Close Enough to Burn

by icypinkpop

Pairing: Kyle/Stan (Style)

Disclaimer: All character and series credit to the geniuses that are Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

Warnings: Angst, sap, gayness.

Author's note: Apparently, I will write fanfiction until I die. Every year I think I'm done for good, I go and write something else.

I've wanted to write another South Park story ever since I started my sophomore year of college last August. Being an engineering major doesn't give one much room to do any creative writing, and I've really missed it.

Edit: I'm really sorry about the long time between updates! I don't have an excuse, other than work (which isn't a very good excuse). I'll do my best to be quicker from now on. I've been trying to make each chapter at least 5k, so they've been time-consuming!

~o~

"Well you can just sleep on the couch if you don't appreciate it!"

"Fine! I will! See if I fuckin' care, Sharon!"

Stan pushed the pillow over his ears and groaned as he rolled onto his front, breathing slowly into the mattress with his hair in his eyes. The familiar stomping sounded down the stairs and faded as the feet causing it tromped their way around underneath the floorboards of his bedroom.

"..." He reached for his phone and pulled it swiftly, dislodging the charger from its port and staring tiredly at the screen that lit up in his face. It was almost 1 AM; a pretty bad time to call someone, but he wasn't sure he could stand spending another night hiding under his covers and waiting for the next shout to echo through the house. At least there was one person who he knew he could always call, no matter how obscenely early or late it happened to be.

He dialed and held the phone against his ear, sliding out preemptively from under the sheets and relaxing at the familiar voice. "Hey Kyle," he breathed, stuffing his feet in the tennis shoes at the foot of the bed and hopping as he stepped his way into some shorts, yanking them over his boxers. "Can I come spend the night at your place? Please?" He noticed with a grimace that his voice was a little shakier than he might have liked.

"...Huh?" Stan had to contort himself to remain on the phone while he pulled a t-shirt on over his head, shaking his hair out as he listened over the line. At his mom's house? Oh, right. The divorce. He couldn't help but curse mentally, wishing Kyle had decided to visit his mother on some other night.

"Okay, give me the address," he muttered and pulled his iPad out of the bedside drawer, tapping the MAPS app.

He usually would have regretted putting on shorts and a simple shirt before getting on his bike and heading for a destination miles away, but June brought with it warmer nights than usual, and the slight breeze actually felt refreshing and freeing as it blew through his clothes. Pausing at stoplights to check the iPad in his bike basket and make sure that he had his directions straight, the teenager pedaled his way east until he found himself in an unfamiliar neighborhood. He turned at the sign that read 'Cherry Blossom Groves' and, as per Kyle's earlier instructions, rode until he spotted Ms. Broflovski's white Prius in the carport, skidding to a stop.

After dumping his bike unceremoniously near the front steps, he ran up to the door and reached up to knock hurriedly, watching as it slid open seconds later.

"Stan," Kyle muttered from his place in the doorway, lit only by the porch light mounted beside the front door. He stepped aside wordlessly and Stan watched his curls bouncing as he followed.

"Be quiet. My mom's asleep." Stan nodded wordlessly and tailgated his friend through the darkness, eyes adjusting as he trailed behind the form that darted up the stairs and towards a door at the end of the hall. The carpet hit his feet as he closed the door behind him, walking to Kyle's bed and squinting when a night-light in the corner of the room beamed at him through the blackness. He sat down mutely and glanced upwards.

Kyle looked disheveled. He had seen his friend in various states of dress and consciousness a million times, but there was something about him presently that struck him a little differently than usual. His red curls were particularly messy and tousled all over the place, and matched a fading redness that seemed to lie under the skin of his cheeks and his mouth. His eyes, normally a sort of hazel when Stan wasn't really looking, seemed particularly green as he stared at them now, momentarily startling him with their vividness.

"Uh...Thanks, dude." Stan fidgeted on the bed and kicked his shoes off, making sure to talk in a whisper, as they had become accustomed to doing in this kind of a circumstance. Kyle looked back at him with a weird sharpness, and the other suddenly felt sort of itchy all over.

"Stan, what the hell is going on?" To his surprise, the redhead moved closer and leaned back against the wall in his pajamas, sending a concerned expression his way. He gulped.

