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Baby, Now You Do

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--

“Dude, get off your email.”

Kyle tucked his iPhone back into his pocket and stared down at the paper bag in front of him, glancing back up at his dark-haired friend across the table. He reached into the bag and dug out the cardboard cup of tater tots, eyes betraying his distraction as he glanced down and to the side.

“C’mon. That shit can wait, Kyle.”

“At least you get to go to college,” Kenny interjected from his spot seated beside Stan, holding a French fry and looking at the redhead with a raised eyebrow. Stan rolled his eyes as if in agreement.

“Yeah, what kind of nerd has their school email on their phone?”

“Shut up,” Kyle replied in annoyance and began to pick at his food, not really particularly hungry. The cafeteria was assaulting his senses with the distinctive smell of burned eggs, but it was way too fucking cold to eat outside in the snow. This was really not his day, for several reasons. He caught sight of his hanging shoelaces and bent down under the tabletop to tie them, pulling his dark grey hat down further over his mess of red curls as he sat back up.

They were almost halfway through senior year, after all. Was nobody else concerned about getting into college? They only had a few more months to iron out all the details. That meant a lot of inbox-checking, since Kyle didn’t want to piss off any college reps.

“At least I’m not checking my phone for Wendy’s nudes in a public cafeteria.”

Stan made a face, and Kenny’s laugh wafted across the table in an amused wave.

“He’s got you there, Stan.”

“Keep your voice down, asshole! She’ll kill me!”

“I’ll shut up, if you share ‘em with me~”

“Fuck off, Kenny.”

Kyle vaguely listened to the back-and-forth as he finished off his fast food lunch. Stan had actually been pretty cool lately about bringing them fresh stuff from the burger place around the corner, so they didn’t have to survive on the same cafeteria crap day in and day out. His best friend was still the only one of the three of them that had a car, though, so it had sort of become his job whether he liked it or not. Kyle dug his wallet out of his pocket and forked over a ten-dollar bill, sliding it up next to Stan’s sweating soda cup.

“Yours only cost six bucks, dude.”

“Gas money,” he replied and shrugged, licking some grease off his thumb. Randy Marsh’s old beater truck couldn’t get too good of mileage, after all.

The bench shook next to him and Kyle turned to glance over his shoulder, caught eye-to-eye with a head of messy blond hair and red cheeks that glowed with obvious emotion.

“Did you guys hear?! Didja??” Butters asked as he set his lunch tray down on the stainless-steel table, dropping it with a loud enough clatter that several nearby pairs of eyes drifted over to see what was going on.

“Hear what?” Stan inquired around a mouthful of his burger, glancing at Kyle with a confused look that Kyle returned silently.

“He’s comin’ back!”

Kyle frowned. “PC Principal? He’s supposed to be gone for another week.”

“No! Eric!” Butters’ voice dropped into a whisper as he gripped the side of the table, fingers tensing as though he were telling a terrible secret.

All three guys stared blankly at Butters, before Kenny sank forwards over the tabletop with a disbelieving stare.

“No fuckin’ way.”

“Eric who?” Kyle found himself asking, mind running through the swaths of kids that had come to South Park High and left throughout the past several years. He didn’t really remember an Eric. Kenny started grinning in something that looked like disbelief, and for some reason, combined with Butters’ vivid blue gaze, Kyle immediately felt himself come back to Earth.

“Cartman?!”

“Y-Yeah! He’s comin’ back for independent study,” Butters replied in a shrill hiss, probably not really being as quiet as he intended to be. “I guess they’re lettin’ him outta the looney bin.”

“Where did you hear this?” Kyle replied unsurely, green eyes dark and thoughtful as he considered the possibilities. About five years prior, Eric Cartman had been committed to a teenage rehabilitation center north of Denver. They had gotten news of it in homeroom the Monday after he had been pulled out of classes, back when they were in the seventh grade. The redhead looked down at the surface of the table, hands tensing in his lap as the reality of it began to come home. Images began to drift back to the forefront of his mind.

Eric Cartman, hunched over him, with a fat hand on Kyle’s throat and the tip of a knife pointed between his eyes.

He shivered, silently listening to the conversation bouncing back and forth across the table.

“Yeah, spill, dude.”

“Well, I heard it from Craig, who heard it from Clyde, who I think, um, maybe Bebe…”

“Bebe?? She didn’t say shit to me when we hooked up last week.”

“Well, don’t put me on the spot, fellas. Craig said it was true!”

“So, you’re saying this is probably just bull,” Stan reasoned, casting another quick glance over at Kyle. Unlike Butters, Stan and Kenny knew the full story about what had happened, and how Kyle had been involved. The rest of the school had instead been given a vague explanation that a “violent and disturbing incident” had been the determining factor in Cartman’s forced removal from South Park High. At the time, most of the students had just expressed relief that he was gone.

Kyle frowned, trying to ignore the two sets of eyes looking his way. The further Eric Cartman stayed from him and his life, the better off everybody involved would be. The prospect of some doctor making a choice to send him back to town did nothing to lower Kyle’s defenses. Cartman was a master manipulator, and he was bound to return sooner or later. Kyle had just hoped he would be out of Colorado by the time he showed his face again.

“I’m not believing anything until I see proof,” he decided and stood up, pulling his hat down a little more and crumpling the paper lunch bag in his hands. The bell rang and he decided not to open up his mouth again, taking a breath. It was okay. Sometimes, people just fucked around with Butters to get a reaction. There was no real reason to take this to heart.

He tossed his trash in the can next to the hot line and headed down the hall to his locker. It wasn’t long before footsteps came up quick behind him, stopping at his side as he began to load textbooks into his backpack.

“…do you think he’s really coming back?” Stan’s voice inquired quietly from the other side of the green metal. Kyle frowned and checked his phone again, still missing the confirmation email he had been waiting for since 8AM that morning.

“I don’t know.”

“What if he goes after you, man? He probably thinks it’s your fault they put him away in the first place.”

“Yeah, because it’s my fault he tried to fucking kill me in my sleep,” Kyle stated flatly, shutting his locker door and clicking the combination lock shut. Stan shrugged.

“You know Cartman. Nothing’s ever his fault, in his eyes.”

Kyle nodded once in annoyance, glancing at the clock on the wall before looking back at Stan. Stan gazed back silently.

“What?”

“Can I come over again, tonight?”

“For trig?”

Stan looked mildly embarrassed. “Yeah, dude. I have to get a C on the final.”

“Yeah, bring food,” Kyle decided and smiled slightly, turning and heading off to his afternoon classes as he wiped Eric Cartman’s impending return from his brain. He had more important things to think about. If he had really been in a facility for five full years, and they had only just made the choice to let him out, well… Maybe something about him actually had changed.

He felt stupid immediately and grit his teeth. Nah, probably not.

--

If he were honest with himself, Kyle had never imagined what would happen if Eric Cartman returned to South Park.

Kyle stood at the mirror and slowly pulled his hat from his head, staring at the tangled mass of untamable red curls that exploded out from underneath. He shook his hair out and went to wash his face instead, aware that Stan would probably show up soon and not wanting to look as sleep-deprived as he actually felt.

God, he hated his hair. He soaked the moss-green washcloth in hot water and ran it slowly over his cheeks, resisting the urge to stick a clean hat on over his curls again. Stan would probably laugh at him about it.

Unsurprisingly, Stan, Kenny, and himself had remained a pretty secure trio after his departure. The three of them had continued to grow up together, and had supported one another through the normal issues that arose as kids became teenagers. Though all three of them had had various romantic encounters as younger kids, romance and sex had inevitably become a greater part of their everyday lives. Stan’s off-and-on relationship with Wendy had persisted through the years, leading to a lot of pizza-filled weekend nights as a group, where they played videogames and engaged in other distracting behavior to get his mind off of the drama. Kenny, unsurprisingly, was more the casual type when it came to dating. Hell, he had never really even formally gone out with someone, male or female, leaving various rumors about his casual encounters to circulate throughout the school like a never-ending soap opera gossip blog. Stan and Kyle were privy to the details of which of those rumors were actually true, of course, given the fact that Kenny was around them a lot and also loved to brag.

Kyle was probably the least experienced of the three. He wasn’t really someone who enjoyed meaningless fooling around, and despite a few attempts, he had failed to really hold onto anybody on the dating front. It didn’t upset him too much, but there were certainly times he had wished his most intimate teenage moment had gone beyond that one time in the light-booth with an equally-drunk Bebe after junior prom.

The trio’s relationship as friends had been somewhat of a blessing, however, when it came to the harder things in life, things that were more important than hooking up. Kyle glanced to the framed photo on the bathroom wall, the one with himself at age eight standing beside his mom and dad, and was about to let his mind go into darker places when he heard the knock at the door.

He stepped down the stairs before his mother could hear the sound and pulled it open, smiling a little at Stan, who stood there on the worn welcome mat with a plastic bag in one hand and his usual blue beanie in the crook of his arm.

“Hey.”

“I got McDonalds,” Stan replied as he stepped in, taking his shoes off at the door before following Kyle up the stairs to his bedroom. The two sat down by the single bed in the corner and Stan dug out the packet of practice problems that his trigonometry teacher had supplied them with. Kyle bent over beside him and looked over the sloppy handwriting, brow slightly furrowed.

“You already did like half of these.”

“Yeah, but I dunno…”

Kyle paused, eyes grazing over a few of the answers that were penciled in.

“Some of these are already wrong,” he realized and glanced back up, meeting the apprehensive smile head-on and pressing a resigned palm into his own face.

“Seriously? Couldn’t you guys wait until after finals this time?”

“She kissed me after our scrimmage earlier.”

“God damn it,” Kyle replied in irritation and sat back. He supposed it couldn’t be helped. Stan played football, and Wendy was a cheerleader. Trying to keep them away from one another was like trying to keep Ike from watching those weird Canadian talk-shows at full volume at 3AM.

“So now I have to do your homework for you ‘cause you can’t get your head out of the clouds.”

Stan frowned and leaned forward. “Come on, I’m not good at this stuff like you are. Just help me understand this sine cosine crap, and check my work, okay?”

Kyle, unlike Stan, was in Advanced Placement Calculus. His promising SAT scores had placed him into a classroom with a few of the nerdiest kids in the school, but Kyle didn’t mind it that much. As far as he was concerned, it was better to do well than to fall behind, and higher-level classes increased his chances at attending a prestigious university. He still hadn’t received his latest application confirmation email, and it was starting to bug him.

“You just look at the lengths of the triangle sides. It’s a ratio,” he stated in a slightly irritated voice, pointing to the diagram in question and snatching Stan’s mechanical pencil from his hand. He wrote out the relevant equations and felt eyes on him, sighing and glancing up.

“What?!”

“Kyle, I brought you dinner and everything. What’re you so pissed off for?”

“…It’s December eighth,” the redhead admitted, slowly setting the pencil down and taking a deep breath. In typical Stan fashion, his friend gazed at him with a clueless expression, before realization passed in his grey-blue eyes.

“…Fuck, dude. Sorry.”

“It’s all right,” Kyle replied, glancing to the side. “Just doesn’t feel like two years.”

Throughout the next five minutes, the planned homework session turned into something of a hangout. The two guys leaned against the side of the bed and stared down at Kyle’s phone as he scrolled down his feed, stopping at animal videos, mostly, with the occasional reposted Vine.

“Is this that screaming goat one?”

“Yeah, but it’s like, a mix of all of ‘em.”

Kyle smiled as the human-like sounds blew out through his phone speakers, feeling a hand settle on his far shoulder and turning to find Stan with his arm around him.

“Seriously, I’m sorry.”

“For what?” the redhead replied blandly as the goat yelled in the background, still sporting a ghost of a smile. “Shit happens, Stan. I guess it just had to be me that time.”

“Your dad’s really been dead two years?” Stan asked a little insensitively, seemingly speaking mostly out of surprise as he removed his arm from where it rested against the pumpkin-orange duvet. Kyle sighed and nodded his head.

“I guess.”

“Are we still sure Cartman had nothing to do with it?”

“He was still at that rehab place when it happened.”

“So? Maybe he found a way. This is Cartman we’re talking about.”

“I don’t think so,” Kyle admitted, shaking his head. “It was my dad’s fault. He was texting without looking at the road. I guess he was trolling some guy really good.” Somehow, Kyle didn’t get emotional anymore when it came up in conversation. He got irritable thinking about it, sure, for several reasons, but the tears didn’t really seem to come too often. Whenever he felt that emotion welling up in his chest, he tried to breathe it out and rise above it. Crying wouldn’t do him any good, after all. He wasn’t a little kid anymore.

“Yeah…That fuckin’ sucks.”

“Yeah.”

Somehow, after another half hour or so of animal videos and memes, both of them got back on track with Stan’s math problems. The lighting in Kyle’s small bedroom started to get low, so he got up and turned on his desk lamp to help with the dimness. Seated on the cream-colored carpet, Kyle worked him through a couple on each page and watched as he finished the rest, correcting his errors as they went. About twenty minutes in, Stan opened the box of chicken nuggets and they began to talk over mouthfuls, taking alternating swings off the same bottle of Dr. Pepper from Kyle’s kitchen fridge.

“Man, you’re way too good at this,” Stan lamented and Kyle glanced over.

“Only because I don’t get distracted as easy as you.”

“Shut up, I can’t help it. She’s amazing.”

“She’s broken up with you like six times,” Kyle reasoned, looking into the blue eyes unsurely. “Are you sure this is, uh, healthy?”

Stan shook his head and looked away as he turned to the last page of the worksheet.

“I don’t know, dude, but I don’t care. She’s really important to me.”

