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“Are you seriously fucking kidding me?” Kyle could feel the vein in his forehead throb. His mouth was wretched in a snarl and he could feel the scratch in his throat from how he’d suddenly raised his voice. His hands twitched into white-knuckled fists. He was anticipating the next stupid fucking thing that was gonna come out of that fat-fucking mouth—

“Obviously, Kahl, I am not fucking with you,” Cartman crossed his arms, sounding so damn confident in whatever bullshit he was going to spew. “Because I am not a slimy, sniveling—”

Kyle roared, his hands dragging down his face and gripping into his hair before he threw himself at Cartman. He shoved his head directly into Cartman’s midsection and sent them both toppling to the ground in a tangle of flailing limbs. Cartman didn’t stay shocked for long and immediately retaliated by trying to wrench Kyle’s hands away from his face and throat area. Kyle spat obscenities at Cartman, wheezing when Cartman’s elbow met his chest. Kyle’s fist jabbed into Cartman’s stomach.

They toppled around on their sides. Cartman clawed at Kyle’s shoulders, trying to drag him down, swearing when Kyle shoved his knee into the sensitive area of his inner thigh. Cartman wrapped his legs around Kyle’s torso, jerking his hips up to try and flip Kyle over. Kyle felt a flash of heat in his gut at the sudden friction. He held back a shudder and fisted his hands in Cartman’s shirt, hauling him up and letting him flip on top. Cartman’s hands flailed around, one landing by Kyle’s head, the other splayed awkwardly on Kyle’s hip. Kyle barely caught the brief flash of panic on Cartman’s face before he brought up a leg and kicked it directly into the center of Cartman’s chest, throwing him backwards with a satisfying “thump.”

Before Cartman could regain his composure, Kyle pounced on top of him again, pinning down Cartman’s legs with his knees. Cartman was breathing heavily now, out of breath. Kyle couldn’t hear anything over the rush of blood in his ears as he kneeled over Cartman. Kyle went for Cartman’s arms, but Cartman had reached for his head, trying to stick his thumb in Kyle’s mouth with one hand and yank a handful of his hair with the other. Kyle growled, sitting up and rearing back to deliver a sharp slap to the side of Cartman’s face. For a split second, Cartman looked up at Kyle with something like awe in his eyes—before Kyle slammed down to pin Cartman’s arms to the ground by his head.

Kyle glared down at Cartman, both of them heaving. Cartman’s face was flushed and he looked a little dazed.

“What is it, asshole?” Kyle spat between breaths, unbelievably smug, “Did I slap you too hard?”

Cartman’s breathing hitched. He wriggled his arms, trying to free himself to no avail. Kyle tightened his hold, eyes narrowing. Kyle smirked down at him, victorious.

“Jesus Christ…” Cartman whispered, squirming uncomfortably, body stiff and tense under Kyle.

Kyle felt something shift in the air, and was glad, at least, he could blame the flush on his face on exertion. With a final glare, Kyle pushed off of Cartman, and stood, arms crossed.

“Fatass.” Kyle said tersely.

“...Jew.” Cartman replied, picking himself off of the floor with a sideways look at Kyle.

Kyle watched Cartman from the corner of his eye. Cartman’s face was still a little pink from the fight, and Kyle felt a jolt of pride when he looked at Cartman’s rumpled clothes and messy hair. Cartman took so much pride in his appearance—his shirts were always buttoned or tucked just so and his hair was always combed just so. Kyle watched as Cartman straightened his collar and then turn towards Stan and Kenny on the couch.

Cartman cleared his throat, trying to ignore the burn of Kyle’s eyes on the back of his head.

“Hey! You homos done being all faggy on the couch or can the rest of us play too?” Cartman drew their attention. He caught Kenny’s eye for a second. Kenny looked back as confident as Cartman pretended to be before opening his mouth to respond.

“I wasn’t the one who just spent the last fifteen minutes rolling around getting all touchy and sweaty with my mortal enemy.” Kenny raised an eyebrow at Cartman, the corners of his mouth twitching up when he saw the indignant flushes and protests he got in response. Cartman didn’t look at Kyle, who had pitched in his own objections of Kenny’s statement. Cartman intentionally walked further away from Kyle towards the couch, glaring at Kenny and bodily shoving him over to make room.

“Fuck off, Kinny,” Cartman grumbled, giving Kenny one last good shove. He shared a final, furious look with Kenny’s all too-knowing gaze before snatching away the controller he had in his hands. He threw himself into the game, trying to ignore the way Kenny was undoubtedly laughing at him.

Kyle huffed. He marched over towards the couch and sat on the almost broken, uncomfortably hard armrest. Kyle swiftly flipped a leg over, straddling the armrest so he could angle himself towards Cartman and start kicking.

“Move over, fatass,” Kyle demanded, shoving the toe of his shoe into Cartman’s pudgy side. Cartman gave an irritated “Ay!” but eventually conceded to Kyle’s assault and moved over.

“Alright, alright! God, Jew...fucking pushy,” Cartman mumbled.

Kyle squeezed into the space between the armrest and Cartman’s body. It was a snug fit, due to the small, old couch not being able to properly compensate for all of them.

Cartman’s hands stuttered over the controls when he felt Kyle’s side pressed up against his own. Kyle leaned back into the cushions, thighs spreading as he got comfortable, his leg pressing more firmly against Cartman’s. Cartman swore under his breath and tried to tear his attention back into the game. He huffed when he noticed his player character being swarmed by enemies and frowned when he saw Stan’s avatar standing completely still.

“Stan, what the fuck— are you playing or not?” Cartman growled. He could barely make out Kyle’s form moving from his peripheral vision.

He kept his eyes firmly on the screen.

Cartman tried to play the game for a while longer, but his heart just wasn’t in it. Besides, the game was shit anyways, and Cartman wasn’t afraid to say it.

“God, this game fucking sucks,” Cartman complained, trying to get his character through a legitimately poorly designed dungeon. He got caught on another hidden ledge and groaned. “Jesus Christ, who the fuck designed this shit? I’ve seen better levels from first graders on Mario Maker.”

Kyle scoffed, rolling his eyes.

“Sure, fatass, blame the game for the fact that you’ve died like eight times in the past five minutes.” Kyle sounded amused.

“Ay!”

Eventually he got fucking tired of going on filler quests and just slammed his remote on the couch.

“Fuck! I’m done with this shit!” Cartman said, leaning back and crossing his arms.

“God, finally,” Kyle responded, reaching over Cartman to grab the discarded remote. Cartman glared but didn’t say anything in return. “Let’s just watch a movie or something. I’m going to go get the blankets.” Kyle stood, and after turning off the game the others followed behind him to set up the mattress.

Cartman, though he wanted to do as little work as possible, ended up hefting out the mattress by himself. Mostly because Kyle called him a weak little bitch and said he didn’t want to get the mattress because his flabby arms couldn’t carry more than the weight of a KFC bucket.

So obviously Cartman had to prove Kyle wrong. He felt victorious until he caught Kyle smirking slyly.

“Hey! You fucking tricked me!” Cartman exclaimed from his seat on the mattress, his face turning pink. He looked up at Kyle indignantly. “You sneaky fucking Jew!”

“I didn’t do shit.” Kyle stood with his blankets piled in his arms, head held high, “You were the one who carried the mattress down here.”

“Don’t give me that bullcrap, Kahl,” Cartman pointed an accusatory finger at Kyle, “You know what you did!”

“Really?” Kyle dropped his blankets on the mattress, “Way to be a hypocrite, Cartman, because you do the exact same thing.”

