Title: The Steps To Success

Disclaimer: I own nothing. All South Park characters belong to Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.

Summary: Senior year is finally over, and I just want to spend the summer hanging out with Stan and Kenny before we go our separate ways in the fall. But my hopes of a relaxing summer are ruined when Cartman wins a cruise trip and invites us along. Stan urges me to go with them, but I know something's not right. Cartman is planning something. I know he is. Why else would he be acting so... nice? Slash.

Pairing: Kyle/Cartman (eventually)

Rating: Mature

Warnings: Profanity and offensive language (it just wouldn't be South Park without it), and eventual slash.

Author's Notes: I love South Park. Kyle and Cartman belong together. I think that pretty much sums it up. Enjoy the story!

The Steps To Success

Step One: The Planning

Chapter One: Move One Inch At A Time

"Don't let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold, and I promise that you will never know what you're capable of unless you try."

We all break into applause as Wendy Testaburger, this year's Valedictorian, concludes her graduation speech. There's a loud whistle from behind me, and I roll my eyes, still clapping. That would be Stan.

The graduating class of South Park High is not large by any means, but with the added bodies of the teachers and the parents and the siblings, the gymnasium is completely full and stiflingly hot. We all stand up as a group (still clapping) and watch as Wendy walks off the stage. I can feel my graduation robe sticking to the back of my legs. It's so goddamn hot in here. I suppose I should be focusing more on Wendy's speech than the current temperature, but I just can't concentrate. The fact that I'm officially done with high school hasn't quite kicked in yet.

My classmates give a final cheer and I join them in throwing my graduation cap high into the air. I didn't know people actually still did this, but I guess it's like tradition or something. The humidity and heat in the gym cause my Jew fro to be even larger and uglier than usual, and I scowl as I try to flatten it with my hands. I hear obnoxious laughing from the row of seats behind me.

"Shut the fuck up, Cartman!" I yell without turning around. This only causes him to laugh louder. He thinks my hair is so fucking funny. "Fucking asshole," I mutter. It's not my fault my stubborn mother won't let me cut my hair short. I've decided that the first thing I'm going to do when I get to college is cut off all this fucking hair.

I'm jostled through the crowd of students as we all move to find our parents.

"Congratulations, Kyle!" mom says as she pulls me into a tight hug. I'm going to be a fucking college freshman, and I'm still shorter than my own mother. By one inch. Stan says I'll have a late growth spurt or some shit like that.

"Although it really is too bad you weren't Valedictorian," mom continues as she lets me go.

"Just drop it, mom," I sigh.

"Well, I'm just saying," she starts again, but luckily my dad gets her attention so that we avoid a pointless argument. I follow my parents and Ike, who grins at me, through the gymnasium, waving at former classmates on the way out. I sit in the back seat with Ike on the way home. Once there, I'm going to shower and change before going to Stan's graduation party.

Mom is still going on about Wendy being chosen as the Valedictorian, and I roll my eyes and try to ignore her. She's a lot more disappointed about it than I am. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to be Valedictorian, and I'm just as smart as Wendy is, but when it comes straight down to it, Wendy just has more... tenacity. Or some shit like that. So I ended up being second in our class. Not too shabby in my opinion. Butters was third in the class after me (his parents grounded him for a week when they found out) and in fourth after Butters was none other than Eric Cartman.

The fact that Cartman ended up at the top of the class surprised a lot of South Park citizens, but not me. Cartman isn't dumb, he's just a lazy fucker. So when he actually started doing his school work this past year, his grades shot through the roof. Turns out the fat ass is quite smart. Who knew? The only thing I wanted to know was why he suddenly thought school was important. When I asked him, he told me he had to get good grades so that he could follow me to college and annoy me there. Then he started laughing like the asshole he is when he saw my horrified expression, and I knew he didn't mean it, thank God. Just the thought of going to the same college as Cartman makes me want to throw up. He's one of the reasons why I can't wait to leave South Park. Him and my mother.

