A/N - This is for The Next Exit, because I've been promising her a fic for ages and I've been so uninspired, and just. ugh. But here we go. Finally. This is my attempt at humor, I guess, but it turned out more like cracky angst. Basically, don't take it too seriously.
The day Kyle finally stopped begging Stan to give Facebook another try, to just join and be friends with no one but him (and occasionally stop by to water his crops, visit his frontier and maybe his café, and oh just play one game with him), Stan was immediately suspicious. Kyle never gave up on anything. And for the past five or six years of their lives, Kyle had continued to casually bring Facebook up in conversation, voicing his melodramatic wish that he had someone to play with. He never cared about the networking part. For Kyle, it was all about digital crops and digital cakes, and scaring digital bears off his stupid little digital frontier, but Stan had somehow managed to resist. He wasn't putting himself through that again.
So when Kyle's begging came to an abrupt stop, Stan couldn't help but think Kyle was secretly making him a Facebook page (for like, the tenth time), but as the days went by, Kyle never mentioned it. They never had their usual conversation about how Stan "might as well use Facebook for awhile, now that he had his own page," to which Stan would always respond by repeating "No" over and over until Kyle finally let it drop.
After a month, Stan almost asked Kyle about it, but he quickly decided that that's what Kyle wanted him to do, and he remained silent.
After two months, Kyle was acting kind of different. Always tired during the day because he "couldn't sleep," and always coming up with excuses to avoid hanging out.
Right at the three month mark, Stan hadn't seen or heard from Kyle for a full week (other than at school, but Kyle was such a zombie that it hardly counted), and he decided that was enough. Right after school, before Kyle had a chance to get away, Stan grabbed Kyle's arm and dragged him around the side of the building where they couldn't be seen.
"Would you like tell me what's going on?" he asked, equal parts of concern and frustration making his demand come out more as a hesitant question. He crossed his arms and tried to put on a harsh expression, hoping to make it perfectly clear that Kyle wasn't going anywhere until Stan got some answers.
Kyle yawned hugely into the back of his hand, gazing up at Stan from under heavy eyelids. "Nothing's going on, dude," he muttered. He rubbed at his eyes. "I need to get home."
He started to walk away, and Stan grabbed at him, pushing him back up against the wall. "No, see, this is what's going on. You never have time to hang out anymore, you're always like half asleep…" he trailed off, trying to decide if the situation was desperate enough for him to go on. With the way Kyle was looking desperately in the direction of his house, as if he could magically teleport himself there if he stared intensely enough, Stan decided that yes, the situation was very desperate. "And you haven't asked me to join Facebook in like three months."
That seemed to get Kyle's attention, and he met Stan's gaze curiously. "Facebook..? Wow, I haven't – oh man, all my crops are probably dead." He didn't seem overly concerned, just kind of thoughtfully amused, and Stan wondered if this was more serious than he thought. Maybe he should rush Kyle to the hospital or something, because he loved those stupid crops.
"Don't worry about it, Stan," Kyle said gently, patting Stan's shoulder. "You should be happy. At least this means I won't be bothering you about it anymore."
Stan tried to sputter a response, about how maybe in a weird way he kind of liked being bothered about it, or at the very least, he at least liked having his best friend glued to his side 24/7, and if that meant he had to listen to Kyle go on and on about Facebook, then he was more than happy to endure it. But Kyle was pushing away from him, walking in that weird way that made it obvious he was trying not to run, and he was saying over his shoulder, "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
Kyle only made it a few more steps before he clearly couldn't take it anymore, and he broke out into a run.
Stan stared after him, dumbfounded.
The next day was the same, and so was the next. Their interactions were short and awkward, because Kyle was either falling asleep halfway through, or he was gazing into the distance, lost in thought, sometimes with a little amused smile pulling at his lips. Sometimes he'd start laughing in class for no apparent reason, and it only made Stan extra aware of how lonely he'd been over these past three months, because there was hardly ever a joke that the two of them didn't share.
On Friday, Stan decided enough was enough. He and Kyle were hanging out, no matter what. Even if that meant he followed Kyle home and sat on his bed and did nothing, while Kyle amused himself with whatever was so important to him lately.
"I just miss you, dude," Stan admitted, as he followed Kyle in an almost-run down the hallway after their last class.
Kyle faltered a little, and actually managed to look a little ashamed. "You do?"
"Of course I do!"
Kyle slowed to his normal walk, although he still looked a little panicked, like slowing down might cause the world to explode.