“A-ha!” Cartman grinned, “So you do admit you tricked me!”

“That’s not the point!” Kyle plopped down on the mattress. He took a deep breath. “Just drop it. Watch the movie.”

Cartman smirked. They’d already seen the movie, so Cartman knew just how long to wait before he could…

“Y’know, the villain in this movie isn’t wrong.” Cartman played casual, speaking as if he were just making a simple observation. He smiled when he heard Kyle’s irritated objection next to him.

“Are you kidding me? Cartman, he kills people.” Kyle didn’t know why he was so surprised, of course Cartman would agree with the villain. But the movie made it so clear that the villain was not supposed to be right, and that the heroes were ultimately the right path to go down, so Kyle just couldn’t leave that statement in the air.

“Okay, but the heroes were complacent in the oppression of a ton of people—the villain just wants to liberate them.” Cartman glanced at Kyle, noting with pride how his green eyes had narrowed in thought.

“Yeah, but killing innocent people to make a point isn’t the way to do that!”

“So you agree the villain’s motives are right?”

Kyle groaned, rolling his eyes. He hated to admit it but—

“Okay. So maybe the villain has some good ideas,” Kyle conceded, “But that doesn’t make him the hero!”

“I never said he was, Kahl, I just said he wasn’t wrong.” Cartman obnoxiously patted Kyle on the shoulder in a show of faux-agreement. “I’m glad we’re on the same page here.”

They kept debating different aspects of the movie–and of the movie after that, too. Eventually they had migrated to laying down, deep in argument about whether the ending was a Deux Ex Machina or not. The TV played softly behind them, completely ignored. In the dark, under their blankets, their voices had lowered to whispers. They faced each other, unaware of their proximity in their hushed, fervent conversation. Occasionally, their sentences would be interrupted by soft yawns. They didn’t notice when the TV turned off, and that the only light was the soft glow of the streetlamps from the windows, gently swathing their faces in a pale blue.

When they fell asleep, it was to a final fading argument, whispered into the quiet air between them.

Kyle returned to consciousness in pieces. He was vaguely aware of different sensations, but his brain hadn’t connected any of them yet.

There was a really nice smell—somehow sweet, like vanilla, mixed with something else Kyle couldn’t put his finger on, but still intensely familiar. He was also surrounded by a pleasant warmth, there was a comforting pressure at his waist, and he was laying on something really, really soft. Kyle sighed, nuzzling deeper into the soft warm thing.

Then there was a tiny, niggling thought that had worked its way up through Kyle’s mind, the first sprout of wakefulness that prevented him from falling back into sleep, into the warm-soft-comfortable thing. A really simple little thought:

This isn’t my bed.

It was such a throwaway, offhanded thing, but once he had become aware of it, he couldn’t find it in himself to ignore it. Kyle was too curious. His brain still hasn’t caught up past that, though, so Kyle’s first instinct for more information was to open his eyes.

Kyle scrunched his face, trying to wrestle away the last remnants of sleep. He kept still, somehow not wanting to disturb the soft thing he was laying on. He slowly opened an eye, his vision an indistinct blur of warm-toned colors. He blinked. The blur shifted and cleared, and Kyle looked down at what he could have sworn was the rumpled collar of a white T-shirt.

Kyle’s brain quite suddenly put the pieces together. Ah. Okay. Kyle’s body tensed under his newfound knowledge. He was…

Memories of the night before came to him in messy pieces. The last thing he remembered was arguing about the three-act structure with…

Kyle clenched his jaw, hard. His blood thudded in his veins, loud in his ears. He didn’t want to look, but his morbid desire to confirm his theory made him.

Kyle’s gaze slowly inched upwards, his shoulders drawn up high.

Then he was staring directly at Eric Cartman’s face.

Kyle’s tense body shuddered in—shock, probably? He still hadn’t completely processed the event, his mind racing with bits and pieces and questions. His hair looks soft. How did we get here? I can’t feel my leg. His arm is warm. Why is he so warm?

Kyle was shaken out of his thoughts, almost literally, as Cartman shifted underneath him. Kyle held his breath, eyes locking on Cartman’s face, his hands clenched into fists from where they had been tucked under Cartman’s body. Oh fuck—he was clinging to Cartman—practically holding him.

And then Cartman’s hand, the one not at Kyle’s waist, lifted, lethargically, and gently brushed over Kyle’s unruly curls in an almost automatic fashion. Cartman’s body moved under Kyle, and the warm palm was replaced with the press of Cartman’s face to the top of his head, like a—like a kiss? Except it was more like his face just pressing onto Kyle, his face smooshing softly on Kyle’s scalp. His arm flopped unceremoniously back onto the mattress.

Kyle fearfully examined Cartman’s face, but he found the other still fast asleep, completely still. He felt himself relax, unintentionally.

Kyle never noticed how much tension Cartman carried in his face. Cartman almost looked...cherubic, when he was asleep, with his soft face and apple-rounded cheekbones. His lips were pink and plump and almost pouty. It was probably how he’d gotten so good at acting innocent, with a face like that. Kyle’s own lips thinned into a line.

Not really sure what to do, and not wanting to get up yet, Kyle relaxed against Cartman’s chest. He noticed their position put his ear just a little above Cartman’s heart, and the steady, drumming beat soothed the logical part of Kyle’s mind that was screaming at him. Kyle was almost tempted to go back to sleep. He glanced up, above the couch, to the clock on the wall. 10:57 AM.

Kyle quietly clicked his tongue. He probably should get up. Kyle glanced back at Cartman, who was still breathing deeply, completely asleep.

Kyle had...three options. He could wait for Cartman to wake up, which, knowing Cartman, could take until noon at the earliest, probably 2 or 3 PM at the latest. Kyle had to piss, and take his insulin at some point. So that was out.

Or he could wake Cartman up himself. It would be the quickest and most efficient course of action, but had the side-effect of having Cartman wake up with Kyle in his arms. Which….Christ.

And option three: try to wrench himself out of Cartman’s grip without waking him up. Option three was definitely the most appealing, to Kyle’s pride and bladder.

Kyle’s brow furrowed. He looked down at—Jesus—both himself and Cartman, specifically where Cartman’s arm was wrapped around Kyle’s torso. That was the biggest hurdle. There was also the issue of Kyle’s misbehaved and, frankly, ridiculous limbs, which had curled around Cartman’s body like gangly, freckled vines. His left arm was pretty much free, no longer squished between Cartman’s arm and body. His right arm, though, was slipped under Cartman’s shoulder, palm splayed somewhere at his back. It was also falling asleep. Ugh.

That wasn’t even getting into the case of Kyle’s legs. His left leg was thrown haphazardly over Cartman’s hip, bent at the knee to tuck his heel into the crease where Cartman’s thigh met his ass; his right leg somewhere at Cartman’s other side–the state of his legs having the unfortunate combined side effect of putting one of Cartman’s big, warm thighs right in between Kyle’s.

A train of thought Kyle was going to halt immediately.

Kyle, frowning, looked back at Cartman’s arm. He tried to think of the safest way to move it without waking Cartman up. Without him fully realizing what he was going, Kyle gently skirted the fingertips of his free left hand over Cartman’s forearm. A slow, up and down, barely-there motion. Halfway through his second pass towards Cartman’s wrist, Kyle felt goosebumps break out on the offending arm. Cartman shuddered, and his arm tightened slightly, a pleased hum escaping him as he buried his face in Kyle’s hair. Kyle bit his lip, feeling a surge of something powerful.

