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Peering Through Windows

Chapter Text

Look at me and tell me who I am,
Why I am, what I am.
Call me a fool and it's true I am,
I don't know who I am.
It's such a shame,
I'm such a sham.
No one knows who I am.
Once there were sweet possibilities,
I could see, just for me.
Now all my dreams are just memories,
Fated never to be

-No One Knows Who I Am, Jekyll and Hyde


Kyle stood among the roses and watched the moon, wild and bright, his entire body feeling like one raw, open nerve. He was still trying to make sense of Craig's announcement but he just couldn't, no matter how hard he tried. It couldn't be true, could it? None of this was real, right? There was no way Craig would ever spring something like that just out of nowhere; it was just too cruel, even for him.

The hum of the party, music and lively chatter, continued as the night winds ruffled Kyle's hair. He stood lost and alone in a sea of roses, their velvety petals illuminated by stark moonlight. He had wandered outside to be by himself after he'd endured what felt like a million well wishes and curious inquiries from their guests, his family among them. His mother had looked particularly distraught over the news, and Kyle could feel a pang of sorrow remembering how tightly she'd hugged him, making him promise to write often and to call whenever he could; that she'd come to visit whenever she had the opportunity. 

"Your father isn't much for traveling these days," she'd said, brushing the hair off of Kyle's forehead. "But I'll come whenever you'll have me."

"You're always welcome, Sheila," Craig had said, pulling Kyle close against his side; his fingers tightening around Kyle's arm. "You know that."

Mrs. Broflovski had just stared at Craig for a moment before she'd nodded, a sad look filtering into her eyes. She'd tried so hard to stay close to her son after Kyle had gotten married, but over the years she had slowly been squeezed out of the day to day affairs, before finally she'd had to concede that the relationship she'd wanted with her son wasn't going to be the one she was meant to have. Kyle had explained to her that he loved her very much, but that the dynamic had to change after he married Craig; they needed time to focus on one another. Reluctantly, she'd finally accepted the reality of the situation, even though she'd made it pretty clear it didn't sit well with her.

"We'll miss you, son," Mr. Broflovski had added, putting an arm around Mrs. Broflovski's shoulders. He'd aged poorly after having his stroke, but he held on with a firm resolve that Kyle couldn't help but admire. He'd never hidden the fact that he wasn't particularly fond of Craig, but he'd always been respectful of the lines that had been drawn in the sand. He'd reached out a hand to Craig, shaking it firmly and nodding his head.

"Good job on the promotion, Craig. Take care of each other, okay?"

"Of course," Craig had smiled down at Kyle and kissed his temple. "That's all I've ever wanted to do; take care of Kyle."

Ike had hung back, his dark eyes filled with mild suspicion and concern. Coming forward, he'd addressed Kyle instead of Craig.

"Baltimore, bro? That's a pretty big leap from Colorado."

"So is Seattle," Craig had said with a grin, his fingers digging further in Kyle's arm. "You gotta go where the opportunities are though, right?"

"That makes sense," Ike had nodded. He'd cocked an eyebrow at Craig. "Johns Hopkins, huh? Isn't that one of the best hospitals in the country?"

"It certainly is. Really, it's an honor that they're offering me the position they are," Craig had replied, becoming animated. "They're on the cutting edge of robotic cardiac surgery."

"Isn't that less invasive than traditional surgical methods?" Ike had asked, proving once again that he was well-versed in most (if not all) subjects. "Hasn't Hell's Pass gotten the memo yet that that's the future of medicine?"

Craig had shrugged, smiling casually; he'd always enjoyed talking shop, especially if it gave him the opportunity to show off. Kyle had sighed softly, already itching to break away so he could have time to think.

"They're getting there slowly. Part of the reason I accepted the job at Hell's Pass initially was because of another doctor I really respected, Dr. Lowentritt, and being able to work alongside him, but he's retiring at the end of the year, so -"

"Paul is retiring?" Kyle had interrupted, surprised. "Craig, why didn't you tell me?"

Craig had just stared at him for a moment, eyebrows raised.

"I'm sure I mentioned it at one point, Kyle. You just don't remember."

Kyle had shaken his head, refusing to accept this answer; not after all of the upheaval he'd endured thanks to Craig's announcement.

"No, I'm sure I would've remembered, Craig. You never told me."

Faint irritation had shown up in Craig's face then, and Kyle had blushed hotly. He had never openly contradicted his husband in front of his family before, not for a very long time, at any rate.

"What does it matter, Kyle? Paul is retiring. Now you know."

Kyle had glanced at his family uneasily, all three of them watched the pair with worried curiosity; brows furrowed and frowns on their faces. Kyle had smiled and laughed lightly, trying to downplay the growing tension.

"Well, that's a shame, Craig. I know how much you enjoyed working with him," he'd said while gently pulling out of his husband's grasp. "Will you all excuse me? I need to use the bathroom."

"Oh, of course, sweetheart," Mrs. Broflovski had said before Craig could respond first. "Take your time, you do look a little flushed."

"This'll give me an opportunity to grill your husband about his new position," Ike had jumped in, making Kyle eternally grateful; now he'd actually be able to have a moment to himself. "If you don't mind, of course," he'd added, glancing at Craig.

Craig had given Kyle a look that only he could interpret, a look of clear warning; though no one else would've been able to decipher it. Kyle had glanced quickly away before he'd turned to leave, already beginning to feel faintly nauseous; he just needed a little time.

Now he was out among the roses and the moonlight, and he still couldn't make sense of anything. The sky was teeming with stars but they appeared so cold and hostile to Kyle at the moment, almost like the entire world was turning its back on him as he wandered through his garden.

How could he do this to me? He has to know I don't want to do this, he thought, jamming his hands in his pockets and looking up at the endless tide of sky; deep blue and threaded through with rich violet. My entire life is here, how can I just leave it?

"Kyle?"

Startled, Kyle looked away from the sky to see Kenny and Stan standing in the garden, both of their faces registering sadness mixed with anger. He couldn't help but shrug, turning back to the unforgiving stars.

"Perfect night for a party, huh?" He asked, quickly swiping a hand across his eyes, clearing away the gathering moisture.

There was silence and then the sound of footsteps passing through grass. All at once, Kenny and Stan were beside Kyle.

"You didn't know, did you?" Stan asked, quietly. "About Baltimore."

Slowly, Kyle shook his head, fighting against the tears brimming in his eyes but losing the battle. Shutting his eyes, he lowered his head.

"No," he choked out, despising the hitch in his voice. "He just told me that he received a promotion. He didn't say anything about the east coast...I learned that part along with everyone else tonight."

