A/N: So like, I don't know if anyone is even interested in Someone Like You anymore, but I haven't abandoned it! Even though it looks like it. Anyway, Sekrit gave me a deadline to write something and that deadline was today, so here we go. Also this is supposed to be another multichapter, I don't know what my problem is. I'll actually update this one more reasonably, though. Hopefully.
Stan wouldn't say he's unhappy. In fact, standing alone in the gas station convenience store, pushing new bottles of water into the drink coolers, he's completely content. He never imagined he'd be here; ever since he was a kid, he thought it was a guarantee that he'd go off to college with Kyle, that they'd get out of South Park and make something of themselves. He thought that Kenny would be the one stuck in the same old town, wasting his days behind the counter at a gas station and spending his nights drinking his regrets away.
As it is, Stan doesn't know what happened to Kenny, just that he's not in South Park, and he's certainly not working at the gas station, because that's where Stan is. Stan doesn't really know what happened to any of his old friends, actually. He knows that Cartman ran off with Wendy as soon as they graduated high school. According to the rumors, Cartman had knocked her up after prom, and as soon as her parents found out they told her to abort it or leave. So she left, because maybe Cartman actually loved her enough to want her and the baby. But that was just a rumor.
Stan actually got to talk to Wendy for a few minutes the day before she and Cartman disappeared, while they were waiting for their graduation ceremony to start. According to her, it was all some big whirlwind romance, mentioned nothing about a baby. As far as Stan was concerned, the only wind whirling around Cartman was flatulence, but if it swept Wendy off her feet, then fine. Whatever. As long as she's happy.
Stan lets the cooler door slam closed as he tears open a package of flavored vitamin water. He doesn't know why anyone buys this shit; he's never actually tried it, but it smells like medicine, and it's three times the price of regular water. But it sells like crazy. It's one of the few drinks he has to restock every single day, because it's always sold out by the time his shift ends.
He reopens the cooler and starts shoving bottles into the slots, a little more forcefully than before. Kyle used to like this shit. Or at least, his mom used to make him drink it, and Kyle always complained until he tried a weird flavor that was berries and kiwis and Stan doesn't even know what else. It's the flavor he's stocking now, in fact, in its stupid little pink and green bottle, and he hates it, because he can't look at it without thinking of Kyle.
Kyle disappeared after graduation, too; got a scholarship to some Ivy League college and took off with plans to be a lawyer like his dad. Stan's proud of him, knows that he'll be incredible, that he'll make something of himself – like they had always planned. He knows Kyle probably comes back home during the summer, and for winter break, but Stan never sees him, because Kyle was out of his life before he was out of Colorado.
Their friendship had been shaky through the remainder of elementary school and into middle school, because Stan couldn't get his shit together, and they both preferred to ignore their issues instead of work through them. It made sense at the time – hell, it even makes sense now, because Stan doesn't think he'd do it any differently if he could go back – but it made their relationship kind of volatile, ready to blow up in their faces over the slightest disagreement. And in the mean time, Kyle was making new friends in his AP classes, while Stan was falling behind and sleeping through everything.
And somewhere along the way, they just stopped. Stopped meeting up at the bus stop, stopped sitting together at lunch, stopped hanging out on Friday afternoons. One day Stan opened his eyes and realized he hadn't spoken to Kyle in months, and that he didn't know how to fix it. And it was over. The annoyingly inseparable, close to the point of faggy, super best friends were no more. Their bond had fizzled out, died in its sleep while no one noticed.
Stan cried about it for exactly two weeks. He could barely go to school, barely look at Kyle, because every time he did, he saw that Kyle didn't miss him, that he was having too much fun with his new friends to even spare a longing glance in Stan's direction.
They reconnected once, just once, in high school, and it was impulsive and stupid, fifteen minutes made up of years of pent up frustration and heartache, and Stan is pretty sure Kyle regretted it afterward. The only thing Stan regrets is that it didn't last.