Still, I wonder. Cartman never did tell anyone where he's going to college. Only his mom knows. He said he didn't want to tell anyone where he's going because he doesn't want any of us to feel inferior. Ha. How nice of him. I'm sure he's going to some weird private school. I, on the other hand, decided to go somewhere far, far away, on the other side of the country. I was accepted into all the schools I applied for, but I chose the one that a) gave me the best scholarship and b) was a place my mom wouldn't complain about constantly. That school ended up being Harvard, even though I'm not going to be a lawyer.

Mom had a hard time accepting the fact that her first born Jewish son doesn't want to be a lawyer, but she eventually got over it (or at least stopped bugging me constantly about it). Sending me to Harvard was her idea, originally. I think she thinks I might change my mind about becoming a lawyer if I go to school there, but that's not going to happen. I agreed to go to Harvard to get her to stop bitching, nothing more; though the scholarship money they offered didn't hurt, either. I don't know what I want to do yet for a career, but getting any degree from Harvard University is pretty damn good either way.

Finally we pull into my garage. I'm already taking my graduation robe off as I walk up the stairs to the bathroom. I'm wondering where to put the robe now that the ceremony is over. Do people actually keep these things? I shrug and put it in the laundry basket. I go to the bathroom and turn the shower on, gratefully taking off my sticky clothes and piling them up on the sink. I step under the warm spray of water and feel the tension in my shoulders slipping away. It takes a while to lather up all my hair with shampoo, and I let my mind wander.

I know that later this afternoon and for the rest of the evening I will be at Stan's graduation party, and I know that tomorrow I will be at other various parties, including my own. Beyond that, I have nothing scheduled for the summer. I thought it would be a good idea to get a summer job to earn some money, but then I realized that it would be pointless to find some place to work only to have to quit a few months later when I leave for school. On top of that, Stan doesn't have a job either, and I just want to spend this summer relaxing and hanging out with him while I still can.

Stan and I had planned on going to the same college, but well, shit happens. And we all have to make decisions. I decided to go with the scholarship and to relieve my mom's bitching. Stan also went for the scholarship, but instead of agreeing with his parents, he agreed with Wendy. I smile bitterly. Of course Stan is going to the same college as Wendy. I know that he didn't pick her over me or anything, but I still feel sore about it from time to time. I just can't help it. Stan has always had to balance Wendy and I in his life. He won't have to do that anymore after this summer, however, because both Stan and Wendy got full scholarships (Stan's is an athletic scholarship) to go to the same college in good old California.

When Stan told me he got a full football scholarship to Stanford University, I knew that's where he was going to choose. There's no way he could pass that up. Stanford is like the best college in all of California. I know I could have gotten into Stanford - probably with a scholarship - but I wanted to go farther away. A part of me was also annoyed that Wendy would be there. I guess I just didn't want a repeat of these past four years of high school, with Stan balancing his time between the two of us. I guess I just want something different, even though I don't know what that is exactly.

I feel much better after my shower and I take my time drying off with the towel. As it stands, there's less than three months before we'll be leaving for college, and then I won't see Stan, or anyone from South Park, until Thanksgiving, at the earliest. This is why I'm resolved to spend lots of time with my friends this summer. I know that it will pass much too quickly, and all too soon I'll be saying goodbye. I shake my head and tell myself to stop being so sentimental. I'll get dressed and go to Stan's grad party. We'll have a good time, and the next day will be my own party. After that, I don't know for sure. I'll just take things one step at a time.

Everything will be all right.

- KB -

It seems like the whole senior class is at Stan's house. I guess it makes sense, since Stan is so popular. Sometimes it confuses me as to how Stan could remain friends with me and yet retain his level of popularity. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an outcast or anything like that, but I'm not anyone's favorite person to be around either. People just gravitate towards Stan, I guess. He's special that way.