"That son of a bitch made you plan your own farewell party," Kenny seethed. "That's fucking sick."

"Kyle, you can't go," Stan added, putting a hand on Kyle's shoulder. "You know that, right? It would be the worst decision you ever made."

"No, the worst decision he ever made was marrying Tucker in the first place," Kenny snapped.

Hot tears fell down Kyle's cheeks now, but that didn't stop him from glaring at his friends.

"You guys have it all figured out for me, don't you?" He asked, pulling out of Stan's grasp. "God, it must give you so much pleasure to point out all of the mistakes I've made with my life, huh? That way you can feel even better about yourselves."

Kenny and Stan stared at him in complete shock, their mouths wide open.

"Kyle, you know that couldn't be any further from the truth," Stan said. "We just care about you, and we know you don't want to do this; it's written all over your face."

"I knew as soon as Craig mentioned Baltimore that moving was the last thing you could possibly want," Kenny said. "God, everything you know is here! Your job, your friends...help, if you need it. Tucker's not stupid, Kyle. He knows exactly what he's doing. If he moves you clear across the country -"

"It'll make it even harder for you to get away if you ever decide to," Stan finished, quietly.

Kyle rolled his eyes, knowing on a deep level that his friends were absolutely right, but hating them so much for it that he could barely stand it; could barely stomach even having this conversation with them. Suddenly, all of the terrible decisions he'd made in his life flashed through his head, along with all of the atrocities he'd endured over the years for the sake of trying to be a good husband; looking the other way because he loved Craig so completely. The knowledge made him feel sick, sick and angry beyond words.

"I don't want to hear this from you guys again, okay? It's getting old and frankly, I'm sick of it. Yes, I know you hate Craig. Yes, I know you don't agree with me defending him. Yes, I know I probably look beyond stupid to you, but this is my life and it's my decision. Do you understand?" Raking a hand through his hair, he turned away; unable to look them in the faces any longer.

"I-I'll just have a talk with Craig tonight after everyone leaves and I'll tell him how I feel. If I tell him I don't want to go he'll listen to me; I know he will."

"Kyle, I don't think that's a good idea," Stan said, daring to put his hand on Kyle's shoulder again. "If he was willing to make that sort of announcement in front of God and everyone without even checking with you first, I doubt he's really going to be receptive to what you have to say."

"Stan's right, man. Listen to us," Kenny added, coming around and peering into Kyle's face; blue eyes beseeching him to see reason. "It's just going to turn ugly, okay? Who knows what he'll do when you tell him you don't want to go?"

"I'm pretty sure that's between Kyle and I, isn't it?" Craig's voice broke in, making them all turn at once; Kyle cowering behind Stan and Kenny as they presented a united front. Craig stared at them, nonplussed, his hands in the pockets of his jacket.

"What are you trying to prove right now?" He asked, arching a brow.

"We don't need to prove anything to you, Tucker," Kenny said, his hands clenching into fists. "We're on Kyle's side, and you aren't just going to move him out of state on a whim. Got it?"

Craig sighed, brushing some hair off of his forehead.

"On a whim? Are you kidding me? I've been planning this for almost half a year."

Kyle started, coming around his friends while staring at Craig in shock.

"Half a year?" He asked, faintly. "W-why didn't you tell me?"

"The plans weren't finalized until a few weeks ago, when I came home and told you about the promotion. I just didn't want to jump the gun," Craig shrugged. "Honestly, I thought the whole thing would make you happy, Kyle. You loved the east coast, didn't you? You told me you did."

"You didn't give a shit if this would make Kyle happy, Craig," Stan said. "This is all for you, and you know it."

"Right, like you really know what motivates me, I forgot," Craig replied, dismissively. "Give me a break, Stan."

"I know what motivates you," Kenny growled, stalking toward Craig. "Controlling Kyle through any means necessary. You think you've got everyone fooled, don't you?"

Craig stood his ground and glanced at Kenny for a moment, regarding him with open disdain and boredom. Looking behind him, he raised his eyebrows at Kyle.

"Kyle, what's he talking about?"

Fear, like cold water, rushed over Kyle all at once before he started to tremble; the look in Craig's eyes bringing vivid memories of the basement to his mind, the sterile, cold lighting and the whip flaying his skin. Unable to speak for a moment, Kyle looked at his husband, subliminally begging him to be merciful, that he wasn't a part of his friends' uprising.

"Oh, no. You aren't going to bully Kyle into covering up for you," Kenny said, advancing on Craig again until he was standing right in front of him. "Give it up, Craig. We know you're terrorizing Kyle, and no, he didn't have to come out and tell us. The truth is so obvious you could fucking see it from space."

Craig lapsed into silence and for a moment all that could be heard were the winds rustling the rose bushes. Somewhere in the night was the flutter of wings, a wayward bat flitting in search of sustenance becoming a dark spot in the sky.

"That's certainly an interesting theory," Craig replied. "A very interesting theory, actually, but that's all it is: a theory. What proof do you have? And on that token, why the fuck am I even listening to you? You're guests here, or did you conveniently forget that?"

"Kyle's all the proof we need," Stan snapped, pointing at him. "Look at him, asshole. You've got him so cowed and afraid that he can barely function, but I'm sure that's exactly what you want, right?"

"Right, he can barely function," Craig argued, stepping around Kenny and walking toward Kyle. "That's why he has a job, hobbies, his own fucking car. If it's so awful here with me, why has he stayed, huh?"

"Because -"

"Uh uh uh, let Kyle answer," Craig cut Stan off, holding up a hand. He glanced at Kyle, waiting. "Well, love? What do you have to say?"

Frantically, Kyle glanced between the three of them until he began to feel dizzy, sweat dripping down his face and his body trembling so hard he thought he might collapse. He hadn't anticipated this ugly scene coming out of nowhere, and he had no idea how to respond; his words dying in his throat. He looked at Craig and the fear and anxiety was so great that he almost thought he might lose control of his bladder, which had happened in the past in times of great distress.

"I-I want my medication," he stammered, his voice barely audible; the stress almost making him feel like his brain was essentially powering down. "I think I'm going to have a panic attack, Craig."

"Medication? What are you talking about?" Stan asked.

"Tucker's got him taking pills, Stan," Kenny said, staring daggers at Craig. "To make him easier to control, I'm sure."

"Oh, quit being so fucking melodramatic; Jesus Christ," Craig replied, looking up at the sky in exasperation. "Kyle sees a psychiatrist who prescribes him medication for his anxiety disorder. I wouldn't write a prescription for fucking Klonopin; he has a legitimate need for it, as you can plainly see."

