Close Enough to Burn
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.
Kenny's house was hot.
This was why Stan was draped over the arm of the ratty brown loveseat in the corner of his friend's room, the top of his head parallel to the ground and his black bangs hanging away from his forehead as he stared at the ceiling. He had removed his shirt about an hour before in an effort to cool off. In the rare weeks of summer, South Park's weather tended to drift into hot and muggy territory, something which was less welcome when you were spending your time in a house with a barely-working swamp cooler and no AC.
He flipped onto his stomach and wiped some sweat from his brow, staring at his cell phone where it sat on the side table. His eyes glimmered a little with apprehension. He wasn't sure what he was waiting for...No, scratch that. He was totally sure what he was waiting for.
A fucking explanation.
Stan groaned softly and fanned himself futilely with his hand. Since he had left the restaurant earlier, he had been half convinced that the entire situation was a dream he would wake up from at any moment. Seriously, Kyle? Kyle Broflovski? Gay? Were they even talking about the same guy?!
He swallowed. Kenny hadn't said 'gay', he had to remind himself. 'Bi' was the word. But really, was there any difference? If you liked guys, you kind of...LIKED GUYS, right? So what if you liked girls, too?! You still had a boner for...
He covered his face suddenly, promptly stopping his mind from venturing into that confusing region.
A part of Stan's brain told him that it was stupid to worry about such a thing. Even if it was true...somehow...was it really Stan's business? Stan had never had any personal vendetta against homosexuals. Heck, he had had plenty of positive interactions with them since he was a little kid. Big Gay Al had been one of the first people to help him understand the differences between people in that area, even though Stan, being an eight year-old at the time, hadn't really understood what being gay was at the time. No, it wasn't the thought of just anyone being gay that was bothering him. It was...
"Cheer up, Stanny-boy."
Stan didn't look up in time before something crunched in his face, smacking him rather painfully in the nose. He sat up and looked down to where the thing fell in his lap, parting his legs instinctively when the warmth began to diffuse through his pants. Reaching into the takeout bag, he pulled out a Styrofoam tupper and glanced at the foggy plastic lid, recognizing it for what it was immediately and sending the blond an exasperated look.
"You got us Indian food?" he asked. It was way too hot for that shit. He had given his friend eight bucks for his half of dinner, but he hadn't expected him to go out and spend it on something sweltering when it was a suffocating ninety-something degrees outside.
"Man, give me a chance, will you?" Before Stan could question him, Kenny held up something white in his other arm. Grey-blue eyes followed the hanging cord up to the slightly grimy base, tracing the shapes of the blades beyond the wire caging.
"...Dude, where'd you get that?!" he exclaimed in surprise, the prospect of cool relief from the dreary heat making him more excited than he normally would be. Kenny laughed as he bent down near the wall and sunk the plug into the outlet. The fan started up immediately with a whir, sending a wave of warm air directly across the small room and wafting right over Stan's face. Sighing, feeling more relaxed already, the black-haired boy sat up and stretched, allowing the air to pass over his sweaty chest and neck.
"Went dumpster diving at Chikala. Not so mad I picked up Indian now, are ya?"
Stan shook his head and Kenny leapt onto the couch beside him, watching as his friend began popping the lids off of their portions and taking a plastic fork from the bag for himself. During the winter, Chikala Chun was one of the gang's favorite places to eat during the wintertime, since it served hot curry and other good Indian food at decent prices that teenagers could afford. It was a good choice when the normal haunts, like Denny's and KFC, got boring. He generally wouldn't have picked it for a summer food stop, though, but with the fan blowing over him and stirring up the stagnant heat of Kenny's bedroom, Stan wasn't complaining.
"Thanks for picking us up some dinner, dude," he muttered and began stuffing his mouth full with tikka masala, hand searching through the bag for a naan bread. He found one and tore it into two pieces, glancing over and catching teal eyes with his own accidentally.
Stan looked back down at his food, able to sense the inevitable question.
"Were you just moping around the whole time I was gone?
He shivered and shifted closer to the fan, glancing back down at his phone where it sat on the table.
