Hey guys... I have some Style for you. Not only Style, but multi-chapter Style. Be still your beating hearts.

I have ideas, and I'm excited.

Chapter One

It all starts with Stan getting evicted from his apartment.

It's not because he won't pay his rent on time, or because he's a rude neighbor —everyone in the building actually gets along with him really well and thinks he's a really nice boy—but because his landlord had warned him ad nauseam about having dogs and Stan systematically refused to get rid of his latest rescue. He's a big bear of a Rottweiler Stan has affectionately named Hawkeye, to pal around with his other rather impish rescue, a German Shepherd that had come to him with the name of Trapper. Hiding two dogs of that size had been no easy feat.

Hence, the eviction.

He's not upset—he got caught fair and square, and for as much of a fucking inconvenience as it is he can't really find it in himself to be mad—it's just… fuck, now he's stuck back at his mom's house without an end in sight.

And he doesn't mind living with his mom. Really, he doesn't. Over the years he and his mom have grown closer, especially since the divorce. She and Randy had finally split after Shelly went off to college, around when Stan had been sixteen. Admittedly (as horrible as it had been), Stan had chosen sides in a big way. He'd spent the majority of his life believing his mother to be the only saving grace of sanity in this family, that he'd inherited whatever semblances of calm and logic he had from her, and plus? The alternative was Randy. No thanks.

No, he doesn't mind being around her, because he loves her, but… shit, he just doesn't want to be twenty-three and living with his mom again, especially since he's been a young man of independent means for the last three years.

This is why he calls up Butters—Butters has the remarkable ability to put things into perspective for Stan in a way that almost no one else can. He's not entirely sure of what gives Butters such insight, but Stan suspects it has something to do with the fact that he gets fucked on a regular basis. This is more than Stan can say for himself at the moment, and so it's safe to assume that Butters' brain isn't as cluttered and fogged over as Stan's is. Clarity is just something he needs to remember exists, even if he can't quite grasp it himself at the moment.

Butters meets him outside his apartment, all smiles in his dark grey pea coat, with two to-go cups in hand—chai tea for himself and peppermint latte for Stan, because it's wintertime and if there's one thing Stan loves it's peppermint lattes during Christmastime.

"Thanks, dude," Stan accepts the piping hot paper cup with a smile. Butters beams back and shoves his free hand into his coat pocket as they start walking. It's icy and gray outside—and Stan hates to admit it but it kind of fits his mood. It's not angry or windy or raging, it's just fucking gloomy.

"I'm awful sorry about you gettin' kicked outta your apartment, Stan," Butters says, his voice thick with the remainder of the cold he's had all week.

"Why?" Stan asks automatically. "It's not your fault… just kinda shitty."

"I s'pose," Butters nods, although he looks a little too concerned by Stan's response for this to be going anywhere good. Just because he has the ability to pick Stan up when he's down doesn't mean Stan wants that right now. Butters, apart from being entirely insightful, is actually the only person who will let Stan bitch at him for an extended period of time without making him feel like a total asshole.

"What?" Stan asks when he sees Butters looking at him with that stupid face of his, the one that still hasn't lost its boyish features or sincerity. Stan's not sure how he's managed to keep this whole visage of perpetual happiness going, especially after his dad flat-out left him and his mom got sent to the loony bin a few years ago. He doesn't understand how people like Butters keep such a positive attitude without imbibing unhealthy amounts of liquor.

"Well," Butters begins, like he's thinking really hard about what to say next. He's always so careful with his words. He still likes to give off the notion that he's being thoughtful and considerate, even though what's coming will probably be anything but. "It's just that… you kinda worry me. You know I wouldn't say nothin' if I didn't think it was a-a big deal, but it's gettin' harder an' harder to tell if you're just bein' sarcastic or if I should put you on suicide watch."

Stan sighs and runs his free hand over his face. He only vaguely notices that he's getting a little scruffy in facial hair department over the words 'suicide watch' ringing in his ears, pealing like the bells of fucking Notre Dame.

He was put on suicide watch once in the eighth grade—he'd sent a rather lengthy email to Kyle about how much his life sucked, how he was sorry for being such a shitty friend, how he probably would've been better off finding a new best friend, and Sheila had seen it (read it over Kyle's shoulder, he later found out) and taken it to heart. Of course, Sheila being Sheila, she'd insisted Sharon be overcautious.

It had only been a few weeks, but by no means had it been a pleasant experience Stan strived to have again, so mostly he kept his mouth shut when he was feeling glum.

"I'm fine, Butters," he finally decides to reply, and silently begs whatever deity up there to let this be the end of it.

Of course, it's not, because this is Butters and nothing ever has a fucking end with him. He runs his hand through his short cropped blonde hair (that he's somehow managed to style in the gayest fucking way possible) and bites his lip. He knows he's treading on rough ground; Stan can see him struggling out of the corner of his eye, wondering what to say next. God, this isn't like Butters—or maybe Stan's just hoping for a quick fix to a problem he doesn't have: He's going to live with his mom. There's nothing to be solved there, other than the problem of Stan's complete and utter lack of a desire to do so. That's it. Other than this hiccup, everything will proceed just as shittily as it has for the last twenty-three years of his miserable fucking existence.