When his fingers made their next trip back up, Kyle, daringly, let them travel a little bit higher, letting his nails scrape lightly on the sensitive seam of the inner elbow. Cartman’s breathing stuttered. Kyle froze, his fingers halted in place. When Cartman didn’t move, Kyle let his nails run over the area in long, looping circles. Cartman’s hips shifted. Something firm pressed against the side of Kyle’s hip, where his upper thigh met his body.

Kyle’s breath hitched sharply. The feel of it against Kyle’s body sent a buzz through him, and he all of a sudden felt dizzy. Kyle’s own...problem...was exacerbated by the way Cartman’s thigh had pressed up.

This was getting out of hand, very quickly. Kyle had to get out of there. He squirmed a little, trying to alleviate his discomfort, but only ended up rubbing his hip and thigh against Cartman. In response, Cartman made a desperate, whining little noise that made Kyle’s body feel hot all over. With a thick swallow, Kyle’s hips, against his will, moved in a slow, grinding circle. Pressed against the perfect plush softness of Cartman’s thigh, Kyle moved his left hand back onto the bed to grip the sheets. Kyle’s mind was rapidly falling into the haze of hormones and good feelings. He buried his face into Cartman’s neck and breathed in deeply, inhaling the sweet-familiar scent he could now place with ease. Kyle panted, slowly rutting his hips, torturously, still caught in the quiet morning atmosphere and the risk of waking the other up.

Kyle dug his teeth into his lower lip. Cartman’s breath was hot in his ear, and the little mewling sounds he made were driving Kyle kind of crazy.

“Haah...Kahl…” Cartman moaned, quietly, into Kyle’s ear.

Kyle halted everything, trying desperately to ignore Cartman’s needy whine when he stopped. Kyle freed both arms, bracing them on the sides of the mattress, and hauled himself up and over Cartman, looking down at him. Cartman’s face was flushed, his lips parted and damp and panting. The view was a familiar one, though this time Cartman’s hair was mussed from sleep, and his eyes were shut. He was still asleep.

Kyle stayed absolutely still, trying to calm his breathing, trying to ignore the way Cartman’s hips jumped in short, frantic jerks. He grit his teeth, trying to keep his own hips from moving against the sweet, grinding friction, his thighs twitching with the effort.

Kyle stared down at him, the air uncomfortably cool at his back compared to the searing heat at his front where he had been pressed against Cartman. Kyle stared down at him for what felt like hours. He watched the for furrow between Cartman’s eyes to ease back into a relaxed expression, for Cartman’s hips to slow to a stop.

Kyle’s head was spinning. Jesus Christ. Kyle filled his lungs and exhaled harshly. This was fine. Perfectly fucking fine. He just woke up, he was tired and disoriented and pressed against someone else. He was young. It had been a while since he last got off properly. His reaction was normal. Perfectly normal thing to happen when guys end up in the same bed. Complete accident. Hell, it had happened before! The first time Kyle shared a bed with Kenny he woke up with Kenny pressed against his ass. Stan sometimes had wet dreams and woke them all up in the middle of the night.

It was normal.

Even if it was Cartman this time.

Kyle’s skin felt itchy. Fuck it. Just. Fuck it all. Kyle was going with option 2 before he lost his damn mind.

“Cartman!” Kyle said sternly. He still couldn’t get up all the way, what with Cartman’s arm pinning him down. Kyle’s arms had started to hurt from the way he’d braced himself up, so he rested his right elbow on a little portion of mattress to the side of Cartman’s head, resting his cheek on his palm. With his left hand, he shook Cartman’s shoulder. “Cartman! Hey, fatass! Wake the hell up!”

Cartman stirred with a groan. He rubbed at his face, his other arm still at Kyle’s waist. When his eyes opened they were glazed over with sleepy confusion.

“...Kahl?” Cartman’s voice was a rough whisper. “What the fuck—” Cartman’s eyes widened in realization, and his face turned a demure pink, even when he slapped a sarcastic grin on his face.

Kyle rolled his eyes.

“Why, Kyle!” Cartman said, a faux-saccharine tone drowning his words in a southern belle accent, “You dirty girl! I just knew I was irresistible but I didn’t think you’d try to take me without taking me out to dinner first.” Cartman pretended not to hear the slight waver in his own voice, and Kyle pretended not to repress a shiver when Cartman said “take me.”

“Cartman I literally could not give less of a shit right now,” Kyle lied, “I have to piss.”

“What do you want me to do about that?” Cartman raised an eyebrow. Kyle gave him a flat look in return.

“Let me up.”

“Oh.”

Cartman, suddenly awkward, gingerly removed his arm from Kyle’s person. Kyle felt a chill on his lower back.

They stared, expressions unreadable as they searched each other’s faces. Then Kyle clambered to a stand, stumbling as he tried to get the feeling back in his legs, and stalked away towards the bathroom wordlessly.

Cartman watched him leave. He listened for Kyle’s footsteps retreating up the stairs, and didn’t breathe until he heard the shower start up.

Cartman groaned, flopping back onto the mattress with the heels of his palms digging into his eyes. Fuck.

He knew Kyle hadn’t realized he was awake.

Cartman had straddled the line of sleep when he felt the body against his stiffen, and he’d automatically ruffled the hair, like he usually did when Ken was having nightmares. But there was something so unusual amiss he couldn’t go back to sleep. Whoever was on him didn’t feel like Kenny—the weight wasn’t the same, the limbs were longer, the hair had a different texture.

The forehead kiss was improvised, a way to subtly get more information. When his head ducked down he’d cracked open an eye to see bright red curls and swallowed his shock as quickly as he could. Memories of the night before came tumbling back, and Cartman internally berated himself for not realizing the inevitability of waking up like that. Cartman instinctively moved towards other people in his sleep, which is why he usually bunked with Kenny, who didn’t mind.

He didn’t dare open his eyes, then. He knew Kyle was looking at him and thinking hard, his mind flying a mile a minute. Cartman had kept his face lax, trying not to shudder at the feel of Kyle’s eyes trained on him, or at the tiny movements of Kyle’s body.

Then Kyle started running his nails over Cartman’s forearm and the sensation sent such sweet little waves of pleasure over him he had to subtly shift to readjust. Though apparently he wasn’t as subtle as he thought he was.

And fuck when Kyle started moving. It was torture in the best fucking way. Cartman physically could not hold back his sounds and he hated himself, for sounding so fucking needy for it, for Kyle. God, he wanted Kyle to grind him into the sheets. He was dizzy with the need for it, the thing he’d been fantasizing about since he hit puberty and noticed how much he liked being pinned under Kyle’s body and sharp gaze.

And when he felt Kyle’s mouth at his throat, his hot panting breaths and the movement of his lips; knowing his teeth were so fucking close, Jesus Christ. He couldn’t help but moan Kyle’s fucking name, hoping, praying, Kyle would realize he was awake or that even if he wasn’t Cartman would be more than happy to let him continue.

But at the sound of his name Kyle stopped and froze and Cartman desperately tried to roll his hips in an attempt to get him back, before realizing his efforts were futile. He eased back into his facade of sleep, disappointed. Then Kyle had decided he’d had enough and “woke” Cartman up and fled the scene.

Now Cartman was stuck with an uncomfortably hard dick and enough material for the spank bank to last him the rest of his goddamned life.

He thought, briefly, to feel bad about basically taking advantage of Kyle—but then he realized Kyle thought he was taking advantage of Cartman back. So it evened out. Probably.

God. He had to get up.