Drawing closer, Craig reached out a hand toward Kyle, who couldn't help but wince before Kenny was knocking it away.

"Don't touch him!" He yelled. "You've hurt him enough, just like Tweek!"

The world seemed to collapse inward after Kenny mentioned Tweek, and now Craig's basement face was on display for the world to see, though only Kyle recognized it for what it was; building calculation and planned cruelty. All at once, he rushed around Kenny and clung to his husband, begging for forgiveness.

"Don't listen to him," he pleaded, looking up into Craig's face; voice becoming shrill with hysteria. "He doesn't know what he's talking about!"

"Out," Craig whispered, taking a hold of Kyle's jacket and pulling him behind him. He looked at Stan and Kenny, eyes unbelievably remote, almost like he'd exited his body. "I want both of you off of my property now. Before I call the police."

"Craig, no," Kyle spoke up, though the terror he was deluged in almost immobilized him; why couldn't he open his mouth and save himself? "You don't need to do that, you -"

"Quiet," Craig said, his eyes still resting on Kyle's friends. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his phone. "If you two aren't gone in less than five minutes I'm calling the police. Make your choice."

"Kyle, wake up! You can come with us!" Kenny said, pushing past Craig and taking a hold of his shoulders. "Please, for the love of God, don't fucking stay here!"

"That's it," Craig said, dialing before bringing the phone up. "Yes, hello? I need you to send someone to my home, there's a bit of a situation."

"No!" Kyle yelled, breaking away from Kenny. "You guys, just go! I'll be fine! You don't need to get in trouble for me!"

"Kyle, Craig isn't going to intimidate us so he can -"

"Just shut up and leave!" Kyle screamed, tears falling down his face. "Get out! Now!"

"You heard him," Craig said, smirking. "Now, are you going to respect his wishes or do you need the cops to remind you how to act like adults?"

"You sadistic prick," Kenny seethed. "If you fucking lay one hand on him, I swear to God -"

"Go, Kenny. Just go," Kyle whispered, turning away and beginning to stagger back toward the house; desperate to be alone with his Klonopin bottle. He didn't look back, his head filled with rushing nocturnes and the voices in his mind screaming at him to turn around and beg for help; he didn't listen.

******

Splatters of red wove their way across the canvas and Kyle almost felt like he could fall into their depths, swimming through currents of crimson and scarlet; blood sliding down his throat in metallic ribbons. He was sitting on the floor of his studio and studying his painting, his prior hysteria and panic subdued because of the Klonopin, his head heavy and beginning to nod. He'd locked himself in the room after procuring the medication bottle from his messenger bag in the kitchen; since then he'd just drifted, flitting in and out of worry and warm periods of reflection. Vaguely, he was aware of the sounds of the party dying down behind the door but he made no move to leave.

He fervently hoped that Stan and Kenny had seen reason and saw fit to leave before Craig completed the call to the police. God, what an awful scene that had been in the garden, with Kenny throwing Tweek in Craig's face just out of nowhere. What had he been thinking? Kyle cringed just remembering what was said, how the mirror of his life had been shoved in his face and he was forced to face it; everything. What was going to happen now? He could hardly imagine but he had reason to believe it was going to be awful. After all, he'd seen the cold, controlled fury on his husband's face; a million awful promises trapped in his eyes. He shuddered.

Before too long silence had descended over the house, and the shift in the atmosphere signaled to Kyle that the guests had vacated; at least he was almost positive they had. Confirmation came when he heard the doorknob rattle behind him, and when it didn't open he made no move to get up. Closing his eyes, he heard the telltale sound of a key being inserted into a lock, the twist of the knob, and then -

"I trust you're feeling better. I told everyone you weren't feeling well; they offered their deepest sympathies," Craig's faintly amused voice floated over to him, making him cringe immediately. Silently, he nodded his head but he didn't turn. Kyle couldn't stomach the idea of looking his doom in the eyes before it consumed him; he almost preferred never knowing what hit him, but moments passed and nothing happened.

"If you're worried about having a studio when we move, don't," Craig said, the sound of his footsteps unbearably loud as they passed over the floor. "You can have whatever you want, Kyle. Hell, we'll make it even better than this place, I promise."

Somehow, even in the haze of the Klonopin and fear, Kyle managed to find his voice; chastising himself for not being able to locate it when it truly mattered.

"That's not what I'm concerned about and you know it," he murmured, bending his legs and resting his chin on his knees; still clothed in his slacks and dress shirt, his feet bare. "I can't believe you didn't tell me your new job was in another state, Craig."

"What does it matter?" Craig asked, standing right behind Kyle now; his shadow falling over the red-dripped canvas. "Colorado, Maryland? What's the difference?"

"It makes all the difference in the world," Kyle whispered, hugging his legs tighter. "Everything I know is here, my job, my friends -"

"You'll make new friends, and you don't need to have a job. We've already discussed that. Besides, I'll be making more now, that's even more reason for you not to work. It's too stressful for you anyway."

"Have you listened to anything I've ever said?" Kyle asked, turning now and getting shakily to his feet; backing away from Craig and around his work table, making sure to keep distance between them. Rage and sadness were at war within him, and for now the anger was winning; spurning him on. "Honestly, have you heard one fucking thing, or do you just hear the things you want to hear?"

Craig stared at him, clearly unimpressed by Kyle's outburst. Surprisingly, he didn't even seem angry, at least not yet.

"What are you talking about, Kyle?"

"I've never once told you that working stresses me out," Kyle replied, gripping the table so hard his hands hurt. "You want to know what stresses me out, Craig? The threat of not being able to have a job, of being forced to sit around and do absolutely nothing with my life. For God's sake, I went to college! I want to use my mind, but you're always trying to stop me!"

"Oh, so I'm a bad guy for wanting you to have an easy, comfortable life? I'm terrible for wanting to take care of you?" Craig asked, voice softening to dangerous levels. "You're so ungrateful it makes me sick."

Kyle softened at Craig's words, though his hands still remained clenched on the table. He dropped his focus, studying some sketches laid out of roses and birds.

"I'm not trying to be ungrateful, Craig, and you aren't terrible for wanting to take care of me. If anything, I really appreciate it, but I still need to have a life beyond all of this," he said, opening his arms wide and gesturing around the studio. "Most of the time I feel suffocated, and I can't help wanting to get away. I want to take care of you, of us, but I need more. Can't you understand that?"

