A/N: This story is a collaboration between DoYouUnderstand and dawnperhaps. We do not own the characters and they are significantly older than they appear in the show.
Alternate A/N: Hi, this is Beth and Dawn and our love breaks gravity.
"What does 'together' mean?"
Next to him, Kyle could hear Kenny sigh through his nose, probably resisting the urge to rub at his sore temples or pinch the bridge of his nose. Kyle could only stare in disbelief at his mother, opening and closing his mouth and trying to come up with a word more appropriate than "together," a word he'd spent the better part of the week deciding upon. Kenny's hand was rubbing just above his knee gently, but for once it wasn't relaxing him. The situation had put him on edge and his mother's response had sent his anxiety levels through the roof.
"Together, Mom," Kyle stressed, very close to whining. "Like... Kenny and I. We're... together."
"We're dating. Exclusively," Kenny clarified, giving Kyle's knee a squeeze.
"You're in a relationship?" Sheila asked, her eyebrows nearly meeting her hairline.
"Yes. All of those things. Yes," Kyle said impatiently.
"And we're having a conference about this because...?" Ike suddenly spoke up, looking up from his Iron Man comic book with an expression that conveyed just how much he truly did not care.
Kyle wanted to snap at him for being such a bratty little shit, but he instead sighed and leaned his knee up into Kenny's palm. He really couldn't let his irrational temper get to him, especially not at a time like this. Not when so much was resting on his family's reaction. Kenny, as usual, noticed his new boyfriend's frustration, probably from the tenseness in his shoulders and the lines at the corners of his mouth.
"We'd really like your approval," the blonde said carefully, looking at Kyle out of the corner of his eye. Kyle met his stare and nodded wearily in support.
Mrs. Broflovski's mouth tightened for a moment. "Well. How long have you been... together?"
The pair both visibly shrunk. Their mouths fell open to answer, but when they met each others' eyes, they both seemed to realize they weren't sure what the answer was.
"Two weeks," Kyle finally said, while Kenny nodded his head along with him.
"They've been fucking for a lot longer than that," Ike spoke up, nose back in his book.
"Ike!" Kyle and Sheila both shrieked at the same time, Kyle looking completely furious and Sheila looking completely scandalized.
"Okay, look, I have shit to do, so let's be honest," Ike decided, putting his comic book down beside him on the couch. "Kenny and Kyle have decided that they love each other. And we, as your adoring family, Kyle-" Ike put his hand over his heart while Kyle struggled to stay in his seat and not smother him with one of Sheila's decorative throw pillows. "-are very concerned because Kenny is a slut." He smiled cheerfully and scanned the various expressions in the room. "Does that pretty much cover everybody's feelings?"
Kenny alternated between scowling at the floor and glaring at Ike. Kyle, on the other hand, was very much set on only glaring at Ike.
"We are concerned, Kyle," Sheila admitted, although she had to grace not to look at Kenny when she said it.
Kenny's grip tightened on Kyle's leg, and this time Kyle knew it wasn't for his comfort.
"Mom, you've known Kenny since we were in kindergarten. You really think he'd hurt me?" Kyle demanded. He was trying to suppress his instinct to turn and hug his boyfriend, maybe hold his head in his lap and run his fingers through his hair until that look left his face.
"I don't know, bubbie," Sheila said honestly. Kyle was glad that she at least looked conflicted about the whole thing, those same little lines Kyle had forming at the corners of her mouth.
"Well, I trust him," Kyle snapped, covering Kenny's hand with his. "That should be enough for you."
Kyle could hear Ike sniggering and mumbling quietly beside them but he ignored it. His attention was directed solely towards Sheila, a look of steely determination on his face.
"We are talking about a romantic kind of relationship, right?" Sheila finally asked, almost desperately, making every head in the room turn toward her.
"Really?" Kyle asked, his stare completely blank.
"Well, boys, I don't want to be presumptuous," Mrs. Broflovski explained. "I wasn't even aware Kenneth liked boys."
"Mom, his hand is on my knee," Kyle exclaimed, gesturing to the hand that Kenny was then awkwardly pulling away from him. "How is that presumptuous?" He made a vague gesture before adding, "What do you think we've been talking about?"
The look on Sheila's face was far from approving, but it wasn't exactly disapproving either. Kyle could tell she was softening to the idea just from the way she held herself and the expression on her face. There was a lengthy pause. Kenny's hand had returned to Kyle's leg, massaging gently, trying to ease away Kyle's tension. Kyle offered him a tight smile before turning his attention back to his mother. His anticipation for her approval- or even just a 'yes/no' answer far outweighed the possibility of rejection.