Cartman slowly trudged towards the downstairs bathroom. He brushed his teeth methodically, staring into his own eyes vacantly. He vaguely thought about shitty things to kill his boner—hippies, the dark circles under his eyes, Mr. Garrison, that time he found used heroin needles in his kitchen sink, whether he remembered to clean Mr. Kitty’s litter box.

Good enough. Cartman pissed and left the bathroom. He thought about going back to sleep, but the thought of laying on that mattress again, alone in a house that wasn’t his with Kyle somewhere in another room, just made him feel vaguely ill.

He squirmed. He felt antsy, his skin somehow too tight and itching from the inside. He glared hard at the messy tangle of sheets on the mattress, and the discarded blankets left sloppily on the couch. He could still feel the ghost sensations of Kyle’s breath on his neck, his curls ticking at his face. The shower was still on.

Before he realized what he was doing, Cartman was already in motion, gathering the sheets and blankets in his arms and marching them down to the basement. The methodical motions of washing things in the machine were familiar, and almost calming, in a way—put sheets and blankets into machine, pour detergent, add any extra scent boosters or tide-pods or whatever the fuck else. Typically there were default settings ready to go, but Cartman preferred entering his settings manually. He had a lot of nice things, and he took care of his nice things. Besides, it wasn’t like his mom would wash his shit anymore. Even if she tried, Cartman had become almost possessive over his laundry, from all the hours he spent doing it right.

Liane was never extensively thorough in her chores, but she always made an effort to accomplish them in a “good-enough” manner. It was something Cartman had only noticed when he got older, and the leftover grime in the far corners of the counters or the dust sweeped under the fridge had started to make his skin crawl. Though she’d...gotten a little more lazy about it in the past couple years.

Cartman cringed, a buzzing rattling his skull, right between his eyes. He shook his head. He instead focused on the comforting rumble of the washing machine, clanging in a way that probably should’ve required a replacement years ago. It was the same set from when they were kids, playing laundromat. Cartman remembered the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of catharsis, he had when they played laundromat and he got to oversee the process of cleaning and ironing clothes, hanging them up neatly and wrapping them in plastic bags to protect them. He liked the business aspect of it, for sure, math had always been like a game to him too in those regards, but there was just something about taking a piece of clothing that was grimy and dirty and restoring it back to its glory, in removing ugly stains and washing away filth.

But now he had nothing to do. Cartman stared at the rumbling machine, unblinkingly.

With a sigh, he went back upstairs.

He stood next to the mattress. He kicked at it. Well. It was more like he’d nudged it with his foot, but it made him feel better to think he’d kicked it. He frowned at the old, sturdy thing. With a glance at the couch, he briefly wondered where the other two had gone. He shrugged, thinking Ken had probably dragged Marsh off to go do something while he had the opportunity.

Then his stomach rumbled. Cartman wandered into the kitchen, wondering if the Marshes still had good food stored away or if Stan’s hippie girlfriend had made them get rid of anything edible.

Kyle towel-dried his hair. When he looked in the mirror, he took in the thinness of his cheeks and wondered if his mom was right. Did he need to eat more? The darkness under his eyes wasn’t as pronounced as it had been in the past week, so Kyle took that as a win, until he realized why he had slept so well. Urgh.

He knew his mom would immediately notice how well rested he was and make a comment about it. He could hear her already. ‘Oh bubbie, you’re looking so refreshed today! I’m so proud of you!’ She’d ask him to keep up whatever he’d been doing, probably.

Ha.

Yeah. Sure, Ma, that’ll definitely be added to the daily routine.

Kyle felt his face flush hotly. He turned away from the mirror to roughly yank on a shirt–one of the many he’d had stowed away in Stan’s room, since he’d grown too tall to borrow clothes like he used to. He hoped Cartman had left already. Kyle had assumed Kenny went home, and Stan was probably out with Wendy. It wouldn’t have been the first time Kyle woke up alone in Stan’s house, and just hung out all day until someone got home. Sometimes he helped Mrs. Marsh with dinner. Most of the time he ended up leaving out the back door when he heard Randy’s car.

Kyle glanced at Stan’s bedroom door. He was just gonna go home.

Kyle started plodding down the stairs. As he approached the bottom, he smelled something really fucking good. Kyle’s stomach growled, reminding him he’d only had a handful of popcorn and some soda for dinner the night before. Kyle followed the smell into the kitchen, his mouth watering. He wondered when Mrs. Marsh had gotten home…

Then he froze in the doorway, eyes wide in boggled confusion.

The kitchen was spotless and, if Kyle was remembering correctly, even cleaner than how they’d left it the night before. The delicious smell came from the stack of fluffy pancakes sitting on the counter, next to a hot griddle with the rest of their brethren. The air smelled like peanut butter and apples, for some reason. Kyle stood in shocked, hungry silence, his gaze devouring the stack of pancakes from across the room. He felt a pang of despair as he longingly looked upon the pancakes.

Kyle was so hungry he’d almost forgotten why he’d been so shocked.

Then, his stomach growled, loudly.

Spatula in hand, Cartman glanced at Kyle from his peripheral.

“Damn, you took like 45 minutes in there,” Cartman said offhandedly, flipping another pancake. He didn’t turn to face Kyle. 

“When did you learn how to cook?” Kyle said, almost accusatory. Cartman scoffed, rolling his eyes.

“I’m a man of many talents, Kahl.”

“No, no, really,” Kyle insisted, suddenly amused, “Did your mom just stop serving you your meals on a silver platter? Has this extended to other chores too? Have you been forced to touch a broom within the last six months?”

Cartman’s knuckles turned white around the spatula handle. His shoulders tensed. Kyle didn’t notice this.

“I’m glad she finally grew a backbone, then, to get you off your lazy ass for once,” Kyle said breezily.

Cartman took a deep, slow breath, staring hard at the last pancake on the griddle. He watched the batter bubble at the edges, turning a golden brown. He eased his voice into something casual.

“Careful, Kahl,” he said, in a faux chastising tone, “Make one more comment like that and I’ll have to eat all these pancakes myself.” Kyle’s eye twitched.

“Oh fuck off, fatass, we both know I can’t eat any fucking pancakes.” Kyle cursed his shitty fucking dietary restrictions. Again. His jaw ached.

“Au contraire. You can eat these ones,” Cartman said, gesturing with the spatula at the finished stack. “They’re 100% Kahl friendly.”

“Now I know you’re trying to poison me.” Kyle raised an eyebrow, immediately suspicious at the almost...proud tone in Cartman’s voice.

“Pfft, as if I’d spend all this time making pancakes I can’t eat. Fuck off, Kahl.” Still not facing Kyle directly, Cartman scurried to the microwave to warm the peanut butter. “I got the recipe from diabetes-dot-com and the lady who wrote it’s a Jew too. So, there. Kahl friendly. Google it if you don’t believe me. They’re peanut butter and apple so unless you have a secret nut allergy this won’t kill you.” Cartman pushed his whole little speech out in what felt like one breath; his chest felt tight at the admission.

Kyle’s hands twitched at his sides. He was really fucking hungry. He still didn’t know if he could trust Cartman, though, even if Cartman’s ears had turned pink against his will. He opened his mouth to say something—

“And I’m not doing this for you!” Cartman interrupted, “This is a purely selfish endeavor.” Cartman’s hands shook when he reached for the silverware drawer. “You fucking whine and moan like a little bitch every time you can’t eat with the rest of us normal people, and I just didn’t want to deal with your goddamned shit today. So there. Now go make yourself useful, daywalker, and get rid of the fucking mattress.”

“I...what—” Kyle’s mind was reeling, “The fuck…?”

