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South Park Requests and Gifts

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Stan is finished with his Friday classes at quarter til 11, and though Kyle has an irksome 3:30 Russian literature course, they typically kick off the weekend with an early lunch featuring a few beers for each of them, and unless Kyle has an essay due, they almost always go back to Stan’s apartment to fuck after eating. Stan will wake up after Kyle has left for his class, fall back to sleep, then wake again to Kyle’s phone call after his class lets out, and to the usual questions about what they should do that evening. For Stan, the whole arrangement is perfect, and he never has much input about their evening plans: he just likes to be with Kyle on Friday nights, whether they’re at the ironic townie bowling alley or semi-ironically gorging on shellfish at Lobsterfest.

"Ready for lunch?" he asks when he calls Kyle up after his French class lets out.

"Fine," Kyle says. He’s clearly in a bad mood; probably stressed about school. "Meet at the usual place?"

"Yep, see you there. You okay?"

"Yes," Kyle says. "Why wouldn’t I be?"

"I don’t know, you sound angry."

"I’m not. See you in fifteen minutes."

Stan has a bad feeling as he walks toward the restaurant, which is adjacent to campus, a place with basic food and a nice deck. It’s spring, nearing the end of their junior year, and though they’ve still had cold snaps here and there, it’s warm enough today to wear a t-shirt. He arrives before Kyle, gets a table, and orders a draft beer and some of the gooey spinach-cheese dip Kyle likes. By the time the dip arrives, Kyle has, too, and he stares at it forlornly.

"What’s the matter?" Stan asks.

"Nothing," Kyle says. "I’m just stressed. And it annoys me, how much I like this."

"The dip?" Stan says, because Kyle is staring at it. Kyle gives Stan an incredulous, injured look.

"No, not the dip! When you order for me," he says, mumbling.

"Oh." Stan isn’t sure how he’s supposed to take this. He’s known Kyle since they were toddling around in diapers, but lately he’s been weird, harder to read. "Yeah, well. I know what you like?"

Kyle makes a face and digs into the dip with a tortilla chip. He sighs.

"Um, so," Stan says when Kyle just sits there eating chips. He wants to ask again if Kyle is okay, but he knows that Kyle hates it when he presses him. "Do you have anything due in class today?"

"You’re asking if we’re going to fuck after this?" Kyle says, so sharply that Stan leans back a bit.

"I was hoping to," Stan says, softly. "Unless you’re too—"

"No, it’s fine, it’s great. It’s not like I’m not — horny. Ugh, I hate that word. It’s so cheap."

"Yeah," Stan says. For the most part, being in a sexual relationship with his best friend has made things easy, but increasingly he’s feeling like he did with Wendy back in the day, never sure what to say. "Um, but. We could wait til later if you just want to take a nap or something."

"You’re so sure that we’ll have sex later, too?"

"Um. Wait, what?" Stan has to stop himself from reminding Kyle that they always have sex on Friday nights, kind of like every other night of the week, unless Kyle has a test to study for, and sometimes even then. "Are you mad at me?" Stan asks.

"I hate that question," Kyle says. "Why would I be mad? Of course I’m not. You haven’t done anything wrong."

The way he emphasizes done and wrong in that sentence is worrisome, but Stan lets it drop and starts complaining about his French class. He only took French because he’s jealous of Kyle’s friendship with Christophe, who eschewed college in favor of moving to Haiti and building schoolhouses and hospitals as part of a Red Cross charity effort. Christophe is all saintly and cool with his chain smoking and rough construction worker hands, and Stan dreads it when he comes home with horror stories about the poverty that he’s seen, because it tends to impress Kyle. Christophe tends to impress Kyle, generally, and Stan doesn’t like it, but they’re not technically boyfriends or anything, so he can’t express this without sounding like a jackass. Sometimes, when he’s had too much to drink, he expresses it anyway.

Stan drinks two beers with lunch as usual, and Kyle sips from his Blue Moon with orange slowly enough to limit himself to one. They split the tab, as always. Stan has a part time job as a lifeguard at the school’s rec center, and Kyle works in the math tutoring lab. Neither of them makes much, and this Friday lunch, typically followed by a Friday dinner, is one of their few indulgences. On Saturdays they cook dinner together at Stan’s place, sometimes for friends if they’re feeling flush with cash. By Sunday, Kyle is back to using his on-campus meal plan, and Stan usually gets some fast food while trying to catch up on all the homework he ignored during the weekend.

"Still horny?" Stan asks, murmuring this as they head up the stairs to Stan’s apartment. He was trying to sound sexy, and the look of mild disgust that Kyle gives him tells him he did not succeed.

"Of course I’m horny," Kyle says. "I’m always horny — you can count on that, can’t you?"

"Okay, what the hell is wrong?" Stan asks, because he feels like he’s being accused of something here.

"Nothing," Kyle says. "I’m pre-menstral or something."

"You’re never going to convince that you have a period, dude. Not a second time, anyway."

"Men do have hormonal cycles, Stanley. I’ve explained this countless times!"

"Irritable male syndrome?"

"It’s real! It’s in my fucking biology book, okay? It’s triggered by stress."

"Why are you so stressed?" Stan tries to rub Kyle’s shoulders, but he walks out of his grip.

"Why else? School. Open up, let’s go. I need to review for a quiz after you fuck me."

Stan doesn’t like Kyle referring to it that way: you fuck me. He prefers ‘we fuck,’ because while Kyle is almost always the passive party, Stan cherishes the thought that it’s something they’re entering into together, a certain state of being whereby they are fused, as opposed to something Stan does to Kyle when he’s horny.

Things start off badly when they walk in to find Steve in the living room, fooling with Stan’s old guitar that he hasn’t touched in years. Kyle refers to Steve as Bizarro World Stan, because he looks a bit like Stan, only unattractively skewed: his eyes are more widely set, his black hair and olive skin are persistently greasy, and he’s recently been sporting a horrible, scraggly attempt at a mustache.

"Hey dudes," Steve says, and Stan bristles, as always, at the sound of someone using ‘dude’ in a non-Stan-and-Kyle context. “‘Sup?"

"Nothing," Stan says. Steve knows perfectly well that they’re going back to Stan’s room for their Friday afternoon fuck; Kyle is shamelessly loud. "Where’d you even find that?" he asks, eying the guitar.

"Oh, it was in your closet."

"Uh. Why were you digging around in my closet?"

"I thought maybe you borrowed my jean jacket."

"Well — what? I didn’t."

"Stan!" Kyle says, already in the doorway of Stan’s bedroom. "I’m on a schedule here."

Stan is hurt by this, but he follows Kyle into the room and flops onto the bed while Kyle locks the door; neither of them would put it past Steve to burst in on jean jacket-related business. Stan watches Kyle begin to undress, his cock stirring already at the sight of Kyle’s lithe frame, bony shoulders, and softer spots that are perfect for squeezing and/or sucking. He still seems on edge, but Stan has been known to soothe Kyle’s temper with his cock, and he’s prepared to do that now.

"Where’s the lube?" Kyle asks, naked and digging through Stan’s underwear drawer.

"Hang on," Stan says, and he crawls up to run his hand between the mattress and the wall, where the lube sometimes lodges during sex, or after Stan has used it to jerk off. "Yep," he says when he finds it there. "Here you go."

"I’ll do it," Kyle says when Stan spreads some lube on his fingers.

"Are you sure?" Stan asks, increasingly upset. He likes to do the fingering himself; it’s part of their process, the slow opening of Kyle to Stan’s increasingly heated intrusions.

"Yeah," Kyle says, and he sits back on his knees, spreading his legs for his hand. "I haven’t douched at all this week."

"Uh." Stan snorts and contains a laugh, because Kyle looks very grave about this information. "I don’t care."

"I know you don’t, but I do. I don’t want bacteria getting under your fingernails."

Stan makes a face. “How about your fingernails, dude?”

"I own a fingernail brush, Stanley, and I clean them thoroughly. Your idea of hand washing is using soap that smells like watermelon and isn’t even antibacterial."

"That stuff I have — it isn’t?"

"No! You might as well wash with perfume."

"Well. That would be very French of me," Stan says, irritated now. He’s hard, though, from watching Kyle’s face as he fingers himself: the way he winces so delicately and tips his chin back a little, absorbed in the feeling.

"What is with your xenophobic comments about the French?" Kyle asks. He removes his fingers and wipes them on Stan’s sheets. "Just because you hate your French teacher."

"I don’t hate her,” Stan says, and he exchanges a knowing look with Kyle. Stan doesn’t actually hate Christophe — he admires him, envies his cynical but selfless outlook on life, and really wishes he could stop torturing himself with mental images of Christophe murmuring French dirty talk to Kyle while fucking him passionately.

"Oh, God," Kyle says as he squats over Stan’s dick, guiding it into place. "What is he doing?"

"He, huh? Who?" Then Stan hears what Kyle is referring to: Steve, out in the living room, noodling around on the guitar arrhythmically. "Ahh, shit," Stan says as Kyle slides onto him, his agonized moan both a comment on the feeling of Kyle’s clenching heat and on Steve’s aggravating existence.

"Turn on some music," Kyle says, gasping as he takes a first bounce. Stan groans and thrusts upward while groping for his clock radio with his right hand. He manages to flick it on, and a commercial for a used car dealership blares from it.

"Ughhh," Kyle says, moving into a rhythm, his head tipped back, eyes closed. "Find something—"

"I’m trying!" Stan says, slapping at the dial while Kyle rides him. Kyle seems to be in another world, his fingertips braced lightly on Stan’s chest, lips parting. Stan finds a classic rock station and turns up the volume on ‘Rhiannon.’ "This good?" he asks, pressing up into Kyle.

"Ngh, yeah, perfect."

"Fuck, dude. You look hot."

"Stan, God. It’s perfect, you’re the perfect width, length—" Kyle looks like he might weep over this realization, his lips beginning to tremble.

"Your ass is perfect,” Stan says, and Kyle looks down at him, frowning. “What?”

"Nothing," Kyle says. He sniffles.

"Sorry I’m not good at dirty talk," Stan says, defensively, thinking of Christophe. "I could try it in French."

"Why would you? You have a D in that class."

"It’s — no, I don’t." He might, depending on how Monday’s oral presentation goes. He grunts and thrusts up sharply, annoyed to be thinking about a presentation that he hasn’t even begun to prepare for while he should be enjoying a feeling of connectedness to Kyle, blissfully unaware of everything but him. Kyle groans wantonly, so Stan snaps his hips again, three times in quick succession.

"Fuhh," Kyle says. He wipes drool from the corner of his lips and begins to tilt backward. Stan knows what that means: he surges up, supporting Kyle’s lower back with both hands, and tips him down onto the mattress.

"Should I turn the turn the radio up?" Stan asks as he leans over Kyle, his lips moving on the shell of Kyle’s ear. "So he won’t hear you taking dick in here? I’m gonna fuck you hard, dude, you’re gonna scream."

"God!" Kyle says. He seems to actually be weeping a little, or anyway, his eyes are leaking. Stan nuzzles him, nervous about this. "I don’t care if that fucktard hears me — he knows I’m your whore."

"Mhmm, yeah," Stan says, throbbing happily at Kyle’s embrace of dirty talk: usually he just wants to receive it, greedily — like other things — and is too shy to offer any in return. "Here it comes," Stan says. "Let him hear how much you love it."

Kyle wails as Stan leans back to fuck him roughly. They’ve had plenty of rough, sweaty sex, but Stan has never made Kyle actually sob with pleasure before, and he’s a bit concerned about this until Kyle comes all over himself with a shout. Then he’s just proud. He pulls out so he can splash his come onto Kyle’s stomach, making a mess of him, groaning over the opening strains of ‘Hotel California.’

Stan flops down to kiss Kyle in the aftermath. Before he can, Kyle rolls onto his side and brings his arm up to shield his eyes. He’s still crying, bouncing with sobs now, and Stan’s stomach plummets with fear.

"Did I hurt you?" he asks, wanting to flip the stupid radio off but not willing to leave Kyle long enough to do so. "Dude? Oh, shit, what’s wrong? I’m so sorry, I thought—"

"I’m a whore," Kyle cries, his arm still folded over his face, which is very bright red from what Stan can see. "A cuh— come bucket!"

"Noo, Kyle, what? Hey, shhh, what? What’s going on?" Stan’s breath catches when he realizes what this must be about: Kyle must have let Christophe fuck him last time he was in town. He’s probably feeling guilty, preparing to confess. Stan feels as if he’s been rapidly shoved into icy water, and he gets a bad head rush when he sits up, all the blood draining from his face. He turns off the radio, then wonders if he should have. Steve will be able to hear Kyle sobbing now.

"You’re not a whore," Stan says, moving over to spoon Kyle gently. Stan is hurt, preparing himself to be crushed when he hears that Kyle possibly loves Christophe, too, but he can’t be angry, since they never had a relationship-defining conversation. It’s Stan’s fault: he was too scared, and now he’s lost Kyle to that fucking Frenchman. "It’s okay, Kyle," Stan whispers, though it isn’t. Kyle was always going to move on to someone far more sophisticated and mysterious, but Stan hadn’t allowed himself to accept that before now, and he’s already having a hard time breathing. "Shhh," Stan says, and he kisses Kyle’s cheek. "Hey, it’s okay."

"It’s not okay!" Kyle says, throwing him off violently. Kyle turns to glare at Stan, whose eyes get huge. The sight of Kyle like this: furious and broken, red-faced, come drying all over his chest and stomach — it’s like a horror movie, making Stan’s stomach churn. "You can’t just treat me like this! I’m not garbage! I have feelings!"

"What?" Stan says, genuinely lost. "What — when? How?"

"Ugh, look at me!" Kyle says, and he catapults off the bed, suddenly spry. "Of course I’d be having this conversation with your come caked all over me. Look what you’ve reduced me to," he says, and he drops to his knees on the carpet, whimpering.

"Why would you — when did I treat you like garbage?" Stan casts around for something to clean Kyle with and finds his discarded t-shirt. It’s one of his favorites, soft and well-worn, but he only hesitates for a moment before dropping to his knees in front of Kyle and attempting to rub the come off of Kyle with it. Kyle swipes it from him, his eyes getting mean again.

"I’m just an easy piece of ass to you," Kyle says. "After everything, after all these years—"

"No! Kyle—"

"And you won’t even show me the decency of lying about wanting to date me. Not even just until graduation. I embarrass you."

"Where are you getting this from?" Stan asks, starting to cry. He’s not a dramatic, heaving crier like Kyle, which itself is so rare that Kyle’s sobs alone are terrifying. Stan is more of a crackly-voiced wibbler, and he can feel it rushing on him, the wavering words and the burning eyes.

"Where am I getting this from? How about from over three years of fucking around and not a single date, not the slightest insincere mention that I might be special to you in some way, and you’ve certainly never told me you love me because you clearly don’t.”

"Kyle," Stan says, breaking apart over this, part of him still on guard, waiting to hear that Christophe is the loving partner that Stan never was. "Of course I love you — you’re, like — my best person!"

"What does that mean, your ‘best person?’ The easiest person to take for granted? The person whose ass is most often available to empty your semen into?"

"Don’t say semen," Stan says, wounded by that somehow, his eyes beginning to overflow. Kyle slaps him, but it’s kind of pathetic, almost embarrassed.

"Damn you," Kyle says, gulping out sobs. "If you were ugly, I could have resisted this humiliation. Or if you had a small cock. Or a gross, huge one, but it’s — you’re ripe for the Kyle manipulation. Congratu-fucking-lations."

"But I love you," Stan says, feeling as if the ground is deteriorating beneath him. "I do love you, Kyle — I get so jealous. I want you to be mine, like. I thought you kind of were?"

"That’s terrific," Kyle says. He’s sniffling, wiping at himself with the t-shirt, mostly just smearing come around. "Kind of, well. I’m tired of being kind of."

"Will you marry me?" Stan blurts desperately — sincerely, too — and Kyle slaps him harder this time.

"How dare you!"

"I’m serious! Kyle!" Stan throws his arms around Kyle’s legs when he rises shakily. "Don’t leave me, please, I don’t know what’s going on! Is it Christophe?"

"Christophe? What?"

"Has he turned you against me?"

Kyle stares down at him then, frowning in a benignly puzzled way, as if he’s been thrown out of the scene somewhat. Stan is still on his knees, still hugging Kyle’s legs, his face pressed to Kyle’s thigh, tears still coming.

"You’re jealous of Christophe?" Kyle says.

"Are you fucking kidding me? Yes! He’s like, this angel slash demon thing and I know you’re into him, admit it."

"I am not! He’s a nice person, but his facial hair alone disgusts me."

"Really?"

Kyle studies Stan for a moment, his frown deepening. His hands twitch at his sides.

"Yes, really," Kyle says. He scoffs. "You thought I was interested in Christophe?"

"I was afraid you were, yeah."

"When I’m so obviously in love with you?" Kyle says, the tremble returning to his voice.

"I thought it was obvious, too," Stan says, rising to face him. "I mean, that I love you," Stan says. He touches Kyle’s face cautiously, cupping his cheek. "I’m in love with you, and I want to marry you. I’d marry you right now. Will you, uh? Will you marry me, Kyle?" His stomach drops again; he’s not sure what he’s doing. Kyle huffs.

"No," he says. "Of course I won’t."

"Oh."

"I mean, what kind of proposal would this be?" Kyle moves closer and sighs heavily, his flaccid cock coming to rest against Stan’s. "Perhaps I’ve been a bit over-dramatic," Kyle says, speaking quietly now. Stan imagines Steve out there, listening, and withholds a groan. "But you’ve hurt me so many times," Kyle says.

"How?"

"In subtle ways, just. When you let me flirt with Christophe, for example, and don’t get moody about it."

"I do, too!"

"Well, you don’t show it!"

“‘Cause it’s fucking embarrassing, how much— ah, goddammit. How upset I get when you smile at some other guy.”

Kyle smiles now, slowly. Stan still can’t manage one, feeling wrecked and on the verge of vomiting. He lets Kyle dry the corners of his eyes with his thumbs. Outside in the living room, Steve has started plucking the guitar again, conspicuously.

"I just thought," Stan says. "Since we spend so much time together, and how, I, um." He’s not good at talking about his feelings; never has this been more clear. "How when I hold you, I thought you could feel it. You know, my heartbeat, and stuff."

"A heartbeat only indicates that you’re alive," Kyle says, but he kisses Stan warmly, sighing into him. "I felt it sometimes," he says when he pulls back, whispering. "That’s what made the rest so confusing."

"The rest?"

"You can be very aloof, Stan! Seemingly blank, at times. It gives me flashbacks to fourth grade."

"Oh."

"After your birthday party."

"Yeah, I remember. Sorry. I do want to marry you, so. Keep that in mind."

"It would be difficult to forget," Kyle says, and he grins, blushing.

Kyle skips his Russian literature class, saying he’s had enough ‘drama on a grand scale’ for one day. They take a bath together, and Stan cleans Kyle off properly. Afterward they do Stan’s laundry, watch reruns of The Tyra Banks show while drinking some of Steve’s wine coolers (he’s gone off somewhere, and seems to have taken the guitar with him), then go to Target to buy Stan a brush for cleaning under his fingernails. He knows he won’t use it, but Kyle can use it on him when they bathe together, which he’d like to do more frequently: today was their first time.

"How could you not see how settled we already are?" Stan asks Kyle on the way back from Target. "Look at all the old married couple stuff we already do."

"It’s true," Kyle says. "But I was interpreting it as lingering childhood best friend stuff, I guess."

"It’s both," Stan says, and he smiles over at Kyle, who is driving. "I like that it’s both."

Kyle agrees, but he still doesn’t agree to marry Stan until the following year. They elope, and later are browbeaten into sending out marriage announcements to friends and family, at Sheila’s outraged insistence. Stan addresses the envelope bearing Christophe’s announcement himself, as if he’ll care, or be surprised on any level: no one they’ve told so far has been. At some point, everyone who knew them was way ahead of them in feeling certain that this would happen.

Chapter Text

On the steps of the courthouse in New York, ten minutes after they’d been granted their marriage certificate, Stan asked Kyle where he wanted to go for their honeymoon. It was a joke, because the only money they had was a graduation gift from the Broflovskis that Kyle was meant to put toward his master’s degree, but when Kyle told Stan that he wanted to go to Disney World, he seemed hurt by Stan’s laughter.

"Wait, seriously?" Stan said.

"What, this occasion is not momentous enough?" Kyle asked.

Stan was worried, then. They were twenty-two, newly married, jobless, bound for a summer at their parents’ houses in South Park if not a honeymoon. Stan was afraid that the judgment of their friends and family back home would somehow negate their marriage, not to mention the fact that it wouldn’t be legally recognized in Colorado. They hadn’t told anyone about their spontaneous plans to marry. Their witness had been a court clerk.

"Alright," Stan said, internally panicking. "Let’s do it."

They had flown to New York from Colorado a week after graduation, antsy and insecure about the future once they were back in their hometown. Marriage seemed like a great solution, and Stan had approached the whole thing doubtlessly until now, because it was done and he didn’t feel very different.


"We can just fly to Orlando from here," Kyle said as they strolled back to their uptown hotel, another thing they could only technically afford. Kyle had his arm looped through Stan’s, and Stan was nervous about this, though no one they passed seemed to notice or care. He wondered if Kyle would try to be affectionate with him in public at Disney World. The whole concept was new for them, though people at college had been aware of their togetherness even before they had a talk about it during which they both sobbed and Stan proposed marriage in response to Kyle’s fears that he was only a fuck buddy. That had been late sophomore year, but they hadn’t considered themselves properly engaged until Kyle asked Stan if he just wanted to fly to New York that night and get married in the morning. It was a whirlwind two-day engagement, their precious secret from their parents, from everyone.

They spent the afternoon and early evening of their wedding day having sex between hotel sheets. Kyle was loud as usual, and Stan worried that someone would knock on the wall in complaint, but no one did. They took a bath together before dinner, with bubbles, a champagne bottle sitting on the rim of the sunken tub. Stan hugged Kyle to his chest, wrapped his legs around him, and felt exquisitely happy.

"It will cut into your school money, is all I’m worried about," Stan said, beginning a conversation about the proposed honeymoon in mid-thought.

"I don’t need all that money for school," Kyle said. "I’m going to teach. I get a stipend."

"Oh, duh."

"How about you?" Kyle asked, and he tipped his chin back until he met Stan’s eyes. "You’re not even going to apply to grad school?"

"Not right away," Stan said. They were married now, and he wanted to provide for his family, for Kyle. He knew there wasn’t much you could do with a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, but maybe he could work at Exotic Pets in Boulder, caring for the fish.

They had an eight o’clock dinner reservation at a restaurant that specialized in cheese. Kyle ordered escargot as an appetizer, and Stan felt grown up at last as he dug snails out of their shells with a tiny fork. He wondered if a pit stop in Disney World would make him feel childish again, or less married, or just financially irresponsible.

"I’ve always wanted to have cheese for dessert," Kyle said after they’d ordered a post-dinner cheese and wine flight.

"You’re gonna have everything you want," Stan promised, already pretty drunk. He reached across the table and covered Kyle’s hand with his. "Hey," he said. "You’re my husband."

"It’s crazy!" Kyle said. They both admired their fat titanium rings, which had cost forty dollars each, a last minute purchase in South Park before they flew to New York.

"Should we call our parents?" Stan asked. "Since we’re, um, extending the trip?" They’d told their parents they were visiting Kenny in San Diego for the weekend.

"Ugh, I guess," Kyle said. "But let’s not say we’re married yet. I want to tell them in person."

"Kay."

The cheese and wine flight lasted an hour, and their bill was for almost two hundred dollars. Stan was too drunk to care; he left a fifty dollar tip, feeling quite manly and capable, though he was spending the last of his own smallish allotment of graduation present money.

"I almost wish we could drive down to Florida," Kyle said when they were in the backseat of a cab, on the way back to the hotel. "That would be so romantic."

"The gas would be expensive, though," Stan said.

"Oh, God, I know, but listen. We have the rest of our lives to worry about money. Let’s just not, okay? For three days or so, let’s just pretend we’re rich."

"Mhmm," Stan said, concerned that Kyle would want to fly first class. "Okay."

They bought tickets to Florida the following morning, in coach, but they were plenty expensive for being last minute. Neither of them had packed for a trip to Florida, which Kyle insisted was no big deal. They could buy bathing suits there, and flip flops, and possibly a six pack of cheap underwear to share.

"This is so exciting," Kyle said, leaning onto Stan while he flipped through the Sky Mall magazine. "I feel like my life is finally starting, you know?"

"I know," Stan said, though he suspected that their actual life would not consist of many unplanned trips to the Magic Kingdom. "But where will we stay? Just some random hotel?"

"They have these Disney buses at the airport," Kyle said. "And they drive around to all the different hotels. I figure, we get on one of the buses and just get off at whatever hotel looks good. Right?"

"Aren’t some of them, like. Five hundred dollars a night? Or something?"

"Well, probably. Okay, fine, here: we can stay in the New Orleans-style one. It’s mid-range, and we stayed there the last time my parents took me and Ike. They have a dragon slide."

"Cool," Stan said, though he couldn’t conjure a mental image of a dragon slide, or what ‘New Orleans-style’ might mean, aside from Mardi Gras beads and red plastic cups.

The flight was brief, and the sunset was just beginning when they landed. There were indeed Disney buses at the airport, complete with frigid air conditioning that was too harsh for early evening in May, though the air outside was markedly muggier than it had been in New York. They huddled together on the bus, backpacks in their laps, and Stan took a few picture of Kyle with his phone.

"Don’t," Kyle said, smooshing his hair down. "I look like crap."

"You look resplendent," Stan said. One of his hobbies was coming up with new adjectives to flatter Kyle with. Kyle almost always dismissed the compliments, but today he just grinned and pushed his elbow into Stan’s lap.

"I’m all keyed up," Kyle said. He leaned over to put his lips against Stan’s ear. "Like, in a sex way. I want you in me."

"Jesus," Stan said, checking over his shoulder to make sure no eavesdropping innocents were seated behind them. "Okay, um. As soon as we get a room. Yeah?"

"I want to get fucked so much on this trip," Kyle said, continuing to murmur into Stan’s ear. "It’s our honeymoon. I want to break records. I want - ah, I want to brag about how many times we did it."

"To who?" Stan asked, pressing his backpack down over a sudden boner. He felt wicked for having one within the city limits of Disney World, but also in step with Kyle: yes, sex, the record breaking kind. He wanted it, too.

"I don’t know," Kyle said. "Wendy!"

"Oh, dude, no."

Kyle turned toward the front of the bus again, beaming dazedly, as if he was imagining this conversation with Wendy. Stan had dated her briefly at the start of high school, but that wasn’t what Kyle objected to. Stan continued to think of her as a real friend, and Kyle had always been more jealous of Stan’s friends than his girlfriends.

They arrived at the New Orleans resort, which was in fact called Port Orleans, a sprawling complex of squat pinkish buildings and wrought iron gates. They were placed in the ‘French Quarter,’ in a king room near the pool, at Kyle’s request. Apparently most elementary schools were still in session, and it was a slow time just before the first crush of the summer season. Stan took this stroke of luck as a sign that they weren’t making a bad omen of their first financial decision as a married couple, blowing a thousand dollars on plane tickets and a Disney-fied hotel room. He flopped onto the bed and spread his legs a bit while Kyle examined the room.

"They have Mickey soaps," he said, from the bathroom. "I remember that!"

"I barely remember Disney World at all," Stan said. He’d been once, when he was six, during a family trip to Florida to visit Jimbo, who’d been living there at the time. They’d stayed in a roadside motel with a sad little pool, and Stan’s most vivid memory of visiting the Magic Kingdom was a crippling fear of all the rides, even the tea cups. He’d spent most of the day hugging his mother’s leg while Randy and Shelly waited in line for things.

"It’s cute, right?" Kyle said when he reentered the room, smelling of soap. "I mean, that bedspread is hideous and there’s kind of a musty smell, but the grounds are nice."

"Come here," Stan said, holding his arms out.

"Wash your hands first," Kyle said, and he took his shirt off. "Please. Disney buses and airplanes are both germ-filled."

Stan felt too tired to move, but he forced himself to, wanting to please Kyle. Pleasing Kyle had long been his policy, but now it seemed to carry a greater weight, because he’d made promises in front of a judge. Stan wanted Kyle to hyphenate Marsh into his last name, but he hadn’t brought it up yet.

When Stan emerged from the bathroom, Kyle was nude, blushing on the bed. Stan was already halfway hard, remembering what Kyle had said on the bus and feeling kind of pleasantly reckless, suddenly in Florida.

"We never do it on top of the sheets," Kyle said, and he reached down to touch his cock self-consciously. He was still mostly soft, and the sight of him fondling himself in this state made Stan fully erect in an instant.

"We don’t?" Stan said.

"Not when we’re naked," Kyle said. "You never noticed that?" He sat up, reached under the ugly comforter to get a pillow, and held it over himself.

"I guess not," Stan said. "I like being in a bed, though. Then when we’re finished we can go right to sleep."

"Or cuddle," Kyle said, frowning.

"I always cuddle you, dude," Stan said. He was undressing while they spoke, down to his socks and underwear now. He removed the socks first.

"I know," Kyle said. "I was just wondering, um. Since we’re married now. Maybe we could experiment more. You know, it’s all fun and games when you’re in college, but we’re proper adults now, Stan. We need to approach our sex life intelligently and not assume it will always just be great without effort."

"I use effort," Stan said, hurt. He pulled off his underwear and stroked himself a few times, grinning when Kyle stared.

"What I’m saying is that maybe we should try it on top of the covers," Kyle said. He was blushing hard now, and he didn’t relinquish the pillow when Stan came to him. "God, I’m like, frail, though. With a pot belly. And you’re so. Firm."

"You’re not frail, and you don’t have a pot belly." Stan removed the pillow from Kyle’s gripping hands, gently. "You’re lithe," Stan said, covering Kyle’s body with his own. Kyle snorted. "And soft in this - great way," Stan said, unable to come up with another decorative adjective. He ran his fingertips over Kyle’s stomach, and dipped down to mouth at Kyle’s neck when he shivered.

"I do know you’re attracted to me," Kyle said, pressing up against him. "I mean. I’ve accepted it, after years of struggle. I just, I. Oh—" Kyle wrapped his legs around Stan’s back and humped his stomach, moaning. Kyle’s legs were muscular but also skinny, and his arms were a little thicker but not by much. He didn’t like working out. Stan liked pushing himself until every muscle screamed; it made him feel alive and invincible. Kyle was more prone to feel that way when he won an argument or turned in a brilliant essay on mathematical theory.

"You want fingers or mouth first?" Stan asked. It was a standard question. Kyle fidgeted a little, and sighed.

"Oh, both," he said. "Please. It’s a special occasion, after all."

Stan got the lube from his backpack, and when he turned back for the bed he could see that Kyle was uncomfortable again, pressing his pale thighs together. He’d never considered that Kyle had sexual inhibitions of any kind. He was usually open, wanton, and Stan had always loved that. He wondered if it was their marriage that had made him self-conscious, but that made no sense.

"You look ethereal," Stan said, hoping that word meant what he thought it did.

"How so?" Kyle asked. He raised his knees toward his chest as Stan loomed over him, and Stan wasn’t sure if it was a seductive or defensive maneuver.

"Um, otherworldly," Stan said. "In an exquisite way," he added, quickly.

"I look like someone who just got off a plane," Kyle said. "At best."

"A spiritual plane," Stan said, and Kyle laughed. They kissed, rolled around a little, and when Kyle was on his back again Stan began to crawl down his body, kissing his way toward Kyle’s cock. "I’m gonna make you come," Stan said, because Kyle liked him to list his plans for sex like he was reading from a sumptuous menu. "Then I’m gonna fuck you." Admittedly, Stan wasn’t very creative when he listed out the game plan, but he knew what Kyle liked: to be trembling in the aftermath of an orgasm when Stan slid into him.

"Wait," Kyle said, and Stan paused, his lips hovering over Kyle’s wet cockhead. Kyle sat up onto his elbows. "Maybe, don’t make me come yet. Make me wait, like. Make me beg for it." He was blushing again, touching one of his nipples.

"Okay," Stan said, feeling a little stupid. "Do you still want - the treatment?"

"The treatment?" Kyle beamed, which somehow made Stan feel dumber.

"The mouth and fingers," Stan said.

"Oh, yes! Just, get me close. Then fuck me when I’m all. Needy."

Stan did as he asked, pressing against Kyle’s prostate with the pad of one finger while he lapped at his dick and nipped the insides of his shaking thighs. He thought he was doing pretty well, holding Kyle just over the flames of his forthcoming orgasm, but then he suckled at the head of Kyle’s cock a bit, teasingly, and was met with a hot explosion of come that almost got him right in the eyes.

"Oh, God," Kyle said, panting, his head still thrown back. "God, I’m sorry, I think I - needed that, I’m sorry."

"Don’t be sorry," Stan said. He wiped his face, then smeared Kyle’s come on the comforter, sorry that they weren’t under the blankets, where come could be more discreetly smeared. "C’mere," Stan said, and he moved up to kiss Kyle, sliding another finger into him as he did. Kyle moaned and nodded, flexing around Stan’s fingers.

"You make me so—" Kyle said. He shook his head. "I have no control. Back, you know, before we talked about all this. I’d always tell myself - ah, yeah, there - I’d think, don’t do it, don’t fall back into his trap. But then I would."

