For Gentlemen Only
Chapter Eight: Ceremony
Prom is a night for magic so… just what does that make an Alterna-Prom? Graduation is here and its time to address that fork in the road.
"I like this one with the coat tails," Stan mused over a rack along the back wall. "He'll look sophisticated."
"Adorable like a penguin you mean," Craig's mom chirruped. She shuffled through some selections on an adjoining rack and gasped when she found one she liked. "Look at the cut on this one. He'll look so svelte."
Stan abandoned his rack in favor of looking at Craig's mom's suggestion and nodded. "He's already thin but it'll make his shoulders look stronger. Craig, try it on for us." Stan looked at him holding out the clothing item without batting an eyelash.
Craig remained seated on the stool in a pair of black slacks, white dress shirt with the collar undone, and crossed his arms over the form fitting baby blue vest his mother managed to dig up that matched Stan's eyes perfectly. He had determinedly rolled up the sleeves on the shirt to above his elbows with his legs splayed half in a show of protest and half because the dress shoes on his feet kept fucking slipping on the carpet.
He huffed at Stan in response.
Stan made a Face and Craig let out a long suffering sigh as he stood up. He made a point to tower over Stan as he snatched the offending piece of clothing from his hands and wrenched it from its hangar.
"Love you," Stan sang with a grin. Craig growled and turned his back as he swung the tuxedo jacket around his body threading his arms through the sleeves. He caught his mother's winking eye and blanched before she resumed the Hunt.
To say she had been ecstatic over their little Alterna-Prom was an understatement. After Stan declared his love towards Craig in the middle of the hallway the day after the school refused to let them go to Prom together she and Mrs. Marsh had visited the Principal's office. The Principal claimed their relationship was disrupting the learning process and encouraged both mothers to intervene and put it to an end. It was upsetting for the community and called into question the appropriateness of Mr. Garrison continuing his career as an educator if he was turning some of his students "to his side." Never mind the fact they hadn't been in one of Garrison's class since like… fifth grade.
Clyde cheerfully notified Craig that you could hear the mothers' reprimands all the way in the locker room.
Craig sighed loudly as he removed the jacket, properly rolled down the dress shirt sleeves then put the jacket on again. He picked at non-existent dust with a sneer and turned around.
"Oh, Craig, baby," his mother swooned. Stan gave an approving, tight lipped smile and puffed out his chest a little. Craig rolled his eyes and shifted his weight to one side. He knew Stan was harboring some delusion of showing off Craig to all their friends like he was a lady on his arm in the 1930s. "You look like one of those models in Vogue."
Stan laughed. "You've done a great job with him. He's super hot."
Craig glared at the oblivious duo as they discussed whether to go with a bow tie or regular tie and the antique cufflinks passed down from his grandfather that he had to wear. Stan laughed at something silly his mom said and caught Craig's eye. He shot him a soft smile and asked about his own ensemble. Craig blinked and sat back down thankful that Stan had taken enough mercy on him to let him rest for a bit.
I love you.
Craig sighed discreetly and scratched his scalp. He thought it would be incredibly weird to keep listening to Stan say those words but it wasn't. He actually chided himself for continuing to be surprised at the ease with which he became accustomed to each new element introduced into their relationship. He had fretted over Stan trying to kiss him yet took to it like a duck in water. He had been anxious about getting an erection because of Stan and having Stan take care of them but now couldn't even fathom as to why he was so hesitant in the first place. He had been so aware of Stan's presence before and now he was like an extension of his own body. Then those words had happened.
He had promised Stan to do more coupley things and part of that was having normal conversations about things like feelings and emotions. Craig knew he loved Stan. He just kept missing every opportunity to say it. He made a pact with himself to man up and say it back at least before their Alterna-Prom was over. That way Stan could be as gay as he wanted to with him before graduation and then they could finally have a serious talk about college.