"I don't know what you've been spending all your time doing," Stan went on, "but I've spent more time at home these past few months than I ever have in my entire life, and it's just – it's really getting to me. And hanging out with Kenny and Cartman just isn't the same without you, so…"
Kyle sighed. "I'm sorry, Stan," he said tiredly. "I really am."
"So?" Stan prompted eagerly. "Want to do something?"
After a few seconds too many of shifting uncomfortably and weighing his options, Kyle said, "Uh, yeah, sure." Stan couldn't even bring himself to be offended at the time it took for Kyle to respond – at least he agreed, and that was a step in the right direction.
But it turned out that Kyle had been taking like, five hour naps after school every single day, so Stan was stuck sitting at alone in his room once again. But at least this time, it was with the promise that he and Kyle would actually get to hang out later that evening, so that made it a little more bearable.
Even so, after a mere thirty minutes, Stan was getting a little antsy, and before he was even fully aware of what he was doing, he was sitting down at his computer and logging into one of the many Facebook accounts Kyle had made for him. Stan never actually deleted the things – there was no way he was risking that again – but Kyle always made new ones so he could "start fresh."
Stan actually felt a little guilty when his profile loaded. There was a picture of the two of them grinning like idiots in the profile picture, and his wall was covered in comments from Kyle that Stan had never read – had never knew existed. Everything from mundane 'sup dude's to happy birthday messages, and even a wistful 'I wish you actually cared enough to get on here.'
They went on forever but Stan forced himself to stop reading them and headed to Farmville, which Kyle had also conveniently set up for him. His farm was empty except for a sign that Kyle had placed there for him, and Stan really felt like he had been a shitty friend all these years.
But Kyle's farm, when he got there, was even worse. Every single crop was dead, and there were no signs, because no one ever visited. Stan revived as many of the crops as he could, and placed a sign right in the middle of the farm that read, "I'm so sorry, dude."
He started to log out after that, but after a moment of hesitation, he went back and posted a comment on Kyle's wall. Feeling he had somewhat redeemed himself, he logged out and turned off the computer, then flopped over on his bed to endure the remaining four hours.
Kyle said he'd be awake around 8:00, maybe a little later, but Stan showed up at 7:50, and that was even with walking painfully slow and stopping three times to retie his shoes. He started to wait outside until eight on the dot, but he figured if he'd had to suffer for five hours (four days, and three months), the least Kyle could do was wake up a little early.
So he let himself in, just as he always had since they were kids, and he waved at Mrs. Broflovski before sprinting up the stairs. There was no light emanating from under Kyle's door, which meant he was probably still in bed, and Stan quietly pushed the door open.
Maybe it was a little creepy, but Stan felt a lot better now that they were actually in the same room, and that Kyle wouldn't be running off any time soon. So Stan sat down on the end of the bed, content to wait, and stared out into the darkness of the room, listening to Kyle breathe.
Kyle wasn't much of a snorer; he always just took long, loud breaths, like he was thinking about snoring, but was too embarrassed to actually do so. It was a sound Stan was more than used to, since he had grown up listening to it every time they spent the night at each others' houses. Which meant he also knew, that when that sound stopped about ten minutes later, Kyle was actually awake, even though he wasn't moving yet.
Stan started to say something, because waking up to find someone sitting at the edge of your bed was just disturbing, even for them, but right as he opened his mouth to do so, Kyle gasped a little, and Stan thought he had been seen. But instead of sitting up and indignantly demanding answers, Stan could just barely make out the shape of Kyle's arms reaching frantically over the side of the bed, and something long and square-ish being lifted from the floor.
Then the room was filled with the blue-white light from Kyle's laptop screen, and Stan flinched away from the sudden brightness, shielding his eyes.
"What the fuck are you doing?" he snapped, before realizing that that probably wasn't the best thing to say at a time like this.
"Jesus!" Kyle shrieked, nearly knocking his laptop to the floor with his spectacular flailing. He managed to set it down on the bed with surprising gentleness, given the situation, before he staggered to his feet and pretty much tripped across the room, and fumbled for the lamp on his desk. Stan didn't know if he was trying to turn it on or use it as a weapon, but he didn't exactly want to find out.
"Relax, dude," Stan said quickly, and he hurried across the room and grabbed Kyle's shoulders to still him. "It's just me."
"I know that!" Kyle snapped, even though he probably didn't. After a few seconds of silence, Kyle sighed and reached for the lamp again, turning it on and fully illuminating his panicked, but gradually shifting to enraged, expression. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Just what I said I'd do," Stan responded, giving Kyle's shoulders a comforting squeeze. Kyle's chest was heaving as he struggled to catch his breath, and Stan swore he could hear Kyle's heart pounding. As pissed as Kyle was, he must have needed the comfort, because he didn't shove Stan away. "I got here at eight, just like we planned."
