I wrote this for Domofo for South Park Secret Santa, which was hosted on LJ as spsecretsanta.
Domofo requested hipster Kyle, which was an idea I absolutely fell in love with, so I had to try it.
Also this is incredibly cheesy, I'm sorry
Being on time is overrated. At least, that's what Kyle always claims. It sends Stan into a mild state of panic every morning, but Kyle always manages to show up right as the bus is pulling up, sometimes with perfect enough timing to step right on as soon as the door swings open without breaking his stride.
This morning is no different. Stan had arrived at the bus stop 15 minutes early, as had been his habit since elementary school. The snow almost touches Stan's knees, leaving him shivering despite his boots and heavy jeans. When he takes his usual spot next to the bus sign, Kenny and Cartman are already in their usual places. Cartman has a huge, gooey cinnamon roll in one hand, which he takes large bites of every chance he gets. Kenny is waxing poetic about the glorious globes that hang from Liane Cartman's chest, and after every comment Cartman has to stop chewing and gag dramatically.
All in all, it's a pretty ordinary morning.
On general principle, Stan refuses to take part in any of Kenny's 'Babe of the Week' discussions, so he occupies himself with his phone, pretending to text. He's probably the only kid in South Park without a smart phone. Even Kenny has one, which still boggles Stan's mind.
He contemplates texting Kyle for real, rather than sending gibberish key smashes to himself. He knows he's awake, since it takes Kyle a good thirty to forty-five minutes to get ready these days, but getting a response is unlikely. Kyle takes his routines seriously, religiously, and he has no time to sit around and text while he tries to pick out the perfect stylishly mismatched outfit. Whatever he wears, Stan just hopes it's practical. Kyle's had a boner for blank, cheap-looking canvas shoes since the day he discovered them (Stan thinks they're particularly ugly, especially given the price, but Kyle claims they're for a good cause or something), and while cloth shoes are okay for summer, wearing them in the aftermath of a blizzard probably isn't the best idea.
"Where is your little girlfriend, Stan?" Cartman croons, cutting off Kenny's sentence about what he'd like to do with Liane's boobs, complete with a dramatic thrusting motion.
"Dude, shut up." Carman is so fixated on calling Kyle Stan's "girlfriend" that it's almost pointless to fight back. "He'll be here."
"He better," Kenny says. "I don't know how I'll survive if I can't watch you guys like, eye-fuck each other all day."
Cartman retches theatrically once more. "Sick! Kenny! I'm trying to eat!"
Kenny's attention turns back to Cartman. "When aren't you eating, fat ass?"
Then they're back to bickering, and Stan tunes them out. At least they're not talking about boobs anymore; Stan lost all interest in that particular topic several years ago. His new preference isn't much of a secret, and so far the only side effect has been an increase in jokes about him and Kyle fucking at their sleepovers. Which (unfortunately) hasn't happened.
Stan hops in place, trying to bring some feeling back into his numb feet. He can't wait for the bus to show up – and it should any second now – but there's still no sign of Kyle. Stan's morning panic is starting to set in – what if Kyle misses the bus? Should he wait? Or should he just get on without him? Kyle would be pissed if he had to walk to school alone, and Stan really doesn't want to spend the rest of the day hearing about what a huge dick he is.
There's a loud hiccup of exhaust as the bus starts to pull up, and Stan looks frantically in the opposite direction. Finally, Kyle appears, strolling carelessly down the sidewalk with a steaming Starbucks cup in his hand. A huge pair of headphones cover his ears. He's bundled up appropriately from the waist up, with a thick black coat, which undoubtedly covers some plaid, flannel monstrosity. A warm-looking green scarf hangs loosely around his neck. Just as Stan feared, he's wearing those dumb canvas shoes, along with a stupidly thin, tight pair of jeans, darkened and wet at the hems from tromping through the snow. His iPod is in his free hand and he's staring at it intently, not even slightly concerned that the bus is sitting there waiting, or that he should be technically freezing his ass off.
