A/N: Done as a request for a buddy on tumblr. They wanted Craig and Stan doing something badass. Here is my extremely random answer to that request.


How 'bout Them Apples?

"You're late." Craig was barely a shadow leaning against the wall, though the light from Stan's flashlight cut across his eyes and ignited a flash of blue.

"Some of us aren't as willingly boring as you," snapped Stan irritably, "I had friends to sneak away from."

His smile was arrogant, more of a sneer. "Having a slumber party Marsh? I hope I didn't interrupt you painting each other's nails." He fell into step next to the other boy, their strides syncing up perfectly within a few paces. Twin heads of black hair bobbed along as they walked. Eventually Stan pulled on his hat, far enough off the road that the red puffball wouldn't be visible. Craig followed suit and soon his familiar tassels swung to and fro under his chin.

They continued to walk in silence, following a path each could walk in their sleep. Once the ground began to slope, both boys switched to crawling on hands and knees through the inclining line of snow. Soon their gloved hands were soaked through with icy cold, the skin angry red beneath.

Stan slipped slightly and Craig's hand was there instantly to steady him. Their eyes met briefly before Stan took his hand and allowed the other boy to haul him up.

Stars twinkled by the millions above their heads, distant fireflies circling in an endless dance. Caught up in the enchanting beauty of the sky, Stan let his head fall back, hat sliding partly off his crown. Next to him Craig was doing the same, his hand still resting on Stan's arm.

"Come on," he whispered, tugging Stan along with him. They slipped down a short gradient, instantly stilling when they heard rustling in the distance. Hunkering down close to the snow like foxes, Stan and Craig stalked quietly along. Crawling beneath a small grove of tightly growing trees, their hands warmed on the bed of fallen needles. Sneaking up to the lip of the branches' cover, two sets of blue eyes peered out.

Stan's breath feel away as if stolen and Craig was trembling.

About fifty feet from where they hid was a herd of wild reindeer come down from the mountains. Hunting season hadn't start yet and so the herds grazed safely in the dead of night, undisturbed.

Turning to Stan, Craig whispered, "You have them?"

"Yeah. You?"


"All right," Stan said.

"Let's do this," Craig agreed.

Four months leading up to this moment.

Leaving the cover of the trees, they began to make clicking sounds with their tongues. Stillness fell over the snow-covered meadow and each big brown eye on each reindeer regarded them with wary alertness. After a moment a few in the herd lowered their heads again and continued gumming the snowy ground for food. Minutes ticked by and soon the animals seemed to dismiss their presence altogether.

Going to his knees, Stan inched forward, holding out a shiny red apple from his store. He kept clicking, jarring his tongue in the cold. But he kept on and soon a young doe took notice of him and his bounty. Picking her way carefully closer she sized him up, her soulful eyes glittering with reflections of the stars. A shiver ran down her flank and she took another hesitating step forward. Stan reached out his arm so far that his shoulder began to ache. Usually he would toss the apples a few feet away and the reindeer would come pick them up. But tonight a few feet away wasn't going to cut it.

They'd come to an impasse. The reindeer stopped just out of each, stretching her big head forward but not quite enough to nab the fruit. It was a hilarious display, Stan reaching for all he was worth as the reindeer stretched like she was trying to will herself into a giraffe. Her upper lip wiggled and flipped, big pink tongue jutted out to curl emptily at the air. Seemingly growing frustrated she took a more definitive step forward and sniffed his hand.

"It's okay," Stan said soothingly. "It's okay, girl." He held his breath as she took a bite of the apple, leaving half in his hand. Apparently he'd passed some test because she'd come even closer, crowding his space enough to lick his palm clean. Laughing, Stan held up another apple, reaching up to touch the side of her face while she ate. His face was caught in her eye, lit by moonlight. Now he slowly stood, cooing at her as she stumbled back a few steps in alarm. But she was young. The rest of the heard didn't seem to mind their presence; they could tell the difference between harmful humans and harmless ones.

Craig sidled up to another reindeer, an older buck with one white eye, milky with blindness. He had a huge beard trailing down through the air, his huge frame matched only by the giant set of antlers crowning his head. Craig had been able to hand feed him on occasion and didn't have an issue coming close enough to feed him a carrot. He pressed his empty hand to a velvety nose, the reindeer inhaling his scent approvingly.

"Yeah, you know me," he said, grinning when a pink tongue wound around his hand, demanding more. "Okay, greedy." He pulled out another carrot and a deep pleased rumble shook the reindeer's broad chest.

The rest of the herd watched silently. As the humans kept producing food it seemed a consensus had been reached. One by one they moved forward, nosing up to the boys. One even snuck his snout into Craig's shirt, sniffing around for carrots. Craig produced a very unmanly shriek as a cold wet nose pushed up his shirt. Stan laughed loudly, almost falling over when his doe buffed him with her head.

Coming prepared, Stan and Craig were able to keep the herd interested for the better part of an hour. By the time the last of the apples were being munched and the last carrot swallowed, they were stroking the thick brown fur and even running their hands freely over wide antlers. Trading looks with each other, both boys couldn't stop beaming.

Their smiles froze though, when the crack of a gun shattered the night. Birds erupted from trees, coyotes howled. And the herd sprang into action. They ran in a tight circle first, as if collecting stragglers. Craig and Stan jumped back out of their way, but then Stan yelled, "Wait, it's a trap! They're driving them into a trap!"

