and buried his face into his pillow.
Fifteen minutes later, he was startled awake again by Kyle grabbing the frame of the window and shaking it so hard Kenny assumed he was trying to rip it off. "Fine, fine. I'm sorry."
"I'm not moving until you're ready to go."
Shrugging off any modesty, Kenny threw on a pair of pants and his hoodie before grabbing his back pack and crawling through the window. "Jesus, Kyle, you really can't do anything on your own, can you?"
"It just didn't seem right to pick up Stan for school alone. It would feel more official as a group."
"So then…where's Cartman?"
Kyle said nothing but walked a little bit faster towards Stan's house. Soon both boys stood on the porch, Kenny was closest to the door bell but Kyle's hand was the one to ring it three times in a row.
The door was answered by Bebe Stevens. "The hell?" Kyle let out.
"Is this the right house?" Kenny said, checking the house number just in case.
"Yes, silly boys. Please come in, everyone's in the kitchen." Bebe smiled as she opened the door wider.
Kyle caught sight of Wendy leaving the kitchen carrying a plate of bacon, shoving his way into the house. "Oh no, Wendy, what the hell? This was supposed to be for Stan's friends."
"I have as much of a right to be here as you." She frowned as she set down the plate, catching sight of Kyle trying to look over her shoulder. "Stan isn't in the kitchen. He hasn't come down from his room yet."
"Let's go up there, then. Come on, Kenny." Kyle started up the stairs, expecting Kenny to follow him.
"He'll be down in a moment. Stan's mom worked hard to make breakfast for all of us. Be a little bit appreciative." Wendy said putting her hands on her hips.
Ugh, appreciative. Wrong word for her to use. Kyle didn't answer but stood on the bottom step.
"Long time no see, Bebe." Kenny said, putting an arm around her shoulder.
"Hello, Kenny." She said, smoothly stepping out of his reach. "Want to help me get the drinks?"
Kenny eagerly followed Bebe into the kitchen but Kyle didn't move. He noticed there was an extra table in the dining room. Usually the Marsh family would drag that out for special occasions, which this breakfast was. Kyle had gone to plenty of Marsh family get togethers but this was Wendy's first. That was his main problem with her presence today.
Wendy stared down at the plate of bacon in the middle of the table. She started centering the plates so they were symmetrical, lining the glasses on the right, refolding the napkins and setting the silver wear on the left. She felt silly being is obsessed with order on something as useless as place settings. Too domestic for her taste. But Kyle staring up the stairs was making her uncomfortable.
Wendy hardly cried, especially in front of other people, but Stan's friends had gawked at her when she did so at the hospital. She didn't like that part of herself exposed to assholes like them. That was why she brought Bebe along today; she needed a friend on her side. But, almost shamefully, she'd knew Bebe would distract the boys so they'd back off her. She'd ignored her thoughts on Stan before Kenny showed up to her house. She'd play the role of supportive girlfriend. She'd try to make peace with Stan's friends.
"Come on, Kyle. Sit down, eat something." She smiled at him as she placed a piece of bacon on a plate and held it out to him.
Kyle stared down Wendy, daring her to do something wrong so he'd have an actual excuse to yell at her. Instead he took a seat across but grabbed a separate plate and served himself. He didn't want her touching his food.
Wendy sat down and put her hands on her chin. "You know last time we sat down like this we had an egg carton between us."
"And now we have a plate of bacon?"
Oh the wonders of eating pork when you never got it at home. Kyle took a bite and tried to calm down. Frankly he didn't know her well enough to let on she was bothering him. He'd save that pent up aggression for when Cartman showed up.
Wendy smiled and looked down. "No, I mean we're here for a better reason than a school project. I've never seen the inside of Stan's house. It seems silly since I've been to your house and even Cartman's house."
Kyle sighed and shook his head; this wasn't the time to over think or act out. "Look we're here because Stan's important to us both. Let's leave it at that and enjoy ourselves."
Wendy considered her options. Kyle should've been the first to make peace with but he was tough to crack. "I remember you talked to me a lot more in third grade."
"I did that since Stan made me. He was too nervous to hold a conversation with you back then. You should be thanking me, or I should be kicking myself."