Kenny and Cartman have already boarded, the bus dipping slightly under Cartman's added weight. Stan, however, lingers at the door, one foot on the step and one foot on the sidewalk, to keep it from leaving.
"Dude, come on," he tries uselessly. It's more for the bus driver's benefit, because he knows Kyle's headphones prevent him from hearing anything.
Kyle takes his time, and Stan flashes an apologetic smile to the bus driver when Kyle finally makes his way onboard. "I'm sorry, we're really sorry, he's sorry," Stan explains, and he pushes Kyle toward their usual backseat as the door swings closed.
"Dude," Stan says when they're settled in, the bus beginning to roll toward the high school. Kyle lifts one earphone curiously, as if he's surprised that someone is trying to talk to him. Stan pulls them off his head entirely. "What the hell is so important that you can't be bothered to take them off for a bit?" He slides the headphones on and listens. What comes out of the speakers is a weird mix of something like country and opera, offset by low-quality record scratches. Stan doesn't even have a chance to comment before Kyle yanks the headphones away.
"Ugh, you wouldn't understand," Kyle says. Nevertheless, he pauses the music and tucks his iPod into his pocket, leaving the headphones around his neck.
Kyle straightens his hat, a gray, threadbare beanie, pulling down a few red curls in the front. Stan smiles fondly and shakes his head. Even at age seventeen, Kyle's as self-conscious about his hair as ever. He keeps it trimmed close at the sides, so he can easily hide the bulk of his curls under virtually any hat, but he doesn't seem to mind showing it off "artistically."
"So." Stan nudges him, grinning. "What are you drinking?"
"Ah – a Cinnamon Dolce Caffè Americano, triple ristretto, with light soy milk."
"It's divine," Kyle sighs. He takes a sip and shivers delightedly, eyes fluttering closed behind thick glasses.
Stan is content to watch him. Kyle's become so quirky ever since he decided to take up art. As a freshman, Kyle had signed up for an introduction to economics elective. The day before classes started, the economic teacher was in a freak skydiving accident – the details were never revealed but, seeing as the teacher never came back, Stan assumed they crash-landed on some pointy rocks – and the class was temporarily replaced with a drawing course. There were no qualified artists in South Park (not that qualification was needed, according to the Mayor) so the class, and all the former economic students, was entrusted to Mr. Garrison.
He had retired from full time teaching several years prior, though he was never fully gone. He substituted here and there as needed, occasionally taking over a class entirely if a teacher took a maternity leave or ran away screaming. It seemed that every time Stan and Kyle thought they had finally seen the last of him, he would end up forced back into their lives.
According to Kyle, the semester started with Mr. Garrison handing out some typing paper and crayons and telling them to "do a little liberal hippie doodle" about how they felt being "trapped in this pointless excuse for a class." From there, somehow, Kyle thrived.
A drawing class hadn't been offered at South Park High since, but Kyle had taken to teaching himself. Stan knew Kyle had spent a lot of time online, reading tutorials and researching artists. In the midst of this came Kyle's transformation. He slowly began to dress differently, talk differently, taking interest in the artistic value of the mundane, like billboards and graffiti. He began carrying around a sketchbook everywhere he went, drawing his surroundings, soaking in every detail and breaking it apart into its simplest form.
Even now, he's placing his Starbucks cup between his thighs and pulling out a well-used sketchbook, flipping to a new page. There's a pencil tucked behind his ear, as always. He pulls it out, twirling it thoughtfully between his fingers.
Stan relaxes into his seat, watching as Kyle begins to rough out shapes; quick gestures of profiles, laughing faces. They're far from realistic. Most of Kyle's sketches have are cartoony, disproportionate, even a little childish. In many ways, they're wholly unappealing, though Stan thinks they have a certain charm.
"So," Kyle says. He's scribbling a bunch of circles, one on top of the other, over and over, into a shape that's starting to vaguely resemble Cartman's face. "I have this idea. For a sculpture."
"I didn't know you could sculpt."