"Nah, just hanging out," he lied badly, embarrassed to have been caught. He really couldn't deny it. Ever since Kenny had agreed to run out for dinner and left the house an hour earlier, he'd just been laying there with his shirt off thinking about-
"Look, are you sure he didn't tell you? Maybe you just misinterpreted what he said, or something."
The blue-eyed boy choked and closed one eye, glancing up with a glare. "He didn't say anything about that," he sort of snapped, recalling his thought from earlier. No, he wasn't bothered by the thought that some guy was attracted to his own sex.
He was bothered by the fact that it was Kyle, and that Kyle hadn't told him.
More specifically, that Kyle had apparently told everyone except for him!
"What did he say to you?" he asked suddenly and sat up, leaning closer to Kenny and staring at him intently. He was going to get to the bottom of this, one way or another.
"Tell me everything! When did he...How did that even come up?"
The blond stripped his own t-shirt off and swabbed it over his face and neck, swiping away some of the shininess there. "Well, it was pretty quick," he replied simply, as if he didn't know what else to say. "We ran into each other at Robek's a couple weeks ago, I think. He had just got off work, so we were hanging out and he asked if he could tell me something. He looked pretty worried, but he just came out with it when I asked him."
When Stan didn't respond, Kenny sent him a smile and a half-shrug.
"He said he likes guys. I told him it was cool with me. I dunno why he thinks I'd care. I mean, everybody remembers Kyle's party last month, right?"
Stan had opened his mouth to speak and froze immediately, not having expected that last statement. Kyle's party? What had Kenny been doing at Kyle's-
Orange hoodie...smacky sounds...blond heads...
"What?" he asked flatly and pressed his back against the sofa, just startled that his brain had even been sober enough to retain a memory like that long enough for him to make such a connection. Kenny snorted and raised an eyebrow.
"You saw me and Butters, right?"
No other guy in their class was a fucking blond.
"Dude...seriously?" Stan put his food down, suddenly not in the mood to eat anything. Where was all this confusing stuff coming from?! Okay, so Kenny was well-known for being flirtatious and even a little overtly sexual, sometimes with a few different people at the same time, but what the hell would possess him to get so close to someone like-
"I was all boozed up," Kenny laughed and put his feet on the coffee table. "But hey, they say you don't do anything when you're drunk that you wouldn't wanna do sober anyways, right? That kid can be pretty cute, if you're in the right mood."
For some reason, Stan's brain ground to a halt at that rhetorical remark.
They say you don't do anything when you're drunk that you wouldn't wanna do sober anyways.
He closed his eyes suddenly, recalling the party scene. Bebe holding Clyde's hand by the door. Kenny down behind the bar with Butters. Kyle sitting in the corner of the staircase with Cartman's arms on either side of his legs...
"So what? Let go of me."
"Didn't anyone ever tell you to watch your mouth, kike?"
"Shu-uhht it, fatass!"
He sat up stiffly. Cartman had told him that Kyle was hiding something from him. At the time, he had figured he was just messing with his head, like the sadistic jerk he was a lot of the time. Now, though…He knew for a fact that Kyle had told everybody but him about this.
"I'm gonna go talk to him tomorrow," he said to himself and shoved the wrappings of his meal away, putting his feet up beside his friend's and reaching for his shirt. He pulled it on and stood up, foot tapping restlessly, not sure whether he wanted to stay up all night or try and force himself asleep.
"Huh? About what?" Stan heard a click and watched Kenny pop the cap off a beer.
"I have to figure out why he didn't tell me first." He received a sympathetic wince.
"I don't think it's a good idea to go freak out on him about that," the blond replied eventually, licking the neck of the bottle for an escaping drop. "Maybe you should just play dumb. He's gotta tell you one of these days, right? That way you can act all surprised about it."
"But he told you guys weeks ago!" Stan snapped back irritably and looked down, hands clenching up. His eyes burned and he looked down suddenly, startled by his own reaction to hearing himself say that. It was true! "What kind of friend am I if he waits to tell me last, Kenny?!" Did Stan's opinion of something that important not matter to Kyle at all?