I've overheard some of Stan's football friends ask him why he hangs out with me - a nerdy Jew. I always wait for Stan to say something mean about me like how he doesn't actually like me and isn't really my friend, but he never does. "He's my friend," is all he says, and he shrugs. And then they ask why I'm his friend and Stan just says, "Kyle's cool. You just don't know him." And I get this warm feeling in my chest after he says it, and I don't care that everyone likes Stan better. Hell, even I like Stan better than I like myself. I can't really blame other people for feeling the same way.

"Have you tried the punch, Kyle?"

I turn my head to see Kenny standing next to me, two cups of red liquid in each of his hands.

"What did you do to it?" I ask, narrowing my eyes suspiciously.

Kenny sighs, flipping his bangs out of his eyes with a languid toss of his head. "Nothing, dude. I'm not going to get shitfaced at Stan's party while his relatives are still here." He rolls his eyes and takes a long sip, leaning against the wall next to me. I take the cup of punch from him and take a taste. It's good.

A somewhat uncomfortable silence grows between Kenny and I as we stand against the wall together, at the edge of the party. Everyone knows that Kenny isn't going to college. Honestly, I think it's practically a miracle he graduated from high school. Anyway, he told us (Stan and me) that he didn't know where he was going, but that he knew he was getting out of South Park, which I think is a good idea for him. His future isn't as terrible as it could be, but I understand his bitterness at the situation. It must be hard knowing that all of his closest friends are going off to college but he's not. I feel really uncomfortable and strangely guilty thinking about it.

Luckily, Stan comes over and joins us against the wall.

"Shouldn't you be mingling?" I ask him, smiling slightly.

"Just taking a short break," he tells me. "I don't even recognize half of these people anyway." Neither do I. It seems that, for some reason or another, all of a person's relatives feel it is their obligation to attend a graduation party, even if they've never been a part of that person's life. I know that my party will be the same way - having to talk to tons of relatives I don't know and pretend I give a fuck until they decide to go home. I considered not even having a party at all to avoid the hassle, but mother insisted.

"Stan!" Mrs. Marsh yells. "Come say hello to your Aunt Mary!"

Stan sighs. "Coming!" he yells.

He stomps off to visit with his Aunt, leaving me and Kenny alone once again. "I need more punch," Kenny mentions offhandedly. I look down at his cup. It is indeed empty. "Be right back," he says. I watch him walk away for a few moments before going back to observing the party.

I get the feeling that someone is looking at me. I turn my head and see Cartman walking towards me. Please don't be coming over here...

"What's up, midget?"

I was going to ignore him so that hopefully he would get bored and go away, but, somehow, that's just impossible.

"I am not a midget!" I yell at him. Goddammit Cartman! He knows that I'm sensitive about my height!

"Yes you are," he laughs. "What are you, like five foot three? You're a little midget Jew." He's smirking at me like he wants me to explode at him. He probably does, actually, and I am completely ready to explode, but I don't want to give him the satisfaction. Plus, we really shouldn't cause a scene at Stan's party. I close my eyes and turn away. My urge to punch him in his fucking face lessens slightly.

"Fuck off, Cartman," I tell him in as calm a voice as I can manage.

"Come on, Kyle, I didn't mean it," Cartman says in a sickly sweet voice. "You're actually normal height if you take your ginger fro into account." He laughs at his own stupid joke.

"Very funny. Why don't you go bother someone else?"

"Maybe I will," he says, but I know he won't. If one thing hasn't changed over the years, it's the fact that Eric Cartman still finds immense pleasure in pissing me off. He doesn't even have to try very hard.

"Anyway, you should be thanking me, Jew. If I wasn't here you would be standing here all alone like the loser you are."

"I'm not a loser, Stan's just busy with relatives," I say.

"Look again, Jew," Cartman scoffs. I follow his gaze and see Stan talking with Wendy and some of his football friends. And fuck my life, but that actually does hurt my feelings a little bit.