But it doesn't matter, because that was years ago, and they've both moved on. Stan knows that Kyle is happy, and he himself is content, and there's nothing else to say about that. He pushes the last few bottles of vitamin water into the cooler right as the little bell above the door jingles as someone enters the store.
Stan ignores them as he opens up another package of water; he'll wait until they're standing at the counter, clearing their throat impatiently, before he'll think about sauntering over to the cash register. Right now, he's busy, and they can fuck off.
But instead of strolling up and down the aisles, like he expected, he suddenly feels their presence behind him, staring at the drink display as if Stan's invisible.
"Are any of these actually cold?" they ask, and their voice is just snippy enough, a familiar mix of bitchy and finely trained politeness, that he doesn't even have to look up to know it's Kyle. But he does, and his head jerks up so fast that he thinks he gives himself whiplash, because there's no fucking way that Kyle could be here, no fucking way.
But he is, standing there with a little scowl as he examines the rows of water over Stan's shoulder. He looks almost exactly the same as he did in high school; his hair is cropped close now, and his face looks older, more set in a tired, impassive expression. But it's still him, so clearly him, and that's such a relief that Stan has to hold back a laugh, because Kyle's here, and it's almost like no time has passed at all. But the laugh, the smile, dies before it reaches the surface, because Kyle's gaze flicks to Stan's face, and there's no recognition, no relief in his eyes. Because they weren't friends in high school. There's no reason to be happy to see each other, to even remember each other.
Kyle arches an eyebrow, crossing his arms impatiently, and Stan breathes out, "Uh, hey. Kyle."
There's a moment where Kyle just looks confused, and then Stan can see a light come on in his eyes, knows the exact moment when Kyle realizes who he is.
"Stan?" he asks. "Stan Marsh?" Stan can't exactly tell if Kyle is thrilled or horrified; if he's about to hug him or run out of the store screaming.
Kyle does neither of those things, just smiles a little when Stan nods. "It's – it's been awhile," Kyle says. He's not quite meeting Stan's eye, and he looks so uncomfortable that it's making Stan nervous, and he wants to go back in time and fix everything. Because, in his head, he and Kyle never stopped being best friends, and it feels so wrong to have this awkward silence surrounding them.
Stan agrees, just for the sake of saying something, even though his awkward, "Uh, yeah," probably doesn't do anything to help the situation. He notices Kyle looking at the water again, staring at it with excessive interest, and Stan jumps at the opportunity. "Oh, right. Water."
He whirls around and pulls the cooler back open, digging toward the back to find a cold one. "So – you're still drinking these?" It's easier when his back is turned, when he doesn't have to look at Kyle's face.
Kyle laughs, and Stan hates how it sounds a little forced. "Yeah. Even the other flavors have grown on me. I love them all."
Stan still fishes out one of those berry/kiwi what-the-fuckeries, because somehow that just defines Kyle, and for once, Stan just wants something to stay the same.
He expects Kyle to bolt as soon as the water's in his hands, but he lingers, shifting uncomfortably, picking at the label. Stan can't remember the last time he saw Kyle this worked up over something – maybe he never has – and it's making him feel as guilty as he is flattered. At least he still means enough to make Kyle nervous. If this were just a casual encounter between elementary school friends, he doesn't think Kyle would care this much.
"So," Kyle says. "What are you doing here?"
"Dude, I never left. What are you doing here?"
Kyle shrugs, twisting open the bottle and taking a sip. "I got an internship at my dad's firm. I'll be here for a while."
"Wow, that's great."
And suddenly they're talking. It's not as smooth and effortless as it used to be, because it seems like somewhere along the way Stan forgot how to read Kyle's mind, and Kyle will habitually stop in the middle of a sentence, trailing off into silence, and each and every time Stan feels a little lost when he can't finish the thought for him.
But they manage, and Stan gets to hear more than he ever thought he wanted to know about law school, but it's suddenly the most interesting thing in the world when Kyle talks about it, waving his free hand flippantly, as if all the things he had seen and done since leaving South Park were no big deal. Stan doesn't have much to reciprocate with; he started working at the gas station as soon as he got out of high school, and he never left, end of story. Kyle seems to pity him a little, asks if he plans on going to college someday, which Stan can only answer with a definite, "I don't know."