"I'm... I'm not sure if I'm okay with this yet, boys. You're so young and so- so vulnerable." She turned her attention to Kenny. "My Kyle is a very special little man, Kenneth."
"It's just Ken-"
"And therefore he should be treated like a very special little man."
Kenny swallowed. Kyle closed his hand over the one on his knee and squeezed the knuckle gently. Kenny had shuffled closer to him sometime during the exchange and Kyle leaned up against him just so he could feel the heat of Kenny's breath on his cheek. He stroked Kenny's hand gently with the pad of his thumb and looked back up at his mother with pure determination in his eyes.
"Mom, I know how this looks from the outside. Trust me. Stan has mentioned it several times," Kyle began, choosing his words carefully. "But you have to believe me. We're really happy. Kenny has done a lot to gain my trust, and I think I've done a lot to gain his. So trust my judgment this time. Please."
Kyle looked over at Kenny to see him smiling in a fragile sort of way that didn't quite fit his face. It only lasted for a moment, though, before the blonde turned back to Sheila with renewed confidence.
"I'm sorry if I've ever given you a reason not to trust me," he said earnestly. "And I'm even more sorry that I ever gave Kyle a reason. But I really care about your son. I don't go home to people's parents a lot, but that's because I've never wanted to. Not until now." He flipped his hand over to lace his fingers with Kyle's and Kyle couldn't help but feel a burst of pride in his chest.
"Your approval would mean a lot to me," Kenny added, looking over to Kyle. "But I don't need it. In fact, if you want me out, I can't guarantee that that's a possibility."
Sheila's face had relaxed considerably. Her lips were still pursed, her chin still raised- but her eyes weren't nearly as harsh. She was glancing between them. Kyle could tell that she was weighing out the situation in her head.
"Come on, Mom," Ike suddenly spoke up, and Kyle looked over at him in surprise, having assumed that he hadn't been listening. Ike didn't even look up to say, "They're clearly gay for each other."
"I can see that," she muttered, glancing at their pressed together legs. She sighed, worry creasing her brows. "Has Kenneth been tested?"
"I'm just worried, Kyle! We would be ignorant in thinking that Kenny is still, well... pure." She paused and sighed. "His promiscuity isn't exactly a secret, bubbie."
Kyle opened his mouth to vehemently defend Kenny's honor, but Kenny held on tighter to his hand and calmly interrupted him.
"I got tested," he admitted. His face was calm, but Kyle knew him well enough to recognize the thickness in his voice and the slight shaking of his hand. The blonde took a deep breath before adding, "I'd never do anything to put Kyle at risk like that."
Kyle interlaced their fingers properly and squeezed. He could see the fight leaving Sheila's eyes, and he knew that they'd pretty much fully won her over, although perhaps at the price of Kenny's dignity. He couldn't wait to get Kenny out of that room and reassure him, tell him that he was perfect and loved. To hold him and press little kisses on the pulse point just below his jaw bone. Even if the other boy didn't need it, Kyle thought maybe he needed it, to reassure himself that Kenny knew it and Kenny was happy with himself and with Kyle. Really, he just needed Kenny. And he really hoped that his mother could see that.
"I just don't know what to think," she said, her fingers drumming against the hard wood of the coffee table. The room was otherwise silent; even Ike was quiet. Kenny and Kyle were still playing with each others' fingers, still sitting impossibly close, still shaking slightly from undeniable nerves.
Sheila finally let out a sigh, her face resolute. "Well, boys, I guess I can't tell you not to see each other," she decided, still looking conflicted, but significantly less so than before. Kyle and Kenny both straightened, prepared to thank her profusely, but she raised a finger at them.
"Promise me," she began, wagging the digit. "That you'll respect and take care of one another."
"Yes," Kyle and Kenny said in unison, glancing at each other in relief.
"Always," Kyle added, grinning when Kenny nodded at him. Kyle could feel Kenny's thigh and upper leg pressed closely to his, and he pressed back, wanting to be as close to Kenny as possible. He'd gone into the situation with low expectations and to have his worries and fears dashed was both a dream come true and a heavy weight off his shoulders. And if Kenny's crooked half-smile and finally relaxed shoulders were any indication, the blonde seemed to feel the same way.
"Fantastic," Ike declared wryly, rising from the couch and stretching his arms over his head. "Young love has triumphed. Can we please eat dinner now?"