"Doesn't he trust me? Does he think I'm a fucking gossip or something?! Jesus Christ!"
Hands came down on his shoulders and he paused in his rage, looking up into the teal eyes that stared down his anger. Frown fading, he slumped and let his chin fall to his chest, fingers uncurling from his fists.
It wasn't fair.
"Chill out, man," Kenny said levelly and shook Stan a little, bringing the grey-blue gaze upwards again. Stan winced. He was acting like a dumbass, and he knew it.
"Look. If you wanna talk to Kyle, I think he usually plays basketball on Sundays with some of the guys. You could show up at the park tomorrow and talk to him after they're done. Just try not to blow your lid like that, okay?" Kenny pursed his lips, expression reflecting Stan's own uncertainty.
"He looked pretty worried about it when he told me. Try not to freak him out. He's having a rough time lately with stuff."
Stan suddenly recalled the dark bags he had seen under green eyes a few months back, guilt creeping up under his skin. Kyle's parents had already divorced. The last thing his friend needed was to be getting extra freakouts from his friends, not to mention grief for something he hadn't expected and couldn't change.
Suddenly, his knees buckled a little with exhaustion. He'd have to be careful. He didn't want to make it sound like he was angry at Kyle, especially not over the whole...sexuality thing. More than anything, he just wanted to know why he had kept it hidden from him. Maybe there were problems in their friendship? Maybe he could do something to make it right?
Kyle was his best friend. He was willing to do anything.
"What time do they play?" he asked and sat back down on the sofa, clutching onto the arm.
Drummel Park was a new park that had been finished about a year before, on the middle-west side of South Park, near the elementary school. It had been a plot of land near the edge of the woods where a few trailers had once stood years back, but had since been thoroughly covered with grass and dotted with a few picnic tables and trees. A basketball court had also been put in near the five-space slab of concrete that served as a parking lot. Even so, it wasn't exactly the first-choice for a teenage hangout spot; drunks and degenerates liked to congregate in the park when it got dark out, resulting in a lot of smashed beer-bottles and trash around the playground and basketball areas. Kenny called it "Dumpster Park", which, considering the state of Kenny's house, said something.
It served its purpose well enough, though, apparently, if Kyle and his friends joined there several times a week to play basketball during the summer. Stan hopped off his bike and, not having brought anything to chain it up with, simply leaned it against a trashcan at the edge of the parking lot. He wouldn't be there long enough for anyone to make off with it, hopefully.
"YEAH! Suck it!"
Stan turned to the basketball court immediately. Four teenage boys were jogging away from the hoop, one dribbling a ball and one with his hands up in seeming excitement. The fire-engine-red hair was immediately visible in the sunlight.
"Nice shot, man!" Token slung one of his arms around Kyle's shoulders and said something Stan couldn't make out. Before he could take a step, one of the brunets (he was pretty sure it was Clyde) rushed for the opposite hoop. At once, the four were detached and running again, darting around each other, all of them grappling for the ball at once.
With a sudden headache, Stan took a deep breath and forced his feet to move him to the edge of the parking lot. He could see them a little more clearly now. Kyle was dressed in some loose navy blue shorts and a white t-shirt, and seemed totally focused on the ball. Surprisingly smoothly, he snatched the ball mid-dribble under Clyde's hand and spun around him. With an impressive jump, he tossed the ball one-handed against the backboard. Stan watched as it ricocheted into the hoop, bouncing around a few times before sinking through the net.
"Whoo!" Before the onlooker could unglue his feet and step closer, Kyle had landed and was wiping his face with his shirt as Token cheered again. Without warning, Clyde stepped closer and seemingly jabbed Kyle in the ribs, sending the redhead bending at the waist and grabbing his stomach. Stan's mental alarms went off and he strode forward with a frown, only to watch as Kyle let out a…laugh?
He stood frozen again when Kyle jumped after Clyde, obviously intending to dish out payback, and before Stan could question as to why he had been standing there noiselessly for at least five minutes, the four of them were roughhousing around the court together, seemingly trying to trip one another up and pulling each other's hair.