"My trap?" Stan said.

"Well, I thought—"

"I know," Stan said. He didn’t want to go over it all again, how Kyle had thought Stan was using him for easy sex, how he’d held that fear inside himself for years. "Just relax," Stan said, because Kyle had gone tense, squeezed tight around his fingers. "Relax, there you go. Yeah. I’m gonna fuck you now. Here it comes." He slid his fingers out, and Kyle laughed a little, his eyes closed. "What?"

"Here it comes," Kyle said. "No, that’s good. I like it when you warn me."

Stan didn’t last long either, because Kyle really did look ethereal, resplendent, lithe and yet soft, always so perfect when Stan was inside him. Kyle was breathy and clinging, clenching, and Stan came with his face against Kyle’s neck, feeling lightheaded. He lay there inside Kyle for some time, tiredly holding him, and eventually realized that his back was freezing.

"What’s the air conditioning on?" he asked as he slid out. "Fifty?"

"Oh, I don’t know," Kyle said, and he threw his arm across his forehead as Stan left the bed to examine the thermostat. "I do remember all of the interiors at Disney being quite frigid. Let’s go sit in the jacuzzi!"

"I wish," Stan said, meaning that he wished they could stride out into the humid evening with no clothes on and sit naked in the bubbling water. "We don’t have bathing suits, remember?" He turned the thermostat up to 75, but he could still hear cold air being pumped into the room.

"Will you go buy me a suit?" Kyle asked. "I’m sure they have them in the gift shop. They’ll be a rip off, but who cares? Just don’t buy two of the same style. I don’t want to match, you know."

Stan dressed and went to the hotel gift shop reeking of sex. He felt bad about this until he realized that two bathing suits were going to cost him almost sixty dollars. When he returned to the room Kyle was dozing, huddled under the come-stained comforter and hugging a pillow. Stan went to the bed and woke him gently, kissing behind his ear.

“Which one do you want?” Stan asked, lifting the suits he’d purchased. Kyle surprised him by choosing the one with a loud Hawaiian print over a simpler navy blue pair of trunks. They cleaned up a bit and dressed for the pool. The resort’s wrought iron street lamps were coming on as they made their way toward the pool, and the distant shouts of children began to make Stan nervous. “It’s too bad we can’t cuddle in the hot tub,” he said, making sure that Kyle didn’t plan to. Kyle shrugged.

“Well, we could,” he said. “But I don’t feel like being stared at. I’ll grope you under the water or something.”

Stan wasn’t sure he wanted that either, but he didn’t say anything. The pool wasn’t crowded, just a few kids still using the ‘dragon slide,’ which was basically a giant pink tongue emerging from a blue sea serpent that spat the kids out into the pool. Stan didn’t remember Disney decor being so cheap-looking, but maybe this was a dated resort. He went to the bar before the jacuzzi and charged an eight dollar beer and a twelve dollar pina colada to their hotel room.

“Are we going to run out of money?” Stan asked when he brought the drinks to Kyle, who was already seated in the jacuzzi, his head tipped back onto the cement rim.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kyle said. “I mean. Let me worry about money.”

“But we’re married now,” Stan said, settling in beside him.

“So?” Kyle asked, and he drank from the pina colada. “It’s still my money we’re spending, and I want to use it to celebrate.” He stirred his drink with his straw, shoulders slumping. “Are you having second thoughts?” he asked.

“Nah, I’m glad we came here,” Stan said, wanting to put an arm around him.

“I meant about marrying me,” Kyle said.

“Jesus, no!” Stan touched Kyle’s leg under the water, squeezing him near his knee. “I just – I want to celebrate, too. I just feel bad, I guess. Using your money to buy myself a beer.” He drank from it, still vacillating between feeling tense and very at ease. He wondered if Disney, and the cost of it, had this effect on most people.

“My mother’s gonna freak out,” Kyle said. Stan wasn’t sure he should let Kyle change the subject, but he didn’t know what more he could do to convince Kyle that he’d always seen their eventual marriage as a foregone conclusion. “Yours will, too. And Randy, ugh.”

“Fuck it,” Stan said. “We’re adults now. College graduates. They can’t tell us what to do anymore.”

They only spent ten minutes in the jacuzzi, quickly overheated and starting to get hungry. The resort had several restaurants, but according to Kyle they were ‘probably terrible,’ and the only Disney restaurant worth eating at was the Polynesian-themed one. He had the concierge make a reservation for them there, and they could only get a 9:45 dinner seating, two days away. At the concierge’s recommendation, they had a taxi take them to a small seafood restaurant in town, where Kyle balked at Stan’s consumption of raw oysters.

“Did you ever perform oral sex on a woman?” Kyle asked just as Stan was swallowing a third one.

“Uh,” Stan said. He reached for his beer and chugged some. “A few times, yeah. I thought I told you that?”

“No, you haven’t.” Kyle looked away and preened a little, fussing with the curls at the back of his neck. “We’ve never really discussed your sexual experiences with other people.”

“You’re the only guy I’ve been with,” Stan said. “Sucking your dick was like a revelation,” he added. It was true; he still had dreams where he was sucking Kyle’s dick, the dick he had access to suck anytime, and in the dreams he was so happy to be doing it, newly grateful.

“What’s so great about sucking a dick?” Kyle asked. “Not that I don’t enjoy yours, but. Never mind – what was it like, um. With a woman.” He was eying the three remaining oysters.

“It’s, you know,” Stan said, not sure how to handle this. “It’s fine.”

“Fine?” Kyle shuddered. “I cannot even imagine.”

“Well, yeah, ‘cause you’re not attracted to women. But, you know, I don’t, like. Miss it.”

Kyle recoiled as if that was the worst possible answer Stan could have given. He picked up his drink – something made with pomegranate vodka – and drained it. Stan wanted to eat the rest of the oysters, but wasn’t sure now if he should.

“What does it taste like?” Kyle asked, still snarling.

“Uh,” Stan said, starting to sweat. “Depends on the person.”

“How many did you give it to?”

Stan considered this. He’d been pretty miserably available to any girl who was around when he was drunk during freshman year, during his failed attempt enjoy fraternity life.

“Five?” he guessed, counting Wendy and Craig Tucker’s mom as a definite two from his high school years and approximating three during his partying days. He still hadn’t told Kyle anything at all about the two year affair he’d had with Mrs. Tucker, who had ended her relationship with Stan the same way that Wendy had, by telling him he was clearly in love with Kyle. She had done so more gently, whereas Wendy had shouted it at him before trying to attack him with a nearby icicle.

“What I’m trying to ask you, Stanley,” Kyle said, pinching the bridge of his nose, “Is will you eat me out? Anally.”

Stan guffawed, only because of that phrasing. He knew what Kyle meant, and felt badly for laughing when Kyle looked down at his crumb-filled bread plate sadly.

“Yeah, dude,” Stan said. “Of course I will.”

“You don’t find it disgusting?” Kyle asked.

“No,” Stan said. “I love your ass. I’ve been wanting to try it. Um, taste it?” He wasn’t sure if saying it that way was gross. It was, a little; he ate another oyster anyway.

“There’s so much stuff we haven’t done,” Kyle said. “What if we find out we’re not really compatible, sexually? No, never mind, I’m just – I wouldn’t be willing to reciprocate. Is what I’m saying.”

“You’re drunk, honey,” Stan said. “But that’s fine. You don’t have to put your tongue up my ass.”

Kyle fell asleep in the taxi on the way home, and he was groggy as they headed back to their room. Inside, he fell onto the bed, and he was still there when Stan emerged from the shower ten minutes later. Stan helped him undress and was surprised when Kyle seemed to want sex, peeling Stan’s towel away and grasping for his cock with his left hand.

"Can you feel my ring?" Kyle asked, stroking Stan clumsily.

"Yep," Stan said. "Maybe we should have gotten matrimonial cock rings, too. I’m sure they make those."

"I’ve never used a cock ring," Kyle said, wistfully. "What’s something you’ve never done?" he asked. "That you want to try? For our honeymoon sex celebration?"

"Hmm." Stan had never come on Kyle’s upturned face, something he was thinking about now, standing over Kyle while he held Stan’s cock.

"It’s just that I should do something in exchange for you eating me out," Kyle said. He yawned hugely. "Which you can do tomorrow. I’m too tired to shower. But there must be something you want from me."

"Oh, I want a lot of things," Stan said. He flopped into the bed and pulled Kyle against him, spooning up behind him. "I like it when you suck on my fingers," he said, going with something safe for now. "When I’m fucking you. Like, when I’m doing it slow, and you’re all dazed and drooling around my fingers—"

"But we’ve done that!" Kyle said. His eyes were closed, and Stan could see that they wouldn’t be having sex of any kind until Kyle got some rest. "I meant something new. To commemorate—" He yawned again. "Our union. Our legal union. Well, legal in New York, anyway."

"I’m so depressed about that," Stan confessed. "That when we go back to Colorado people will say it doesn’t count."

"What people? Cartman, maybe. Everyone else – we have rings, Stan."

"I’m afraid my dad will say it’s not real." Stan curled up more tightly around Kyle, trying to envision his father’s reaction. Randy knew Stan and Kyle were together, and that they were serious, but he’d always cast a certain air of disbelief over their relationship, as if they were only kids playing house, not mature life partners.

"Your dad wouldn’t know a real relationship if he – if he was in one for thirty years," Kyle said, presumably referring to Randy’s marriage to Stan’s mom. "His opinion doesn’t count. Neither does Colorado’s. Fuck Colorado! Let’s just stay here."

"I’m pretty sure gay marriage is even more, uh, frowned upon in Florida," Stan said.

"This isn’t Florida," Kyle said, mumbling. "This is Disney World." Then he was asleep.

In the morning, Stan awoke to the sound of Kyle showering, and he knew what that meant. He rolled onto his back and tried to mentally prepare himself for making love to Kyle’s ass with his mouth. He wasn’t sure why they hadn’t tried it before, or why Kyle was still shy about certain things, when in the heat of the moment he would slam himself back onto Stan, screaming about the good feelings Stan’s cock was giving him and occasionally asking Stan to ‘spank him’ with his balls, which Stan always sort of did without meaning to. When it was specifically requested he tried to work his hips in the most efficient way possible, to achieve the loudest ball slapping.

"I dreamed I was this Pinocchio-like creature," Kyle said when he emerged from the bathroom in a towel. "Like, wooden? You were trying to have sex with me and you kept getting splinters, and I was saying, like, ‘it’s okay! It’s never going to work, find a real human to penetrate!’ or something, and you were weeping and saying you were fine. I don’t even want to psychoanalyze that."

"Do you want to sit on my face?" Stan asked, wanting Kyle to feel confident about his prior request being granted. Kyle froze in the midst of rubbing his hair dry and widened his eyes.

"Ew!" he said. "No! I was envisioning lying on my stomach. Well, with my knees bent under me, and sort of arching my back, you know. I really think that position would give you the best access. And Christ, sitting on your face – I’d feel like I was attacking you with my ass! Like you wouldn’t be able to breathe—"

"However you want it, dude. C’mere, I’m excited."

As it usually went when they tried something new, Stan got a lot of feedback from Kyle and tried to give him exactly what he was asking for. Kyle liked to be teased, mostly, and then wanted fingers – he did not like the feeling of the full tongue trying to squirm into his ass, and shouted in protest when Stan tried a sucking maneuver. Eventually Kyle asked Stan to spank him while fingering him and came all over the sheets, wailing happily.

"Fuck me now," Kyle said as Stan kissed his way up Kyle’s spine, tasting Mickey Mouse-shaped soap. "Take me from behind!"

Stan concealed a laugh, amused by the urgency of that statement, as if Kyle was about to run into battle, asking Stan to cover him. Stan did cover him, huddling all around him from behind, and he wanted to last this time, so he moved slowly, pushing two fingers into Kyle’s mouth when he moaned for it.

"These aren’t the ones that were in my ass, right?" Kyle asked, speaking around Stan’s fingers.

"No," Stan said. "I wouldn’t do that to you."

"Thank you," Kyle said, and he squeezed hard around Stan’s dick. "You’re so thoughtful. I’m so lucky. Oh, God, fuck me hard now, spank me with—"

"The balls, yeah," Stan said, wanting that, too. "Here it comes."

After sex, they dozed and muttered together under the blankets for a while. Stan hadn’t realized that Kyle had gotten up to shower at the crack of dawn; he’d assumed there was bright sunlight hidden behind the heavy curtains.

"We’ll do Magic Kingdom today," Kyle said, snuggled against Stan’s chest. "And Epcot tomorrow. Then dinner at the Polynesian restaurant, then we have to go home." He clung to Stan more tightly, flexing his legs down against Stan’s in a kind of lazy stretch. "I don’t want it to end," he said. "It’s like a dream."

"The me and you part isn’t," Stan said.

"I asked you to marry me and you said yes," Kyle said. He was speaking softly, but he didn’t sound tired. "I said we should do it right away, and you just. I kept waiting to call your bluff."

"I’ll marry you in every state," Stan said. "If that’s what it takes to make you feel – safe. I’ll go broke marrying you, we’ll have so many honeymoons."

"I feel safe," Kyle said, pressing his face to Stan’s chest. "I do, I – maybe Disney World was the final test. Not that I should be testing you. I just worry about the future. I worry so much, Stan. And now I’ve spent all our money on nothing."

"It’s not nothing," Stan said. "We’ll remember this forever."

"That’s true." Kyle sat up on his elbow and touched Stan’s cheek. "Shall we go? The park opens in an hour, and I want to be in line when it does."

"I’m ready whenever you are," Stan said. Kyle kissed him, so tenderly – carefully – that Stan was reminded of their first kiss. It was the summer after their freshman year of college, and they were back home, ignoring everyone at Cartman’s ‘summer kickoff’ party in favor of sitting out back together, behind the tool shed that everyone theorized housed Liane’s most outrageous sex toys, talking about school and how they wanted next year to be different. Stan had just alighted on the aching epiphany that he wanted his sophomore year to be full of Kyle and moments like this when Kyle leaned over to kiss him softly, hopefully – resplendently.

Stan was feeling warm with contentment as they waited in line to enter the Magic Kingdom, and even the news that tickets to this park were $100 per person did not spoil his mood. Nor did a phone call from Sheila, demanding to know why Wanda Testaburger told Sharon Marsh that her friend Sandy had sold Stan and Kyle a pair of titanium rings on the day before their trip.

"Well, because we’re married now, Mother," Kyle said as they inched closer to the ticket window. Stan could hear Sheila’s exclamation of shock; he touched Kyle’s back supportively, but Kyle didn’t seem fazed. "Because we saw no sense in waiting," he said to her. "It’s nothing to do with rebellion, no, don’t – we’re very traditional, actually! We’re even honeymooning in Florida. I’m at the threshold of Disney World as we speak."

He said so as if, once they passed through the gates ahead, there would be nothing Sheila or anyone else could do to negate their union. The ceremony before the judge in New York had been so quick and procedural that getting married felt almost perfunctory, and by the time they reached the ticket window – Kyle still arguing with Sheila as Stan dealt with the clerk – Stan was glad to pay for two overpriced tickets. It felt significant, infused with actual meaning, something they had begun in New York and were finalizing now. Stan took Kyle’s hand.

"I have to go, Mom," Kyle said. "The ride’s starting."

It wasn’t an actual ride, but walking in to the park felt that way: music and crowds, a cotton candy and hot dog smell beckoning in the distance. Kyle grinned when he saw Stan smiling at him.

"It’s weird," Kyle said. "I don’t care that she’s mad. I don’t care!"

"It’s ‘cause I’m your family now," Stan said. "I mean, they still are, too, but I’m the main thing. Right?"

He’d never realized the extent of his own insecurity about what they’d done, not until he stood waiting for Kyle to answer him. Kyle kissed him in front of the Disney crowd and nodded.

"The Marsh-Broflovskis are going to be so superior to their originating clans," he said.

Ten years later they would bring their own kids there, and three years after that, and five years after that, when Olive and Topher were both teenagers. Every time they walked through the entrance of the Magic Kingdom, Stan would remember Kyle’s promise about transcending the quality of their previous clans, and he would always feel a kind of primal sense of accomplishment, because it was so true.

Chapter Text

Typically, when Stan hears weird noises coming from the stall in the boy’s bathroom at Park County High, he bolts. He’s adopted this policy mostly because those weird noises are usually sex-related, and about half the time also Kenny-related. He sees Kenny as a kind of brother, and really doesn’t want to hear him getting laid. So when he unzips at the urinal and hears moaning from the stall, he sighs and grabs for his zipper, though he has to pee pretty badly. What follows gives him pause for a different reason: it sounds like a bucket of oatmeal being dumped into the toilet, accompanied by pained wretching. Someone is puking his guts out.

"Dude, you okay?" Stan asks, still holding his dick, wondering if he should pee.

Silence from the stall, then more puking, followed by more moaning.

"Dude?" Stan says again.

"Fuck off."

That’s definitely Craig’s voice, weakened by full force puking. Stan sighs and takes his piss, wondering why Craig is so ill. He’s kind of straight edge and antisocial, not a known druggie.

"Did you get food poisoning or something?" Stan shouts when he’s at the sink, splashing some water on his hands so that Craig won’t judge him.

"I’m poisoned, yes," Craig says, mumbling. He spits; Stan hears the toilet paper roll spinning.

"Need me to get someone to help you?" Stan asks, thinking of Clyde. He’s Craig’s only friend, as far as Stan can tell.

Craig flushes the toilet and emerges from the stall, looking like death. He’s greenish and hunched, visibly shivering, his arms folded over his chest.

"I need a ride somewhere," he says. "After school."

"Uh," Stan says. "Okay? Are you asking me? I’ve got practice—"

"I don’t give a shit about your practice, Marsh. You will drive me somewhere and tell no one. If not, I release the photograph to the general public."

Stan narrows his eyes, balling his fists around the paper towel he’d been drying his hands with. Craig, despite his weakened state, matches Stan’s steely gaze.

"You wouldn’t," Stan says, though he knows that Craig would, and in fact has often wondered why he hasn’t passed the image of Kyle’s upturned ass that he happens to posses around yet. Now it all makes sense: he was saving it for leverage.

"You have until the school day ends to decide," Craig says. "A simple ride across town and a few hours of your time, or the picture of your boyfriend holding his ass crack open for my viewing pleasure becomes front page news on Facebook."

Stan is fuming as Craig leaves the bathroom — without washing his hands, notably. Of Kyle’s many self destructive behaviors, his habit of sending pictures of his naked body parts to guys at school is by far the most troubling. He does it only when he’s very angry with Stan, to ‘show him,’ whatever that means, and in an awful way it sort of works: Stan gets possessive and starts grovelling, disturbed by the thought that Kyle’s body is being disseminated amongst the general public, as if he’s irrevocably ripping off pieces of himself and giving them away, never to return them to Stan’s rightful ownership. Before the ass shot was sent to Craig, the pictures were more of the teasing variety: a nipple sent to Cartman, his shallow belly button to Clyde, and an image of him licking his own red arm hair to Kenny, of all people. Then came the horrifically graphic ass shot: not only is it a picture of Kyle’s naked rear: he’s spreading himself open with two fingers for the camera. This was a reaction to seeing Stan getting kissed by a very drunk Bebe at a party. Not an hour later, Craig was in possession of Kyle’s splayed ass — in visual form, anyway.

"Craig is being weird," Stan says, to Kyle, at lunch. They’re sitting alone together, as usual. Sometimes Butters joins them, but lately he’s been having sex with Cartman, Clyde, or Kenny during every free moment of his day.

"Craig?" Kyle’s face gets red at the mention of the name. "Did he — was he — has he threatened you?"

By ‘you,’ Kyle surely means ‘us,’ and, more specifically, the very fabric of their world that the existence of the butt picture threatens.

"A little," Stan says, and Kyle slaps his hand over his eyes despondently. "But I’ll take care of it!" Stan says, rubbing Kyle’s back. "All he wants is a ride somewhere."

"Where?" Kyle asks, peeking at Stan from between his fingers.

"I don’t know. I guess I should find him and ask. He just pisses me off. Why you’d have to send that to him of all people?”

"You know why! Because he was the worst person I could possibly send it to, and I wanted to do the most damage. It was either sending Craig a picture of my ass or throwing myself off the roof of Wendy’s house, so I think I did the right thing, really."

"Well, fine, Kyle, you did the right thing. And now I have to drive Craig somewhere because of it."

"At least you don’t have to go weep over my grave because of it."

"Dude," Stan says, and he slips an arm around Kyle’s waist. Kyle stiffens and takes a huge bite from his tuna melt. "Don’t worry. I’ll make him delete the picture."

"As if he hasn’t made copies," Kyle says, speaking with a mouth full of tuna.

After his last class, Stan waits for Craig at his locker. He’s beginning to expect that Craig won’t show, and beginning to panic, when he finally sees him sloping out of the boys’ room at the end of the hall, looking green again.

"Hey!" Stan says, waving. "What’s up? Are we doing this or not?"

"Keep your voice down!" Craig says, snarling. "I’ll meet you at your car. We walk out separately."

"Why?"

"Because Kyle’s gaping asshole is on my phone, that’s why."

"It’s not gaping!"

"Just do exactly as I say, Marsh, or suffer the consequences!"

Stan makes his way out to his car, feeling as if Craig has a sniper rifle trained on him. He does, effectively, as long as he’s got that picture. By the time Craig arrives at the car, the parking lot is mostly empty, and Stan has resolved to be nice to him. He must, after all: Kyle’s ass is on the line.

"So, where are we headed?" Stan asks as he drives toward the parking lot exit, Craig slumped miserably in the passenger seat beside him.

"Take a right," Craig says.

"Okay. But where are we going, I mean?"

"You’ll see when we get there. Take a left next, then you’re going to drive about ten miles."

"Ten miles? How far is this place?"

"Far enough," Craig says, muttering.

Stan puts on the radio when the silence starts to bug him. He usually listens to Top 40 in the car, or even the Soft Rock station if they’re playing something vaguely classic rock-like; there isn’t much to choose from in South Park beyond those two stations and country. To impress Craig, he tunes into the scratchy CSU station, which is playing something involving a flute that sounds possessed.

"So," Stan says. "Feeling better?"

"No." Craig is curled up against the passenger side door, looking like a cornered animal as he stares out the window. "I feel like hell. I may throw up in your car."

"Don’t! I mean. Try not to, please."

Craig just grunts, and Stan gives up on conversation. It’s winter, already growing dark outside, and Craig doesn’t have a proper coat, just a slim corduroy thing with big buttons. Stan turns up the heat as the temperature drops, hoping that this won’t take much longer. He’s already missing practice, and his mom is making chili dogs tonight.

"This is it," Craig says, pointing to a shopping mall up ahead. "Pull in there."

"Are we doing something illegal?" Stan asks, beginning to worry. The shopping center is mostly deserted, many of the empty storefronts featuring leasing signs with phone numbers.

"It’s not illegal," Craig says. "Thank Christ."

"What is ‘it’?" Stan asks, and Craig answers by pointing. Stan turns, cranes his neck, and only sees a Planned Parenthood sign. "Oh, shit," he says, trying not to make a queasy face. "You’re — sick?"

"In a sense," Craig says. "But I don’t have pubic lice or anything, so stop looking at me like that." He sighs heavily, shutting his eyes for a moment. "I have a procedure scheduled," he says when he opens them. "It should only take half an hour or so. I’ll need you to drive me home afterward. You’ll probably want to wait inside. Since it’s cold."

"A procedure?"

"Yes," Craig says. "Now, are you going to cooperate and stop asking stupid questions, or am I going to text Kyle’s butthole to Cartman and let nature take its course?"

"I’ll cooperate!"

"I thought so."

Distressed, Stan wonders if the picture is really all that incriminating: how would Cartman or Craig be able to prove that what people were seeing belonged to Kyle? It’s true that he has some red hairs there, but he’s not the only redhead who’s ever photographed his ass in an explicit manner.

"Is Kyle’s face in the picture?" Stan asks as they reach the door to Planned Parenthood.

"Yes," Craig says. "He’s looking back over his shoulder in some gruesome attempt at being seductive. He’s also crying."

"Goddamn," Stan says.

"You really know how to pick them." Craig huffs. "Not that I should talk."

He goes into the lobby then, and Stan follows, wondering who Craig ‘picked.’ Whoever it was has given him some disease — not pubic lice, apparently, but probably something worse. AIDS? Does Craig have AIDS, really? Stan’s stomach drops sympathetically as he watches Craig approach the front desk. He takes a seat in one of the narrow waiting room chairs and eyes the available magazines, then digs out his phone. He’s got a text from Kyle:

What is going on???

Nothing, Stan sends back. He has a doctor’s appointment. I’ll tell you later

"You’re Mr. Tucker’s ride home?" someone says, and Stan looks up to see Craig standing beside a young nurse with wide blue eyes.

"Uh, yeah," Stan says.

"Good, that’s good," she says, nodding.

"He’s not the guy who did it," Craig says, and she startles a little. Craig frowns and looks down at his feet.

"That’s okay," the nurse says, softly. She touches Craig’s shoulder. "Are you ready to head back there?"

Craig mumbles an affirmative response, and the nurse explains to Stan that he’ll be able to come back and see Craig in thirty minutes, and that he’ll be ready to go home soon after that. Stan just nods, feeling slow.

He plays games on his phone for a while, then starts to nod off, his head tipping back against the wood-paneled wall behind him. His stomach is growling, and he’s thinking about chili dogs when a guy in scrubs emerges to introduce himself as Craig’s doctor and tell Stan that everything went fine.

"He’s a little groggy, but you can come back and see him now," the doctor says.

"Oh — okay." Stan isn’t sure Craig will want him back there, and has an irrational fear that he’ll find Craig naked, some kind of incriminating boils or sores exposed.

"He’s going to have stomach tenderness and cramps for the next twenty four to forty eight hours," the doctor says as he walks Stan back, through a windowless hallway. "He told me he was vomiting earlier, but I suspect that was just nerves. If there’s any blood in the vomit, let us know immediately. He’ll have anal bleeding for a few days, but the discharge shouldn’t be too heavy."

"Uh," Stan says, bile rising in his throat. He swallows it down. "Okay?"

"He’s told me that his parents aren’t aware of the surgery," the doctor says, lowering his voice. "So you’ll need to be helpful. He needs a friend right now."

They walk into a recovery area, past several empty beds with thin curtains separating them. Craig is in the farthest bed, against the wall, looking half-asleep.

"Here’s your pal," the doctor says, and Stan’s eyes water from a combination of embarrassment and sympathy. Craig looks so frail and alone. The hospital is quiet, as if Craig is their only patient this evening.

"Hey," Stan says, walking nervously to Craig’s bedside. "You okay?"

Craig moans softly. He’s got an IV plugged into the back of his hand. His fingers are thin, delicate-looking. They’re like Kyle’s, except he’s missing Kyle’s knobby knuckles and tiny red hairs.

The doctor leaves them alone, which Stan doesn’t appreciate. There’s no TV mounted on the wall like in a normal hospital, and nowhere to look but at Craig, who is staring into space, blinking heavily.

"What just happened?" Stan asks, distressed.

"Fetal tissue was removed from me," Craig says, mumbling.

"Fetal? Like. A baby?"

"No, not like a baby. Like a little clump of cells. Barely eight weeks’ worth. Whatever. Like I wanted to bear Clyde’s children, anyway."

Stan is struck silent by that. He looks around desperately for that nurse.

"Are you a girl?" Stan asks, whispering. Craig glowers at him and pushes the blanket off of his legs, disturbing his hospital gown in the process. He lifts it to show Stan his cock and balls. He’s weirdly hairless down there, but definitely male. "Okay, okay," Stan says, holding up his hands. "Put that thing away."

"It can happen to boys," Craig says as he rearranges his coverings. "Apparently. It was news to me, too."

"Clyde did this?"

"Clyde is a freak of nature. Yes, he did this. Either that or it was an immaculate conception. In which case, oops."

"Don’t make jokes like that."

"Sorry. I forgot you’re a Jesus freak."

"I’m not a Jesus freak, I just think he’s a nice guy. Does Clyde know about this?"

"No, and you’re not going to tell him."

They’re both silent for a while. Stan feels like he should pat Craig’s hand, or maybe stroke the sweaty hair off his forehead. He supposes he can understand why Craig wouldn’t want to confide in his parents about this. It would be humiliating enough to tell your father that Clyde Donovan had been making love to your ass, let alone that he’d managed to impregnate it somehow.

"Does it hurt?" Stan asks.

"I feel numb," Craig says.

"Do you. Do you want to stay over at my house or something?"

"No." Craig cuts him a surprisingly nasty look. "I can take care of myself. I’m just too out of it to drive home. I only need you to take me as far as my driveway."

"You’ll be able to walk?"

"By then, yes."

Craig is able to walk to the car, but he’s shaky, and he holds onto Stan’s arm when he offers it. He also accepts Stan’s coat. He seems to be in pain as Stan lowers him into the car, and Stan feels helpless, wishing he could offer some form of actual comfort.

"I think you should tell Clyde," Stan says as they’re driving back to South Park, Craig again in a curled-up position against the door, huddled inside Stan’s overly large coat.

"Clyde is fucking Butters," Craig says. "He doesn’t care."

"He might, if he knew!"

"I don’t need his pity. I hope he gets Butters pregnant, too. That’d be a laugh."

"Don’t be mean," Stan says, his stomach dropping at the thought of Butters’ parents’ reaction. "How the hell does one get a guy pregnant?"

"By ejaculating into his ass, it seems. Better start using condoms with Kyle."

"I don’t have that — power. I’m not like Clyde. Kyle’s taken loads of it, okay? And no babies."

"None that you know of."

"He wouldn’t — it’s not like that between me and him, okay, Craig? We don’t keep things from each other."

Stan tries to imagine what he’d do if Kyle came to him in tears, saying he was pregnant. He might actually want Kyle to keep it. Maybe their parents could raise the baby while they went to college? His stomach curdles uncomfortably just from the hypothetical stress.

"I support your decision," Stan says, and Craig snorts.

"That means so much."

"Yeah, well. I’m glad you asked me to take you. If you need, um, anything. While you’re recovering, you could call me."

"Like we’re friends or something," Craig says, staring out the window.

"We’ve known each other since pre-school. And I did hate you for a while, after Kyle sent you that picture, but that wasn’t your fault."

"How big of you to acknowledge that."

Stan gives up on conversation, hurt. He knows he shouldn’t take it personally. Craig is prickly on his best days. He hears Craig sigh heavily but keeps his eyes on the road.

"The truth is," Craig says. "I deleted that picture of Kyle’s ass as soon as I saw it."

"Seriously?" Stan says, skeptical.

"Yes. It upset me. His shamelessness is frightening."

"We’ve all got issues," Stan says, giving him a sideways glance.

"Fair enough. Well, Kyle’s issues are none of my concern. I deleted the picture, so you’re released from your contract. Thanks for the ride, anyway."

"You’re welcome. Thanks for, uh. Not being interested in Kyle’s ass."

"I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to believe that you’re the only one who is."

"Because I love him, Craig. Okay? He’s perfect, to me. Did you love Clyde?" he asks, not sure that it’s a fair question when Craig is so vulnerable. Craig shrugs.

"Sometimes," he says. Stan reaches over to pat Craig’s bony knee.

"You’ll find someone better," Stan says. "You’ve got your whole life ahead of you."

"What are you, my father?" Craig snaps, whirling on him. "Shut up!"

"Jesus, sorry!"

They ride the rest of the way without speaking, with only the sound of the wipers swishing a light snowfall off the windshield. Craig sighs a few times, but Stan doesn’t dare try to get him talking again.

"This is me," Craig says, pointing when Stan nears his house.

"Craig. Are you serious? You know I know where you live."

"Well," Craig says, mumbling. He unbuckles his seat belt as they pull into the driveway, but when Stan parks he just sits there, only his fingertips emerging from Stan’s coat sleeves.

"You can give me the coat back at school," Stan says. "Or just. Whenever you’re done with it."

"It’s really easy to be so nice when you get everything you want," Craig says, turning to him. He looks angry about this, then sad. "Sorry."

"I don’t get everything I want," Stan says, thinking of body parts that Kyle has scattered across South Park via cell phone.

"You get more of it than most people."

"Dude, we’re seventeen. Who knows what will happen?"

He expects Craig to lash out and accuse him of trying to act fatherly again, but Craig just sinks more deeply into the coat, staring ahead at his house.

"I didn’t really ask you to do this because I thought I could blackmail you with the ass picture," Craig says. "I’d forgotten about that until this afternoon. I asked because you seemed to really care. When I was barfing. Before you even knew who I was. And after, too."

"I did — I do care. You’re not a bad person."

Craig looks at Stan then. He seems kind of wounded by that, his eyes less guarded than usual.

"I know I’m not," he says.

He gets out of the car then, wearing Stan’s coat. Stan never sees the coat again, but he doesn’t mind too much, though his mother gets irritated with him for ‘losing’ it. He likes to picture Craig wrapping himself up in it when he’s feeling lonely, not in a romantic sense, but just so he can remember that someone cares.