"So, you admit it then," Craig said, beginning to slowly come round the table, forcing Kyle to retreat. "You want to get away. You want to leave me. Is that right?"

"No, Craig, that's not what I -"

"It's Kenny, isn't it? He's changed you, Kyle; he's turned you against me. I know he has."

"What are you talking about? You aren't making any sense, Craig," Kyle said, finally backing up against the wall; unable to retreat any further, Craig right in front of him. He held up his arms, trying to cover his face while waiting for a blow.

"It makes sense that someone like Kenny, a fucking lowlife, would poison your mind until you couldn't see straight," Craig continued. "He's so manipulative, Kyle; can't you see that? Only trash would try to kiss someone who's married, right?"

All the sound and light felt like it was being sucked out of the room when Craig said that, and Kyle lowered his arms, staring at him with wide eyes.

"What did you say?"

Craig watched him, eyes still filled with rage but there was faint, cruel amusement quirking his lips, as well.

"Why don't we ask Rose?"

Reaching out, Kyle clung to Craig's shirt when his legs felt like they were about to give out, his breaths becoming ragged; mind racing like a frantic hamster on a wheel.

"You didn't, you couldn't..." he broke off, staring up at his husband with disbelieving eyes. "You didn't...read it, did you?"

Wordlessly, Craig reached down and took a hold of Kyle's hand, squeezing it tightly before yanking on him, leading him out of the studio, down the hallway, and into the kitchen. Flinging him against the counter, Craig went about fishing through Kyle's bag until he found the secret pocket and then he was lifting the diary out, its understated black leather cover shining under the kitchen lights. Kyle clung to the counter, shaking his head in disbelief.

"No," he whispered. "No, how could you? Those are my...my thoughts, my most private..." he trailed off, continuing to shake his head.

Then Craig did the unthinkable, something far worse than even taking Kyle to the basement, because what he was infringing on threatened Kyle's heart and soul, his very core, not just the husk that his body had become. He began to taunt Kyle with his own words, his most innermost musings; snapping the diary open and beginning to read:

"Maybe I'm nothing. I feel like nothing, Rose. Did you know that? I'm a ghost, a lost boy, a forgotten loose end tucked away in a junk drawer. I'm the button or key that someone finds but can't think of a use for."

Craig rolled his eyes, glancing at Kyle with faint interest.

"How very poetic, don't you think? I guess you fancy yourself a writer, huh? Let's see what else is in here, okay? Won't that be fun?"

"Stop," Kyle said, faintly. Somehow he managed to push himself from the counter even though he felt like he was wading through water; his entire reality becoming hazy and too real at the same time. How could he feel so disconnected and so painfully exposed all at once? "Please, don't read anymore, Craig -"

"Rose, I think Kenny wanted to kiss me, but I stopped him. Can you believe that? I have no idea where any of this is coming from, but he looked at me like he wanted me...I know that look, or at least I think I do. Craig still looks at me like that on occasion."

Craig looked up, eyes beginning to blaze in a way that Kyle had never seen, his face full of awful promises.

"So nice of you to mention me right after you talk about Kenny trying to kiss you. How very sweet, don't you think?"

"B-but I said that I stopped him," Kyle whispered. "I never let him kiss me, Craig. Not once."

"Well, you must be very proud," Craig replied, scanning the diary's page again. "Oh, but let's see here, this is very interesting." He held up the diary so Kyle could see as he read the next part:

"I know this is crazy, but I kind of wanted Kenny to kiss me, Rose. God, I wish I had let him kiss me."

"Doesn't exactly sound innocent to me. What do you think?"

"Nothing happened," Kyle said, looking down at the floor and fully expecting to see it covered over with blood; his heart feeling like Craig had taken a razor blade to it and opened it up, making its contents leak out and drench everything. "Kenny was kind to me, he just wanted to help."

"Help you with what?" Craig asked, his voice loaded with scorn. "All he wanted was to get into your pants, Kyle. He wanted to fuck you, he still wants to fuck you. Who knows what could've happened if I hadn't found this ridiculous thing." All at once, he threw the diary at Kyle so hard it made him gasp when it collided with his chest. It fell to the floor with a loud slap, right at Kyle's feet.

"W-when?" Kyle choked out, staring at the diary and almost wanting to apologize to it; for allowing it to be discovered. "When did you -"

"Trying to find the remote in the cushions," Craig scoffed. "I told you you were a terrible liar, Kyle, and I meant it. I knew something was going on, I knew you were hiding something from me. I can't believe it took me so long to figure out you've been hiding that bullshit in your bag this whole time. I always wondered why you held onto that thing even though it was falling apart, but now it all makes sense."

Kyle closed his eyes as the tears began to fall.

"I just needed a place to put my thoughts, Craig. That's all."

"Those aren't your thoughts, they're secrets; plans," Craig seethed. "There's no room for secrets in a marriage, Kyle."

"What are you talking about?!" Kyle shouted, opening his eyes and staring at Craig in shock. "You keep secrets all the time! What about tonight? What about your new job? What about fucking moving across the country without telling me?!"

"Those were surprises," Craig argued, rolling his eyes. "They were supposed to make you happy, unlike the shit you've been writing. That diary is full of you trashing me and turning me into some kind of monster. It makes you sound completely delusional, Kyle. You need a change of pace, of surroundings, that much is clear. We aren't leaving this place soon enough as far as I'm concerned."

"Delusional? Seriously? You think what I wrote makes me sound delusional?" Kyle asked, eyes widening at Craig's skewed version of reality. "Craig, everything I wrote was the truth, and I'm sorry, if it made you sound like a monster, well," he shrugged, helplessly, "I don't know what to tell you. That's between you and your conscience."

Craig narrowed his eyes, beginning to walk toward Kyle, but for once he held his ground; refusing to budge.

"My conscience and I are on wonderful terms, Kyle. At least I'm not running around with another guy, at least I'm not sneaking behind your back and fantasizing about scum like Kenny McCormick."

"No," Kyle whispered, staring him full in the face. "No, you just have someone to drag into the basement when you can't deal with your emotions, so you resort to violence. You have someone to tear apart so you can pretend you're putting them back together. You have someone to torture because you were right, Craig. You are a monster; a fucking sadistic, abusive bully!"

In less than a second, Craig had backhanded Kyle hard across the face, sending him crashing to the floor and moaning softly, his hand clutched to his bleeding mouth. He lay there for a moment, watching spatters of red dripping onto the white tile until he reached out a trembling hand, intending to scoop up his diary. He screamed when Craig stopped him, stepping on his hand with his shiny black shoe, pressing it against the floor; the tiny bones grinding together.