Kyle took a moment to let his mind drift into the future. Lately, a lot of things felt very uncertain. He was applying for top-ranked universities all around the country, while Stan seemed unsure he even wanted to go to college at all, let alone what he would major in. Kenny was currently working nights at a Best Buy as well as a buffet, and was saving up every cent he possibly could so he could move out of the house and into his own place. Kyle was starting to get a little worried that Stan and Kenny would stay in South Park, while he went off to…wherever.

Kyle had to do something, though. He didn’t like leaving his life to fate. He wanted a good job, and if he had to go out of state to get a good education and a heavy-hitter degree, he didn’t feel he could pass that up. He could always go back to South Park after he got his degree, too, if he really wanted to.

“Are you guys gonna move in together?” he settled on asking and glanced over the math problems as Stan worked, a little relieved to see his pencil moving more quickly than it had been at the beginning of their session.

Stan looked almost blissful when he smiled.

“Man, I hope so.”

“You sure she’ll stick around long enough to get the first month’s rent out of her?”

Stan actually laughed in response and looked down. “I think it’s for real this time, Kyle.”

Kyle shrugged slightly. He had never understood Stan and Wendy’s relationship. When they were together, it seemed like there was a reasonable amount of conflict, but Stan talked about Wendy like she was an angel. She had certainly grown into her own style, and dressed a lot less femininely than she had when they were younger, seemingly preferring regular, form-fitting t shirts and jeans. She now had straight and sharply-cut hair that went to her chin, and thick blunt bangs that rested directly above her almost gold-colored eyes. Kyle did find her relatively attractive, if he were being honest, but there was no question in his mind that pursuing that would be a bad idea. Stan and Wendy were just…each-other’s, and had been for as long as anyone could remember, even though each went through brief stints of dating other people. Kyle couldn’t say he was surprised Stan wanted to stay with her even after high school.

“Why do you think that?” he asked out of pure curiosity, genuinely wanting to know. For a moment, he worried that the question might be insensitive, but then Stan’s pencil stopped, and he looked up at Kyle with a wide-eyed and bright smile.

“When you’re in love, you’re not afraid of stuff anymore.”

That was…deep. A deeper sentiment than he had expected from Stan. Wincing slightly in the low light, Kyle shrugged and looked back down at the packet of papers, unable to reply to such a genuine statement in any way that wasn’t entirely truthful.

“I hope so, dude,” he admitted and began to correct one of Stan’s math errors, green eyes focused in on what he was writing.

“What about you?”

He glanced over, unsure what Stan was referring to.

“Me?”

“Yeah. You really aren’t into anybody?” his friend inquired, looking at Kyle unsurely. “What about Bebe? She still likes you, you know.”

“She just likes dick,” Kyle replied without missing a beat, adding little check marks next to every correct answer. “You heard Kenny, earlier. They’re hooking up.”

“Do you like her?”

“Not really,” he said honestly, shrugging a shoulder. “She’s cute, but that’s it. Not my type.”

“Uh, what is your type? Textbooks?”

“Fuck off,” Kyle said and set the pencil down.

“Or Craig?”

A heartbeat later, Stan found himself on the floor.

“God, I say ONE fucking thing while I’m drunk and you never let it go!” Kyle shouted and let go of his shoulders, breaking the forceful shove and staring at Stan with an irritated expression. Stan actually laughed and held his abdomen, looking up into the green gaze.

“Dude, chill out. It’s fine.”

“Fucking asshole,” the redhead replied and rolled his eyes, slumping back against the bed. “It’s girls, like, ninety percent of the time, okay?”

“You said he had nice hair.”

“I’m pretty sure Tweek owns it now,” Kyle shot back, actually smiling a little bit. He enjoyed the banter. Very rarely was he actually pissed-off at Stan, even when the guy said something stupid.

Stan continued to laugh as he pushed himself back up to a sitting position, wiping one of his teary eyes.

“C’mon Kyle, you know I don’t give a shit.”

Kyle sighed in return and finished off the last nugget, still annoyed. “Butters tried to tell the entire school I was gay, remember?”

“It didn’t even work,” Stan reminded as he finished working his last math problem, taking a swig off the soda bottle. “Everybody knows you and Bebe fucked. She told everybody.”

“Ugh, I know. Butters still asks me weird shit sometimes.”

“Like what? How to get laid?”

“More like why I go out with girls sometimes if I like guys,” he admitted, leaning against the mattress. Stan stared flatly.

“Does that guy not get that bisexual is a thing? It’s fucking 2018.”

Kyle stiffened slightly. He had mostly accepted that he was attracted to the occasional guy, even though he had lived most of his life believing that he was straight. Kenny had had a fucking field day the night that had come out, which had led to Kyle trying to deny it for another month or two before he realized it actually was a thing. Thankfully, nobody had really been a jerk about it. It was just another stupid thing that had to happen during a time in his life that was already difficult enough for other reasons.

“Okay, I gotta finish writing another essay tonight,” Kyle stated when Stan’s work was done and stood up, sitting down at his desk and opening the lid to his laptop.

“…Really? Another one?” Stan cast a wary glance at him as he packed his backpack up, taking what remained of the Dr Pepper as well. “How many places are you applying to?”

“A lot.”

“…Uh, get some sleep. Thanks for the help, man.”

“Thanks for dinner,” Kyle replied, eyes lingering on Stan as he gave him a smile. If he were honest, their bullshit conversation had been kind of a nice distraction.

“See you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

Kyle forgot to heed the advice and squinted at his word document until 2AM.

--

Fridays were a welcome respite for most high school kids, given that a lot of them bailed on classes after lunch and went home to enjoy their weekends. Kyle, though, was instead holed up in the computer lab at five in the afternoon, despite Kenny’s repeated suggestions to go with him and Stan to Shakey’s before Kenny had to go off to work for the night. Kyle had felt a little guilty about turning them down, but college applications didn’t write themselves.

As he had grown used to, staying late on Fridays came with the weirdness that was a quiet high school. While he had never been forcibly kicked out by the faculty for staying late, he did sometimes get weird looks from the few remaining teachers that had stayed after school hours, finishing up grading or whatever. Okay, so maybe he was being a giant nerd the past couple of months, but…his future was important.

Kyle wanted control over these aspects of his life. Leaving stuff to chance didn’t usually work out very well.

Succumbing to his thirst as he typed out the last few sentences, the redhead stood up from his desk chair and left the computer lab, digging in his wallet for a dollar bill. No dice. Sighing, he went to the water fountain instead and took a few hearty gulps from the calcified tap, glancing at the men’s bathroom door and deciding to relieve himself before he packed up and went home.

The bathroom was relatively dim, since the fluorescent lights had been turned off and the only remaining light emanated through the small windows near the top of the south-facing wall. He unzipped his pants and strode up to the urinal, eyes following the black text somebody had scrawled onto the beige side of the near-most stall.

The sound of the door swinging open caught his attention. Kyle instinctively tipped his head down. It wouldn’t have been the first time he had ended up pissing a urinal or two away from one of their teachers, which was awkward enough, but thankfully he was pretty much finished. As the footsteps made their way closer, he gave himself a shake and tucked himself back into his briefs, jolted back to attention by a voice that sent literal chills crawling up his spine and into his skull.

“Kyle.”

Kyle zipped his pants up and turned to look up, meeting a pair of brown eyes and jerking back instinctively with immediate recognition.

Butters was right.

“Cartman,” he replied slowly, having a hard time taking in what he was seeing. That swoop of brown hair was pretty distinctive, combined with the light brown eyes, which were also unmistakable, given that Kyle’s last look at Cartman had consisted of that same pair of eyes about three inches away from his face.

At first glance, the most alarming thing about Cartman (besides the fact that he was, well, standing a urinal’s distance away from him in a fucking dark bathroom in a deserted building) was the size of him. While not small, the guy hardly resembled the round and chubby kid Kyle remembered from middle school. He stood about an inch taller than Kyle, probably something like five-foot-ten, if he had to guess, with relatively broad shoulders and a thick build. Kyle was no stick figure, either, but Cartman clearly had more weight to him, though it didn’t all appear to be fat.

That was about the extent to which Kyle could process what he was seeing in front of him before Cartman turned his face away and unzipped the fly of his jeans, leaving Kyle to turn his own face in the opposite direction as he moved to pull himself out.

“Didn’t know you were into this. Take a picture, why don’t you?”

Kyle bit his tongue. Okay, so he knew he should like… Go away. It probably wasn’t safe to stick around with this guy in there. Kyle had no qualms about fighting him one-on-one, but knowing Cartman, a weapon might be involved, and the redhead currently only had his fists to use. He took a breath, doing his best to keep his rage under wraps. At the moment, he didn’t even care why Cartman had performed the crime that had gotten him committed. He just wanted to beat that smug face in, but it was probably smarter to walk away.

“Fuck you, fatass,” he ended up saying instead, standing by the paper towel dispensers. He could practically envision Stan pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.

Shit.

“Still got that Jersey temper, I see, Kyle,” Cartman replied coolly and folded himself away, much to Kyle’s relief. To the redhead’s surprise, his voice had definitely changed, though it definitely still held some of the same inflections. With a surprisingly relaxed gait, Cartman moved over to the sinks and proceeded to wash his hands in the spitting water stream, turning slowly towards Kyle with an impassive look.

This seemed, in all ways, like a bad dream. If anything, Kyle was mostly pissed off by the other’s nonchalance.

“You think I won’t kick your ass, you fat fuck?!” he ended up asking as rage began to boil inside him deep, heating his ears, his face, burning in his green eyes as Cartman tore off a paper towel and smoothed it between his palms. Before he could stop them, a thousand questions began to drip in Kyle’s mind, surging in his temples like hot blood.

Infuriatingly, Cartman just stared back at him without a response.

“What, cat got your tongue?” Kyle tried and took a step forward, thrusting his face into Cartman’s space. The logical approach didn’t matter to him anymore. It seemed illogical that Cartman was even here, at this damn high school. Why didn’t he just get homeschooled? Why hadn’t they kept him in rehab? What idiot person had made the judgement that it was okay to have this guy walking around free?

“Did they cut it out in the nuthouse? Or are you just too scared to talk, you vile piece of shit-“

“Look, Kyle,” Cartman replied in a deadpan-sounding tone, gesturing towards the white dispenser hanging on the wall opposite the sinks. Kyle blinked, completely caught off guard, and turned his head slightly. What-

“Tampons are only twenty-five cents. Maybe you should splurge, for once. It sounds like you might be needing one.”

Cartman was gone before Kyle could commence with the ass-whooping. The bathroom door swung behind his peaceful retreat, and he stared in amazement for a few silent seconds, resisting the urge to kick the door as it bounced.

There they were, the typical snide comments, but they were different. Cartman hadn’t given the slightest signs of being riled up, nor had his voice been dark or bitter, with the intent to hurt that he remembered so well. It was almost as if…well…he was deflecting him to get out of the situation, and had no need to fight back, past his usual sarcastic remarks.

“…” Kyle pushed the door open and ran out. He looked back and forth, staring down each hall, searching for any sign of where his enemy had gone. He supposed, in slight retrospect, he should be relieved that Cartman hadn’t pulled a blade on him, or retaliated in any way besides a few biting remarks, but god damn it, he was fucking pissed off as shit.

“You’re fucking dead, you know!” he shouted out to the empty hall and slowly made his way back to the computer lab, eyes darting back and forth suspiciously with each footstep. Slowly, like an old Windows desktop, his brain began to process everything he had seen. Eric Cartman was back at South Park High, doing something where he stayed after hours. Eric Cartman had been allowed to go free. Eric Cartman had come up to him emotionlessly, assaulted him with deceptively-calm jokes questioning his sexuality AND his genitals, and then just fucking walked away without a second glance.

“I’m gonna fucking kill you, you son of a bitch,” Kyle yelled at nothing again as he shoved his notebook unceremoniously into his backpack, pulling his navy-blue hat down over his hair in severe irritation and logging out of the computer. He immediately snatched his phone out of his pocket and, after checking his email for a final time with a single swipe across the grimy screen, opened his group chat with Stan and Kenny and furiously typed out his amazement while he walked through the hall.

you won’t fucking believe this

--

Chapter Text

--

With final exams creeping up on the horizon, Kyle was starting to find himself more distracted than usual. Cartman’s return had completely thrown him off, to say the least, though a full week had somehow gone by without any further encounters. Stan and Kenny had been understandably shocked, but neither of them had run into Cartman, either, so it was unclear when he was and wasn’t on school grounds.

On a side note, it seemed unfortunate that PC Principal’s installation of menstrual hygiene products in all the school bathrooms, an effort to be more accommodating to the transgender and non-binary students, had had to happen a mere few weeks before Cartman was able to catch Kyle standing right next to the damn dispenser, ripe for the joke-making. It was like fate was laughing in his face.

Thankfully, there were welcome distractions that popped up every now and again, and today, Token had been the person to bring one to his attention when the end-of-classes bell rang out through the main hallway.

“You’re a fuckin’ beast today,” the tall guy stated and caught his basketball for a final time, tucking it under his arm. “Aren’t you supposed to be a nerd?”

Kyle laughed and wiped the sweat from beneath his bangs with a bare forearm. “I guess. It’s good to get my mind off that shit.”

“Maybe you should go after a sports scholarship,” Token suggested and sat down on the bench at the side of the concrete court, digging in his backpack and pulling out a bottle of water. “You know, try it out. Even if you don’t get anything.”

“We don’t even have a real team anymore,” the redhead reminded him, breathing heavily, a little annoyed he had forgotten to bring a drink of his own. It was true. A year ago, he had wondered if he could get into college and go professional with basketball. He was one of the high school’s best players, for sure, but some new state law had been passed in August that cut funding for sports in Colorado’s public schools. Football and soccer had somehow been selected by the Board of Directors as the funded sports for boys, with volleyball and cheer being kept for the girls, which left basketball junkies like Kyle and Token high and dry. The two of them sometimes played outside of school in the nearby park, with the occasional presence of Clyde or Kenny.