“Go! Or has your rich Jewish daddy spoiled you so much you don’t know the concept of manual labor?”

“Oh fuck off, fatass.” Kyle’s voice came out more....fond than he originally intended. There was something so familiar about Cartman’s diversion tactics. Kyle carefully held his tongue as he walked back into the living room. Cartman didn’t have to make him breakfast in the first place, and the thought inadvertently made Kyle grin.

Cartman rested his arms on the counter, two forks clenched in his hand. He swallowed thickly. With a shake of his head, he clumsily dropped the forks next to the plate of pancakes.

He turned to fill the sink with warm water. He turned off the burner and started gathering the leftover dishes. Cartman placed them into the sink, delicately. He found himself following the path of the bubbles that formed on top of the water.

He didn’t bother with gloves, just threw himself into it, with the Marshes shitty old sponge and off-brand dish soap. There wasn’t that much to clean anyways.

When Cartman thrust his hands into the water, he noticed something red floating in its surface. With a hiss, he yanked his hands back out, ignoring the way water had splashed on his shirt in doing so. He inspected his fingertips. Damn. He’d been picking at his nail beds again. His right index finger was bleeding. Cartman rolled his eyes. He started setting the dishes to dry.

At that moment, though, Kyle had returned, loudly.

“What the hell is taking you so long?” Then Kyle saw the soapy sink and dish rack and immediately followed with, “Dude, there’s a dishwasher.”

“I know that, Kahl. I just like doing shit right.” Cartman’s tone was bitter. He shoved the plates onto the dishrack with little finesse.

Kyle stared, somehow feeling out of place. He’d dragged the mattress back to the closet by himself, begrudgingly giving Cartman some credit in admitting the thing was kinda heavy. He’d sat himself on the couch, waiting, when he realized Cartman was taking forever and was obviously doing something else in the kitchen.

Kyle only went back because he wanted to make sure the pancakes didn’t disappear into Cartman’s gullet in those few precious minutes he was gone. Obviously.

But then he came back to see Cartman—not eating, surprisingly—and instead found him washing the dishes after himself. If Kyle didn’t know any better, he’d think he was having some sort of fever dream, or trapped in an alternate dimension where Cartman was a responsible individual who could take care of himself. Fucking insane.

Then Kyle noticed the long streak of pale red dripping down Cartman’s forearm.

“Are you...are you bleeding?” Kyle asked. He took a cautious step closer.

Cartman looked down at his arm. He swore to himself.

“It’s fine, fuck off,” Cartman mumbled. He grabbed a napkin and quickly wiped down the watered-down red drops from the counter and his own arm. By the time he’d thrown the napkin away, Kyle was at his side, forcing him to turn and stand face-to-face. Cartman’s eyes were wide.

“Uh, what the hell are you doing?” Cartman said, eloquently. Nice.

“Give me your hand, douche,” Kyle held up the bandaids he’d snagged from one of the kitchen drawers. “We can’t have you bleeding all over the place—you’d start spreading AIDs again.”

“Hey! That wasn’t my fault!” Cartman cried, not noticing the way Kyle had snatched his arm.

Kyle was inspecting Cartman’s hand. He studied the fat globe of blood from where it’d collected on Cartman’s fingertip, at the torn edges of the dry skin. He didn’t warn Cartman when he sprayed antiseptic. He smirked to himself when Cartman cried out at the sting. It was only when he applied the bandaid that he noticed the maroon darkness under Cartman’s thumbnail. He didn’t get to mention it, though, because Cartman had snatched his hand back.

“Christ, Kahl, you got a fucking medical kink or something? Are you my mom? You a fucking nurse?” Cartman cradled his hand to his chest, protectively. He rubbed at his wrist, where Kyle had held him, trying to wipe away the lingering warmth of Kyle’s grip.

Kyle wasn’t exactly sure why he’d bandaged Cartman up. Partially it was for hygienic purposes—he actually didn’t want blood to get everywhere. Mostly Kyle chalked it up to brotherly instincts. Years of being around Ike (and to some extent, Stan and Kenny) trained Kyle to have a kind of super sense for that kind of thing. He’d see blood and a bandaid would somehow magically teleport into his hand.

To answer Cartman’s question, though, he just shrugged.

Cartman still couldn’t meet Kyle’s eyes properly. The soft mirth in the other’s gaze did funny things to him, and he knew he’d say something stupid if he didn’t retreat.

“Fuck you, Kahl, now I have to reheat the peanut butter and apple compote,” Cartman grumbled, shuffling away awkwardly to put the two bowls back in the microwave.

Kyle’s smile was entirely unintentional, and he’d only noticed it after he’d taken the plates and silverware out to the living room. It was quickly wiped away, though, by the small jolt of shock he felt when he realized just how...domestic the whole situation was. Kyle looked down at the coffee table, at the two plates with their matching napkins and forks, ready to be topped with homemade diabetic-friendly Kosher pancakes.

And then what? Kyle and Cartman would eat breakfast while chatting and watching TV? That’s what it seemed like. It was fucking surreal. Before Kyle could ponder the bizarre situation any further, Cartman yelled at him from the kitchen, jostling him out of his thoughts.

“Hey, Kahl! There’s three things to carry and I’ve only got one uninjured arm!”

Kyle rolled his eyes, calling back.

“You nicked your fucking finger, drama queen!”

But Kyle still walked into the kitchen to carry in the plate of pancakes, while Cartman held two bowls of peanut butter and what Cartman called “apple compote.” They settled on the couch, only a little awkward. Cartman tossed Kyle the remote, telling him to “find something that won’t make me want to gouge my eyes out.” Kyle flicked through the channels, acutely aware of Cartman’s movements from the corner of his eye. Kyle eventually found a channel playing Terrance and Phillip reruns and decided it was safe enough. When Kyle leaned back into the couch, he noticed the plate in front of him had been topped with three perfectly round pancakes.

Kyle blinked in surprise. He glanced at Cartman, who was curled up on the couch, his legs tucked underneath him criss-cross style. Cartman seemed to notice he was being watched and looked over at Kyle with a somewhat spooked look in his eyes.

“What?” Cartman said through a mouthful of pancake. He swallowed, eyes glancing to Kyle’s untouched plate. “I swear to Christ, if you don’t top your pancakes and fucking eat them I will end you.”

Kyle reached for the compote, and he was barely half an inch away from pouring when Cartman batted his hands away, muttering something about how “Typical—doesn’t know how to pour the fucking compote right,” and proceeded to top Kyle’s pancakes for him.

The room delved into silence, then. Though Cartman made it look as though he was watching the TV, Kyle knew Cartman was waiting for his response. Though Kyle was still somewhat worried the whole thing was a horrible prank, the tense look in Cartman’s eyes, the set of his jaw, made Kyle reconsider–and finally, he took a bite of his pancakes.

Like a cliche, time seemed to slow, and Cartman intensely followed the path of Kyle’s fork as it was raised to his mouth. He seriously didn’t know what the fuck he was thinking when he started breakfast—he just needed something to do to keep his mind from spiralling. He thought his pancakes were fine, but he wasn’t sure what he would do if Kyle hated them or something. He legitimately did not know what his reaction would be. The only person who’d had his cooking was Kenny, and Ken didn’t even know Cartman had been the one to make it—even if Ken seemed suspicious afterwards. Cartman was still sure Kenny somehow knew.

“It’s good,” Kyle said simply.

Cartman let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding, his hand relaxing around his fork. He probably had indentions on his palm because of it. Gross.