"You are completely out of line right now, Kyle," he said softly, his voice completely controlled even in the midst of clearly building rage. "How could you talk to me like that? All I want to do is take care of you, and this is how you repay me?" He sighed and became still for a moment, prompting Kyle to look up at him; the white light of the kitchen making Craig's deep black hair appear washed out; his skin weirdly pale, almost like a cadaver.

"It's this place," he murmured. "I swear, it's always been this place. We never should've come back but I figured I could keep a handle on things." He shook his head. "Clearly, I didn't. I looked away for too long and things went to hell, but we can still repair the damage, can't we? After all, the realtor's coming the day after tomorrow -"

"Realtor?" Kyle asked, trying desperately to pull his hand out from under Craig's shoe. "You mean, you've already started -"

"This house is going on the market within a week, Kyle. It's already been thoroughly cleaned, so now it's just a matter of time."

"The cleaners," Kyle said, eyes widening. "They weren't just cleaning up for the party. They were getting the house ready so it could be sold."

"Naturally," Craig replied. "I've already started scoping out a few locations in Baltimore, all with basements that can be renovated to suit our tastes."

Now Kyle was frantically trying to pull his hand away, almost feeling like a rat caught in a trap. The blood continued to pour from his mouth and now he could feel it leaking out of his nose, too; clearly Craig hadn't held back at all when he struck him. Whimpering, he could feel Craig stepping down harder on his hand.

"It'll be a shame having to dismantle the basement so people can view the house, but I guess it can't be helped," he sighed. "I'm thinking that we should probably use it one last time. Don't you?"

Finally, Kyle was able to yank his hand out from under Craig's shoe, the skin tearing slightly and making him grimace. A weird sort of adrenaline was coursing through him and conquering his fatigue and the Klonopin, and he quickly got to his feet, leaning against the counter.

"No," he said. "I'm not going down there, Craig."

"Excuse me?" Craig asked, advancing on him. This time, Kyle did cower, his back pressed against the counter and inhibiting him from moving further away. "What did you just say?"

Kyle cleared his throat, his heart beating unbelievably fast in his chest; almost like it wanted to escape and race around the room. His body was poised and ready for the ensuing violence, the tension making him faintly nauseous. He'd never actively refused the basement before, but something inside of him, the sane part that had been sleeping for so long, was waking up and it didn't want to stay silent any longer.

"I've done everything you wanted for years," Kyle said, trying to keep himself upright. "And it never seemed to matter. I behaved, I obeyed your rules, I endured the punishments, your corrections, but what difference has it made, huh? I'm starting to see that I could be perfect, Craig, but it still wouldn't be enough; you'd still find a reason to hurt me. Well," he shook his head, the blood continuing to flow freely as the tears ran down his face, "no more. I'm done. I'm not going into the basement, Craig. Never again."

Craig laughed a little and reached into his pocket, producing a silver key. Striding over to the basement door, he unlocked it and pulled it open with a flourish.

"Let's go, Kyle. Move it."

Kyle just stared at him and then at the darkness of the basement, feeling his pupils dilating as they tried to grope through the pitch black of that waiting room. He started backing away, his eyes coming to rest on his car keys sitting next to his bag on the counter.

"I'm not going," he repeated, slowly walking across the room toward the bag, the keys. "I'm not going, I'm not going, I'm not going..." he kept saying these words, almost like they were a mantra, a spell, that could save him; keep him tethered to reality. All at once the nocturnes were swooshing into his brain and the chattering voices, the naysayers, the creatures calling for him to submit, to bow, were converging on him; willing him to fold. He refused.

"Listen to you, you sound crazy," Craig said, shaking his head. Slowly, he started toward Kyle. "Kyle, baby, you aren't thinking straight. Let's go into the basement and we'll clear your head, okay? You'll feel better afterward."

"No, you'll feel better afterward," Kyle whispered, backing up against the counter and covertly swiping the keys; clutching them in his trembling hand. "You won't use the lidocaine, you won't use anything, will you?"

"Do you feel like you deserve it?" Craig asked, barely an arm's length away now. "Your conduct dictates your corrections. You know that."

"No, it doesn't. It never has. This is all for you," Kyle said, shaking his head. "I'm not going."

"That's enough!" Craig suddenly yelled, reaching out and taking a hold of Kyle's shirt, shaking him viciously; head snapping side to side. "I hate when you won't listen to me, when you have to question every fucking thing I do! Now fucking walk to the basement before I fucking drag you!"

"No! NO!" Kyle shrieked, managing to keep a hold on the keys even though Craig was shaking him like a boneless slab of meat.

Before he could react, Craig was slapping Kyle hard across the face, over and over until his legs gave out, making him sag against the counter; the only thing holding him up being Craig and his tight hold on Kyle's shirt. Tears and blood and mucus mixed together on Kyle's face, making it almost impossible to see, so he shut his eyes; almost slipping into the abuse like he was going into a warm coma. He'd been in this position so many times it was almost like he was acting out a part in a play.

Finally Craig stopped, his breaths coming ragged and fast as he began to do exactly what he promised, dragging Kyle to the open basement door, his body slack even though his brain still screamed at him to fight. Somehow, against all odds, he'd maintained his hold on his car keys. Groaning, he tried to find the wherewithal to fight, digging his heels in, but Craig continued to yank him toward the basement and its waiting horrors.

"Now, stop acting like a fool and walk down the goddamn stairs," Craig seethed, propping Kyle on his feet and pointing into the gloom. "Or so help me God, Kyle, I'll fucking throw you down there, and I'm not taking you to the hospital if you break something; that's a promise."

Every fiber of Kyle's being knew that Craig meant what he said, that he would throw him down there regardless of how steep it was; the hard floor waiting to catch him even if it meant fracturing something, and then where would he be? Cold sweat started leaking out of Kyle's pores as he considered that scenario, laid up in bed in a cast and completely unable to get away, a glorified sitting duck for his husband to brutalize at a whim; no doubt simmering with rage because Kyle had forced his hand. Sniffling, he wiped a hand across his mouth, clearing it of some of the blood and tears.

"O-okay, but can I kiss you first, Craig? I hate when we're at odds like this. Please, just kiss me before we go down there."

Craig studied him for a moment, some of the sanity filtering back into his eyes as he considered Kyle's request. It wasn't the first time Kyle had asked for affection before making the basement trek, and he smiled suddenly, softly.

"Of course," he said, leaning down. "I don't want you to think I do the things I do because I don't love you or something, Kyle. It's the only way we can maintain order. You know that, right?"