"I-I know you really hate when I say this an' all," Butters begins again, and when he feels that Stan isn't listening (which he kind of isn't), he jogs ahead a few paces and starts walking backwards right in front of him. Stan marvels at this guy's agility sometimes—dancing's really paid off for him in that department.


"Yeah, sure," Stan sips at his coffee again.

"Good," Butters nods, "because I don't think it'll kill you to try an' look at the bright side on this one. You don't have to cook anymore, 'cause your mom'll do it for you; you don't have to worry about payin' rent or nothin', 'cause your mom owns the place—"

"You know this just makes me want to punch you in the mouth, right?" Stan asks blankly, and Butters rolls his eyes.

"Like you got the guts, pussy," he shoots back. Stan smiles, because that? That's one hundred percent Kenny McCormick right there. Maybe not the conviction behind the words, because Butters has always been one of the most passionately dedicated people Stan knows, but the words themselves. They make Stan roll his eyes and stop walking, which makes Butters give him a confused look. He then realizes that they've stopped right in front of his apartment building and gives a bashful smile. Stan snorts—Butters kind of a ditz sometimes (and ditz is the only appropriate word for it), but it's part of his charm.

Butters unlocks the door, shoving his shoulder into it a bit when it sticks, and he and Stan walk the three flights up to his and Kenny's apartment. They've been living together since they were eighteen, and as far as Stan knows they've been fucking since at least two years ago. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't Stan's only real friends left in South Park, but they are and Stan has (regrettably) become the permanent third wheel.

When they get into their actual apartment, a shitty little studio they can barely afford on their combined incomes, the last thing Stan expects to see is exactly what's in front of him: Kenny watching his older-than-dirt copy of Batman: The Movie, fully clothed, with a can of TAB in one hand and a box of Cheez-Its in his lap. Stan doesn't know why he expected to walk in on Kenny spread out on the bed with a vibrating butt-plug up his ass, but he can't pretend he doesn't have reasons to believe that's a possibility. He's walked in on Kenny and Butters doing plenty of worse things before and it's the main reason he systematically refuses to sit on their armchair.

"Ahh," Kenny smiles when he sees Butters and Stan come in the front door. "My youthful ward has returned!"

"Hey, Ken," Butters grins back and goes to give him a peck on the lips. Stan wrinkles his nose and averts his eyes.

It's not that he has a problem with them being gay with each other—everyone's a little gay, he's come to determine, and he's learned to stop taking his body's reactions to people's varying degrees of attractiveness personally—but displays of affection really put him off. He doesn't want to blame it on his mom and Randy's divorce, but he sort of totally does. Watching his parents kiss each other and be loving when he knew for a fact that they resented the fuck out of each other had made Stan really uneasy, and even if he knows that Kenny and Butters aren't faking, that they actually love the ever-loving fuck out of each other, it still makes Stan's skin crawl.

Then he reminds himself that it's just a kiss, that they're even being uncharacteristically considerate and sparing the use of tongue, and moves to sit on the couch beside Kenny.

"Okay, be honest, guys," Kenny says as Butters slumps down into the armchair adjacent them and kicks his feet up onto the coffee table. "Catwoman: Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, or Anne Hathaway?"

"Eh, Lee Meriwether I guess," Stan replies, then adds as an afterthought, "or Anne Hathaway. I've got a thing for brunettes."

"Michelle Pfeiffer," Butters says. "Got a thing for blondes."

He and Kenny high-five on that one, and Stan can't help but think it's the most annoying thing ever. They're so comfortable with each other, so at home just being on their own and living their lives, and it makes Stan a little green with envy… and nausea.

"Only I think I'd actually go for Halle Berry on this one," Butters says after another few moments of consideration. "Not gonna lie, I'd do horrible, horrible things to that woman if I had the chance."

"I knew I loved you for a reason," Kenny grins, and Stan sees Butters give an affectionate roll of his eyes before he knocks his bright yellow converse shoes up against Kenny's big bulky boots. Stan sees this and knows that he's never felt more alone than he does right now.

"So," Kenny says, bringing Stan out of his thoughts and back into the cheesy colorfulness of the film at which he's been staring. He looks over at Kenny, who's attempting to look sympathetic underneath his multitude of facial piercings, and raises his eyebrows.

"You're kind of quiet over there," he hears Kenny say. Stan looks over at him, not entirely sure of what exactly he's expecting, and lets out a breath he wasn't aware he'd been holding.

"I—" he starts, but when Kenny's eyebrows perk up in that automatic 'I'm listening' way, Stan retracts and slumps forward. He scratches the back of his head, like he's not sure whether or not he's going to say anything, before he decides to dismiss it. "Whatever, I feel like a fuckhead and you probably don't want to hear it, so."