"I do – I will. But I need you to do me a favor."
That makes Stan a little nervous. "What kind of favor?"
Last time, Kyle asked him to pose nude for anatomy practice. It had been terrifying, thrilling. Stan stood for two hours in Kyle's room, completely exposed, as Kyle orbited around him, sketching his body from all angles. It was also the first time that Stan had to face the fact that he wanted Kyle in ways that weren't fully innocent. Kyle's sharp, attentive gaze, the way his hand glided over his sketchpad – it was painfully arousing. Stan had to concentrate so carefully (and take frequent breaks) to keep from actually getting hard in front of Kyle.
"Nothing horrible. Just like, any mashed potatoes you get at lunch – give them to me."
It is kind of a horrible request, actually, since Stan looks forward to mashed potato days more than anything. He's also not entirely convinced that this is for some greater art purpose, since Kyle generally likes to help himself to anything on Stan's tray.
"Why?" he asks, defensive.
Kyle sighs, looking up from his sketchbook for the first time. He peers at Stan seriously from over the rim of his glasses. "For my sculpture, Stan."
"You need mashed potatoes."
"For a sculpture."
"Yes, Stan, ugh. Are you going to help or not?"
"I'll help, I'll help." It's not like he has much of a choice. Stan always ends up doing anything Kyle asks, no matter what it is.
"Thank you!" Kyle's smiling again, and he goes back to sketching. "I'll think you'll like this one, Stan. It focuses on the constant, unseen war raging within ourselves; the clash of lust and love, where they meet, how they differ. One is constantly pulling us toward primal urges while the other is gentle and quiet. They're so different, but when there's balance, they can come together to make a beautiful thing. And that's my sculpture."
"It's an avant-garde medium, Stanley. You wouldn't understand."
Stan snorts, turning his attention out the window. They're just a few minutes away from school, and Stan's heart sinks. They don't have many classes together due to all of Kyle's advanced placement courses, so Stan takes all his Kyle time very seriously.
"My house or yours?" he asks, though there's really no need for clarification. They still spend the night at each other's houses every Friday, deciding on a whim more than they take turns.
"Mine," Kyle says. "I need the time in my studio, if you don't mind." He calls his room his "studio" now, and it certainly looks like one. "Especially if we get some potatoes."
"We can stop by KFC on the way home and pick some up."
Kyle tucks his pencil back behind his ear. "Only if you're buying."
He picks up his coffee just in time as the bus screeches to a stop in front of the high school, causing them to jerk forward in their seats. Once he regains his balance, Kyle closes up his sketchbook and stuffs it back in his bag. There's a kid crying on the floor, having been launched out of his seat. Stan and Kyle casually step over him on their way out.
They stop by KFC on the way home, as planned, and Stan grudgingly buys the potatoes.
"Consider it a Hanukkah gift," Kyle says, waving off Stan's annoyance. "Since you haven't gotten me anything."
Stan snorts. He's carrying the two paper KFC sacks against his chest, carefully balancing the twenty containers of mashed potatoes within. "I'm not sure if I owe you eight gifts a year. You usually only give me one."
"That's because Christmas is only one day. You have to respect my religion, Stan."
Stan's not sure if Kyle even respects his own religion, though he seems to grow extra fond of his Jewishness during the wintertime – a trend that started when they entered high school. He loves playing it up, talking about it vaguely, yet enticingly enough to trick someone into asking him about it. And when they do, he responds with what seem to be his favorite answers: "Google it," or "You wouldn't understand."
When they get to Kyle's house, Kyle darts past his mom with barely a hello, taking the stairs two at a time and yelling for Stan to hurry. Stan can't help it – he pauses uncomfortably in the doorway, still clinging to the sacks, and smiles politely at Mrs. Broflovski.
"Uh, hi – I'm just going to help him with the uh, potato thing."