"Yes, I do. Order," Kyle breathed, accepting Craig's kiss with trembling, blood-flavored lips. Pulling way, he looked into his husband's eyes. "I love you. I'm sorry."

"Don't worry," Craig smiled, kissing him again. "We'll burn that thing when we're done, so we can start fresh," he added, gesturing to the diary still laying on the floor. "Come on."

Kyle made a move to start his descent but taking a deep breath, he pulled on his last reserves of strength and courage and quick as a flash, rammed his shoulder into Craig's stomach and sent him careening backward, where he groped for his balance at the top of the stairs before finally toppling over and crashing down, his body thumping as it met each of the steps in turn. Standing in the doorway, Kyle watched with wide eyes as his husband finally came to a stop almost at the foot of the stairs, and for a moment he thought for sure he was dead; his tired eyes watching Craig's still, silent body. Before too long, though, a faint moan could be heard, and then -

"I'll fucking kill you," Craig said, his voice broken and coming in painful sounding spurts. "When I get my hands on you, I'm going to snap your fucking neck, you little..." he petered off, coughing in fits and starts.

Gasping for air and almost feeling like he was going to have a heart attack, Kyle backed away, alternating between elation that Craig was still alive and abject fear at what he'd done, at what Craig promised. Suddenly, he became aware of the car keys in his hand again, and in a split second a decision was made: he needed to get the fuck out of there, quick. Looking around, Kyle frantically tried to get his bearings, his whole body feeling like it was on fire as he groped for a direction, a plan. When nothing came to him except the overwhelming need to flee, he started toward the doorway, but at the last moment, something came to him and he turned back; lifting the almost forgotten diary off of the floor and clenching his fingers around it.

"Get back here, Kyle! Now! Right now!" Craig's voice traveled up from the darkness of the basement and almost stopped Kyle in his tracks, but somehow he kept going; his feet becoming swift as he ran from the kitchen, down the hall, and finally out the front door, feeling certain that Craig would catch him at any moment; ghostly hands locking around his neck and desperately trying to keep him in place.

*******

Kyle drove around for hours, alternating between sobbing and ranting with rage before he finally simmered down into a puddle of shaking, terrified confusion; almost feeling like he was going to snap at any moment and just sink into complete insanity. He was just glad that it was late and the streets were all but deserted, his silver Lexus sliding through the night-hushed streets as he passed by the same buildings over and over, completely unsure as to how he should proceed. He'd fled the house without taking anything he really needed, like his phone and wallet, but he was eternally glad that he'd remembered Rose, the diary sitting on the seat beside him; offering up undeniable comfort every time he glanced at it.

He still couldn't believe that Craig had found it, had used his own words against him, though if he really gave it a lot of thought it was completely in line with his husband's character. At first he'd merely felt humiliated and strange that Craig had delved into his most personal thoughts, but as he continued to drive bright spikes of rage began to filter into his blood as well. How could Craig do that? How could he violate Kyle's privacy in such a grossly inappropriate manner? Was it really asking so much that he have just a little corner of the world to himself, a tiny universe of his own making that no one else could see or control? Christ, Craig controlled everything else, right down to the food Kyle ate and the clothes he wore, did he really need to control his thoughts as well?

"God, just how much does he fucking want?" Kyle seethed, slamming his hand down on the steering wheel. "He already has everything I can give, doesn't he? Why couldn't he let me have this one fucking thing?!"

Kyle continued to drive until the gas gauge made it to 'E' and apprehension flooded his stomach. He didn't have a nickel to his name so there was no way he could refuel, and sudden vivid images of being trapped on a lonely country back road arrested his thoughts, filling him with slow terror. He needed to pick a destination, and fast. For a brief, crazy moment he considered just throwing in the towel and going back home but he shook his head, refusing to walk back into the lion's den without putting up a fight first. He was becoming fuzzy from fatigue as well, and tiny fireflies were filling up the car as he drove; bright lights obscuring his vision and glowing multicolored in the blue darkness.

"I guess I took too much Klonopin," he murmured, almost starting to giggle. When he'd hightailed it out of the house he'd forgotten that his Klonopin bottle was still in his pocket, and he'd taken a couple after driving around for awhile. He always knew when he'd taken too much because he started feeling faintly nauseous, and the fireflies would start flitting around, yellow, electric blue, and bright pink.

Coming to a stop sign, Kyle stopped and considered his options, even though his mind was quickly evaporating into sluggish mush. All at once, the answer was clear as a bell in his muddled brain, and for a moment he chastised himself for being so stupid that he hadn't thought of it sooner.

"Wake the fuck up, Kyle. You aren't that far gone, are you?" He asked, turning the car to the right and traveling over the train tracks that had long ago fallen into disrepair; the lawns becoming sparse and badly kept the further he drove. Before too long, Kenny's old house came into view, and Kyle was suddenly so filled with relief it almost felt like his bones were turning to water. Slowing down, he looked around though, fully expecting to see Craig's car already there. No doubt that's exactly where he'd end up if he intended to come after Kyle, especially after reading the diary's contents.

The coast was clear though, and slowly Kyle stopped in front of the little house, putting the car in park and waiting for a moment. He'd been inside the house once since reconnecting with Kenny, and he had to admit that it looked better than it had when they were kids. It would seem that over time Kenny had started to fix it up as his wallet would allow it, and now it was freshly painted and there were tasteful bushes flanking the front door; the glass in the windows repaired and the roof brand new and whole with nary a hole anywhere. Kyle smiled softly, tenderness filling him at the thought of Kenny caring for his aging mother; his father having passed years ago from the complications of spending his life sucking down alcohol and illicit drugs.

Finally, Kyle turned off the car and picked Rose up from her place on the front seat, slowly opening his door and climbing out; cool winds whipping through his hair. He regarded the moon and stars for a moment, hanging low above the modest house, hardly believing that they were the same celestial bodies he'd contemplated mere hours before; it was almost like a lifetime had passed since the party. He walked on trembling, weakened legs up to the front door, passing by Kenny's blue truck waiting silently in the driveway. Desperately, he attempted to make himself presentable before he gave it up as a lost cause, and throwing caution to the wind he rang the doorbell; waiting on pins and needles for whatever was about to happen.

He's going to call me stupid for staying, he thought, almost wincing when a front window was illuminated; golden light striking through the night. He's going to tell me to leave because he can't help me; nobody can help me. Christ, I'm probably beyond help at this point.

He could hear vague scuffles on the other side of the door before it opened slowly, Kenny appearing and looking sleepily disheveled; hair matted down in the back and a mess in the front, blue eyes partly opened. When he saw Kyle they opened wide, though, flooding with naked shock and surprise.