Chapter Text

After the penis-measuring debacle, Wendy and Bebe made a wager about which of the boys in their class would come out as gay first. Bebe went with the obvious choice of Kyle, while Wendy selected the dark horse, Cartman. She collected on the bet when Cartman serenaded Kyle during a Nuggets game, but Bebe made her return the ten dollars when Cartman subsequently claimed the whole thing was only a racist plot to reunite Token and Nichole. Although Wendy still suspected Cartman actually was gay and pre-sexually obsessed with Kyle, she couldn’t deny that his outlandish machinations to get the school’s only two black students back together was characteristically demented, something he would truly do. She returned the ten dollars, with reservations, and changed her guess to Clyde as the first boy who would come out, since Cartman’s sexuality was too swamp-like and fluid to make bets on.

Her guess was still wrong, and so was Bebe’s: in seventh grade, Craig announced that he was gay. It was the usual emotionless utterance that they’d come to expect from Craig, and by then it wasn’t entirely surprising. He was very fashion conscious, and had a poster of Anderson Cooper in his locker. As the president and founder of the middle school GLBT Support Group (for which she had endured many accusations of lesbianism from Cartman and, at Cartman’s urging, Butters), she took it upon herself to invite Craig to participate in their bi-monthly awareness meetings (which normally only she, Bebe, and Stan attended).

"No thanks," Craig said. They were in art class, and Craig was very intently coloring his sketch of a basket of fruit.

"But," Wendy said, confused. "Don’t you want to help us with our awareness campaign? Now that you’re out?"

"No," Craig said.

"Why not?" Wendy asked, getting annoyed. She’d never liked Craig.

"Because I’d rather watch TV after school," Craig said. "And everyone in South Park is plenty aware of gay people."

"Maybe!" Wendy said, and she huffed. "But people in this town have a long way to go before they even understand trans issues! Don’t you — isn’t that something you can sympathize with? The struggle of trans people?"

"No," Craig said. "I don’t want to be a girl. At all."

"That’s not what I meant and you know it!"

"Mrs. Fieldstein!" Craig shouted, looking up from his drawing. "Wendy Testaburger is harassing me about my sexuality!"

"I’m — I’m not!" Wendy said, stricken, wheeling around to face their art teacher. Despite her attempt to explain herself, she got detention and a talking to about sensitivity from the school counselor.

She made a point to avoid Craig after that, which wasn’t difficult. He was fairly antisocial, especially after Clyde distanced himself after constant accusations (mostly from Cartman) that he was Craig’s boyfriend. Wendy felt bad about that, but she still thought Craig was a jerk. She tried not to think about Craig at all, and was mostly successful, until the summer after eighth grade, when Stan showed up at her door looking like he’d just watched his dog die.

"What’s wrong?" Wendy asked, grabbing for him. They were no longer dating, but they were still close, or at least as close as anyone managed to be to Stan with Kyle blocking all access to true intimacy with him.

"Nothing," Stan said. He looked up at Wendy with wide, vulnerable eyes, and she felt a familiar Stan-related sadness: he had such pretty, sweet blue eyes. She just couldn’t deal with the competition that Kyle presented, and had given up on getting Stan to ever look at her the way he looked at Kyle. Though he hadn’t expressly confessed it to her, she was pretty sure that he was bisexual.

"It’s Kyle, isn’t it?" she said. "What’s he done?"

"He kissed Craig last night at the laser show."

Wendy stared, tense, waiting for Stan to burst into tears. He didn’t, but he was clearly upset, his eyes narrowed now.

"Craig asked him out," Stan continued. "Kyle is, like. ‘Exploring his sexuality.’ He said that, Wendy. To me. In terms of Craig."

"Okay, okay," she said, gathering him into a supportive hug. "Come inside. We’ll — formulate a plan."

"A plan?" Stan said.

"If you’d like?" Wendy said. She drew him into the house and shut the door. "I mean, you did come here because of my reputation for ruthlessly eliminating the competition, yes?"

Stan stared at her for a moment, then nodded glumly.

"Alright, then," Wendy said, cheered. Her whole summer had been dull so far, and she enjoyed being deferred to as an expert. "Thank you for not going to Cartman," she said, as if he ran a competing business.

"Well, I don’t want to kill Craig,” Stan said. “Yet.”

They went up to Wendy’s bedroom, where she instructed Stan to stretch out on her bed. She grabbed a pen and a notebook with peacock feather pattern printed on the front — a birthday gift from Millie — and pulled her desk chair over to the bed.

"Now," she said, opening to the notebook’s first blank page, her joy at this development solidifying: she loved beginning a new project, and utilizing fresh office supplies. "Tell me everything you know about how this thing between Craig and Kyle developed. Actually, no, let’s back up. Has Kyle given you any hints, prior to this, that he might be interested in, um. Exploring? With a boy?" Her heart beat a bit faster as she thought about how much Bebe would love to be a fly on the wall during this conversation. Stan sighed and closed his eyes.

"You can’t tell anyone this," he said.

"Stan, of course. I always keep your secrets."

"I know." Stan picked up Wendy’s ratty stuffed penguin and rested it on his chest, toying with its flippers. "Well. Last year. Kyle made up this game? Where every time he said ‘apple strudel’ I had to pick him up and carry him around, piggyback? And I could tell he really — liked it?"

"Okay," Wendy said, slowly, still unable to fathom the full depths of the Stan and Kyle weirdness. She jotted ‘strudel game’ in her notes. "What do you mean you could tell he really liked it?"

Stan’s face was very red. He made the penguin do a somersault on his chest, holding it by the tips of its flippers.

"Uh," he said. "You know what happens, right? When a guy — really likes something?"

"Oh," Wendy said. She blushed, thinking of Kenny. Last summer, she had gone through a three week period where she went swimming with him just before sundown in Stark’s Pond almost every day. She still wasn’t quite sure how it happened — he was just sort of around, one day, and he followed her there, the two of them having a very vindicating discussion about Stan and Kyle. Wendy had been on her way to meet Bebe, who ended up being a no show due to the sudden appearance of her period. Kenny swam with her instead, in his boxers, and it was — romantic, she’d thought. They’d started meeting up not only to swim but to kiss, and toward the end he’d begun to rub his erections on her legs underwater. It was thrilling, and it still made her flush all over just to remember it, but she’d ended it when she saw him flirting with Red at the mall at the start of August. There were certain types of competition that she did not enjoy: chiefly, competing for a cute boy with a girl who was cuter than her. Red was sort of stunning and very sought after. She never actually dated Kenny, but Wendy later heard rumors that they’d ‘done things’ together.

"Hello?" Stan said, and he tossed the penguin at her. "Are you listening?"

"Yes — sorry. Go on."

"Well." Stan groaned and rubbed his hands over his face. "One day, I felt it. The evidence. Kyle was getting, um. Pleasure out of this. Activity. And it freaked me out, okay? Not even ‘cause he’s a boy, but ‘cause he’s Kyle. It was weird to think that he could even get — hard."

"Why?" Wendy asked. She’d been ecstatic, personally, to realize what was happening to Kenny because of her — because touching her was pleasing to him.

"I don’t know! But he could tell that I got freaked, and he stopped saying ‘apple strudel.’ And things got weird between us for a while, but then school started up again and everything was normal. All of eighth grade went by like nothing had happened. But then! Last night. He saw Craig sitting with some older boys at the laser show, and he wanted to sit with them. Even though the laser show is our thing."

"Your thing?"

"Me and Kyle’s. Because. For some reason, it’s when we kind of. Touch, sometimes. In the dark. But just our hands!"

"You guys are so stunted," Wendy said, scribbling notes. "But don’t worry, I’m going to help you. So Craig actually managed to seduce Kyle? That’s such an odd combination of — personalities."

"They didn’t just touch hands, Wendy, they kissed. I think I might have blown it. Kyle looked really happy."

"He just leaned over and kissed Craig? In front of you and these older boys?"

"Well." Stan moaned and picked up a stuffed sea turtle. He put it over his face and sighed tremendously. "Craig was leaning over to say something to Kyle, whispering in his ear. And Kyle was laughing, and then Craig started licking him there. On the ear. Kyle just laughed and let him do it, then he turned and they kissed. I threw up when I got home."

"I’m proud of you for waiting until you got home to be sick," Wendy said. She leaned forward to pat Stan’s knee, then reached up to remove the sea turtle. "But, I assure you, Kyle was only doing it to get your attention."

"How can you assure me that?"

"Because! Craig is out, which means he’s the best possible candidate for Kyle to try kissing. And he’s Craig — he’s not as cute as you."

"Cuteness isn’t everything."

"True," Wendy said. She was at least cuter than Kyle, but he was the one who made Stan’s heart race now. "But you must know that Kyle loves you, and that he’s still hurt about your reaction to his — excitement over the apple strudel game."

"I don’t think so," Stan said. "We were supposed to hold hands that night, me and Kyle. Like we always do, twice a month, at the laser show. And he ditched me to let Craig suck on his earlobe."

"Ugh," Wendy said, shuddering at that mental image. She couldn’t imagine Craig being tender, or seductive, or doing anything sexual at all. "Well, in my opinion, Kyle wanted to show you what you were missing by being too chicken to kiss him."

"Well, whatever, now he’s dating Craig. I fucked up."

"You didn’t, Stan, and I think I know how to reassure you. Did Kyle tell you where they’re headed on their date?"

"They’re going to eat at Gino’s, then they’re going to the Full Moon Festival."

"Oh, perfect!" The Full Moon Festival was held at the park new Stark’s Pond, and it was a kind of craft fair combined with a small carnival, open til midnight. It was one of the few times during the year that kids in South Park were allowed to stay up that late, while their parents got drunk off of themed cocktails served in plastic cups. "We’ll simply tail them," Wendy said.

"Tail them?"

"Yes! You and I will go to the festival — to Gino’s, too. We’ll need to bring others, though. Kyle’s defenses will only intensify if he thinks you’re on a date with me."

"Who can we bring?" Stan asked.

"I could bring Bebe," Wendy said, doodling in the margins. "We were going to the festival together anyway. But maybe that’s no good, because Kyle might think you’re interested in one of us. Who’s someone who wouldn’t make him jealous, if he saw the two of you together?"

"Basically no one," Stan said. "Except, maybe — Kenny? He knows I don’t like Kenny like that."

"Hmm," Wendy said, blushing. "Well, alright. Kenny it is. If he’s free."

Kenny was free, and Wendy’s stomach was pinched with nerves when he showed up on her doorstep with Stan to pick her up. Stan looked like a wreck, pale and queasy, though he was also wearing a blue polo shirt that brought out his eyes, per Wendy’s advice. Kenny was already more handsome than he’d been last year, and taller, wearing a tight gray t-shirt and some jeans with holes in the knees. He seemed to have gotten a hair cut recently, and he smiled uncertainly when Wendy finally met his eyes.

"So we’re cock blocking Tucker tonight?" he said. Wendy blushed at his use of ‘cock,’ though she and Bebe used that word all the time. Wendy had even used it in relation to Kenny’s, when she told Bebe about their evenings together in the pond.

"This is dumb," Stan said. "Kyle will just be annoyed if he sees me staring at him."

"Yeah, right," Wendy said. "He’ll be elated."

"I concur," Kenny said, and they met each other’s eyes again.

"Well," she said. "There’s only one way to find out! I made a reservation at Gino’s."

They walked there, Wendy and Kenny making strained small talk with each other while Stan sulked in silence. It was hard to chit chat with Kenny about his summer job at the lumberyard without remembering the smell of pines that had surrounded them on those quiet evenings at Stark’s Pond, and then the smell of Kenny’s skin, which was currently obscured by some kind of unpleasantly strong deodorant.

At Gino’s, they got a table near the center of the restaurant, to give them the best vantage point. It didn’t take them long to spot Craig and Kyle, who were seated against the left wall, Craig looking surprisingly suave in a black t-shirt, Kyle hopelessly dorky in a plaid collar shirt with short sleeves.

"Oh, God," Stan said, ducking down to hide behind the breadstick basket. "I’m gonna puke."

"No, you’re not," Wendy said. "Just make sure he sees you. He needs to know that you care."

"Why can’t Stan just tell Kyle that upfront?" Kenny asked, already piling breadsticks on his plate.

"That’s just not he way these things work," Wendy said, somewhat bitterly. She wanted to ask, ‘why didn’t you just come over to my house when I stopped showing up at Stark’s Pond?’ but she knew the answer: Red was providing him with pleasurable evenings at that point.

It didn’t take long for Kyle to notice them, and he frowned in their direction. Craig’s eyes slid to their table next, but he seemed disinterested. Did he really not know what Stan’s proximity to their date might mean? Wendy could remember Kyle insinuating himself on her dates with Stan plenty of times. Stan’s tolerance of this behavior was why they broke up.

"I need to leave," Stan said, rising from his chair.

"No, you don’t," Wendy said, and she grabbed his wrist. He sat again, pouting. "This is only stage one. Relax. The hard part comes later."

"What’s the hard part?" Kenny asked. He’d already eaten most of the breadsticks.

"Infiltrating the date at the Full Moon Festival," Wendy said. "We’re sort of inviting ourselves along."

"Why can’t you just let Kyle see how lame it is to go out with Craig?" Kenny asked. "What’s the harm?"

"The harm is that they kissed, Kenny!" Stan said. "Right in front of me! So what might they do behind closed doors? Eh?" He wilted and toyed with his silverware. "I already missed out on being Kyle’s first kiss," he said.

"Your first kiss with him will be much more satisfying," Wendy said, patting Stan’s hand. "I’m sure of it."

"Can we get more of these?" Kenny asked, waving the empty bread basket at a passing waiter.

Throughout the meal, Wendy and Stan kept a close eye on Craig and Kyle while Kenny ate breadsticks and drank ice water. He accepted one of Wendy’s meatballs when she offered it, then another that she dumped onto his plate without asking. He had a little hole in the collar of his shirt, and she wanted to work her finger into it, to stroke his golden summer skin. For a few overheated moments she forgot about Craig and Kyle entirely, her eyes wandering to Kenny’s hands as he cut the second meatball into eight pieces. He had little nicks and scratches all over his fingers, probably from the lumberyard.

"Fancy seeing you here," someone said, and Wendy looked up from Kenny’s hands. Kyle was standing at the table, frowning.

“‘Sup, dude?” Stan said, completely failing to sound casual.

"Um, I think you know what’s up? I’m having my first date. Ever. And you guys keep looking at us."

"We’re not — what — Wendy wanted to come here!" Stan blurted. She rolled her eyes.

"Kyle, you’re imagining things," she said. "Tell him, Kenny."

"Totally," Kenny said. "Are you guys going to the Festival after this? ‘Cause we are."

"Well, of course we’re going, Kenny, everyone in town is going, but that doesn’t mean—"

"Is Craig paying for your dinner?" Stan asked.

"I don’t think so," Kyle said, and he glanced back at Craig, who was staring at them with his usual stoic chill. "I’m not sure."

"Well, he should! If he asked you. Right?" Stan said, looking to Wendy.

"I’m not sure how it works between two boys," she said.

"I brought cash," Kyle said, fidgeting with Stan’s napkin, which was still on the table — he never remembered to put it in his lap. Wendy glanced at Kenny’s lap and smiled when she saw his napkin draped across it.

"Are you having fun?" Stan asked.

"Yes!" Kyle said. "Although he’s a bit preoccupied with the three of you. He thinks you’ve come to sabotage our date."

"As if the universe revolves around him," Wendy said. "We simply wanted Italian food."

"They have free breadstick refills," Kenny added.

"What are you eating?" Stan asked.

"Ravioli," Kyle said. He seemed to be lingering intentionally, drinking in the look of desperate concern on Stan’s face. "With cream sauce."

"I got lasagna," Stan said.

"Cool."

Wendy heard Kenny contain a snort. She tapped her foot against his under the table, and when he grinned at her she felt it pour down through her chest, instant warmth.

"Maybe you should get back to your date, Kyle," Wendy said, and she could feel Stan giving her a look of betrayal, but this was all part of the plan. "We’ll meet up with you at the Festival — unless you two want privacy?"

"No, we can meet up," Kyle said, hurriedly. "It’s kind of — hard to think of stuff to say. When it’s just two people."

"It’s not like that with you and me," Stan said, and Kenny snorted again, loudly this time.

"That’s different," Kyle said. "Alright, um. See you guys at the Festival."

"That went well," Wendy said, quietly, when Kyle had gone.

"No, it didn’t!" Stan said. "I hate this. I hate Craig. He’s probably expecting Kyle to put out. He’d better not let Craig pay — I should have told him."

"Kyle can handle himself," Kenny said.

"He won’t need to," Wendy said. "By the end of the night you’ll be the one making a move on him."

"I don’t know if I’m ready for that," Stan said. "I just don’t want Craig doing it first."

"Whoa, whoa," Kenny said. "We’re doing this whole thing and you don’t even want to kiss Kyle?"

"I do want to! I’m just not sure if I’m ready to actually do it."

"What are you afraid of?" Wendy asked, though she was pretty sure she knew. Stan had not been a good kisser, in her experience. Sometimes he’d thrown up on her before he could even get there.

"Nothing," Stan mumbled, poking at his mostly untouched lasagna, which Kenny ended up finishing in a rush after they’d asked for their check. Craig and Kyle were heading toward the exit. Craig held the door for Kyle on the way out.

"I have to tell you something in confidence, Stan," Kenny said. He had a bit of marinara sauce at the corner of his lips. Wendy wanted to wipe at it with her fingers, or with her tongue.

"What?" Stan asked, and he frowned. "Is it about Kyle?"

"Yes, it’s about Kyle. You can’t tell anyone," he said, turning to Wendy.

"My lips are sealed," she said. Kenny raised his eyebrows a little, then turned back to Stan.

"Kyle kissed you once already," Kenny said.

"What? No, he didn’t."

"Yeah, he did. It was your twelfth birthday party, the sleepover. I was awake, guarding Butters so that Cartman wouldn’t molest him. But I was pretending to be asleep, watching the room through my bangs." He pushed down on his bangs until they were nearly over his eyes. "And I saw Kyle wake up and poke you a few times, first on the shoulder, then on the cheek. Then he touched your mouth with his fingertips. Then he kissed you on the lips, really softly. Then he rolled around giddily for like half an hour, then he fell asleep."

"You are a deep sleeper," Wendy said, basing this on Stan’s naps during history class. Stan was looking dazed, his eyes unfocused.

"That really happened?" he said.

"Yes," Kenny said. "I always wondered if you’d felt it and you were just pretending to still be asleep because you didn’t want him kissing you."

"I do want him kissing me!"

"Well!" Wendy threw her napkin on the table. "Let’s go make it happen."

The Festival was crowded as always, and it was dark by the time they got there, the lights on the rides and booths illuminating the wooded park near Stark’s Pond. Stan was panicked about finding Kyle ‘in time,’ but it didn’t take long. He was in line for ice cream with Craig, near the carnival games.

"What do you want?" Craig asked when Stan approached with Kenny and Wendy.

"Some ice cream," Stan said.

"Well, you’re cutting in line," Craig said, gesturing to two little girls waiting behind them.

"Do you care if I cut?" Stan asked them. They shook their heads, looking terrified.

"Marsh, what the hell?" Craig said. "Leave us alone."

"It’s okay," Kyle said. "You guys can hang out."

That shut Craig up, and he was mostly silent as they made their way past the booths and debated which rides to try. It was as if Craig and Kyle were simply part of the gang rather than on a date, until Craig slipped his arm around Kyle’s waist while they waited in line for the hay ride.

"Do you want to ride separately?" Craig asked, drawing Kyle closer. "So we can make out?"

"I think it’s six people to a cart," Kyle said, glancing around at the others nervously.

"Oh boy!" said Butters, who was next in line behind them. "We can all ride together!"

"Fine," Craig said. He took Kyle’s chin and turned his face until their eyes met. "We can still — cuddle." He was speaking flatly, and it was freaking Wendy out. She glanced at Kenny, who also looked alarmed.

"Kyle kissed me!" Stan said, suddenly shouting and on the verge of tears. Kyle whirled from Craig’s grip to gape at him.

"What?" he said. "I did not!"

"You did, too! On the night of my twelfth birthday party. When you thought I was asleep."

"You were awake?" Kyle asked, his eyes getting huge.

"Um — yes!"

"So how come you just laid there?"

"I don’t know! I didn’t want to embarrass you."

"So you’re embarrassing me now instead?" Kyle grit his teeth and shoved Stan, hard. "What the fuck?"

"I just, I—"

"Oh, God, don’t cry," Craig said as Stan started to lose it. "Kyle, give me my fifty dollars. I’ve done my part. He’s confessing."

"What?" Kyle said. He was getting red, looking at Craig like he’d never hated anyone more. "What are you. Talking about. Craig."

"This pathetic charade is over," Craig said. He put his hand out. "The cash. Now."

"You paid Craig to ask you out?" Stan said, sniffling.

"He did it to make you jealous," Craig said. "As if I’m some kind of gay hooker. It was really insulting, but I could use the money. Hand it over, Kyle. I don’t have all night. The ring toss booth closes in an hour."

"That’s what you want this for?" Kyle said, digging some cash out from his back pocket. "Fucking ring toss?"

"There’s a Hello Kitty doll that I want to win for a special someone." Craig pocketed the money and held out his arm. "Butters," he said. "We’re off."

"What the fuck is happening?" Stan asked.

"There was also the added bonus of publicly humiliating you both," Craig said. Butters took his arm and swooned against him, smiling up at him adoringly.

"Butters, you were in on this?" Kenny said.

"I did it to bring Stan and Kyle together!" Butters said. "Now Stan, you can admit you have a crush on him, can’t you?"

"Butters, what the fuck!" Stan said. "Stay out of it!"

"Don’t talk shit to my boyfriend, Marsh," Craig said, and he paraded Butters away.

"Um, maybe you two should talk," Wendy said to Stan and Kyle, who were staring at each other, both breathing heavily.

"Yeah," Kenny said. "Here, take my tickets. They’ll let two people ride alone as long as you pay for six spots."

"I’m really confused right now," Stan said as the hay ride truck pulled up, the last six riders hopping off.

"Come here," Kyle said. He grabbed Stan’s arm and yanked him toward the truck, snatching the tickets Kenny had offered on the way. They clambered up onto the piled hay and scooted together, Kyle pulling Stan close and already launching into an agitated explanation of his behavior. Wendy and Kenny watched as the hay ride pulled away, setting off on the forest trail that was lit by twinkling lights and lanterns.

"So," Kenny said when they were gone. He turned to Wendy. "That’s done."

"Yeah, I guess." She looked around for Bebe, half-heatedly. "Um. I think it went well?"

"Well enough, yeah. You want to go for a walk or something? I don’t have any money for games or food."

"That’s okay," Wendy said, and she flushed. "I — it’s the same games every year, and I’m still full from dinner. Yeah, let’s walk."

Without needing to discuss it, they headed toward Stark’s Pond. Wendy was beginning to sweat a little; it was a warm night, and Kenny was smelling less like deodorant and more like himself as the night wore on. There was also the coppery smell of Stark’s Pond, which reminded her of kissing him, and the way his slippery limbs had felt against hers, underwater.

"So, Butters and Craig," he said when they were far enough from the Festival that the sounds of the crowd weren’t as loud as the frogs in the reeds around the pond. "That’s weird, right?"

"It is," Wendy said. "This whole thing is weird. I shouldn’t have gotten involved — what the hell is wrong with Kyle, anyway? Paying Craig to date him? Kissing sleeping people?" She was pretty sure that constituted some sort of assault. "And don’t even get me started on the apple strudel game."

"That Kyle," Kenny said. "He’s, uh. Creative."

They were both quiet for a while, and Wendy began to feel nervous. Was she boring him? Was that why he’d moved on to Red last summer, because they did more kissing than conversing?

"High school starts in a month," she said, stupidly.

"Weird," Kenny said.

"Yeah."

"Hey," he said, and he took her arm, turning her toward him. "Um, I need to say something. This is fucking — embarrassing, but. I’m really sorry about last summer. I didn’t mean to rub, uh. On you, like that? I wasn’t trying to pressure you or anything, it was an accident."

"What?" Wendy looked at the surface of the pond, as if she could reference a ghostly image of whatever he was talking about.

"It’s just. You never came back? So I figured. It was because of that. So, I’m sorry."

"Oh," she said, and something shifted in the pit of her stomach when she realized he was apologizing for rubbing his erection on her thigh, those heady moments that she still thought about when she was alone in bed at night. "No, no. It was — that wasn’t why I stopped coming."

"Why then?" he asked, his gaze drifting down to her shoulder. "I must have done something wrong."

"Um, well. I saw you hitting on Red."

"Hitting — when, where?"

"At the Apple store. Which, no offense, but why would you be at an Apple store if it wasn’t just. For some girl?"

"I don’t even remember that," he said, looking into her eyes again. "I really liked you. Red’s like a dumb little girl. Compared to you."

"And what am I like?"

"Like, um. A woman?"

Wendy laughed, and he smiled at her timidly. She’d never seen Kenny acting timid before. Last summer, he’d seemed so confident. Grown-up. Now she saw that she would have to make the first move. Fortunately, it was something she was good at.

"I liked it, actually," she said, stepping closer, into his space. He stopped blinking and fidgeting, his eyes locking on hers. "When you, um. Underwater. I still think about it."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah. It was just. Neat."

She winced at that stupid comment, and before she could open her eyes again he’d leaned down to kiss her. He’d grown a lot since last summer, when they’d been almost the same height. He was almost half a foot taller than her now, and she liked it: leaning up onto her toes and pressing against him, his arms looping around her waist. He tasted like marinara and garlic, but she didn’t mind. She’d been wanting to taste those breadsticks on his mouth all night.

"I still like you," he said, his bangs tickling her forehead.

"I’m so glad you’re not gay like all the other boys," Wendy said, gushing. "Is that bad to say? I just mean: so that I can kiss you."

"Yeah," Kenny said, and he grinned. "I knew what you meant."

They kissed again, and before long they were dropping down into the grass, Wendy on her back, increasingly fuzzy-headed with him looming over her. She felt like the heroine in one of the YA books that Bebe was always forcing her to read, the dumb ones that featured perfect kisses by moonlight. It wasn’t perfect: she was paranoid about bugs that might be in the grass, and afraid about what she might have to do to the erection that was pressed against her thigh, and then there was the garlic breath. But she was lost to the feeling of having him on her, and she liked being lost like this.

"I can’t touch it yet," she said when he pulled back to breathe.

"What?" He kissed her cheek. "My dick?"

"Yeah," she said, and they both laughed nervously. "I mean. I like it, but I’m scared of it, too. Sorry."

"That’s okay," he said. "I didn’t even think you’d want to kiss me. You don’t have to confront the beast."

"You call it the beast?"

"Yeah. I mean, sometimes."

"Do you guys all have names for your dicks?" Wendy asked, playing with Kenny’s hair. He had such pretty hair; she thought of how it got darker when it was wet, almost brown, and wondered if he’d want to swim with her tomorrow.

"Yeah, we all have names for them," Kenny said. "Want to hear them?"

"I guess," she said, wrinkling her nose. "Just, you know. So I can share them with Bebe."

"Kyle’s is Professor Farnsworth—"

"What!" She was already laughing hard, her chest bouncing under his.

"Haven’t you ever seen Futurama?"

"No-?"

"Oh, well, it’s from that. Stan calls his The Magic Dragon, and Cartman’s is Rodney Dangerfield."

"Ew, don’t tell me Cartman’s! You’re making this up!"

"I’m seriously not," Kenny said. They kissed between hiccups of laughter, and Wendy’s breath caught when his hand slipped under her tank, resting over her stomach. "Sorry," he said, pulling his hand out.

"It’s okay," she said. "Do it again."

They were disheveled when they returned to the Festival, bits of grass stuck to their clothes. Stan and Kyle were in similar shape when they found them near the empty stage where a bluegrass band had performed earlier. Wendy decided not to mention that Kyle had two pieces of hay in his hair. He looked too happy to care, anyway, holding Stan’s hand.

"Everything okay with you two?" Wendy asked.

"Yes," Kyle said. "Where’d you guys go?"

"Nowhere," Kenny said. He reached for Wendy’s hand and held it. She felt herself flushing, though she wasn’t embarrassed or even aroused. It was just pleasure, a flush of it that left her cheeks blistering as Stan and Kyle exchanged a look.

"Is everyone secretly dating someone?" Kyle asked. He looked sincerely peeved, as if he should have been informed.

"Cartman probably isn’t," Kenny said.

It wasn’t true: Cartman was secretly dating Clyde, which they found out about several weeks later, when video footage of Cartman cross dressing for Clyde’s pleasure was discovered by Bebe on Clyde’s phone. Wendy attempted to recollect on the bet, arguing that Cartman’s actual homosexuality made his ‘bogus’ confession to Kyle legit, and therefore made him the first boy to have come out, technically, but Bebe refused to give her the ten dollars. Wendy didn’t really care, and she lavished extra attention on Kenny that evening, newly grateful that he hadn’t turned out to be in love with some boy like the others. He loved her: he’d told her so, in Stark’s Pond, hard against her leg and holding her close, his choppy breath on her face, and in the moment she’d realized that she should have known, because he’d been looking at her the way Stan looked at Kyle, like he couldn’t believe she was real and within reach.

Chapter Text

Stan’s favorite part of the whole thing is the permission to be lazy. He had to quit his job at the lab at five months, lest he be discovered as genetically compromised and therefore confined to a cage where his former employers would study the developing phenomenon of male pregnancy. He’s very lucky to have an obstetrician he trusts with his life, this secret, and the life of his babies: Wendy Testaburger, just a year out of medical school. She’s taken good care of him so far, and now that he’s at seven months and as big as a house, she’s put him on strict bed rest, which he doesn’t mind at all, except that sometimes Kyle is in a part of the house where he can’t hear Stan calling for him.

“Dude?” Stan tries, again, hoping not to sound too desperate or demanding when he shouts for Kyle. “Are you still here? Kyle? Dude, can you – oh, hey.”

Kyle appears in the doorway looking tired, like he’d been napping on the couch when he heard Stan’s shouts. It’s Sunday, Kyle’s day off. He teaches history and coaches the girls basketball and volleyball teams at the high school. After some past issues with teacher-student romances, the school was very eager to hire an openly gay man for the coaching positions especially.

“I have to pee,” Stan says, embarrassed that he needs assistance with this. Otherwise, he’s been enjoying the extra attention from Kyle.

“You drank all that milk already?” Kyle says, eying the empty glass on bed stand.

“Yeah,” Stan says, annoyed that Kyle is complaining about this; he brought the milk almost an hour ago. Stan puts his hand out, and Kyle comes to the bed to help him get up. “They’re moving around a lot today,” Stan says, bringing Kyle’s hand to his belly when he’s standing. He’s pregnant with twins, probably because of exposure to Terrence Mephesto’s experiments at the lab, where Stan worked as an assistant technician for three years.

“Wow,” Kyle says, though the twins aren’t moving now. “C’mon, I have something in the toaster.”

“Ooh. What are you toasting?” Stan was sick during the first three months, but now he’s constantly hungry.

“A tuna melt,” Kyle says. “But you can’t – I’m using unsafe cheese.”

“Oh. Even if it’s toasted, I can’t—?”

“Frankly, I’m not sure,” Kyle says, a bit sharply, pulling Stan along toward the bathroom. Their house is small but cozy, and they can’t really afford it without Stan’s lab technician salary, but Kyle’s parents have been helping with the bills since they learned Stan was expecting their twin grandchildren.

Stan can technically still reach under his belly to aim his dick at the toilet, but it’s kind of a chore, and it’s easier to just let Kyle hold it for him. It’s embarrassing, though, and he can see Kyle noticing his blush after he’s helped Stan flick the last drops away.

“Are you feeling okay?” Kyle asks, pressing the back of his hand to Stan’s forehead. “You look flushed – need me to turn the air conditioning on?”

“No,” Stan says, not wanting to jack up the power bill, though he’s been warm all day. It’s late May, one of the most pleasant seasons in South Park and not especially warm yet, but Stan is perennially overheated. Thinking about the time of year, he frowns as Kyle helps him back into bed. “Wait,” Stan says, taking a seat on the mattress, a little breathless just from this much exercise. He’s gained thirty pounds since October, when he was able to talk Kyle into topping him for the first time in years, as a birthday present. “Is it – what day is it?”

“Sunday,” Kyle says, dryly. He’s avoiding Stan’s eyes, fussing with the sheets. “We need to wash these,” he says. Stan’s eyes fill up with tears when he realizes what he’s done.

“Kyle,” Stan says. “Is it. Is today your – it’s your—”

“It’s fine,” Kyle snaps.

“No, it’s not – dude. I’m so sorry, fuck. I forgot your birthday.”

“Stan, stop. It’s perfectly understandable – considering. I’ve read that it can affect your memory, you know. In the third trimester.”

“Kyle, dude, c’mere.”

“I really need to wash these,” Kyle says, pushing the comforter onto the floor. “Could you – maybe you could rest on the couch while I – oh, Stan, Jesus. Don’t cry.”

Kyle falls into Stan’s outstretched arms, shushing him and kissing his hair. Stan didn’t mean to start crying; he knows Kyle doesn’t like it, that it makes him uncomfortable. Thinking this makes Stan cry harder, and he clings to Kyle, his face hidden against Kyle’s chest.

“I’m sorry,” he says, blubbering. “God, I’m really sorry—”

“No, hey, look – it’s not even two o’clock. You’ve been asleep for most of the day. You didn’t technically forget. It’s still my birthday.”

“But I don’t – I want to get you a present. Or cook you dinner, or something, but I can’t do anything.”

“Well, you’re carrying – my children.” Kyle still pauses every time he acknowledges the twins as such. “So, that’s enough for this year.”

“You’re turning thirty, though. That’s supposed to be special.”