Without a second though Craig ran forward, a confused Stan following him. "We won't let them," he yelled at the other boy, and before Stan could say anything Craig had taken hold of the blind reindeer's antlers and swung up onto his back, landing messily and clinging to the creature for dear life. Stan's eyes were round as saucers, staring as Craig leaned down and started to speak into the reindeer's ear. The animal seemed to calm. Another shot rang out and the herd began to dissolve in a frenzy. Sucking in a breath, Stan launched himself at the doe, leaping onto her side, speaking vehemently at her. She bucked and thrashed but he held on, digging his heels into her sides. Lunging forward, hooves pounding over the snowy ground, she ran in the opposite direction of the rest of the heard. Craig yanked on his ride's antlers, forcing the animal's head to turn after Stan's retreating figure. He yelled, kicking the reindeer's sides to make him move. At a loss for direction, the rest of the heard fell in behind them, another gunshot tearing up through the air.

"That's Uncle Jimbo," Stan bellowed from up ahead, looking as if he was barely holding on as the doe continued to bucket and panic even as she ran. "I know what he and Ned are planning. They're going to drive them up the mountain where there's no cover!"

Craig clenched his teeth with rage, urging the old reindeer forward. "We want to help you," Craig urged. The animal seemed to sense his emotions and drove on harder, a strange guttural noise rippling up through his chest. Others in the heard caught up, moving faster, with more confidence.

Soon Stan and Craig were in the center of the mass of galloping bodies; surrounded by the pulsing, flowing muscle of the huge animals. As they ran, Stan could feel the flanks of other reindeer touching his leg, their thick fur soft. Eyes straight ahead, wind lashing against his skin like knives, Stan flinched when another gunshot erupted to their right, but when his doe panicked and tried to turn he shoved her head back, keeping her facing the same direction.

It dawned on him where they were headed and Craig shouted, "Marsh, are you insane? You'll drive them straight into the ice!"

"That's exactly what I'm doing," he yelled back over his shoulder, leaning down lower over the reindeer's back. Her spine undulated, a smooth bend carrying him over the ground as if they were flying. His heart was bursting inside his chest, and even the cold wind seemed to be singing in his ears.

Digging his fingers deep into his reindeer's fur, Craig stared ahead as the crystalline face of the frozen lake appeared, nestled in a valley. They were headed straight for the run off that led deeper into the mountains. Beyond a hunter's reach. Looking at the back of Stan's head, slender body plastered the back of the reindeer like a second skin, Craig chose to trust the other boy.

The gunshots rang out louder and more often as Jimbo and Ned became more desperate. Trees were flashing by at blinding speeds on either side of them, obstructing a gun scope. Once they reached the lake there was no point to shoot. The carcass would sink and all would be lost.

As they broke out of the forest onto thinner ground the soft thumping of a hundred hooves grew into a veritable thunderstorm, the river of brown fur and misty breath heading straight to the lake shore. Stan and Craig were just passengers now, thrown to the will of the herd as the reindeer sensed the path to survival.

But survival wouldn't be an option if Stan and Craig went into the ice with the reindeer. Their eyes met, voices completely erased in the chaos. Stan twisted around and pointed. Craig winced, but nodded. Leaning up, he pulled as hard as he could on his reindeer's antlers, twisting and pulling the creature's head back until he had coasted to the edge of the heard. And with a burst of strength Craig threw himself off the animal, crashing painfully into the hard snow, spinning like a corkscrew over the ground. As he scrambled up, aching pain descending down on him with a vengeance, he saw Stan.

In the water.

The horrible crack of the lake's surface rent the air in two. A thousand breaking mirrors rang out as one, hooves dashing the ice to pieces as huge warm bodies struck out into the shallows, swimming for the opposite shore; to safety.

Craig broke into a dead run, ignoring the warning signals his body was sending; the odd slant to his shoulder, the agonizing pinch in his back.

Stan was in the water, surrounded by ice. If he went under there was no coming out.

Freezing water stole his breath as sure as any thief and Craig went down like a rock, flailing in a dead panic before he found his feet, pushing off the murky lake bottom to fight over to Stan's inert form. Grabbing the boy, he threw an arm across his chest, slowly pulling him back to shore, terrified by the blue of his lips as much as he was by the pure and unadulterated cold icing his very bones. His pace was slowing beneath the frosty onslaught, muscles spasming.

"No," he growled, walking along the shallower lake bed with legs moving as if through cement. "No!" Gritting his teeth, he struggled to the shore, throwing himself down to gain enough leverage to pull Stan up alongside him. "Marsh, wake up," he commanded. "Stan!"

Stan twitched, groaning. As the air stole along their flesh, both boys fell to bone-rattling shivers. Teeth chattering so much they he couldn't even speak, Stan could merely nod up at Craig, his arm resting at an odd angle. Then a ghostly moan broke across the stone-cold silence and they looked up to see the herd climbing out on the other side, running up through the valley. Both Stan and Craig broke out into relieved grins, and Craig realized the old blind reindeer was standing on the shore, calling to them with a hauntingly deep cry. Wincing with the effort, he raised his hand in salute. The moment was cut short, however, when an angry voice framed with worry rang out behind them.

"Jesus, boys!" crowed Jimbo, marching up to them with Ned in tow. They were decked out in seemingly homemade hunting gear to blend in with the snow. When Jimbo realized the state both boys were in he ran over, throwing his off-white jacket over Craig as Ned did the same to Stan. "What in the hell are you two doing out here? Shit, Stan! We need to get you to a hospital!"

Bundled tightly in a nest of blankets in the cab of Jimbo's truck, they looked like two peas in a pod. Craig and Stan drank hot coffee from a thermos, passing it back and forth between them. Their fingers brushed and Stan glanced up into Craig's eyes.

"That was pretty badass, Marsh," Craig admitted, eyes shining.

"Yeah, well, thanks for pulling me out of the water like that," Stan said. "How about next time we just go to the petting zoo?"

Craig laughed, wheezing from congestion already taking root in his chest, "Sounds like a plan."