"What do you mean?"

"What do you mean, 'what do I mean'? You've looked like hell all week."

Stan's face felt cold. His best friend wasn't generally that blunt about things.

"...What do you mean?" he repeated accidentally, shrinking a little in embarrassment when Kyle gave him an exasperated look that asked 'Really?' He watched silently as his friend slid off the bed, waiting apprehensively until he slid back onto the mattress and held something reflective up in front of his face. The black-haired boy squinted, barely making out his own visage in the low light.

"You've got huge dark circles. Have you been getting any sleep? You're always zoned out, too," Kyle complained in a whisper, shutting the makeup mirror and tossing it aimlessly onto the bedside table. Stan gulped. He had really been hoping he wouldn't notice...

"Uh..."

"I have to say your name like three times before you even look at me, dude. Are you okay?"

He was caught. Sighing, Stan raised his eyes from the bedspread up at his friend, jolting slightly as a shiver ran up his spine. His body felt a little warmer, actually, when he recognized his friend's expression for a concerned one. At least he had somebody who would never judge him, no matter how stressful (or ironic) things happened to get.

"My parents keep fighting all the time," he admitted, slumping a little in relief. It felt good to tell someone. "It's been happening for like...a couple weeks. I can't sleep with them stomping around and screaming at each other."

Predictably, Kyle looked surprised, but the slightly furrowed brow made him look a little less so than Stan might have expected him to be. The confessor turned slightly away and pulled his knees up against his chest as he rested back against the wall beside his companion.

"...That's rough, dude." The sentiment, full of the kind of deep understanding that the two of them shared, made Stan feel like a heavy backpack had just been lifted off of his shoulders. Barely realizing he was smiling, he glanced over and scooted a little closer, shaking his head at him.

"Nah, it's okay, really. I just didn't, uh..." He swallowed, face starting to feel hot. More than anything, he just felt embarrassed right now. "I didn't want to tell anybody."

The silence that entered wasn't awkward in the least. Feeling understood, Stan sucked a breath in and watched his friend's face tighten a little sympathetically, his own body relaxed and noticeably lighter than it had seemed before. It was really good to get that off his chest.

Then, suddenly, Kyle smiled at him. It wasn't a jubilant or excited expression, but the little up-quirk of lips somehow made Stan's chest feel a little tighter as he breathed. Before he could do anything but grin back goofily, however, he felt arms around him and stared suddenly at the red curls that were in half of his face, inhaling the distinctive shampoo-y smell in surprise.

"Sorry," Kyle replied simply. It took Stan a moment to realize what he was referring to. Somehow certain that talking would ruin whatever was going on, aware that their friendship was strong enough to allow a sufficiently deep understanding, he simply shook his head again and brought his hands up to lock his friend in an identical squeeze.

"...Don't worry about me. You've got it worse," he eventually admitted and let go, feet suddenly noticeably chillier than the rest of him. Kyle held on for a few more seconds before he released his grip and sat back on his calves.

"Huh?"

"Your parents are divorced," Stan reminded quietly, not wanting to seem harsh. He had been wondering, though... "Is it hard?"

The redhead pulled some covers up over his lap. "Well, yeah, a little," he admitted, surprising Stan with his particularly unemotional tone of voice. "It's different. It's...not that bad, though. My dad lets me have a lot more freedom than my mom does, and I spend most of my time with him."

Surprisingly, Kyle smiled at him again. Feeling warm again all of a sudden, Stan averted his eyes instinctively.

"I'm getting a car." That brought his gaze right back over. He gaped and Kyle just grinned wider, confirming his suspicions.

"...No WAY!" he shouted accidentally, covering his mouth.

"Dude, shh! My mom!"

"Sorry! But...seriously?!" Stan tried to make up for his yelling with a sharp whisper, blue eyes big and grinning from ear to ear. Kyle snickered in response, nodded his head.

"Yep! I just have to get it registered. The neighbors are selling me their Saturn."

Their grins matched and Stan held out a hand, pushing away his own surprise at the strangely euphoric rush of joy that streamed down through his arm and chest when Kyle's palm smacked against his softly.