“It’s – shh, oh – fuck!”

Stan can smell it, too: something burning. Kyle gives him another peck on the top of his head and dashes for the kitchen to rescue his tuna melt.

When he’s gone, Stan wipes at his face and drops back onto the pillows, trying to pull himself together. He feels dirty, greasy – gummy, even, like his edges are blurred. He was so relieved when he learned that the thing growing on his stomach was not a tumor, so happy when Wendy told him that, miraculously, his genetically impossible pregnancy was a healthy one, that he was carrying two girls who she believed would survive a C-section after around nine months of incubation. His relief has faded over the months, because he knows Kyle isn’t as excited about this unexpected development. Kyle didn’t even offer any opinions about the nursery decorations, and typically he’s very particular about furniture selection and carpets, lamps, wall trim – all the little details of their home.

Ten minutes later, Kyle returns to the bedroom with a fresh glass of milk and a peanut butter and banana sandwich for Stan. Kyle hates peanut butter and banana sandwiches so much that he typically refuses to even handle them, but for Stan he’s been constructing them almost daily. Stan accepts the meal with a shaky smile, trying to blink away new tears.

“Did your tuna melt survive?” he asks when Kyle sits beside him and strokes his greasy hair.

“No,” Kyle says. “A total waste of fancy cheese. Oh well.”

“Sorry,” Stan says, his voice obscured with peanut butter and banana.

“It’s okay,” Kyle says. He sighs and flops beside Stan on the pillows. “I’ll just eat half a gallon of ice cream instead. Why not.”

Kyle looks depressed, and so tired. Stan wishes he could give him a back rub, or a hard fuck, or whatever he wants for his birthday, but just the idea of climbing onto Kyle seems technically impossible and physically exhausting lately. This is made worse by the fact that Stan’s chaotic hormones have been giving him frequent erections, and that jerking himself to satisfaction is almost impossible with his stomach in the way.

“We should have some people over,” Stan says when he’s finished with his sandwich. “Have a cake, you know, or – pizza?”

“God, no,” Kyle says. “I want a day to myself, no company. I’m screening my mother’s calls, so hopefully she won’t just show up with gifts. I’m too tired for a big fuss.”

Stan accepts that, and leans over to kiss Kyle’s neck, then feels guilty for doing so, because he’s left behind sticky banana residue that Kyle rubs at. He finishes his milk, hands Kyle the glass, and is glad when Kyle settles in beside him, burrowing into Stan’s encircling arms.

"Thirty," Kyle says, with disgust.

"Our thirties are going to be awesome," Stan says. He reaches down to rub his belly. "We’re going to be parents, dude. It’ll be so fun, like. Like going through childhood all over again."

"Oh, my god," Kyle mumbles, and he lifts his hand to his face.

"What?"

"Stan. What the – parenthood is pretty much the opposite of childhood. I mean, what are you even talking about?"

"Well, I know, but – we can do trick or treating again. And buy toys."

"With what money?" Kyle asks, and then he seems to force himself to calm when he feels Stan flinch at the volume of his voice. "No – I do know what you mean." He pats Stan’s giant stomach fondly. "I’m sure there will be some. Fun times, too."

"I’ll get another job," Stan says.

"No, no. Don’t." Kyle sighs and looks over at him, cupping Stan’s cheek. "I like the idea of you as a stay at home dad, actually. If you’d like it."

"Well, yeah." It’s pretty much his dream, to take care of a couple of kids he had with Kyle, a thing he never actually thought would be possible. "But. Money."

"I’ll – we’ll figure it out. I could finish my law degree. My advisor was really sad when I left. I think he was in love with me or something – he still emails me. He could help me get placed at some firm in Denver."

"But you love teaching. And coaching, and. Denver?"

"Denver’s not that far." Kyle rubs Stan’s cheek, and this, in combination with Kyle’s smell, his closeness, and his warmth, is enough to give Stan an erection.

"Could we come with you?" Stan asks, and he has to blink back tears again.

"We?"

"Me and the babies!"

"Come with me – what? I could commute. I don’t want to sell the house, not after we paid Kenny a hundred bucks to paint the nursery. Oh, let’s not even think about it. Why are you crying?" Kyle moans and wipes Stan’s eyes dry with his thumb. "Wherever I go, you’re coming with me. These, too," he says, reaching down to put his hand over Stan’s stomach.

"Don’t call them ‘these,’" Stan says, and this request makes him start to sob, for some reason.

"They’re just very surreal to me right now," Kyle says, moving his fingers. One of the babies moves under his touch, then the other. Stan can tell them apart; he can feel their distinctness. Kyle grins and tracks their movements with his hand. He seems genuinely happy to feel them shifting around, if still tired. "I just want you to be okay," he says, his smile draining away. "I worry every day. I’m exhausted – I can’t sleep."

"What – why? Wendy says—"

"Wendy! What the hell does she know?"

"Um, well, she’s a doctor."

"Well, I want to believe that she’s right, but I don’t trust her with you. She’s broken your heart before."

"Dude, she was nine. And I wasn’t really heartbroken, I was just a dumb kid."

"Oh," Kyle says, his hand sliding down under Stan’s stomach, brushing his erection. "You’re hard."

"I’m always hard," Stan says, whining. "It hurts."

"Hurts? Like—"

"Like I need to come."

"Oh." Kyle’s cheeks get pink, and he smiles when Stan does. "I could—" Kyle says, glancing down at Stan’s cock, which he’s taken hold of, tenderly. "Um, blow you?"

"I should blow you," Stan says. "It’s your birthday."

"You’re the one who’s hard."

"I know you find me repulsive," Stan says. "Right now – I know."

"I do not," Kyle says, but he has an expression of restrained queasiness when he looks down at Stan’s stomach. "I just never anticipated this. I don’t know what to do with it.”

"It’s not like I’ve turned into a woman," Stan says, growing irritable. "Let go of it if you’re not going to do anything with it."

"What – your cock?" Kyle’s fingers tighten around it. "I’m going to do something with it, though."

"Yeah? Like what?"

"Make you come," Kyle says, softly enough that Stan groans and throbs inside the tight circle of Kyle’s fingers. Kyle moves his hand, his lips twitching into a coy smile. "I’d like that – for my birthday."

"You’d like – what?"

"Your come all over my hand," Kyle says, and he blushes more deeply. Stan nods and presses his face to Kyle’s shoulder, opening his legs as widely as he can. "I’m going down there," Kyle says, whispering. "So I can see it. Your cock is so – I’ve missed the sight of it."

"You see it every day!"

"Yes, but. Not like this, not lately."

It’s been a while since they’ve had any kind of sex. Stan knows he won’t last long, and he props himself up so he can see Kyle squatting between his legs.

"Oh, god," Kyle says, sounding amazed and a little sad. "You’ve gotten really hairy."

"How am I supposed to trim?" Stan asks, hurt, until he sees the way Kyle is smiling.

"I think I like it like this," Kyle says. "It’s very manly looking. Despite – that." He glances at Stan’s stomach, then refocuses on his cock.

"Want to ride it?" Stan asks, straining to pump his hips. "You could face the other way."

"What if my ass knocks against the – children?" Kyle asks, wincing, and Stan laughs.

"You could put a pillow between, you know, my stomach and my dick. As a buffer."

"Ugh, no," Kyle says. "That’s like – I’d feel like you were fucking me through a glory hole or something."

"Kyle!"

"Well! No, just eat me out. After you’ve – that would be nice. For my birthday."

"God, yes," Stan says, nodding. "Yes, that’s. Good, with me."

He comes soon after that, just from the idea of getting his mouth on Kyle’s ass at last. He’s missed it so much – he’ll never complain that he wants to try bottoming again. He can’t believe how much he took topping Kyle for granted.

Stan makes Kyle come twice, implementing fingers when Kyle begs for them, and afterward they slump down on the mattress, their feet on the pillows, and kiss tiredly. Stan is sweating; he nods when Kyle offers to get up and blast the air conditioning. When Kyle returns to the bed, he’s still naked, carrying the carton of Oreo ice cream and two spoons.

"I’m really sorry this happened," Stan says when they’re sitting together on the bed, spooning ice cream, still sweating.

"What?" Kyle says.

"The, you know. My deformity. I mean, freakishness. I know you didn’t want – this."

"What, kids?" Kyle frowns. "Yes, I did!"

"Really? But we didn’t talk about it—?"

"I thought it would be depressingly moot! Do you know how hard it is for gay couples to adopt children in rural Colorado? This is – no, it’s not the thing itself. It’s just – seeing you like this. And we’ve never even been to Europe. But then I think about coming home from work and seeing you doing chalk drawings on the driveway with our kids – girls. I can’t believe they’re both girls. Jesus, I can’t believe there are two of them!"

"Yeah," Stan says, and they grin at each other, momentarily unafraid. Kyle surges forward to kiss him, and pulls back after he has, making a face.

"Bananas," he says. "And, well. Ass, too."

Stan starts laughing hard, and Kyle grins again. He helps Stan into the bathroom so he can brush his teeth, and they both groan at the sight of black cookie residue in their toothpastey spit.

"But this is good," Kyle says. "You should always brush immediately after Oreos."

"And ass," Stan says.

"Yes, yes – wash your hands, too, please."

Kyle has been making Stan watch Stargate: Atlantis, though Stan reliably falls asleep halfway through every episode. They resume their usual places on the couch, and Kyle starts up an episode from the third season. He spoons himself around Stan, who is feeling comfortable under the blast of the air conditioning. It’s late afternoon, the sun going golden outside, and Stan feels almost complete, but not quite. In a couple of months he will be, with his daughters cuddled into his arms. Until then, he’s got Kyle, the comforting boredom of another Stargate episode, the cool dark of their living room, and daydreams about the chalk drawings that will someday cover their driveway. He closes his eyes and imagines Kyle shrugging off his jacket and kneeling down to join them, coming away with pastel dust on the knees of his trousers. Stan knows it’s weird, fantasizing about doing a very specific kind of Kyle’s laundry, but he’s always been weird for Kyle, and it’s served him well so far.

Chapter Text

Kenny was surprised that Stan and Kyle’s wedding was such a modest affair. Though they were forty-five years old and most of their friends had considered them ‘married’ since they were in their early twenties, it was a big deal that Colorado had finally legalized gay marriage, and Kenny had expected a huge turnout for the couple who had been voted ‘Most Likely to Marry Each Other’ at the end of his senior year in high school. That had been a prank orchestrated by Cartman — Stan and Kyle weren’t out and weren’t even together at the time — but everyone who knew them had seen the truth in it.

The ceremony was to take place in Kyle’s parents’ backyard, and the programs that Ike was handing out at the front door explained that this had been the site of Stan and Kyle’s first kiss, thirty years ago. Kenny had never been aware that they had kissed when they were fifteen. He wanted to take one or both of them aside and interview them about it, so he wandered upstairs toward Kyle’s old childhood bedroom while the rest of the guests congregated in the backyard. Despite the fact that he was back in his home town, he was completely unprepared to bump into the first guy that he ever kissed, three years before Stan and Kyle allegedly locked lips in Kyle’s backyard.

"Oh, Kenny!" Butters looked the same, only with less hair, or maybe it was just thinner — was that the same thing? Kenny felt slightly dizzy. Aside from some light Facebook stalking, he hadn’t seen Butters since he was eighteen years old, and now, suddenly, Butters was hugging him tightly, laughing in his ear as if this meeting in the hallway of the Broflovski household on Kyle’s wedding day was positively delightful.

"You’re back in the country?" Kenny said when Butters pulled away, grinning.

"Seems so!" Butter said. Kenny wasn’t sure if that was some kind of comment on how stupid his question was; clearly Butters was in the country, he was right fucking here. "I been back for a few years, in fact. What a great day! Can you believe it? Stan and Kyle, after all this time."

"Well, yeah, but. They’ve been together — I think they’ve lived together for like, fifteen years. Anyway, um. How are you?"

Before Butters could answer, a door opened behind them. Kenny turned to see Kyle sticking his face out into the hallway, looking displeased. Kenny could guess why: it was a humid day in June and Kyle’s hair looked awful, his obvious attempts to tame it with products only adding to the mess.

"What are you two doing?" Kyle asked. "Get in here." He spoke as if they were errant members of his bridal party, though from what Kenny understood, there would be no bridal party, just two grooms exchanging vows.

Kyle’s room was essentially unchanged, which surprised Kenny, who hadn’t been in it since he was twenty or so. He would have taken Sheila for the type to change the room into an office or generic guest room as soon as Kyle was settled in his first apartment, but except for Kyle’s old posters and a fresh coat of paint, it was just as Kenny remembered it: the twin bed under the window, the desk and old Mac computer near the door, grayish carpet and navy blue curtains with red trim. Kenny remembered those mostly because they’d always made him think of the hat Stan had worn every winter as a kid.

"I don’t know about all this," Kyle said. He walked to the bed and fell to a seat there, tucking his hands under his arm pits. Kenny shared a look with Butters that felt like old times. It was like, what now? and this again, though Kenny didn’t see much of Kyle or Stan anymore, and Butters — well, maybe he did. Kenny didn’t really know what Butters’ deal was at present.

"All of what?" Kenny asked.

"This wedding." Kyle made a face. "It seems so corny. Or so, so — like we’re serving the man, you know? Like it means something to us, personally, to be recognized by the fucking state of Colorado. I don’t care what these yokels think of me. If it were up to me we would have moved away years ago!"

He was working himself into a panic, but fortunately someone had left a mostly untouched bottle of champagne open on Kyle’s desk. Kenny went for it, and grabbed a nearby glass with a translucent lip print which he assumed was Kyle’s. He poured some and brought it to the bed.

"It’ll be nice," Butters said. "And, um, it’s not about the state! It’s about, well. Stan! And you. It’s a celebration of, uh— lasting love! Love in the face of adversity, and so forth."

"I just don’t want to get up in front of everyone and tell them how I feel about him," Kyle said, accepting the champagne. "It’s so incredibly personal, me and him — you guys think you understand the depth of our connection, okay, but you don’t, and talk is cheap. Vows, I mean. That’s — beneath us." He drank.

"Stan wants this, though," Kenny said. Stan had called him just hours after Kyle had accepted his proposal, to tell him the good news. He’d sounded tearful at moments. "He likes this sort of thing."

"What sort of thing?" Kyle made that face again.

"Remember your bar mitzvah?" Butters said, stepping forward to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Kenny. "How you were all grumpy about it and didn’t want to do it because you had a big pimple on the end of your nose?"

"Thank you for reminding me," Kyle said, touching his hair.

"But Stan made you that scrapbook about your friendship as a present, remember?" Kenny said, beginning to see where Butters was going with this. "He was so, like, impressed with the idea of your manhood." Kenny had kissed Butters at Kyle’s bar mitzvah, too, in a very quiet bathroom at the back of the reception hall. Remembering that, he faltered for a moment. "Um, you know. Also, all your guests are already here."

"Ugh, guests," Kyle said. "A few people Stan works with, my parents, Ike — Ike thinks this is hilarious, you know. He got married when he was nineteen."

"That’s not necessarily something to brag about," Kenny said. He’d been married twice, once at twenty-two and again at twenty-six. Both had ended before the two-year mark. The first was a woman, the second was a man. They both accused him of being aloof and suspected him of affairs that he wasn’t actually having.

"Why do I have to complicate everything?" Kyle asked, holding the glass out for more champagne. He always did this: complained about something and then turned his dissatisfaction around on himself. "Why can’t I just enjoy a nice party? Oh, but it feels so — atonal! It’s not me! I don’t do this sort of thing. And it’s so fucking hot." He touched his hair again. "When’s the last time it was this hot in June?"

"Maybe you could move the ceremony inside?" Butters said. Kyle grunted dismissively.

"I wonder if Stan is throwing up," he said.

"I hope not," Kenny said. "Want us to go check on him?"

"I guess so," Kyle said. "But someone should be with me. Shouldn’t they? Is Wendy here? Send her up if she is. We need to have a chat."

"About what?" Kenny asked.

"My hair," Kyle said, miserably, and Kenny smiled, not to mock Kyle’s grief over his frizz but because he was relieved not to hear that Kyle was going to have some grave discussion about Stan with Wendy, who had been Stan’s only other love, early on.

Kenny headed downstairs with Butters, and he stopped Butters on the landing before he could head in the direction of Gerald’s office, where Kyle believed Stan was hiding from the guests. Butters’ look of confusion melted away quickly, and he gave Kenny that same sweet, forgiving smile that had always made his face get hot.

"Hey," Kenny said.

"Hi!" Butters said, and then he looked confused again. "You okay?"

"Marriage makes me a little itchy. You may have heard about my divorces."

"Oh." Butters’ cheeks went pink. Kenny used to love that. He used to be able to whisper the word cock in Butters’ ear and get this exact reaction, plus a hardon. He’d been so — pliable. “Well, yeah, I guess I did hear about that. I’m really sorry about that, Kenny. It’s a sad circumstance.”

"How about you?" Kenny asked. He reached down to took Butters’ left hand, checking for rings. Butters’ blush had intensified when Kenny looked at him again. "Nobody?"

"There’s been – ‘bodies," Butters said, and he frowned. "I mean, folks. People. Just not now, no – I didn’t bring a date."

"Me either," Kenny said, and then he felt badly, because maybe that was innuendo. He started down the stairs, and Butters followed.

Stan was indeed in Gerald’s office, with Wendy, who was holding his hand when Kenny and Butters came through the door. Stan looked handsome in a pressed shirt and tie, nice slacks, his suit jacket slung over his arm. He was more Sharon than Randy, at least in his facial features, not feminine, but he had her kind eyes and open expressions, everything unguarded even when he was in his most cynical moods. Especially then, maybe. He moved away from Wendy and hugged Kenny, then Butters, more awkwardly.

"Are you okay?" Kenny asked, squeezing Stan’s shoulder. He glanced at Wendy.

"I’m fine," Stan said. "I just feel like shit."

"Oh, is that all?"

"Why should you feel that way?" Butters asked, and he seemed sincerely wounded, horrified that someone might feel like shit on their wedding day. Kenny wondered if he’d ever been married, and he thought: probably not.

"He’s feeling guilty that he didn’t host some extravagant wedding that would have cost him a fortune," Wendy said before Stan could answer. "Which is so ridiculous. Kyle would have hated that."

"He likes picking out menus, though," Stan said, sounding almost as if he would cry. "And this is so. This house, I don’t know. It’s not romantic."

"How about your first kiss, though?" Butters said.

"Which I never knew about," Kenny said. He supposed it was only fair; he’d never told Stan or Kyle about any of his firsts with Butters.

"Oh, that." Stan blinked rapidly and fooled with his tie. "Yeah, it was – we tried to justify this, uh, venue with that. Kyle bit me, though."

"When?" Kenny asked, unable to contain a laugh. Stan gave him a hard look.

"When we kissed. Thirty years ago. It’s a long story. Shit, is he okay?"

"He wants Wendy," Butters said. "To fix his hair."

"You’ve got your work cut out for you," Kenny said when Wendy looked exasperated in response.

"I’m a doctor," she said. "Not a hairstylist."

"Just go," Stan said, and he put his hand on her back. "Please? I would go, but he’s being weird and superstitious about not seeing me before the ceremony. And I’ve never been good with his hair."

"He asked for your help with it in the past?" Kenny said, charmed by this.

"Not exactly," Stan said. "But sometimes I shampoo it wrong."

Wendy left, and Kenny hoped Butters would stay. He was glad when Butters did, and not because he didn’t want to be alone with Stan, who had always been more like a brother to him than Kevin ever had. Kyle was something else – a brother-in-law, Kenny supposed.

"Don’t worry about it," Kenny said when he sat beside Stan, who was perched on Gerald’s desk. "You guys are gonna have a great trip, right? You’re leaving tomorrow?"

"Yeah," Stan said, and he winced. "But it’s flooded."

"What’s flooded?"

"Germany. Don’t you watch the news?"

"You guys are going to Germany?" Butters said, sitting on the other side of Stan.

"We’re supposed to, and then Italy. But now Germany’s flooded – the part we were supposed to go to, where Kyle’s relatives live. It was going to be this big deal."

"Italy’s better, anyway," Kenny said, though he’d never been to either country. He’d been to Russia, once, with his ex-husband, on a foolhardy trip to visit orphanages in search of a child to adopt. It was more or less the end of that marriage.

"We were going to take the train down through Switzerland," Stan said. "Kyle loves trains."

"I’m sure the trains are still running!" Butters said. "And maybe, ah. The floodwaters will go down. Tomorrow."

"I don’t know why I’m being like this," Stan said, and Kenny thought of Kyle’s similar lamentation. "I mean, we’ve already spent half our lives together. More than half, if you count childhood. Which I do."

"Tell me about that kiss," Kenny said. "When you were fifteen. Unless you’re going to talk about it in your vows?"

"Oh, God, no, it’s not in the vows. Okay, um – it was this night right after sophomore year had started. I’d come over to work on this presentation me and Kyle were doing for history, about the IRA. Things were sort of tense. We walked outside – it was just starting to get cold at night, early October. He was so – he kept chewing his lip, like he used to do, and it was all raw-looking and red, and puffy…" Stan trailed off, and nipped at his own bottom lip a little. "I lunged at him. You remember how I was, I wasn’t good at anything to do with – sex, at first. Until Kyle, I should say. But yeah, he bit me."

"Bit you?" Kenny asked, laughing again. Stan whacked his shoulder.

"He was scared! I was like a wild animal, he said. Suddenly trying to kiss him."

"Oh, Jesus. I bet you were all shaky and stuttering and on the verge of tears."

"Well – yeah, but he didn’t know that. It was dark."

"So then what? He bit you. Did you cry?"

"No."

Kenny could see that he was lying. Stan glared at him.

"It wasn’t crying, okay, my eyes watered from the pain. My lip was bleeding! And then Kyle freaked out and apologized and started kissing me all over, and he sucked on my lip – oh, Jesus. I can’t even talk about it without getting, uh. Aroused."

"Ew," Kenny said. "Alright, well. Thanks for telling us."

"That’s so romantic," Butters said breathlessly, his hands clutched under his chin.

Sharon came in soon after that, greeted Kenny and Butters warmly, then politely suggested that they find a seat outside. Kenny took Butters’ arm on the way out of the office, without meaning to, and when Butters smiled at him, he held it.

"Remember our first kiss?" Kenny asked, keeping his voice low. People were squeezing past them through the hallway, getting drink refills and shouting about some crab balls that needed to come out of the oven. Kenny didn’t recognize most of the people who were still bustling around. He thought of Cartman and was sad that he couldn’t be there. He’d died one year too soon to mock Kyle on his wedding day.

"Sure I remember," Butters said, softly. They’d come to the patio door that looked out on the backyard, where maybe forty people were assembled in a variety of lawn chairs, everyone facing Bebe. She was decked out in her judge’s robes – district court in rural Colorado, small potatoes according to Kyle, but still impressive for someone her age.

"I’m sorry if I – maybe you should have bitten me?" Kenny looked at Butters, genuinely fearful about how he would answer. In hindsight, Kenny had often cornered him, had kissed Butters’ hot cheeks so greedily. Butters was looking wide-eyed and innocent even now, staring at him.

"Gosh, Kenny," he said, almost whispering. "I would never bite you."

"Thanks, Butters." He moved his hand to the small of Butters’ back and guided him to a seat that way, toward the back, on the right side; Kenny wasn’t sure if it was Stan’s side or Kyle’s. By then, everything in their lives had mixed inextricably together.

Stan took his place near Bebe, and Kyle walked down the grassy aisle – strewn with some white flower petals – to the tune of some old Vampire Weekend song that Kenny only vaguely remembered from college. Kyle carried no flowers, and therefore seemed not to know what to do with his hands. Twice he pulled at the hem of his jacket, and Kenny could see that Stan wanted to run to him, that he was barely restraining himself from rescuing Kyle from his embarrassment.

The ceremony was nice, maybe; Kenny couldn’t really pay attention. He was thinking about his own history of childhood romance, which he’d written off upon graduation. Butters was practice, sweet and forgiving and warm under his hands, but how ridiculous would it have been to contemplate an actual future with the boy from across the tracks, the good side of town, the house with the alphabetized pantry? They couldn’t have been more different, and anyway, there could only be one Stan and Kyle in South Park. People didn’t meet their soul mate as a pre-schooler in the same town where that precise phenomenon happened to their closest friends. If they’d tried to tell themselves that maybe they had, under the basketball bleachers between Algebra II and Contemporary Lit, after midnight with the window still cracked open a little in the dead of winter, in case a quick escape was needed, or in a reception hall bathroom that smelled like chalky soap – well, that was just a case of emulating one’s heroes, unavoidably pathetic and doomed to disappointment. Kenny looked over at Butters when Kyle kissed Stan. Kyle was murmuring against Stan’s lips as he did, probably making a joke about biting him. Butters noticed Kenny’s gaze and turned, smiling uncertainly.

"Where do you live now?" Kenny asked, not bothering to whisper, because everyone was clapping.

"In Denver," Butters said. He batted his eyelashes – unintentionally, Kenny knew. Butters had always done that when he was nervous, even when he was four years old.

"I’m in Colorado Springs," Kenny said. "Bartending," he added, maybe a little defensively. Dying on occasion and disappearing for a while made it hard to keep a job.

"I know," Butters said.

"You know?"

"I look at your Facebook page sometimes."

"Oh. Yeah, me too. I mean, yours. But it’s been a while. I thought you were still in Honduras."

"Maybe I oughta be," Butters said. He was still clapping, turning to watch Kyle and Stan walk back down the aisle, toward the house. Where would they go? Up to Kyle’s twin bed for victory sex? "I don’t know why I came back, really. I guess we were doing good work there. I started to wonder, I guess."

"I’m sure you were doing good work," Kenny said. He touched Butters’ shoulder, wanted to keep touching him in various places. Though his hair was thinner, receding, it still looked baby soft. "Do you think I’m aloof?" he asked as the guests began to mill around in confusion, Sheila bustling into the house and shouting to someone about appetizers.

"Aloof?" Butters frowned, then Kenny saw recognition rearrange his features. "Oh, um, well. Sometimes it was hard to know what you were thinking."

"When we were kids, you mean?"

"Well, sure. That’s the only time I knew you!"

"What did you, uh. Think I was – thinking?"

Butters shrugged and smiled hard, in a way that seemed to pinch the corners of his eyes uncomfortably. “We were having fun!” he said. “I still remember it – such fun.” His eyes changed. Kenny leaned in, not sure what was happening – Stan must not have known either, thirty years ago, in this yard – and he expected to be bitten.

Butters didn’t bite. He kissed back in careful little pushes: a polite, public kiss. The chastity of it only reminded Kenny more strongly of the way Butters used to fall apart under his mouth, drooling and moaning and surging up against him for more. He felt himself blushing. Butters smiled up at him, eyelashes fluttering.

"I’m glad you came back," Kenny said.

"I hoped you would be," Butters said, his voice a little trembling thing all of a sudden. Kenny kissed him harder, for that, and no one seemed to notice: they were streaming toward the house, following the bellow of Sheila’s promise that hot food was being set out, and Ike would be serving drinks.

Kenny looked up at Kyle’s bedroom window when he headed toward the house, Butters tucked under his arm and laughing absently, like a kid who had a great secret, the same way he had when they were teenagers, when they did have a great secret. There was no one looking down from Kyle’s window, but the blue and red curtains were shifting in an incriminating way. They were long enough to skim the bed, tangled up in whatever was going on, having hung around long enough to know the beginning, rapturous at the sight of the official consummation.

"I might be drunk," Kenny said, though he’d only had one glass of champagne while they waited for the grooms to emerge.

"You can stay with me," Butters said, looking up at him.

Kenny stayed, and dreamed of an elaborate wedding. He chastised himself at dawn, while Butters slept in his arms. Optimism was not a luxury he could afford. But that was his childhood self, and he no longer had holes in his shoes: he’d spent much too long underestimating his potential to have a happy ending. This might be it, after all. He closed his eyes and pressed his face more snugly into Butters’ wispy hair. He knew some things about endings, enough to shy away from beginnings, but he’d done that for fifteen years, and where had it gotten him? No place better than here, which was where he wanted to stay.

Chapter Text

On the worst morning of Stan’s life, he wakes up to a face full of Kyle’s hair. There’s a piece in his mouth, on his tongue, which is a gross feeling, and he sits up, stuffing his fingers into his mouth in attempt to get rid of it. As soon as they’re touching his tongue, he wakes fully and remembers where his fingers have been recently. Feeling panicked about this in a way that he never has before, he hurries into the bathroom to wash his hands and brush his teeth thoroughly.

His head is pounding: they were so drunk last night. So, so drunk, and combative in a passive aggressive way during sex, which is never good. Stan has never before had sex with Kyle without either of them reaching orgasm. They just fell asleep, on opposite sides of the bed, though Kyle apparently moved onto him at some point during the night. Stan looks down at his morning wood guiltily. He wants to beat off, his balls still heavy with unspilt come, but it would be rude. Kyle is out there, waiting. For what, exactly, Stan is a little afraid to find out.

When he returns to the bedroom, Kyle is pretending to be asleep. Stan can always tell when Kyle is faking something. It’s a talent he’s had since grade school, and how he knew that Kyle was gay even after he consented to show his penis to Bebe in eighth grade, which resulted in the two of them ‘dating’ in a way that infuriated Stan and told him a lot about his own sexuality.

"It’s like eleven o’clock," Stan says, standing between the bed and the bathroom. Kyle makes a soft sound, feigning sudden wakefulness, and looks over his shoulder at Stan.

"So?" he says.

"So I thought you wanted to go to that brunch place."

"Ugh," Kyle says, and he turns away from Stan again, his head on the pillow. "Fine, just give me a minute."

"Are you—" Stan scratches at the back of his neck, not really wanting to talk about it, but suddenly very worried. "Sore?"

Kyle glares at Stan as if he’s insulted the integrity of his asshole.

"No," Kyle says. "We didn’t even—"

He leaves it at that, and Stan feels like a failure all over again. Kyle had wanted to try fisting. Stan was horrified by the thought, but he pretended not to be, because Kyle lives in New York now and certainly knows all sorts of great gay sex stuff that Stan hasn’t learned in Atlanta, where he’s been living for the past year, doing an internship with the CDC. There are plenty of gay men in Stan’s city, too, but it’s increasingly clear to him that they aren’t up to Kyle’s new standards of New York gayness.

"Well, I’m glad you’re not hurt," Stan says, bitterly. "That could have gone really poorly, with both of us so drunk."

"Why are you saying that like it’s news to me?"

"I’m — not, Jesus, are you mad at me?"

"No," Kyle says. He groans and throws the blankets off of himself. Stan wants to scan the sheets for blood. He got four fingers mostly in, and the tip of his thumb, and at that point he had to tell Kyle he couldn’t do it, that he didn’t have the skills or the stomach to pleasure him in such an exotic way. Stan’s cock had been completely soft by the time the third finger was introduced. "I’m having a shower," Kyle announces, prancing past him.

"May I join you?" Stan asks.

"Nah," Kyle says, and he shuts the bathroom door in Stan’s face. He’s definitely mad — no, disappointed. He’s surpassed Stan’s meager sexual education, and they don’t fit together anymore. Stan sits naked on the bed, feeling so miserably lost that he wonders why he can’t seem to manage any tears.

Kyle emerges half an hour later, wrapped in one of Stan’s generously sized towels. He’s got another towel wrapped around his hair, and Stan knows it will be at least an hour before they’re out the door to brunch. He’s hungry.

"What is going on with your shampoo?" Kyle asks.

"Uh. In what sense?"

"Pert Plus? They still make that shit?"

"I like the way it smells."

"Well, you’ve got naturally beautiful hair. I guess you could wash it with dish soap if you wanted to — and you essentially are. It’s lucky I brought my toiletries bag."

"Yeah," Stan says, thinking of that overstuffed thing sitting on his small bathroom counter, bursting with Kyle’s supplies. "Good thing."

"Don’t make fun of me," Kyle says, turning from his unzipped suitcase.

"I’m not! I love your hair."

"Who said anything about my hair? It’s perfectly fine, as long as I use the right products."

"That’s — yeah, I think so."

"Are you still drunk?" Kyle asks. He turns back to his suitcase, pulling out the thong he was apparently looking for. Stan’s cock reawakens at the sight. He’s been in love with Kyle’s fucked up underwear collection since high school. He’s been in love with Kyle himself for much longer, though they haven’t managed to spend much time together since leaving South Park for their respective colleges. Now they’re twenty-five, and Stan is still obsessed with the way a thong that probably cost upward of thirty dollars splits Kyle’s doughy white ass cheeks so beautifully. Suddenly he thinks he might cry after all.

"You know I don’t like it when you watch me get dressed," Kyle says.

"Why not?" Stan asks, though he does know that and can guess why.

"All my imperfections are exposed, and I have to like, bend over, and I get the stomach roll."

"It’s a small roll, though. An attractive one."

"You have an erection, Stan." Kyle smiles, which makes Stan smile, too. His hand goes to his cock.

"It would seem so, yes."

"Why are you just sitting there naked? What are you wearing to this place?"

"I don’t know." Stan is still stroking himself, watching Kyle’s cock get bigger inside the tight confines of the thong front. "A t-shirt. Jeans."

"It’s not — I mean, there’s not, like, a dress code?"