He tapped his lips with his fingers and thought for a moment what it would be like to live with Stan. Smelly, their apartment in constant disarray, but Craig would be well fed. Stan had little in the way of domesticity going for him but he was a wonderful cook. Craig sighed and leaned back against a display cabinet of pocket watches and handkerchiefs. He'd be responsible for managing their finances and ensuring they got to classes on time. He'd probably have to set cleaning rules and do laundry on a daily basis. Even if he left Stan in charge of the kitchen he was fairly certain he'd have to check their groceries, too.
But they wouldn't have anyone to interrupt them. They could get through a movie without having to hurry up and make out or jerk each other off before a parent got home. They wouldn't have to play grab ass when they thought no one was looking. Craig smirked to himself. He could grab Stan's ass whenever he wanted if they lived together. It would be all too easy to fall into Stan's terrible habits regarding procrastination so he would have to master that part of himself inclined to laze about.
He could make the noises he always wanted to when Stan gave him head rubs.
"What's got you over here looking so smirky?" Stan crouched beside him in a similar outfit Craig sported only with a dark, slate gray vest with matching pencil neck tie. Craig exhaled as he gave Stan a slow appraisal. His smirk grew in spite of himself.
"Good color on you."
Stan laughed and looked him in the eyes. "Blue goes well with gray."
"I guess it does," Craig looked away.
"It's hard to find one that matches your eyes, though," Stan sighed dramatically. "They change hues some times."
Stan smiled at him leaning in for a soft kiss. "Yeah."
Craig felt his temper flare up over the fact Stan dared to kiss him in front of his mother of all people when he heard her clear her throat. Craig looked at her mortified causing her to laugh.
"Boys, we have a lot to decide still," she smirked the same smirk Craig did and held up an array of baby blue ties. "The pencil tie looks great on you, Stan. Which one is Craig wearing?"
Stan made a thoughtful noise and pointed at the standard tie. "That one and I think he should wear a tie chain."
Craig gave Stan an exasperated look. "What the fuck are you dolling me up for?"
"Craig, language," his mother warned though everyone knew it was a lost cause.
"I just want you to look nice for our Prom, snuggle muffin," Stan beamed.
Craig froze for a moment before launching to his feet so quickly he caused both of the store attendants to flinch. He checked himself and glared at his very smug looking boyfriend.
"Fine but drop the nicknames, Stan."
"Sure, honey drop."
"Stan, I swear to God…"
He frowned as Stan and his mother laughed. "He's so cute when you get him mad like that."
"Yeah he is," Stan teased and let his mother fuss over the tie. Craig had to stoop awkwardly so she could fix it in a Windsor knot. He sighed feeling like a trapped animal and glanced around the store for some source of amusement or distraction while his mother and Stan finished their visit to the torture chamber of tuxedo rentals. He felt her pat his chest as she finished and looked down at the tie out of habit only to see the sad look on his mother's face.
"Mom," he said stupidly before she laughed and wiped at her eyes.
"Craig, you're growing up so fast," she smiled at him and sniffled. "You'll be done with high school in less than a month then be off at college with Stan to take care of you instead of me." Her voice broke at the mention of college and she outright sobbed mentioning Stan. Craig's eyes flew open and he looked helplessly at his mother before pulling her close for a tight hug. He looked searchingly to Stan who only stood to the side and watched the scene like it amused him for reasons completely other than that Craig was completely flustered. Say what you want about a guy but crying moms were tough to deal with for anybody.
He didn't know what to say so he just continued to pat her back until she got a hold of herself and squeezed him before stepping back. She laughed as she wiped at his jacket. "I don't want to stain it with my misery."
"You still have Ruby, you know," Craig offered her a smile. "The nest isn't completely empty."
She nodded. "I know but I'll miss having you around. You've grown into a fine young man, sweetheart."
Craig stuck his hands into his pockets and felt more like a little boy than he ever had in his entire life watching the woman who brought him into the world, raised him the best she could, and supported him 110% poke at a display of tie chains with the person who had altered his world so much yet fit it completely.
