"Stan?" he could now hear coming from upstairs. "Stan, my boy?"
Randy finally appeared, leisurely walking down the stairs from the washroom, a coffee mug in his hand. Stan stood there, Kyle by his side, both in shock and fearful of his father's next words. "Your mother and I have talked about it…" he started, averting his eyes until finally resting on Stan's. "—And we've decided that we'd like to travel across Europe!" Both Stan and Kyle went wide-eyed, mouth agape. Randy continued. "We figured we needed a getaway just the two of us so we can work on our issues. But we'll be back in a couple weeks. Your mother was just on the phone with Kyle's, and she said it was alright if you stayed at their house while we're away."
"Du-ude! Sweet!" Kyle looked over to Stan and patted his shoulder in excitement.
Stan's mother, Sharon, was now making her way down the stairs to join everyone. Stan stood with his mouth still parted.
"Wait, so you're not getting a divorce?"
"Goodness, no," assured Sharon. "We may fight, but we love each other very much.
Randy put a loving arm around his wife's waist. "That's right, son. And we apologize if our fighting has caused you some grief. But we promise that it'll get better. We're going to be making lots of changes around here. We're going to be a family again."
"Are you shitting me right now?" scorn dripped from Stan's tongue.
"Language, young man!" retorted Sharon, appalled by her son's choice of words. "Now I hope you won't be using such profanities at the Broflovski's. You know how Sheila is, Stanley." She paused for a moment. "And if you're wondering, your sister Shelly will be staying with her boyfriend, so if you need to get a hold of her, you have her cellphone number, right?"
After all the fuss of the past month, the inner turmoil, the sleepless nights, the nightmares, Stan couldn't believe what he was hearing. One whole month he had felt like shit, thinking his parents didn't love him, that they were getting a divorce and that he'd have to leave South Park… just to be told that they're going on vacation?! My parents are fucking retarded, he thought to himself before replying, "Yes, mom."
"Good. We love you so much, Stanley." Sharon kissed his forehead. "And Kyle," she continued, now converting her attention to the other boy, "Take good care of him while we're gone, okay?"
"Will do, Mrs. Marsh!" Kyle spoke with a teeth-bearing grin.
"Come on, Sharon," Randy interrupted, but with a tender tone of voice. "We have a plane to catch in three hours, and you know how Denver traffic is."
With that, Stan's parents picked up their luggage and rolled it outside to their car. After finally getting it all to fit in the trunk and backseat, they got into their respective seats, buckled their seat belts and began backing out of the driveway, honking the horn at the two boys before driving off.
Stan and Kyle stood in the doorway.
"Dude," Kyle started. "That turned out better than expected, huh?"
It took a few minutes for Stan to come to terms with everything he had just witnessed. But despite his parents' erratic behaviour, their ignorance, and all the subsequent bullshit emotional drama he had to endure for the past while, it finally sunk in. Hopefully now he'd be able to move past his constant sadness. Maybe the buzzing would stop, and the nerves would go away, all while getting to spend quality time with his best friend. "Yeah, I guess so." Stan snorted, a smirk eventually appearing on his face.
"So what did you wanna do now?"
Stan took a breath in relief. "Let's call up Kenny and Cartman and go throw the football around at the park."
"I'm open, I'm open!" shouted Kenny. Kyle threw the ball to his teammate who quickly made a touchdown.
"Cartman, what the hell?! You're supposed to tackle the opponents when they have the ball," Stan directed angrily at the chubby boy, who was off near the sidelines, snacking on a bag of Cheesy Poofs.
"Oh, my bad," Cartman spewed, mouth full of orange sludge.
"Get your ass back in the game, fat boy!"
"Aye! Don't call me fat, butt-fucker. I'll kick you in the nuts!"
"I'd like to see you come over here and try."
That was enough incentive to get Cartman back on the field, so the four boys lined up to make the next play, Kenny in possession to hike the ball.
"Down, set, hut!" he shouted, tossing the ball to Kyle who caught it with ease, then took a moment to figure out the best course of action to get the touchdown. But having taken too long, he was stunned by Stan tackling him to the ground.
Kyle cautiously opened his eyelids and found Stan staring down at him with a big grin on his face.
With Tuesday's afternoon sun shining radiantly, Stan took the opportunity to look into his best friend's eyes, taking note of the beautifully illuminated green. He had never paid much attention to his counterpart's physique, much less his eyes, but today, he noticed that they reflected a moss-like green with small flecks of steel-blue around the perimeter of the iris. They were rather beautiful, he decided.