"No?" Stan has never actually been to this brunch place. Kyle apparently read about it. He read, apparently, a lot about the ‘scene’ in Atlanta prior to his first trip here. Last night they went to a gay club, though Kyle’s flight had arrived late and he’d seemed tired. Stan was drunk, having waited for a long time at an airport bar, and can’t really remember the club, except that Kyle kept shouting criticisms about how it was different from New York in his ear while massaging his crotch in a distracted way.

"I think a t-shirt will make you look like a male escort who was unlucky enough to be invited to brunch with last night’s client," Kyle says.

"What the hell are you talking about, dude?"

"Me!" Kyle says, flinging a shirt at Stan. "Wear that. Otherwise we won’t match, is what I’m saying."

Stan obeys, though Kyle’s shirt is too tight and looks like it came from the sale rack at Anthropologie, which Kyle has been known to peruse. It’s mustard yellow, a terrible color for Stan’s skin tone, and is an odd combination of button-up and tunic. Stan is at least allowed to wear his own jeans — the black ones, Kyle suggests.

"I look like I’m going to a Georgia Tech game," Stan says when he’s dressed in this color combination.

"I don’t know what that is," Kyle says.

"Kyle. It’s a school. C’mon, you know Georgia Tech."

"Uh, no, I don’t. I’m not in the sciences, and even if I was, I doubt I’d keep track of the technical colleges of the South."

"It’s reputable. People know of it."

"You’re acting like you went there!"

Stan actually went to Washington University — the one in St. Louis. He stayed there for grad school, despite disliking St. Louis, because their immunology and infectious disease program is renowned. Kyle went to Stanford for his undergraduate degree in history, and to the University of Michigan for his grad degree in sociology. Everyone warned him that he wouldn’t find a job, but now he’s writing for some magazine called Next that Stan doesn’t read and living a glamorous New York life that Stan has so far refused to visit upon.

"Well, I guess this is as good as it’s going to get," Kyle says an hour later, palming his hair cautiously. "This humidity, Jesus Christ. Why did I visit you in summer?"

"Because — I don’t know. You couldn’t bear to live without me for another second, seasons be damned."

"You sound so gay," Kyle says, muttering. "Who have you been hanging out with?"

"Mostly my co-workers, and I should tell you: I am gay, actually."

"Yeah, but you’re like, that straight-seeming guy in gay porn gay. You know the one, with the punishing cock."

"My cock is punishing?" Stan says, hurt. He thinks again of his fingers and his pitiful attempt to squish them all into Kyle’s ass.

"Well, of course not, that’s the whole idea, right? The bottom is actually loving it."

"Oh," Stan says, confused.

They head to brunch, and Kyle remarks on how weird it is to take a car to brunch in the city. Stan likes his car, the same one he’s had since college. It’s a Jetta, and he bought it new, making the payments with grant money.

"You’re impressed with yourself for having a car," Kyle says.

"No, I’m not," Stan says, though he is. He also has a nice apartment, though Kyle didn’t say so last night or this morning.

"No, it’s cute," Kyle says, reaching over to stroke his thigh. "You’re adorable, as always. Oh, God, but why did I give you that shirt? It’s not really your color."

"Should I go back and change?" Stan asks. Kyle shrugs as if it was a serious question.

"I’m too hungry," he says. "God, why do I even own that thing? Why did I bring it, of all shirts? That shade of yellow looks terrible on me, too. Maybe on everyone."

"You look good in that," Stan says, referring to Kyle’s outfit. It’s a light blue blazer with the sleeves rolled up, a loose white shirt underneath, and tight gray pants. "Those pants look expensive," Stan says. "If we’re discussing things we’re clearly impressed with ourselves about."

"Oh, well. Pants that work with my ass are an investment."

Stan is hurt by that, because the pants probably help Kyle pick up men. He doesn’t use Facebook himself, but he obsessively stalks Kyle’s public page, hating everyone in the pictures. The guys Kyle hangs out with are usually ugly in an attractive way, like they know they make up for their plain faces with other, better qualities.

The restaurant is called ‘Babs,’ and it’s crowded. Kyle warns Stan on the approach that one of the Yelp reviews said to “be prepared to be harshly teased by the wait staff.” Stan has no idea why Kyle then decided to go to this place, but whatever. Maybe Kyle is looking for a fight. If he’s looking for a fist up his ass, there’s no telling.

"You’re sore," Stan says, blurting this as they’re seated. Kyle glares at him and accepts his menu from the host. "Sorry," Stan whispers when the guy leaves. "But I saw you wince when you, uh. Sat."

"Of all places to say something like that!"

"Why not here?" Stan looks around. There are a few tables of women, but it’s mostly men in their thirties who are trying to look younger.

"Because — just — the context!"

"Well. Are you, though?" Stan asks, leaning over the table, concerned.

"No!" Kyle says, and he rolls his eyes. "Christ, you barely got in there. It’s not like we actually — did it."

"Uh, what? I barely got in there? You looked like you were giving birth."

What?”

Kyle says this loudly enough to attract attention from several nearby tables.

"Because you were in so much pain," Stan says. "I mean."

Stan is glad when the waiter arrives before Kyle can respond. Kyle orders a Bloody Mary, and snorts derisively when Stan asks for the prosecco raspberry lemonade.

"What?" Stan says. "That sounds awesome."

"You’re so South Park," Kyle says. "And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s sweet."

Stan doesn’t appreciate being called ‘sweet,’ ‘cute,’ ‘adorable,’ or ‘South Park.’ He feels like all the cuddly adjectives are a passive aggressive comment on his failure to fist.

"God, look at these men," Kyle says, muttering. "They’re so — Southern."

"How so?"

"I don’t know, the tight t-shirts, the belts."

"Belts are out? No belts in the New York gay scene?"

"Well, of course belts are fine, if they’re the right belts. I’m actually not as snobby about clothing as you think I am, okay? I buy from chain stores."

Stan makes a mock horrified face. “How scandalous. Do your friends know?”

"I don’t have any friends," Kyle says, muttering, and he grabs for his drink when it comes.

"What?" Stan says, but Kyle is ordering.

"I’ll have that special, the bird’s nest," Kyle says. Stan pictures a bundle of sticks with baby birds chirping at the center. "With pastrami. What kind of bread do you use for the toast?"

"Wheat," the waiter says. He’s closer to their age, and cute. Stan checks to see if he’s wearing a belt, but he can’t tell. His t-shirt is hanging over his waistline.

"Wheat?" Kyle says, as if he expected a more flowery description. "Can I replace the toast with biscuits?"

"I could do one biscuit," the guy says, letting a hint of bitchiness creep into his tone. "In exchange for two pieces of toast."

"Fine," Kyle says, snapping his menu shut. Stan orders the hash brown omelette and a side of bacon, knowing Kyle will eat some of it.

"What do you mean about not having any friends?" Stan asks when the waiter is gone.

"Oh, don’t look so sad," Kyle says. "I was joking."

"You’re still my best friend," Stan says, and then he feels pathetic. "I mean — you know what I mean." Kyle looks wounded by this for some reason, or maybe just sad for him. Stan wonders who Kyle’s New York best friend is. Do they sleep together? Probably.

"Is it hot in here?" Kyle asks, fanning himself with the drink menu that the waiter left behind.

"A little," Stan says, though he’s perfectly comfortable. "So, um." Suddenly he can’t think of anything to say, and Kyle is quiet, too, looking fretful. All Stan can think about is the awful visual he had the night before, between Kyle’s legs, the way his ass looked when it was straining around all those clumsy fingers. Stan had felt like he had at least eight fingers on his right hand, last night. Lube everywhere, in vain.

"We should do something touristy after this," Kyle says. He’s already drained most of his Bloody Mary.

"Okay," Stan says, though he was hoping to go back to the apartment for better sex and a long afternoon of TV and cuddling. "What would you like to do?"

"Well. Isn’t the Margaret Mitchell house near here?" He says so as if he didn’t thoroughly research and plan this whole afternoon, starting with the gay brunch.

"Yeah," Stan says. "I’ve never been."

"Perfect. Let’s do that. Then we can go walk in the park or something."

"Alright," Stan says, though it’s disgustingly muggy out, and he doesn’t like any of the nearby parks. They seem so charmless compared to the parks out west, with mountains in the distance and wildlife everywhere. He knows that a city park is not that kind of park, but they still disappoint him. When his food comes, he orders a beer.

"You’re the best looking guy in here," Kyle says, whispering this over the table. "I’m so pleased."

"Um - thanks!" Stan decides not to mention that their waiter is at least comparable to him. He digs into the omelette, which is weird and soggy. Kyle’s ‘bird’s nest’ appears to be basically just a big pile of food, mostly potatoes, with two eggs on top.

"Oh, goddammit," Kyle says. "They gave me toast. I asked for a biscuit."

"Yeah, you did. Want to flag him down?"

"No, God, he was giving me such a look when I dared to ask about the bread. Supposedly part of the charm of this place is that everyone’s a dick. Or that they have dickish tendencies. Can I have a piece of that bacon?"

The meal is increasingly awkward as Stan sits there wondering if they should talk more about the fisting and what went wrong. Will Kyle expect him to try it again tonight? Probably not, since Stan has proven inadequate in that area. Even more troubling is the idea that Kyle wants a whole fucking fist up his ass. Why? How could it possibly feel good? He always feels so tight, to Stan.

When the plates are cleared, Kyle asks for a to go cup for his water, and proceeds to dump the remains of his third Bloody Mary into it. Stan finishes off his beer and grabs for the check when it comes.

"I’m treating," he says. "Since I’m your host."

"Fine," Kyle says, and he sips from his to go cup. "You seem well paid, anyway, for an intern."

"I’m still getting grant money for my research."

"You’re so impressive," Kyle says. He seems distraught about this. "All I do is write these stupid little articles."

"They’re not stupid," Stan says, though he hasn’t read them. He doesn’t like the haughty voice Kyle puts on when he writes nonfiction.

"They are, Stan. And I have roommates! At my age!"

"Lots of people have roommates in their twenties."

"You don’t."

"Rent is cheaper here! By far."

"That’s true," Kyle says, and he seems comforted by this. Stan leaves a good tip, though the service wasn’t great. Kyle gets out his phone and starts up a map program that will tell them how to walk to the Margaret Mitchell museum. Stan feeds the parking meter before they go.

"You actually have cash!" Kyle says. "Coins, even!"

"Will you stop acting like everything I do is so quaint?" Stan says, and that puts Kyle in a dark, quiet mood for the entire walk. He finishes his to-go Bloody Mary and pitches the cup into a trash can before they enter the museum, which is in an old house that Stan has noticed before, two stories with a manicured little lawn.

"This city smells," Kyle says. "Not that New York doesn’t, but this is an odd smell, on the streets here. Like decay. Or mildew."

"Hmm," Stan says. "I hadn’t noticed."

Inside the museum, they’re ushered into the gift shop to await the start of the next tour. The Gone With the Wind theme is playing overhead, and the place is cluttered with kitsch related to the movie, which is playing on a TV screen near the check out desk. Stan examines some Tara Plantation snow globes while Kyle scoffs at a themed cookbook, drawing the stares of a few old ladies who are circulating while awaiting the tour. So Kyle is drunk again: great. Stan kind of wishes he was, too. He’s only seen Gone with the Wind once, with Wendy, and she talked about how offensive it was the whole time. Stan fell asleep before the Intermission.

"Christ," Kyle says, coming over to Stan. "This place is dark."

"Do you want to leave?" Stan asks, though they’ve already bought tickets for the tour.

"No! I love it. It’s dark in a hilariously appropriate way. Jesus, look at these women." He seemed to be referring to the portly lady behind the register. "What if this was your life?"

"Don’t be mean," Stan says. Kyle turns to examine the snow globes. When the tour guide calls for the group to gather at the entrance to the main part of the house, Stan tugs on Kyle’s elbow. His stomach drops when Kyle turns to face him, his lip trembling. He looks like he’s about to burst into tears. "Dude?" Stan says, squeezing his arm. "You okay?"

"I just — I know I’m being mean." Kyle pinches his eyes shut and shakes his head. "No, Jesus, no. I’m not breaking down in the middle of the fucking Gone with the Wind gift shop.”

"What’s wrong?" Stan asks. "Do you want to go? It’s okay—"

"No," Kyle says, and his eyes are still red, but the imminent threat of sobs seems to have passed. He sniffles. "Let’s go, let’s do some fucking touring."

"You can make fun of these old ladies if you want," Stan says, confused. "I don’t really care."

"Yes, you do. You do, because you’re a good person. And I’m not. C’mon."

"Kyle—"

The whole tour group is staring at them, and Kyle seems determined to join them. He marches over to stand in the semi circle of women who are gathered around the tour guide.

Stan can’t pay attention to the tour, though he doubts it would interest him anyway. The rooms where Margaret Mitchell lived are small, full of antiques and replicas. Stan wanders around behind Kyle sheepishly, watching him touch things that they’ve been instructed to please not touch. Does Kyle really think he’s a bad person? Why? Stan wants to take him home and make sweet love to him for the remainder of the day. Extra sweet, to make up for those crammed-in fingers and the threat of a whole hand. He shudders, remembering it too vividly yet again.

Kyle is clearly fighting back tears for the entirety of the tour. Stan tries to comfort him with little touches to his back and brushes of his hand against Kyle’s. He figures the Margaret Mitchell museum has seen its share of tipsy gay men who’ve just come from brunch at Babs, so he might as well be obvious, but Kyle is not receptive to his touches, and won’t even look him in the eye.

"Are you mad at me?" Stan asks when they finally leave. He feels like they were in there for hours. Kyle groans and looks up at the sky.

"Jesus, Stan. Why would I be mad at you? I’m mad at myself."

"For making fun of a Gone with the Wind enthusiast?”

"No! Yes — I don’t know. It’s representative of how I am. How I’ve become. And I’m so fucking mean to you. I’m hideous."

"You’re beautiful," Stan says, pulling Kyle’s hip against his while they walk. "Don’t talk like that. It’s been a little tense between us, but that’s not your fault. I never should have tried to — put my hand in you."

"It was my idea!"

"Yeah. Why? I mean, can you explain to me what you like about it?"

"I’ve never actually done it!” Kyle says, giving him a scandalized look.

"Oh. So you just wanted to try it, um. With me, ‘cause you trust me?"

"No! Well, of course I trust you, but no. I don’t think — this is disgusting and childish, but I wanted to see what you would say. How far you would get with it before you called my bluff."

"Dude! That’s awful!"

"I know! Okay, I know. I was drunk. It was stupid. Let’s try to forget it."

"Why do you want me calling your bluff? You know I just want to give you everything you want. Um, in bed, I mean."

Kyle is silent in response to that, sniffling again. They reach the car, and Stan feels awkward once they’re closed inside it together. He wishes he knew what to say.

"I felt like such an idiot," he says once they’re on the road, headed back toward his apartment. "When I couldn’t do it."

"I’m sorry," Kyle says, and he sobs once. Stan reaches over to squeeze his thigh.

"It’s not your fault, Kyle. I’m just insecure. I — I wish — I wish you were my boyfriend, okay? I hate that you aren’t."

"I am, though!" Kyle says, and Stan turns to look at him, frowning.

"Huh?"

"I — we — I think of you as mine. I know you sleep with other people, and I do, too, but you’re — oh, Jesus. All this time I thought we were both just waiting until we lived in the same state again."

"I’ll probably be here for a while," Stan says, glumly. "And I know what you mean. Ugh, God, I just want to possess you."

"That makes me hard," Kyle says. He sounds glum, too. "Though fundamentally I of course object to the idea of being anyone’s possession."

"Of course."

"You just make it seem so appealing, the idea of being yours."

"I would treat you so right, Kyle."

Kyle groans in response to that, and Stan glances over to see him unsubtly kneading his crotch.

"What?" Kyle says, blushing. "You started it."

"I’m gonna take you up to my apartment," Stan says, reaching over to squeeze Kyle’s dick through his expensive-looking pants, "And I’m gonna take such good care of you. All night long, you’re gonna be mine, just mine."

"Your boyfriend," Kyle says, his voice a little squeaky with shame. "Say it, okay?"

"You’re my boyfriend."

Kyle moans and nods, lifting his hips, trying to fuck Stan’s hand. Stan gets honked at in his building’s parking garage for driving like an idiot, and he parks unevenly. As they jog for the elevator, laughing at themselves, he’s reminded of high school, how unrestrained they were at last, always in a hurry to get somewhere private and put their hands down each other’s pants. It feels that way again as soon as they throw themselves into Stan’s apartment, Stan kicking the door shut behind him, not even bothering to lock it. They end up half in the kitchen, half in the foyer, using olive oil for lube.

"You like that," Stan says, a lot, maybe too many times. It’s not a question, and he watches Kyle’s face, unblinking, while he drags his dick out slow and shoves it back in with a snap of his hips that makes them both grunt. "You like that, Kyle."

"Ahhh, I do, I really do, Stan—"

"I know you do. Who knows what Kyle likes?" This a weird sub-branch of dirty talk, but Kyle moans as if he approves.

"Stan does, hahh, only my Stan does."

"That’s right. Mhm-hmm, just like that, that’s what you like."

It might be the most nuts they’ve ever sounded during sex, but no one is around to hear them. When they’re done, breathing hard with their legs in the kitchen and the rest of them stretched into the small foyer, Kyle rolls against Stan and roots at his chest like a baby animal who needs coddling. Stan is so very good with baby animals. He entered college thinking he would be a vet, but he’s never been able to stomach the raw insides of anything, especially if it’s something cute and fragile that he loves.

"I feel oily," Kyle says.

"Well, sure. You’ve got oil, uh. All over your thigh and ass area."

Kyle snorts and grins up at Stan. “You’re the only person who ever truly made me enjoy that area,” he says. “Even when it’s an oily, come soaked mess.”

"We can shower," Stan says, not sure how else to respond.

"No, let’s bathe. That’s so much more – Stan, you know, I’m a writer."

"Yeah, I do know that."

"I don’t need – ah. I don’t need to be in New York in order to write for this magazine. I mean, I think they’d prefer that I stay there, because it’s the center of the universe and I’m supposed to know what goes on in the universe, centrally, and – fuck, from what I’ve seen so far, this city is an icky, weird, no public transportation nightmare, but. Shit, I don’t know if I’m trying to talk you into this or me out of it."

"How ‘bout this," Stan says. His mind is always uniquely clear after great sex, and this has only ever happened with Kyle. He’s come to the conclusion that there is just no great sex without Kyle. "How about you stay here for longer than a weekend. Try a week, or a month. If you miss New York and hate Atlanta, you can go back for a while. And then you can come back here."

"That’s so environmentally irresponsible."

"Kyle, somebody’s going to use the jet fuel. It might as well be you."

"Stan!" Kyle sits up, grinning, and attempts to fix his hair, getting oil and come into his curls in the process. "How unlike you to be so callous about the planet. And anyway, I can’t – I’d be wasting rent money on the apartment in New York while I turn into a roly poly here on your couch."

"How come you’d be a roly poly?"

"I don’t know – all the breakfast potatoes!"

"Dude, they totally have those in New York."

"Yeah, but not as – egregiously, I don’t know. Not in these portions, and no one takes me to brunch in New York anyway. Okay, no, I just – I need to wash this oil spill out of my ass before we continue this dialogue."

They take a bath together, bringing each other off again in the lukewarm water. Kyle falls asleep on Stan’s chest, leaning back against him, worn out. Stan holds Kyle and lets the water start to cool, wondering if they’ll talk more seriously about Kyle moving here when he wakes. It seems insane: Kyle, here, going to Lenox Mall and eating biscuits with gravy, melting in the heat, buying a car? Stan can’t see it, but then again: he’s picturing it, vividly, by the time Kyle wakes up and asks Stan what’s happening.

"You’re in the bath," Stan says. He sits up, pushing Kyle upright along with him, and tugs the drain open. "You fell asleep, but now you’re all clean. Ready to get out?"

"Ready," Kyle says, and Stan helps him to the bed, where Kyle sleeps for another two hours while Stan catches up on work-related email. Kyle has sent him an Outlook invite: REMINDER: Dinner at Bacchanalia, 8pm. Stan hasn’t tried this place yet, but he’s heard about it. He’s impressed that Kyle has done this much research, and it kind of seems like he knows the city better than Stan has managed to in almost a year here. Stan eats sandwiches from the Starbucks in his building lobby for about fifty percent of his meals, and sleeps through brunch on Sundays. Having Kyle here would make it different, though Stan suspects Kyle will want to flee sooner or later. It’s the magic of the two of them that they have fled, and fled, and fled, and clawed their way back together at every available interval.

Chapter Text

"Eric! ERIC!"

Cartman grits his teeth and keeps his eyes on his phone. He can hear Butters thundering toward him, racing across their British Lit classroom and breathing heavily. It's always something with this motherfucker, and if Butters wasn't such a good lay Cartman would have forbade him from speaking to him in public, which he maybe could have done anyway, if Butters hadn't developed an annoying streak of self respect around the time high school started. He comes to a panting halt and hurtles himself into the desk in front of Cartman's, grabbing Cartman's desk with both hands.

"Eric!" Butters says when Cartman continues staring at his phone. He's looking at Wendy's Facebook page. She went to brunch with her mother yesterday, and Cartman has been studying the pictures since he sat down. "Eric!" Butters says again, shaking his desk. "Something horrible has happened!"

"Oh, Christ, what?" Cartman puts the phone away and groans, grudgingly looking up at Butters. He's panicked, wide-eyed, but that doesn't mean shit. "Did you accidentally kill another moth?"

"Worse!" Butters moans and puts his head down on Cartman's desk. "Oh, Eric, it's awful. I just realized this morning that I'm a terrible, hateful person."

"Uh-huh. Took you this long to figure that out, huh?"

"Yes! Did you know?" Butters brings his hands to his mouth, curling both into fists. "Oh, but you couldn't have, because you don't know about all the fellas I've been with."

"All the feh -- oh, seriously? You're just now deciding that being an enormous slut makes you a bad person?"

"No, Eric, and you know I don't believe in that! I practice free love, or I thought I did."

"Ugh, god, don't call it that. I can't believe I've had my dick in the ass of such a hippie freak."

"That's the thing." Butters lets his arms drop to his sides and sighs glumly. "You're a real bastard to me most of the time, and I even let you enjoy the pleasures of my body."

"Eyuck, god, stop! Keep talking like this and you'll never enjoy the pleasures of my dick again, you hear?"

"Eric, hush up and listen to me." Butters moves closer and lowers his voice. "I've been so free with my sweet loving that I haven't kept track of it as good as I should have."

"I don't want to hear about your STDs, Butters. You didn't get them from me, I'm clean."

"It's not an STD!" It's--" Butters whimpers, looking like he might start crying. "It's racism," he says, whispering.

"Huh?"

"I was at the ice cream parlor yesterday--"

"Don't call it an ice cream parlor."

"Hush! I was at the ice cream shop, and in walked Token and Wendy."

"I don't want to hear about those assholes." Cartman is enraged at the mention of Wendy's boyfriend, as always. Cartman might enjoy porking Butters when he's bored, but Wendy is the one he should be with, and he's never stopped thinking so since she kissed him when they were eight.

"Seeing them kissing and holding hands and such got me thinking," Butters says. "I was thinking about how everyone else who's dated Wendy has also spent some intimate time with me at least once. Kenny, Kevin, even Stan - even you, Eric, if we count that one time she kissed you!"

"Shut the fuck up, Butters," Cartman says, wanting to kick his ass. Sadly, Butters is obsessed with MMA and UFC and all that quasi-homo extreme fighting shit, and though he's small he's quick, kind of insane when provoked, and weirdly good in a fight. Perhaps because of this, he goes on with his stupid story as if Cartman did not object.

"And that got me to thinking that it's not just Wendy's ex-boyfriends who I've been with, it's, well, everyone! Every boy in our year -- except one."

"Congratulations. I'll order you a cake with World's Biggest Slut in red frosting. Are you done?"

"No, I'm not done! While I was sitting there, thinking this, looking at Wendy and Token, I realized something that made me break into a cold sweat."

"Your ass is looser than the Grand Canyon? Yeah, that would make me sweat, too, if I were you." Actually, Butters' ass is satisfying and delightful, but he brings these comments on himself, really.

"I've never slept with Token!" Butters says, bellowing this so that three other kids who've shown up for class early turn to stare at them. "I've slept with all the boys except the one who just so happens to be black! Eric, I'm a racist and I didn't even know! I'm disgusting, I'm like -- I'm practically like you!"

Cartman opens his mouth to tell Butters that this is the stupidest fucking thing he's ever said for multiple reasons, including the fact that Token is not just the only black kid in their year but also the only guy who doesn't fuck other dudes out of preference or boredom, not to mention the fact that Butters getting with Kevin Stoley means he doesn't have some kind of white supremacist rectum, but then he reconsiders. There is something to be gained from his idiotic situation, perhaps.

"You're right, Butters," Cartman says, making his expression very grave. "My god. All this time, you were a huge racist."

"Oh, god, Eric! I feel awful!"

"As you should."

"Well, look who's talking, mister! I came to you with this because you're the biggest racist I know. I figured you could at least relate."

"Maybe, but I don't pretend to be all accepting and open-minded and shit. You've been living a lie, Butters. You were even lying -- to yourself."

"Jesus!" Butters covers his eyes again, moaning. More kids are beginning to file into the room as the start of class approaches. Cartman will have to make this quick.

"There's only one thing to be done," he says, withholding victorious laughter. "Unless you want to remain a racist in the memory of our classmates forever."

"What, Eric? What should I do?"

"Look into your heart. You know what you must do, Butters. That's right. You must sleep with Token Black before we graduate next month."

"You're right," Butters says, nodding slowly. "I know you're right, Eric. But what about Wendy? He's real devoted to her."

"You leave that to me," Cartman says, unable to suppress a smile. "You work on Token. Come over to my house after school and we'll formulate a plan."

"Oh-okay! You got it. Thanks, Eric. You might be a fellow racist, but you're still a good friend."

"Shut up, Butters."

After school, Cartman gives Butters a ride home in his beloved Buick, fucks him on the living room couch, then microwaves some ham and cheese Hot Pockets for them to enjoy up in his room. Butters sits on the bed next to Cartman and cuddles him a little while he chews his Hot Pocket. Cartman allows it, for the purpose his developing plan.

"That was real nice, Eric," Butters says. He sighs. "I suppose pretty soon you might be the only one in town who's willing to what-what in my butt, once word gets around that I'm racist scum."

"Not if our plan works, Butters."

"Oh boy! Wait, what's the plan?"

"For you to get Token in bed, asswipe!"

"Well, I know that much, but how am I supposed to do that? He probably hates me already, for excluding him."

"Relax. Let's not get ahead of ourselves." Cartman finishes his Hot Pocket and wipes his hands on Butters' t-shirt. "First of all, we need to review the process that got you here. Fetch me my sketchpad and a pen."

"Are you gonna draw me?" Butters asks, bringing the supplies from Cartman's desk.

"No, idiot, we're going to make notes on your history. I'm having a hard time believing that you've actually boned every guy in our class except Token. Tell me about it," he says, leaning back and assuming the posture of a psychologist, the sketchpad propped against his knee. He's aware of some of Butters' conquests, but throughout the day he's grown genuinely curious about the ones he's never heard about before, particularly if Butters is counting Kyle Broflovski as one of the boys he's fucked around with.

"Well, let's see." Butters touches his bottom lip and stretches out on the bed, propping himself up a bit with his elbow. "I guess I'll start from the beginning. As you know, I lost my virginity to Kenny."

"Yeah," Cartman says, mumbling this angrily. Though he's never felt especially possessive of Butters, it does annoy him that Kenny's unworthy dick was the first and only one in town to experience the virginal tightness of Butters' sought-after ass. "So I guess that means you're not prejudiced against poor white trash."

"Eric, don't call him that. Kenny was a wonderful partner! Such a nice kisser, too, my goodness. If Wendy hadn't stolen him away I might have stayed with him for a long time!"

"I don't want to hear about your romantic regrets," Cartman barks, annoyed by the mention of Wendy's interest in Kenny. "Who came next? Me?"

"You sure did. I was real lonely without Kenny around to see to my physical needs, and you wanted to lose your virginity--"

"Right." Cartman doesn't appreciate the reminder that Butters was his first. It was a Friday night, Cartman was about to turn sixteen and was horny as fuck pretty much nonstop, and Butters was eying his bulge while they watched some dumb movie, moping about how much he missed having a cock to ride. They've been fuck buddies ever since, and Cartman is growing concerned about how he'll live without this convenience in college. Butters is going to some gay hippie school up in Oregon, and Cartman hasn't been all that successful in persuading anyone else to sleep with him, like, ever.

"Then there was that time when Clyde was sad because some girls convinced him to go skinny dipping with them and then ran off with his clothes," Butters says. "He needed the kind of comfort only my rear end can give."

"Goddammit, Butters." Cartman is partly jealous that Butters has all this experience, but the kid is still a sick fuck for letting literally any guy unload in his ass. "Then what?"

"Hmm, let's see. Well, I guess after that was around the time I had that threesome with Stan and Kyle."

"WHAT?" Cartman drops his sketchpad, sneering in disbelief. "Don't lie to me, Butters."

"I ain't, Eric! Kyle wanted to give Stan a present for his seventeenth birthday, and I guess Stan is bi, so Kyle dolled me up like a lady."

"Jesus fucking Christ. And they -- they both?" Cartman is equally jealous and disgusted by the thought of being in the middle of those two.

"Yeah, it was real fun! Until Kyle started crying, but he was okay in the end."

"The Jew cried?" Cartman is almost aroused by this - almost. "Why?"

"Well, gosh, I couldn't really understand why, to tell you the truth. Things were going well, Kyle was fucking me while Stan fucked him, we were all having a big old time, but then after he came in my ass Kyle got teary and locked himself in the bathroom for a while. Stan talked him out of there, though, and they hugged and thanked me for giving it a try. They never did invite me back, though, which is a real shame."

"A real -- you liked it? Kyle's dick was in your butt and you liked it?" Cartman feels kind of betrayed, though still partially aroused.

"Sure! His equipment wasn't anything special - not like Kenny's, mhmm - but it was nice to be in the presence of true love."

"True love, right. True love is all about skanky cross dressing threesomes."

"Why shouldn't it be? It's nice that they want to try new things together! Don't be so cynical, Eric."

"Fuck off, I'll be as cynical as I please. Enough about those dildos. Who came next?"

Butters sighs and leans down to rest his head on his folded arm, drawing his knees up toward his chest. Cartman considers fucking him again, still a bit hard from the thought of Kyle plowing Butters in drag while getting plowed by Stan.

"After that came the summer," Butters says. He's avoiding Cartman's eyes now, staring into space. "That was when I was with Craig."

"Craig? What'd you do, fuck him at the community pool or something?"

"Oh - no, we never did it there."

"You did it with him more than once?"

"Uh-huh. That was when you were in Aurora for a few weeks, at young entrepreneurship camp."

"That camp was totally lame."

"Well, my summer was pretty darn good. Craig -- he's different."

Cartman scoffs. "I'll say. He's so boring he's practically comatose. Did he even speak when you two were going at it? I've always assumed he would fuck in grim silence."

"We talked," Butters says. He goes quiet until Cartman extends his leg across the mattress and gives him a kick. "What -- oh, yeah. Craig. We had sex. Uh-huh."

"Why are you getting all weird? Did he dump you or something?"

"Nah."

"Butters, I need full disclosure if our plan is going to work."

"Oh, Eric. Well, to tell you the truth, you came home from camp all raring to go, and I was pretty excited about that -- you remember?"

"Sure, sure." Cartman feels his neck get hot. It was true that he'd missed Butters terribly during his three weeks away -- his ass, anyway. He'd gotten hard on the bus ride home, just thinking about sinking his cock into those sweet, welcoming cheeks again. Butters had been all giggly and flattered by Cartman's masculine need for him, and he'd spread his legs for Cartman until sundown. It was so good that Cartman hadn't even limited Butters' attempts to kiss and cuddle him. "Wait a minute," he says. "If you were so into Craig at the time, why'd you let me fuck you? Especially with all that snuggling bullshit on the side?"

Butters sighs. "I'm a sex addict, Eric," he says.

"Oh. Right."

"When Craig found out, he was real hurt. But it's fine," Butters says, hurriedly. "I'm just not designed to stick with one person. I know that now. Anyhoo." He sits up, looking kind of gloomy for a moment, but as usual with this dimwit he's perked up again in a few seconds. "Next was Jimmy, I think. Or maybe Dog Poo?"

"Jimmy? DOG POO? What the fuck!"

"I told you I'd slept with everyone but Token, Eric! Well, and Timmy, but I don't really think he could consent--"

"Sick! Just -- what the hell? Jimmy is straight!"

"I know, but when he realized how many of his friends are bisexual he decided to give it a shot himself. And I was happy to be the shot he gave!"

"Jimmy Vulmer fucked you in the ass? How does that even work, like - mechanically?"

"He didn't want my butt involved, actually. I gave him a good old fashioned blow job, and he said thanks but that he preferred getting those from the ladies after all."

"You're blowing my fucking mind, Butters. What about Dog Poo? Don't even tell me you let that filthy hippie put his wiener where mine has been!"

"Well, if you say so."

"You did, didn't you? Jesus, sick! Did his rancid body odor make you vomit halfway through? Or throughout?"

"I won't lie," Butters says, as if he even knows how to, "His scent was pretty overwhelming at times."

"Then why'd you fucking put out for him? Don't tell me it's 'cause you're a goddamn sex addict - even a sex addict won't fuck a garbage can for no good reason."