"Ugh, yes, the potato thing." Mrs. Broflovski rolls her eyes, flapping her hand as if to wave away Kyle's weirdness. It's a gesture Kyle unknowingly mimics from time to time, and Stan smiles. "Be a dear and make sure he doesn't smash any into the carpet, would you?"
"And try to distract him, if you can. All he talks about lately are potatoes and primal urges – he's on the verge of a breakdown! You can only stare at potatoes for so long before you lose your mind! Get him to play a video game, be a normal little boy for once."
Stan's already moving toward the stairs. "I'll try," he promises.
"Of course you will." Then she's heading back toward the kitchen. "Oh, I have so much to do!" she exclaims, and Stan isn't sure if she's still talking to him, but he didn't come over to listen to her talk. She goes on about all the preparations she has to make for the evening's Hanukkah festivities, the food she has to cook, and Stan quietly makes his way up the stairs.
Kyle's sitting on his bed, arms crossed, when Stan enters the room. "About time," he remarks.
Stan ignores him in favor of looking around. Kyle's room is a little different every time he sees it. The bed remains unchanged since elementary school, even down to the old, purple comforter; other than that, everything is unrecognizable. Tattered sketchbooks are piled on every flat surface, even under and around the bed. The old, blue color of the walls is barely visible, as some of Kyle's paintings seem to have inspired him beyond the canvas. Abstract, rainbow swirls and splatters of color now adorned each surface.
Four easels line one wall, on top of a bright green tarp that's covered in paint splatters, a different canvas on each one: strange, in-progress paintings, ranging from a close-up of a blue eye to increasingly abstract renditions. A drafting table at the foot of his bed is covered in sketches, with reference photos taped along the top edge. In a corner near the door is a still life, a careful arrangement of plastic fruits and – is that a dildo? – in a large ceramic bowl.
Currently, the focal point of the room is directly in the middle: a flimsy-looking stand that Kyle clearly made himself out of an old easel and a piece of plywood, on top of which is a crusty pile of potatoes.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Kyle asks, moving to Stan's side. "It's not done, obviously, but it has such potential already."
"I – yeah. Yeah." Stan pauses to place the KFC bags on the floor. "Uh – what is it, exactly?"
"I told you. It's the dichotomy of love and lust."
Stan squints, tilting his head. It still looks like a pile of potatoes. "Right. I see it now."
Kyle shrugs off his coat, rolls up the sleeves of his flannel shirt, and cracks his knuckles. "I see it, too," Kyle whispers dreamily. He makes his fingers into a viewfinder and peers through them, sighing. "Yes – yes, I see everything. Give me one of those containers."
It takes a moment for Kyle's request to process, then Stan jerks into action, fetching one of the potato containers and pulling the lid off before depositing it into Kyle's waiting hand. From there, he can only watch, fascinated, as Kyle digs the mush out with his fingers, letting it fall in a squishy blob onto his sculpture. The container gets carelessly dropped to the floor, and Kyle holds out his hand again. "Another."
They go on like this until Kyle empties seven containers, which now litter the floor near his feet. He starts squishing the mountain of potatoes around with his hands, trying to shape it. After several minutes of this, Stan doesn't notice much of a change.
"Wanna play video games?" he asks.
"Shh! I'm concentrating!"
It's annoying; Stan wants to be pissed at him, but he's captivated by how absorbed Kyle is in his work. The furrow of his brow, the way he's holding his bottom lip between his teeth. A few more curls have escaped his hat, dangling in front of his eyes, and he tosses his head every now and then so he can see. He has potatoes smeared all the way up to his elbows, a little blob of it on his cheek. Despite himself, Stan wants to capture this moment, cup it in his hands and hide it – it's so rare to see Kyle this endearingly unguarded.
He doesn't speak again, for fear of breaking Kyle's concentration, but he can't stop himself from moving behind Kyle and resting his trembling hands on Kyle's hips.
Kyle freezes, just for a second, peering over his shoulder. "Dude?"
"Keep going," Stan urges, quietly. "I'm just watching."