Their conversation is cut short when the bell chimes again, a mom and her two kids breaking the fragile peace that had fallen over them, and that somehow seems to remind Kyle that he has to go.
"I'll come back and see you again sometime, okay?" he says, already angling toward the door, because he must know that Stan's not going to charge him for the water.
It's not good enough; Stan doesn't want to spend the next few days waiting for Kyle to stop by, freaking out every time the bell rings, only to be disappointed. He has this feeling that, if he lets Kyle walk out that door, he'll never see him again. It's not true, because at least if Kyle doesn't come by again, he'll be in South Park for a long time, which means they're bound to run into each other again at some point. But that's not enough, it'll never be enough.
"Kyle, wait." He can't believe how desperate he sounds, but Kyle is the only friend he's ever had that actually mattered. No one ever took his place, and no one ever could. This time, at least, Stan's not going to let him go without a fight. "What are you doing later? I get off at seven – we could grab dinner or something."
For a second, Kyle looks like he's going to lie, make up some excuse to get out of it, but Stan can see him change his mind, a look that's purely 'oh, what the hell' forming on his face. "Yeah. Okay. I don't think I'm doing anything else, so."
It stings a little, but at least it's not a no, and Kyle is suddenly leaning over the counter to get paper out of the receipt printer as if he has every right to, and he does, because Stan would never dream of stopping him. Kyle could take all the money out of the register for all Stan cares; he'd use his savings to replace it before anyone found out.
"Do you have a pen?" Kyle asks distractedly, pawing around the register. He finds one before Stan can respond, and he scribbles something down. "Call me when you get off, okay?"
Stan tries not to sound overly enthusiastic when he agrees, tucking Kyle's number into his pocket so he won't lose it, but judging by the little smile that quirks onto Kyle's face, his excitement must be more than obvious. He doesn't care. As long as it doesn't make Kyle reconsider, Stan doesn't really see a point in hiding how he feels. For the first time in forever, his contentment is wavering on the edge of happiness, because this is the opportunity he's been waiting on for years.
And then Kyle's gone, grabbing a bag of pretzels off the rack on his way out, and Stan doesn't stop him. He watches him through the glass door as Kyle meanders through the lines of gas pumps, watches as he starts down the sidewalk, already snacking on his pretzels, gnawing the salt off like he used to.
"Excuse me." The waspish tone snaps Stan out of his trance, and the woman who came in earlier is standing impatiently at the register, her kids climbing on the counter and shoving packs of gum down their shirts. With a heavy sigh, Stan takes his place behind the register, but not without one last glance outside. Kyle's already out of sight, and his number feels heavy in Stan's pocket.
Naturally, the asshole who works the shift after Stan is late, saunters in without so much as an apology, and it's already 7:45 by the time Stan gets into his car. He'd planned on waiting a few minutes before calling, so he wouldn't seem creepily eager. He thought maybe he'd go home, change clothes and freshen up a bit, but now he can't get his phone out of his pocket fast enough. Just as much as he doesn't want to seem too eager, he doesn't want Kyle to think he doesn't care.
He dials Kyle's number with shaking fingers, listens to it ring again and again and again. He's afraid it's going to go to voicemail, but before it does, Kyle picks up, sounding a little dazed, like he has no idea who might be calling him. "Uh – hello?"
"Hey dude," Stan says, voice shaking. He'd hoped that would be enough for Kyle to recognize him, doubled with the fact that he should have been expecting Stan to call anyway, but he doesn't say anything. The only reason Stan knows he hasn't hung up in the steady breathing into the phone, laced with static from the closeness, and Stan wonders if he's lying in bed, phone sandwiched between his head and the pillow.
"It's, uh – it's Stan."