"You have to show me tomorrow! I can, uh...Your mom won't be mad if I'm here in the morning, right?"

His friend shrugged and slid down under the covers with a yawn, hair all over the place. "I don't care. I'll take you for a ride, too."

Cheeks starting to hurt from his grinning, Stan shifted and slid further under the covers. They exchanged a look and Kyle turned around, getting comfortable underneath the duvet and settling his head onto the pillow. Stan followed suit with the pillow on his side of the bed, shifting so that the blanket covered his feet and pausing when his cheek rubbed against something textured. He yawned and pushed away the bit of fabric, squinting at it through the darkness. Something dark was half-draped over the edge of his pillow. He couldn't quite tell what color it was...Red, maybe?

"You'd better let me drive," he replied quietly, yawning as he rested his head against the cool surface. Stan couldn't remember what happened after that.

~o~

BEEP BEEP

When a not-unfamiliar melody rang out into the silence, irking him out of sleep, Stan instinctively reached for his cell phone. Stupid alarm! It was a Saturday. He must have accidentally set it.

Rubbing his thumb over the touchscreen awkwardly, trying to find the swipe that would shut it up, he peered up from under the comforter and pulled the device closer, squinting at the screen.

1 New Text Message

"..." Something was wrong. The background on his phone screen was red, from what he remembered...

The soft breathing behind him suddenly reminded him where he was and he looked back at the thing in his hand, recognizing the smell of the bedding against his face. He had slept over.

Kyle's phone!

Relieved that the alert sounds had ceased, Stan looked back at the blue screen and its text, listening to Kyle's exhalations over his shoulder. He knew that he probably shouldn't wake him up just to show him that he had a text message, especially since the screen was displaying '8:14 AM' clearly in the upper-right corner. Swallowing, he dragged his finger across the screen to cancel out the alert message, mistakenly running it over the 'Messages' icon at the bottom.

Kyle's message log opened. Surprised, Stan instinctively ran his eyes down the list. He spotted a message from himself near the bottom that he had sent a couple of days before, recalling the time he had texted his friend with an invitation to go eat lunch at the Chinese Buffet that had just been built in town. Not thinking much of it, he moved his eyes up the list, mentally reading off each name that came into vision.

Stan

Stan

Craig

He paused. Craig...He had probably been bothering Kyle for homework help, or something. Stan knew that a lot of the guys in their class had been forced to take summer school to satisfy their credit requirement before senior year.

Craig

Stan

Token

Stan blinked. Token? Did Kyle talk to Token a lot? He knew that they sometimes played basketball in the park, along with others.

Token

Butters

Stan

Clyde

Kyle really did have a lot of friends. Brow twitching slightly, Stan scrolled up through the list to the top, spotting the highlighted message labeled 8:13 AM with the current date beneath. Maybe he should check it out...?

He faltered. He shouldn't even be looking at his friend's text messages. It was an invasion of privacy, no matter how close the two of them were, and he was pretty sure that Kyle might not be pleased to hear that someone was rooting through his personal stuff without asking.

Token was the last name at the top of the list, identifying the sender of the message that had woken him up a few minutes prior. Stan glanced warily over at his friend, who was asleep on his side with his back to him, and then looked slowly back at the phone. Was it possible that Kyle wouldn't mind? It could be important. His friend might want to know what the message was about as soon as he woke up, he reasoned. He might even appreciate Stan for being able to wake him if there was something serious going on...

Taking a breath, he clicked the message, eyes grazing over the first line.

Hey Ky

He almost dropped the phone. Ky? People...actually called Kyle KY? Stan frowned. That was really weird. Maybe it was a typo.

How are you holding up? Still up for ball on Friday? Don't worry, all the guys are cool. We haven't told anybody. Hit me up!

"Stan?"

SHIT! Practically launching himself out of bed, Stan reached out to catch himself on the side table and knocked his head into the wall, hand shooting to his head with a groan to rub his skull.

"Kyle..." was looking at him through his curls and rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and seemed a little alarmed by the sudden movement. Stan swallowed and, without much thought, clicked to bring the phone back to its home screen, pointing at it.

