This was it.
This. was. it.
He couldn't take it anymore, not by a single goddamn second. Running a nervous hand through his tangled red hair - and of course snagging every knot along the way - Kyle winced and dropped it back at his side, restless. Everyone could see him staring, and he knew it too, but he couldn't exactly stop.
Last week was stupid. Last week was a mistake. He kept telling himself that over and over, replaying the moment in his head like a broken record. Why the fuck would he ask such a stupid question? How the hell do you answer that?
What do you think of me?
How the hell do you ask your best friend that and not expect an awkward look? It was a stupid mistake and he was stupid for doing it in the first place. Yet it still nagged, still tugged at his subconscious every waking second. He hadn't slept, and it showed. Dark circles were beginning to imprint under his eyes, and his hair was more unkempt and messy than it had ever been. Over the years he'd learned to tame the mess of monstrous red hair on his cranium over the years, but it had somehow reverted back to this snarling, tangled… creature over the past few days. He couldn't bother to fend for his hair, or his disheveled clothes and tired, wandering eyes. Eyes that kept watching him, purposely standing across the hallway and avoiding him.
Stan had pretended nothing was going on; for a week Kyle agonized over the stupid remark, and yet his best friend never truly batted an eye about it. Not until today, not until he couldn't even manage to look him in the eyes without flinching or cringing somehow. God, he knew didn't he? That look that instantly made him want to wither and die. Why did he have to open his big, fat mouth in the first place?
"Hey Kyle," a soft, foreign voice cracked through his thoughts. He turned to find the sullen, slightly weary looking face of Butters. He could tell how badly the separation was going for him - it showed on his tired face more than usual. Kyle couldn't help but feel sorry for the kid.
"Hey Butters," he smiled, faintly, with a nod. "How are you doing?" he asked, though he knew the words were empty. He saw the small light flicker on Butters' face before he looked at the floor and shrugged with a hollow smile.
"Oh, as good as I suppose it can be," he laughed. He caught a glance from him under a wall of blonde hair. "How's Stan doing?"
Kyle stiffened in his posture and turned wide, surprised eyes to Butters.
"W-What do you mean?" he bouted nervously. He saw a smile twinkle in the freshman's eyes, then fade.
"Oh, you know," he shrugged, "It's not like I don't know."
Kyle was honestly surprised.
"R-Really?" he swallowed a burrowing lump in his throat, nervously catching a glance back at Stan to see his back turned, laughing at some stupid joke from Clyde. He glanced back at Butters, who was slowly receding into his own posture, hands sunk under the crook of each arm.
"I've known for a while," he added with a quiet laugh. Kyle could have sworn he saw a twinge of regret leak into his features for a moment before disappearing. He shifted onto his other foot and sighed. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. S'no point, anyway," he shrugged, looking back up at Kyle. "You're my friend."
He could feel his face contorting into a mixture between confusion and relief. He breathed in deep, breaking his gaze from Butters' before crossing his arms and leaning back against the lockers, blowing it out of puffed cheeks.
"Thanks, dude.." he sighed. "I don't think I could handle much more torment at this point without having it spewed all over the school." He tipped his head back against the lockers, shutting his eyes. "I swear I thought I was hiding it so well, too," he laughed; bitter, repressed. Resentful.
"Y-You shouldn't have to hide it-" Butters started, then paused, assessing himself as the nagging stutter caught onto his voice again for a moment. He cleared his throat and stepped beside Kyle, unfolding his arms and dropping them listlessly at his sides. "He's your best friend, after all."
"Yeah, that'll be a great conversation-" he said, shutting his eyes and waving a sarcastic hand in the air. "Just a simple 'So hey dude I think I'm in love with you, wanna hang out later?', yeah.. that'll go over well." Kyle sighed in frustration and tapped the back of his head against the locker, then groaned in regret when a twinge of pain shot down his neck.
"Anyway, I should get going," he finished, leaning back upright from the lockers and turning to Butters. He seemed a bit disappointed the conversation was cut so short, but thankfully the sound of the third period bell interrupted any possibility for a lingering goodbye. Kyle wasn't sure he could take much more of Butters' depressing voice much longer; it was like talking to a ghost.
He waved off to his friend before jogging down the hall towards the south wing for Science.
Just one more class to go and you're free.
Just one more.