"Probably not," Kenny shrugs and shoves his hands into his sweater pockets. "But, like, eviction aside… I dunno, how're you doing?"

"Fine," Stan shrugs automatically and picks at his fingernails. He actually really doesn't want to have anything to do with this conversation right now.

"Work is fine?" Kenny asks. Stan shrugs again. He works at Park County Middle School, playing piano for the choir and for school productions and shit like that—this week they offered to let him succeed the music teacher, a woman well-past her expiration date who was set to retire (or die, most likely) next year, if he agreed to finish school and get credentialed.

He's not so sure he should be responsible for shaping the minds of America's future.

"Yeah, I guess work's okay," he shrugs. He'd actually rather be doing something that would allow him to curl up under his desk and hide for hours at a time, but he guesses cracking wise with twelve-year-olds and telling them to pipe the fuck down when they get rowdy is an acceptable alternative for now.

"And dude, your mom's the fucking tits," Kenny says, like he's going through a list in his head of everything that could possibly be bothering Stan. "She let me live with you guys for, like, two weeks when my parents kicked me out. Didn't ask for rent or tell me I had to leave or anything. She's not gonna harp on you like Sheila would, you know?"

Stan snorted. Sheila, as kind as she was to both Kenny and Stan in their times of hardship, was slightly overbearing (to say the least). Stan and Kenny knew it was because she cared, but neither Kenny nor Stan was used to someone caring quite so much in quite the way that Sheila did.

"I know, dude," Stan sighs and curls up on one side of the couch. "It's like—I don't have any fucking reason to feel so shitty. I just do, you know?" Kenny nods and slides off the armchair so he can crawl back onto the couch and get much too close to Stan for comfort. He has the inverse of Stan's problem; where everyone's always too close for Stan, no one's ever close enough for Kenny.

"Everyone's got their shit, dude," Kenny says, wrapping one of his scrawny arms around Stan's shoulders and resting their heads together. Stan almost wants to blame the affectionateness on Butters, but Kenny has cuddled up to Stan for years, has even kissed him a few times when they were both drunk and high and Stan was in need of a little love. Kenny's like Butters in that respect—he's good at knowing what people need, even if not everyone is great at knowing what he needs in return—and Stan figures that might be why they work like they do.

"It's human," Kenny continues when he realizes Stan's not going to reply, "sadness, anger, anxiety… it's human to feel all that shit. The world builds up a stigma that we should be happy all the time—"

"A 'stigma', are you fucking serious?" Stan asks through an eye roll, but Kenny only presses him harder into the armrest and continues like Stan hasn't interrupted him.

"—when it's totally normal for us to go through cycles," he finishes. "But, like… if it's getting bad again, maybe you should talk to someone?"

Stan shifts at this. He hates the thought of therapy, if only because he's been through the song and dance before and everyone was immensely unhelpful. They put him on meds when he was seventeen, and they'd definitely helped, but when it came right down to it no one had really helped him work through any of the causes. That meant he'd just gone back to feeling intensely shitty when he stopped taking them.

"Yeah, I'm probably not gonna do that," Stan admits, focusing on the TV instead of Kenny pushing away from him, apparently as fed up as Stan suspects everyone is with him. Kenny never gets fed up with him, though. Kyle, Cartman, Wendy, and just about everyone else, sure, but Kenny never had. Fuck, he must've been getting bad.

"Just a fucking suggestion," Kenny says, like he's not bothered at all. "Just remember, if you ever feel like killing yourself again—"

"Fuck, dude!"

"—that you'll let me know," Kenny finishes. "Because I not only provide wonderful psychological services—"

"Are you kidding me right now?"

"—but I am also available for sexual healing."

"You have a boyfriend, dude!" Stan exclaims, knowing full well that he's giving Kenny a look now. Kenny ignores it, just looks over his shoulder to where Butters is fiddling around with pots and pans in the kitchen, and calls over to him,

"If Stan was about to kill himself, and the only thing standing between him and death was me making sweet, sweet love to his ass, would you let me?"

"Only if you let me film it," Butters tosses back absently, without even thinking about it, looking now at a recipe on the counter.

"See?" Kenny grins, and some part of Stan wonders where in the hell these two came from. They're far too happy for the shit they've had to put up with in their respective lives. Maybe they 're different when it's just the two of them, when they don't have to bother pretending to be functional for the sake of people like Stan, who is, he's convinced, the very picture of dysfunction.

"Well," Stan says, pushing himself up to his feet. "Not that this wasn't awesome, but I've gotta go pack… or something."

"Don't you want some dinner?" Butters asks, walking back over to their living area and looking very obviously concerned. The sleeves of his sweater are pushed up around his elbows, which obviously indicates that he's now in the serious business of cooking. Kenny's giving him an imploring look, and any other day Stan would've caved. Butters makes fucking incredible food and Stan's the worst at refusing incredible food (and in fact it's starting to catch up with him in the form of a fine layer of chub around his midsection).

