A/N - Reuploading this because I switched accounts. So if you think you've seen this before, LOL YOU PROBABLY HAVE. Anyway, yes, I know Kyle is usually associated with the color green, but that just didn't work for me here, so. HE'S ORANGE NOW.
Stan watched the brush glide over the paper, barely skimming the surface, barely making any difference. He would have thought Kyle was just pretending to paint, if he hadn't been sitting there watching him this whole time. It was a subtle, delicate process, each light stroke of the brush subtly smoothing out the lines and leaving a nice, flat color – no brushstrokes, no imperfections. Flawless, just like everything Kyle did.
"Are you sure this isn't boring you, dude?" Kyle asked. He leaned back, tossing his brush carelessly in the jar of water he had sitting nearby, and tilted his head, examining the square of red-orange he had just made on the heavy paper he had spread out on his desk. Beside it were other squares of color – so far only yellow, yellow-orange, and pure orange.
"I'm sure," Stan responded. "I like watching you try new things. Since you're always good at it, no matter what it is."
Kyle laughed and picked up a tube of red paint, squeezing some more of it out onto his little plastic palette. "Whatever. If I were good at everything, I'd be on the football team with you, rather than being stuck with art."
"Well, it's not like you didn't make the team because you don't know how to play." Stan paused thoughtfully, watching as Kyle began to slowly make a square of red. Kyle worked on this square the same way he had with all the others – painting in one direction and stopping for a moment, usually to mix more water into the blob of paint on his palette, and then going back and turning his paper, painting another layer in the other direction. He said it made it smoother, made the color more vibrant, but Stan couldn't really see a difference.
It was nice to see. Kyle took everything so seriously, even if he was only working on a simple color wheel. Even though Kyle claimed he wasn't an art person, Stan was convinced that Kyle was spending more time on this than any of the artsy-fartsy fags in the class.
"And dude, you're little," Stan added, and Kyle snorted humorlessly. "That's the only reason you didn't make it. You'd be crushed."
"Is that what you think?"
"Not what I think. But yeah, that was the general consensus. They clearly don't know who they're dealing with."
"Clearly!" Kyle agreed. He rinsed out his brush with extra vigor, sloshing some of the water onto his desk.
"Well, look at it this way," Stan said pleasantly, leaning over Kyle's shoulder to press some paper towels to the water mess. Kyle might not care right now, but he'd be pissed if his paper got wet. "At least you get to sit inside where it's warm. That's gotta be nicer than being tackled by Cartman all the time."
Kyle wrinkled his nose. "I'd kick his ass."
"I know you would. So I guess it's a good thing you didn't make it. You'd stop playing just to beat the shit out of anyone who got in your way."
"No I wouldn't! I know the rules."
"Yeah, and you'd forget them the second someone pissed you off."
Kyle shook his head, smiling, because he must have known it was true. He finished up his red square and turned his attention back to his palette, mixing the tiniest bit of blue into the red.
"Purple?" Stan guessed.
"Red-violet. Almost purple." He started on a new square, and Stan rested his chin on his hand, watching contentedly.
"So what happens when you finish this?" Stan asked. "It's not really much of a wheel."
"Well…" Kyle leaned back and stretched, his back popping loudly. "I cut the squares into little triangles, and then attach them to that." He pointed at a color wheel template he had on the corner of his desk. "I just have to make all the colors first. It's easier than just trying to paint onto something that small. And this way, if I get a color wrong, I don't have to start over."
"You're a genius."
"Not really." Kyle bent back over, going back to work. "It's what we're supposed to do. Actually, we're kind of expected to make multiples of each color, so we can pick the best ones for the finished product."
"Oh, well you shouldn't have to do that," Stan told him. "Your colors are perfect."
"Mmhmm." Stan leaned forward to rub at the back of Kyle's neck, which had to be tensing up with the way he was bent over his paper. "Prettiest color wheel I've ever seen."
Kyle laughed, and Stan could feel the vibrations of it under his fingertips. "It should look just like all the others in the world."
"No way, dude, yours is way prettier."
"Oh, then I must be doing it wrong," Kyle deadpanned, and Stan rolled his eyes.
"Could you please just take a compliment?"
"All right, all right. Thank you, Stan."
"That was better. Try a little less sarcasm next time."