But apparently Stan had stared a second too long because he was suddenly overcome with butterflies. He quickly looked away, and both boys burst into a fit of laughter, rolling off one another, Stan composing himself before standing again. As Kyle did the same, he gave Stan a playful smack on ass for congratulations. Stan winced.
"Fags," Cartman sneered at a safe distance.
Kenny rolled his eyes at the whole scene, walking over to the two disheveled friends.
"Shut up, Cartman," spat Kyle. "You're just jealous because no one can even stand the thought of touching you and your fat ass." Stan and Kenny both laughed while Cartman glared at his long-time rival.
"Yeah? Well, screw your guys! I'm going home." Cartman picked up the football and the rest of his Cheesy Poofs, indignant of his friends' taunting, and walked off the field in a sulk.
"What a cry-baby," Kenny smirked. The other two boys shrugged.
Kenny went home after realizing he had promised his little sister that he'd hang out with her sometime this afternoon. She didn't have many friends thanks to the awful reputation the McCormick's had for being low-class drunks. Stan and Kyle knew this, of course, but it didn't affect their opinion of Kenny. He was a really good friend to all of them. But to his little sister, Karen, Kenny was more like a saviour—at least that's what she'd tell him. When she'd come home from school, crying from having been picked on by her classmates, Kenny was there for her in her time of need, listening to her, and soothing her with insight and stories. It was a relationship almost parallel to that of Stan and Kyle, who decided to head back to Kyle's for lunch.
"Afternoon, Kyle. What were you boys up to this morning?" Sheila inquired as soon as the two entered the house, but after making note of their ruffled appearance, and before either boy could answer, she continued, "For Abraham's sake, you're all dirty!"
"We were playing football, mom," replied Kyle.
"Well go get cleaned up before lunch, bubaleh. I'm making latkes; your favourite!"
Neither Kyle nor Stan felt it was necessary to clean up. They were boys after all, and boys were meant to be dirty. But Kyle knew better than to argue with his mother, so he and Stan went upstairs to wash up.
They stood in the bathroom, about to remove their grass-stained and muddy t-shirts when Stan paused, realizing that he didn't bring a spare change of clothing.
"What's wrong, dude?" Kyle questioned after removing his own shirt.
"I, uh, guess we'll have to head back to my house later so I can grab a few things," Stan chuckled awkwardly in slight embarrassment.
"Don't worry about it, dude. You can just wear one of my shirts for now." Kyle walked over to the sink and reached down to open the cupboard to grab two washcloths, tossing one of them at Stan who managed to catch it on his chest. Kyle began running the tap, paying no mind to the temperature of the water, and they each took a turn wetting their respective cloths.
"Shit, that's cold!" Stan instantly exclaimed as his hands hit the near-freezing liquid.
"Don't be a pussy, dude," Kyle replied with a smirk, eyebrows furrowed in thought. Then, without warning, he ambushed his now-shivering friend with his own cloth. Stan yelped as Kyle began wiping him down.
"That's freezing!" he cried, then began dancing around both out of shock and in attempt to get away from his aggressor. Kyle laughed at the scene.
Stan walked over to turn on the tap himself, making sure to get the water warm before wetting his cloth again. Kyle had already managed to finish cleaning himself up and watched Stan as he did the same.
When it looked as if he was done, Kyle spoke up. "Here," he started, moving closer until he was standing eye-level to his companion. "You missed a spot." Kyle smiled cautiously as he went to rub off the remaining patch of dirt from Stan's cheek. Stan didn't stop him.
Instead, he caught himself staring at his friend who had finished his task and, now resting his hands on Stan's shoulders, was staring right back.
Those eyes, Stan thought to himself, subtly biting his lower lip. He suddenly felt an unfamiliar, but profound urge to close the small gap of space that was between them. Butterflies attacked his stomach, light-headedness settling in. He swallowed hard before breaking the silence.
"W-we better get back downstairs," he stuttered. "I'm starving." An awkward half-smile crept onto Stan's face as he darted his eyes around the washroom.
"Yeah," Kyle coughed, "Me too."
The boys let out a heavy breath before stepping out of the washroom and into Kyle's bedroom. He picked out a shirt for Stan, and they both got dressed before scurrying downstairs for lunch.
Sheila had already fixed the boys a plate each and set them on the table next to one other. Stan and Kyle pulled out their chairs and sat down to enjoy the meal. A couple of bites in, Sheila, who was sitting across from the two, spoke up.
"Don't forget, bubaleh, you have to pick Ike up from school today."