Craig, his mother, and Ruby arrived at the Marshes' around six thirty on the day of the Alterna-Prom (not-so-coincidentally on the same day as regular Prom.) His dad stayed behind still refusing to talk to Craig and marking off the days until Craig's move out on a calendar over his tool bench in the garage. Their mothers wanted to make sure they looked their best and matched just the way Stan had wanted them to. Craig spent little time getting ready and sulked in a corner of Stan's room while he waited for the Marsh siblings to finish messing with Stan's hair. When they were done Stan entered his room with a nervous smile and held his arms out in front of Craig.
"How do I look?"
Craig appraised him and smirked softly. "Not too bad."
"Great, because its your turn," Stan hooked a beefy arm under Craig's arm pit and practically dragged him into the bathroom to Shelly's awaiting station. She grinned at him like a feral cat and hooked her finger at him.
"Come here, my pretty. Momma's gonna make you a star."
Craig shamelessly whimpered.
Shelly poked, prodded, did something with a flat iron, and surprisingly added very little product to his hair. Once she was done she gestured for him to turn around and look in the mirror. Stan shimmied in and it was almost slap-your-knee funny how his shit eating grin melted off his face into an expression of complete surprise.
"Holy fuck, Craig. Why do you get to be such a sexy beast with so little effort?"
"Stan," Craig sighed and focused on Stan's reflection instead of his own. "You should know that if you make any more comments like that from now until forever I'm going to have 'Queer as Fuck' tattooed on your forehead."
"Shut up and look at your reflection, you faggot," Shelly huffed at him as she began cleaning up her irons.
Craig took a deep breath and looked at his reflection. An uncertain looking figure with narrow shoulders stared back at him. Under the lights around the mirror the baby blue seemed to meld perfectly with his body and didn't make the tie chain look as gaudy as it had when he first saw it. His hair was shinier and straighter arranged around his head to make him look much older than he really was. Shelly had trained his bangs to remain tastefully over his forehead and throw his eyes into slight shadow while making them stand out piercing and strong. He raised his eyebrows slightly in surprise. He did look good.
"Don't go getting alarmed like that," Shelly grumbled and swatted stray hairs from his shoulder. "You're supposed to look cool and stoic and badass. Not frightened, caged rabbit."
"You definitely earned your stylists' license, Shel," Stan continued to stare at Craig in amazement.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," she sniffed derisively. "If you make it look good I'll get a huge tip from dad and the Mazda next weekend so strut your stuff."
The worst part of the evening was marching down the stairs to their parents' oohing and aahing. Once the obligatory complimenting was over the mothers pulled out their cameras and began shuffling the boys where they wanted them for photos. Craig looked around the living room just thinking about how much he wished this was already over. Mrs. Marsh was brushing something off of Craig's sleeve when Stan made a small noise and turned to him.
"This is the first time we're going out to an event as a couple together," Stan's eyes seemed to sparkle with this realization as if the night would be irrefutable proof that they had ceased being Stan and Craig and were officially – them. Together. All dressed up, surrounded by people who loved and supported them, and approaching the divide between childish fears and dreams and on to independence and the real world. Craig felt a jolt of terror and grasped Stan's hand. Stan squeezed it back giving him a small, knowing smile in return.
Craig looked at him and felt his lips part. "Stan, I—"
"Okay you two," Mrs. Marsh sang, "let's make it a good one." Craig took a shuddering breath. Side by side with Stan he turned towards the camera and smiled.
The party was in full swing by the time they arrived at the Black residence. Craig was surprised they were greeted by cheers. Looking around the formal dinning room converted to a dance floor Craig couldn't help but be impressed. Lights and metallic streamers were tastefully strung giving the room a fun and intimate atmosphere. Before he realized it Stan had yanked on his arm and together they dived straight into the middle of the modest crowd. Their friends were there with their dates. Everyone was laughing and dancing (or in Tweek's case doing something jittery that happened to follow the beat.) Craig looked at Stan grinning while making a complete ass of himself and chuckled.