"I should get going," Stan says instead, shaking his head and stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets. "Thanks, though." And then he interjects a "and I promise I'll call if I try to kill myself," before Kenny can even mention it.

"That's all I ask," he says, and with that Stan leaves to walk back to his apartment.

He doesn't think too much, just focuses on the endless stretch of grey concrete beneath his feet and wonders, for about the billionth time, what it's like to not have this overwhelming feeling of melancholy burrowed deep within his chest. With every step he thinks that, just once, he'd like to know what it's like to be a regular human being with regular human being worries. He tries to remember being a kid, dicking around with Kenny and Kyle and Cartman, tries to find some semblance of normalcy he can grab onto and cultivate, but there's nothing.

He keeps walking, entirely aware that he's no longer en route to his apartment, but in fact on his way to Stark's Pond. He hasn't been there since the summer after senior year, since Kyle left. They spent the night before his flight to Massachusetts here, he, Kenny, and Kyle, drinking Jack out of a flask, getting high, and setting off every last one of Kenny's firecrackers. They'd passed out in the back of Stan's Jeep Cherokee, the three of them smelling like whiskey and smoke and… fuck, that's the last time Stan can remember being actually happy.

He's felt happiness since then, sure, but there's feeling and then there's being. And it's the fact Stan's so far from being happy that's actually way more depressing than the depressive feelings he's been having.

He slumps down onto the bench by the lake and wishes like hell that he hadn't left his flask at home. He's been drinking too much again, he knows he has. He'd like to say that he can't help it, even though he knows he can and that he's making excuses for himself. Every time he's this sober he always vows to lay off, that this last binge was his absolute last, but it never is. Isn't that always the case? The minute you swear you'll never do something again, you automatically sign your death warrant. Stan's been swearing to cut back on the booze for years—the longest he's ever made it is a month, and he'd celebrated this achievement by getting blackout drunk and spending an entire weekend in his apartment.

That had been a fun one.

Stan huffs, a visible puff of breath making its way into the air before him, and looks down the street. It's pretty quiet, like it usually is in South Park around this time of day. Most everyone's eating dinner—including Kenny and Butters, probably, who're more than likely eating something spectacular by now—and Stan, of course, is sitting on a bench by himself like the ray of sunshine that he is.

He sees a jogger out of the corner of his eye and snorts, letting his eyes slip shut as he tries to focus on the sound of the wind whipping through the trees behind him. Sometimes that helps, reminding himself of the beauty in nature and shit like that.

Most of the time it just opens up a window of opportunity for people to disturb him, though.


It's a voice familiar in timbre, one that makes Stan's gut give a nervous twist as he opens his eyes. He makes the connection half a second before he hears himself ask, "Kyle?"

A beat passes, they both stare at each other, and suddenly Stan finds himself leaping up off of the bench and tackling Kyle to the ground behind him. Kyle is hot and sweaty—when the fuck had he taken up jogging?—but Stan doesn't care. It was hard at first, really fucking hard actually, being away from him, and this is probably the third or fourth time he's seen Kyle in person since he first left, but… fuck, there's something about Kyle that will always snap Stan back into being a kid again, no matter how long it's been since they've actually been together.

"Ow, you fucker!" Kyle laughs as he rubs at the back of his head. He must've knocked it against the ground or something… Stan's actually far too preoccupied to care because Kyle's here. He's in South Park, he's back with Stan. If you asked him, Kyle was right back where he belonged.

"Don't call me 'fucker', fucker," Stan socks him on the shoulder and laughs because Kyle laughs even harder and pushes him off of him. "Since when the fuck are you back?" he asks, brushing the grass off of his knees as Kyle sits up.

"Since yesterday," Kyle admits as he pulls a few leaves out of his hair and stands. He extends a hand to Stan and Stan takes it, grunting as Kyle yanks him up with a little more ease than either of them expected. He's all red in the face and sweaty; his hair, even though cut relatively short, is curling where it meets his damp skin; his sweats and t-shirt, one Stan had sent him from UCD before he'd dropped out. Stan still has the one Kyle sent him from MIT that he wore around campus forever after he got it, just to piss people off.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Stan asks. It's the next question that crops up into his brain, and he speaks it before he realizes the implications behind it.

Kyle had come home without telling him. What the hell?

"I didn't tell anyone," Kyle rotates his arm around. "I was gonna call you tonight after I was done running, though."

"Queer-mo," Stan laughs, "when the fuck did you start running?"

"Uh, since it's good for me," Kyle mocks back and pulls a face that makes Stan sock him on the shoulder again. Kyle grabs his shoulder and socks him back, "maybe 'cause I don't wanna get fat like you, asshat."