Kyle glanced at his clock, as if verifying what Stan had said, and his shoulders drooped a little. "Yeah, but… You could have woken me up, could have warned me that you'd be just sitting there watching me sleep. Fuck, dude." He shuddered, glaring up at Stan. "How long have you been here anyway?"
"Not long," Stan promised. It wasn't quite a lie. Over thirty minutes – that was a long time. Ten was nothing. "I mean, I must have woken you up when I came in. I had like, just sat down." Okay, that was a lie, but he really didn't want their first real conversation in months to be an argument. "I really didn't mean to startle you."
Kyle snorted. "I wasn't startled, asshole."
Well, even if Kyle was going to pretend like it was no big deal, they both knew better, and Stan was more than happy to let it go. "Oh. Okay, good."
"I was more like shitting my pants in terror. And I was about to bludgeon you to death."
"In that order?" Stan asked. "Because it looked like you were trying to get straight to the bludgeoning."
Kyle glared at him for a moment longer, before his expression melted into an exasperated smile. "Well, I wasn't entirely sure, but if you can't smell anything, then I guess I was planning to shit afterward."
Stan laughed and pulled Kyle into a tight hug. "Fuck, I missed you."
He was slightly surprised when Kyle's arms hooked around his waist, loosely returning the embrace. "I know. I'm sorry."
Stan waited for a moment, hoping Kyle would offer an explanation. When none came, he pulled away, and tucked his hands into his pockets. "So. What do you want to do?"
Kyle shrugged. "Whatever you want to do, dude." There was an unspoken, slightly bitter, this was your idea, after all, tacked to the end of that sentence, and once again, Stan wondered if he should really be concerned.
He decided to take it all in stride and see where the night went. "Okay," he said amicably. "Put on clothes, change your underwear or something, and we'll figure something out."
They ended up getting dinner at Denny's, and then they went back to Stan's house, where they decided to play Guitar Hero for the first time in years. They were both a little rusty at first (meaning they missed so many notes that they game stopped them before they made total fools of themselves) before they fell back into their old rhythm, playing off each other as perfectly as they always had. They spent the next hour or so trying to beat their old high score, which they couldn't even come close to no matter how hard they tried. For awhile, it was just like old times, like nothing had ever gone wrong (had anything gone wrong? Stan still wasn't sure), and maybe this was finally the end of whatever was causing Kyle to avoid him.
But then, as they finished up playing and fell over on the couch, eating Cheesy Poofs and talking about nothing, Kyle started getting that look again – kind of panicked, like he was in a hurry, like he had forgotten some really huge assignment. His eyes kept darting around the room, looking anywhere but at Stan, always landing on the clock.
Stan ignored it as long as he could, trying to decide the best way to confront this. Obviously if he kept Kyle distracted, whatever was bothering him wasn't an issue. So maybe… "You're spending the night, right?" he asked abruptly, right in the middle of their halfhearted discussion about Cartman's bra size.
Kyle had hardly been paying attention, so if he noticed the sudden change of topic, he didn't show it. "Oh, uh – did you want me to?" he asked, in that tone of voice that made it obvious he hoped Stan would say no. "I mean, I didn't exactly bring clothes or anything—"
"You still have some here," Stan reminded him, and it kind of sucked that he had to. Although he had a feeling Kyle hadn't forgotten at all; that he was just looking for an excuse and he'd hoped Stan was absentminded enough to forget. "Please, dude? It's been forever since you slept over."
Kyle sighed, shifting uncomfortably, and he looked up at the clock again. "It's not like I'll actually be able to sleep," he tried, and Stan waved it off.
"Awesome. I kind of fell asleep earlier while I was waiting for you, so I'm not exactly tired either. We'll find something to do."
Kyle let out one last dramatic sigh, as if he were hoping his obvious displeasure would make Stan back down, but he really should have known better. "Alright," he said finally. He bit at his nail nervously, watching the second hand work its way around the clock. "Alright," he repeated. "It's no big deal." He smiled and leaned back against the couch, turning his attention to Stan again, and Stan had to give him credit for doing a really good job at feigning normalcy.
When they finally got tired of sitting around and halfway watching TV, they went up to Stan's room, where Kyle perched awkwardly on the edge of the bed, and an uncomfortable silence fell over them. Stan couldn't believe how fucked up this was; his friendship with Kyle used to be the most natural thing in the world, and now every conversation was a struggle. Not that they used to sit around and have girly heart to hearts all the time, but it seemed like if every second wasn't planned, if they didn't have something specific to do, they fell into this odd slump, which they used to be able to fill with banter or wrestling or something.