"He's not a garbage can, Eric, he's a human being! And I'll have you know that I did not get penetrated by him, so you can stop making assumptions about my sex life. We were just talking, is all, about our parents and how they don't treat us so good. I reached over to gently touch his crotch, and he was kind enough to return the favor. It was a real nice hand job exchange, even with the smell."

"Ugh, god." Cartman checks his bedstand for a glass of water, the Hot Pocket taste suddenly rancid in his mouth, but his bedside Wellington Bear glass is empty. He picks it up and tosses it to Butters. "Go to the bathroom and fill that a quarter full with mouthwash," Cartman says, waving his hand toward the door. "Hurry up. You're making me ill with this shit."

"Well, you asked, mister!" Butters thrusts the glass back at Cartman, who gasps and hurries to catch it before it can break.

"What the fuck, asshole! This is a childhood heirloom! Don't throw my shit!"

"Then don't treat me like I'm your servant! Go get your own darn mouthwash!"

"Yeah? Oh yeah? Well, maybe you can come up with a plan to seduce Token on your own, asshole!"

"Maybe I can! Seems like I did okay with the rest of the class. Better than you!"

"I will not stand for his backtalk, Butters, not when you're a guest in my house!" Cartman is sort of flailing, wishing he hadn't taken up this particular argument, because now Butters is stomping toward the door, some of his conquests still undisclosed. "Wait!" Cartman shouts when Butters reaches for the doorknob. He turns back to the bed, scowling, and Cartman snarls at him. "We're not finished here," Cartman says, jabbing his finger against his notepad. "There are still two names on my list that aren't checked off."

"Then maybe you should go ahead and apologize," Butters says, having the nerve to look smug, which should be impossible after an afternoon spent taking dick and then reminiscing about all the dick he's indiscriminately taken over the years. "Go on," Butters says when Cartman fidgets. "Say you're sorry, then I'll tell you about Tweek and Kevin."

"Tweek," Cartman mutters, disgusted by the thought of Tweek's bony blond limbs tangling with Butters' slightly less bony ones. He sketches a quick picture of Butters' stupid face on his notepad, then draws an arrow through his head, which totally means that this forthcoming apology is fake, for the purposes of espionage only. "I'm sorry," he mumbles. "Now get your ass back over here, and at least tell me you topped that cokehead chihuahua."

"You mean Tweek?" Butters says. He's toying with the door knob but has obviously decided to stay. "Oh, no, he was on top of me. He's a strange guy, I agree, but he was real polite, except he did offer me forty dollars."

"Forty -- you didn't take it, did you? You know what that would make you, Butters."

"Eric, check your privilege! I got nothing but respect for sex workers! But I don't like muddying the free love waters with financial gain, so I said no thank you to the forty bucks and let Tweek lose his virginity with me for free. He was worried he'd die a virgin, see."

"Christ, and he would have if he didn't know you. You're a real humanitarian, Butters."

"You can just cool it with that sarcastic tone, Eric." Butters sighs and glances at the clock on Cartman's bedside table. "Look, I gotta go home and start making dinner for my folks soon. If I tell you about Kevin will you go ahead and give me a plan for Token?"

"Sure, sure. Kevin seems like such a limp dick, you must have at least topped him."

"No sir, I didn't. This was just a couple of weeks ago, on the night of the senior prom. Kevin didn't have a date, and I didn't have one either. It was making me real sad, considering I've shared all these intimate moments with folks but nobody wanted to slow dance with me."

"Uh huh." Cartman didn't have a date either, and he stayed home getting drunk on his mom's S'mores Schnapps and crying over Facebook pictures of Wendy pinning a boutonnière on Token's jacket. So what; it's not like he wanted to go with Butters, or Kevin for that matter. Stan and Wendy were prom King and Queen. Fucking assholes.

"So I noticed Kevin was online and thought, hey, why not strike up a conversation? We decided to go get some cheese fries together, and one thing led to another."

"Jesus. Did you fuck him behind the dumpster at Sonic or wait until he brought you back to his pathetic fanboy headquarters?"

"Eric, I've had about enough of your judgment, understand? Either tell me the plan for making things right with Token or I'm gonna have to leave this negative environment."

"This negative -- Jesus, you didn't mind my fucking negativity when my dick was up your ass."

"That wasn't negative, it was beautiful lovemaking!"

"Eugh, no it wasn't! Okay, okay!" Cartman throws the notebook down when Butters turns the doorknob like a threat, glaring at him. "Fine, alright. Token. Uh, let's see. What do we know about Token. Well, he's black, so--"

"Don't you even finish that sentence, mister. I don't want to hear your racist generalizations. I got enough problems with my own latent racism over here."

"Latent racism?" Cartman narrows his eyes. "Check your privilege? Sex workers? Who have you been talking to? Wendy?"

"I've been educating myself in certain online communities, and I'm not gonna tell you which ones, because I don't want you trolling them. Really, Eric, what do you think? Should I approach Token and tell him how I feel, straight up?"

"No, god! Token is a repressed bisexual." Like Cartman, Butters believes that everyone is bisexual at heart. "You can't just cannonball into this situation with your dick out. You've got to be smooth. Get him alone. Like how you managed to seduce Kevin because it was prom night, or Clyde because he was naked and had recently been emasculated by females. What we need is a similar opportunistic scenario where Token will be vulnerable to your inviting butthole's charms."

"Don't call it that," Butters says, and he wrinkles his nose. Cartman sputters and throws out his arms.

"What would you prefer? Anus? Sphincter? Wrinkled pucker?"

Butters giggles as if each of these words is funnier than the last, shaking his head.

"I call it my inner channel," he says, and he frowns when Cartman bursts into laughter.

"As opposed to your outer channel?" Cartman says, laughing so hard he nearly falls off the bed. "Inner -- inner channel, oh my god -- no, wait, Butters! Wait!"

The door is open now, Butters halfway through it and glowering as fiercely as he can, which is not very.

"Okay, I'm sorry." Cartman clears his throat, trying very hard to stop laughing. This is serious, dammit; it might be his one chance to unseat Token from Wendy's boyfriend throne before she leaves for college. Token is bound and determined to act like he's super straight, but even if he turns Butters down, Cartman can make it look like he didn't. "Just leave it to me," Cartman says, because he doesn't have a plan yet, but he needs Butters to think he does. Fortunately, Butters is the more gullible than most pre-schoolers. "I'll come up with the perfect opportunity for you to get in Token's pants."

"Gosh, Eric, I'd sure appreciate it," Butters says, his expression softening instantly. "It's gonna keep me up at night, knowing I denied a friend access to my body on account of his skin color." Butters moans regretfully and grabs at his hair like suddenly he's Tweek or something.

"Don't worry, Butters. I've got your back. Pretty soon you'll satisfying Token so well you'll be eligible for an NAACP award."

"Eric." Butters shakes his head. "You know, you gotta stop talking like that before you go to college. Someone's gonna beat the crap out of you."

"Like I've never gotten beat up by a black guy before."

Token has pummeled him twice this year alone, though both times it was for comments Cartman made about Wendy, not Token himself. Butters sighs and neatens the hair he'd been rending.

"You got a lot to learn about life, friend," Butters says. "But I know you're an expert on manipulating people, so I'm gonna need your help with this indeed. Just keep in mind that I'm manipulating for good!"

"Sure, Butters, of course. Now get the hell out of here, I've got plans to make."

When Butters is gone, Cartman beats off to the thought of Butters getting fucked by Clyde, who pops into the scenario without Cartman's permission. When he's finished, he imagines himself comforting Wendy, who is crying because Token betrayed her with Butters.

"There, there," Cartman mutters, stroking his pillow. "Cry on the shoulder of thy noble knight, Princess Wendy. Never again shall the filthy peasants of this realm shatter thy heart with homo affairs behind thy back."

"Eric?"

That's his stupid mom, knocking on the door like she owns the place. Cartman turns from his pillow, red-faced and glaring at the door.

"What, Mom, Jesus?"

"Is your little friend staying for dinner?"

"I -- no, he -- Butters left. I'm rehearsing for a school play, god!"

"Ooh, okay! Well, dinner's ready when you are!"

Downstairs, Cartman eats four steak tacos with extra cheese and contemplates his options for a Token on Butters romantic scene. There's locking them together in the school after hours, but that's too expected. A camping trip gone wrong might do the trick, especially if they were led to believe that they were in a life or death situation, but that just sounds like a lot of work, and weather variables would be involved. Cartman pulls out his phone when it buzzes with a new notification. Wendy has updated her Facebook status.

Wendy Testaburger Just bought tickets to see The Lion King in Denver! Can't wait!

Cartman smiles down at the screen, plans formulating. So she's trying to drag Token to some fruity musical in the city, eh? Paying for the tickets to things like this herself, instead of waiting for him to surprise her? Now is the perfect time to strike, and, after a glance at the Lion King performance schedule online, Cartman knows the exact day to enact Operation Get Wendy Back. It's been ten long years in the making and at last he's ready, all thanks to Butters and his consuming need to open his Inner Channel to every boy in town.

Step One, minor though important: Cartman "likes" Wendy's status. As it so often happens, he's the first person to do so.

*

At school the next day, Cartman scouts the cafeteria and is pleased to find Token sitting with Stan, Clyde and the other football players. Kyle's presence at the table is a liability, but Token will be more relaxed and bro-ish in the company of his teammates, and that atmosphere should cancel out Kyle's shrewish bitching. Kyle's catty dislike of Wendy may actually prove valuable, if Cartman plays his cards right here.

“Gentlemen!” Cartman says, placing his tray at the end of the table and pulling up a chair as if he can take it for granted that he's welcome. He knows before they all turn to give him stares of dull surprise that he's not, but fuck these guys: they can go ahead and think he's an oblivious fucker if it distracts them from the fact that they're all part of his larger plan. “How's it going over here?” Cartman asks. He tears open his Doritos and eats a few of them before answering his own question. “Yeah, my day's going pretty good. Except for my mom giving me a hard time about going to some gay ass play with her in Denver.”

“You should probably stop using gay as an insult,” Kyle says, doing his best to sound bored. “Since you and Butters are having anal sex on a regular basis.”

“There's nothing gay about two men having anal sex, Kyle,” Cartman says, gesturing at him with a chip. “Not the way I do it to Butters, anyway. I don't know what kind of candlelit, Liberace shit goes on between you and Mr. Quarterback here, but—”

“Cartman,” Stan says. “What do you want?”

“Want? Why do you assume I want something? Other than friendly conversation and a place to sit while I consume my afternoon meal.”

“That's your tell,” Kyle says, pointing back. “Whenever you're plotting you start to phrase shit weirdly. 'Consume my afternoon meal' as opposed to 'eat lunch,' for example.”

“Ooh, Professor Broflovski is on the case! I'm flattered that you've been examining my mannerisms so closely, Kyle, though I can't say I'm surprised—”

“What play does your mom want you to go to?” Token asks, ever the peace-keeper. It takes a lot of effort for Cartman to suppress a gloating grin: the predictable bastard is playing right into his hands.

“The fucking Lion King, man,” Cartman says. “Jesus, why are they still doing that play in this day and age? That movie came out when I was like, five.”

“It's different,” Kyle says. “It's actually a good production. Stan and I went for Valentine's Day.”

“Ugh, god,” Cartman says, glancing at Stan, who is staring back like he dares Cartman to comment on that. “Chicks, am I right? Token, I saw on Facebook that your little lady is trying to drag you to that shit, too.”

“Oh, I'm a chick because I like Disney stuff,” Kyle says before Token can respond. “And Cartman's totally butch, despite his well-documented cross dressing habits.”

“Kyle, please, I was—”

“And tea parties!” Kyle shouts. Stan puts a hand on his shoulder.

“I was a confused child!” Cartman says, only getting a little red. He still dresses up on occasion. Sometimes Butters joins him, and apparently Butters is in the habit of kissing and telling. It's possible that Kyle knows all about their girls-in-prison role plays, despite the fact that Cartman has threatened castration if Butters spills his secret. “Anyway,” Cartman says loudly, turning back to Token. “Seems like Wendy's dragging you to see this dated lion musical. Sucks, dude. That's why I'm keeping my dick strictly in male asses until my child-siring years, despite the temptation of feminine charms.”

“Uh,” Token says, laughing a little. “I really don't mind going. It's her thing, but she bought the tickets. And Kyle says it's great,” he adds. Clyde snorts, and Cartman appreciates that. He'd forgotten Clyde was present; he's very intently eating his cafeteria tortellini.

“God,” Kyle says. “I can't wait to be in college. You guys are so small-minded that something as mainstream as the fucking Lion King musical threatens you.”

“I'm not threatened,” Stan says, rubbing Kyle's shoulder now.

“Me either,” Token says.

“Well,” Clyde says, wiping marinara from the corner of his mouth. “You two are both whipped.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Kyle says. “Mr. Lonelyhearts. You're just bitter.”

“Whipped is a misogynistic term,” Token says, frowning.

“Yeah,” Stan says. “Don't be like Cartman, dude.”

“Listen to you two!” Cartman says, crushing his Doritos bag in his fist. “It's like Wendy is leading a cult of pussy that's devastated the football team. Well, Wendy and Kyle, the human vagina. No wonder you're losing all your games.”

“Why are we allowing him to sit here?” Kyle asks, looking pointedly at Stan, who shrugs.

“Token, look,” Cartman says, leaning toward him. He's only partly discouraged when Token leans away a bit. “It's too late for Stan. We all know that. Kyle's ability to pussy whip is beyond anything an actual possessor of female genitalia could muster—”

“Alright,” Stan says, getting up. “You're gone.”

“But for you there's still time!” Cartman grabs the table and tries to hang on while Stan yanks him out of his chair. “Token, I – listen, man, I care about you! This Lion King shit is emblematic of the exhausting demands of women, am I right? I am in the unique position to offer you a preview experience of the relaxing alternative of fucking a submissive male, via the pleasures of Butters Stotch's ass!”

“Jesus,” Token says, frowning more deeply. “What's wrong with you?”

“You really have to ask?” Kyle says. “You've known him all your life!”

"Butters thinks you're hot!" Cartman says, still struggling against Stan's attempts to physically eject him from the table. Cartman is a very large obstacle to maneuver, but Stan has arm muscles and shit. "He's a no strings attached miracle! Best lay I've ever had, and it can all be yours for one amazing night!"

"He's the only lay you've ever had," Kyle says.

"Stop pimping your boyfriend," Stan says, and, perhaps due to the shock of having Butters referred to as his boyfriend, Cartman loses his footing, allowing Stan to fling him across the cafeteria and away from the table. Laughter follows, but Cartman leaves feeling triumphant, though he didn't get to finish his ham sandwich. No matter: the seed has been planted. Whether Token considers the offer seriously or not, there were many witnesses. Now he's just got to work on the secret, actual mission here.

Fortunately, he's memorized Wendy's schedule and knows exactly where she is right now.

*

Since she's a senior and a chronic over-achiever, Wendy has already completed most of the course load needed to graduate and has a shortened school day during this, her final semester of high school. Unlike any sane person, she's not using the free time to go home early, masturbate and watch TV. Instead, she's been volunteering with various projects around school, such as the stupid community garden that grows dirty, yellowed lettuce and anemic little carrots that are approximately the size of Kyle's dick, among other totally unappetizing things. The garden is the most pointless, idealistic hippie piece of crap that anyone could possibly waste their time on, so of course Wendy spends at least an hour a day weeding and watering and fucking around self-importantly between the rows of gross vegetation.

"Ey, Testaburger!" Cartman shouts when he spots Wendy among the other seniors who are on their knees in the dirt. Craig and Millie are working alongside her, though not voluntarily. Craig was assigned to garden duty because of chronic truancy, and Millie was drunk and belligerent at senior prom.

All three of them look up and glare at Cartman as he approaches. Undeterred, he stomps his way into the middle of the garden, brushing aside tomato plants.

"Careful!" Wendy says. "Eric, goddammit! You're stepping on things."

"I am not!" Cartman quivers, privately, for a moment: he likes it when she calls him Eric. "Look, Jesus. There's nothing under my feet but dirt."

"What do you want?" Millie asks. "Were you hoping to steal some food?"

"Psssh, you call this shit food?" Cartman touches the leaf of a tomato plant. He likes the smell it leaves behind on his fingers, because it reminds him of the hippie-ish reek of Wendy, which he is very unfortunately attracted to. It's as inexplicable as his lifetime of throbbing erections for that gaywad Butters: the dick wants what it wants. "No, fuck your vegetables," he says. "I'm here to pass along some sensitive information. Wendy, I'm afraid it concerns your philandering boyfriend. May we speak in private, perhaps?"

"No," she says. "We may not. Is this going to be your eighty-fifth attempt to convince me that Token is cheating on me? Because you think I'm going to start trusting your worthless word any day now?"

"Eighty -- I haven't -- that was just a few times, okay, and you know he still has feelings for Nicole! Their connection is very deep, Wendy. Primal, you might say. You and I wouldn't understand."

"Oh, fuck off." Wendy waves her hand through the air and turns back to her baby carrots. "I don't have time for your crap right now, Eric."

Bolstered by this second use of his Christian name, Cartman moves closer and squats down beside Wendy. She's frowning down at the carrots she's watering, certainly perturbed by what Cartman has suggested about Token and Nicole, if only subconsciously. Now for the one-two punch.

"It's not about Nicole this time," Cartman says, speaking more quietly while Wendy pretends to ignore him. "No, I'm afraid it's -- much worse."

"Uh-huh. Great, I'll be sure to grill him later. Now, please--"

"As you know," Cartman says, glancing at Craig, who is pruning a jalapeño plant. "The boys in our school have a certain condition. You might even call it contagious. Speaking as a virile alpha male, even I haven't been exempt."

"Oh, is this your theory that there's gay in the water in South Park? Fantastic. I haven't heard this a thousand times."

"There is gay in the water, though," Millie says. "Or the air," she says, looking up at the clouds. "All the guys here--"

"I don't want to hear it, Millie," Wendy says. "You guys are bigots. It's just a coincidence. People are born gay, or bisexual, or whatever. It's not a fucking poison."

"I don't know, Wendy," Cartman says. "Token was saying some strange things about Butters this afternoon at lunch. And we all know Leopold Stotch was patient zero in the gay epidemic."

"He totally was," Millie says, and Wendy glares at her.

"Millie! No."

"Yes," Cartman says, nodding gravely. "Yes, Wendy, and now he's set his infectious sights on the last remaining holdout. And Token seems mighty interested."

"Eric," Wendy says, so gently that Cartman is taken aback. She places her hand on his shoulder and he starts to sweat. "Honey," she says, softly. "You're not a good liar. Nobody believes anything you say. Just stop, okay? Stop."

"Wh-- no, I -- what? Pff, okay! Okay, Wendy, yeah, sure, I'm just lying, not trying to, to -- warn you--"

"Leave Butters out of it."

Cartman whirls around to look at Craig, who is holding the pruning clippers somewhat menacingly.

"Excuse me?" Cartman says, and he stands. He might not have arm muscles, but he's big enough to throw a tall, wide shadow over willowy Craig.

"Whatever you're doing," Craig says. "Leave Butters out of it, I said."

Craig stands, and Cartman remembers that he's tall, too, though also so fucking skinny that he looks like a cancer patient. Craig isn't scary, even with a sharp object in his hands. He always looks kind of half-dead, and today is no exception.

"You're telling me -- you're telling me what to do with Butters?" Cartman laughs and takes a step toward Craig, pushing through the line of tomato plants. "Uh-huh, okay. And on what authority, Craig, do you get to say anything about him? Huh? I'm the one who owns him, as I'm sure you know. You might have stuck your dick in the kid -- who hasn't! -- but he's my lackey, and he comes running when I say so, you got that?"

"No," Craig says, expressionless. "I don't got that."

"Guys," Wendy says. "If you're going to fight over Butters, please don't do it in the middle of my garden. You're going to knock shit over."

"You hear that, Craig?" Cartman says. "Wendy wants us to take this fight elsewhere. You want to step over into the soccer field, let me break your bones until you get what I'm saying about Butters?"

"No," Craig says. Cartman waits for more, perhaps some kind of threat involving the clippers, and he scoffs when nothing comes.

"Okay, pussy," Cartman says, wondering how this sidebar will factor into his plan to get Wendy back, which is spiraling quickly out of control. "I guess, uh. You admit defeat, then. Again! Kinda like that summer when Butters left your limp-wristed ass for me, a real man."

"You're not a real man."

"Oh no? Then how come Butters is still with me, huh? And not you?"

"Okay, this is going to a really weird place," Wendy says. "Guys--"

"Shut up," Millie says. "This is great."

"I'm leaving," Craig says, tossing the clippers down. "You people are awful."

"Me?" Wendy says. "What did I do?"

Craig doesn't answer, just walks away looking defeated. Cartman would shout further insults after him, but he doesn't want to look crass in front of Wendy, or like he cares too much about Butters.

"Look," he says to her, holding up his hands. "You've just witnessed firsthand the kind of mayhem Butters' ass can cause between two otherwise reasonable men. It's a powerful force, Wendy. Don't underestimate its appeal, or overestimate Token's ability to restrain himself once it's on offer. Because it totally is."

"Cartman--"

"Ask Butters, if you don't believe me! I think you'll find that he's extremely eager to have Token's junk up in his guts as soon as possible."

"Jesus, stop it!"

"As soon as possible, Wendy," Cartman says, walking backward and trying to make his expression appropriately grim. "As soon. As possible. He'll stop at nothing."

"Get the hell out of here!" Wendy says, and Cartman goes, pleased that he was finally able to rile her.

Now seed two has been planted. All he has to do is add water and watch his diabolic plantings grow.

*

After school, Cartman summons Butters to his house via text:

Get ur sweet ass over here asap :P

The emoticon indicates he'll eat Butters out, which he might not actually do, though he is in a good mood and it could happen in the heat of the moment. He's definitely going to give Butters a good, hard fucking, and he'll then let Butters do all the cuddling he wants, because he has proved, once again, to be a surprisingly valuable asset. When Cartman's phone dings he assumes it's a text saying Butters is on his way.

I can't right now, Eric. But thanks for the invite!

Yes you can. Right now. Get over here >:(

The angry face indicates a potential nipple torture session, which Butters actually likes, but it's still an incentive to get moving. Cartman is breathing hard, beginning to panic a little when another text arrives.

It's really not a good time, I'm sorry! Later, maybe

Get over here or your not my fuck buddy anymore

You know I don't like that term, mister >:(

When Butters sends an angry emoticon, it doesn't indicate the promise of nipple torture. Cartman has no idea what it indicates, because Butters has never dared to send him one before. He's typing a furious response, breathing harder now, when he gets another message from Butters:

I'm turning my phone off for awhile. Bye!

"Butters!" Cartman shouts, and then he feels like an idiot, because he didn't mean to say that out loud. Instead of sending another enraged text, he forces himself to take a deep, calming breath and activates the GPS search option that he's installed on Butters' phone. Butters thinks he can play hard to get all of a sudden? Fine, that's fine. Cartman will just have to drag him away from whatever he's doing, take him home for an erotic spanking, then firmly and verbally establish the rules of their previously unspoken understanding.

It's not the first time he's investigated Butters' whereabouts by activating the phone's GPS, but he's never been so worked up as he makes his way there. Previously, he was just bored and looking for something to do, a potential locale outside of his house where he could surprise and seduce Butters. This is different: this is serious. Butters might spoil everything that Cartman has carefully set in place for his Wendy plan if he decides he's a free agent all of a sudden.

The GPS leads Cartman to the wooded area between City Hall and the main street shops, far enough from the road that the sound of passing cars is only faintly audible. Cartman hears voices up ahead and quietly creeps toward the clearing that they're coming from, wondering if he's going to come upon Butters in the midst of some tryst with another boy. If he's lucky, Token will be balls deep in Butters when Cartman finds him. He readies his camera phone, just in case. He's disappointed when he draws closer, keeping low and out of sight, and hears only conversation, not grunted sex noises or Butters' pleasured whimpering.

"You just don't understand," Butters says, his voice shaking a little. He sounds frightened, upset. If he's about to be assaulted, Cartman will spring out and save him, thereby earning Butters' trust and loyalty for good: that would be ideal. "Heck," Butters says, and he sniffles. "Even I don't understand it half the time."

"But I do understand."

Craig. Cartman resists the urge to spring up from his hiding place and shout his ownership of Butters at Craig again, furious. He has to stay cool, for now. He should wait and see how this plays out.

"You do?" Butters says, softly. From between the fronds of the juniper bush Cartman is hidden behind, he can see Butters' fists pressing nervously together.

"I think so," Craig says. "Remember, uh. How we used to talk about how our parents are dicks to us?"

"Oh -- shoot, I don't know if I said that, maybe I did when I was sore at my dad for some thing or another--"

"Butters. They're dicks. They're not nice to you. Mine are like that, too. It can lead to intimacy issues."

Cartman barely contains a disbelieving snort. Craig clearly has no idea how to seduce Butters, if that's what he's playing at. Talk of 'intimacy issues' isn't going to make anyone wet. Butters wants to be thrown down and dominated. Being told to shut up and suck some dick makes him hard. Has Craig even met Butters? Let alone fucked him?

"Intimacy issues?" Butters says. "I don't think I have those, Craig. I enjoy sharing my body with friends."

"Friends, sure. And people like Cartman who don't have any depth. Or Stan and Kyle, who treated you like a party favor."

"Hey, now! That's not fair, that was--"

"I'm talking about emotional intimacy. I'm not good at it myself. But with you. That summer. That was different."

"That summer -- ah, hell, Craig!" Now Butters is pulling at his hair with both hands, turning away from Craig, who has surely blown it. "Why are you bringing this up now? It hurts my heart to think about how I treated you."

"Yeah. It hurts mine, too."

"Craig--"

"Look. Earlier, Cartman mentioned it. So you told him. About us."

"Eric? Oh, yeah, we were discussing it recently. I was saying how I'd slept with everyone in our grade except Token, and how lousy that makes me feel."

"It makes you feel lousy?"

"Yeah, because I left Token out on account of his skin color! I didn't mean to, but I've got all this internalized racism, seems like."

"Maybe, but that's not why you didn't sleep with Token. He's straight."

"Well, fine, but so is Jimmy, and I gave him a blow job that time."

"Jimmy's just obsessed with getting his rocks off however he can. Always has been. Token's not like that. He loves Wendy. He has since fourth grade."

"What about Nicole? Token dated her for a while!"

"Yeah, because Wendy was with Stan, or Kenny, or something. Token and Nicole only ended up together because Cartman is an evil sociopath who wants to manipulate everyone into doing what he wants. Like how he's convinced you that you're a sex addict who should put out whenever anybody says so."

"That's not true!" Butters grunts and runs at Craig, lifting his fists as if he's going to pummel him. Craig catches Butters' wrists and pulls him close. Cartman is grinding his teeth, torn between breaking up this scene and waiting to see how it's going to end. "You're mean!" Butters says, starting to cry. "Saying that about me!"

"I'm not saying it about you, I'm saying it about him. You didn't do anything wrong. It's okay to have a lot of sex, if that's what you want. I guess I'm just jealous, because. Yeah."

"Because 'yeah'?"

Butters sniffles. Cartman tries to get a better angle to see what's going on: they're standing together, sort of hugging.

"Because I liked it when you were just with me," Craig says, mumbling. "That summer. Then Cartman came back and Iago'd you again."

"Iago'd me?"

"It's from Othello -- never mind."

Craig lets go of Butters and walks away. Cartman starts to stand, wanting to clap his hands and point to his feet so that Butters will come running back and resume his place, but Butters runs to Craig. He throws himself onto Craig's back with a whine, hugging him from behind.

"I'm so sorry," Butters says, his voice just a pained little squeak. "That was so bad of me, going back to him, but, but -- maybe it did scare me, Craig! Our, um, intimacy. It's easier with Eric 'cause it's not real, and he treats me like I'm used to. Like my dad treats me, like a servant."

"Maybe that's what you like," Craig says, motionless in Butters' grip. Cartman nods to himself: yep. Now Craig is getting it.

"No," Butters says, very softly. "I liked it with you."

"Yeah?" Craig sighs. "Why?"

"I liked how you put that aloe stuff on my back when I got sunburned. And how you washed my hair that time we took a shower together. And the way you kissed me, like you weren't in any hurry to get to something else. And you told me stuff, honest stuff like how my flip flops were ugly, but it wasn't mean. You took me shopping for some better ones."

"I didn't buy you better flip flops. Nobody east of the Pacific islands should wear flip flops, even in a hick town in the summer. I bought you boat shoes."

"I still wear them!"

"I know. And you wear them with the wrong pants, always."

"Oh, shoot. Craig, I'm sorry."

"God." Craig sighs again and turns to face Butters. "I just." He reaches for Butters, then pulls his hand back, both of his arms dangling at his side in their usual corpse-like way. "I just want to take care of you," he says, mumbling. "It's dumb."

"It's not dumb," Butters says. The tears are flowing freely now, his face all wet. Cartman's knees are starting to hurt, but he's still not sure how to interrupt this scene. He withholds a groan when Craig reaches up to dry Butters' cheeks with his thumbs.

"I can't stand the way he talks about you," Craig says.

"He -- who?"

"Cartman. He's vile."

"He's just a sad old bear."

"No, that's -- that's what he wants you to think, Butters. He preys on your pity for him. He's a poisonous snake. I'm a sad old bear."

Butters giggles and stands up on his tiptoes to press his face to Craig's. Nuzzling: Butters is a big fan. Cartman should be glad to be rid of it, if Butters is going to go all monogamous with Craig or whatever, but he's feeling cheated, and he should stomp over there and make a scene, but Craig might hiss at him or something. Craig is nuzzling back at Butters, subtly marking Butters with his scent. Getting possessive and shit.

"You're not a sad old anything," Butters says. "Oh, Craig, you're like -- like a brand new pack of crayons. Or markers, maybe. The fancy kind from the art store, not the crummy ones from the office supply aisle at King Soopers."

"What."

"I just want to grab all your colors and draw beautiful things with them!" Butters groans and winces. "Aw, see. I don't know how to talk about my intimate feelings. All I know is what to say during sex."

"You're doing okay," Craig says, and then they're kissing. It's kind of hot at first, because Butters is making soft little noises, but Cartman is quickly depressed by this. Butters never made those noises for him. Cartman should ruin this moment for them, but he doesn't want them to know that he witnessed it. He slinks away, knees aching.

At the edge of the woods, staring at the passing cars on the road, he reminds himself that all is not lost. In fact, nothing is lost, because Butters has always been a matter of mere convenience. It's Wendy he really wants, and he's got seeds of discontent to sow.

When he arrives at Wendy's house he has no real plan. Stopping to think too much about what just happened seems dangerous, so he barrels ahead anyway, preparing to knock on her front door when he hears voices from the backyard. Wendy is laughing, and she sounds happy. Not a good sign.

Cartman sneaks around to the side of the fence that encloses the Testaburger's backyard. He's scaled this fence many times, in attempts to spy on Wendy and sometimes just to see if there was anything worth stealing back there. Are these the behaviors of an evil sociopath? Fuck no! More like a brilliant con artist. Mitch Connor's apprentice, man of many talents. Son of a championship Bronco. Awesome stuff like that.

"You're burning them!" Wendy says. Cartman puts his eye to a hole in the fence that he's very familiar with and surveys the yard until he sees Wendy and Token roasting fucking marshmallows over the family's outdoor fireplace thing.

"I like them burned," Token says. "It creates a nice, crispy texture."

"Weirdo," Wendy says, and they kiss while Token's marshmallow catches aflame, which makes them both laugh when they pull apart. Cartman gags internally at this Lands End catalog shit. Nobody is really like this. Token is probably daydreaming about Butters' pert ass while he pretends to be Mr. Wonderful for Wendy and her marshmallow roasting bullshit.

"My dad said I could borrow his car for the trip to Denver," Token says. "The new Lexus, the one you like."

"I don't like any car in particular," Wendy says, but she's grinning like she's pleased by this. Fake bitch. Rich asshole! It's not fair. Cartman wants to do something, to mess this scene up somehow, but all he can think of is throwing rocks, and that probably wouldn't end well for him.

"Cartman might be there," Token says. "He said his mom is taking him to the same play."

"Shit, seriously? I doubt it's a coincidence. I shouldn't have posted about it on Facebook. He's such a stalker."

"Yeah, he's still obsessed with you. He sat with us a lunch today, and it was pretty fucked up. He was trying to talk me into -- sleeping with Butters, or something?"

"God! He came to the garden and was spouting some crazy crap about that. Poor dumb jackass. Maybe Butters broke up with him or something."

"Jesus, I hope not. Cartman is like King Kong, and Butters is like - what's the blond girl's name? The one he carries up the skyscraper at the end?"

"I don't know, but I know exactly what you mean, and it's awful. Poor little Butters deserves better. And we've just surrendered him, to appease the beast!"

"Damn. But maybe Butters really likes him?"

"Doubtful," Wendy says. "I don't think Butters knows what he likes. I heard he let Kyle hire him for a threesome with Stan."

"I heard that, too."

"He'll be okay, though. Butters, I mean. Kyle and Stan, they're a whole other kind of fucked up. But once Butters goes off to college, he'll be free of Cartman Kong."

"Yeah, and what happens to Cartman? He rampages his way across Butters' campus, drags him up a tower and falls to his death while the military fires on him?"