Kyle, whose mouth was full, nodded in acknowledgement, paying more attention to the food on his plate.
"What's your brother doing in summer school anyway?" asked Stan after swallowing the food in his mouth. "Isn't he already some sort of genius?"
Kyle took a breath, pausing for a moment from eating. "Yeah, it's for extra credit so he can skip to fourth grade in the fall." He resumed ravaging his lunch. The football game from an hour ago had clearly taken a lot out of him.
"You better finish up soon, boys. It's already half past noon, and you have to get Ikey by 1 o'clock," Sheila reminded.
Stan and Kyle finished what was on their plates within five minutes, and put on their shoes to walk to South Park Elementary.
Ike was waiting outside when the two showed up.
"How was school today, Ike?" asked Kyle as he ruffled his little brother's hair. Ike quickly swatted his hand away.
"Mr. Mackey's teaching the summer courses this year, mmmkay." Ike imitated the aforementioned man's famous quirk. His big brother's sense of humor had obviously rubbed off on him. Stan and Kyle laughed before Ike continued. "He's alright, I guess. We just went over our multiplication tables."
Ike led the way back home while Stan and Kyle trailed safely behind, walking habitually close to one another when the back of their hands brushed against each other. The touch felt electric.
But instead of moving farther away to rid the imminent awkward tension, Kyle decided to grab Stan's hand into his own and looked over and smiled. Stan seemed shocked at first, evidenced by the limpness of his hand, but the smile radiating at him had a relaxing effect, and he tightened his own grip.
Holding hands wasn't quite out of the ordinary for them, but Stan's newfound feelings got the better of him lately which only served to embarrass him. He only hoped that Kyle hadn't caught on yet. Stan at least wanted to figure them out before anyone jumped to conclusions about their hidden meaning. Where's Freud when you need him? he thought, and laughed to himself.
Ike looked back and, taking note of his brother and his best friend, playfully questioned. "So when are you two gonna make it official?" he smirked.
Neither boy answered in hopes that it was a rhetorical question, and maintained their grasp. Ike was always making fun of them for their abnormally close friendship, but they never paid much attention to it.
When they finally arrived, a very hungry Ike went straight to the fridge in search of leftovers, making small-talk with his mother in the process, while Stan and Kyle went upstairs to play Guitar Hero in Kyle's bedroom.
Ten o'clock came around and, with Kyle fast asleep next to him, Stan lay awake in thought, eyes to the ceiling and hands clasped across his chest. This time, however, there was no buzzing. For this, Stan was relieved but confused.
Something felt off for him. Things were… different somehow, and he wasn't sure whether it was good or bad.
He wanted to feel happy about his family's resolution, but for some reason he just couldn't. He remained apathetic towards their new promise to make things better at home; he didn't really care all that much. He loved his family, of course, but that didn't mean he had to like them or, much less, like spending time with them. The only thing Stan was relatively happy about was all the time he was spending with Kyle while his parents were away. More importantly, he was relieved that he wouldn't have to move out of South Park.
What would I do without Kyle? he rhetorically asked himself and smiled.
Seconds later, Stan was startled by the rustling of the sheets as Kyle turned onto his side, now facing towards him. Stan looked over and down at the messy red-haired boy, overcome with nerves once again.
Kyle's mere presence made him light-headed, but now that he was asleep next to him, only inches away, Stan felt like the room was spinning. He could hardly think straight with all the emotions coursing through his entire body. Although never having tried psychoactive drugs personally, he was sure that this is what it felt like to be under the influence. He was soaring, being carried away by some powerful spirit above the skies and through the clouds. It was magical, but nauseating.
More rustling began, and this time, Kyle was snuggling up to Stan, throwing an arm over his stomach.
Not entirely sure how to react, nor understanding of his sleeping companion's unconscious intentions, Stan froze in his place, cheeks now burning red. He remained still for a few moments, then with one more look at Kyle, his obliviousness was replaced with clarity.
It all made sense. The fear, the nightmares, the tears, the butterflies, the buzzing… It was all for Kyle. The whole time he was worried about his parents separating, it was in fear of losing Kyle. The sleepless nights, the nightmares, the crying; they stopped when he was next to Kyle.
And then the butterflies. Kyle was making him nervous lately, but the only person who had ever made him nervous before was… Wendy, his eyes widened in realization as he processed the thought.
The buzzing returned, but this time because of the overwhelm of understanding. He was still drowning, but now it was in a pool of his undeniable romantic love for his best friend.
To be continued...