Stan slowly worked his way down Kyle's neck and began rubbing at his shoulders – gently, so he wouldn't mess him up – and he could feel the tension melting out of Kyle like magic. Stan wasn't really much of a masseur; he just knew to rub at lumps until they didn't seem quite so lumpy, but it wasn't really about that. Kyle always tensed up unintentionally when he was concentrating, and being touched seemed to relax him. (Being touched by Stan, at least. He would get kind of pissy if anyone else dared lay a hand on him). Stan would always be grateful that he had figured that out – it was way better than listening to Kyle complain about how sore he was every single time he finished a homework assignment.
"I want to see you paint something for real," Stan said after a few minutes, when Kyle finished up the red-violet square.
"Oh God," Kyle laughed, shaking his head. "I can't draw."
"Does it matter? Painters don't have to be able to draw. Like – that piece of shit Mona Lisa? Totally looks like an ugly man, all disproportionate and awful, but everyone loves it because the colors are pretty."
Kyle turned around slowly, his face scrunched up in a classic what-the-fuck-are-you-talking-about-you-dumbass look, which melted into an exasperated smile when he saw Stan's expression. "Don't scare me like that," he said, grinning. "I thought you were serious."
"I am serious," Stan responded, but he couldn't make his face reflect that, not with the way Kyle was smiling at him. "Totally serious. Just draw a stick figure and paint it, it'll be gorgeous."
"Even my stick figures are ugly," Kyle told him. He thought for a minute, chewing lightly on the end of his brush. "I could paint you, though."
"You better not be saying I'm ugly."
"I'm not. I promise. I can paint you right now."
"Oh? Let's see."
Kyle pulled the brush out of his mouth and leaned toward Stan, looking at him carefully, and then – so quickly that Stan didn't stand a chance at getting away – Kyle tapped his brush against Stan's nose, leaving a smear of red-violet.
"Dammit, Kyle," Stan groaned, grabbing a paper towel and rubbing at his nose.
Kyle grinned at him cheekily. "I said I'd paint you, not a portrait of you."
"I thought so." Kyle shrugged and turned back to his paper, studying it thoughtfully. "I think you're right – I'm not going to make multiples of these."
After touching the paper towel to his nose a few more times, making sure it was totally free of paint, Stan rested his chin on Kyle's shoulder, gazing at the squares of color with him. "I told you. Even if you can't draw, you're like, a color expert."
"Yeah, and I wear lots of orange and three shades of green every day. Color expertise in action." Kyle turned his head slightly, looking at Stan as best he could from this proximity. "Two shades of orange, actually, if you count my hair."
Stan shrugged. "That's okay. It wouldn't be you if you wore something else. You're just – you're orange. That's how I think of you, anyway."
Kyle hummed thoughtfully, gazing down at the orange square. "I can see that, I guess. Orange is kind of – it's loud, I guess. You can't really ignore orange, because it has so much energy. It's a warm color—"
"You're warm," Stan interjected, reaching around the back of the chair to rest his hands on Kyle's waist. Kyle was kind of like a cat – no matter what time of day it was, he always seemed to have that cozy, sleepy warmth radiating from him. Stan had always liked that about him.
"Dude, shut up, I'm talking." But Kyle was smiling, and Stan tightened his hold on him. "Anyway, it's warm, which means it always jumps into the foreground, whether you want it there or not. I guess you could say it's kind of aggressive, and it can be a bit of an eyesore, I think, if it's not used in moderation, but it's also really positive. Orange makes people happy."
Stan nodded, which really didn't amount to much, since his head was still on Kyle's shoulder. "That part's true. I don't know about the whole eyesore thing." He thought for a minute, looking over the colors Kyle had painted. "What color am I?"
"Really? Why not red or brown?"
Kyle shrugged and Stan lifted his head. He scooted his chair forward, moving it so he could sit beside Kyle more fully. He had stayed behind him while he was painting so he wouldn't get in the way, but if they were going to stop and talk, he wanted to at least be able to see Kyle's face.
"I don't know," Kyle answered, turning to face him. "They don't really seem like you. Red's too aggressive, and brown… I just don't see it. And it's not on the color wheel, so it doesn't count. But blue – I like blue. Blue is a wonderful color to be."
Kyle dug through some papers he had sitting on his desk and pulled out the printed color wheel he had been using for reference, tapping the blue section with his index finger. "Blue is really calming. It's steadfast and calm, but it also has this fluidity – like the ocean. It can be a little sad sometimes, but the right shades of blue can actually make people heal faster. That's why you see it in hospitals and doctors' offices.
"It's a cool color, obviously," Kyle went on. "Which means, visually, it recedes. So it often falls to the background." He stopped, frowning. "That doesn't exactly fit."