Token pulled the bottle away from his mouth and smiled sympathetically. “You could still apply.”

“I’m already applying to do pre-med,” Kyle admitted and glanced out at the street, watching an old electric-blue Saturn swerve around the corner and onto one of the adjoined neighborhood streets. The chirping of birds emanated from somewhere in one of the nearby pine trees that were scattered throughout the park. It was cold as hell out, but most of the snow had melted the night before, and the sun was shining down brightly over the wet grass, so he and Token had braved the outdoor court in their jeans and sweatshirts. Kyle felt good as the blood continued to pump fast in his veins, soothing some of the academics-related stress that had built up the night before.

“You want to be a doctor?”

“Maybe. Or a surgeon,” Kyle replied, glancing up unsurely. Token caught his gesture and raised an eyebrow at him.

“But?”

“’But’ what?”

“You don’t sound too into that.”

“It’s really good job security,” Kyle admitted, leaning back and pulling one foot up so it rested on the slightly damp park bench. “I just wanna get everything settled, you know? I need to move out of my p-…my mom’s house, so I need to make money.”

“Just live in the dorms wherever you go to college,” his friend suggested. “Most guys our age don’t have their whole life planned out.”

“I don’t like leaving shit to chance.” It was the truth. Kyle wasn’t entirely sure he understood this mentality that most of the guys in his senior class seemed to have. Stan wanted to move out with Wendy, which seemed like a tenuous situation at best. Kenny wasn’t even planning on college, and had instead decided to bust his ass working several low-wage jobs for god knew how long until he could get his own crummy apartment. Other guys like Clyde, Craig and Tweek didn’t seem to have a clear idea what they wanted to pursue, either. Didn’t people want some kind of stability?

“I know what you mean,” Token replied, shrugging a shoulder and tossing the ball a few inches up before catching it in both hands. “I wanna go into nonprofit stuff. I think working for a cause would be cool.”

Kyle looked over a little skeptically. Sure, that was selfless, given that Token had grown up wealthy, but-

“How are you gonna make any money?”

“I’ll figure it out. Big charities can make bank.”

“You could get something better. You get pretty good grades.” Kyle didn’t typically have such personal discussions with Token. They were friends, but their interactions were mostly limited to English class and basketball, these days. “You’re on the debate team. You could do law? You don’t wanna be working for nothing.”

Token narrowed his eyes at him.

“A humble life isn’t always a shitty one, braniac.” He paused briefly, glancing down at the grass beneath the bench. “I should be giving back. I’d rather be broke and helping people out than rolling in dirty lawyer money.”

Ouch.

Token seemed to realize his mistake and looked back up quickly, eyes wider and mouth forming an uncertain line.

“Sorry, dude. I didn’t mean it like that.”

“…it’s cool,” Kyle replied honestly, stomach making a self-conscious twist. Token had a point, whether it was intentional or not. Maybe his father hadn’t been the most morally-sound person in the world. Kyle suddenly remembered that brief stint he’d been on about a decade back, when that slew of ridiculous sexual harassment lawsuits had left most of South Park broke while the Broflovskis moved from mansion to mansion instead.

Also, what with Gerald Broflovski’s life insurance policy pay-out, and the Blacks’ general well-off lifestyle, Token and Kyle were probably the only two people in their class not stressing about prospective tuition costs. He still had it pretty good on the money front, all things considered. It was noble that Token was willing to pursue low-paying opportunities, though. Maybe Kyle was just more selfish…

Thankfully, Token sent him an unsure smile instead of making the conversation more awkward.

“You’re all about settling down, man. Don’t tell me you’re getting ready to put a ring on someone.”

Kyle snorted, running a hand through his curls. He did forgo a hat during basketball, due to the sweat that tended to build up whenever he tried to wear one while exercising. “God, no.”

Token laughed and rested his head on the back of the bench.

“Bebe asked me if you’re still single.”

“Fucking Christ,” Kyle replied with a groan and dug his fingers into his leg. Why was everybody so interested in his love life lately?

“I’m not gonna go out with Kenny’s sloppy seconds.”

“Ouch. I think she’d slap you if she heard you say that.”

Kyle glanced down at the dew that was beginning to pool over the toe of his boot. “It’s not about girls,” he replied after a few silent moments, eyes narrowing. “Life just throws shit at you, you know? I mean…If I do everything I can to get my life squared away, then I can start taking more risks.”

“Hey, speaking of risks-”

Token got out his phone and swiped through a couple of pages, clicking to the Events tab on his Facebook and turning the screen towards Kyle. “There’s a party at Tweek’s place on Friday night.”

Kyle paused. “Shit, I haven’t been checking.”

“Yeah, I figured. It might be good for you to get your nose out of the books for a night. Me and Nic will be there.”

“Wait, Tweek’s house?”

“His parents are going to be out of town. I think Craig’s handling the details,” Token stated knowingly, aware what they were both thinking. There was no way that spazz could plan a party. Kyle chuckled quietly, trailing off into a hum.

“I dunno, man. I probably shouldn’t get blitzed this close to finals.”

“What are you, my grandma?”

“Fuck off. I can’t go failing shit now.”

“You have As in everything. You probably couldn’t fail if you tried.”

Kyle hummed unsurely. He knew Stan and Kenny would probably go, too, Stan for Wendy and Kenny for…everything that happened at parties.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll go.”

“Fuck yeah, you will. It starts at seven. Bring booze if you can.”

It looked like he and Stan would be soliciting Jimbo again, but he had to live just a little.

--

Tweek’s house was actually in a pretty nice part of town. Kyle had never been to it, having had no real reason to ever visit or even know where it was. Thankfully, Stan was okay with being their wheels as usual. Kenny was already going off in the backseat about something that Kyle was only half-listening to.

“-but like, get this. So, Red isn’t into people like that. Bebe told me she’s asexual.”

“So?” Stan replied as he stopped at a red light, hearing a clinking of bottles and frowning under his long bangs. “Dude, hold onto the beer.”

“I got it, I got it. But yeah, you guys ever heard of that?”

“I think so,” Kyle contributed as he scrolled onto the Event page on his phone, musing over the ’38 Going’ value in the info box at the top. Supposedly, only Seniors had been invited, but he was sure some people outside of their class would show up anyway. Something yanked at the side of his head and he spun around, frowning at the grinning blond behind the seat headrest.

“What the hell?”

“Take your hat off for once! It’s a party,” Kenny cajoled, reaching again, snickering as his hand was smacked away.

“Fuck you.”

“Chicks dig touching a guy’s hair.”

“Not my hair.” Kyle couldn’t help it. He was self-conscious. Kenny and Stan both had reasonably straight tresses that looked easy to brush and could obviously go days without washing or frizzing up. Kyle’s hair basically had two modes: acceptable, when freshly washed and air-dried directly out of the shower, and puffy-asymmetrical cloud, at any other possible time. It was just better for the world if his mess of curls just stayed out of the light of day.

“Hey Kyle, loosen up tonight, okay?”

Kyle glanced up at Stan, surprised by the request. Stan looked back at him as he made a left turn, passing through an empty crosswalk.

“You keep bailing on us, lately. At least forget about all that college crap for tonight and think about something else. Uh, you can help me out later.”

“I’m not being your wingman again,” Kyle replied immediately, not missing the slight embarrassment on Stan’s expression. “You’ve gotta learn to talk to Wendy yourself. You said it was working out.”

Stan was silent as they pulled onto the street up next to one of the houses, tires rolling into the gravel as he parked half the truck up onto the curb behind somebody’s green Volkswagen beetle. He stuck the parking brake into place and rolled up the driver’s side window, leaving Kyle to hop out the passenger door onto the sidewalk.

The trio walked up the pavement and to the front door, between the two large, blue pots filled with a colorful assortment of carnations. Stan rang the doorbell, and was greeted by a tall guy with similar straight-black hair, who made kind of a sour face at the sight of the beer in Kenny’s arms.

“We’re gonna have, like, five-hundred bottles of Angry Orchard, now,” Craig stated but stepped to the side, letting them across the threshold.

Despite the fact that it was only about 7:30 at night, quite a few people already seemed to be conglomerating around Tweek’s living room and dining area. At first glance, he could see Token and Nichole over near the dining room table, eyeing what looked like several full bowls of chips and a few two-liter bottles of soda and mixers. Tweek’s voice could be heard coming from the kitchen doorway, followed by Craig’s more level tone.

Kyle let Stan and Kenny deal with the liquor as he glanced around. The Tweak household was cozy, with lots of muted browns and greens, and small halos of light emanated from strings of lights hung around the doorways and along the tops of the walls. He paused, eyeing the rainbow colors with momentary confusion. Technically it was mid-December…so maybe Tweek had wanted to make it Christmas-y, or something.

“You made it!” Token called out and Kyle looked up, realizing he’d been noticed. He smiled and made his way over to the couple, shoving a hand in his pocket.

“I said I would.”

“We’re gonna play beer pong later. You in? Clyde’s bringing all sorts of crazy shit. He wants to make jungle juice.”

“Sure, why not,” Kyle relented, adjusting the hem of his grey t-shirt over his jeans. Maybe this wasn’t a great idea. His Princeton application was due in three days, but…it was tempting.

“Bebe better not get weird on me.”

Token grinned. “I can’t promise shit. You know how she gets.”

“I’m guessing she’s coming with Wendy?”

“Yeah, a bunch of the girls are carpooling. Keep Stan on a leash.”

Kyle made a disgusted face. “Dude, if anything I want shit to happen so he’ll stop crying about her. He said they’re back on, anyways.”

The small talk continued until Clyde did indeed show up, and Token went to help him lug more alcohol out of the back of his car. Kyle chatted with Nichole for a while about classes when more people began to show up; first Red, with Heidi in tow, and then Bebe and Wendy, as expected, with Patty and Lola. Pulling the flaps of his hat down, Kyle excused himself to the kitchen so he could avoid the blonde’s eyes, finding Kenny already by the stove cracking open a bottle of vodka by an assortment of liquor bottles that were already populating next to the microwave.

“Hey, if Bebe starts making eyes at me, do something,” he announced himself and grabbed the other’s shoulder, looking into the amused expression.

“Whoa, you really don’t like her?”

“I’m not interested,” Kyle clarified. He didn’t plan on playing games with her, and he was pretty sure she just wanted him physically anyway. “Just distract her if she starts hanging off me, okay?”

Kenny kept eye contact as he reached over to the countertop, gripping a red solo cup by its base and pouring a heavy gush of vodka down inside. Upon closer inspection, Kyle could see that there was already something blue inside, that fizzed upon mixing with the clear alcohol.

“Only if you drink this,” the blond said with a shit-eating grin, shoving it in Kyle’s face. This was a bad idea… but Kyle downed half of it in one gulp anyway, shooting back a challenging look.

Maybe he should stay away from their mix-master for the night.

As evening dimness began to settle outside, the rest of the party guests trickled in minute by minute. At some point, Tweek had made his way into the living room and turned the Smart TV onto some kind of Christmas music station, probably to match the theme of the lights. The chattering got louder as he wandered from group to group with his solo cup, still working on that blue drink Kenny had concocted for him. It tasted mostly like vodka, which was a blessing, since really sweet stuff like rum had the tendency to make feel him a little sick. The increasing number of bodies was starting to make him sweat, but like hell was he taking his hat off and looking stupid in front of their entire class.

Somebody had decided that they should play King’s Cup instead of Beer Pong, so Craig helped Tweek clear the snacks away and about eight of them sat down at the table with a pair of dice and full cups. It moved along pretty quickly, given that nobody was particularly shitfaced at the start of it. Clyde made the rule that rolling a six meant everybody had to sing five words of a Christmas song and go around the table, until the final person who couldn’t remember the next lyrics had to drink. To Kyle’s simultaneous relief and exasperation, Wendy and Stan were seated together, with Stan’s arm draped around her shoulders and a goofy-ass inebriated smile planted solidly on his face the entire time. Kyle knew he should be happy for his friend, but…ugh. It didn’t help that Nichole was leaning against Token, and Bebe kept glancing back into the kitchen over her chair whenever Kenny’s voice rang out down the hall.

It occurred to Kyle, on his third cup, that he hadn’t dealt with his insulin pump yet that night and was consuming a hell of a lot of sugar. Realizing it was a valid excuse to take a break from the gushy couples, he pushed up from his chair and set his drink down. He noticed Token’s curious glance and made a hand gesture at him.

“’m gonna go to the restroom. You guys keep going without me.”

He ignored the playful boos and jeers as he got up and made his way up the stairs, entering Tweek’s upstairs bathroom through the open door and gazing at his expression in the mirror. With a slow breath, he pulled his hat off to let his red curls spring free.

“What’s wrong with me?” he wondered aloud under his breath, turning on the faucet and bending down to splash his face with water. He was definitely tipsy, though not quite trashed yet. He should be having a hell of a lot more fun than he was. Everything was good; no fights were breaking out, Bebe was leaving him alone, and even Stan was stupid-happy about reuniting with Wendy.

He grabbed a grey washcloth from next to the sink and began to dry his face, brow furrowed as he clicked on the little cubic pump clipped to the belt loop above the pocket of his jeans. How many carbs did two solo cups full of mystery drink add up to? He went through the menu and pumped the number up to an estimated 80grams, hitting the confirm button and pulling his shirt back down over the inch of exposed plastic tubing trailing from the small port in his side. He’d be pretty useless in a couple of hours when the insulin started to run through him, but hopefully he could keep his energy at least until midnight so he didn’t seem like a total loser…

Kyle groaned and leaned against the countertop. He knew he should be relaxing, having a good time, chilling out, but how could he? All of this was going to end before they knew it. Stan would move in with Wendy, Kenny would go god-knew-where, and Kyle…well…He might actually end up totally alone.