"I'm not fat!" Stan exclaims, pretending to be offended because it makes Kyle laugh and nothing, absolutely nothing compares to being able to make Kyle laugh. Because Kyle is the funniest person Stan knows and he always will be.

"Come on, dude," Kyle tosses his head back to the sidewalk. "Walk with me."

And it's in that moment, with Kyle's smile tugging at his cheeks and red hair frizzing out every which way, that Stan really sees how much older he looks. Before now, the last time he'd seen Kyle in person had been around Christmas time two years ago. They've talked on the phone since then, and Skyped fairly regularly, but right now, in the flesh, Kyle looks like an actual adult.

Stan finds himself wondering if he looks like one too, and actually worrying that he doesn't.

"Dude, what the fuck," Stan laughs as Kyle mimes throwing a rope around him and tugging him forward. He pokes his tongue out of his mouth, like he's really concentrating on making the mime work, and Stan laughs even harder. "What are you doing?"

"I'm hustling you along," Kyle replies, which sets Stan in motion with a quick flip of his middle finger. Kyle laughs, one of those totally dopey laughs that he always lets slip when he's insanely happy about something, and drapes an arm around Stan's shoulders. Kyle's still taller than him, but only by about half an inch if Stan has to guess. He's leaner, though, and that's always given people the illusion that he's inches taller, which just plain isn't true.

"How the fuck've you been?" Stan finds himself asking as they walk down the street together, like they would've done years before.

"Good," Kyle nods, like he's trying to pack up every response that he could give, that he wants to give, into one box and give it to Stan. Kyle's always been that way, though—he could go on at length about 'the issues' (ugh, he's so his mother's son that it's not even funny), but when it came to talking, just him and Stan, he was a man of few words. Stan didn't mind it—usually he did enough pissheaded talking for the both of them.

"What brought you back home?" Stan asks, ducking under Kyle's arm when he sees a car coming down the street. He's getting a little squirmy anyway.

"Oh, uh," Kyle frowns now. "Just… some stuff with my mom. She hasn't been feeling very well lately."

"Oh shit," Stan says, his own face falling now. "Shit, dude, I didn't know." Fuck, how did he not know about this? He and Kenny should've been the first to fucking hear about this shit, so they could… like, bring her soup and get her dry-cleaning or whatever. Stan'd run errands for Sheila in a fucking heartbeat.

"She hasn't really told anyone," Kyle shrugs. "I mean, aside from my dad and Ike and me, I mean. They're both really busy, though, and they couldn't really help her like she needed, so I'm here now."

"Dude," Stan replies, because it's the only way he can without saying something completely retarded. "Does she know what's wrong?"

"No, not yet," Kyle's face pinches slightly. Shit, he must be worried.

"Well, like," Stan begins and feels his shoulders come up under his ears. "Let me know if you need any help, okay? Seriously, that sucks."

"Thanks, man," Kyle gives him a little smile that kind of warms Stan up to his core. He can't remember the last time a smile had such a profound effect on him.

"What happened to work, though?" Stan asks now, feeling a little interrogative, but he knows Kyle won't care as long as he doesn't ask him about his mom anymore. Kyle's one of those few people who can actually deal with onslaughts of questions, mostly because he's so quick enough to reply that it takes so much more to wear him down.

"Oh, I work from home anyway," Kyle shrugs. "Most of my clients I can consult by phone and work on their stuff from my computer, and if they really need someone they can get another guy from the firm to go and fix 'em up."

"Oo, clients," Stan bounces his eyebrows. Kyle snorts and shoves his hands into the pockets of his sweats.

"Yes," he says in mock seriousness, "because everyone knows that IT men are known for their harrowing and rallying efforts in cocksmithery. 'Computer won't turn on? How 'bout I turn you on instead?'"

Stan barks out a laugh when Kyle finishes with an exaggerated thrust of his hips, one that eighteen-year-old Kyle would have blushed at the thought of making out in the open, where anyone could see. It feels a little like a weight's been lifted from Stan's shoulders—he feels kind of like he did in high school, when Kyle stopped being such a twit about everything and actually started taking his depression seriously, like everything still sucked, but it was bearable with someone like Kyle around.

He's probably not going to tell Kyle how happy he is that he's back, though, because that's just a little too gay for them and, judging by the way Kyle's smiling again, he already knows how missed he was.

They continue walking through the new additions to town, Stan pointing out a new building or a change in business every once in a while, until they get to Stan's complex. They walk up the two flights of stairs, passing a few of Stan's elderly neighbors on the way and giving them pleasant regards as they walk by, and Stan actually goes red in the face when he realizes that he forgot to take down the eviction notice from his door.

"Holy shit, dude," Kyle says, snatching the paper before Stan can get his mitts on it. "Dude, what the hell?"

"Oh, it's nothing," Stan shakes his head tiredly as he unlocks his door. "My landlord found Trapper and Hawkeye."