Stan stepped forward suddenly and made his way to the hoop at the closest end of the court, trying to keep calm. What was the worst that could happen? Kyle couldn't be mad that he had showed up to talk this out. It made sense, didn't it? Unless…
Unless Kyle would be mad that Kenny had told him. Hell, Kyle probably still assumed Stan was in the dark. What if he didn't want to talk to him? What if…he had more fun with Clyde and Token and that other kid than he did with Stan and Kenny? Did he not need them anymore?
Stan snapped back to reality with that thought and raised his head, having been staring at his shoes. His gaze locked in on Kyle and suddenly, Kyle paused in his pursuit of Clyde and turned his head, hazel eyes widening and aligning with his. For a few seconds they both stood like that before, startlingly, Kyle turned his head and called out.
"Be right back!" Completely unprepared to see his friend jogging towards him, Stan stood up straighter and forced himself not to turn tail and bolt for his bicycle. He clenched his hands at his sides and tried to look normal. Kyle got within a couple feet of him and stopped, giving Stan a better view of what he had been watching from far away. His face and arms were sweaty and his usually pale cheeks were red from the exercise, and his eyes (hadn't they looked gold a second ago?) were green and looking at him widely. Stan observed his expression for a moment nervously. Kyle didn't look relaxed. Any trace of the carefree laughter he had witnessed a few moments ago was gone, replaced by what he could only categorize as an uncertain expression.
"Stan?" he asked suddenly, pushing some hair out of his face. Stan tensed and coughed awkwardly. Crap! He hadn't thought this through! Why had he even gone looking for him?!
"U-uh, hey, what's up, dude?" Stan wanted to punch himself in the face. He was a fucking idiot.
"Just playing," Kyle replied slowly with one raised eyebrow, like he wasn't sure if he was answering the question. Stan swallowed, contemplating what his response should be when his friend spoke again.
"I didn't know you knew I played here on Sundays."
Ouch. Stan winced visibly and then stared with wide eyes, trying not to let onto his emotions quite yet. Kyle really assumed he didn't know a lot, didn't he?
"Kenny told me," he managed eventually, feeling a sudden pain and looking down. He realized he was clenching his fists so hard that his nails were biting into his palms and he immediately relaxed his fingers. What could he do?! He didn't want to upset Kyle, but he wanted answers! Was there a way to bring up something like this that could guarantee not to make Kyle cry or hit him or hate him forever?
He caught Kyle's gaze down at his hands. Slowly, their gazes came back together again, and this time, Kyle's brow was furrowed slightly. His cheeks were puffed, too, as if he was thinking hard about something, something he didn't want to voice just yet.
Stan opened his mouth (to say what, he hadn't thought yet) when Kyle spoke.
"Did Kenny tell you something else, too?"
Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!
Kyle gave him a hard look and he wilted, brain suddenly so full of words that he wasn't sure he could organize them all before they came tumbling out.
"Look, Kyle, it's okay! I'm sorry! I mean, I didn't, I can't- I don't care if you're, uh, I mean, it's-" He paused to take a deep breath, hoping he would start making more sense. "It doesn't matter if you're, uh, well…"
"I'm not gay," Kyle interrupted after a couple seconds of silence, eyes large and lips pursed a little bit. Recognizing that expression in horror, Stan reached out and snatched him by the shoulder.
"Can we talk about this later, Stan?" Kyle was no longer looking at him and instead seemed to be focusing on the grass.
"Y-you…" He took a deep breath, keeping his grip firm. He needed to fix this. He needed to understand. "You trust me, right, Kyle?" Finally, a coherent question, but one Stan was worried to hear the answer to.
Kyle turned and looked at him again, mouth slightly open. Suddenly, for some bizarre reason, Stan's stomach churned and he reached up to cover his mouth. He felt like he was going to throw up! Was he that nervous?
"…Dude…" Sighing, the redhead averted his gaze again, this time facing towards the parking lot. Stan swallowed and removed his hand.
"My Dad goes out with his drinking buddies on Sundays. Want to hang out at my house?" Kyle muttered questioningly, still looking the other way. Stan relaxed tenfold. Kyle didn't hate him. That was the worst of his fears, and it had just fallen out the window.