Their new position is weird at best, and Stan knows it. But from this angle, he can see what Kyle sees, and that feels strangely intimate. If Kyle's hands had been shaking earlier, Stan hadn't noticed. They have a definite tremor when Kyle goes back to sculpting the potatoes.
He doesn't work for much longer. By the time he stops, the blob has turned into something that looks sort of intentional. Stan figures that's a step in the right direction.
"Looks good, dude," he says. It's not entirely a lie; this is so weird, so uniquely Kyle that Stan can't help but like it.
Kyle stands up fully, reaching his arms above his head to pop his back, a motion which causes him to lean against Stan's chest a little. "I know." He drops his arms, laying his potato-crusted hands on top of Stan's, which are still holding his hips. The filmy potato residue between their skin should be a bit of a turn off, but the warmth of their hands together is enough to keep it from bothering Stan. "This is like, my breakthrough. I think I'm going to start calling galleries in Denver, try to pitch the idea."
"Yeah. You should."
They stand there for a moment. Stan doesn't want to move, and maybe Kyle doesn't either, but a heavy, awkward feeling is settling over them. Stan finally takes a step back, pulling his hands away.
"So," he prompts, and Kyle turns to face him. Maybe it's Stan's imagination, but he looks a little disappointed. "You done with it for tonight?"
"For now. I might work on it more later." Kyle rubs his hands together, pieces of potato flaking off and falling to the floor. "But my back hurts – I need a break."
"I could give you a massage. If you want." Stan's hands instinctively drift to Kyle's shoulders, squeezing them a little.
He doesn't exactly expect him to agree, but Kyle's already leaning into his hands. "God. Yes. I need one so bad."
They end up on the bed, Stan's knees digging into the old mattress as he straddles Kyle's waist. It's tempting to sit down on him completely, to feel the heat of Kyle's skin against his thighs, but Stan can't bring himself to do it. He hovers there, balancing himself with his hands on Kyle's back, working slowly at the tightened muscles through Kyle's shirt.
"You shouldn't hunch over like that for so long," Stan comments as he rubs at a particularly tight knot with his thumb.
"It's the sacrifice I'm willing to make for my art." Kyle's voice is soft, muffled against his pillow.
Stan smiles. It's weird; he'll never fully understand Kyle's love of art, but there's something about his devotion to it that warms Stan to the core, makes him want to lay down on top of Kyle and just feel him breathe.
He slides his hands down Kyle's back, following the curve of his spine, and he dares to slip his fingers under the hem of Kyle's shirt, touching his skin. Kyle shivers.
"Your fingers are cold," he whispers.
All Stan hears is a formal invitation for him to shove his hands up Kyle's shirt completely, pressing his icy palms against warm, vulnerable skin, and that's exactly what he does. Kyle yells, startled, squirming against the bed and he tries in vain to escape Stan's freezing touch.
Stan ends up fully on top of him somehow, holding Kyle down with his weight, and Kyle's kicking his legs wildly.
"Dude! Get off, oh my god, you're such a dick!"
Stan's laughing over Kyle's protests, tickling up and down Kyle's sides. He only stops when Kyle is gasping for breath, taking pity on him.
"Such a dick," Kyle repeats breathlessly. Stan presses his face against Kyle's shoulder, smiling against him.
He almost falls asleep like that, the warmth of Kyle's skin against his face, but Kyle grunts, arching his back.
"Sorry." Stan rolls off him, settling at Kyle's side. It's not that late – they haven't even eaten dinner yet – but suddenly it feels like it's the middle of the night. They usually don't lay this close to each other unless they're half asleep, too tired to care about how they look, and Stan feels like he should move away to preserve their normalcy. But he can't make himself do it, not quite yet. Kyle has turned to face him, their noses just inches apart.
"Do you really like my sculpture?" Kyle asks quietly.
"I love it, dude."
Kyle smiles, his eyes sliding closed. "Good."