"That's okay," Stan said dismissively. Something on the printed color wheel had caught his attention, and he pulled it closer for a better look. "Blue is as far away from orange as possible," he pointed out, disappointed.
"Well, when you look at it that way, yeah."
"There's no other way to look at it. Orange and blue are like, total opposites. They have nothing in common, and they can't reach each other."
"They're complements," Kyle corrected gently. "That means they work really, really well together. They look beautiful together because they belong together. You put orange and blue side-by-side, and you get something intense and eye-catching. In art, you really don't want to put complements together too often, because it can overpower your work, but I guess in reality, that makes them pretty fucking unstoppable."
"And?" Stan prompted. "What do you get when they mix?"
"Mud," Kyle answered simply, wrinkling his nose.
"I'm serious. It's a really icky color, actually."
Stan threw up his hands, playfully exasperated. "Can't you make it sound a little nicer than that? Mud? Jesus!"
"All right," Kyle sighed. "They neutralize each other. How's that? Actually, that can be a good thing, if done carefully. Like, if you add a little bit of blue into orange, it calms it down – it takes away that screaming intensity and pulls orange away from the foreground, making it easier to look at. So I guess blue is really good for orange, because orange needs something to keep it steady, because it's too explosive and energetic by itself.
"If you put orange into blue, on the other hand…" He trailed off, looking a little lost. "I can't imagine orange does anything useful for blue, actually. It just makes it ugly."
"That's bullshit," Stan said simply. "Blue needs orange. Because… Well, because I guess blue would be stuck in the background all the time if it didn't have orange to give it confidence. Without orange, all blue does is sit around and mope and write songs about hybrid cars until orange comes back. Actually, blue goes through a lot of effort to make sure orange sticks around, but it's all background-y stuff. Blue doesn't try to conquer the world alone."
"That's not exactly color theory," Kyle responded, grinning.
"It's my color theory. And from what I can tell, it's pretty fucking accurate."
Kyle just gazed at him for a moment, smiling softly, and then he turned back to his desk, opening a tube of blue paint. Stan started to move back to his original spot, but before he could pick up his chair, Kyle said, "Let me show you the best thing about complements."
Stan leaned forward, watching as Kyle pulled out a fresh sheet of paper and painted a big dot of blue in the corner. "Stare at this for a minute," he said, pushing the paper in front of Stan.
"Next time blue feels alone," he started, and Stan glanced up at him out of habit – they always made eye contact when they talked. "No, look at it!" Kyle insisted, pointing, and Stan ducked his head, focusing his attention on that dot of blue.
"Just listen," Kyle told him, "and keep looking until I tell you stop. Now, even if blue feels all alone on its side of the color wheel, what is has to remember is that orange is never far away. They aren't complements just because someone said so – it's an absolute fact. Blue and orange are perfect for each other, and while they might look nice with other colors, they're always best together.
"Orange will never go away, because it's like – it's a part of blue. They may be polar opposites when it comes to appearance, and their very natures might be different, but they don't care. They absolutely cannot exist without each other." He paused for a minute, and out of Stan's peripheral vision, he could see Kyle glancing up at the clock, counting the seconds. "Now look over here," Kyle said a short time later, pointing to a blank spot on the paper.
Stan shifted his eyes and focused, and for a second there was nothing. Right as he opened his mouth to say so, an orange dot materialized on the page, floating right in front of his vision.
"See it?" Kyle asked.
"Yeah, I see it," Stan answered quietly.
"It works the other way around, too. Orange and blue are meant to be, and it's impossible to separate them forever. You can't have one without the other."
"That's… really awesome." Stan forced his eyes away from the paper once the orange dot started to fade, and looked up at Kyle.
"Yeah. I actually like this side of art. The rest of it's kind of gay."
Stan laughed and went back to resting his head on Kyle's shoulder, hooking an arm around his waist as Kyle went back to painting. Alone, Stan might have been boring, might have been too scared to step out and lead on his own; Kyle could be too intense, too hostile, and he would spiral into nothingness without someone to keep him together. But somewhere along the line, they had mixed, and there was a certain beauty in their neutrality, something perfect about the way their personalities lined up, keeping each other in check and finding loveliness in each other's imperfections.
Or maybe it was just mud – ugly and useless, a mistake made by a novice artist who tried to fully blend two things that should never be mixed.
Whatever it was, it was theirs, and it was never going to change. Art, after all, was subjective, and this was something Stan loved, even if no one else ever understood it.