“Of course it’s good,” Cartman replied, haughty. He ignored the part of him that felt warm and pleased at the praise—as miniscule as the praise was. “Why the fuck would I be eating it if it tasted nasty?”

“Knowing the shit you ate as a kid, I legitimately would not be surprised if it was. Butter and PopTarts, remember?” Kyle responded, smiling at the offended “Hey!” he got in return.

They fell into silence again, more comfortable now that some of the tension had been broken. They only really spoke up to make quips about old episodes. It was...pretty nice, somehow. They were in the middle of discussing the pros of season two’s writing changes when out of nowhere, a blaring, annoying alarm sounded from somewhere in the room, making them both jump.

“I think that’s you—” Kyle started. He looked over at Cartman, who’d turned white as a sheet. “Are you…”

Cartman practically leapt from his seat. When he clumsily put his breakfast down, his fork skid across the table, landing upside down and leaving a sticky little puddle on the surface. Kyle had barely glanced at it when he realized Cartman had darted to the other side of the room. The alarm was still ringing, a shrill, grating sound loud enough to wake the dead.

Cartman grumbled to himself, digging around the sloppy pile of their discarded things to grab hold of his old hoodie, scooping his phone out of its front pocket. He bit his lip viciously; his hands shook when he tried to unlock his phone, his fingers on the wrong numbers as the alarm continued to ring. It took him a few tries. He knew Kyle was still looking at him, confused, intrigued, probably annoyed at the purposefully infuriating ringtone.

Cartman swallowed thickly when he finally got his phone unlocked and shut off the alarm. He peered at the screen.

“Motherfucker,” Cartman swore through his teeth, wincing visibly. Kyle raised an eyebrow from his seat. He was about to speak up, but then Cartman had devolved into a string of colorful swears and Kyle couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

Cartman was still hunched on the floor, over their collective stuff. He was rummaging through the pile for something, haphazardly tossing things to the side.

“Hey!” Kyle interjected when he saw his own bag be thrown none too gently in a random direction. “What’s your problem, man?”

Cartman ignored him. Kyle tried again.

“Cartman? What the fuck?”

If only Kyle would shut the hell up for once. Cartman tasted copper. His mind was a litany of a pounding “fuck fuck fuck—” and he couldn’t hold a train of thought that said anything otherwise.  He tore through clothes he didn’t recognize until he found his own bag. He snatched it up, cradling it in his arms, and rushed to the bathroom. He didn’t look back at Kyle.

He slammed the door shut behind him, trying to focus even though his vision was blurring. He dumped his bag upside down into the sink. His contact case fell somewhere on the floor, toothbrush precariously on the edge of the counter, his motley assortment of other odds and ends in various scattered states. His vision was swimming. He stared hard into the sink, hands still shaking as the rifled through it.

Kyle was confused, and a little more than concerned when he saw Cartman race out of the room. He had no clue what the hell Cartman was doing. He stood immediately when he heard the door slam, a feeling in his gut telling him something was weird. When he approached the bathroom door he heard a messy clatter, things falling onto the countertop.

He knocked.

“Cartman?”

Cartman swore.

“Ffffuck off, Kahl.” His voice was tight. He dropped to the floor, his hands groping around tactlessly.

“What the hell, dude? Can you at least tell me what the fuck you’re doing?” Kyle tried again. His irritation fueled by genuine worry, and the fear that he was being fucked with.

“Eat shit!” Cartman blurted, his eyes scrunching closed. He had the sudden urge to clamp his hands over his ears. His eyes itched. “Eat shit and die, Jew!” His breathing was ragged.

“Wow! So this is what I get for trying to help you! Fucking asshole.” Kyle kicked the door.

The rattle of the door made Cartman release an embarrassing whimpering sound. He pushed his palms harder over his ears, squeezed his eyes closed tighter. He forced himself to take a shuddering breath, reluctantly forcing himself to open his eyes and move his hands.

He finally found them behind the toilet. His sound of relief was almost a sob. His hands shook trying to open them, just like when he couldn’t get his phone unlocked, only worse because his vision had doubled somehow, and the room felt too bright. He cupped his hand under the sink, messily filling his palm with a sip of water, uncaring that he was getting most of his possessions soaked in the process.

It was only after the fact when his heart finally decided to slow, and his brain calmed the fuck down. Cartman looked at himself in the mirror. He felt exhausted all of a sudden, now that the adrenaline had ebbed away. He felt too drained to feel much of anything when he looked at his reflection. He had blood dribbling down his chin from the cut he’d been worrying with his teeth, and his fingertips ached again. He didn’t look down at them this time.

He mopped up the blood methodically. He piled all his soggy shit back into his bag. He looked in the mirror again, and ran his fingers through his hair, trying to comb it back into some semblance of neatness. He didn’t know how well he’d accomplished it.

He rested his hands on the counter, leaning over and sighing deeply.

He left the bathroom.

Kyle was sitting on the couch, a leg pulled up. He’d been biting down on his thumbnail with his teeth, a pinched look on his face. He heard Cartman’s footsteps. He fixed Cartman with a bitter little glare.

“Finally done with your tantrum?” He said it with a teasing lilt to his voice, but he couldn’t fully hide the acidity of the undertone.

Cartman didn’t respond. He threw his bag back onto the floor and settled on the couch heavily.

“No one asked you, Kyle,” Cartman’s voice was a mumble. He couldn’t scrounge up any energy to retaliate properly. Kyle was staring at him again.

“Yeah, okay, fine,” Kyle grunted, stabbing his fork into his pancakes, “Fuck me for thinking something was wrong, right? What did you say, exactly? Eat shit and die? Very classy, Cartman, very mature.”

There was a brief silence. Cartman rolled his eyes. Kyle cut his pancake into little triangles.

“Yanno, I actually thought you’d matured a little, just a little, what with all the cleaning and cooking and whatever—but, of course not! Of course you’re gonna just wall yourself up like a little fucking kid.” Kyle glared at nothing. His chest felt tight with his seething anger, the bitter tang of humiliation. “—Christ nothing was even really wrong, right? You’re just up to your same fucking tricks, right, Cartman?” Kyle’s hand tightened around his fork. He refused to look at Cartman—he refused.

“Kyle, can you just—”

“No! I’m fucking sick of this! I’m sick of you sneaking around and hiding shit and expecting me to just ignore it! Newsflash, fatass—you’re not stealthy and you’re not fucking clever.” Kyle glared down at his plate, suddenly realizing his appetite was entirely gone. He dumped the plate on the coffee table.

“Can we just drop this, please.” If Kyle were paying attention, he’d have noticed the pleading edge of Cartman’s voice, or even the fact that he’d said please, but Kyle was not paying attention, for Kyle was too wrapped up in his own head.

“No! I will not drop this, Cartman—that’s exactly what I’m fucking talking about!” Kyle stood suddenly, gesticulating wildly with his arms as he towered over Cartman’s hunched form. “You’re a liar and a manipulator and I don’t know why I do this to myself over you. God fucking dammit—” Kyle cut himself off by storming away to the bathroom, fleeing the scene again before he did something drastic.

Kyle slammed the door behind him, knowing in the long run door-slamming was useless but it made him feel better in the moment. He hunched over the sink, breathing heavily through his teeth. Kyle looked up into the mirror, and was almost taken aback by his reflection, by the sheer rage in his entire posture.

The shock flushed the immediate anger out of him pretty quickly. Kyle started with his hands, slowly forcing his fingers to relax out of their white-knuckled grip. Kyle felt a pain in his wrists and shook them out. He looked himself in the mirror again, took in his tense shoulders and clamped jaw. His face was red. Kyle’s lip twitched. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath—in...hold...out. And he did it again. In...hold...out. Kyle breathed until he felt his heart rate slow, and he could ease his shoulders back.