“Looking for a tampon again?”

Never in Kyle’s life had he felt so fucking cold.

Naturally, he spun and looked over at the doorway, locking gazes with a deadly honey-brown that made his hands ball up into fists.

“Fuck!” he shouted louder than intended and winced, arms jerking instinctively in the deep-rooted desire to cover his hair from sight. Amazingly, the last person in the world he wanted to see was leaning against the doorframe, wearing a black jacket and an unreadable stare.

“Nice to see you, too, Kyle.”

Kyle blinked hard, trying to make sure this was actually something that was really happening before his eyes. This was seriously like a bad dream. How Cartman kept showing up in places where nobody else fucking saw him made Kyle seriously wonder if the entire thing was his own hallucination.

“Nobody invited you, fat-ass.” Hell, Cartman didn’t even have a Facebook, as far as he knew. How had he known about the party? Why would he show up? Why would he think anybody wanted to see his face?

Those brown eyes looked back at Kyle, familiar and yet somehow different from the pair that stuck in his memory like a thorn in his heel.

“I think you’ll find I invited myself just fine,” Cartman replied, bringing a hand up and looking at it, like he was checking his nails for dirt. Something about this made Kyle’s blood boil even faster.

“You’re just gonna act like nothing’s changed,” he realized, fingers twitching with the desire to stuff his hat back on. Usually, calling Cartman fat elicited SOME kind of a response. His coolness seemed like a bad sign. Kyle was horribly familiar with how Cartman played his games. Usually, this measured and carefree way of moving and speaking was followed by the dropping of some kind of atomic bomb.

Infuriatingly, Cartman half-smiled at him. “Well, you certainly haven’t changed much. Still as ginger and Jewish as ever, I see.”

“I’m gonna smash your fucking teeth in.”

“Whoa, there, Agent Orange. I’m just here to take a leak. Quit hogging the bathroom.”

Kyle’s stomach twisted. Multiple Cartman encounters would have been disgusting enough without them constantly having to happen in restrooms.

“Back the fuck back,” he stated darkly, taking a step forward, vaguely pissed off that Cartman appeared to be the slightest bit taller than him. He knew he shouldn’t fight… He didn’t need to cause a scene at a party and he certainly didn’t need to call attention to the fact that this guy could still get under his skin like this. He took another step, coming up about half a foot from Cartman, who just stood there as though he were expecting something. Kyle didn’t intend to give him an inch of power.

“Don’t test me, Cartman. Go piss in some other fucking toilet.”

That half-smile spread into a full one, and Kyle immediately knew that his self-control had rolled over and died.

“Oh-ho, that’s bold of you, Kyle. I didn’t realize your mouth was open for business.”

He lost it. Kyle’s left hand buried itself in the thick black polyester, yanking hard, as his other hand formed a fist and smashed its way into the side of the smirking face. He stumbled, gripping hold of Cartman by his clothes as his weight sent them toppling down onto the rug beside the bathroom. The brunette shouted with pain, shoving against Kyle’s shoulders as Kyle struggled to regain his upper-hand. He stared vengefully into the startled brown eyes and punched him again, slamming his knuckles into his face a third time, and then a fourth time, when hot liquid began to smear against his knuckles, coating Cartman’s chin and mouth.

“YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!”

“Fuck, lay off! Lay off-“

“I’m gonna fucking KILL Y-“ His stomach screamed as Cartman’s knee buried itself into him, nearly throwing him off and to the side. Kyle choked and scrambled closer to the wall, retching, shutting his eyes as he reached down and grabbed hold of his abdomen. Stars burst before his vision as he shook his head, trying to shake himself out of it, rolling back up onto his hands and knees.

He could hear the pounding of footsteps on the stairs, and immediately opened his eyes into a squint, crawling his way back into the bathroom and hanging against the edge of the bathtub on limp arms. God… He retched again but managed to avoid vomiting, throat burning as a gush of stomach acid surged at the back of his tongue.

“Dude, Kyle, what the hell??”

Kyle cursed mentally at the sound of the familiar voice, trying to sit up and glancing back over his shoulder. Stan stood there a few feet away from the bathroom doorway, grey-blue eyes large and flicking between himself and something else outside the door on the carpet. Kyle took a deep breath even as his stomach screamed, locking eyes with the brown-haired male, watching how Cartman covered his mouth and nose with one seriously bloody hand.

For some reason, images flashed in Kyle’s mind, taking him back to that night when they were thirteen, when he’d awoke to himself choking on his own saliva, throat tight and crushed as he eyed the knife blade that had settled itself on his forehead.

“You mother-fucking PIG!” Kyle spat hoarsely and got to his feet, immediately seeing Stan’s concerned face in his vision, feeling two hands on his chest, holding him steady and in place despite the pain and rage that were still irradiating up through his abdomen.

“He’s not worth it!”

“You’re fucking DEAD, CARTMAN!!”

“Kyle, stop!”

Stan pushed Kyle backwards into the small strip of wall by the towel rack, avoiding Kyle’s swinging fists.

“What the fuck is he doing here, Stan?!”

“I don’t know, dude! Calm down!”

“Don’t let me see your fucking face again!” Kyle shouted loudly, trying to look over Stan’s shoulder, managing to break free from the hold. He stumbled over to the doorframe and looked out, greeted instead by Kenny and Craig’s staring faces and the noticeable pool of blood that had soaked into the carpet where Cartman had been sitting a few moments prior.

“Kyle, Jesus Christ,” the blond stated and ran over, gripping Kyle by the hand. “What the fuck?”

“Where did he go?!” Kyle spat back, hands clenching and tensing with anger. Stan came back into view alongside Kenny as Craig hovered in the background, obviously looking down at the drips of blood littering Tweek’s carpet.

“…Who was it?”

“Cartman,” Stan clarified and looked over at Kenny, matching the blond’s wide-eyed expression of disbelief. Kyle exhaled sharply in frustration, trying to allow his rage to diffuse as he reached out and lightly pushed Stan away again. Instead he walked over to the stairs and looked down them, meeting a few curious gazes from fellow partygoers at the bottom and wincing as he glanced back over his shoulder at Craig.

“Please tell me nobody invited his ass!” was all he could think to say as he glanced back at Stan, looking around, holding onto his stomach in one arm as he bent awkwardly against the banister.

“Uh, no way. I didn’t even think he was really back,” Craig replied, looking genuinely surprised.

“Dude, sit down.” Walking back over, Stan put his hands on Kyle’s shoulders and eased him into a sitting position on the carpet, glancing over to Kenny and saying something quietly about ice. Heartrate slowing down, he closed his eyes and allowed himself a few deep breaths, images still fading in and out of his mind.

“Kyle…what happened?”

“I was washing my face and he showed up,” Kyle replied when he came back to himself, looking up at Stan, green eyes dark and burning slightly even as his emotions began to boil down. “I warned him.”

“I think you broke his nose,” Stan said as he eyed the drying blood on Kyle’s wrist, sounding more impressed than anything. Kenny came back into Kyle’s field of vision and deposited something electric blue against his abdomen, causing the redhead to tense up.

“Chill. It’s an ice pack.”

“I told you he was back,” Kyle stated, more to himself than anybody else. It was kind of a relief to know that Stan had at least gotten one look at him.

“I’ll take us home,” Stan offered unsurely, casting a glance at Kenny and then back over at Kyle. “The party’s dying out, anyways. Cartman probably already left.” The redhead looked unsurely at his friend, able to see the red faded across his cheeks.

“Can you drive?”

“Keys,” Kenny butted in, thrusting his open hand at Stan. “The mix-master can’t get toasted.”

Stan relented, digging in his pocket and thrusting the requested item into the blond’s hand as Kyle slowly got back up to his feet. Sighing, he followed his two friends down the carpeted steps, passing by Craig again at the base of the stairs, almost finding it in himself to be amused to see the party host holding onto a shivering blond with one arm and flipping them off with his free hand.

“You guys scared the shit out of Tweek,” he stated, waving anyways as they approached the door.

“Make sure he’s actually gone, he’s fucking psycho. Uh, sorry about the carpet,” Kyle said to Craig as Kenny pulled him out by the wrist, following along, sliding into the car and holding the ice pack against his abdomen firmly.

“Dude…” Kenny pulled Stan’s truck off the gravel, turning on the headlights and glancing over at Kyle with an unsure expression. “What did he do to you?”

“He kneed me in the fucking stomach.”

“So you wailed on him?”

Kyle paused, trying to recall the series of events.

“I hit him first. He said he was gonna piss in my mouth, or some shit.”

“Dude, sick.” Stan leaned forward from the backseat, craning his head into the front. Really just kind of wanting to be alone, Kyle closed his eyes in response, rolling the window down and feeling the cold night air brushing against his sweaty forehead.

He had left his hat in that bathroom, his brain reminded him. Damn it.

“Hey Kenny, can we all crash at my place?” Stan, as usual, had some forethought when it came to his close friends’ wellbeing. He knew Sheila Broflovski would freak out unnecessarily hard if she saw that Kyle was hurt in any way, and Kenny’s place, for obvious reasons, wasn’t really a hangout spot of choice.

“Yeah, sure thing.”

The remainder of the night was a little bit of a blur to Kyle, whose head was completely in another place. As they made their way up the stairs to Stan’s bedroom, set out a sleeping bag, and threw their shoes in the corner, he found himself combing through his memories from that night. That same night five years back, when he had woken up in the midst being choked, with Eric Cartman’s tense hand and gleaming knife just a few inches away from his face. He remembered the fogginess in his head, the way his heart had beat so hard he had felt it in his esophagus…

Kyle sat down on the edge of Stan’s mattress, glancing back unsurely before climbing in beside Stan as Kenny adjusted himself on the floor. It had been awhile since he and Stan had slept in bed together, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to feel awkward about it, even though it probably should have been weird. Vaguely, Kyle noticed a few bruised marks on the juncture of Kenny’s neck and shoulder as the blond settled in. Maybe he didn’t want to know the source of that.

Thankfully, the insulin in his veins was starting to make his eyelids feel heavy, so Kyle found his rage dissipating each time it began to rear its head. The redhead closed his eyes and gave up, a final defiant and angry realization fading from his conscious thought.

Cartman fucking knew he hated piss.

--

Chapter Text

--

“All right, everyone. Make sure to turn in your final review packet before our exam on Friday.”

Kyle wrote himself a note in his planner as the bell sounded out through his English classroom. He had already completed that assignment, but a reminder to put it in the hall drop-box wouldn’t hurt. Standing up, he looked back over his shoulder at his black-haired friend, who was perched kind of awkwardly in his window-side desk with both feet up on the seat and his eyes glued to his phone screen.

Wendy, for sure. Sighing, the redhead slung his backpack over his shoulder, adjusting his navy-blue ushanka hat over his head and striding out into the hall. He went to his locker and undid the combination lock, pulling it from the hook and pausing when Tweek, whose locker was a few away from his, came into sight.

“Hey, Tweek,” he called to him and shoved a textbook into his locker, looking into the nervous face a little guiltily.

“I’m sorry about your party last weekend.”

“Nnhh!” A typical response. The blond smiled a little, though, thankfully.

“I-It’s okay. Craig helped me get the blood out of the rug.”

Kyle sighed with a little relief. Hopefully that meant Tweek’s parents were none-the-wiser about the scene that had gone down that night.

“Hey, dude, I left my hat in your bathroom,” he admitted as he shut his locker closed, balancing his backpack on his knee so he could get it zipped up. Tweek twitched, squinting one eye slightly.

“Your hat?!”

“Uh, yeah.”

“I didn’t see a hat!”

Kyle raised an eyebrow. He was positive he had left it there.

“It was my dark grey one,” he explained, trying to clarify by pointing at his head so Tweek would know what he meant. “Like the one I have on. I took it off and I forgot to grab it.”

“I-I’m sorry! I don’t know!” The blond began to breathe quickly, white fingers reaching up to grip into his hair. “Was it expensive?! Are you going to make me pay for it?!”

“Dude, chill out,” Kyle reassured, reaching out and lightly squeezing Tweek by the shoulder, startled by the “AAH!” he elicited by mistake and taking his hand away. “It’s not a big deal. I’ve got, like, eight of them.”

“Aahnnngh…Are you sure?”

A dark-haired man stepped into view, coming up beside Tweek and looking at Kyle with his typical placid expression.

“What’s wrong, honey?”

“Craig!! Kyle left his hat at my house! I didn’t see it anywhere!”

Craig glanced at Kyle and gently put an arm around the blond, expression unchanging.

“We didn’t find a hat when we cleaned up,” he admitted, glancing at the redhead. “Are you sure you didn’t take it home with you?”

Kyle sighed and shrugged, wishing he’d never asked and turning away. The redhead practically never showed his hair in public, so he owned an assortment of hats in varying colors, most in his usual ushanka-style since they tended to hide his hair the most effectively. Losing one hat wasn’t the end of the world.

“It’s cool. Forget it.”

“I’ll bring it to school if we find it.”

“Thanks.”

Kyle waved halfheartedly and made his way down the hall, passing by a few vending machines and heading for the outside doors. Confusingly, a voice he barely recognized called out behind him, closer than he expected anybody to be.

“Kyle? Can you come here for a minute?”

Spinning around slowly, Kyle held onto his backpack strap with one hand and observed the person standing next to one of the office doors, eyes settling on her blond hair that was held up with a plastic clip.

“Vice Principal Woman?”

“I’m sorry, I know it’s technically your lunch break,” she apologized and took a step backwards, opening the door to her office. “Can I talk with you about something? It won’t take long.”