Stan watches his face for a long moment; he can tell Kyle isn't actively trying to fall asleep, but Kyle seems to want him to believe it. It's moments like this, when they're in bed together, that Kyle seems like he hasn't changed at all. During the day, he acts so differently from the Kyle Stan grew up with, with his newfound love of music, fashion, and complicated coffee orders. But all of that fades away when they curl up like this. It's like they're eight years old again, huddling up together under the blankets for warmth, hardly aware that it could mean anything more.
The only difference is that Stan wants it to mean more, wants to lean over and kiss Kyle while he's sleeping, wants to be able to hold him close while he rambles about his art and things that Stan has probably never heard of.
They stay in bed until Kyle's mom calls them down for dinner, and Stan watches the Hanukkah festivities with detached interest. They play video games afterward, finally, and it's nearly 4 A.M. before they head back up to Kyle's room for the night.
They wrap their legs together under the blankets, as always. Stan hooks an arm around Kyle's waist, and they fall asleep like that, shifting closer until their foreheads touch. Stan's last coherent thought is that he wants this for the rest of his life.
The week before winter break is always the longest, but Kyle helps Stan through it, going over to Stan's house every day to help him study for his tests. Stan's grudgingly grateful for it, as always; he'd rather hang out when Kyle comes over, but his feelings change completely when he gets to see his midterm grades.
Then they're free, a full week to themselves before Christmas. Stan would prefer to spend that week with just Kyle, yet somehow they end up stuck with Kenny and Cartman. Which isn't entirely bad, but it means Kyle's attention is divided. The four of them have fun together, regardless; building snowmen, having snowball wars, and ice skating on the frozen surface of Stark's Pond.
The mood is a little dampened when Kenny falls through the ice on Christmas Eve, and they spend so long laughing at him that they don't realize that it takes him too long to resurface. When he does float back up, he's face down and lifeless, and Stan and Kyle leave in a daze; it feels like the best thing to do is just pretend nothing happened. Cartman stays behind to fish him out, muttering something like, "Goddamnit, Kenny, not again," though Stan isn't sure what to make of that.
He and Kyle spend their last hour of Christmas Eve together, sitting on the curb midway between their houses. A streetlight above them glows softly as the last remnants of sunlight fade, and they're just talking, snow drifting down around them. Kyle's in no hurry to get home, but Stan's parents want him back by 6:00 for dinner and one early present (it's usually pajamas or a T-shirt, but Stan acts surprised every year).
"So," Kyle says. He's toeing at the snow that's piled along the edge of the street, making designs in it. "What time should I come over tomorrow and drop off your present?"
Stan glances at him, surprised. Kyle isn't meeting his eyes; his chin is buried in the fringy infinity scarf that's piled high around his neck, his gaze fixed on the street. It's pretty normal for Kyle to be a few days early or late with his gift for Stan; Stan can't remember a single year that he got something from Kyle on Christmas Day.
"Uh, whenever, dude," Stan replies. "Probably afternoon, though."
Kyle makes a soft sound of acknowledgment. He tilts his head back, looking up at the sky, the soft yellow light from the streetlamp reflecting in his glasses. Stan can't tell what he's thinking, but Kyle looks so delicate in this light, snowflakes clinging to the visible ends of hair poking out from his hat.
"Hey," Stan says gently. He leans against Kyle, nudging him with his shoulder. "What's up?"
"I'm just thinking. It's nothing."
Stan's concerned anyway, but he doesn't push. Their conversation shifts to school, graduation, how they're going to pick a college they can both get into. It's a familiar conversation, one that they've had over and over. Stan finds it comforting, and he thinks maybe Kyle does, too.
Kyle gets up half an hour later, brushing the snow off his skinny jeans. "I'll see you tomorrow, dude. Have a merry Christmas."
"You too," Stan replies automatically, scrambling to his feet.
Kyle laughs, waving off the sentiment, and Stan wants to kiss him.
"Goodnight, Stan." Kyle touches his shoulder, and then he turns, shoves his hands in his pockets, and starts making his way home.
The night feels a little colder after that.