"So…" Stan prompted for about the thousandth time that night.
"Yeah, uh…" Kyle's gaze drifted around the room, probably looking for a clock or an escape, Stan wasn't sure. And then Kyle was looking back up at him, his eyes wide and desperate. "Can I borrow your computer?" he asked in a rush, as if he had been holding back that question all night, and it finally just exploded.
Stan stared at him blankly. "Oh, uh – sure, dude."
Kyle practically leapt from the bed to Stan's desk, landing gracelessly in the chair, and he jabbed his finger into the power button so hard that Stan thought he was going to break something. Kyle's legs bounced impatiently as he waited for the computer to start up, drumming his fingers against the desk, and Stan hadn't seen him this animated in forever. He couldn't help but feel a little disappointed – a little jealous, even. They used to get this impatient, this excited, every time the two of them were going to hang out, but now Kyle acted like every second with Stan was just a waste of time that he could be spending on something more important.
But Stan said nothing and sat down on the floor, resting his arm on Kyle's thigh, and waited to see what was so fucking special that it made Kyle push everything else away.
When the ancient computer had finally come to life, Kyle immediately pulled up the internet and started typing in some web address that Stan couldn't quite see from his angle. When Kyle logged in, all that came up was a disorganized jumble of pictures and words that Kyle started scrolling through impossibly quickly, pausing on one every now and then to click some series of links, then he went right back to scrolling.
Stan watched the process for a full five minutes, trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out why Kyle found it so fucking exciting, but he was even more confused than ever.
"Kyle," he said finally, hoping to break him out of the trance he had fallen into.
"Hmm?" Kyle answered distractedly, never looking away from the screen.
"What is this?"
"My life, Stan," he replied, monotone, and if he hadn't been so serious about it, Stan would have laughed. He almost laughed anyway, but he managed to hold it back.
"Oh." Stan paused, watching Kyle scroll through the seemingly endless page, garish flashing images and oddly solemn looking ones all flying by almost too quickly for Stan to really focus on them. "That's… cool, I guess."
"Really cool," Kyle affirmed, and he fell silent again.
It didn't take long for Stan to lose interest, and he propped his head up on his hand, waiting impatiently for Kyle to finish up. It was almost kind of painful, listening to Kyle laugh at things that Stan would never understand, and that Kyle clearly didn't want to share. This thing, whatever it was, was forming a barrier right in the middle of their friendship, and Stan didn't think he could put up with it for much longer.
"Know what the best part is?" Kyle asked after awhile. He slumped back in the chair, apparently taking a break.
"What?" Stan asked, disinterestedly.
"Everyone here—" Kyle absently gestured at the screen, "—is just like me. They do the same stupid shit I do, and they're interested in the same things…"
"Awesome," Stan muttered, rolling his eyes.
"Which means I don't have to annoy you anymore."
Stan stared up at him, trying to decide if he should be hurt, offended, or just plain angry. "What?"
"I have everything I need right here," Kyle said simply, as if it wasn't the most hurtful thing Stan had ever heard. "I know I pissed you off all the time with the whole Facebook thing, but you don't have to worry about that anymore."
"B-but—!" Stan sputtered helplessly. "You love Facebook!"
"I love Tumblr now."
"What about your farm! Your café? Your frontier?"
Kyle shifted a little, looking back at the screen, although he didn't go back to his frenzied scrolling. "I don't know, dude, I just… No one played any of those with me, and it's just not as fun if you're alone."
Stan sighed. He understood that all too well now. The past three months had probably been the worst and loneliest in his whole life, because even if he was playing video games or just roaming around town, doing stuff he loved, hardly any of it seemed worth doing without his best friend by his side.
"I'm really sorry, Kyle," he said miserably.
Kyle shrugged it off. "It's no big deal, really. I'm over it."
"I'm not!" Stan persisted, scrambling to stand up straight on his knees. Kyle simply went back to scanning through the endless page of unidentifiable stuff, and Stan groaned in frustration. "I miss you, Kyle," he said forcefully, willing Kyle to understand it this time. "Everything sucks without you, and I was so fucking bored that I actually did my homework—"
"Oh, that's great, actually," Kyle interrupted, smiling a little.
"You're missing the point!" Stan paused, studying Kyle's profile, the way his eyes never even flicked away from the screen. "Or maybe you're too distracted with your new best friends to care."