“…” He didn’t have any reason to say no. Nodding slightly, he carried his backpack into the familiar office and shut the door behind himself. He doubted he was in any kind of trouble, and the Vice Principal hadn’t sounded particularly emotional in her greeting. Maybe one of his choice universities had contacted the school about him?! He wasn’t sure they ever did that, but was it possible?

He took a seat in front of the dark Cherrywood desk, crossing his ankles under the chair in slight apprehension.

“Kyle,” the blonde spoke hesitantly and leaned across the desk, rhinestones gleaming in her earlobes. “I wanted to speak with you about Eric Cartman.”

Kyle’s hopes deflated immediately as his stomach twisted and churned. This was not the discussion he needed to have right now.

“…What’s going on?” he asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

The Vice Principal shifted in her seat slightly. “Well, there are rumors that you’ve had some conflicts with him lately. I figured it was only fair to explain the situation to you.”

The redhead didn’t really know or care how word of their fight had gotten out among the school staff. It hadn’t happened on school grounds, so it wasn’t like they could really punish him for it. As far as Kyle was concerned, it had been fucking self-defense, anyways, given that his and Cartman’s last struggle had literally been a struggle of life and death.

“What the fuck is he doing back in South Park?” he asked, starting to get exasperated.

“We haven’t made any official announcements to the school,” she replied, threading her fingers together and setting her hands onto a stack of what looked like printed paperwork. “But I’ll give you a heads-up, since it seems like you’re already being affected by this.”

“Please, just tell me.”

“Eric Cartman was released from Denver’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Clinic about a month ago. He passed all his exit evaluations and was told he had to leave the facility.”

“He’s not in any of my classes,” Kyle butted in, brows drawing down into a frown. “He fucking ambushed me out of nowhere.”

“While in treatment, Eric completed his coursework online to stay on track,” she explained, manicured nails clicking on the surface of the desk. “Upon release, he was given the choice of continuing his online education, or returning to South Park High for independent study.”

“They let him pick?!” Kyle asked incredulously, gazing at the Vice Principal in disbelief. “Of course he chose to come back here!”

“Kyle, it wasn’t our decision,” the blond replied knowingly, sitting back in her seat and looking at him from under her dark eyelashes. “State government controls the law regarding public school accessibility. We would have had no legal ground to stand on if we tried to deny him the choice to attend.”

“He’s doing independent study?” Kyle shot back, recalling those were the words that had been used. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means we’ve scheduled his classwork outside of school hours. He comes in between five and eight PM each night and completes work packets in one of the extra classrooms.”

It was no wonder that asshole had come up to him when he had been at school late that one Friday. Trying to control his famous temper, he frowned up at the woman suspiciously.

“PC Principal and myself have tried to schedule his attendance in order to keep him separate from the other students. We can’t deny him the right to complete his work on school grounds, so we reached a compromise in order to minimize potential conflict.”

“What does this have to do with me?” Kyle was starting to get irritated, unsure how much they did or didn’t know about the most recent ‘conflict’ he had had with that fucker. “All I did was break his nose at that party. He tried to kill me in seventh grade!”

She smiled, actually looking a little amused. “I did hear the rumors. I suppose it’s no wonder he came in yesterday looking like he fell down the stairs.”

Kyle had no idea what he was supposed to do with this information, besides make sure he didn’t stay late on campus anymore. At the very least, some of his curiosity was sated, knowing why Cartman had returned and what he was doing back at the school.

On second thought, soon enough, it wouldn’t affect him anyways. Kyle was going to go off to college, and Cartman and the memories associated with him would no longer be in his life. Despite being a general pain in his ass, he supposed he had to admit that Cartman hadn’t attacked him or done anything vicious, so maybe he didn’t have to worry after all.

“So, what are you gonna do now?”

“He’s set to graduate in May. If we see any concerning behavior, we’ll take appropriate action. Don’t worry.”

Kyle decided that was all he needed to know. He stood up from the chair and muttered his thanks, turning around and heading for the door.

“Kyle- Please don’t antagonize him,” Vice Principal Woman stated, standing up from her desk chair and looking at him over the top of the computer monitor. “I wanted to ask you to leave well enough alone. It’s been decided that he isn’t a danger anymore.”

Not a danger. Yeah, right. If that psychopath showed his face again, he wouldn’t hesitate to put a fist right back in his face where it belonged.

Kyle wasn’t a liar, so he left without another word.

--

dude i’m fuckin starving

kyle ur coming right?

got kff
kfc**

Kenny replied to his message with a GIF of Homer Simpson fading into a pepperoni pizza. Kyle adjusted the hot paper bag underneath his right arm as the evening wind bit at his ears, nose twinging unpleasantly at the cold breeze. Stan had had football practice until six, so Kyle had, trying to use his better judgement, finished some college application work at home instead of in the high school computer lab while Kenny worked his four-hour shift at Best Buy. Stan had actually gotten home a couple of hours prior, and had sent out the first text asking if anybody wanted to hang out at his place and play videogames. Since Kenny had to take the bus back through town, Kyle had offered to pick up food for the three of them.

you got mac n cheese yea

yeah and potatoes

fuck yess!

More GIFs populated his screen, and Kyle shoved his phone into the paper bag for simplicity’s sake. He was currently a couple of blocks from Stan’s house, and was starting to regret going by foot instead of riding his bike. The clouds overhead in the twilight looked grey and dark, as though they might start spitting flecks of snow down at any moment. Stuffing his free hand in his pocket, the redhead ducked through one of the nearby alleys, taking a shortcut one street down and moving past the picket fence, when he saw it.

The forest-green exterior of that house came into view. Kyle actually stopped walking, breath fanning out whitely in front of his pale face as he eyed the round bushes at each side of the door.

Liane Cartman’s house. Light shone through the top central window online, as if everybody inside was asleep except for whoever occupied that central bedroom.

The redhead moved to step away and down the path when it occurred to him. His hat. He was sure he had left it in Tweek’s bathroom. If Tweek was right and it really hadn’t been there later that same night after Kyle and his friends left the party, well… There was probably only one person who knew where it was.

He grit his teeth. No. He needed to leave well enough alone. The wind whistled at him, as he took another step back.

Kyle couldn’t let it go. Even if it meant having to see that smug face again, he couldn’t not confront him. He didn’t give a shit about the hat, not really. It was the principal of the thing, potential proof that Cartman would do anything to get under his skin, even in the most meaningless and infantile way.

Anger surged in him as he stormed up to the front door and knocked on it loudly, knuckles cold in the winter air. He hadn’t worn gloves today, either, so he shoved his hand back under his arm to rest near the bag of fried chicken, trying to warm up against the hot paper.

Nothing. After about thirty seconds passed with no response, Kyle knocked again, thumping harder against the wood. He paused when his fist passed further forwards and the door swung open, green eyes flicking upwards to meet exactly the ones he had anticipated.

Eric Cartman stood in front of him, wearing a pair of navy blue sweatpants and a light orange t-shirt. He looked at Kyle like he was a particularly obnoxious traveling salesman, one hand running through his brown hair that stuck out at awkward angles as though he had just woken up. Kyle actually felt a surge of pride at the dark, purple and yellow bruising that was smeared over the bridge of Cartman’s nose and right eye, and was disappointed to see that his face didn’t appear to be totally broken after all.

“It’s almost midnight, daywalker.”

Kyle frowned, familiar anger starting to pulse under his jaw. “Past your bedtime already, fat-ass?”

“Is that fucking KFC?”

He tensed and held the bag closer to his side, not lost on the irony of the situation. He would have been amused if not for the irritation that was already starting itch at the back of his neck.

“It’s not for you. Some of us have friends, you know.”

Cartman raised an eyebrow. “That hurts, Kyle. Truly, your insults have shattered my fragile and delicate heart.”

Kyle caught sight of some peeling yellow wallpaper next to the doorframe, close to where Cartman was now leaning rather obnoxiously on his elbow.

“Like you ever had a heart.”

“At least I have a soul.”

He hopped forward slightly, swinging a fist at him in a shallow jab. Cartman jerked backwards with a wince of anticipation, pausing, staring daggers back as Kyle burst into a hearty shout of vindictive laughter.

“You’re a fucking pussy!” Kyle yelled out in amusement, drawing his arm back and away. Cartman’s disgruntled expression swept cleanly back into a smile.

“Oh, am I? No wonder you hate me so much.”

Kyle’s grin dropped as soon as it had appeared. He held off from lunging at him, fingernails biting into the flesh of his cold palm. What the fuck was that? A gay joke? Did Cartman know he liked men? HOW would Cartman know he liked men? His mind was becoming a soup of anger and uncertainty.

“Did Butters say some shit to you?” he couldn’t help but ask, staring intensely into the round face. Cartman actually paused, blinking, before his grin surged back into place. Kyle immediately wished he hadn’t said a damn word.

“Ohh, Kyle! Are you and Stan butt-buddies? When’s the wedding?”

“Do you want me to break your fucking legs, too?!” Kyle stormed forwards, dropping the bag of food onto the moss-green carpet as he backed the other boy up a few paces and towards the banister. To his surprise, large hands gripped him by the shoulders and shoved him back forcefully, surprising Kyle with their strength.

“Jesus fucking Christ, you Jersey bastard!”

“Give me my hat!” Kyle shouted, hyper-aware how unrelated that must have sounded given the context at hand, but not really caring. He needed to get off that subject, anyways. Cartman huffed at him, raising an eyebrow in what looked like genuine confusion.

“It’s on your head, Einstein.”

Kyle forced himself to take a deep breath. “I left my other hat at the party. Tweek says he never found it.”

“Why would I take your dumbass hat?”

“Because you’ve pretty much made a career out of pissing me off,” the redhead spat back, searching Cartman’s expression for any hints. Maybe Kyle was wrong. Maybe somebody else had grabbed his hat, and just hadn’t given it back to him yet. Maybe he was misremembering and he hadn’t worn it at all…

“Oh, fine. Come and get your Jew-hat.”

Kyle felt like he deserved a fucking medal for keeping this guy alive, as he watched Cartman turn around and walk nonchalantly up the stairs. He ran up after him without thinking, following along, eyes meandering along the yellow wallpaper. It looked sort of dusty and gross, and was peeling in even more places than he had thought, exposing the eggshell color of drywall beneath.

Cartman pushed open the door to his bedroom and stepped in, making his way over to the dresser. Kyle watched in surprise as he opened up the top drawer, taking out something familiar and tossing the item across the room and practically into his arms.

“Here.”

“…” He looked at his hat and folded it up, shoving it back into his coat pocket and staring back at the other awkwardly. Cartman had obviously just taken it to fuck with him, as usual, but it was uncommon for him to give it up so easily.

“If you did anything to it, I’ll break your nose again.”

“Easy, freckles. I’d never want to stop you from being able to hide your ginger-vitis.”

Kyle actually snorted without meaning to, lips quirking upwards momentarily. When he thought about it, it was almost surreal to process that this much time had passed since he and Cartman had actually held a conversation. Cartman certainly looked a hell of a lot different than he had back then, but it was most certainly him, through and through, that stood a few feet back. Kyle actually indulged his curiosity for a moment and slowly let his eyes roam around Cartman’s bedroom, eyeing the simplified floorplan with the single dresser, floor lamp, desk, and full-size bed.

“…” Cartman sighed loudly, drawing Kyle’s attention as he took a seat at the foot of the bed. “Listen. While you’re here, can I tell you something?”

That was interesting. Somehow, despite the alarm bells going off in his head, the redhead didn’t feel a need to immediately leave the situation.

“Something like what?” he asked unsurely, staying close to the door in case Cartman made any sudden moves. The brunet did not, surprisingly, and merely crossed his legs as he sat at the end of the wine-red bedspread. Kyle realized in that moment that his feet were bare.

“I’m sorry, Kyle.”

Kyle blinked, nose wrinkling. Cartman was staring back at him placidly, gazing at him with an expression that looked sort of…disturbing. For a moment, Kyle was somehow reminded of the apprehensive faces Stan pulled when he talked about Wendy, and he immediately shut that thought down, not wanting to associate Cartman with that in any way for any reason.

“You’re sorry,” he replied with mild amusement, staring at his past rival suspiciously. “For what?”

“You’re breaking my balls, here.”

“For what, Cartman?”

“Ugh. For trying to kill you in your sleep.”

Kyle actually laughed. This was ridiculous. Not only because there was no way in hell Cartman meant it, but also because this kind of conversation seemed like something out of a bad comedy.

“Yeah, sure.”

“I’m seriously.”

“What do you want, a cookie? Maybe ten?”

“Oh, a fat joke. Ha, ha. Never heard one of those before.”

Kyle sighed, not really too sure what to say.

“Is this part of your twelve-step insanity program, or whatever? Apologizing to people you’ve wronged? You better start now. You’ll have to visit everyone in town.”

Cartman rolled his eyes. “They already let me out. I’m sure you’ve heard about me being back at school, by now. I don’t have to do anything for those assholes.”

The redhead wanted to ask which assholes he was referring to when a high-pitched beeping sounded out at his side. He cursed internally and frowned down at his hip.

“Whoa, you’re on a pump now?”

He looked up, meeting Cartman’s gaze.

“Huh?”

“You used to just shoot up.”

Kyle paused, totally thrown off from the conversation at hand. He had been managing his Type 1 diabetes since he was a kid, but had controlled it via shots until age fourteen or so, when his desire to play more sports and for general convenience had resulted in the change. His doctor had recommended the pump, after all, which was currently screaming at him that his sugars were too low.

“Yeah,” he muttered as he clicked to silence the beeping alarm, somehow thrown off and wanting to change the subject.