"Christ, I don't know. How dark! But not unlikely."

Without realizing it, Cartman has wandered away from the fence. He's moving sluggishly through the ditch behind Wendy's neighbor's house, and then he's nearing the street, and then a car is honking at him, waking him from a kind of punch-drunk trance. He blinks at the car that has squealed to a stop a foot away from him, feeling like he just went ten rounds with a rabid gorilla, but he's the gorilla, they said--

"Hey!" Stan sticks his head out of the driver's side window, glowering. Kyle, of course, pops his head out of the passenger side, also looking angry. "What the fuck, man?" Stan says. "Get out of the road!"

"Cartman, are you on something?" Kyle asks. "He looks drugged," he says, more quietly, to Stan.

"Dude," Stan says, his expression softening. "Cartman, hey. Are you crying?"

Cartman runs.

He feels beast-like as he tears into the woods on the other side of the road, grunting angrily so that he won't start sobbing. Maybe they're fucking right: he is King Kong. Yeah: good! King Kong is big and powerful and everyone cries at the end when he's treated like shit and dies, because the world is cruel and King Kong didn't mean any harm, he wanted one thing for himself, after a lifetime of isolation, just one fucking thing, and the little blond bitch teased him, she made him think she was his, she baited and switched and he was so fucking pissed off he destroyed part of the city, and good for him, he's the real hero, he's the one the movie is named after -- motherfuckers don't even remember the stupid blond's stupid fucking name!

Stark's Pond comes into view as Cartman Kong rips out of the tree line, ready to destroy something. He stumbles and tips over onto all fours, landing hard. When he hears himself sobbing he tries to punch himself in the chest, Kong-style, because he could tear this whole pathetic town apart with his hands and fuck everybody, but despite the persisting shake in his chest and his stinging eyes, he's not actually sobbing. Somebody else is, nearby.

Cartman sits back on his heels and sniffles, surveying the area. He spots something down toward the half-sunken dock: a Cows letter jacket. Somebody is wearing one while he sobs into his folded arms, his knees pulled to his chest. It's fucking Clyde.

Clyde cries all the time. He's on the football team and has friends, all that shit, but he's also a big joke who girls trick into skinny dipping so they can steal his clothes. Cartman stands up and gathers himself, wiping at the corners of his eyes. Ragging on Clyde for crying will make him feel better, so this is good. He walks down the shore, kicking rocks, and prepares to lay into Clyde for being lame enough to cry in public.

"Sup?" Cartman says when Clyde lifts his splotchy face to see who's there. Clyde sucks in a snot-laced breath and rubs his palm over his face.

"Leave me alone," he says.

"Leeb bee a-lonne," Cartman says, mimicking Clyde's stupid voice, which is made extra stupid by this ridiculous crying. "Why should I? It's a public pond. It's a free country. What the hell's wrong with you, anyway?"

"You know," Clyde says, still wiping at his face.

"I know? No, I don't. Tell me."

"You were there. At lunch. You heard what that bitch said to me."

"What bitch?" Cartman frowns and wracks his brain, unable to remember any girls lobbing insults at Clyde during lunch. Girls sure hate him, maybe because Clyde was smug about his imagined sexual prowess before it was revealed that they only wanted his father's shoes. "Ohhhh!" Cartman says, grinning. "You mean Kyle. What did he say? I don't have the stomach to listen to much of what comes out of that shrill mouth." Cartman walks over to sit beside Clyde, keeping a manful distance.

"He called me Mr. Lonelyhearts." Clyde's face pinches up again, as if repeating this is a fresh blow to his ego. "He said I'm jealous and bitter. Well. I am. I'm the only person in school without a girlfriend or a boyfriend."

"Um, hello," Cartman says, and he flushes when he realizes what he was about to admit. "I mean, yeah, Butters basically belongs to me, but he's also way beneath me, boyfriend-wise. I wouldn't even call him that. I mean, I'll probably break up with him. I just kind of did, actually. He was all upset and shit. Went running to Craig. Pssh."

"Why does everyone hate me?" Clyde asks, as if he didn't hear any of that.

"I dunno," Cartman says, muttering. "They hate me, too, so. Your guess is as good as mine."

"But you're fucking mean to everyone. I'm not!"

"I'm not mean, Clyde, okay? I'm honest. I'm upfront!" Cartman holds out his palm and jabs it with his index finger. "I have principles, and standards, and--"

"Whatever." Clyde puts his hands over his face. "It doesn't matter. Butters pity-fucked us both. Great. What a legacy I'll leave here when I graduate."

"That wasn't a pity fuck, Clyde! Well, maybe it was in your case, but--"

"Just go away. I want to be alone."

Cartman harrumphs and looks out at the surface of the pond, not moving. Clyde can't tell him what to do. And anyway, he's lying. He doesn't really want to be alone. Cartman can tell.

For a while they just sit like that, the pond lapping against the shore, Clyde sniffling, and Cartman sighing with exasperation. The pond has recently thawed, and the weather has been warmer during the day, but as the sun begins to set the cold creeps in.

"You're lucky to have Butters," Clyde says. "Even if he fucks other dudes. He goes to the movies with you and stuff."

"Well, fuck Butters, because I broke up with him. Clyde, look. It's been a long day. A long seventeen years, here in this shithole. I say we make the most of the time we have left."

"I'm not going on a killing spree with you, Eric."

"Clyde -- Jesus! I'm not -- I meant we should have sex! Me and you. With each other. And go to the movies together," he says, mumbling. "If that's so fucking important to you."

"God," Clyde says. "That's just what I need to put the cherry on this fucking day. Your dick in my ass."

"So you're into it? I have condoms if you've got lube."

"I was being sarcastic."

"Oh. It's hard to tell, with your fucked up voice."

"Shut up," Clyde says. He sniffles some more and rubs at his eyes. "I could fuck you, though," he says. "If you like that."

"I --" Cartman is furious, insulted, offended. He's not some fucking bottom. Clyde is obviously the bottom, between the two of them. And yet he can't make himself pass up on this opportunity, because if he does it's just home, crying in the shower, dinner with his mom, TV, angry masturbation. He doesn't want any of that right now, and he's curious about Clyde's dick size. "Fine!" Cartman says, looking up at the sky and groaning. "Fine, Clyde, fine. You've had a hard day, and I'm a generous person."

"There's calamine lotion in my van," Clyde says, standing. "For lube." He offers Cartman a hand, and Cartman shouldn't take it, because what a girlish, bottom thing to do, but he does.

"This van is totally gay," Cartman says as he climbs into it, beginning to feel nervous. He once put a vibrator he stole from his mother up his ass, and it mostly hurt, but he left it up there for a while, hopeful that the experience would develop positively if he kept at it.

"It was my mom's van," Clyde says, climbing in behind Cartman. They're in the backseat, which Clyde folds down to make a kind of platform-bed area. "And Kyle's right. You should stop calling stuff gay like it's a bad thing. You just asked me to fuck you in the ass, man."

"Okay, first of all, I did not ask, I volunteered, because you were crying like a baby and I'm nice, and like I said to that bitch Kyle, there's nothing gay about--"

"Yeah, yeah," Clyde says. "Here's the lotion, if you want to prep yourself."

"Pssh." Cartman stares down at the very pink bottle, and the pink crust around the cap. His heart is pounding, but this is good, this is cool. It's about time he was with someone other than Butters, who barely counts. "Um, no." He tosses the calamine back to Clyde. "Only wusses need ass prep. Just put that stuff on your dick and get on with it. Oh, and this, too." Cartman digs out his wallet and hands Clyde a condom.

"Fine," Clyde says. He starts unfastening his jeans, and Cartman does the same. He turns away from Clyde, leans forward onto his elbows and points his ass in Clyde's direction before shoving his underwear down along with his pants. His face is very hot, so he hides it in his arms. "Damn," Clyde says.

"Don't say anything about my ass! It's big and fat, ha ha ha, very funny."

"I wasn't -- I just mean -- what you're doing. You're hardcore."

"You're goddamn right I am. Get ready to experience gay sex like never before, Clyde. I mean, anal sex that's -- heterosexual. Or, like. Masculinely bisexual, I mean."

"Okay."

Cartman listens in tense silence as Clyde tears open the condom wrapper and rolls the thing onto himself. He hears the bottle of lotion option, then a disturbing squishing sound. He wants to check over his shoulder to make sure Clyde doesn't have a colostomy bag, or only one ball, and curses himself internally when he realizes he missed an opportunity to ask Butters about those rumors. He sucks in his breath when he feels a big, slimy dickhead inching up along his ass crack.

"Are you sure about this?" Clyde asks, putting his hand on Cartman's hip.

"Yes. I -- why wouldn't I be, like. I've done this hundreds of times."

"You have?"

"Just -- what is this, twenty questions? Are you fucking my ass or not?"

"Alright, god. This is so weird."

If Cartman could choose, 'this is so weird' would not be the words he'd select for the moment right before a cock breached his ass, but he grits his teeth and moves his knees apart, trying not to think about how frightfully big Clyde feels from this angle. In a way, it's worse than the vibrator, bigger, but there's also a kind of heat and give that the vibrator didn't have, and Cartman is able to contain his pained panic for the first couple of inches. Then it bursts out of him in a whimpering 'gynahh!' sound, and Clyde freezes.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" Cartman is breathing hard, clawing at the folded-over van seat and determined to do just one thing right today: this. Butters does it all the time, so how hard can it be? "Just keep going! God!"

"You're really, like. Tight, though."

"Oh, I'm so flattered, thank you noticing. Fuck that ass, Clyde! Fuck it like a man!"

"Jesus Christ." Clyde sighs and continues pressing in slowly. Cartman whimpers again and bites his wrist, moaning. Sweat is pouring down the back of his neck, and Clyde is essentially ripping him in half, but it's fine, it's cool. Whatever.

"Am I tighter than Butters?" Cartman asks, needing a distraction. He regrets the shake in his voice, but that's just physical strain. This is hard work, it turns out.

"I barely remember," Clyde says. "But, yeah. I think so."

"Ha, good. I -- I'd better be. That Butters, what a ho, am I right?"

"Shhh." Clyde pets the small of Cartman's back, which is probably degrading, but it actually feels kind of good. Cartman lets out his breath and tries pressing his hips back, pushing out on Clyde's dick with his ass muscles in the process. It makes him whimper again, but this time it almost feels good. It's a small good feeling in a sea of 'huge thing in ass, eject, eject!' but it's enough to calm him down enough to feel it again, still distantly. Butters loves this, and Cartman has envied that about him at times. The little ho is kind of a sexual badass.

"Are you all in?" Cartman asks, because Clyde has stopped moving, and because he's pretty sure it would be humanly impossible for a dick to be much longer. Clyde's feels like it's halfway up his throat.

"Uh-huh," Clyde says, still petting Cartman's back. "Are you okay?"

"Of course I'm okay!"

"'Cause you were making noises like maybe you aren't?"

"I'm fine--"

"I know I'm big. Millie said I have a horse cock."

"What the hell does Millie know about it? You were with her?"

"No, but she tricked me into stripping for her and Patty and then they stole my clothes and ran away."

"Oh, Jesus," Cartman says, like he hasn't heard this story before. "Fuck those bitches. Your cock is great." Cartman squeezes around it and Clyde groans. "Millie just has penis envy or something. That chick is whack."

"That chick is whack," Clyde says, and he laughs. "Yeah, she is."

"Enough about chicks. Give that ass the business, Clyde. I can take it. Look at me, I'm built for impact."

"What does that mean?" Clyde sounds almost sad, his hand going still on Cartman's back.

"Seriously, you need a translation? Fuck me!"

Clyde does, in shallow thrusts, grunting and holding onto Cartman's hips. It feels weird in three places but good in two, and Cartman gets a little bit hard just as Clyde falls forward onto him with a moan and unloads into the condom. Clyde pants against Cartman's back, then pulls out slowly. Cartman is glad when he's out and quickly not sure why he just let Clyde do that. He slumps onto his side and touches his dick, but his erection wilts irreversibly as he listens to Clyde pull off the condom.

"You okay?" Clyde asks.

"Yeah. You didn't last very long."

"Sorry, it's been a while."

"And I didn't come."

"Oh, shit. I could, like. Hand job?"

Cartman shrugs, still lying on his side. His ass hurts. The calamine lotion stinks, and the smell is going to linger on him until he does some kind of thorough ass cleaning, which - how do you even do that? He'll ask Butters, maybe. He tenses when he feels Clyde settling in behind him, his hand resting on Cartman's shoulder.

"Hand job?" Clyde says. It's soft, like an endearment. Cartman grunts and pulls Clyde's arm around him, bringing Clyde's hand down toward his dick. He sighs and closes his eyes when Clyde's fingers close around him, coaxing him back into hardness.

"Yeah," Cartman says, pushing his hips forward. "You like that, Clyde? You like -- cocks?"

"They're okay."

"You like fucking asses?"

"It's pretty good."

"Jesus, you're not impressed by much, are you?"

"I want a -- like this," Clyde says, and he puts his face against Cartman's neck, breathing there hotly before licking him. He kisses the roll of fat under Cartman's jaw, then bites at it a little. Cartman grunts, and Clyde licks him again. "Like that," Clyde says, still pumping Cartman's dick. "And the movies, too. And prom."

"Didn't you, ah. Go to prom?"

"I went with Bebe. She's in love with Kenny."

"So why didn't -- ah, ha -- how come she didn't go with him? His poor ass couldn't afford a suit?"

"No. He disappeared during prom. She thought he was dead. She cried the whole time."

"Jesus. Harder."

Clyde moves his hand faster, his fingers pinching in tighter. Cartman whines and tries to get there, wants to finish, but everything's so fucked up. He tries to picture Clyde fucking Butters, probably in this very van, after those girls stole his clothes. Clyde probably cried. Butters probably brought him some clothes to wear home, after. Or before?

"Say something hot," Cartman says, unable to clear his head.

"Like what?"

"I don't know, Clyde, Jesus!"

Butters is good at this part. Oooh, Eric, your big wiener feels so good! Eric, your balls are so big and full of yummy come! Your nipples are soo sensitive, aren't they, Eric? That kind of shit.

"Call me Eric," Cartman says, jerking his hips.

"Eric."

"Not just like that! Clyde, fuck, what is wrong with you? Use it in a sentence! For Christ's fucking sake, man!"

"Okay, god! Um, okay. Eric, I -- you seem like you need to come. Eric."

"Clyde, I swear to god--"

"Do you want to come, Eric? You want to come in my hand?"

"Unh, yeah, just--"

"Go on, Eric. You can come in my hand. Fill up that hand with come, Eric. Get it all over my fingers, all over my van--"

So Cartman comes, finally, to the thought of defiling Clyde's dead mother's van with his seed. It's a fairly spectacular orgasm, and he turns onto his back while he's still spurting, hoping Clyde will kiss him.

He does, and Cartman can taste the cheap tomato sauce from the cafeteria tortellini, but he's in no position to complain. Cuddling must be a bottom thing; Cartman suddenly understands why Butters always seemed to need it after sex. It feels essential now, though still fucking lame, so Cartman rolls against Clyde like it's an accident of gravity that leaves him pressed to Clyde's chest. Cartman is really too big to be cuddled, unwieldy and Kong-like -- he's always known that -- but Clyde puts an arm around him and kisses him again.

"This was the King Kong vs. Godzilla of fucks," Cartman says when they've been like that for a while and he's starting to fall asleep, not entirely sure what just came out of his mouth. Clyde is playing with the back of Cartman's hair, nodding.

"Yeah," Clyde says. "It's kinda true."

Cartman grins, his face hidden against Clyde's shoulder. This is ridiculous, his ass hurts, he's hungry, but he'll lie here for a few more minutes. There's something satisfying about what's going on right now, and he can't put his finger on it. Like, he lost the fight against Godzilla, but it's fine?

Godzilla gets it. Godzilla was crying alone. Butters was just some puny human shrieking in his palm. Wendy was one of those smug explorer guys who always looked at him like a monster. Nobody's going to name a movie after such meager background players. Godzilla has a horse dick and a dumb voice, but he's also a good kisser, and he's very pleasantly warm right now.

**

Chapter Text

On the morning of his twenty-second birthday, Kenny wakes up early to start on the appetizers. He’s working from Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, which has a inscription on the front page, in teenage boy scrawl: Happy Mother’s Day! Love, Stan. Cooking calms him down, and he takes his time cutting the crudites into even segments and arranging the toppings on his flat bread triangles so that they’ll look like they do in the book. By the time Sharon comes down to make her coffee, he’s got three trays of appetizers under plastic wrap, and three hours before their guests arrive.

"I don’t think I can do this," he says after Sharon has kissed him good morning.

"Honey," she says, smoothing her hands down over his flour-stained t-shirt. "You can. You’ve done much harder things."

Kenny isn’t sure that he’s done anything harder than telling his best friend since childhood that he’s dating his mom, but he nods and drops down into her arms, resting his head on her shoulder. He didn’t mean for this to happen; he had no plans to go after Stan’s mom, despite his long admiration of her perfect tits. He’d always assumed he might eventually tangle with Liane Cartman, but she’s been living with a woman named Mandy since Eric moved out, and they seem surprisingly monogamous. Kenny’s own monogamy has been surprising, too, but ever since he and Sharon had sex in the supply closet at work, he’s been severely in love with her.



"Are we going to do normal couple stuff now?" Kenny asks. He’s cleaning up the kitchen and she’s drinking coffee, her iPad resting on the counter as she scrolls through the news.

"Like what?" she asks.

"Like double dates. Maybe with Liane and Mandy."

"Sure, if you’d like that," she says. "It will be nice, won’t it? Not having to hide." She walks over and hugs him from behind, leaning up onto her tip-toes to kiss the back of his neck. "You’re going to be so relieved, trust me. And Stan won’t hate you."

"He will."

"He might be upset, but it will pass. He’s a sweet boy - very forgiving. I mean, he’s still got a relationship with Randy, right? That should tell you everything."

"Randy’s his dad, though. I’m just his friend."

"You’re more than that," she says, turning him around to face her. His hands are dripping from the sink, and he lets her dry them with a dish towel. He still flushes with happiness when she does things like this for him. It’s not a mom-replacement fantasy, it’s just this sense of being cared for. Sharon is the first person who’s ever shown him this particular brand of gentle kindness. She pushes the towel between each of his of his fingers, drying the little webs.

"I don’t know if I’ll be able to eat," Kenny says.

"Oh, don’t say that! I made a cake last night after you passed out."

"I saw it," Kenny says, and he grins, leaning down to touch his forehead to hers. "Thanks. You could have just bought one." She was an accomplished cook during Stan’s childhood, but she’s kind of burned out on it, and Kenny does most of the cooking now.

"No, I wanted to make something," she says. "It’s your golden birthday, after all. It’s special."

Kenny remembers Stan’s golden birthday celebration, when he turned nineteen on the nineteenth of October. You only get one golden birthday in your lifetime, Sharon had said. She and Kenny had been having sex for just a few weeks at that point, exclusively in the closet at work, and it was the first time Kenny had been around Stan since it had happened - the first weekend that Stan and Kyle had come home from CSU. Stan had seemed distracted, probably because Kyle was in a funk about something or other, and Kenny had been glad for it, terrified the whole time that Stan would spot some significant look between him and Sharon. At that point, she’d insisted on Kenny’s complete discretion, and he’d happily agreed not to mention anything about their trysts to Stan, ever. Now it’s three years later, Karen is off at college and Kenny is living in Stan’s childhood home, sleeping in his mother’s bed every night. It’s time they came out to everyone, but it feels impossible, too, like a fantastic dream that will dissolve into irrelevant nonsense when it’s retold.

Unable to stomach anything for breakfast, Kenny takes a shower and gets dressed in what seems like a respectful outfit, as if he’s preparing for a job interview: a well-fitted shirt with a collar and long sleeves, untucked over some gray wool slacks. He tries tucking the shirt in, but he’s always looked like a redneck when his belt shows, as if he should have a rodeo buckle. His hair is getting sort of long, fluffy over his ears; he should have thought to have Sharon give him a trim, but it’s too late now.

He checks his Facebook and finds a collection of birthday wishes: from Karen, Kyle, Wendy, Butters, Bebe, and his boss, Dr. Testaburger. Stan still refuses to use Facebook, and Kenny’s mother and Kevin have accounts but never update. His father finds social media ‘faggy’ and generally forgets Kenny’s birthday anyway. They don’t see each other often, though they live only ten minutes apart. Kenny still takes his mother to church on Sundays, sometimes in the company of Kevin, if he’s going through a sober stretch. Most of Kenny’s family angst has worn away now that he’s successfully seen Karen off to college on a needs-based scholarship, with a modest allowance for frivolities that’s provided by Kenny. Last year, Sharon made Karen’s senior prom dress, modifying an old one of Shelly’s until it seemed trendy enough. Kenny helped, mostly by sewing on beads. That was when he knew he wanted to live with Sharon after Karen moved out, on those nights when they worked on the dress together in companionable quiet, both of them content to concentrate on the work. He feels at home here in the Marsh household, and this was true long before his hand brushed Sharon’s over a filing cabinet at work. He doesn’t want this afternoon’s confession to wreck that part, the sense that Stan is his family, too.

"You’ll be fine," Sharon says when Kenny comes downstairs, hoping that his trembling isn’t visible. It probably is, because she walks forward to draw his face down to hers and pet his cheeks. "You look very handsome, birthday boy. And no matter what happens, you and I are going out for a nice steak dinner tonight."

"But Stan will want to stay here," Kenny says. "What if he throws me out?"

"He won’t, honey. He’s not the man of the house anymore, and of course we’ll respect his feelings, but I’m not going to indulge any tantrums. He can go stay with the Broflovskis if he’s upset with me."

"Do we have to tell him how long it’s been going on? We can’t just say it happened last month or something?"

"I don’t want to lie to him, and I doubt he’d believe that I’d move someone into my house after a month. Just let me do the talking, and don’t be scared. I will be hard for him, but he’s a grown man now with a life of his own. It’s not like I’m asking him to live under the same roof as us and deal with it. He has his own space to flee to if he needs to lick his wounds for a while."

This pep talk calms Kenny only somewhat, and he spends the next twenty minutes at the front window, watching the driveway. He asked Stan and Kyle to come home for his birthday, to celebrate, and Stan’s first stop in South Park will be Sharon’s house. He won’t be expecting Kenny here, so the shock will be immediate. Kenny begins to pace, wondering if punches will be thrown. Stan isn’t exactly Randy, but he can be hotheaded and emotional when he’s upset, and he’s been very protective of his mother ever since middle school, when Randy left her for the third and final time.

Stan’s old Jeep rolls up the driveway almost exactly at noon; he and Kyle are both frighteningly punctual. Kenny wishes he’d taken a shot or a valium or something. He bolts for the kitchen and starts fussing with the appetizer trays.

"Hey," Sharon says, and she rubs his back. "I love you. You’ll be okay."

"I know," he says, though he doesn’t think he will be. He bends down to kiss her, but jerks upright again when the front door opens and Stan calls for her.

"Welcome home!" Sharon says as she heads into the foyer, leaving Kenny in the kitchen. His heart is racing, and he’s afraid he’ll puke on the deviled eggs with fried pancetta.

"Is that Kenny’s truck out front?" Kyle asks.

"Yes," Sharon says. "He’s in the kitchen. Here, put your things down, we’ll bring them upstairs later."

"Kenny’s here?" Stan says, and he walks into the kitchen to confirm this, only frowning a little. He smiles when he sees Kenny with the food trays, obviously unable to come to any conclusions as damning as the truth. "Hey, dude," he says. "Happy birthday, uh. What are you doing here?"

Kyle peeks over Stan’s shoulder then, looking suspicious. Kenny has grown to find Kyle slightly irritating and really wishes he wasn’t present for this, but he’s the best shot they have at keeping Stan centered during the discussion that’s about to happen: right now, it’s happening. Kenny can’t seem to speak, though.

"Come on in and sit at the table," Sharon says, ushering the two of them through the kitchen doorway. "Kenny made some lunch for us."

"Is this an intervention?" Kyle asks. "Why wasn’t I told - oh, really, are you intervening for me?" He glares at Stan. "Is my mother here?"

"Kyle, calm down," Sharon says. She pulls out a chair at the kitchen table. "This isn’t an intervention."

"What’s going on, though?" Stan says. He remains standing while Kyle sits. "Something’s weird. Are you okay?" he asks, looking to Kenny.

"Um," Kenny says. "Yeah." He gives Sharon a pleading look. She sighs.

"Stan, shit down," she says. "I’m going to get you a drink - I’ve got stuff for mimosas, for Kenny’s birthday."

"Oh, shit,” Kyle says. His eyes go wide, and he brings his hand up to cover a grin. “Oh, my - okay.”

"What?" Stan looks from Kyle to his mother, to Kenny. "Kyle? What?"

"Uhhh," Kyle says, boggling at Kenny. "I’ll - yeah, let’s have a drink."

"Mom?" Stan says. "What the hell? What happened? Jesus, did Dad die?"

"No, honey. Randy’s fine, as far as I know. We do need to talk about something, though." She reaches up to rub Stan’s shoulders. He’s not much taller than her, barely five foot seven, same as Kyle. Kenny tries to comfort himself with the fact that he is almost six foot three, that he’s towered over them since ninth grade. They can’t hurt him. They wouldn’t want to. They’re his friends. Right.

"Do you have cancer?" Stan asks, his voice getting high and panicked. "Is Kenny - oh, God, he’s donating an organ?"

"No," Sharon says. "Though that does sound like the kind of thing Kenny would do, doesn’t it? He’s such a good friend to you, and so generous. Here you go," she says, pushing on Stan’s shoulders until he’s seated. "The fact is, honey, that Kenny and I have become close while you and your other friends were away at school. We work together at the rhinoplasty clinic, as you know."

"Oh, my God," Kyle says, mumbling this into his hands. His face is turning pink from stifled laughter, his shoulders starting to bounce.

"What?" Stan says weakly, looking up at his mother. "I don’t understand."

"Stanley," she says. She touches his hair, smoothing it back. "I love you very much, and that’s why I want to be honest with you about something that might be difficult for you at first." She shoots Kyle a deathly look when his concealed laughter becomes audible. "Kenny’s truck is here because he lives here, baby. He’s my - we’re together. Romantically."

The room is quiet then, Kyle scared into silence by Sharon’s look. Stan’s gaze seems to shift from his mother to Kenny in slow motion, horror-movie style.

"Oh, right," he says, and he grins. "Hilarious." His voice is trembling, as if he knows deep down that this isn’t the kind of joke his mother would make. "What, why. What?"

"I know it’s hard to process, honey, but we’ve been taking things slow over the years—"

"Over the years?" Stan gets up and stumbles backward, upsetting the chair. "What, whoa, no, what—"

"Oh, Stan, come here," Kyle says, popping up from his chair. He goes to Stan and rubs his chest with one hand, his back with the other. "It’s okay, sweetie. Don’t freak out."

"You knew about this?" Stan asks, giving Kyle a horrified look.

"Hell no!" Kyle says. "Just, you look very pale. Do you need to put your head between your knees?" He looks at Sharon, then Kenny. "And what about you over there with your crostini triangles? What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Kenny has been nervous about telling Stan," Sharon says. She still looks like she wants to kill Kyle a little, which Kenny appreciates. "Understandably. He’s having a hard time - Ken, why don’t you get the champagne and the OJ? I think we could all use a drink."

"Ken?" Stan says, eyes narrowing. "OJ?"

"Why can’t I call it OJ?" Sharon asks.

"Because that’s what you called it to me! This isn’t real!" Stan walks backward again, dragging Kyle along with him. "This is like - some candid fucking camera shit right here!"

"I’m sorry," Kenny blurts. "Stan. I didn’t mean to. But. I love your mom."

"You’re disgusting!" Stan shouts. "Mom, he had porno mags in elementary school. He’s a pervert!"

"He’s always been mature for his age," Sharon says. "Perhaps that’s why we’re together. Stan, baby, sit down. Let’s talk about this like adults."

"I don’t want to talk to you like an adult! You’re my mom!"

"How about that champagne, Ken?” Kyle says, and Kenny goes for it, glad for the excuse to look away.

"I don’t want champagne!" Stan says. "This is not - we’re not celebrating this shit, okay? Does dad know about this? Does everyone in town know?”

"Nobody knows, honey. Well, except for Karen, but she’s quite discreet."

"Who the hell is Karen?" Stan asks, shouting again.

"My sister," Kenny says.

"Oh. Right." Stan deflates a little then, slumping against the wall near the door that leads out to the back porch. Kyle is still rubbing his chest like he’s a colicky baby.

"It’s a lot to take in, I know," Sharon says. She’s getting down champagne glasses, setting them on the counter. "Believe me, it was the last thing I expected to happen. Kenny was caught off guard, too, but we just bonded at work, and things went from there. Neither of us wanted to hurt your feelings, Stan, and believe me, we both considered that from the start."

"Why isn’t Kenny saying anything?" Stan asks, sort of growling this.

"I’m making the drinks," Kenny says. "I’m really sorry, okay? I feel like I’m gonna barf — the last thing I want is for you to hate me."

"Well, apparently the last thing you want is to not be living with my mother ‘romantically,’ so I guess I’m actually the second to last." Stan charges forward and everyone flinches, but he’s not trying to attack Kenny, only going for the champagne bottle. He drinks from it with a dramatic head tilt. Kyle rolls his eyes.

"We have news, too," Kyle says, as if Kenny and Sharon’s news is now dealt with.

"Oh?" Sharon says. "Is it good news?"

"I’m moving to Costa Rica for a year," Stan says, and he thunks the bottle back down onto the counter. "For research, for my grad program. Kyle’s coming with me."

"Tentatively," Kyle says. Stan whirls to look at him.

"Not tentatively. You said you would come?"

"We don’t have to discuss this here," Kyle says. He takes a mimosa and returns to the table. Stan is staring at him.

"Congratulations, honey," Sharon says. "I know you wanted that internship." She approaches him - tentatively - and he allows her to hug him, standing stiffly inside her embrace.

"How did this happen?" Stan asks, looking at Kenny. "And when?"

"It wasn’t long after you left for college," Sharon says. She’s guiding Stan back toward the table, and he’s allowing it. "Kenny interviewed for the receptionist position, and Tom had put me in charge of hiring. I thought he’d be perfect for the job, you know, greeting customers. He’s got such an ideal nose. All the best ones are naturally occurring."

"Not necessarily," Kyle says, touching his.

"Kyle, your nose is fantastic," Sharon says, and she seems to mean it. "It adds character, and it just works with the rest of your features. You know how I feel about rhinoplasty." She rights Stan’s chair and manages to get him seated in it again. It’s like magic to Kenny, the sense of comfort and sanity that emanates from her. "It was just the only nursing job available in South Park when we moved here - I’m opposed to plastic surgery, for the most part."

"Why are we talking about plastic surgery?" Stan sounds like he’ll cry now, and Kenny feels terrible. He hurries the platter of deviled eggs to the table, hoping Stan won’t flip it onto the floor. "Do you seriously live here?" Stan asks.

"Yeah," Kenny says. "But I help pay the bills. My parents are on their own now that Karen’s out of the house."

"You were paying your parents’ bills?" Kyle asks, pausing in mid-reach, his hand hovering over the eggs.

"Yeah," Kenny says. "Just for my sister’s sake."

"He’s a very responsible guy," Sharon says. "Much more so than some older men I’ve dated."

"You mean like Dad?" Stan says, and Kenny can’t tell if he’s angry or not. Stan has never hesitated to acknowledge Randy’s flaws.

"I’ll always love your father for his role in my life," Sharon says, and that stings a little. Kenny hates Randy Marsh with the fire of a thousand suns. "Ultimately that role was as the father to my children, and for that reason he still matters to me. But we grew apart, and you and Shelly had to witness that. Multiple times. It’s something I’m very sorry about to this day."

"It’s okay," Stan says. He pops an egg in his mouth and chews it, staring glumly at the rest of them. "I didn’t want you to stay with Dad, and I don’t want you back with him - God, that would be harder to take than - this." He glances at Kenny. "These are good," he says, reaching for another egg. Kyle has already eaten five, surreptitiously.

"I made flat bread, too," Kenny says, going for the other platters. "And, um, this is a garlic ranch dip, with the veggies here."

"I didn’t know you could cook," Kyle says.

"He’s very good," Sharon says. "He’s considering culinary school."

"Not until my sister finishes college," Kenny says. He delivers the remaining appetizers and goes for the mimosa he made for himself, draining half of it in one gulp.

"You’re not getting married, are you?" Stan asks.

"I’m not really eager to marry for a fourth time," Sharon says. "We’re just - together, and we’re happy this way. That’s all that matters." She turns to smile encouragingly at Kenny. He usually doesn’t feel particularly young around her - most of the time she makes him feel like the most virile and impressive man in South Park - but at the moment he feels unworthy and immature, in need of her protection.

Once they’re all at the table, things are still a bit tense, but Kyle has pulled his chair over to Stan’s and is rubbing his back at intervals, which seems to be working. Kenny is still shaken, and he wants to touch Sharon’s hand under the table, but he doesn’t dare. They mostly talk about Stan’s upcoming internship in Costa Rica, where he’ll be studying some rare rain forest bird life.

"It’s going to be awesome," Stan says, pointedly, looking at Kyle.

"What will Kyle be studying while you’re there?" Sharon asks. "Have they got an economics program, too?"

"Hardly," Kyle says. "No, I’m expected to put my life on hold. But it’s fine."