"Kyle?" He asked, coming forward and reaching out his hands but not actually touching him, almost like he was afraid to. "Kyle, your face," he said. "What did he do to you?"

"Don't make me go back there, please," Kyle pleaded, stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Kenny's waist; nearly collapsing against him. "Don't let him take me back to the basement, Kenny. I can't go down there again; he'll kill me this time. I know he will."

"Wait, hold up. The basement? Kyle, what are you talking about?"

Instead of offering up anymore information, Kyle sagged against Kenny and started to cry like his heart was breaking, every part of his body becoming loose as exhaustion and all of the night's trials converged on him at once; the secrets of a life lived in darkness and fear crushing him into the earth. They stood like that for several moments until Kenny reciprocated, his arms winding tightly around Kyle and holding him so closely he could hear Kenny's heartbeat thudding under his skin; his warmth bleeding through his clothes and passing into the huddled boy sobbing in his arms.

"Shh, it's going to be okay, Kyle," he whispered, stroking a hand through Kyle's hair softly. "I've got you, okay? He'll never hurt you again. I promise."

******

It was with apprehension and utter shame that Kyle regarded his reflection in Kenny's bathroom mirror, the clouds of steam slowly dissipating from the shower he'd just gotten done taking. Usually he tried to avoid looking at himself after Craig beat him, but this time he had to face it, all of it. Grimacing, he had to admit that he looked awful, and now Kenny's reaction made perfect sense when he'd first opened the door; eyes disbelieving and shocked.

Craig had slapped Kyle so hard that he'd busted some of the blood vessels in his right eye, so the sclera was blood red, and both eyes were swiftly becoming black; purple and blue shadows already staining the surrounding flesh. Both cheeks were swollen and discolored, his lips puffy and a dark red wound marring the corner of his mouth. He was honestly surprised that Craig hadn't broken his nose again, but he'd always had a tendency to develop bad nosebleeds; the appendage aching terribly. He would've liked to say that he barely recognized himself in his wrecked state but sadly, this had become his new normal over the years; appearing like he'd gone ten rounds in a boxing ring, with him always as the loser in the end.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," he whispered, staring at himself; haunted green eyes looking like they belonged on a tortured refugee instead of a pampered doctor's husband. "I can't believe I let Kenny, anyone, see me like this. What am I doing right now?"

A sudden knock came at the door and Kyle almost yelled, slapping a hand over his aching mouth.

"Kyle? Are you okay in there? Do you need anything?" Kenny's voice traveled through the door, sounding unsure but so effortlessly kind it immediately lulled him.

Raking a hand through his moist curls, Kyle opened the door to see Kenny standing there, staring at him with concern; hair still cutely disheveled and clad in his sleep shirt and baggy pajama pants. He smiled slowly.

"You've already given me more than I deserve," he said, shyly looking down at the floor and rubbing the back of his neck, wincing when his fingers found yet another bruise. "I can't thank you enough for taking me in. It's just for the night, I promise."

"Bullshit, Kyle," Kenny said, drawing his focus up from the floor. "You're done with Tucker, you hear me? This is the straw that broke the fucking camel's back."

Before Kyle could answer, Mrs. McCormick appeared in a terry cloth robe, graying red hair up in a bun on the top of her head. She smiled kindly at Kyle before giving her son a look of disapproval.

"When are you going to tell this child that there's cocoa waiting for him in the kitchen, Kenny?" She asked, frowning. "What's wrong with you, boy?"

"Nothing, ma," Kenny sighed, rubbing his face. "We're just trying to have a private discussion here, so -"

"So, nothing," she interrupted, reaching out and taking a hold of Kyle's arm gently. "He looks like he's dead on his feet, son. Give him a little something to revive himself and then you can jaw at him all you like. Come on, baby," she said, glancing at Kyle. "Come along now."

Grinning, Kyle allowed himself to be pulled toward the kitchen as Kenny followed behind, grousing the whole time.

"Ma, I'm not jawing at Kyle, okay? I'm just trying to -"

"Here you go, hon. Drink up now," Mrs. McCormick said, completely tuning her son out. Leading Kyle to the table, she instructed him to sit and she did the same, watching him fondly as he took a sip of cocoa.

"This is delicious," Kyle said, setting the mug down. "Thank you so much, Mrs. McCormick."

She swatted at him gently, smiling wider.

"You call me Carol now, okay? We ain't strangers, so don't act like we are; not with the way my son raves about you."

"Ma, please," Kenny said, sitting down as well and covering his face with his hands. "Don't do this to me."

"Quit bein' smart, Kenny," she said, easily, resting her face in her hand. "It's the truth, ain't it?" She turned to Kyle. "He took a shine to you ages ago. Even as far back as when you kids was in school. Gosh, you shoulda heard the way he went on and on when you was named valedictorian, you'da thought you'd just been elected president of the United States."

"God, ma, stop. I'm begging you," Kenny said, pulling his hands away and revealing reddened cheeks.

"Oh, and that painting that you done years ago?" She continued, ignoring her son. "The one with them little goldfish in that pretty frame?" She glanced at Kenny, arching a brow. "Run quick and grab it for me, will you, son? It's on my dresser in the bedroom."

"Ma, I really don't think -"

"Git," she replied, smiling warmly at Kyle, who could barely believe what he was hearing.

"Fine, fine," he sighed, rising from the table and disappearing down the hallway. After a moment he returned, holding the little watercolor Kyle had done years ago, still encased in the simple white frame Wendy had given him. His mouth dropped open when he saw it, and he stared at Kenny.

"You bought it? But how? When?"

Kenny shrugged and set the painting in front of his mom, plopping back into his seat.

"Wendy took a picture of it and sent it to me while I was out on the road," he said, studying the painting, one finger drifting over the glass. "I took a liking to it, so I told her I wanted it and to mail it to my old house. Simple as that."

"Oh, simple as that, will you listen to him?" Carol snorted. "It was one of the first things he wanted to see when he came home. "'Ma, ma! Where's the picture? Is it okay? Lemme see it!'"

"Okay, ma. Knock if off," Kenny barked, flushing even redder now. "Kyle and I need to talk about some stuff, okay?"

Reaching up, Kenny's mom smacked the back of his head lightly, giving him a look.

"I don't stand for no sass, Kenny. You know that." Turning to Kyle, she reached out and brushed a cool, soft hand against his bruised cheek. "Are you going to be okay, child? Someone hurt you terrible bad, didn't they?"