"Your phone, uh, went off and woke me up..." he began, slow realization beginning to churn down in his lower stomach. It wouldn't show an alert for a new message, if Kyle looked. Stan had already opened it and read-

"Wait...What time is it?" the redhead asked suddenly, sitting tensely among the bedcovers. In the light that came through the blinds, Stan realized for the first time that Kyle was in a grey t-shirt and some forest-green basketball shorts, which he had apparently mistaken for pajamas the night before in the darkness. Stan wondered vaguely if his mom was aware of where he was.

"Uh, a little after eight," he replied, pointing to the screen. This time, it was Kyle's turn to leap out of bed and run towards the other end of the room, hair bouncing as he did so.

"It's Saturday?! Shit! I have to be at work at 8:30! I forgot!" Stan watched as his friend stripped out of his shirt and kicked his shorts off as well before he began tearing through his dresser, snatching a pair of blue jeans from the top drawer. Still back on the bed, the houseguest looked away suddenly, somehow feeling particularly awkward as Kyle hopped himself into the pants one leg at a time.

"Uh, just let yourself out, okay?" his friend asked and pulled a clean shirt over his pale chest, reaching for the keys hanging from a lanyard around the doorknob. "My mom's already at work. You can grab some breakfast before you go. There's Pop Tarts in the cabinet over the sink. I'll show you the car some other time, okay?"

Stan watched the other grab his wallet from the bedside table and stick his phone into his pocket, nodding. "Yeah, um...Thanks. I'll see you later-"

Kyle waved at him and rushed out through the bedroom door before he could finish, leaving Stan staring at the bedspread silently.

"...Ky." Frowning, he got up and glanced at himself in the full-length mirror in the opposite corner, shaking his hair out and fishing underneath the bed with his foot for his shoes. What had that message been about? 'Haven't told anybody'? What could Token possibly know about Kyle that Stan didn't? Horrifyingly enough, Cartman's voice came immediately to mind.

"You'd think best friends would tell each other everything."

Was it possible that he was missing something?

He shivered as he inched his sandals on, shaking his head as he walked downstairs. He really doubted that Kyle would keep something from him, but there might be a way to find out.

~o~

Even amidst the sea of black baseball caps behind the front counter, the bright blond hair stuck out. Stan had to stand on his toes to see over the lines of people at the front, grabbing for their trays of food and sauce packets and drinks and change. Forcing himself into what seemed like a line and waiting, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a five-dollar bill, foot tapping nervously as he waited. He really needed to get up there, and it wasn't because he was hungry.

"Next, please!" He waited as patiently as possible as people began to drift off from the line. Maybe it hadn't been a good idea to go to a burger place at exactly noon, when everyone was off of work and scrambling to feed themselves before they had to get in their cars and drive back, but Stan hadn't been able to help himself from getting on his bike and rushing there. He hoped that he was overreacting. That text message Token had sent to Kyle's phone a couple weeks before probably hadn't meant anything specific; maybe his best friend had had a little fight with one of them about something? Whatever the case, Kyle really only seemed to hang out with those guys on an infrequent basis, so surely nothing too secretive could be going on.

Right?

"Next! Neeext! Man, pretty-boy, come back to Earth anytime now!"

Stan looked up immediately and caught laughing teal eyes with his own startled ones, face to face with the reason he was there in the first place.

"Kenny," he replied and leaned forward, pausing. Wait, had he just called him... "Pretty-boy?!"

"Figured that'd get your attention. What'll it be?" The blond held up a crummy spatula and pointed at the menu board behind him with a photogenic grin. "Oh, and we're out of Hershey pies, so don't ask for that."

"I really need to talk to you," Stan replied quickly over the multitude of customer and worker voices, hand tightening around his bill. "Um..."

"Huh?" Seemingly surprised, Kenny took out a cup and filled it with ice, pushing it onto the lever to dispense what Stan noticed was a Dr. Pepper. His favorite.

"Sorry, man, I'm working here. I can't take a break until it calms down. Can you wait half an hour?" He snatched Stan's bill before he could answer. "Double cheeseburger with bacon and curly fries? No pickles."

Stan stared mutely. He definitely should give Kenny more credit, he decided. The guy knew his order by heart and everything.