"Shit," Kyle's eyebrows pinch together, handing the paper back to Stan as he steps over the threshold. "Dude…" he hears Kyle say as he looked around. His life is, more or less, in boxes. He has a few more things to take care of, but the living room and kitchen are pretty much gutted of all of his stuff. Not that he has a lot, but still… it looks empty.

"Fuck it," Stan shakes it off and went to the kitchen. He grabs a bottle of Myer's out of the freezer and a thing of orange juice out of his fridge and holds them both up for Kyle to see. He then gets a pair of mismatched glasses—okay, they're re-used plastic cups, but fuck you—out of his cabinet and pours a hefty amount of rum into both. "You want?"

"I'll just take some juice," Kyle shakes his head.

"Fair enough," Stan shrugs and pours the contents of one of the glasses into the other. He's just about to pour the juice when Kyle catches him.

"Dude put, like, half of that back," he says, that look of 'you should know better' etched onto his face. Stan rolls his eyes, but Kyle is remarkable in his ability to get Stan to stop being a fuckhead, so he pours a good amount of the liquor back into the bottle before adding any juice to either cup. They each take their cups and flop down on the couch, cheap and hard but that's a condition of a pre-furnished apartment, Stan thinks, before clacking their cups together and taking a drink.

"Oo, there's a little bit of rum still in the cup," Kyle sighs happily and looks at the cup itself. "Disposable cups… you are classy as fuck, dude."

Stan smiles, warmth of the alcohol already spreading through his limbs. He's not entirely sure why he opted for it in the first place, now that he's drinking it—hanging with Kyle essentially gives him the same feelings, and it's not even like Kyle is drinking either. It's probably just habitual now, which… isn't great, but at least it wasn't because he couldn't go on or some other painfully pathetic bullshit.

"Where're you staying?" Kyle finally asks. He's been wanting to ask—Stan could feel it.

"With my mom," Stan replies automatically. Ugh, it's so painful to say.

"Shit," Kyle laughs. "You can't stay with Kenny and Butters?"

"Seriously?" Stan's eyebrows fly up on his forehead as he looks Kyle up and down. "Have you seen the atrocity that is those two together? Love 'em and all that shit, but Christ, that entire apartment has to be covered in bodily fluids."

Kyle throws his head back and laughs, something that probably wouldn't have made any difference to Stan if he hadn't seen Kyle's neck out of the corner of his eye, long and sinewy and looking entirely… something. Something, at least, that makes Stan swallow a lump in his throat.

They finish their drinks and Kyle decides, being the decent human being that he is, to help Stan pack up the last few of his boxes. There isn't much left, but Kyle's convinced that that'll occupy enough time for Stan to sober up enough to drive him home.

"I'm fucking fine, dude," Stan shakes his head as Kyle starts packing up a few of Stan's music books. "If you wanna go home now I'll take you home."

"Dude, it's cool," Kyle shrugs. "I may as well help you while I'm here."

"Are you implying that I can't pack on my own?" Stan raises his eyebrows, and Kyle looks up at him, a laugh pulling at the corners of his lips as he gives Stan a very frank look.

"I've been on camping trips with you, dude," he says. "I know you can't pack."

Stan flips him off again, but goes to help anyway. They have the rest of his shit packed up in a matter of a few hours, which is miraculous, seeing how it'd taken Stan at least ten times as long to pack up everything else before it. They load up Stan's car after that, since Stan had planned on taking all his shit to his mom's tomorrow anyway, and it's actually fucking nice to be around someone who's willing to help him out like this.

Plus, having someone there who talks animatedly in various voices and accents around Stan's neighbors kind of makes it a more bearable experience. By the time they're done Stan is… fuck, he's legitimately ready to leave. Kyle gives him a smile, eyebrows pinching together a little again as he leans on the side of Stan's car.

"What's up?" he asks.

"Nothing," Stan shakes his head and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "I'm moving back in with my mom. What do you think's up?"

Kyle laughs and looks down at his sneakers.

"Okay, fair enough," he says and looks back up. It could be the weird lighting in the parking garage, or the remaining alcohol in his system, but there's something about Kyle's eyes that makes Stan's blood go kind of hot. He shakes it off, like so many other things, and pretends to be paying attention when Kyle continues, "but if you need to escape… y'know, everything still stands. We just got a new air mattress… I mean, I don't wanna brag, but my dad's been doing pretty well for himself."

Stan snorts and tosses his head toward the Jeep.

"Get in, I'll take you home," he says. Kyle gives him a smile and pats the side of the car before he piles in. They drive through South Park mostly in silence, but that's okay because they've been friends long enough to the point where conversation doesn't really matter. Let's face it, this isn't nearly as awkward as it could be and Stan's fucking grateful as shit for that. It could never be awkward between them, Stan thinks.

"So," Kyle begins, "any luck in the lady department?"