Biting his lip, Kyle nodded and looked down at his cocoa.

"I know a thing or two about that," she murmured, stroking his face but taking care not to hurt him. "And so does, Kenny; we know. It ain't any type of life for anyone to live."

Kyle looked up at these words, glancing between Mrs. McCormick and Kenny, Kenny staring at him with sad eyes. After a moment, he nodded slowly.

"You see, Kenny's daddy was not a nice man, but then again I wasn't very nice either, back in the day," Carol continued, lifting her hand from Kyle's face and taking a hold of Kenny's hand; she squeezed it. "We got wrapped up in the wrong stuff and we let the poison cloud our judgement. Eventually, I changed but Kenny's daddy didn't, and you see where that got him."

Continuing to squeeze her son's hand, she looked down at the table and took a long breath, seemingly wading through a lifetime's worth of recollections and regrets.

"There's a great deal of evil on this planet, boys, but I dare say inflicting pain on the people you're supposed to love and protect is some of the worst evil I can think of. There's no excuse for it when push comes to shove, and if you've done it, well, you spend the rest of your life trying to make up for it. It stays with you, because it stays with the people you hurt."

She gave Kenny one last long squeeze before she rose from the table, gathering the picture up and pressing it to her robe-covered breast; smiling at Kyle with eyes bright with tears.

"I just want you to know that you ain't alone, baby," she said. "Not with Kenny in your corner. He takes care of his own. Don't you, son?"

Kenny nodded, glancing at Kyle with his own haunted eyes, eyes that contained their own suffering and multitude of secret shames.

"You got a home wherever he is, no matter what choice you make," Carol said, pressing a dry kiss against the top of Kyle's hair and patting his shoulder. Slowly, she began shuffling back toward her room. "Good night, boys; don't stay up too late, you hear?"

"Right, ma. Right," Kenny sighed, watching with a gentle smile as his mother retreated into her room, the door closing softly. "Sorry about that, dude. She gets on a tear and then she can talk a blue streak, as you can plainly see."

"No, no, don't apologize. She actually made me feel a little better," Kyle said, picking up his cocoa and taking a tiny sip. Setting it down, he thought a moment. "So, about what she said -"

"Let's not talk about that, okay?" He cut in, running both of his hands through his sleep-matted hair. "I've suffered enough humiliation for one night."

"I think it's sweet," Kyle said, smiling.

"Bordering on psychotic," Kenny quipped, rolling his eyes. "God, I look like a fucking obsessed stalker or something."

Kyle shook his head, pushing the cocoa away.

"No, I've seen psychotic, Kenny. I've lived with obsession. What you've done doesn't even come close, I promise."

Kenny stared at him for a moment, the only sound in the room the relentless ticking of the clock over the stove. Scratching his arm, he finally shrugged, clearly trying to appear casual.

"So, are you going to tell me what happened tonight? Are you going to tell me anything?"

Kyle stared down at his hands, opening and closing them slowly, trying to find something to focus on other than the inevitable; the outpouring that Kenny was asking for, that Kyle needed to wade through in order to keep going. He couldn't find the words though, because there was just so much to say, so many secrets consuming him.

"What can I say, Kenny?" He asked, helplessly. "Where do I start?"

"Wherever you want," Kenny replied, reaching out and taking Kyle's hand, squeezing it; much like his mother had done to him. "I'm listening, man. You have all of my attention."

"Would you believe me if I told you I pushed Craig down the stairs before I left?" Kyle asked. He laughed but it sounded terribly bitter. "Escaped, rather."

"You didn't," Kenny breathed, admiration threading through his voice. "You really pushed Tucker down the stairs? Is he dead? Please tell me he's dead."

"Kenny, knock it off," Kyle replied, pulling his hand away and standing from the table. "That isn't funny."

"Who's trying to be funny?" Kenny asked, following behind Kyle as he walked toward Kenny's bedroom. "That dude had it coming, Kyle. If what I'm seeing today is any indication of what he's capable of, he had that shit coming in spades."

Kyle sighed and picked up Rose, cradling the diary in his hands for a moment; contemplating a monumental decision, a decision that would change everything. He was considering rocking the very foundations of his life, but he still wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do. After all, he still loved his husband dearly, almost beyond measure, and his stubborn nature and relentless pursuit of doing the right thing plagued him endlessly. He gazed at Kenny for a moment, studying him.

"Do you ever wonder about the person you could've been if your life had turned out differently?" He asked, going over to the bed and sitting down; pulling Kenny's oversized t-shirt down and tucking his legs underneath it, nearly swimming in the boxers he'd let him borrow.

Kenny gave him a questioning look before coming to sit beside him, his eyes resting on the diary in Kyle's hands.

"I'm not sure I know what you mean," he replied.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm mourning my own death," Kyle said, brushing a tear away that had started to fall. He sniffled. "I often think about the person I was meant to be if I'd never ended up with Craig, and sometimes it makes me so sad I don't know if I can keep going, but I do." He glanced at Kenny, a ghost of a smile quirking his lips.

"You want to know the whole story, huh? From the very beginning?"

Kenny nodded.

"I always have, Kyle," he murmured. "I've always wanted to know everything about you, the good and the bad."

Kyle looked down at the diary again, and before he could talk himself out of it he was handing it to Kenny.

"Well, there you go, dude. Every little detail of my life with Craig. It isn't pretty but don't say I didn't warn you, okay?"

Kenny stared at the diary for a moment and then back at Kyle, eyes wide.

"You really want me to read this? It's okay?"

"It's okay, Kenny. Is it okay if I sleep while you do it? Unless you wanted to go to sleep now, it is late -"

"No, I want to read it now. All of it," Kenny cut in. "And of course you can sleep, you don't even have to ask. Here, let me get your place set up."

Kyle stopped Kenny before he could pull the blanket back, smiling at him softly.

"Get comfortable, okay?"

Kenny stared at him, clearly not understanding.

"What are you talking about? Don't you want to get in bed?"

"Just do it, okay?" Kyle said, brushing some hair off of Kenny's forehead. "For me."

"If you say so," Kenny said, still sounding confused. Glancing around, he scooted up the bed until his back was resting against the pillows. "Now what?"

"Now I can sleep and you can read," Kyle grinned, crawling over and resting his head in Kenny's lap. "Is this okay?"

Kenny was silent for a moment, almost like he was at a loss for words. All at once, Kyle could sense the tension flowing from his old friend as he felt a gentle hand passing through his curls, almost making him sigh.

"This is better than okay," Kenny said, softly. "This is perfect."