"Oh what the hell," he shrugged.
Craig Tucker danced.
The upbeat music went on for nearly forever with everyone laughing, no one really attached to one particular person, but everyone having a good time. For some reason a male-slut dance competition happened during a set of songs that left Craig smirking and biting his lower lip a little each time he caught Stan hungrily looking at him while he danced with someone else. Stan cajoled Kyle into doing some lewd, might-as-well-be-a-stripper dance with him while Clyde did a bump and grind with Craig that ended after two songs when Kenny ran out of Monopoly money. Against his better judgment, Craig did take up a song with Kenny but it was cut short when Stan barreled over Token to swat his friend away when Kenny purposefully grabbed Craig's ass with both hands. Stan looked furious but Craig laughed just softly enough in his ear to distract him into finishing the dance with him. By the time the lights lowered and Mr. Black snuck in to switch over the playlist to some slow tracks Stan breathlessly dragged Craig to the side so they could sit and drink some water.
"Never will I ever forget," Stan puffed between gulps, "the sight of you doing a mock cha-cha with Wendy Testaburger."
Craig looked down and laughed. "This was actually fun."
"I can tell," Stan raised his eyebrows and lifted his bottle of water to his lips.
A creamy pink gloved hand swooped in from their right and knocked it loudly to the floor. The dance floor stilled as Stan slowly stood up shaking the access water from his left sleeve. Craig narrowed his eyes at the culprit and sneered.
"What's crawled up your ass, Millie?"
She stomped her high heeled feet towards him and glared. "I can't take it anymore, Craig. I want you to dance with me."
"Ey," Cartman lumbered over from the buffet table and pointed at her. "You're my date, Millie. Craig's got his boyfriend here as his date. You can't dance with him!"
"Shut the fuck up, Cartman," she huffed. "I only agreed to come with you after I heard Craig was going to be here."
"You have got to be kidding me," Craig clicked his tongue and looked at Stan. "You okay?"
"Um, yeah," Stan answered uncertainly. "Is this what I think it is?"
Millie rounded on Stan with a murderous glare. "I've liked Craig for so much longer than you! This isn't fair at all!"
"To be fair," Stan grinned though the shock was still apparent on his face, "you shoved your tongue down my throat way before I got mine down his."
Millie squeaked indignantly.
"You're the one who sent Craig those letters," Clyde stepped forward and narrowed his eyes at her.
"What about it, Clyde?"
"You are such a haughty bitch," Craig hissed under his breath. Millie was close enough to hear it and looked at him with a hurt expression.
"Of course I've been sending you letters. I've been trying to get your attention this whole time," she whined looking on the verge of tears.
"Look," Craig stood up and lowered his voice as much as he could despite the fact everyone was watching this train wreck. "Everyone is having a good time. I'm having a good time. Don't ruin it by putting yourself on the spot like this."
"Because you're with Stan?"
"So you really are boyfriends?"
Craig made a hesitating sound. "Yes. We are."
He watched as Millie's eyes began watering while she digested this information.
"I turned down better offers than Eric Cartman for the chance we could have one song tonight," she hiccupped. Wendy maneuvered through their group of friends and patted Millie on the shoulder consolingly.
"Come on, Millie, let's get a little fresh air, okay?"
Millie sniffed and yanked away from her to look at Craig again.
"You like him? You like him more than me? Or any other girl for that matter?"
Craig looked at Stan. Stan wore an expression of pity as he watched Millie but when he turned to Craig he straightened his back and looked at Craig just daring him to say it. Craig blinked and looked at Millie again with a small smile.
"Something like that. Maybe a little more, yeah."
Millie let out a loud, painful sob at the same time McCormick let out a low whistle. Wendy looked at him with smug amusement before gently guiding Millie into another room. Token cleared his throat and switched the music player back to some upbeat tracks. Everyone happily played along getting back into the groove only wearing secretive smiles and rolling their eyes thinking the same thing, About fucking time.
