My 200 review mark is coming up for Automaton, so I thought I'd get my 100 review winner's little tidbit up and running so you guys know I don't leave my readers hanging. Haha. This story is dedicated to DiatonicDictator. It was originally supposed to be a one shot, but I loved it so much that I'm making it much longer (:

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way—things I had no words for.

—Georgia O'Keeffe

Something unexpected happened today.

As an art major in college, my class was given a model and we were told to warm up by drawing them. It wasn't the task that was strange, though. No, not even close. What was incomprehensibly odd was who the model was. I hadn't seen this guy in four years or more. I thought I'd gotten rid of everyone from South Park when I moved with my two best friends to Lakewood.

What the fuck was he doing here? And in my studio arts class, no less. I distinctly remembered not inviting anyone to tag along with me, Token, or Clyde when we collectively moved. Even more so than that, I recalled never saying goodbye to anyone because that's how much I cared.

God damn childhood lingerers. They were impossible to get rid of. Those fuckers from South Park stuck around for the long haul, much to my obvious dismay.

Contrary to my disdain, Kenny didn't appear to feel the same way.

He was smirking as if he were currently reading the mind of every student in the room, delving into their stash of secrets with his nosy, thought-picking mind. Hopefully he was reading mine, because my favorite secret of all time was the one about how much I hated seeing his face around my new town (as new as a town could be after four years, which was pretty damn recent) and I wanted him to know exactly how disgruntled I was at seeing him after so long.

I still had no idea where the local grocery store was and Clyde's new girlfriend needed tampons constantly. Honest to God, she had three menstrual cycles a month. Either that or she was giving them away to her fucking dog or something equally disgusting. Her pampered beagle, or whatever its breed, was in heat every other week—I swear. Asshole kept leaving stains on the floor that Token cleaned up in exchange for good ol' Craig taking charge on the tampon runs.

For emphasis, I peered around the edge of my easel to stare at the blonde head-on. He met my eye, grin stretching an arched course across his face. Through my strict features I relayed to him my message: Get the fuck out of my territory. All I received was a wink in response, and I didn't like it one bit.

Glancing around, my disappointment in the less-than-existent recognition coating my classmates' features was rather abundant. I was hoping that somebody else would've known the druggie and thought of his random arrival as unusual, but instead, everyone was absorbed in his handsome exterior. Not much had changed, it seemed.

Unwillingly I relented and stuck my charcoal to paper. My hand swooped in a fluid counterclockwise rotation, estimating the size of the blonde's largely egotistical head. Maybe I could get away with a caricature that way I'd have an excuse for the blown up proportion of his face. The artist in me seemed to have a different idea, though, because as the basic central guidelines began to form, the placement of Kenny's features remained natural.

Caricatures weren't my forte, anyways. My pieces had always been realistic, borderline idealized. I was shallow for doing so, but if I had to draw you and you were ugly, you could bet that I made you attractive. Ugly just didn't work for my hands. So perhaps that was why, in regards to Kenny, I refrained from straying from what I did best.

He was a handsome man, even more so now than he had been as a teenager. Not that we had aged very far, but I still had a hard time considering myself an adult. Since I'd last seen him, the blonde had changed very little and substantially at the same time. The angles and planes of his face had sharpened, and my experienced eye picked up the differences quite well. What my vision indulged in transferred to my scribbling hand.

On my paper, the forty-five degree angle of Kenny's face shape was in the midst of coming together. His defined jawline and accenting cheekbones began to appear, along with the square protrusion of his chin and half-mast detail of his eyes. They were smoldering, the same sinful shade of blue as they'd always been. Long lashes gingerly curled, tipped up nose, permanently smirking lips; his expression tempted everyone, a useful trait of his that didn't go unnoticed.

Multiple times I caught admiration in the stares of my classmates as their eyes darted from the model to their paper, a fairly popular specimen among the girls. A beautiful subject was always a bonus, but this one had a plus: This one was flirtatious. There was a natural glimmer in his eyes, a precious reflection of light that could heighten or destroy a portrait.

If you didn't get it accurate, the model's mood might resemble anything from saddened to spontaneous. Emotion was important because that's what drew you to a piece of art. Emotion fueled an artist in general, even someone as apathetic as myself. I might not have had a tight grip on my own feelings, but I could read and determine them in others with a vivid sense of clarity. I even took pride in my insightful abilities and used them to my advantage.

Without even realizing it, I'd focused solely on Kenny's spark of charisma. The rest of his face—nose, mouth, brow, shading—remained a scribbled, sketch-like format. But his eyes, they were emphasized and dark. Half-lidded and staring back at me from two different perspectives, the real one and the unfinished version. My stomach knotted with tension and wary confusion at the double set of bedroom eyes.

What, for the love of God, did he think he was doing here? Did Clyde or Token know?

Of course they didn't, otherwise they would've told me.

And if he was here, who did that mean came with him? Kenny wasn't the type to travel alone. He needed people and in large doses.

"Craig?" Just now realizing that I'd stopped drawing completely, I tipped my head back and caught sight of my professor. "I certainly hope you'll try harder on the next model."

So there was someone else. My brows knit. I didn't like the sound of that.

"Everyone stop where you are." Kenny's eyes slid in my direction. We locked gazes and I narrowed my eyes to let him know I didn't appreciate whatever he was planning. "Your warm-up's over. Get a fresh sheet of paper ready. Another model will be in shortly." It was just the question of who that model was.

Flipping to a new, unmarred canvas I called out, "Kenny. Get over here."

He slid like syrup from his stool and sauntered over to my station like a ghost, near levitating. "It's been a while, Craigy-poo." Of course the first words out of his mouth after four years of cut-off communication would involve my pet name.

"Not long enough." To be blunt, there would never be an amount of time that would be considered enough. When I had left South Park, I left thinking that I'd never seen any of its occupants again. Running away in a sense, cold turkey, had been easy. That town wasn't meant to let people grow. There was nothing there for me, Token, or Clyde.

"How have you been, buddy?"

Immediately I retorted with, "How did you find me?" If he admitted to interrogating my parents for an address, I'd kill the traitorous fuckers.

Kenny's features smoothed out in a serene sense of amusement. "Is that really important?"

"No, I suppose not. You're here, so there's not much I can do about that. Who did you drag along with you?"

Instead of answering me, the blonde brought back the large sheet of paper with his eyes practically engraved into it. A flattered smirk graced his mouth. "Is this all you see when you look at someone? You're going to have a field day with your next..." He searched for a word that wouldn't ruin my second surprise guest. "Let's just call him a muse."

Him. Kenny had brought a guy along on his escapade. I scoured through my memories to find a person who suited the part, someone dumb enough to go searching for me after four years. All I could really think of was Cartman, and if he showed up, then I was most definitely drawing him as he came. I didn't care what my hands wanted to do. If that fatass showed up, he was going to be ugly on my canvas.

After snorting out a clipped "Muse, eh?", the sound of a door opening jarred me from the current conversation. Whereas Cartman's large bulk was supposed to come through the threshold, something many fractions tinier and much more dainty tip-toed in instead.

I... had not been expecting this.

"Surprise," Kenny cooed.