"Yeah, thanks." He took his change and receipt and moved out of the way, returning his friend's wave as Kenny spun on his heel and rushed back into the kitchen. Plucking his drink from the side, he stuck a straw through the lid and moved to a slightly dirty table near the corner, wadding up some napkins from the nearby dispenser and wiping some mustard drops off the surface.

It took about fifteen minutes for another worker to bring his tray to his table. Sufficiently hungry by then, Stan unwrapped his burger and sank his teeth in. Not tasting onion, he curiously set it down and lifted up the top bun to check for it, staring down at the two round dollops and the long curved streak of mustard that had sunk into the bread in a clear impression of a smiley face.

He returned the smile. Kenny had to have made his food for him, too.

Over the next ten minutes or so, the crowd in the restaurant began to dwindle until only a few couples and families were scattered around the place, leaving Stan in his private corner with his lunch remnants and the rest of his soda. He was scrolling through his phone, planning on leaving Kyle a text message when the scrapy sound of ice in a cup brought his attention up to the seat across from him.

"Man, I could use some of this," Kenny groaned as he popped the top off the cup and glugged down what remained, taking his visor off and wiping his sweaty forehead with his arm. Stan watched him and pushed over his basket with the remaining French fries, watching as his friend snatched a handful gratefully.

"Dude, that was crazy. There were like a hundred people in here."

The blond rolled his eyes in affirmation, relaxing against the booth. "You're telling me. I had to take all their orders. Our newbie called in sick with the flu and the manager's out, so we were down two people. I almost put my hand on the damn stove earlier."

Stan widened his eyes. "By accident?"

"No, on purpose." Kenny grinned wryly. "That way I could've claimed work injury and gone home."

They both laughed and dug back into the remainder of Stan's fries.

"I wouldn't've, though. You wanted to talk to me, right?" Looking up into the clear teal eyes, Stan nodded honestly and slumped slightly in his seat.

"Yeah. Have you...talked to Kyle lately?" he inquired. "Like, in the last week or so?"

Kenny shrugged. "Not for a few days. I saw him last..." Stan could tell he was counting down in his head. "Saturday? Sunday? I met him at the park after work and played basketball with him and Clyde. Why?"

The addressed swallowed dryly, fingers picking silently at the fry crumbs in his basket.

"So what, he invites everybody to play basketball now?" he replied bitterly without a second thought. Both of the teenagers looked surprised by his comment.

"...Whoa, what's up with you?" Kenny broke the silence by leaning across the table, one brow disappearing into his dirty-blond bangs as Stan shifted uncomfortably and brought his feet up onto the slightly splitting seat cushion.

"Nothing."

"Seriously? You look like crap, by the way. What's with those bags under your eyes? Your parents aren't making you do summer school, are th-"

"I read Kyle's texts, okay?!"

Kenny shut up and looked at Stan sideways. Embarrassed and waiting to be chastised for it, guiltier than he had even realized before, the dark-haired boy reached for what was left of his soda, chucking an ice cube back into his mouth and sucking on it nervously.

"So, what, you found nudes or something?"

He choked. "What the hell, dude?! No! Sick!"

With his trademark mischievous half-smile, the blond held his hands up and waved them apologetically.

"Sorry, sorry. I'll listen. So what was in there?" He leaned closed to Stan. "I won't tell him you looked. Promise."

Slightly relieved, Stan nodded in response and pulled his knees up against his chest, looking up trustingly. "Just a bunch of texts from Token. I went over to Kyle's place and his phone went off, but he was sleeping so I picked it up and..." How could he even describe it? He didn't even really remember the wording, but...

"It was something about...Token asked Kyle how he was doing and told him that he...wouldn't tell anybody about something," he tried to explain, watching his friend's expression for any hint of understanding that might be there. "He said that...all of the guys were 'cool' with it, or something like that. I don't remember." Did he sound stupid?

Kenny's expression made him unsure. Once Stan had stayed silent for a few seconds, his friend sat back a little against the seat, wearing a perplexed face that soothed the other slightly. At least he wasn't the only one confused.

"What, you mean you aren't cool with it?" the blond inquired in what looked like great surprise. Stan's mouth fell open.

He had been wrong.