“I gotta go,” he decided and turned towards the doorway, not too sure how to end such a ridiculous conversation and not really caring about being polite, either. He left the room and made his way down the stairs, picking up the crumpled bag of KFC he had dropped on the carpet. With the emotional exchange, and all, he hadn’t really realized that the flighty feeling in his head was there to remind him that he hadn’t had a real meal in about six hours.

“Hey.”

Kyle reached for the door to leave and looked up, meeting the dark eyes at the top of the stairs, where Cartman stared back at him.

“…Whatever. Grab a soda from the fridge, if you need one. Don’t need your skinny ass passing out on my floor.”

Before he could comment or really even think it through, the brunet had turned around and made his way back up the stairs. His pump beeped again, and, frustrated but deciding to swallow his pride, Kyle went over to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, pulling out a can of Dr. Pepper. He didn’t really notice the emptiness of the fridge in his haste, stepping immediately out through the front door and into the cold of the dark night.

He popped the tab and began to drink, feeling the fogginess begin to subside in his head, replaced by the cloudiness of confusion instead.

--

“This is fucking cold.”

Kyle shook his head slightly as he held the chicken wing between his teeth, jamming his thumb against the thumb stick as he kept his eyes fixed to the screen.

“Seriously, how far away did you walk to get that soda?”

“Dude, lay off. It’s still food,” Stan replied to Kenny, fixated on the monitor as well as he watched his health bar.

Kyle observed the screen silently as his avatar collapsed, passing his joystick over to Kenny and sighing as he propped himself up against the side of Stan’s bed. He felt eyes on him and glanced over at the blond, catching the searching expression he was being given.

“Mmnph?”

“Are you okay?”

He gulped, shrugging and setting the chicken wing onto a napkin.

“Nervous about college shit again?”

“Nah,” the redhead said honestly. “I got all my applications in. I’m just waiting to see who picks me up.”

Stan stared back at him with a weird look on his face, giving Kyle a little pause as he reached for a handful of Doritos from the bag sitting on the floor between their legs.

“C’mon.”

“…” Kyle looked up slowly at both of them, ignoring the game’s techno music thrumming in the background.

“I went to Cartman’s house.”

“Kyle,” Stan said in obvious amazement, bangs long and framing the tops of his wide eyes. “What the fuck? Why?”

Kyle pulled the grey hat out of his jacket pocket and set it on the floor, next to the chicken bucket.

“To get this back. I was right. He took it.”

“Huh?”

“At Tweek’s party.”

“What’s his house like?” Kenny butted in, leaning forward in that curious way he did, ocean-blue eyes peering at Kyle as though he were a holder of deep and mysterious secrets. “Did you see his mom? Is she still whoring?”

“I don’t know,” Kyle admitted, nor did he want to know. “I got my hat back. That’s all, uh…”

He really hated the fact that he wasn’t a good liar. In reality, the redhead’s mind was going through the events of that night, five years ago. The four of them had been hanging out at Kyle’s house, eating dinner together and watching some January horror movie on Netflix. His mom had gotten a call, and had asked Cartman to stay the night for some reason, Kyle still didn’t really get that part. Maybe Liane hadn’t been home that night, or something? Either way, after Stan and Kenny had left and Cartman had been told to sleep on the sofa, Kyle had gone upstairs as usual to go to sleep. What ended up being about two hours later, he had woken up to Cartman on top of him, literally fucking strangling him and pointing one of the Broflovskis’ kitchen knives right at his visage like he was about to disembowel him.

Obviously, Kyle had fought and beaten Cartman off of him with flailing legs and arms. When Sheila had run into the room at the sounds of the screams, it hadn’t been long before the police arrived to take Cartman away. After that, the kids at South Park Middle had been told that Cartman would be institutionalized, and they hadn’t heard from him since. Well, until now.

“Earth to Kyle.”

Kyle tensed, looking up at his companion. He just didn’t understand why.

“I’m fine, Stan.” Why had Cartman done it? Cartman had done his fair share of fucked up shit to Kyle, but that night had been completely out of his pattern. Cartman enjoyed tormenting, torturing, and manipulating. Trying to actually kill Kyle seemed to be the opposite of what Cartman usually went for, since it would end any potential suffering he could put him through were he kept alive.

“What did he do?”

“He said he was sorry,” Kyle admitted and leaned back, head lolling against the mattress. Stan barked out a laugh, but Kenny watched Kyle him a curious expression, which made him a little uneasy.

“For the knife thing?”

“Dude, don’t let him fuck with your head.”

“Vice Principal Woman told me why he’s back,” Kyle admitted, realizing he had yet to explain that part of the story. “She said he got released and has to get his diploma, so they’re letting him work at school after-hours to finish everything.”

The blond stared incredulously.

“Are you shitting me? They’ll let HIM do that?! PC Principal told me I had to attend during normal hours with my two fucking jobs!”

“You wanna buddy up with Cartman?” Stan replied wryly, reaching for the remote and turning the TV off. Suddenly incredibly tired, Kyle got to his feet and zipped his blue jacket back up, noticing Stan’s searching look.

“I’m gonna go home. Thanks for letting me chill.”

“You can crash here,” his friend replied, glancing at Kenny to let him know that he was included. Kenny just grinned back.

“If Kyle isn’t staying, does that mean me and you get to share the bed, Stanley?”

“Eugh, dude.” Laughter rang out as Kyle pulled his boots back on, lacing them up tightly, trying to keep that night off his mind and focus on Kenny’s dirty jokes. He eyed the empty Dr. Pepper can still sitting on Stan’s floor, crumpling it in one hand and tossing it into the waste basket next to his friend’s desk.

“Nah. I’ll see you later.” After a brief goodbye, the redhead made his way back out onto the streets, crossing down the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. He let himself in through his front door, glad his mother hadn’t harassed him over text about getting in so late, and toed his way up the dark stairs to his bedroom, where he flopped down over the comforter and into the mattress.

Since it was a Friday, Kyle knew he didn’t have to wake up too early the next day, but he figured he should set an alarm anyway to avoid crashing out and wasting half his weekend. Sluggish, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, squinting at the bright screen, seeing the notification on the top bar.

1 New Email (3:52PM)

How had he missed it? Blinking, he clicked onto it and scanned the message slowly.

Mr. Kyle Broflovski,

After careful perusal of your application, we are pleased to inform you that a representative from Cornell University will be available for an interview on Friday, December 14th, at 3:30PM.

Kyle didn’t even read the remaining lines before rolling over and falling off the bed.

--

Chapter Text

--

Friday came all-too quickly for Kyle, who had spent every moment since reading that email thinking about his interview in some form. Questions bounced around inside his head throughout each day, from when he was brushing his teeth in the morning, to when he was trying to get to sleep at night.

“I’m so proud of you, bubby!” Sheila had shouted and thrown her arms around him when he had told her. “Your father would be very proud of you, too! I promise.”

Kyle hoped so. Going through high school without a dad had been rough on him, mostly because when it came to concerns regarding jobs and professionalism, Gerald Broflovski might have been a better source of advice. Despite the substantial inheritance and life-insurance, Sheila had taken a job at a bank about a year after Gerald’s death to pay the bills and keep the household expenses covered. However, she had worked exclusively as a wife and mother ever since Kyle’s birth otherwise, which made Kyle feel a little awkward asking her things about resumes or interviews.

Carrying his backpack down the hall and to homeroom, Kyle checked the time on his phone and stepped into the class through the propped door, taking a seat in the front row in his formal business suit and green tie. Cornell was a prestigious school on the East coast, and was the university that his dad had attended for his pre-law courses, so he knew he had to look reasonably professional if he was going to have a shot at getting in. The representative had agreed to visit campus and meet him for his interview in one of the meeting rooms at 3:30PM after classes finished.

Regrettably, the redhead had spent an hour that morning styling his hair to look the part. He had managed to contain most of the frizz with hairspray, but he still hated walking around at school hatless. Thankfully, only Butters (predictably) had displayed any kind of outright reaction to his “new look”.

“Hey, dude!”

Kyle turned around in his seat to see Stan seated a row behind him.

“Whoa, what are you wearing?”

“It’s for my interview,” he admitted, shifting a little uncomfortably in the ironed shirt and jacket. “Cornell, dude.”

“That’s crazy,” Stan admitted, wearing a deep purple beanie and looking suspiciously happy as he stretched his arms forward across the desk.

“New hat?” He wouldn’t have normally given a shit, but Stan didn’t really tend to wear colors that weren’t the usual red, black, or blue.

“Wendy got it for me,” was the happy reply, punctuated by a smile and a passing sigh of realization on Kyle’s part.

“Nice, man.”

“Yeah, she’s really nice!”

Kyle had to hold back a snort. Clearly, Stan and Wendy were back on for real, this time. Usually, though, Stan seemed a little uncertain about their status; his flighty Wendy-smiles were typically followed by expressions of apprehension, or private questions to Kyle regarding what she might be thinking or whether he thought they would last this time around. Seeing Stan quite this carefree after several weeks of reuniting with her should have been settling to Kyle’s stomach.

Instead, he found himself having to force a smile and turned around, taking out his planner and checking off what he had already completed for the day. It was for the best. Stan wouldn’t miss him as much when he was gone, this way, if he ended up missing him at all. When was the last time Stan had smiled like that when they hung out one-on-one?

Kyle’s phone buzzed and he reached into the pocket of his slacks, expecting an applications-related email or spam. Instead, however, he found himself looking at an unfamiliar number on his notification screen.

(1-720-445-0169)
lmfao does the carpet match the drapes?

Kenny? Kyle glanced around, watching people file into the classroom, not actually seeing Kenny, Clyde, Bebe, or any of the typical offenders who might text him such a thing. Disturbingly enough, he realized he that had all those people’s numbers already stored in his phone, and that that was most certainly not a South Park area code.

God, no.

who the fuck is this

he typed out quickly and shut his planner, sagging back in his seat.

ohh harsh words

get that sand out of ur vagina

It was not the day for this kind of bullshit. Kyle took a deep breath, trying to steady his nerves as the teacher up front began to take attendance. He slipped his phone into his lap and typed out a reply underneath the desk top, face starting to get a little heated with his mounting irritation.

don’t mess with me cartman

whaaat cartman who??

The taco emoji that followed could have been a reference to any number of offensive things, so Kyle shivered and did his best to ignore it.

how did you get my number

i have my ways

BTW they spelled ur jew ass name wrong on the tutor board

Kyle squinted at the screen for a moment before the realization settled over him. As part of the National Honor Society for high-schoolers, Kyle tutored younger students in math and science in the library during his study hall period. Lately, nobody had been going to his office hours, so he had almost forgotten the committee had posted all his contact information on the corkboard there next to his usual table.

Speaking of which…

The redhead opened his planner again and looked at his schedule for the day, eyeing the office hour he had rescheduled for 2PM that day. Good. He could practice his communication skills by tutoring some kid for a little while, if anybody showed up, and then have time to get a snack or something before his interview later on.

His phone buzzed again and he gripped onto it, trying to muffle the sound it made his leg as their teacher wrote a few general schoolwide announcements onto the whiteboard.

so u gonna answer my question carrot-cake?

Without hesitation, Kyle turned his phone completely onto silent mode and tried to focus on the front of the class, taking out his notebook and copying the numbered points down slowly with a ballpoint pen.

The day passed reasonably quickly once he decided to push the unexpected communications to the back of his mind. He ate his lunch at one of the benches outside, existing as an awkward double third-wheel with the duos of Stan and Wendy as well as Craig and Tweek, and then attended his final two Friday classes, before checking the clock on the wall next to the cafeteria.

Sighing, trying to evade the itching nervousness that was still creeping up his spine, Kyle exchanged out the textbooks in his backpack and shut his locker, heading down the hall and up to the main library door. He kind of hoped somebody did show up for tutoring. Maybe it would get his mind off the impending interrogation he was willingly going to submit to. Would the Cornell representative like him? Did he even have a shot at getting into an Ivy League school? Kyle knew he had the GPA, but he also knew that that wasn’t enough. He had to make a good enough impression socially, too.

He sank his teeth into his bottom lip as he stepped inside and walked obliviously towards the East end of the library, heading for his usual table spot when he realized exactly which unexpected guest was seated right in his usual fucking chair.

“Oh, hey Kyle!” Eric Cartman exclaimed sweetly with a smile, sitting there with a packet of papers in front of him and wearing that same black puffer jacket from days before. “Did you get my message??”

“This is my table,” the redhead stated immediately and took a seat across from him. “Fuck off.”

“Really? Wow! I didn’t even see your name on it!”

“Nobody’s going to come to my office hour if you’re hanging around,” Kyle replied in annoyance, taking out his laptop and opening it up to check his email. The 2:05PM blared at him in the top right of his screen. Just one and a half hours before he willingly fed himself to the wolves of the college-interview kind…

“Well, I’m here, aren’t I?”

“This isn’t the time, Cartman,” the redhead said honestly, feeling a little weird as he looked back up across the table at his enemy from childhood. Their encounter at the Cartman residence the week before had been strange, to say the least. For one, Cartman had apologized in a way that had actually seemed halfway genuine, though Kyle still wasn’t sure he believed it. Also, they hadn’t exchanged blows, though Kyle was starting to regret that now that he realized that Cartman’s previously-broken nose looked to be mostly back to its normal, slightly upturned state.

The other boy looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. “Did it ever cross your mind that I’m here for a reason?”

“Well, yeah. What better reason than to piss me off, right?”

“You’re in calculus, yeah?”

Kyle paused. For the first time, his eyes wandered down to the worksheets in front of Cartman. He could see polynomial equations written line by line, starting at the top of the page, as well as a few geometric sketches of various 2D plots.

“Yeah,” he replied, realization beginning to dawn on him.

“I thought a nerd like you would be more enthused to have someone so awesome and cool attend your tutor session.”