"Whatever, fat ass," I mutter, shoving my fists into my pockets. This only causes Cartman to laugh. It's a stupid thing to call him because he's not even that fat anymore, but old habits die hard, I guess. Still, it's pointless because it doesn't piss Cartman off anymore, since it's not true.

Don't get the wrong idea, though. It's not like Cartman finally grew up and decided that he should stop eating like a fucking starving troll all the fucking time. He might say that's what really happened, but the true story is actually a lot funnier. Here it is:

During our freshman year of high school, Cartman was sent to the hospital because of a clogged artery. A clogged artery at fourteen, imagine that! Anyway, I guess he almost died or something, and so his mom forced him to go on a diet and join sports teams in high school so that he would get some exercise. Cartman hated it, of course. His mom wouldn't let him have any junk food whatsoever until he finally trimmed down. She only bought healthy foods to keep in the house and if she caught Cartman eating junk she grounded him for a week. She even called mine and Stan's parents and told them that he wasn't allowed to eat snacks when he was with us. It was so fun eating in front of Cartman during that time. He would get so mad. Those were the good old days.

He started playing football and hockey in high school, but he still complained that he was hungry all the time, so he had stomach surgery where they shrunk his stomach. I don't know all the details, but apparently it helps him eat less. Anyway, the exercise and eating less actually worked, and it didn't hurt that he grew about a foot, either, so now he's actually not that fat anymore, even though he's still really big. At least a head taller than me, anyway.

He's not on his forced diet anymore, of course. He just tells me "it's all about portion control, Kyle," like he's really fucking smart and wasn't forced by his mother to lose some weight. He really is a fucking fat ass, even if he doesn't look like one anymore. He's still standing next to me, though he isn't talking, thank God. The silence isn't awkward, though. I suppose that despite our competitive nature and the fact that we argue all the time and he constantly belittles my religion, we have remained friends, or at least as close to friends as we will ever be.

Stan's relatives are finally leaving. It's about time. I wonder where Kenny got off to because he never did end up coming back, but he probably got distracted by Bebe's breasts or something. It's getting pretty late once all of Stan's relatives are gone, so we go out to Stan's backyard and create a bonfire. We all sit around it, making smores and telling stories, and I'm finally having a good time.

"So you'll never guess what happened," Cartman says loudly, getting our attention.

"Do we even want to know?" I scoff, but he ignores me.

"Three very lucky people here," he begins, pointing out into the crowd of teenagers around the fire, "Are going to be coming with me on a cruise trip for two weeks!"

There's silence. That is not what I was expecting him to say. "Um... what?" Stan asks.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Cartman sighs, "I won a trip! On a cruise! And I get to take three other people with me."

"Sounds suspicious..." I mutter quietly. "How did you win this trip, Cartman?"

"It doesn't matter how I won the trip, Kyle," he tells me in a petulant voice, crossing his arms.

"He probably did something illegal," Wendy says.

"Hey! It was not illegal! And you're definitely not coming on the trip, so don't even ask, hippy!"

"Well good, cause I don't want to go anyway!" she yells back. "Who would want to go on a trip with you anyway?"

"I would," Stan says offhandedly. We (Wendy and I) look at him like he's lost his mind. I think he might have.

"Yeah, it'd be fun," Kenny agrees. "I've never been on a cruise before."

"Wait, wait." I jump in. "We are not seriously considering going on a cruise with Cartman. I mean, it's Cartman."

"Fuck you!" He tells me. "I don't want you to come anyway, you stupid Jew!"

I open my mouth to reply but Stan puts his hand on my arm and says, "Can we please not fight about this now? Come on guys, we just graduated. Let's relax!" I sigh but don't say anything. I don't want to get into an argument anyway. But seriously, what is Cartman thinking? And even worse, Stan? He definitely has some explaining to do tomorrow, cause I know one thing for sure: there is no way I am going on a cruise ship with Eric Cartman.

No fucking way.