"Yeah!" he replied quickly and glanced over at the parking lot. "Uh, I biked here, did you drive or-"
"I walked," Kyle replied. He glanced back to the group of three on the court and waved. "See you guys!" Before Stan could be uncomfortable with the situation (he was too relieved to see that Kyle was choosing to spend time with him instead), Kyle had stepped down onto the concrete. Stan turned quickly and ran to the corner of the lot, glad to see his bike was present and intact.
"…" He hopped onto the seat and scooted forward, swallowing and pointing to the back. Wordlessly, Kyle sat down on the seat as Stan leaned forward with the bar between his legs. He shoved the kickstand up and pedaled off, feeling Kyle's warmth and slightly sweaty shirt behind him.
The ride was awkward. Even though they had shared a bicycle many times, Stan couldn't help but hear the silence every time he paused at a stoplight and put his foot down on the asphalt. Since Kyle didn't need to give directions, he didn't really need to say anything, and he stayed quiet. Stan considered trying to make small talk a couple of times, but always decided against it. Whatever he tried to talk about would sound stupid, anyway. What could he say? 'Sorry, me and Kenny were gossiping about your sexuality behind your back!'?
He pulled the bicycle into Kyle's carport and leaned it against the side of the house, hopping off. Kyle opened the door and he followed stiffly inside, kicking his shoes off and tailgating his friend into the kitchen. Catching his friend's uncertain look and suddenly hating the silence between them, he snatched the pizza menu off the fridge and looked it over. Kyle couldn't eat pork.
"Wanna get chicken and cheese?" he blurted out, trying to make the silence a little less…silent. The ginger nodded and looked down.
"…I'm gonna go take a shower. Here's some money." Before Stan could protest, a twenty was pushed into his hand and his friend was gone up the stairs. He wasn't sure whether to be relaxed or tenser than before. Sure, Kyle had invited him over, but was he just trying to be civil? For all Stan knew, Kyle was really, really upset. To be honest, Stan could see why.
"…" After a quick call to the pizza company, habit found Stan sitting with his legs up on the sofa, staring off into space as Kyle's TV warbled in the background. It was all such a surprise. How could he process something like that, that Kyle…liked guys? That way? Stan hadn't seen that coming. Even as kids Kyle had expressed interest in girls, even more so than Cartman and some others. Stan had had even been afraid a few times that he might try to get between him and Wendy, especially during the whole egg-parenting fiasco. He groaned, head resting against his knees.
When had things changed? Didn't most people who weren't straight have some kind of…coming-out experience? Stan wasn't biased in any way against homosexuals, but seriously, Kyle didn't fit the stereotype in any way. He played sports. He wore baggy clothes and ate cheeseburgers and played videogames and made messes. Okay, so he was a little cleaner than Stan was, but not to the point that anyone would think it was weird. Should Stan have somehow noticed it? Behind all that smiling and those good times, had Kyle gone through some kind of…self-awareness process in his brain, when he was discovering this about himself? Had he been hurting? Had Stan just not noticed it?
Stan's hands clenched into fists again. Kyle was already dealing with a divorce without this kind of added stress. Why would he keep it to himself? Wasn't it helpful to, well, talk about things like this with someone you trusted? Was Stan really not in that group?
Before he knew it, Stan had gotten up and paid the pizza man. He set the box on the arm of the sofa and returned to his previous position, eyes following the paisley on the couch cushions. If Kyle had only told Kenny and the others within the last couple of weeks, Stan had to wonder how long it had been since he'd figured it out himself. Even though Stan knew that he himself had liked girls ever since he was young, it had taken fumbling teenage experiences with Wendy to actually get a handle on what he was comfortable with and what he wasn't. Stan wasn't the biggest fan of kissing in public, for example, which, thankfully, Wendy hadn't taken too big of an issue with. Kyle's issue was different, though. It wasn't just discovering little preferences here and there…
He was pretending to watch TV when Kyle stepped down in a clean pair of shorts and muscle shirt. Stan awkwardly glanced his way, watching his friend head for the pizza box and take out a slice.