Stan tugged on Craig's elbow guiding him out of the room. He made an impatient noise that clued to Craig that what he wanted was some privacy but didn't know where to go. Craig then took over and led Stan upstairs and into one of the guest rooms Token told him he could use to crash in for the night. As soon as the door was closed Stan pounced on him kissing his lips, his cheeks, his neck, his everywhere. Craig pulled him tighter and kissed him deeply on the mouth forcing Stan to slow down. They pulled apart for air and rested their foreheads together while they fought to catch their breath.
"I know it's incredibly gay but I need to hear you say it, Craig," Stan looked at him with his mouth hanging open.
Craig nodded and looked straight into his eyes. Their breathing stilled at the same moment and Craig realized it was going to be easier to say it than he thought. Thinking it felt natural, right and the most absolute truth.
"I love you."
"I love you, too," Stan breathed a smile and kissed him gently. Craig wanted time to stand still. Not even the minor hiccup with Millie had put a damper on his unusually good mood. Stan always made him feel better.
Until he broke apart and dragged him back downstairs to be sociable again. At least for a few hours before Mr. Black broke out the pancakes. After all, Craig was learning all over again that sometimes you can go down fighting with your fists flying and teeth bared. Other times, you just had to shrug and give in and just let things happen.
"Commencement marks the transition from childhood into adulthood. We're more responsible now not just for ourselves but each other. We've gone through our entire childhood together as friends, as enemies, and something in-between. None of that matters now. What matters is living up to our own expectations and exceeding that of others. We are the architects of our own destinies but no matter where we go we shouldn't ever forget where we came from."
Typical Wendy, Stan thought as he applauded her off the stage.
"We're done. Finally. We can spend this time reflecting on words other people have said and dream about all of the good things to come. The fact of the matter is that the journey isn't over. It's going to be really, really hard and hopefully just as long. What we should take from the high school experience is that nothing ever goes how you think it will and nothing lasts forever. The people you're friends with now may not be your friends next year. Graduation has a funny way of changing people; of putting distance between the 'been there, done that' and moving forward to the next stage. For most of us that next stage seems like a bleak continuation of what we've just accomplished. For others it's the start of new opportunities that weren't possible before. Where ever it is that life takes you these roots are inescapable. But for now? Let's get the heck outta dodge."
Stan laughed with the rest of their class as Kyle backed away from the podium to take his place in the stands. One by one the graduates were called forth to walk the stage, shake hands with the school board directors, and accept that tiny envelope denoting the achievement they were celebrating. Stan nervously twirled his cords and glanced back at Craig fiddling with his own. Their eyes met briefly as they shared a secret smile.
There were still things to decide over the summer before they both headed off to the University of Colorado in Denver. Would they have to take different paths when they got to the fork in the road in August? Or could Stan convince Craig to not let go of his hand in exchange for letting him pick left or right?
As he licked his lips nervously and accepted his diploma he smiled into the camera letting the moment be preserved for scrap books and picture frames and reunions to come.
It wasn't a rainy day, Sunday, some stupid ass holiday, or Randomly-Inspirational-Guest-Speaker-in-Psychology Day. It was high school graduation, another page in the book of life turned, and even the usual craziness in South Park wasn't interfering. The point is…
It was a Saturday afternoon in June among friends, family, and being in love with Craig Tucker of all people when Stan Marsh found himself stepping off of one stage and into another – smiling.
A/N: The End! Sad face? I might have gotten a little teary eyed finishing this because it's been my baby since June, guys. Now it's yours. I hope you all liked this. I know it was kind of winded at parts but my goal the whole time was to write out a legit relationship and I feel very successful with that.
Okay, so this is the last chapter and… seriously thank you guys for the response to this fic and I hope that it'll cover any reviews and favs this fic receives after this. Thanks so much!