“You want tutoring,” Kyle stated unsurely, looking into the brown eyes that watched him, unblinking and, he wouldn’t lie, slightly creepy. Cartman snorted and leaned back in his seat.

“Obviously. I thought you were supposed to be smart.”

“You’re asking for my help after that shit you pulled earlier?”

“Oh, come on, Kyle, can’t you take a little joke?”

“Not from you, I can’t,” the redhead shot back and scrolled through his email, tapping his finger on the laptop speaker in irritation. “I thought you weren’t even supposed to be at school this early. Do your own homework.”

Cartman sighed and frowned a little, leaning forward across the table in Kyle’s direction. Kyle pretended not to notice him and checked his phone instead, mind running through a few potential questions the interviewer might ask him and the kinds of responses he could give in reply.

“To be honest with you, Jersey-boy, I don’t get any of this shit. I figured a stuck-up smart-ass like you might know a thing or two.”

Kyle slowly raised his gaze up, meeting Cartman’s frustrated visage. There was something strangely honest in that statement, but mostly-

It was weird for Cartman to be genuine about a compliment, even a backhanded one.

“Oh, and I came in early, by the way. Like I wanna pay some shitty tutor when I can get you for free.”

“What don’t you get?” The redhead found himself asking out of curiosity, shifting his seat over a little closer so he could look at Cartman’s paper. The brunet huffed.

“All this trig bull-crap.”

“You’re going to have to be more specific, lard-ass.”

“They’re asking us to figure out where the two functions intersect,” Cartman did indeed elaborate, pointing at the printed equations and the beginnings of algebra he had scribbled beside them. Kyle frowned.

“Your handwriting fucking sucks, dude.”

“’Ey, your face fucking sucks.”

“Ouch. You burned me good, Cartman.”

Cartman narrowed his eyes, and Kyle looked back down, picking up the other’s mechanical pencil and drawing arrows at the two equations.

“They’re both functions. They intersect when they’re equal,” he explained, running his finger over the printed text on the worksheet. “They give you the equations, see? So you…” He paused, surprised to see Cartman narrowing his eyes as though he were actually thinking about it.

“Put one equal the other and find ‘x’,” he finally replied. Kyle actually blinked.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Why can’t the assholes just say that?” Cartman muttered under his breath as he snatched his pencil back, writing in the equations again and doing a couple of manipulations down the page. Kyle watched, mildly surprised that he did seem to get the concept now.

“That would defeat the purpose of doing the exercise,” the redhead replied flatly, smiling slightly in amusement.

“Whatever- uh…I got this.”

Kyle eyed the page, nodding.

“Yeah, that looks right.”

“But I can’t get it all the way.”

“You have to factor it out,” he explained and pointed to the second term, drawing a line with his finger. “Then you can divide.”

“…Shit, yeah, you’re right.”

A giggling caught Kyle’s attention and the redhead looked up across the table and over to the main library door. Two people, one a familiar skinny blonde and one an equally-familiar auburn brunet, walked into the library and left around the front desk, hands intertwined and shoulders bumping together. He tensed slightly when he recognized Bebe with Clyde, thankful they had walked the opposite direction and pinching the bridge of his nose. It was common knowledge that Bebe moved from guy to guy pretty fast, but he hadn’t expected to see them actually holding hands.

Sighing, he took out his phone and sent a quick text message to Kenny, listening vaguely to the scrape of Cartman’s pencil as the time passed. Every few minutes, Cartman seemed to come up with another question, and Kyle found himself guiding him through the proper steps in order. If anything, explaining algebraic and trigonometric manipulations seemed to be a decent distraction from his anxiety at the moment, even if it was technically his rival that he was helping in the process. To the redhead’s genuine surprise, Cartman appeared to be catching on, too, needing less help as the minutes went on. Kyle wondered if he could hold this over the guy later.

Something in Kyle surged, a slight nausea that had him glancing down at the pump on his hip unsurely. It almost felt like the exhaustive pulses he sometimes got when he had forgotten to enter his carb intake that day, but he knew he had already taken care of that at lunch. Maybe he was just nervous about his interview.

“Ahh, man! Finally.”

Cartman slipped the worksheet packet into his binder with a grin, catching Kyle’s attention a couple feet away.

“Kinda creepy that we make a good team, huh?”

“We’re not a team,” Kyle replied immediately, really just saying the first truth that came to mind. Cartman just scoffed.

“Man, excuse me for saying thanks.”

“That isn’t a ‘thank you’,” the redhead stated in slight annoyance. “Didn’t they teach you any manners at the nuthouse?”

Cartman responded with a slow blink, the kind that made the hair on Kyle’s arms rise in apprehension.

“Wellll…kinda,” he actually replied, brown eyes moving up towards the ceiling. “Not that I really gave a shit about that part.”

Curiosity actually began to rise up in Kyle. He did wonder, after all, what the hell had gone on during those five years when his rival had been institutionalized. He knew that people had tried to reform Cartman before, with varying degrees of success, but something had to have been accomplished if he had actually stayed there for the entire duration of treatment, and had been released by doctors. Usually, if Cartman didn’t want to be somewhere, he found a way out of the situation pretty damn quickly.

“What else did they teach you?” he asked blandly, trying to sound less interested than he actually was. “How to not murder your friends?”

The brunet laughed, mouth forming into a sharp smile.

“Hard to murder something I don’t have!”

“You know what I mean.”

Cartman gasped, putting a hand to his mouth sarcastically. “Are you saying we’re friends? I’m honored, Kyle!”

“I’m not your friend, Cartman. You still fucking insult me every time I see you.” That was only one of the reasons Cartman was definitively in the NOT FRIEND category, but Kyle didn’t see a reason to elaborate.

“May I remind you that you keep commenting on the girth of my ass? I’m clearly a hot stud, now.”

“You’re as hot as a fucking dumpster fire.”

“Woah! Who knew the little ass-kissing teacher’s pet had so much bite in him?”

Kyle was about three seconds from stabbing out Cartman’s right eye out with that fucking lime-green mechanical pencil. He forced himself to take a deep breath, closing his eyes for the moment. He wasn’t going to let this asshole push his buttons today.

“That place didn’t change you at all,” he commented slowly, meeting his gaze once more. “You’re still fucking intolerable.”

“A little condescending there, Kyle. Maybe you could use some of those manners lessons you were talking about.”

“I don’t have to have manners with you. You’re fucking scum.”

Cartman’s expression became slightly dark. Kyle looked on in honest interest, gauging his reaction, unsurprised to see that familiar anger starting to come out.

“Scum, huh? Like your piece of shit lawyer dad?”

Kyle stood up so fast he actually ended up stumbling over the leg of his chair. He reached for Cartman’s throat and caught an immediate glimpse of his phone screen on the table in the process, which simultaneously alerted him to Kenny’s reply text, and the fact that it was -

3:15PM

“FUCK!” Kyle nearly shouted, snatching up his backpack and shoving his laptop back inside in favor of wringing Cartman’s neck. Cartman looked up in obvious surprise as he zipped up his bag, meeting Kyle’s angry green eyes.

No, no, no. This was bad. His interview was in fifteen minutes, and he hadn’t had time to get a drink or reread over his notes, or even piss. He should never have gotten roped into helping this asshole with his homework. As usual, Cartman had thrown him off track.

“I don’t have time for your bullshit today!” He shouted at full volume, forgetting exactly where he was as he shoved his remaining belongings into the pockets of his slacks. “I’m supposed to be at my interview!”

“Interview, huh?” Cartman inquired in a more appropriate inside voice, tucking his notebook into his own shoulder bag that sat on the floor beside him as though he hadn’t just said literally the most insensitive fucking thing Kyle had heard in years. “Well, you signed up for this crap. I was just taking advantage of your voluntary services.”

“And you repay me by saying shit like that?!”

“Jeeze, calm your tits. All I wanted was a little help with my homework.”

“The world doesn’t revolve around you, Cartman!”

“Nothing ever revolved around me, Kyle,” Cartman replied coolly, tone quiet, face moved back into that distinctive and stony stillness Kyle knew so well. For a moment, Kyle stiffened, somehow drawn in by the quiet voice, chilled by the familiar look in that dark gaze. It was a little like anger, sort of, but it held a detachment, as though Cartman was holding something back.

“Not until I made it.”

Whatever that could have meant, Kyle promptly gave up on the conversation and just ran. He sprinted out of the library, leaving several people staring in his wake, and thrust himself down the hall hurriedly, wiping the angry sweat from under his bangs.

How dare he?! How fucking dare Cartman say that shit about his dad?! Didn’t that guy have even the slightest bit of respect for other people?? Maybe he hadn’t even needed help with his math, anyways! It was probably just another ploy, another game, another excuse to say something totally fucked up and ruin Kyle’s day.

How would Cartman even have known that Gerald Broflovski was dead? Kyle didn’t even want to think about it. Cartman had his ways. The redhead felt like a complete idiot for thinking there was even a slight possibility of him changing, or being reformed. No, as always, he was still the manipulative, selfish piece of garbage that he always had been. He found himself longing to see Cartman just one more time, preferably off school grounds, so he could teach him the true meaning of fucking pain.

Three minutes before he was due for his interrogation, the redhead found himself in front of the door to Meeting Room A, eyeing the black texted etched into the frosted, marbled glass. This was it. He was actually going to have a shot at getting into an Ivy League University. His hands, clammy and cold, balled into fists at his thighs as he breathed. Maybe it would be all right. Maybe they would see Kyle for the hardworking, honest, intelligent person that he was. He had as good a chance as anyone else, didn’t he?

His fingernails pushed red crescents into the balls of his hands as he pushed open the door, forcing a pleasant grin onto his face.

--

By the time Kyle made it back home and to the dining room, he felt like he was ready to go up to his bedroom and fall asleep.

The redhead spooned slowly at his peas as Sheila spoke joyfully to him from across the table, offering him the basket of bread. Ike was out at soccer practice for the evening, so they were sharing a dinner for two.

“Did you get a chance to tell them about how you organized the food drive last year?” she asked cheerfully, pride swelling in her voice. “Oh! Did you tell them about working at the soup kitchen last Christmas?”

“The reps don’t really care about my volunteer stuff, Mom,” he replied quietly, eliciting a momentary silence. His mother frowned softly.

“Bubby, are you okay? You’re so quiet. Were they mean to you?”

“No,” Kyle stated honestly, recalling the blond man who had interviewed him. He had been a tall man in a navy-blue suit, with white teeth and a firm handshake. “He was nice.”

“I’m sure you’ll get in, bubbala. Letting you go would be making a huge mistake on their part!”

He resisted the urge to sigh. As always, his mother was completely on his side, and believed in her son to the utmost degree. He probably should have been more grateful for this, but a part of Kyle knew that Sheila didn’t have a very good sense for the rigorous competition that existed in the college applications world. Maybe back in her day, the top Universities had been more accepting of taking a chance on students, but nowadays, people like Kyle had to fight tooth and nail for that honor.

He tried to force a smile, shrugging and finishing off a final spoonful of vegetables.

“Thanks. I’m gonna go to bed.”

“Kyle, you barely ate anything,” Sheila replied with obvious surprise, dark hazel eyes moving down to his plate where at least half of the original food remained. “Your blood sugars are going to be low when you get up.”

“It’s okay. I’m just not hungry.”

“Are you sure you’re all right?” she pushed, standing up and taking his plate to stack it atop hers. “You can be honest. Do I need to have a talk with somebody?”

“Mom,” Kyle replied a little more firmly, taking a deep breath and pulling his hat off. “I’m just worn out. Goodnight. I love you.”

“I love you, Kyle.”

The teen made his way upstairs and dropped his backpack next to his door, shrugging off his jacket and tossing his hat onto the laundry pile at the side. He barely registered his own movements as he peeled his clothes off, throwing his briefs into the laundry basket and pulling on a pair of loose blue boxers before collapsing into the comforter.

Realizing he needed to set his alarm, he snatched his phone off the nightstand and eyed the preview of the unread text message, stomach twisting as he recognized that ‘unknown’ number from earlier.

(1-720-445-0169)
dude it was a mistake

Kyle tensed slowly despite his exhaustion. He opened iMessage and slowly typed out a response, feeling a little numb.

glad to know you discovered the truth of your birth you fat fuck

He didn’t care why Cartman was messaging him. His mind reeled as he played over the day’s events. He remembered the messy handwriting on those trigonometry worksheets, the blaring of 3:15PM on his phone screen, the tense smile on his blond interviewer’s face as Kyle stumbled over his answers to the same questions he had read on every god-damned interview prep website he had ever visited.

i mean about ur dad

i just saw the 2-yr memorial thing in the paper

The meaning of this was lost on Kyle for a few moments. His green eyes narrowed tiredly as he thought it through, recalling Cartman’s harsh rebuttal as he swallowed a mouthful of saliva. This guy had no idea the disaster he had just wrought upon Kyle’s entire existence, regardless of whether he had actually meant to.

sure you fucking asshole

srsly i didn’t know he died. i was just pissed

who told you

nobody i mean it

and I should believe you why??

dude idk shit i been gone forever

Kyle took a breath. He had a point. Barring learning the information from Butters or actively researching the Broflovskis, neither of which were things he’d put past his enemy, Kyle had no idea how Cartman would have previously learned about his father’s death. Regardless, it didn’t do anything to soak down the flames of his rage.

you’re fucking dead if I see you again

hey u had a chance to kill me earlier

you have no idea how much you’ve fucked up my life

jesus, sticks n stones jew-boy

words r words

Frighteningly, Kyle’s eyes started to burn hard. The redhead sat up in bed and wiped his teary face with his forearm, shivering, taking a shaky breath in as he tried to calm himself down.