"Yes, Ike, we can eat dinner," Sheila said in exasperation. She rose to her feet and headed toward the kitchen, calling back, "I have a meatloaf in the oven."
Ike tossed his comic on the couch, rolling his eyes. "Great. I'm really glad I waited through that live-action soap opera for Mom's meatloaf," he groaned, following Sheila into the kitchen with hunched shoulders.
Kyle allowed Kenny to pull him under his arm, relaxing against his chest. A weight had been taken off both their shoulders and the release of tension was visible. Everything about their posture suggested relaxation.
"That could have been worse," Kyle admitted, turning and burying his face in Kenny's collarbone, suddenly exhausted.
"Really?" Kenny asked wryly. He let his head fall back against the wall, staring at the ceiling and absentmindedly playing with Kyle's curls. Kyle looked up to see that his eyes were closed and his brows were furrowed. "I thought it sucked pretty hard."
"She could have yelled."
"She could have accused me of having STDs. Oh, wait."
"Shut up," Kyle said fondly, moving from under his boyfriend's arm to stand. "At least you're getting meatloaf out of it."
Kenny grunted and let Kyle pull him up. Their hands broke apart for a few moments, only to be linked again shortly after. Despite Kenny's words, the blonde was smiling, staring down at their entwined fingers. Kyle found himself flashing back to a month ago, at Clyde Donovan's party, when he'd woken up next to Kenny in a spare bedroom, naked except for one sock. It was a such a familiar situation that Kyle couldn't even count how many times he'd found himself in it, sore, hating himself, and trying to prepare for that awkward moment when Kenny would wake up and Kyle would have to pretend that Kenny's eyes weren't actually that blue and his smile wasn't actually that disarming. He had been trying to plan the joke he would tell when Kenny would start to look uncomfortable, probably trying to think of a way to tell Kyle that he was just really, really drunk, when he first felt it. Someone behind him was carding his fingers through Kyle's very mused hair, untangling the curls from one another. Kyle had a moment where he couldn't breathe, trying to remember if he'd hooked up with someone other than Kenny last night. But then he heard a very audible sigh, one he knew belonged to Kenny, and the bed shifted. Holding his breath, he slowly rolled over, only to be met with Kenny, lying on his back with his eyes closed, smiling that same fond smile.
At that time, hungover at a random party and only wearing one sock, it had meant hope. Now, it just reassured Kyle that he was making the right decision, that a million conversations with his mother would be worth it, just to see Kenny smiling at him like that. Like he'd hung the moon. Even though Kyle knew full well that that was Kenny's job.
"You coming to dinner, Mr. Brof?" Kenny was suddenly asking.
Kyle looked at his dad, his brows furrowed in confusion. He had almost forgotten his father had been in the room, he'd been so silent. But now that he was looking at him, he noticed that almost... devastated look on his face.
"Dad? Dad, you okay?"
He hadn't even stopped to think that maybe his Dad would be the one with a problem. Gerald had always been the more accepting parent and the thought that maybe he'd be the one to disapprove of his relationship with Kenny was enough to send Kyle's brain into a confused, panicked frenzy.
Gerald was staring at Kenny like he was a ghost, his brows furrowed and his eyes distant. Kyle couldn't say that he'd ever seen a look like that on his father's face and he found his heart beating more quickly. As much practice as he had arguing with his mother, he had equally as much inexperience arguing with his father. In fact, he had made it a point in the past to blindly take his advice on the basis that he was always fair and logical. He could fight his mother; his father's disapproval would break his heart.
"Dad, is there... are you okay with this?" Kyle asked meekly.
Kyle's question seemed to pull Gerald out of his trance. His eyes immediately snapped over to Kyle's and Kyle couldn't help but notice his alarm, his eyes wide and startled like a surprised deer. Kyle offered him a hesitant smile, his throat tight even as Kenny's thumb moved over the back of his hand in soothing little strokes.
Kenny grabbed his hand again and Kyle could only assume that the worry in his mind was spread clearly across his face, in his eyes, on his lips. He squeezed the hand that was curled around his and swallowed, nervously waiting for his dad to reply.
Gerald cleared his throat and looked away, staring hard at the ground. When he looked back to Kyle, his mouth was set in a tight line, but the corners slowly turning up hesitantly. Kyle wanted to believe that smile, but he couldn't help but notice the way he was wringing his hand, the little lines that were creasing his forehead. It was always the little things with Gerald. Sheila was an open book, quick to say exactly what was on her mind and without shame, but Gerald tended to refrain from open declarations of his feelings and opinions. Thus, over the years, Kyle had had to make careful observations until he had compiled an internal handbook for reading his father. And, despite his calm exterior, Gerald was undoubtedly stressed.