When Kyle opened his eyes again he just looked tired.

He didn’t….god, fuck—dealing with Cartman always made him tired. Just thinking the name was enough to get Kyle’s molars grinding, and it took actual focus for him to stop and keep hold of the calm he’d wrenched from somewhere.

Logic, Kyle thought, was his best friend.

Kyle sat himself on the closed toilet lid, his face half-hidden behind his steepled hands, and replayed what had happened.

Cartman had left the room in a panic, out of nowhere, seemingly triggered by the sound of his phone alarm. Kyle had, like a normal human being, been pretty concerned. He asked what was wrong, hoping to offer some sort of help somehow, and then Cartman had, of course, cursed him out and told him flatly to fuck off. Then Kyle got fucking angry.

If it had been anyone else, any other normal person, they’d have just told Kyle what was happening. But Cartman never told him anything unless it was superficial, and that fact left a little stabbing feeling in Kyle’s chest. Any time he was able to get involved in what he thought was a real, serious moment he found himself being slammed into a fucking wall of lies. He’d seen Cartman cry; he knew, as rare as it could be, that Eric fucking Cartman could feel things sometimes, but Kyle was never involved in that side of him. He’d think after knowing the guy for as long as he had there’d just...be something.

Or maybe it was just Kyle. As kids, Cartman basically dragged Kenny or Butters around behind him wherever he went. And Kyle knew he still spent time with both of them.

Maybe it….maybe it was just Kyle.

They’re definitely some form of friends, obviously. And Kyle had always thought they were close—was he just making it up? If Stan was Kyle’s Super Best and Kenny or Butters were Cartman’s then what were they? What were Cartman and Kyle?

Kyle bit his lip, his brow furrowing. His leg bounced on its heel.

He’s….fuck they might not be as close as Kyle and Stan were but they were something, right? God...Kyle’s...Kyle’s told Cartman things, right? Did Cartman just not trust him? Did Cartman—

And then Kyle saw something from the corner of his eye.

His thoughts halted to a stop when Kyle reached over to grab a familiar looking orange bottle. His knee-jerk assumption was that it was Mrs. Marsh’s—he knew she had prescription migraine medicine. He didn’t know how it could’ve gotten into the bathroom though. Kyle rotated the little bottle in his hand.

The first thing he saw, in a big, bold font, was the scientific name of a drug he’d never heard of and couldn’t possibly pronounce. After pondering what it could mean for a second, Kyle saw something else on the label. And he felt everything come to a standstill.

Eric Cartman. Clear as day, in dark, uniform ink.

Kyle blinked. He turned the bottle over in his hands. He suddenly wished he had his phone with him so he could google the name of the drug.

Take daily.

Was that why Cartman had been so panicked?

Kyle felt the urge to confront him bubble up in his stomach—the urge to just march out there with the bottle in hand and demand an explanation.

But—shit—Kyle realized he couldn’t fucking do that. Kyle didn’t have the fucking right.

When Kyle was put on medication he didn’t—and still hadn’t—told a single fucking soul. Granted, he got taken off of his anxiety meds after middle school, but he still hadn’t said he was ever on them in the first place, during or after the prescription. He told himself it was his business only, and no one was entitled to know the information about him—but he still remembered that...that feeling of shame he had whenever he’d look down at the bottle. He knew there was nothing wrong with taking medication but Kyle had thought he was normal, at least.

Kyle traced Cartman’s name with his thumb, feeling his guilt wash over him like a cold shower.

Kyle sighed. He slipped the bottle into his pocket.

Cartman didn’t look up when Kyle walked back into the living room. It didn’t seem like Cartman had moved at all. He just stared listlessly at the TV, not really watching it. Kyle bit the inside of his cheek. Cartman’s bag was next to the couch.

He stalked over to the pile of things Cartman had dug around before, made a show of looking into his own bag, and when he was sure Cartman still hadn’t looked at him, he slipped the bottle in the pocket of Cartman’s hoodie. When the bottle was out of his hands, Kyle didn’t move, he just stared down at the familiar red fabric. He took another deep breath.

Kyle reclaimed his seat on the couch. There was a beat of silence. Then:

“I’m sorry, Cartman, for—uh—overreacting.” Kyle was quiet, and he fought to keep the tremble out of his voice. His face was warm. He glanced at Cartman through his eyelashes. Cartman had blinked owlishly, before turning to Kyle with a confused, disbelieving look. He shrugged, then,

“Just forget about it, Kahl.”

Kyle smiled softly. It was a start, and he would take it.

They turned back to the TV.

Cartman was, frankly, shocked Kyle had apologized. It wasn’t often either of them ever did without being forced—much less Kyle admitting he was wrong. Were either of them innocent? Of course not. Should Cartman come clean and apologize too? Most definitely. Would he? Fuck no. Cartman was still too shaken from earlier, and still too uncomfortable with being vulnerable. So he did the next best thing: letting it go.

After the Terrance and Phillip reruns had ended they’d been forced to move on to another channel. They’d gotten to the movie section and immediately began bickering about the selections. There was a really good horror movie on that Kyle didn’t have a chance to see in theaters, but Cartman wanted to watch some historical-fiction action movie that had started half an hour ago.

“You’ve already missed so much of it—what’s even the point!” Kyle argued.

“Everyone knows the beginning of the movie is exposition only, Kahl,” Cartman said, trying to take the remote from Kyle’s hands. “The good shit doesn’t happen until the end of the first act.”

“Without the beginning you don’t have any context for what’s happening!”

“I don’t need context, dumbass; it’s an action movie.”

“Then why do you even want to watch it!” Kyle felt his voice start to raise.

“Because fuck you! Maybe I wanna see some dudes punch each other!”

“Fuck off, Cartman, we’re watching the horror movie and that’s final.” Kyle got that stubborn look in his eye which meant he wasn’t gonna budge no matter how hard Cartman pushed. Gross. He flipped the channel to the horror movie, which was going to start in five minutes after the commercial break.

“I made you breakfast and this is how you repay me. Tsk, tsk.” Cartman shook his head.

Kyle scoffed, rolling his eyes but really having no comeback for that one.

The movie was just as good as the reviews said it was—which so happened to be an overwhelming 7/10. The story and characters dragged it down but Kyle could tell, even from the first 15 minutes, that the tension was going to be great once the plot finally started rolling.

Kyle didn’t mention it out loud, but whenever a scare, even a little one, would happen onscreen, Cartman would jump a little from next to him. It was pretty amusing...kinda cute.

Kyle’s eyes slid back to the screen. He could tell the big scares were going to start—what with the way everything had started to amp up. They pulled all the stops, upping the tension in that satisfying way that had you leaning in towards the screen—which Cartman was doing. Kyle glanced over at him again; his hands were curled up at his chest, and his face was a skittish grimace, his eyes wide and completely enraptured by the movie. Kyle smirked to himself—and Cartman said he didn’t want to watch it.

Kyle went back to the screen. The protagonist had entered a dim hallway, the drip of a pipe-leak slowly growing faster with every step she took; broken glass chimed around her with the wind, and in the blink of an eye, there was a slinking shadow which appeared only momentarily in the background. Then—

There’s a rush of air and the protagonist gasped and—

A scream.

Kyle’s breath was knocked out of him by the sheer force of Cartman barreling into him, practically throwing himself across the couch to grip at Kyle’s sleeve. The scream wasn’t from the movie, either.