"Kyle," Stan says.

"No, it’s fine, we’ll talk about it later."

"You said you wanted to come!"

"Well, I do, Stan, but it’s not that simple. I can’t stand the idea of spending a year without you, but what the hell am I going to do the whole time? Write my memoirs?"

"We talked about this - you said you wanted to volunteer with one of the conversation programs!"

"I was drunk when I said that! I hate mud! Not to mention the mosquitoes!"

"Boys," Sharon says. "Inside voices, please."

"I won’t go if you don’t come with me," Stan says, his voice beginning to waver.

"You can’t turn this down, it’s too important!"

Kenny glances at the digital clock on the stove. He should have known that they would be more interested in airing their personal drama than dealing with anyone else’s. It’s a relief, and he’s happily munching crudites when he feels someone’s hand brush his under the table. It’s Sharon’s, of course, and she smiles at him when he flushes, his fingers curling loosely around hers. The first time they had each other in the storage closet had been frantic and primal, no pauses, all breath and sweat and desperation, and when they were finished he felt dizzy and overwhelmed, his knees shaking uncontrollably. She’d straddled him on the stack of banker’s boxes that his ass landed on when his knees gave out, and she’d carefully reordered his messed up hair. She’d asked him if he was okay. He’d wanted to bury his face between her breasts and go to sleep there, something he didn’t actually dare to try until they’d been seeing each other for over a year.

It’s frigid and gray outside, but Kenny needs air, and he goes outside to smoke while Kyle helps Sharon with the dishes, the two of them whispering hennishly about Costa Rica. Kenny lights the joint he’d stashed in his pocket before heading downstairs, and when Stan comes out to lean against the porch railing beside him, he offers it.

"Does my mom know you smoke?" Stan asks, accepting it.

"Yeah," Kenny says. He decides not to mention that he and Sharon smoke most nights after work, before dinner, to unwind. Neither of them have ever been big drinkers, and pot is definitely Kenny’s drug, the only one that has never betrayed him.

"Jesus," Stan croaks, blinking rapidly as he holds in the smoke. "That’s better than what we have on campus."

"It’s government issue. For my back."

"What’s wrong with your back?"

"Uh, nothing specific. I have to lift boxes and stuff at work sometimes. My doctor’s cool."

"Cool," Stan says, and he passes the joint back to Kenny. "Yeah, that’s. I should be cool about this, right? I shouldn’t - I mean, part of me wants to pound your skull in right now."

"That’s okay," Kenny says. "I knew part of you would."

"Do you, like. Actually love her? For real?"

"Yeah, for real. It’s like a whole new life, you know, when you find - your person? I think we’re best friends, me and her. We do everything together, and I want it to stay that way. Is that what it’s like with you and Kyle?"

"Kyle is going to leave me," Stan says.

"Dude, no he isn’t."

"He will, he’s — I’m not gonna go. I just won’t go, fuck it."

"You guys will work it out," Kenny says. "Anyway, um. I appreciate your support. It means a lot."

"I don’t know if I’d call it support," Stan says. He takes the joint again. "But I’m not gonna cause problems for her. She doesn’t deserve me acting like a little shit about this. Jesus, I can’t wait until my dad finds out."

"What do you think he’ll do?" Kenny kind of hopes Randy will try to fight him. He could hand that old man his ass.

"Probably try to win her back," Stan says. "It was always like, this trophy for him, that relationship. He didn’t take that much interest in her, like, as a person. But when he felt threatened he’d get all possessive."

"I don’t like your dad," Kenny says, and Stan laughs.

"Well, fair enough. I don’t really like your dad."

"Eh, who does?"

"Your mom? Aren’t they still married?"

"Sort of. They’re in the same, like. Orbit. I guess they always will be."

"I’m glad my mom broke out of my dad’s orbit," Stan says. He studies Kenny for a moment, still holding the joint, which he’s totally hogging. "I’m not going to say anything stupid about what I’d do if you hurt my mom, you know, I think that goes without saying."

"Sure."

"But are you sure you - I mean, I just can’t wrap my mind around you wanting to date a woman who is twenty-three years older than you."

"I didn’t set out to. We just started eating our lunches together at work. And then it was the best part of my day, and then." And then they had sex in the storage closet. "Then she liked me, and I couldn’t believe it."

"Well. You do have a good nose."

"Thanks."

Kenny isn’t sure if they should hug now, so he just reaches for the joint, and Stan surrenders it. They smoke the last of it together, not speaking, but the silence is comfortable - familial. Back inside, Kyle is weeping and Sharon has her arm around him.

"Dude!" Stan says, rushing to them. "What? What happened?"

"You’re going to leave me!" Kyle sobs. "Just say it! You’d rather be with jungle birds."

"No, Kyle, please, look, I’ll stay, it’s not as important as you think it is—"

"It is, though, and I’m just — ruining it for you, oh, God, I’m going to ruin your life!"

"Let’s give them some privacy," Sharon says, going to Kenny. She takes his arm and leads him from the room while Stan and Kyle begin to kiss each other between hiccuped sobs, both blubbering. "I think they had a little too much to drink," Sharon says, whispering.

"I don’t know," Kenny says. "They’re just kind of like that."

"Mmm, true.

They slip upstairs together, to the bedroom, and Kenny tells her about the conversation on the porch with Stan. She was right about Stan’s reaction, of course: she’s always right. He clings to her when she puts her arms around him, leaning down to rest his cheek on the shelf of her perfect bosom.

"I’m glad we did this," he says. "I needed, um. I needed Stan to know."

"Me too," she says. "I suppose I’ll tell Shelly now, too, and Sheila. She’ll be so jealous. Sheila, I mean. Maybe Shelly, too."

"Why?" Kenny asks, lifting his head.

"Oh, you’re cute," Sharon says, and she cups Kenny’s face, stroking his cheeks with her thumbs. "You really need to be told why someone would envy me? You’re kind of a miracle, Kenny. I mean, I can’t believe I - get you. Get to have you, that is."

Kenny has never been good with words, and he doesn’t often try to impress her with them. Instead he sort of tackles her down to the mattress and kisses her, his face hot from that compliment. She’s smiling under his kisses, laughing a little.

"We should go downstairs," she says when he places a reverent hand over her left breast.

"Really?" he says. "You think they’re done?"

"Yes. They’re never upset with other for long. I just — I still don’t know if I trust Kyle with my Stanley, he’s so — volatile."

"Kyle worships him, though. Secretly. I don’t even think Kyle knows that, but he does. He’ll go to Costa Rica, just watch."

"Oh, poor thing! I can’t picture him in a tropical climate. The hair challenges alone would be taxing for him."

"Yeah, but it’ll make a man out of him. And he can get all romantic about Stan’s ruggedness or something."

"I hadn’t thought of that - you’re right, he’ll enjoy it. They’ll be okay."

"Yep."

One of the things that Kenny and Sharon initially bonded over was their shared fascination with Stan and Kyle’s relationship. They’re both amateur Stan and Kyle historians, having been some of the first people to notice their connection and suspect that they would be in love someday. When they head downstairs Kyle is seated on the kitchen counter, sniffling contentedly with Stan wedged between his legs. Kyle slides off the counter when they enter, into Stan’s arms.

"Is everything alright?" Sharon asks, going to Stan.

"Yeah," he says, and he releases Kyle long enough to give her a hug. "We’re okay. Mom, geez. I’m glad you’re happy and stuff."

"I can’t wait to discuss this with my mother," Kyle says. "But really, this is cool. It works, I’m into it."

"I’m so relieved to hear it," Sharon says, and Kyle smirks.

They part for dinner, Stan and Kyle heading over to the Broflovski household. Kenny can imagine the lively conversation about his relationship with Sharon that will feature at the dinner table, and it makes him feel kind of squeamish, but he can’t help thinking that Stan will defend him.

Chapter Text



Butters had to catch an Express bus back toward Aurora so he could get on the three o’clock to North Park and then hopefully catch the four o’clock shuttle to the youth crisis center, and it wasn’t until he had to work all this out, timing-wise, that he noticed on the scrolling clock thing at the bus station that it wasn’t just two fifteen in the afternoon on a Tuesday, it was also September 11, his seventeenth birthday. He put his hand on his enormous stomach and gave his unborn twins a rub. At least he wasn’t celebrating alone this year.

“Well, fellas,” he said, though he had a suspicion that the technician at Planned Parenthood was wrong and that one of his twins was actually a girl, “At least you won’t get born on a real sad day like I was.” He supposed it was still possible that his babies would be born on Halloween, but he’d never really believed his dad about that being Satan’s birthday.

The bus wasn’t due for another five minutes, so he waddled over to a bench to have a seat. He was breathless when he sat down, and he fished around in his canvas bag until he’d found the water he’d rationed for the trip. Only the clinic in Denver had facilities for boy patients, and he’d had to take the day off from school. He dug out his Chemistry book so he could study while he waited, but he couldn’t seem to get himself to pay attention, and pretty soon his eyes were welling up. It was just that he was real tired, and his hormones were all out of whack, and the technician at the clinic had asked him so gently if he was sure he didn’t have anyone to call for a ride.

He supposed he could have called Kenny, though Kenny would have shown up in a bad mood and would have been all silent on the drive back to South Park the way he was last time. Clyde had started screening Butters’ calls after he found out about the twins, and Eric was always too busy to do him a favor, even though the babies might be his. They might be Clyde’s or Kenny’s, too, and, given the whorish habits that got him into this situation, Butters sometimes wondered if the twins had different fathers, though he was pretty sure that was scientifically impossible, or at least real unlikely. Either way, he had three people who used to call him up an awful lot, but now they didn’t want to ‘get involved,’ because they were all sure that this wasn’t their fault. Kenny was the most sympathetic and would help out if he could, but he had his own problems, such as paying the bills at the McCormick household. It wasn’t like Butters wanted to move in there, or to Eric’s house, or even Clyde’s, but he’d really appreciate a gosh darn helping hand once in a while, especially since he he’d given up so many afternoons to help those three with their wiener-related burdens last summer.

The bus arrived and Butters struggled up the stairs, gripping the handlebars on the way. He’d gained almost forty pounds and his stomach had grown unwieldy by his sixth month. Now he was in his eighth, and his doctors were cautioning that soon he’d probably be on bed rest. Butters wasn’t sure how that would work, but he suspected he’d have to take some sort of leave of absence from school and apply for a special needs exception at the youth crisis center, where he’d been living since his parents found out that he wasn’t just getting fat. He was kicked out for refusing to sign the twins over to an adoption agency before the poor things were even born. He just wanted to be able to hold them and take care of them for a little while, and if they seemed to like being with him he sorta wanted to keep them forever, though he didn’t see how he could.

He could barely wedge himself into a bus seat, the handicapped ones being taken by some old folks, and almost as soon as he sat down he was tipping into a restless sleep, his head leaning against the window. His back hurt all the time and he hadn’t been sleeping well at night. Eric often told him he looked like shit at school. Butters really didn’t appreciate that, considering that Eric might be to blame for all this, but Eric insisted that he was infertile due to ginger blood or something like that. Clyde, likewise, cited his medical problems as the reason he probably wasn’t the father. It was true that he only had one ball, but it was kind of on the large side. Butters didn’t really give a hoot which of them was the father, anyway. They’d all turned out to be lousy friends when the going got tough, and he didn’t want that kind of example set for the twins.

At Aurora he woke just in time to not miss his stop, and people gave him dirty looks as he slowly made his way down the aisle, holding everybody else up. He said he was sorry and tried to move faster, but he kept getting stuck, which was embarrassing. He was near tears by the time he made his way down the stairs, and he told himself to stop being silly. His babies were healthy, and he really had nothing to cry about. They were going to be such a joy, cuddly and cute, and they’d love him forever no matter what!

Butters was sobbing as he dropped onto a bench that had enough free space to accommodate his significantly inflated ass. He was so tired he couldn’t think straight, that was all, and it made him sad how it started to get dark at four o’clock during this time of year. He wanted it to be summer again, when he was light on his feet, carefree, and in high demand among his three boyfriends, who maybe didn’t call themselves his boyfriends exactly but certainly answered his text messages when he told them he was available. Everything had been so fun. He’d known it was wrong, too, but he’d never dreamed this could happen.

The bus ride from Aurora to North Park was brief, but he missed the crisis center shuttle due to traffic. The next one wouldn’t come for three hours, and he was so hungry, dreaming of the community meal, the garlic mashed potatoes that the daily menu had promised when he left that morning for his checkup. He decided he’d rather spend an hour walking than three waiting and set off for South Park.

As soon as the last of the sunlight faded the cold set in hard, and Butters’ ears stung with it even as he sweltered inside his coat, trudging along at a glacial pace, the strap of his bag digging into his palm. He was beginning to doubt his decision to walk by the time he reached a gas station just a few blocks away, and he leaned against an old newspaper box to catch his breath. When a car pulled up at the mouth of the gas station’s driveway he assumed the driver was just checking to see if he could pull into traffic, hopefully not gawking at the panting pregnant boy in the meantime.

“What are you doing?” someone asked, and Butters looked up to see that the driver had rolled his window down. It was Craig Tucker.

“I’m — headed home,” Butters said. He tried to assume a dignified posture, but it was difficult with a stomach the size of a small moon.

“I thought you got kicked out,” Craig said. His car was kind of a junker, but Butters could feel the heat emanating from within it as Craig regarded him through the open window.

“I’m stayin’ at the teen center,” Butters said. He preferred to call it that, leaving off the word ‘crisis.’ “They normally got a shuttle that stops up the road at the bus thingie but I went and missed it.”

Craig started at him for a while, his mouth tight as if he was annoyed. Butters stared back, blinking, and he rested a hand on his stomach protectively, not sure what was going on.

“Get in,” Craig said. “I’ll give you a ride.”

“Oh — no, that’s alright, it’s no trouble.” Butters’ swollen feet were throbbing in his shoes and his nose was leaking from walking into the wind, but Craig was scary.

“Get in,” Craig said again. Butters did, sighing. Craig was too scary to disobey, and it felt good to sit down and get out of the cold.

“This sure is a nice car,” Butters said after a few minutes of awkward silence. Craig drove with both hands on the wheel, and he didn’t have any music playing.

“No, it’s not,” Craig said.

“Well. I think it is! I’d sure like to have my own car. Riding the bus has gotten kinda hard. Not that I mean to complain. It’s real nice that the city has buses for people who don’t have a car. I sure do appreciate it.”

“Why don’t you get Clyde to drive you around?” Craig asked. He seemed angry, narrowing his eyes at Butters. “Doesn’t he owe you?”

“Owe me for what?”

“Uh. Huh! That.” Craig looked down at Butters’ stomach. “I know you guys were screwing.”

“Oh, well.” Butters covered the twins with his hands, not wanting to expose them to such language. “Clyde and I aren’t really friends anymore.”

“He’s such a fucking asshole,” Craig said.

“Oh, geez,” Butters said, and he rubbed his stomach nervously.

“You’re not the first person he did this to, I’ll put it that way,” Craig said. He jerked his chin as if to flip some hair out of his face, though his hair was short. It had been long for a few years. Butters thought it looked better like this.

“Did — what to, what did Clyde do?” Butters asked.

“Fucked a baby into someone’s ass,” Craig said. He gave Butters a look that made him lean away slightly. “Mine, actually. Don’t tell anyone.”

“Oh!” Butters didn’t know what to say next and felt incredibly stupid. He could hear something that he thought might be Craig’s jaw clicking as he stared out at the road. “Gosh, Craig, I didn’t realize you had a baby!”

“I didn’t have a baby, Butters. I got it taken care of. Why haven’t you?” He seemed so disappointed that for a moment Butters thought he should apologize.

“Well, that just wasn’t — right for me, Craig,” Butters said, trying to sound firm and confident on this point. “But I guess it was the right thing for you, huh? That’s okay. I won’t tell anyone.” Butters was shocked that Craig was telling him this. They hadn’t spoken since around seventh grade, when Craig told Butters he had toilet paper stuck to his shoe.

“Whatever,” Craig said. “I think you’re stupid. You should at least sue Clyde for money.”

“I don’t think Clyde has any,” Butters said, his voice beginning to waver. “A-and it might not be his. There were some other, um, factors.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Craig said. “Well, get all the potential culprits together and make them take a paternity test. It’s the law, Butters. They’re responsible, even if they were underage.”

“Why are you lecturing me?” Butters asked. He started to cry, humiliated, and was afraid Craig would make him leave the car. “I spent the whole day just trying to get to and from a doctor’s appointment, I don’t have time to sue anybody!”

“Fine, whatever,” Craig said, grumbling. “Where’s this fucking teen center, anyway?”

Butters gave him directions, and for the rest of the ten minute drive neither of them spoke. Butters was sniffling, trying not to cry harder.

“It’s my birthday, you know,” Butters said as they pulled up to the curb outside the teen center.

“I know,” Craig said. He was staring at the teen center, frowning.

“You — you know my birthday?”

“Well, fuck, you had a birthday on September 11. Like I’m going to forget something that shitty. Speaking of shitty, this place looks like a real shit hole.”

“It’s not!” Butters said, though it kind of was. He worried about the roaches, because they might carry disease, and people teased him for being a hugely pregnant boy, and the mashed potatoes were a little runny. Craig was eying Butters’ belly when Butters looked over at him.

“How can people just — I mean, you’re so pathetic,” Craig said. Butters scrabbled for the door handle, holding down a sob that came out as a buried whine. “Hey — wait,” Craig said. He reached over to take Butters’ wrist. “I meant, how can people just leave you alone when you’re like this?”

“I don’t know,” Butters said. He was crying, but he wanted to scream, to thrash at Craig and tell him that it wasn’t news to him that everyone who should have cared had abandoned him. He reached for the door handle again, but Craig peeled away from the curb before he could get it open. “What are you doing?” Butters asked. His face was wet and snotty and he just wanted to disappear into a quiet bed somewhere. If he’d had fifty dollars to his name he would have spent every last penny on a cheap motel room. Back at the crisis center, he had six unfriendly roommates in the boys’ ward.

“I’m taking you to my house,” Craig said. He looked so angry that Butters felt threatened by this information.

“Why?”

“Because I want to make some mac and cheese and my dad doesn’t get off of work until midnight and there’s no point making a whole fucking casserole for one person, or even for two. Did you know my parents split up?”

“Yeah.”

“My sister moved to Denver with my mom, so it’s just me and my dad, so. Anyway. Shut up.”

“I wasn’t talking!” Butters said. He felt less scared but more confused. Mostly he was thinking about mac and cheese, wondering if Craig could actually cook or if he was referring to the kind in the box with the yellow powdered cheese.

Butters felt guilty for noticing that Craig’s house was kind of shabby, the driveway unshoveled and the foyer cluttered with dirty work boots. Craig added his to the pile, and Butters looked around for a place to sit so that he could take his off, too, but there was only the staircase, which he would not be able to rise from without assistance.

“Anyway, this place is a mess,” Craig said, muttering. He walked into the kitchen and Butters followed. It was true that it was a mess, but the kitchen at least didn’t smell like canned beans. The one at the crisis center had signs everywhere, accusing their readers of things they hadn’t done yet: Do NOT microwave ANYTHING without a PAPER TOWEL!!

“Sit down,” Craig barked when Butters hovered behind him at the fridge, not sure how to proceed. “Are you lactose intolerant?” Craig asked.

“No.”

Craig poured some milk into a collectable Broncos glass and set it down in front of Butters at the kitchen table. He took the rest of the milk to the stove and turned on a burner.

“I can’t believe this happened to you, too,” Butters said when Craig had been quiet for a while, stirring cheese sauce at the stove. Butters had finished his milk and wanted more, but he was afraid to ask.

“What happened to me?” Craig asked.

“Um, the baby and so forth. With Clyde. Or maybe with Clyde, ‘cause mine might not be—”

“No, it was probably Clyde,” Craig said. “He’s a medical anomaly. He’s got a lot of problems. Including the ability to impregnate men. I never should have let him top me. I was drunk. It all happened so fast. Do you want more milk?”

“I can get it,” Butters said, but Craig held out a hand to stop him from getting up. Butters’ feet were still throbbing in his too-small shoes, but it was almost a pleasant sort of throb, like they were telling war stories about what they’d been through.

“Girl or boy?” Craig asked while Butters gulped milk. Craig was staring down at Butters’ stomach, his lip slightly curled.

“Both!” Butters said. “Well, that’s what I think. They told me today that it might be two boys, but one of the wieners was kinda obscured on the ultrasound, and I think it mighta just been a finger or somethin’. Anyway, it’s twins, and they’re all wrapped up together in there, it’s real cute.”

“Ugh,” Craig said. “I mean — that’s great.” He went back to his cooking. Butters felt vaguely insulted, but he was glad to be in Craig’s kitchen, his stomach growling in anticipation of cheesy mac. It had started snowing a little outside, glittering past the kitchen window, illuminated by the back porch light.

Butters thought they might watch TV or something while they ate, but Craig served him at the table and even made a little salad with matchstick carrots and cherry tomatoes to go with the casserole. If they had watched TV, Butters wouldn’t have been able to pay attention; the food was so good, simple and salty and cheese-filled. He had three helpings. Craig watched him eat with a sort of tired resignation on his face, and Butters wasn’t sure if he wanted to talk more or just sit in companionable silence.

“Did your dad know?” Butters asked. “Um, about the baby?”

“No,” Craig said. “Hell no.”

“So who took you? When you had the, um, operation?”

Craig rolled his eyes. “Stan Marsh,” he said.

“Oh, Stan’s real nice! Him and Kyle have been bringing me vitamins at lunch. And fruit. Bananas and so forth.”

“He’s not that nice,” Craig said. “I blackmailed him into doing it. Anyway, those two act like they’re the guardians of gay sex at Park County High. What bullshit. Just because they started fucking when they were nine or something.”

“I don’t think that’s true, Craig.”

“You know what I mean. Yeah, Marsh drove me. I wanted it to be someone I wouldn’t have to talk to. He’s so dull.”

“You shouldn’t say mean things about Stan,” Butters said. “He’s my friend.”

“Uh-huh. So where the hell was he today, when you were wandering hopelessly along the side of the road like a rogue elephant?”

“Well, he was at school.” Butters frowned, wanting to get angrier about this but afraid that Craig would ask him to leave. “Thanks for dinner,” he said, hoping to change the subject. “It was super yummy.”

“Hmph,” Craig said. He sat back in his chair. “I like cooking.”

“Me, too!” Butters said. “Baking, mostly. I think food tastes best when it’s made with love,” he added, and he blushed while Craig stared at him.

“Do you want to take a bath or something?” Craig asked. “I mean, because I bet they don’t have bathtubs. At that place.”

“They sure don’t,” Butters said. “But I might just lie down for a minute, before you take me back. If you don’t mind. Someplace quiet, um. It can get kinda noisy in the boys’ ward.”

They went up to Craig’s bedroom. Butters had never been there, not even during birthday parties as a kid. Generally he wasn’t invited to Craig’s parties, but then, few were. Craig had devotedly ignored most everyone but Clyde until their sophomore year of high school.

Butters stretched out on Craig’s unmade bed when Craig indicated that he should, and he expected to feel uncomfortable but was quickly dozing. Craig’s sheets smelled like they hadn’t been washed in a while, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The ones at the crisis center were bleached and stiff with detergent, washed daily for insurance purposes. These felt worn in, and the smell of teenage boy made Butters realize how long it had been since he’d had intimate contact with one. He was glad when Craig stretched out beside him with a huff, lying on his stomach and opening Wuthering Heights on his pillow.

“Oh, dang, our homework,” Butters said, mumbling. He was drifting in and out of sleep. “We have a quiz tomorrow, don’t we?”

“Yeah,” Craig said. He was quiet for a while. “Do you want me to, like. Read it to you?”

“Sure,” Butters said. He scooted up and rested his head beside the book on the pillow, hoping he’d be able to stay awake. Craig stared at him for a moment, and he looked away when Butters smiled uncertainly.

“About twelve o’clock that night was born the Catherine you saw at Wuthering Heights,” Craig read, “A puny, seven-months child, and two hours after the mother — died.” He glanced at Butters. “Um, having never recovered sufficient consciousness to miss Heathcliff, or know Edgar.”

“I’m not worried about dying,” Butters said. “So you don’t have to get all green.”

“Well, you can, you know,” Craig said, throwing the book down. “It’s way more common when you’re a boy.”

“They wouldn’t hurt me,” Butters said, putting his hands over the twins. Craig narrowed his eyes and Butters stared back, defying him to deny this. The twins had been restless since the end of dinner, and they were moving in him now, elbowing at his insides. “How far along were you?” Butters asked.

Craig seemed to be weighing whether or not he should respond. “About two months,” he said.

“How’d you find out?”

“Ass blood.”

“Yeah, me too. Um, bleeding, yeah. In the first few months.”

“Whatever.” Craig turned back to the book. “I’m glad I did it, so don’t lie there trying to make me feel guilty.”

“I’m not!” Butters said. “So don’t try to make me feel stupid, either. Here, feel ‘em.”

He took Craig’s hand and brought it to his stomach. Craig felt more fragile than Butters had expected; the delicate bones in his wrist seemed obvious and unguarded. He stared at Butters’ stomach while the twins moved under his palm.

“I think that’s the girl,” Butters said. “She’s feisty. The boy’s more sweet. She’ll look out for him, though. They’re so lucky. No matter what happens to me, they’ll always be together. I used to have an imaginary sister who looked just like me only more girly, you know, with longer hair, and she’d do anything for me and even stood up to my parents when they were being unfair.” He made himself stop talking when Craig’s gaze flicked up to his.

“Having a sister actually kind of sucks,” Craig said. “Sometimes, I mean. For me, it does.”

“What’s wrong with your sister?” Butters asked. He felt hurt by this, his fantasy shaken.

“She runs off with my mom and that guy,” Craig said, taking his hand from Butters’ stomach and thrusting it toward his bedroom door. “And what am I supposed to do, leave my dad alone? He’s already borderline suicidal over the whole thing. And he’s working like three jobs to afford child support payments for Ruby, even though my mom’s boyfriend is a fucking allergist who probably makes a shitload.” Craig stared at Butters for a moment, his arm still outstretched, then shrugged and dropped down onto the mattress. “Whatever,” he said, muttering into the blankets. “She’s thirteen, she’s an idiot. Maybe — if I had a twin. Yeah. Maybe that’d be good.”

“We could be each other’s twins,” Butters said. “I mean,” he said when Craig gave him a look, “Like, friends. Who look out for each other. Oh, never mind.”

“I don’t have any friends,” Craig said. “It’s too much work.”

“Sure,” Butters said, though he’d never felt that way. Even when he paid visits to Clyde, Eric and Kenny all in one afternoon, it was always nice to have the company, and the sex. Part of him had always known that those weren’t exactly friendships, though.

“But Ruby’s bedroom is empty,” Craig said.

“Oh,” Butters said. “What?”

“It’s just sitting there, her old room,” Craig said. “If you need. Whatever. You could pay us rent by cooking. Or, I don’t know.” Craig rolled away from Butters, toward the wall.

“Your dad wouldn’t let me stay here,” Butters said. He touched Craig’s back and was surprised when he didn’t flinch away. “But that’s a real nice thought, thank you.”

“My dad barely knows if I’m here or not,” Craig said.

“Seems — seems like you guys are already havin’ some financial problems, though, no offense.”

“Whatever. If you want to go back to the teen center, go. It just looks fucking creepy. For a pregnant person. For — and you’re so. Blond.”

“I don’t want to go back,” Butters said. “I like it here. It’s — it’s quiet.”

“I’m good at being quiet,” Craig said.

Butters rolled toward him, which took some effort. The babies shifted in protest, and he had to angle himself so that he could press his face to the back of Craig’s neck and not have his stomach getting in the way. Craig was breathing kind of hard, through his nose, like a kid who was about to have a tantrum.

“You’re so warm,” Butters said, surprised. Craig’s skin had always looked like it would be cool to the touch.

“I really hated you,” Craig said.

“Huh?”

“When Clyde was fucking you. I hated your ass so hard. It was like a full time job, the amount of hate I had for you. I would wake up in the middle of the night consumed with hatred, like it was this song that was playing, keeping me awake. I wished so many terrible things on you, and this was one of them. Twins, even. I thought, yeah, and let it be fucking twins.”

“You were just jealous, I guess,” Butters said. “That’s okay. That’s normal.”

Craig was quiet for a while, his breath coming slower. Butters wasn’t sure what to do next. Stay? It felt impossible. Leaving seemed even crazier. It was cold out there, and dark. Craig was warm and surprisingly complacent as Butters nuzzled his neck. It had been a long time since he had any real human contact outside of a doctor’s office.

“It got to the point where I loved Clyde less than I hated you,” Craig said. “It was fucking exhausting.”

“Sounds like it would be.”

“It was,” Craig said. He sounded like a tired kid. Butters realized then that he’d never thought of Craig as anything small or vulnerable like a child. Craig had always seemed older and immune.

“I bet Clyde is sorry about all that now,” Butters said, feeling self-conscious. “I bet he misses you.”

Craig scoffed and rolled onto his back. His lips were a little greasy from the cheesy mac, shiny.

“Clyde is a sad potato of a person,” Craig said. “He cried when I told him what I did. But now you’re going through with it and he’s not even helping? He doesn’t know what he wants outside of putting his dick in any orifice that welcomes it.”

Butters giggled at that, and he could see Craig struggling not to smile. He pressed his lips together and Butters thought of what they would feel like against his own. None of the twins’ potential fathers had been big on kissing him.

“I just—” Craig said, and he winced. “I’d like it if it wasn’t just me here all the time. I wasn’t lying, my dad has three jobs. He won’t let me take one because he wants me to do well in school, and I’m trying to get scholarships—”

“Me too!” Butters said. “We could study together.” His eyes were getting cloudy, bordering on wet.

“I can’t promise anything about after they’re born, though,” Craig said. “I mean, I want to help you, but two babies, it’s not — possible, I don’t think.”

“I know,” Butters said, and in that moment he was sure he’d have to give them up. He cried hard into Craig’s chest, holding the front of Craig’s sweater over his eyes. Craig let him stay like that for a long time, sighing and smoothing Butters’ hair until it was full of static.

“Maybe your parents will come around,” Craig said. “Or maybe Clyde’s dad will, when he sees his grandkids. He’s a good guy. Clyde isn’t even that bad, he’s just fucking clueless. If you show up with two squirming babies he’ll probably cry and, I don’t know, tuck them to his bosom.”

Butters was going to protest that he wasn’t even sure that the babies were Clyde’s, but suddenly he felt sure that Craig was right. The twins had a very Clyde-like energy, which wasn’t a bad thing. Clyde had been sweet when they were together, never pushy. He had kissed Butters more often than Eric and Kenny, certainly, and he had a Hobbit-like approach to life that meant he was happy most of the time. He wasn’t afraid to cry in front of his football teammates. He was bisexual in a particularly accepting, inclusive way.

By the time Butters had stopped crying he felt sure that he would somehow raise this little family with Clyde, who, after all, was the heir to a modest but successful shoe dynasty. In the meantime Butters wanted to kiss Craig, so he did. Craig’s lips were slippery and his breath was milk-tinted, and Butters liked the cautious hand Craig laid on his hip even better than the kiss, which was also good.

“Not long ago I sooner thought I’d kill you than kiss you,” Craig said.

“Is that from Wuthering Heights?” Butters asked.

“No, it’s from real life. From me. I had an original thought. I guess I said it weird. Sorry.”

“I like it when you say awkward stuff,” Butters said. “We’ve got that in common, sorta.”

“Ugh,” Craig said, but he smiled and kissed Butters again. “No, I can’t let you go back to that place,” he said, as if Butters was making for the door.

“How come?” Butters asked, because he felt nice all over but was still craving some kind words.

“Because — well, it’s your fucking birthday, for one.”

“That’s true,” Butters said. He tucked his face down under Craig’s chin, too sleepy for more kissing. He hoped he would dream about more, though, and about Clyde crying over the twins with joy, and the tiny little shoes they would wear.

“And I just like this too much,” Craig said. He pulled up the blankets and tucked his arm around Butters. “This is a purely selfish act,” he said.

“Yes,” Butters said, already sort of asleep.

Craig’s father arrived at the house some point that night and left for his next shift at some point the following morning. Craig packed a lunch for both of them and drove Butters to school. Butters was wearing the same clothes he’d worn yesterday; they’d have to fetch his things from the center after class.

“What’s up with this?” Kyle asked when Craig sat beside Butters at the lunch table.

“It’s not your business to investigate every gay incident at this school,” Craig said.

Stan and Kyle exchanged a look, but nothing more was said. Stan passed Butters his vitamins for the day and some grapes.

“I’ve already got fruit,” Butters said, hoisting the baggie of apple slices Craig had packed for him. “But thanks, Stan. I’ll have these for a snack later.”

“No, seriously, what is going on?” Kyle asked.

“Dude, let it go,” Stan said. “You look good,” he said to Butters. “No bags under your eyes.”

“I slept real well last night,” Butters said with a nod, and he glanced over at Craig, who was reviewing Wuthering Heights in preparation for the quiz. Butters leaned over to read along with him, though he knew he’d flunk the quiz. He wondered if Stan would explain to Kyle later about how it made a kind of sense, Butters and Craig looking out for each other, because what had happened to Craig. Maybe Kyle already knew all about that. Either way, Butters was pretty sure it didn’t actually make any sense, but that was what he liked best about the whole thing.