Maybe Wendy wasn't a shitty peace maker, Kyle was just an asshole. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Kyle caught the rough tone, remembering what she was capable of. He didn't need to start an argument right now. He looked down, trying to be as honest as possible without giving the full truth away. "After something terrible happens and you look back to see what could have been done differently, what you were thinking at the time. My only defense was I was trying to be a good friend."
"You are a good friend to Stan. You spend more time with him, you're obviously more important." Wendy looked down at her now chipped nail polish. It was indirectly her fault that makeup was now in short supply in South Park. She should've taken off the nail polish completely in respect to Stan, or added top coat in respect to Bebe and her now unemployed mom.
Kyle sighed and went for some more bacon. "You may not realize it but we're more equal than you think. Let's just try to be good to each other as we'd be to Stan."
"A truce it is." She shouldn't be surprised at this treatment from Kyle, after hearing the full truth from Kenny. Maybe she should choose a side; Wendy started to pick the polish off her nails.
Stan was in the alcove in the hall, knowing he wouldn't be visible at the top of the stairs yet. He peeked around the corner, watching Kyle and Wendy sitting at the table. The situation was almost too perfect if they were the only ones in the room. Those two meant the most to him. He'd wait for the right moment to come down. Both looked so upset but Stan could fix that.
He took a deep breath and walked out to the top of the stairs not saying anything, waiting for either of them to notice him.
Kyle jumped out of his chair probably a bit too eagerly when Stan appeared. "Hey, dude."
Stan gave a little wave, smiling a little at Kyle's response. "Hey. What were you guys doing? Talking about me?"
Wendy looked up from scraping her nail polish and hid her hands behind her back. "Of course we were. Kyle and I were discussing how important you are to both of us and how happy we are to see you're okay."
"That's nice." Stan said as he headed over to the table. Kenny came back from the kitchen and practically slammed down a carton of orange juice so some of it splattered out onto to the table as he ran up to Stan and gave him a hug.
"Hey buddy, nice to see you!"
Instead of being playful Stan forcefully shoved Kenny away from him knocking him against the table. Bebe was coming out of the kitchen; she froze and held the carton of milk she was carrying to her chest, her mouth open in shock.
"Goddamnit, Kenny, you can't do that kind of shit to Stan. He's still healing." Kyle yelled.
Shit, the rules really were different between Kenny and any of his friends. "I'm sorry. Are you okay?"
Stan's fingers briefly touched the red brim of his hat before sitting down at the head of the table. "Yeah I'm fine, I guess."
"Are you sure?" Wendy said, placing the tips of her fingers on the crook of Stan's elbow.
Bebe regained her composure as she sat next to Wendy. She set down the milk and gave the boys a curious glance. "Are you guys ever, you know, nice to each other?"
So it was okay for Wendy to touch Stan, but she was being very gentle. Kenny sheepishly took a seat next to Kyle. "I was trying to be nice to Stan!"
"Kenny, shut up." Kyle said sharply.
Kenny said nothing as he grabbed for some bacon, watching Bebe roll her eyes, he'd probably proved her right.
Stan's mom entered from the kitchen, the cooking apron Randy usually wore tied around her waist. "I'm making chocolate chip waffles for everyone. How does that sound?"
Everyone around the tables expressed their approval. Kyle noticed the circles under her eyes and realized he probably didn't look any better. Wendy could only admire the strength Sharon possessed for this family, and what she could do as well. Kenny noticed with that apron tied so tightly around Sharon's waist it made her chest look even more enticing and let his imagination run a bit wild since everyone was annoyed with him anyway. Bebe was also looking Sharon up and down, but instead thinking of how she'd change up her wardrobe accentuate her figure, or maybe the baggy sweater was the point and could Bebe take fashion cues from Stan's mom.
Stan had his head down until Sharon put a hand on his shoulder and placed a can of beer in front of him. "Your father wanted you to bring this out to him."
Stan's head snapped up. "You're still going along with what he's doing?"
"Now, Stanley, I already told him I'd cook every meal we have from now on. The least you can do is reconnect with your father."
"Fine." Stan grabbed the beer and got up, both Kyle and Wendy got up as well. Bebe shrugged and followed her best friend. Kenny was still admiring Sharon but scrambled up and followed the group.