Kyle actually looked a little hurt, and for the first time since he sat down at the computer, he turned to face Stan fully. "No, Stan, that's not it at all…"
"That is it," Stan said harshly, standing. "It's not like you've been out of town, or sick, or – or I don't know. I've barely seen you because you've decided this is more important!"
"This isn't more important than you!" Kyle snapped. "You're being stupid!"
"Then why is it that you've been thinking about this all night? Why is it so impossible to forget about for a few hours? You hardly cared about spending time with me– all you cared about was getting a chance to use my fucking computer!"
Kyle growled, clearly angry now, and snarled, "You're acting like you're my girlfriend – my clingy, overbearing girlfriend whom I should probably dump before I'm completely smothered!"
"What the fuck!" Stan started toward the door, because he didn't have to listen to this bullshit, but then he remembered he was in his own room, so leaving wouldn't prove much of a point. He whirled back around, meeting Kyle's smug expression. "There's nothing clingy or overbearing about wanting to spend time with my best friend. That's normal. What you're doing – this internet bullshit – that's what's smothering you, but you're too far in to even see it!"
They stared each other down for a long moment, and just when Stan was beginning to think that neither of them would ever back down and that they'd be stuck glaring at each other like this forever, Kyle's expression twisted into a disgusted little sneer, and he turned back toward the computer, pushing the power button with a dramatic flourish.
"Fine!" he said sharply. "Fine. You want my undivided attention? It's all yours, Stan."
"Just stop, Kyle—"
"Stop what?" Kyle asked with mock innocence. "I thought this was what you wanted."
"I want my best friend back." After a moment of hesitation, Stan crossed the room and placed his hands cautiously on Kyle's shoulders, feeling for the first time that he might not be allowed to. But Kyle allowed it, and his eyes were kind of blank when he stared up at Stan. "I know you're mad at me, and I guess – I guess you have every right to be, because I spent so much time ignoring the things you were interested in. But I'm going to change that. I mean, I'll start using Facebook, or – or I'll make one of those Tumblr things, anything, Kyle."
"Dude," Kyle said brightly, grinning. "You'd love Tumblr, oh my God. And there's probably lots of blogs for like, saving animals and whales and stuff, seriously dude…"
He grabbed Stan's arm and dragged him back over to the computer, this time only halfway sitting in the chair, leaving enough room for Stan to sit beside him. They waited as Stan's computer slowly tried to start up again, and Stan leaned closer, pressing their shoulders together firmly.
"I visited your farm earlier today," he said quietly. "Everything was dead. It kind of sucked."
Kyle frowned a little. "I'm not surprised. Maybe… Maybe I have been kind of neglecting the things that are important to me."
"But you were mad at me, weren't you?"
"I guess," Kyle admitted. "I mean, I try everything you suggest, so I guess I got tired of you not giving the things I love a chance."
"In my defense, I did give Facebook a chance. And it sucked me in and tried to kill me."
The computer finally loaded and Kyle pulled up the internet again, this time bringing up Facebook first. He logged in and stared at the little notification symbol in shock. "You wrote on my wall and everything?" He clicked to his profile and skimmed over the message: If it's important to you, it's important to me. Sorry it took so long for me to figure that out.
Kyle grinned and nudged Stan's knee with his own. "Thanks, Stan."
The rest of the night was spent with Kyle going back to all of his old games and fixing all the things that had died, rotted, or grew over. And then they headed back to Tumblr, where Kyle insisted on setting up an account for Stan, and started finding blogs for him to follow and explaining the beautiful simplicity of it.
Three days later, Stan was sitting in that very spot, alone this time, scrolling forever, liking and reblogging seemingly at random. It was only when his phone rang that he realized how late it was, but he answered anyway.
"Dude. It's like, four in the morning."
"I know," Kyle responded. "We haven't seen each other in three days."
"So you thought it'd be a good idea to call at the asscrack of dawn? On a school night?"
"It's not like you're asleep. You've been reblogging shit all night." There was a silence which Stan couldn't exactly fill, because he was busy trying to type out a question in someone's ask, but he practically heard the smirk in Kyle's voice when he said, "Addicting, isn't it?"
There was silence on the other end, and then Kyle laughed. "Oh that's cute, Stan," he said dryly. "'Why do we have to see each other when we can Tumbl together all night long?' Really?"
"It's a legitimate question, dude, answer it."
There was a pause and Stan could hear Kyle typing, halfway whispering the words to himself, and Stan practically leapt on the response when it finally appeared:
Go water my crops, asshole.
Stan laughed to himself and switched to his Facebook tab. Yeah, things were definitely back to normal.
And he couldn't have been happier.