Okay, so the whole awkward bit was a lie. Kyle likes to check up on him periodically in this department, and Stan figures he must be right about due for his six month check up or something ridiculous like that. He coughs, because Kyle's one of those people who's very straightforward and clinical about sex and Stan has always had some fucked up thing about not being able to talk about it like he should be able to. It's kind of maddening, but every time he even tries to say the word 'pussy' in a sexual context he gets all tongue-tied and red in the face.

Growing up with Kenny and Kyle as best friends, he literally does not know how this is possible.

"A bit," he finally resolves himself to say. "Slept with a girl a little while back. Uh, how're you doing?"

"Fine," Kyle shrugs and kicks his feet up on the dashboard. "Jerked off a guy a few weeks ago."

Stan actually slams on his breaks at that and comes very, very close to getting rear-ended if the way he's being honked at is any indication. He looks over at Kyle, who's inspecting his fingernails like they've still got the guy's spunk caked into the cuticles.

"How the fuck am I just hearing this now?" he asks, and Kyle looks over at him. It wasn't the light in the garage; Kyle's eyes are very much fever-inducing. That's stupid, though, because they never have been before.

"I don't know," Kyle shrugs again. "We haven't talked in a while. I would've told you, but you were MIA every time I called you. It's not even a big deal, dude. Just a dick."

"I know," Stan shifts. "Just, like… you jerked off a guy. What the hell."

"What?" Kyle asks.

"You like women," Stan points out very frankly.

"So does Kenny," Kyle offers.

"Kenny's a fucking heathen," Stan shoots back, only half kidding. "Slap a thong on an orangutan and he'd get a hard-on."

"It's just a dick, Stan," Kyle reiterates, more loudly this time. Like that'll solve anything. "I was drunk, I was curious, give me a fucking break."

There's a moment during which they're both silent before,

"So…" Stan begins.

"So what?" Kyle shoots back, eyebrows high on his forehead, like he just fucking knew Stan wouldn't be able to keep his curiosity in check. The tricky bastard.

"How was it?" Stan prods.

"What?" Kyle asks, innocently.

"Don't fuck with me, you know what," Stan scowls. "You tell me you gave a guy a handy and you're not even gonna tell me how it was? Way to be a fucking friend, pal."

"Fuck, dude," Kyle laughs and runs his fingers through his frizzy hair. "You've never asked Kenny what it's like to jerk a guy off?"

"No, but I've been forcibly told countless times about the joys of sucking dick," Stan mutters and Kyle laughs. "You're a sane person; I'd like your opinion."

"Aw, come on," Kyle gives him a mockingly serious admonishment. "Kenny's got some perfectly good insights."

"Come on, dude," Stan shoves him on the shoulder. "I told you everything about my first times with Wendy. And you didn't hold out on me like this with you and Rebecca."

"Dude, change your fucking tampon," Kyle rolls his eyes, shifting so that he's facing Stan as best he can. "What do you know?

"Was it weird?" Stan finds himself asking, even if what he really wants to ask is more along the lines of 'did you like it'. Kyle or Kenny would ask something like that; Stan's never been that frank. Kyle looks like he has to think about it, pursing his lips and looking up at the ceiling before he finds a decent reply.

"You know the first time you saw a girl's vag and you were like 'okay, this is fucking weird, but I can dig it'?"

Stan nods.

"It was kind of like that," Kyle offers, "except I was, like, intensely aware of the fact that I was holding another guy's dick. Like 'oh god, dick', but… not in a bad way. I don't know. Only did it once."

"You'd do it again?" Stan asks, knowing full-well how surprised he looks. Kyle shrugs, picking at his fingernails again.

"Well, you can't expect to establish law without running a few experiments," he offers, resigned, and Stan knows he's being serious. He doesn't like it.

"Yeah, well," Stan begins, "I've never put Pine-Sol in my coffee but I don't have to do it to know I wouldn't like it."

Kyle snorts, but says nothing. Stan can't tell if he's struck a nerve or if Kyle's waiting for Stan to say something more. Either way, Stan's not going to break the silence. It's a battle Stan knows he's going to lose; Kyle's stubborn enough to never speak again, if that's what it would take.

"Just," Stan finally gives in, "it seems like it'd be fucking weird."

"It was," Kyle laughs. "Nothing I couldn't handle again under certain circumstances."

"Oh, really?" Stan gives a facetious whistle. "What circumstances? You need dinner and a movie now?"

"An artistic film and a dinner at an at least four-star restaurant," Kyle agrees. "If I'm gonna handle some guy's cock, I demand proper compensation."

"Taco Bell's a no-go then?" Stan asks.

"You'd at least have to spring for Del Taco, I'm afraid," Kyle tuts. He and Stan look at each other at the exact same moment and Stan can't help but return Kyle's smile. Fuck, Stan has missed this. Kyle is easy; being with him is familiar and good and it makes him feel that happiness deep in his chest that he hasn't felt for so long. He loves Kenny and Butters, but… fuck, they're not Kyle. No one is.

They arrive at the Broflovski house a few moments later. Stan pulls into the driveway, like he always used to, and looks over at Kyle again.