"Uh…" Stan winced. He had to just come out with it. It wasn't doing any good sitting and stressing about this. He had never had a hard time talking to Kyle about anything before.
"Listen, uh…" Kyle sat down on the sofa and glanced at him, giving him pause. The redhead had a weird expression, like he wasn't sure whether he should be upset or angry.
"Dude, it's…I don't…I'm sorry," he groaned shut his eyes, finding it was a little easier to talk when he wasn't looking at that unreadable expression. "I'm sorry Kenny told me, uh, I mean, I'm sorry I came and found you…" Wait, what was he apologizing for again? It wasn't his fault that Kenny had let that slip.
"Sorry about this." Genius. Surely he deserved the eloquence award for that one.
He opened his eyes to find Kyle with one leg up on the couch, hands in his lap and eyes on the cushions. Suddenly, their gazes were locked again.
"About what?" Kyle asked, obviously hesitant. Stan floundered. What the hell could he say?
"I just…Why didn't you tell me?!" he exclaimed suddenly, not sure what else to say. "You're my friend, Kyle! I thought, well, you know…You know you could've told me, right?"
Kyle stared at him, pizza forgotten in hand, and Stan realized in embarrassment that he was nearly shouting the house down.
"U-uh, I just mean…I wasn't trying to pry into your…you know, your life or anything." Shit, that felt weird to say. The mere thought that Kyle had a personal life that Stan wasn't aware of was a weird thought, but apparently there was some truth to it. He did play basketball without him every Sunday…
"Kenny just mentioned it and I didn't know what he was talking about. He was surprised I didn't know. I don't…I don't think he knew you hadn't told me, so don't be mad at him, okay?"
"I'm not mad," Kyle replied quickly, catching Stan off guard. They looked at each other again, Stan looking uncertain and Kyle slightly…embarrassed?
"It's my fault," the redhead continued and sighed, eyes falling. "I just…I couldn't get myself to do it. At first I thought, 'Oh, hey, no big deal, right?', but…" He fell into silence again and Stan, not wanting to upset him but a little relieved that Kyle didn't seem to be ready to tear his throat out, shifted closer.
"…Dude, why the hell didn't you tell me?" he asked, shoulders relaxing. The final question. That was all he wanted to know. Beyond curiosity, he didn't give a damn about anything related to Kyle's sexuality. He just needed to know…
"I mean, why'd you tell Token and Clyde and Ke-"
"Because it's you, god damn it!" Kyle shouted suddenly and looked up, startling Stan into silence. What…?
"You're my best friend, Stan! I didn't know how to do it! What the hell was I gonna do if you got pissed and never hung out with me anymore?! Jesus Christ!"
Stan gaped. That…Kyle actually thought he would care?!
"Dude...Why the fuck would I do that?" he asked incredulously. Kyle was hunched with his knees against his chest and eyes on the opposite wall, obviously embarrassed by his outburst and making an attempt not to look at him. Instantly, Stan's shoulders sagged with relief. Kyle wasn't mad. Kyle wasn't even upset with him. Kyle just valued their friendship so much…
"Hey." Reaching out, he grabbed his friend by the shoulder. Kyle looked at him and Stan, unable to take the suffocating mood anymore, opened his hand and smacked Kyle over the side of the head. As expected, he got a startled look in return, but one that was relaxed. There was no furrow in Kyle's forehead and no sadness in his eyes.
He should have known. Kyle wouldn't hide something from him because he didn't trust him. It was a tough enough time for him as it was, and Stan could imagine that he didn't want to add extra sources of stress to his life. Here was the validation, the cure to his fears: just because Kyle played basketball with other people and didn't answer his phone sometimes didn't mean he cared any less about Stan. A little curiosity lingered in his brain, but he could ask those questions later.
Stan just grinned, surprised to see Kyle smiling at him slightly, as if he got it.
When Kenny snuck in through the window a couple hours later to join them for Call of Duty, they had already passed out on the floor.
Agh, two months for an update…I'm sure it's not worth it. I hope at least somebody is enjoying the story!
My semester is winding down a bit, so hopefully, there will be more time to write. Stay tuned.