"God damn it, what the hell?!" Something was seriously going on with Kyle? Was he depressed because of the divorce? Why hadn't he told him?

"Dude, chill out-"

"What are you even talking about, Kenny? What am I supposed to be cool with?!" Stan replied in exasperation and clenched his fists, staring with wide eyes across the table into equally surprised eyes that looked back. Kenny's expression went from perplexed to startled in an instant, and then, inexplicably, the blond let out a wavering little laugh.

"Wow, you really don't like it, huh? You should really try to be cool with it. He's your best friend."

Stan stared cluelessly, temper calming for a moment. Kenny really didn't understand? Was something supposed to be obvious to him?

"Dude...I have no idea what you are talking about right now," he replied as levelly as possible, a little afraid but mostly eager to learn whatever it was that he seemed to be missing. "I really don't. What...What's going on with Kyle? He hasn't told me anything."

The blond looked back at him, all traces of his previous emotions fading in the face of his obvious shock. They looked at each other for a few moments before Kenny extended a hand, making a sort of "duh" gesture with it.

"Well, you know," he said smoothly, watching Stan with a confused gleam in his eyes. "The whole...bi thing."

Stan realized he had forgotten to breathe and inhaled deeply, head starting to ache. He stared disbelievingly, completely caught off guard.

"...What "bi thing"?!"

"Uh...He totally told you, right?" Seemingly equally surprised but apparently for different reasons, Kenny shifted and leaned back across the table towards Stan. "That he likes guys? He still likes chicks too, of course. I think he told me a couple weeks ago, and then ended up admitting it to some of the guys a few days after that. What, you think he's going out with Token, or something?"

Stan's head was reeling. He had no idea what was going on. His best friend of almost ten years was...

"When did he tell you?!" he asked suddenly, not sure what to feel about any of this.

"I dunno, Friday before last, or something? When did he tell you?" Kenny inquired. Stan slammed his hand down on the table unintentionally, feeling like his stomach was on fire and that the flames were licking up into his lungs.

"He didn't tell me, Kenny! Don't you get it?! Kyle likes GUYS? What the fuck?!"

Staring back incredulously, the other shook his head softly in response. "But...How could he not tell you? You guys are really close."

"...I don't know!" Suddenly exhausted, Stan slumped down over the edge of the table. None of this made sense. If Kyle actually...liked guys, he would have told him, right? Why would he tell all these other people and not him? Was this what Cartman had been talking about? Shit...Had Kyle told CARTMAN and not him?! He trembled a little at that ridiculous idea, wearily noticing a rotund figure bustling behind the front counter out of the corner of his eye.

"Hey, Ken! Break's over! We need you back here!"

"...Sorry, man." The blond slipped out of his seat and stole a final fry, reaching out and lightly putting a hand on Stan's arm. "Duty calls. We can talk about it tomorrow or something, okay? Maybe you should just call Kyle and see what's-"

"Can I stay at your house tonight?" Stan cut him off and looked up suddenly. He didn't know what else to say, but he couldn't go back to Kyle's and he sure didn't want to go back to his own house right now. If he had to hear one or both of his parents yelling today... "Please."

Surprisingly, he didn't have to elaborate further before heard a clink and felt a cold thing in his palm. Stan looked down at the key in his hand in shock, slowly glancing back up to meet the little smile that gleamed back at him.

"Just leave it unlocked for me. I'll bring home some dinner after I get off at five, okay?"

Stan nodded mutely in response, fingers clasping around the key. Kenny waved at him and trotted back off behind the front counter, disappearing behind a shelf stacked with cardboard boxes. Slowly, Stan gripped the precious thing between his fingers and clipped it onto the key ring hanging from the belt loop on his jeans, standing and leaving the venue through the back door. The brightness of the sun burned his eyes slightly as he turned, hopping onto his bike where it was chained up and unlocking it from its post.

"Don't you know? Kyle is supposed to be your...best friend."

He winced, trying to mentally drown out the smug tone of the voice in his head. He'd have to have a talk with Cartman sometime.

"So surely you've heard."

Stan kicked up his kickstand and pedaled off as fast as he could.

~o~

I hope my writing is still easy to read. I will try to post more regularly!

Thank you for reading so far!