Kyle tried again, edging closer to his dad, pulling Kenny just a little bit further with him. "Dad?" He sounded unsure, even to his own ears. "Please say something?"
"I promise to take care of him, Mr. B," Kenny added, and Kyle felt an arm snake around his waist, cinching Kyle to his side.
Something that looked to Kyle like complete shock flashed across Gerald's eyes before he shakily laughed, standing on uncertain feet.
"Of course it's fine, boys," Gerald decided, his smile forced. Kyle looked pleadingly at him, silently begging him to mean his words. Gerald turned toward Kyle and looked at him, and Kyle couldn't help but feel as though his own desperation was being reflected in his father's eyes. Gerald paused before clapping him on the shoulder. "I just want you to be happy, Kyle."
"Kenny makes me happy, Dad," Kyle asserted, feeling the arm around him pull him closer in gratitude.
With Kenny firmly pressed to his side, Kyle stared at his father. Gerald was looking at them, his posture stiff and his lips turned down in the slightest of ways. Kyle could only interpret it as sadness. Sadness that Kyle was growing up? Kyle doubted that. His father had always pushed for Kyle to be more mature and had easily allowed him to do 'grown-up' things like staying out late at Stan's. While Sheila had been over-protective and sheltering, Gerald had allowed Kyle to grow.
Kyle sighed again, feeling very tense. His dad was sad- or maybe something else, something equally as bad- and Kyle couldn't tell why. He'd thought he'd learnt to read his dad, but then maybe he hadn't.
They stood in silence for a little while, letting it grow between them, letting the tension thicken. Gerald had moved a little closer to the door and a little further away from them, so far that Kyle feared that maybe he'd back out of the room completely without giving them a definite answer. He needed a definite answer.
Finally, Gerald nodded slowly. Everything Kyle had ever observed and cataloged about his father's action pointed toward some sort of reluctance, but Kyle didn't want to believe it. And so he didn't, instead passing it off as a trick of his own imagination, born out of all the stress he'd had today, his own paranoia that he and Kenny might not live happily ever after.
"Then, I'm happy for you," Gerald said, his voice artificially chipper. He nodded again, clasping his hands together and smiling tightly. "You have my support, I suppose. If that's what you're looking for."
"It is," Kyle insisted, his hand automatically seeking out Kenny's. He tried to make eye contact with his father when he added, "Thanks, dad. Really."
With that, Gerald finally backed all the way out of the living room, slipping away into the kitchen to join Sheila and Ike, who probably shouldn't have been left alone in the first place. Kyle and Kenny were left standing there, Kenny's arm still linked around Kyle's waist, both of them staring at the place Gerald had been standing.
"What was that about?" Kyle wondered aloud, frowning. From the kitchen, Kyle could hear the sounds of Ike cracking jokes - presumably about the meatloaf - and Sheila shrieking at him to sit down. It was so familiar that it seemed strange, considering the very unfamiliar exchange he'd just had with his father.
"I don't know, man," Kenny said with a shrug, cautiously steering Kyle towards the kitchen. Kyle hadn't realized he'd been staring into the living room, as if looking at the place the conversation had happened would help him make sense of it.
"He's just never like that, you know," Kyle continued. "He's always the one who's like, 'Sheila, calm down. Let the boys go outside and play.'"
Kenny laughed at Kyle's very accurate impersonation of Mr. Broflovski. "I'm sure it's nothing. You know how adults around here are. Didn't your dad want to be a dolphin one summer or something?"
Kyle sighed, bringing a hand up to his face. "Yeah, that might have been a thing," he admitted.
No one acknowledged them when they finally sat down for dinner, already engaged in a heated discussion about whether or not Ike had to right to critique his own mother's cooking and probably reluctant to make the boys' announcement any more of a big deal. Kenny ate happily, even complimenting Sheila's meatloaf, much to Ike's dismay. Kyle should have been happy, he knew, watching Kenny get along with Sheila, banter with Ike, and just fit so seamlessly into his family. But he couldn't take his eyes off his father, a sad, tight smile stuck on the older man's face. Kyle knew he should have just taken his father's acceptance and been happy, but he couldn't see past the little signs: the forced smile, the stiff posture, and the strangely haunted look in his eyes.