"Stan? Oh." Kyle definitely sounds like he'd been sleeping, and Stan feels a little guilty. Kyle makes a tight, breathy noise in his throat, probably stretching, and Stan hears him shifting around – the same noises Stan used to wake up to when they used to spend the night together. It hits him with a sharp pang of nostalgia, and all he can do is close his eyes and listen.
He hears the bed creak as Kyle sits up, hears some papers rustling around, then, "Oh! Oh, okay. Stan. Hey."
"Hey," Stan says, and he laughs, because he can't remember the last time Kyle was this adorably out of it. Kyle has to be the heaviest sleeper Stan has ever met; he used to mess with Kyle's face, his hair, just to see how far he could push him before Kyle woke up, and it was always a hell of a lot farther than he expected. And when Kyle's eyes did finally pop open, Stan was always convinced that he remained asleep for another good ten minutes or so, even if he was sitting up and talking.
"So," Stan says. "Do you still want to get dinner or something?"
"Oh God, uh." Kyle pauses to take a deep breath, shifting around a little more, and Stan thinks for sure that Kyle is about to turn him down. "Yeah. Yeah, I do. Just give me a few minutes."
Stan didn't realize how worried he'd been until the relief flooded through him like a wave, and it feels like the weight of years' worth of disappointment and loneliness has finally been lifted from his shoulders. He knows he's not safe yet, that tonight could be a complete disaster that would put a permanent end to any lingering friendship they might have. But it's a risk he's been waiting his whole adult life to take, and maybe his judgment is clouded by his endless supply of hopes and fantasies, but he really thinks that they have a chance, that this could work.
"Dude, no problem," Stan says. "Just give me a call when you're ready. Do you want to meet somewhere, or—"
"Can you just come get me? I'm at my parents' house."
"Oh. Sure." Stan had actually thought about offering, but he figured Kyle would want an escape route if things turned sour. He's not at all disappointed to be proven wrong.
"Ten minutes," Kyle says, and then he's gone. Stan tucks his phone back into his pocket with a sigh, wondering if Kyle is as nervous as he is. He must be – there's something about him that Stan can't quite put his finger on, but it's been there since Kyle showed up at the gas station. An inexplicable oddness, something Stan can't quite chalk up to getting older.
Or it's just his nerves talking. Kyle has always been a little different, a little bitchy and demanding, especially with people he didn't know, and Stan supposes he falls into that category now, too. There's no reason for Kyle to be warm and friendly with him because, unlike Stan, Kyle actually moved on. Stan should just consider himself lucky that Kyle agreed to go out with him at all, because he had every reason in the world to say no.
It won't take ten minutes to get to Kyle's house from the gas station, but Stan has nothing else to do, he goes ahead and starts in that direction, trying to make himself drive slowly. It doesn't really work out; between his excitement and the habit of flying down abandoned streets at night, Stan finds himself in Kyle's driveway in roughly five minutes.
It doesn't matter, he decides, as he gets out of the car. This isn't a date, nothing super formal; there's no reason why Stan can't just sit on the couch and wait for him, like he always did. This will only be awkward if they make it awkward, and Stan isn't going to let that happen. He's going to act like no time has passed, like they're still nine years old, naïve and invincible, heads filled with impossible hopes.
It's been years since he's been here, but Stan almost opens the door and lets himself in. He pulls his hand off the doorknob and rings the bell instead, and it feels so cold and uncomfortable. This place used to be a second home; he can't fathom not being allowed in.
When the door creaks open, Stan is just as surprised to see Mrs. Broflovski as she is to see him. He doesn't know why he expected to see Kyle there, ready to bolt out the door, but it seems he hadn't even been downstairs to tell his mom his plans, because she lets out an ecstatic, "Oh, if it isn't little Stanley Marsh! How have you been, dear? Would you like to stay for dinner?" She's visibly older now, stripes of gray swirled into her considerably smaller bun, but her smile is the same.
"Oh, no thanks," Stan says awkwardly. "I'm uh, I'm actually taking Kyle out, so – is he ready?"
Her smile is gone in an instant. "Taking him out," she repeats stiffly. "That's hardly appropriate."