"Wanna hang out tomorrow?" he asks, hoping and praying to God that he's not overstepping or something. Kyle purses his lips as he unbuckles his seatbelt and looks at Stan again.

"I'm taking my mom to the doctor tomorrow morning," he says. "I'll text you when I'm done?"

"Yeah, sounds good," Stan nods, way more relieved than he should be about Kyle wanting to spend time with him. Kyle gets out of the car and leans in through the rolled down window.

"Grab some lunch?" he asks, and Stan nods again. Kyle grins and gives him a look. "And remember—if you suggest Del Taco, I'll know what you're playing at."

Stan barks out a laugh and flips him off, which only makes Kyle's grin get bigger before he pats the sill of the window and starts off back into his house.

"Later, dude," he calls and Stan gives him a little wave before he backs out and takes off down the street. He doesn't think, or tries not to—he feels too good to muddle this moment with thinking—he just drives to his mom's house. He'll take his key and shit to his landlord tomorrow. Right now he just wants to curl up on his mom's couch and watch Netflix with her.

He parks next to her car and decides he'll unload his shit tomorrow morning. Somehow he feels like unpacking will also destroy this mood and make him want to drink all of his mom's cooking sherry. He walks into the house to see his mom sitting on the couch, phone sandwiched between her shoulder and ear as she works on her crossword puzzle. She notices him and gives him a silent 'hello'. He smiles and goes over to kiss her on the cheek.

"Hold on, Shelly," she says and holds the receiver to her chest. "Honey, I thought you weren't coming until tomorrow morning."

"Couldn't wait," Stan shrugs and sits beside her, leaning his head on her shoulder as she puts the phone back to her ear.

"Sorry, honey, your brother just got here," she says. "No, of course you guys can come over for dinner tomorrow night. I'll make pork roast—all right, sweetie, I love you—okay, bye."

His mom hangs up the phone with a sigh and gives Stan a warm smile. She pulls him into a hug then and gives him a kiss on the top of his head.

"How're you feeling today, sweetheart?" she asks, scratching at the back of his neck. Stan hates that question, but he answers with a 'fine' nonetheless, because he is feeling kind of fine in spite of himself, and whines when his mom stands to go to the kitchen.

"Well, I wasn't expecting you 'til tomorrow, but," she begins, "if you don't mind eating pasta, I'll make some for you."

Stan mutters something about not minding at all and moves to turn on the TV. His mom's got it tuned to CNN, and he supposes she's actually turning into one of those old spinsters who watches the news and does crossword puzzles at home, alone, with no intention of doing anything else. He finds himself wondering if his mom is happy, or if she's like him and she's just too fucked over to want anything else. He thinks that getting divorced probably does something like that to you, but he doesn't presume to actually know.

"What did Shelly want?" he asks, flipping through the channels at a snail's pace.

"Oh, she's coming over for dinner tomorrow night," his mom calls from back in the kitchen. "Her and Eric."

Stan groans and buries his face in the couch cushions. Cartman started dating Shelly a little after he'd turned eighteen; Cartman had turned into a brusque football player type, still the kind of guy who tormented the weak and picked on those less fortunate than himself. Stan didn't know why his infatuation with Shelly had come as a surprise. They were both fucking awful people with fucking awful intentions who said and did fucking awful things to people. Stan wasn't sure why anyone had condoned the two of them actually joining forces, but being that he's been a little too lazy to actually sabotage anything he supposes he can't complain. He just adds it to an ever-growing list of shit that's his fault.

"What do they want?" Stan asks.

"I don't know, Stanley," his mom sighs and comes to sit back next to him. "Maybe they're just trying to be kindhearted and come for dinner."

"You don't know them very well," Stan snorts when his mom hits him on the leg.

"Don't go making assumptions about people, young man," she admonishes, even though he can tell she's smiling.

"They want your fortune," Stan grins to himself. "Your riches. They've come to plunder you for all you're worth."

"Ha-ha," his mom replies just as Stan's struck by a terrible thought.

"God, mom, what if she's pregnant?" he groans and looks back. His mom returns the groan and runs her hands over her face.

"Honey, don't even go there," she says. "You know I'm happy for her, and that I love her, but when I said I wanted grandchildren I didn't quite plan on them being from that union."

"Well," Stan says and sits up, putting an arm around her shoulder and resting their heads together. "If that's the case—and I'm only saying this because I love you—but I'll find a guy who'll kick her in the stomach for us."

"Stanley!" she snaps and smacks him on the arm, and he laughs because she's doing that thing where she's only pretending to be horrified. She chastises him for being a horrible human being just before she makes a mention of accidentally loosening one of the floorboards at the top of the stairs. Stan laughs harder, because now his mom is convinced that they're both awful people who are going to hell, even though he can see a little glint of amusement behind her own self-loathing.

They eat pasta on the couch and watch a lineup of shitty sitcoms, and, for once, Stan's happy to be home.