Stan looked back, amused to see everyone following him. He had a pull over his friends; he'd never got to use it quite like this before.
The snow had piled up again over night. Stan had been excused from shoveling; he didn't have to do any chores from now on. But leaving it to his dad meant nothing would get done. A snowman stood in the middle of the yard, stones for eyes and useless wooden pipe in its mouth. Stan rolled his eyes, that stupid thing had been built again after he kicked over the last one. The new snowman's stick arms pointed towards a tent towards the back.
The group headed over and Stan opened the front to find Randy sitting in his good snow suit cuddling Sparky. The dog seemed to be trying his best to get away.
"Oh good you guys got my signal. See I told you building the snow man was a good idea, Stan. You didn't want to help me."
"Dad, what are you doing to Sparky? Hasn't there been enough animal cruelty in town?"
"No, no, you don't get it; I have to keep warm with another living creature. Our combined body heat saved us through the night. That and my snowman."
"Or you could have just slept in the house with everyone else." Stan grabbed the dog's collar and pulled him away from Randy.
Sparky gratefully ran out of the tent, bypassing Wendy and Bebe and running up to Kenny and jumping on him so that he almost fell over again.
"Hey, Kenny, can you do me a favor and tie Sparky to his dog house? Maybe give him some water as well? Since no one else probably did it." Stan glared at his father again.
"Um, okay?" Was he Stan's little errand boy now? No, he couldn't bitch; it was the least he could do for his friend. He led the dog by the collar across the yard.
Stan held out the beer. "Mom had me bring you another one of these, since you said alcohol keeps you warm instead of a perfectly good heater inside the house."
"Oh good, I was running low. It's not cold is it?"
Stan shook the beer in his hand. "Yeah, Dad, it was in the fridge."
"How am I supposed to survive in the wilderness with cold beer? I don't have to pee again, but if I drank the cold beer..."
Stan turned to Wendy. "Can you do me a favor and please go in the house? You too, Bebe. If my dad actually does try to drink his pee I don't want you to see it."
"Don't have to tell me twice, come on, Wendy." Bebe walked back to the house.
"I've seen worse things...but if you say so." Wendy wanted to at least attempt to hang with the boys, but some things really were too extreme for her taste. At least Stan cared enough to not let her see that. She put her head down and followed Bebe.
Randy got out of the tent and pulled out a box of useless crap from around the yard. "Now that the women have left I can teach you boys how to survive! First we have to make a filter."
"No that's fucking disgusting. Can you think of me for once and how you're making me look in front of my friends?"
"Of course I think of you, son. I wanted us to have a father/son camping trip sometime soon. How about this weekend?"
"It'll be fun. Just our jackets, a simple tent maybe a few weapons but we'd really survive and live off the land. Man and son vs. the wild."
Stan threw the beer at his father and walked back towards the house, Kyle following him. "Ever since my dad got obsessed with Man Vs Wild while I was in the hospital, he refuses to come into the house. We keep bringing him food and beer but he keeps being stupid about it."
"Yeah but that's your dad, I'm used to seeing that. It's probably his way of coping with hard times."
"Yeah I should use that line on him the next time he asks for another jelly jar." Stan rolled his eyes as he flung open the back door.
Kyle stopped walking and grabbed Stan by the sleeve. "Dude, I'm serious. I was worried, we all were."
"I know. I'm glad you care. I'll be fine as long as I have you and Wendy by my side."
"We're both equally invested in doing whatever's best for you. Don't forget that." It would be totally gay for Kyle to hug him, especially if it would hurt Stan. But Kyle couldn't help but put his arm around his shoulder.
"Don't worry, I won't." Stan smiled and patted Kyle's hand.
Kenny watched from across the yard next to the dog house as Kyle and Stan went into the house. It was okay for Wendy and Kyle to touch Stan. It would be nice to have a friend like Stan or Kyle. Kenny shook his head. He was friends with Stan and Kyle but he didn't have anyone care about him like that. He bent down in the snow next to Sparky who was lapping up some fresh water.
"I guess I should get used to others having what I can't have, right boy?"
Sparky responded by licking Kenny on the face. Great now he had dog slobber on his hood. He patted the dog on his head and walked back to the house.