Stan is so confused by her sudden mood swing that he doesn't know how to respond. He manages to stutter out an awkward explanation, that they're just going to catch up, and that only seems to relax her marginally. Stan is rescued from the conversation when Kyle comes bounding down the stairs.
"Stop it, Ma," Kyle says tiredly, pushing past her to get outside. "I'm allowed to have friends."
"Be careful, Bubbie," she says, grabbing his hand and reeling him back in for a hug. She holds onto him for so long that Stan starts to get a little uncomfortable, standing there awkwardly halfway between the porch and his car. They're only going to be gone for an hour or two at most, but she's cupping his face and whispering something against his ear, as if this is the last time she'll ever see him. Stan's eager to leave, and he clears his throat lightly, which catches Kyle attention.
Kyle twists out of her embrace, and he looks more pissed off than embarrassed as he hurries toward Stan's car. Stan expects him to grumble out some kind of apology once they're settled in the car, but Kyle doesn't say a word as Stan pulls away from the curb. Kyle's gazing sullenly out the window, his chin resting on his fist, and Stan can't remember a time when Kyle ever looked so trapped in his presence before.
"So, um," Stan says. "Where do you want to go?"
Kyle jumps a little, startled, and he must be as uncomfortable as Stan is, because he doesn't quite turn to look at him when he responds, "I don't know. Wherever."
Stan drums his fingers on the wheel. "Pizza?"
Kyle shrugs and Stan takes that as a yes, making an abrupt turn into Mr. Garrison's driveway, backing out, and then taking them in the opposite direction.
The drive is awkwardly silent. Stan has to keep reminding himself that Kyle agreed to this, that he must want to be here, but the atmosphere in the car is tense and heavy, as if this were a formal family reunion that they were forced to attend. It's kind of like that, Stan thinks: Kyle's like a distant relative that he used to hang out with all the time, and now they're together again out of obligation, not because they have anything in common.
By the time they pull into the Whistlin' Willy's parking lot, Stan is feeling decidedly less optimistic. Kyle barely acknowledged him the entire drive, unless Stan spoke first, which Kyle seemed to find vaguely startling. But Stan tries to keep his hopes up, announcing a cheery, "Here we are!" as he pulls the key out of the ignition.
Kyle looks around, blinking rapidly, as if pulling himself out of a daze. "Oh. That was fast."
To Stan, it seemed like the longest drive in the world. But he shrugs as he pushes open his door. "Well, my dad taught me how to drive. And you know how he was."
Kyle's laugh seems forced, like he doesn't actually remember Randy's tendency to speed, and Stan has to remind himself once again that he shouldn't take this personally, that he's been the last thing on Kyle's mind for years. But it still hurts, everything down to the blatant space Kyle leaves between them as they walk toward the restaurant.
"Oh god, this place," Kyle says when they get inside. He's rubbing determinedly at his shoulder, grimacing a little, and he glances over at Stan. "I'm not going to whistle."
"You don't have to whistle," Stan confirms. "I don't think they bother adults with that shit anyway."
Kyle nods once, sharply, seemingly satisfied for the moment, and Stan approaches the counter to place their order. They used to always split a medium pepperoni, and Stan decides to go with that, upping the size, and hoping Kyle's tastes haven't changed over the years.
It feels like no time has passed at all as they follow the ritual of picking out cups (Kyle still inspects each one, making sure it's clean before he takes it) and getting their drinks. And then he stands aside, waiting for Stan like he always did, because Stan always picks out where they sit. Some things never change.
Stan finds a table for them that's tucked away in the corner. It's a little loud with the repeated 8-bit tunes blaring from the nearby arcade games, but it's better than sitting in the center of the room, where it feels like everyone is watching. Stan wants to be with Kyle as privately as possible, and this is the only way he can think of.