All Stan can think about on Christmas day is Kyle, when he'll be coming over, what he'll bring. Stan usually knows way in advance what Kyle's going to get him, because Kyle is shit at keeping secrets, but this year he has no idea.
He's already gotten the obligatory 'Merry Christmas' text message from Cartman, Kenny, Wendy, and a few others – nothing from Kyle. It's not surprising; he's probably embracing the chance to sleep in.
Even so, Stan keeps his phone with him all day, checking it periodically. It's well after lunchtime when Stan starts to think that maybe Kyle had forgotten, or that he didn't finish up his present in time and it would be late after all.
He has that vague, panicky feeling, like the one he gets every day at the bus stop. Even as his parents and relatives sit around and talk, laughing amongst themselves, Stan keeps glancing at the clock. Wondering, hoping. He thinks about sending Kyle a text, just to check up on him, when there's a soft, barely audible knock at the door.
Stan leaps out of his spot next to uncle Jimbo, earning a startled, "Woah, Stanley, where's the fire?"
"It's probably diarrhea," Randy remarks. "All that fucking food." He nonchalantly takes another swig of beer as Sharon chastises him.
Stan, however, is all but oblivious to the commotion behind him, as he eagerly opens the door for Kyle, who's dressed artistically, elaborately, and smiling wide. "Hey dude, come out here for a sec."
Stan thinks he looks a little dumb in comparison, in his oversized Christmas sweater, baggy jeans, and reindeer patterned socks. But it's just Kyle, and Stan doesn't have time to be embarrassed. He shoves his feet into a pair of boots by the door and hurries outside, pulling the door closed behind him. He feels weirdly delirious with excitement – this feels huge for some reason. He follows Kyle around the corner of the house.
There, sitting on a pedestal in the snowy side yard, is the potato sculpture. It's changed since the last time Stan saw it: It's bigger, crustier; a perfectly round base with little mounds on top of it, swirling designs carved into it with a fingertip.
"Merry Christmas!" Kyle chimes, throwing his hands up triumphantly.
Stan looks between Kyle and the sculpture, confused. "You're, uh, – you're giving this to me?" He doesn't know what he'll do with it – it's not even edible at this point.
"Yeah, dude!" Kyle seems proud of himself. His cheeks flushed with a mixture of cold and mirth, and it melts Stan's heart.
"I thought you were going to try to get it in a gallery? I don't want to take that away from you."
Kyle sighs, shoving his hands into his pockets. He's quiet for a second, chewing on his lip, before drawing in a shuddering breath. "Look, I don't know, I wouldn't have had this idea if it weren't for you."
Stan's heartbeat picks up, hammering against his chest. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know shit about lust, or love, or how they work together or any of that. I've never felt any of it." Kyle shrugs, offering a shaky smile. "Until you, I guess. This is about you, dude. I didn't know what I felt, not at first, I just wanted to work out my feelings through my art. And this is it."
Stan stares at him, stunned. He doesn't know how to respond; he isn't sure what Kyle's trying to tell him, and he's too afraid to assume.
"I guess I just – I just thought it'd be symbolic, you know?" Kyle stutters, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "That I'm like, giving this to you. It's for you, everything you make me feel."
There's nothing Stan can say. His throat feels like it's completely sealed up, so he responds in the only way he can. He scoops Kyle into his arms, holding him as tight as he can, breathing him in. Kyle clings back immediately, fisting the sides of Stan's sweater. Stan can feel him trembling.
"Thank you," Stan manages, quiet and strained. "This is – thank you."
They hold each other for a long time, and Stan feels so warm, so at home. It's a feeling he'll be able to have any time he wants. He'll keep the potato sculpture for as long as it lasts, until it crumbles and rots away; he'll be sad when that happens, but what he gained this Christmas goes beyond the tangible – it's something that will last for the rest of his life.
When he pulls back from their embrace to stare into Kyle's eyes, he's once again hit with the overwhelming urge to kiss him. And this time, there's nothing holding him back.