The protagonist had been grabbed by a sudden onslaught of monstrous claws as she was dragged down deeper into the catacombs; the scene was over in a blink but it was chaotic and loud and frightening. Frightening enough to send Cartman careening into Kyle’s side.

The scene cut away to something else, but Kyle barely noticed. He was staring wide-eyed at the ball of terror curled up next to him. Cartman was still entirely focused on the movie—seemingly unaware of the fact that his fingers were twisted in Kyle’s shirt and his face was pressed against Kyle’s shoulder.

He was just as warm as he was that morning, Kyle noticed. Cartman gasped, and a look of revulsion came over his face as if he was going to vomit. Kyle glanced at the screen—ah, that explained it: animal cruelty. Some characters Kyle forgot existed were torturing a cat. Kyle’s stomach turned. Even when he knew it was fake, the scene was still pretty disturbing. And, well, the cat did look a lot like Mr. Kitty. Kyle felt kinda bad for the guy, and he almost regretted not letting Cartman just watch the action movie.

Then Cartman whimpered and buried his face in Kyle’s side, hiding behind his back and moving to grip around his torso, forcing Kyle’s arm up and over him. Kyle’s hand hovered awkwardly, before he slowly set it down to rest over Cartman’s shoulders.

The movie continued in the same manner; every scare pushed Cartman closer against Kyle until he was practically laying in his lap. Kyle almost couldn’t focus on the movie, instead being distracted by Cartman’s expressions as he watched the movie. And, well, with how poorly written the plot was, Kyle didn’t think he was missing much anyways. And what was the point of a horror movie if you didn’t watch your friends get scared…!

Anyways, it was safe to say he didn’t exactly hate the situation. It was comfortable, and it felt kinda nice, and Kyle got a little rush of something soft whenever Cartman would hide his face in Kyle’s side—it made Kyle feel important, somehow.

The movie ended on a bittersweet note, something about perseverance in the face of adversity. There was also a kitten. Kyle was pretty sure the kitten was the reason for the quiet little sniffles he heard from next to him.

The credits began to roll. Cartman yawned, reaching over Kyle to grab the remote. His eyes were half-lidded, tired, and still directed at the screen.

“Hey, Butters—” Cartman looked over next to him. He stopped, mid sentence, his eyes widening with more terror than he’d had during the entire movie. His body tensed, and Kyle, similarly stiffened up, his hand lifting at the wrist from where it was previously, comfortably resting against Cartman’s hip.

Cartman’s mouth opened, then closed, then opened as if he were trying to make words, but the only sound that came out was a tiny, horrified squeaking noise. Cartman began to pull away, an, stupidly, Kyle felt a little disappointed.

Cartman coughed, his eyes nervously looking away. Kyle still had his arm around Cartman’s waist. He still hadn’t tried to move it, still struck frozen.

“So—” Cartman’s voice cracked, and he cleared his throat before trying again, looking at Kyle with a pained expression. “We’re never going to speak of this again…?” The desperate, unspoken please lingered in the air between them, fluttering around their heads.

“I mean…” Kyle swallowed thickly, “You, or, uh...we...we don’t have to stop.”

Cartman stared, his brow furrowed as he searched Kyle’s face.

“You....you’re not, you’re not serious, right?” Cartman’s tone was less irritated and more...imploring, as if he hoped Kyle was only joking.

“I, uh…” Kyle cleared his throat. “I mean, you were really fucking scared during the movie.” Kyle’s voice turned teasing, light. “I wouldn’t blame you if you needed to recover from all that emotional trauma.” Especially since Butters isn’t here. Kyle’s mind added, unhelpfully.

Thankfully, Cartman seemed to relax, a familiar mischievous look in his eye. He leaned over to flop over Kyle’s lap, grinning up at Kyle. Kyle failed to bite back his own returning smile.

“You’re right, Kahl,” Cartman said, swinging the remote above him. “I do need some TLC. And to do that I get control of the remote. It’s only fair considering you forced me to suffer through that godawful movie.”

Kyle rolled his eyes, breathing out a little laugh. Cartman turned his head to the TV, one arm outstretched with the remote, the other resting on his stomach, his legs extended over the arm of the couch. Kyle wasn’t really sure what to do with his hands, so he just laid them on the back of the couch. Cartman flicked through the channels, mumbling little comments about each movie he passed.

“Are you going to make up your mind today, or should I pencil you in for next week?” Kyle asked.

“Ay!” Cartman tried to reach back to slap Kyle, missed, and instead lightly pinched his thigh. “I like to see all my options! Besides—oh shit.” Cartman cut himself off. “Princess Bride! Fuck yeah!”

“Princess Bride?” Kyle asked. According to the timestamp, the movie was just about to begin.

“Shut the fuck up, Kahl.” Cartman said, snootily, “The Princess Bride is a classic. A goddamned masterpiece of cinema.”

“Well, yeah. I wasn’t saying it wasn’t.” Kyle gently flicked Cartman on the forehead. “But I didn’t think it was a movie you’d want to watch.”

“Pfft, are you kidding me? Princess Bride is my fffffff—a fantastic movie.”

“What was that?” Kyle asked, genuinely curious.

“Nothing.” Cartman muttered. Kyle raised an eyebrow, to which Cartman pouted. “Nothing!”

“Dude.” Kyle wheedled a little further, amused at Cartman’s squirming and pouting. “I’m not gonna stop bugging you until you tell me.”

Cartman pouted harder, making a little noise of discontent. He seemed to be thinking it over. The company logo appeared on the screen.

“Cartman—”

“God! Fine! You don’t have to be such a Jew about it!” Cartman blurted suddenly. He glanced away again, mumbling quietly.

“What?”

“I said,” Cartman started again, sighing. He looked at the TV longingly as the opening scene pulled up. “It’s my favorite movie.”

Kyle blinked.

“Really? The Princess Bride is your favorite movie?” Kyle said disbelievingly. Cartman huffed. Then he turned his big honey eyes to look directly into Kyle’s.

“Yes, Kyle, it is my favorite movie—now can you shut up so I can watch it!” Cartman’s cheeks were pink. He didn’t wait for a response from Kyle, and Kyle didn’t find it necessary to offer one.

He supposed it made sense, actually. Cartman always seemed to have a bit of a romantic side to him. Still, it seemed almost endearing, sort of, for such a sappy, romantic movie to be his favorite.

Kyle looked down at Cartman, who seemed to be silently mouthing along with the words. It made something warm crawl up into Kyle’s chest, watching how intently Cartman followed along. His thick, brown bangs were fanned out over his face, and again, Kyle wondered how he didn’t get annoyed with them in his line of sight. Without even realizing what he was doing, Kyle found his fingertips reaching to gently push Cartman’s bangs back from his forehead. Cartman gave no reaction aside from a little sigh. His hair was very soft and smooth. Kyle, with his own wild curls, didn’t understand how someone could have their hair stay untangled. Kyle combed his fingers through Cartman’s hair, his nails gently dragging across his scalp. Cartman hummed, contentedly, and seemed to melt into the touch. His lips slowly stopped their mimic of the movie as Kyle’s fingers kept brushing. Kyle would almost think Cartman had fallen asleep.

Really, Kyle had never seen Cartman so relaxed. It was...it was nice. Kyle found himself relaxing too, leaning back into the couch comfortably as his hand fell into the easy motion of playing with Cartman’s hair. Kyle felt like he could just lounge around for hours, playing with Cartman’s hair and watching movies.

They were so relaxed, that they didn’t even notice when the front door began to open.