They sit across from each other at the tiny table, and it feels even worse, because now Stan has nowhere to look but at Kyle. It's still remarkable, how he looks the same at age twenty five as he did at sixteen. He's put on a little weight, his jawbone slightly less defined, a small but noticeable pudge at his waist when he sits. But he's still the same, he's Kyle, and Stan doesn't realize he's staring until it's too late, when Kyle arches an eyebrow and demands, "What?"
Stan jerks back, flustered. "Nothing, just – you look good. The same, I mean."
Kyle's scowl softens into something just short of a smile, that subtly affectionate look that Kyle used to give him when Kyle was most exasperated, and that hurts even more. "Well, thank you. I suppose." After a distinct pause, he adds, "You're mostly the same, too. You look tired, I guess. Scruffy."
"Old?" Stan supplies, rubbing self-consciously at the uneven stubble smattered across his face. He's used to putting hygiene on the back burner, often going two or three days without showering, shaving maybe once a week. He had no one to get ready for, no one to impress; a lame ass job at a gas station didn't require the most well-kept of employees, so Stan had admittedly let himself go a bit.
"No," Kyle says, rolling his eyes. "Tired and scruffy, like I said. You need a nap and a shave."
"Oh, I see." Stan drags out his response, looking for something else to comment on while they wait for their pizza. "That shoulder bothering you?" he asks, because Kyle's been rubbing at it periodically since they sat down.
"No." He sighs, sliding his hand away from it. "A little. It's nothing."
Kyle doesn't offer any further explanation and Stan doesn't push. It's only a short time later that a waitress who, thankfully, isn't dressed up as Whistlin' Willy, arrives with their pizza and a couple of plates. They grab a couple of pieces each to start with, and Stan's too hungry to worry about the silence now. He hasn't eaten much all day, only picked at his sandwich during his break, too nervous about this meet up to even think about eating. But it's caught up to him, and he feels confident enough now that Kyle isn't about to bolt any second.
It's been tense, but it feels like it's getting better. Kyle's closed off, distant, but Stan can easily imagine them reforging their friendship. This evening seems to be going well enough, Kyle seems content, and Stan doesn't know what he was so worried about. They were best friends for a reason, and that reason was that they just clicked.
There's still an untouched slice on Kyle's plate when he reaches for his second, and his third. When he goes in for a fourth, from the side that he's apparently claimed as his own, Stan reaches over and plucks the ignored piece off his plate. "This one not good enough for you?" he asks, taking a bite.
Kyle seems simultaneously confused and frustrated, but he shrugs it off, sighing. "No, it's all yours."
It feels like he did something wrong, that he pushed too far too fast, but an apology seems weird, too formal, so he lets it go. They're silent again, but it seems heavier, a little less comfortable.
Kyle takes a couple of pills when he's finished, digging them out of his jeans pocket and slipping them between his lips with a subtlety that would have worked on anyone but Stan. He notices everything about Kyle, he always has, which is why he's slightly shocked that it took him this long to realize that Kyle has a ring on his finger.
"Dude," Stan says, as Kyle pulls his hand away from his mouth. The thin, gold band blinks in the dim lighting before it's hidden under the table once more. "You're married?"
Kyle looks up at him, surprised. "Oh." He smiles, just a little, lifting his hand and twisting the ring. It looks like it's such a natural thing for him to do, something he does constantly, which means he's probably been wearing that ring for a long time. Stan doesn't know why he's disappointed, or even surprised. Kyle's a great guy once you get to know him; of course some bright little Ivy League girl snatched him up.
"Engaged," Kyle says, and his smile brightens, though suddenly he's not meeting Stan's gaze.
"She uh – gave you a ring?"
"He," Kyle says simply, and somehow that feels like the biggest betrayal of all. It doesn't matter that they haven't spoken in years, that they haven't been friends – if Kyle were interested in men, if Kyle were going to marry a man, it should have been Stan.
Stan's cheeks flush in a hurt, unreasonable rage, because he claimed Kyle: They only had fifteen minutes in a high school bathroom stall, but he kissed Kyle's neck when he wasn't allowed Kyle's lips, and he left marks against his collarbone. He still remembers every inch of Kyle's body, the way his dick felt in his mouth, the way he tasted, the jut of his hipbones and the sweaty curve of his spine. He remembers holding Kyle close, as tight as he could, even as the reality of what they had done started to hit Kyle, and he began to push out of Stan's embrace.
"Dude, I'm straight." That's all he said, shaking wildly as he yanked up his pants. "I'm straight, okay? I'm straight."
And then it was over, and so was their friendship.
Not so fucking straight after all.
Stan had never been sure of his sexuality either, especially not back in high school. But when Stan wanted something, he pursued it, even if the reasons behind it weren't clear. He didn't even realize he'd been blindly chasing Kyle until he cornered him in the hallway that day, and they had argued, and then Stan was kissing him, hard and rough and desperate, and Kyle had clamped against him, kissing him back with a growl rumbling in the back of his throat.
Stan doesn't remember who led whom to that bathroom stall, who locked them in, but over the years he'd convinced himself it was Kyle. He doesn't know now, he really doesn't, but Kyle is looking at him with a vague confusion written across his features, as if he really has no fucking clue why Stan isn't congratulating him.
"Wow, dude, that's great." It comes out flatly, but it's the best Stan can do. It'd be different if it were a girl; Stan thinks he could actually be kind of happy for Kyle if it were a girl, because it would just validate the last thing Kyle had said to him. But this was different. This meant Stan hadn't been good enough, that he had done something wrong; that another guy had been able to win Kyle over in a way Stan hadn't been capable of.
It's not Kyle's fault that Stan ended up staying in South Park, wasting away while all of his friends moved on with their lives. But right now, it feels like it is. Because if Kyle hadn't run away from him, if they had become friends again, or if they even started dating, maybe that would have motivated Stan to follow Kyle to college, to stay as close to him as possible. Stan wasn't whole without Kyle, and even though they've been awkward at best tonight, it feels like Stan has woken from a coma that's lasted since they first started drifting apart. Kyle's very presence motivates him, encourages him, makes him feel a contentedness that nothing else can. And now, Kyle makes someone else feel that way.
Even worse, someone else makes Kyle feel that way, and Stan feels like he's going to be sick.
"Really great," he says, swallowing down the lump in his throat. He wishes he hadn't eaten so much, because it's turned into a white hot acid in his stomach. "Uh – what's his name?"
"Richard." There's a little sigh to it, like a swooning high school girl, and more than ever, Stan wants to go back in time and fix everything, because somehow he fucked this up. If he hadn't been so depressed in elementary school, if he hadn't turned into such a dick in middle school, if he had just stepped down and let Kyle win all of their fights, if he'd tried to contact Kyle sooner, maybe they'd be sitting here as a couple instead of strangers.
It's not fair. Stan didn't realize how much hope he'd placed in this night; didn't intend for it to be a date by any means – he thought he'd given up all romantic hopes of any kind a long time ago. But this new information is bearing down on him crushingly, a heavy weight of despair, because his life is irreparably ruined. Even Kyle's mom must approve of this Richard asshole, since she acted like it was such a scandal for Kyle to go out with someone else, and that realization just adds salt to the wound. There used to be no one Mrs. Broflovski approved of more than Stan. But it had all changed without Stan even realizing it.
He was the one to stay behind, to keep living the same life, but his entire world had gotten flipped upside down while he stood blindly in the midst of it all, hands over his ears, pretending he was still a kid.
"I'm happy for you, dude," he says, and the arcade music must have covered the waver in his voice, because Kyle smiles.
"Thanks," he says. "I'm really happy."
And that was the moment Stan knew for sure that he'd never be happy again. He'd fake a smile for as long as he had to, he'd even attend Kyle's wedding, if he were actually invited, but he couldn't be truly happy, or even content, in a world where someone else had taken the one thing he'd ever really cared about; the one person who had ever cared about Stan, however briefly.
He looks up at Kyle, who's smiling down at his ring, lost in another world. And looking at him, Stan's in another world, too: one where he's the only person who can make Kyle smile like that.