It had been his opportunity. His dream of getting into an Ivy League school, of earning a prestigious degree, of having his pick of jobs after graduation, of being a real doctor…

“Fuck,” he cursed under his breath, sniffling and forcing his tears back down. Cartman. It was his fault. Kyle had been prepared. He had read those interview prep books front and back. He had completed worksheet after worksheet. He had even spent an entire week of nights holed up in his bedroom, recording his speaking voice, making sure he had the right answers to all sorts of fucking stupid interview questions, playing back the recordings and making sure his delivery was smooth. He had turned down Stan and Kenny’s invitations four times, stayed up until 3AM or later five times, and completely skipped dinner twice. The moment he had sat down in that chair, though, he had frozen up. Even trying to convey his basic credentials had resulted in a ton of unnatural pauses, ‘um’s, and stutters of nervousness.

I’m so fucking mad at you

you ruined my chance at Cornell

he typed out with tense fingertips. Kyle literally had to steel himself from throwing the phone out the window. Why was he even explaining? Cartman wouldn’t care what he had messed up, or why Kyle was upset. Someone like Cartman could never understand his situation in a million years.

ohh yea u said interview

pfff that a hippie school?

fuck you with a rusty fork

it’s Ivy League

like poison ivy?

Kyle would have found this weird remark hilarious if it had come from anyone but Cartman.

you know what I mean

like Harvard and Yale

ew

u sure u need more help being a pompous asshole?

you blew my shot Cartman

whoa whoa since when did i blow anything of urs

last i checked u still owed me a ball-sucking

Kyle squirmed viscerally and shoved the phone under his pillow. He knew he should block the number and end this conversation. He didn’t have to explain himself to Cartman, and he didn’t want to. His pride was itching at his fingertips as he slowly pulled the device back out, giving into the angry urges.

fucking gross

I mean you distracted me

keep my dad’s name out of your fat mouth

i’m sorry Kyle

it was fucked up

The realization that Cartman was actually admitting wrongness to him didn’t faze him as much as it probably should have. Kyle looked at the message for a few moments, combing through text, trying to make sense of it, trying to find the joke, the insult hidden there.

For some reason, despite the whirlwind events of that day, only one question surfaced in Kyle’s mind as he looked at that message.

why’d you take my hat at the party anyway

uh to fuck with you

duh

Kyle’s voiced cracked into a bitter laugh. His eyes burned again, and he collapsed down into the sheets, shoving his phone to the side and pulling the comforter up over himself.

This wasn’t him. The Kyle Broflovski he knew was better than this, with awesome friends and great grades. He was good at sports, and he was relatively popular with girls. He had a loving brother and an even more loving mother, plenty of money, and a clear set of goals for the future. Despite his setbacks, Kyle had always pushed forward, expecting that everything would be okay, doing everything in his power to make things work out. Apparently, all it had taken was Cartman to completely throw him off track.

For the first time in his life, Kyle felt like a complete and utter loser. His head panged at him, and he rolled over onto his other side, doing his best to ignore the fading ache at the base of his skull. This entire experience was making him feel like literal shit. The stress was creeping between his shoulder blades, irradiating into his head and jaw like he had never felt before.

Taking a miserable swig from his water bottle, Kyle settled back down underneath the covers and allowed himself to drift off to sleep.

--

Chapter Text

--

Even though it had been a full week since his last Cartman encounter, “done” wasn’t strong enough a word for how incredibly FINISHED Kyle was with this particular semester.

The computer lab might not have been the most romantic place to do illicit things, but Stan and Wendy really didn’t seem to mind, given how far up her skirt Stan’s hand seemed to have migrated and how tightly Wendy’s arms were wrapped around his neck.

Kyle immediately shut the door and turned around, trying desperately to burn the image out from his retinas. God forbid a guy try to drop his backpack somewhere quiet before his first final exam.

“God fucking damn it…” Eyes forced shut, the redhead made his way tensely along the wall and down the hallway towards the classroom at the end, taking his phone out of his pocket and squinting at the time. He slid down along the wall and sat cross-legged next to the vending machine there, digging in his bag, taking out his notebook to graze over his list of famous authors one final time.

As the minutes passed, more and more students began to filter into the hall, standing and sitting around and waiting for the classroom door to open so they could begin their English final. Kyle ignored most of them, until a loud and familiar voice brought him out of his focus, sending a searing pang of irritation through his temples.

“Yeah! It was crazy! So the left titty was, like, two or three times smaller than the right one. Both of ‘em were pierced.” Kenny sat down next to Clyde and Red, the latter of whom was making kind of a disgusted face as the trio settled onto the floor across from where Kyle was sitting.

“But she had a purple piercing in her left nipple, and the right one had a ring with like, a gem in it.”

“Wait, the piercings were different?” Clyde’s nasally voice danced on Kyle’s nerves. “That’s fuckin’ weird.”

Kenny laughed loudly. “You should have seen her tattoos!”

“Which chick was this, again?”

“She came down last weekend from Denver to see the football game. Her boyfriend was that big-ass quarterback on the rival team last week.”

“Man, Kenny, you’re a homewrecker.”

“But seriously! She had this tramp stamp. It was, like, ‘Angel’, or some shit. I can’t remember, I was wasted.”

“She let you hit it?”

“Uh, like four or five times until we both kinda passed out.”

“That’s pretty sweet.”

“No shit! I think that chick milked me dry-“

“Will you shut the fuck up?!” Kyle shouted and slapped his notebook and binder into the tile floor, gritting his teeth through the blonde’s sudden, wide-eyed silence.

“That’s fucking disgusting, Kenny, Jesus!! I’m trying to study over here!”

Kenny stared back at him with a slightly open mouth, obviously taken aback and blinking while Clyde and Red had similar responses to each side of him. Kyle breathed deeply to regain his composure, irritation beginning to fade when his friend affixed him with a frown.

“What the hell, Kyle? Chill out.”

“I have to do well on this test, okay??” the redhead replied, voice cracking slightly as he returned to his normal volume. Kenny raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, right, Mr. 4.0.”

“This is serious,” Kyle stated and looked down at his notes, feeling his heartbeat starting to slow down a little as embarrassment began to pool inside his abdomen. “Just… Just shut up for a minute. I need to concentrate.”

“Uh, with my grades, I’m the one who should be sitting here with my nose in the books,” the blond replied, leaning forward a little bit. “Are you doing okay, dude?”

“I’m fine. Sorry.”

The classroom door creaked open and Kyle immediately got to his feet, slinging his backpack on over his shoulder and walking in and over to his usual desk at the side of the room. He avoided Kenny’s searching eyes as he took out his pencil and sat rigidly, mind swirling with images of some wasted bleach-blond girl with pierced nipples riding Kenny’s lap. He pushed the thought away, only for it to be replaced with the real-life memory of Stan and Wendy up against the wall, and let his head literally fall down onto the desk top, genuinely wishing brain bleach were a real and accessible thing.

The exam was easier than Kyle had anticipated, which was something of a relief. He worked at a moderate pace, hand moving somewhat slowly over the papers as a familiar nausea began to swim inside him. It had become more frequent over the past couple of days, twisting in his head, bringing his energy down and making him feel like he just wanted to collapse into bed.

Maybe he was coming down with the flu.

Finishing his exam about a half-hour early, Kyle got up from his desk and pulled his backpack back on over his shoulder, walking up to the front of the room where their brown-haired English teacher sat reading from a catalog. He set his exam onto the desk in front of her and silently left the room, feet dragging slightly over the tile floor as he pulled his grey hat down further over his head.

Thank god, the English exam was the only exam he had that day. He would have time to go home, take a nap, and then finish studying for the calculus final he had coming up the next morning at 10AM.

Turning the corner, he looked up and met a pair of grey-blue eyes he really didn’t want to see.

“Dude,” Stan called out from where he stood at his locker, walking over briskly and glancing around as if to make sure they were the only two in the hall. Kyle tensed up when his friend put a hand on his shoulder, looking into his face reluctantly.

“…You don’t look so good,” Stan replied, lowering his voice.

Kyle swallowed, not wanting to go into the details. What was he supposed to say? That his interview had sucked ass? That Cartman was appearing every two seconds to fuck with his sense of stability? That everybody around him was hooking up and happy while he spent every night alone in his room with textbooks? That pretty much all of those things were his own fucking fault?

“I think I’m getting sick,” was the reply he chose, eliciting a sigh from his friend.

Before he knew it, Stan had gripped him by the arm and led him over around the corner and towards one of the quieter areas down the hall. Kyle followed unsurely, temples pulsing unpleasantly.

“Listen, man. You keep ditching me and Kenny,” Stan said quietly, face a picture of concern. Kyle stayed quiet.

“We miss you, dude. What’s wrong?”

“I’ve just been really busy.”

“We’re all gonna graduate next Spring. Why don’t you hang out with us anymore?”

“You and Wendy should fuck somewhere where people won’t walk in on you.”

Kyle’s diversion resulted in Stan’s quick step backward, and he eyed the rapidly-building blush on his friend’s cheeks.

“Fuck, uh, you-“

“It’s fine,” Kyle said coolly, voice quiet as another wave of nausea hit him. He just wanted to get out of there. He had only been on campus for two hours, and he had already had to deal with enough stress for the entire day.

“Sorry, Kyle. Shit just…kinda happens, you know.”

“Yeah. I know. I’m going home.”

The redhead took a step forward and felt the hand return to his shoulder. He looked up, forcing himself to meet the blue eyes again tiredly.

“Dude, come hang out with us sometime, okay? Kenny’s really worried, too.”

Kyle exhaled slowly, closing his eyes and turning away. Maybe they were worried, but lately it seemed more like they were just having fun getting laid.

“Yeah, I will. See you.”

The cold air hit him as he exited the school through the back doors, bringing the flush across his cheeks and nose into pink clarity. Eyes downcast, he walked down the back steps and up to his bike, unchaining it and hopping on top. He dropped his backpack into the basket between the handlebars and kicked off on the right pedal, riding over the melting snow in the gravel and onto the asphalt at the side of the paved road.

Kyle let himself cruise on autopilot down the street, taking a left at the adjacent road and heading down into his neighborhood. A sudden, deep spike of nausea and fogginess surged through his entire body as he reached the stop-sign, leaving his knuckles tense and white on the handlebars as he braked and settled one foot on the street next to a row of houses. Okay…Maybe he was just overtired. He probably just needed to eat something, go to sleep, and try to get every sickening image and thought out of his brain for a day.

When he kicked off again, Kyle’s first realization was that his vision was beginning to fade. Panic began to pump through him as he directed his bike over towards the side of the road, attempting to ride up the slow ramp and onto the sidewalk so he could get out of the street. He blinked rapidly, anxiety beginning to course through his veins as his sight became darker, darker. He stuck a foot out to attempt to stop himself, jerking the handlebars to the side as he felt his bike lose its balance.

Fuck…

Pain rattled through his side as cold wetness slammed up into his body, vision black, mind grasping at panic and the last echoes of sounds as he lost his reality beneath him.

--

The pain streaking through his entire being made Kyle wonder if he had literally been hit by a fucking truck.

“Shhhit.” His voice sounded broken as he shifted, eyes closed, too exhausted to even try to open them. His entire body radiated stinging agony, even with the bizarre softness that supported his back and legs. The side of his face itched and he tried to move awkwardly, attempting to soothe the tickle as his head pounded hard.

“Hey. Wake up.” Someone was shaking his shoulder. The tone was pretty quiet, but he could hear it somewhat clearly even over the throbbing in his ears. He shifted again, trying to find a way to move that didn’t feel like torture. Slowly, mustering up the energy, he adjusted his body with a disturbing crunching noise, opening his eyes with a slow breath in.

There was a glass being held out in front of his face. Vaguely, Kyle recognized the broad fingers around the cup, and felt his building sense of alarm scream into full volume at the sight of the dark yellow liquid that was currently just a few inches away from his lips.

His mind had the courtesy to play some choice words back to him.

Oh-ho, that’s bold of you, Kyle. I didn’t realize your mouth was open for business.

“…!!” Despite the screaming pain, Kyle immediately reached out and scratched the glass in both hands, forcing it away from him and watching with sick satisfaction as it waterfalled down the front of that familiar black jacket.

“Fucking Christ, you dumb-ass Jew!”

“Get y-your fucking piss out…of my face!”

Cartman gazed down at him with a wide-eyed look as Kyle shot him a poisonous glare, obviously totally caught off-guard.

“God damn it, it’s apple juice! Do you want to go into a diabetic coma or not?!”

Kyle suddenly became aware of the dried mud coating the right side of his body. Looking down at himself, only barely remembering his fall, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply again, trying to process what was going on.

“Fine.”

His head ached and screamed at him as he listened to those retreating footsteps, feeling the softness flex beneath him with his breath. He was inside somewhere. Cartman was there. He felt like death and obviously looked like it, too. His voice was dry, his stomach was churning angrily…

“Drink.” He opened his eyes. The cup was back. Arms feeling like jelly, Kyle reached up and slowly took the cup in both of his hands once more, raising it to his lips, taking a suspicious swig. Thankfully, it was sweet like he had anticipated.

“What…the fuck happened?” he managed after a few gulps, eyes wandering down, catching sight of the pump still clipped to his hip. Mud coated the screen, slightly covering the white text displaying the blood sugar level of 53. Shit.

“Uh, you ran your bike into Clyde’s lawn and passed the fuck out. I saw you when I was out getting the mail.”

Kyle allowed his eyes to focus, eyes skimming over the sickening yellow wallpaper that he recognized in a heartbeat. Cartman’s house.

“Why the fuck am I here?” he all but groaned, sucking down the remaining apple juice as his heartbeat began to calm down. “I don’t...remember-”

“I live right across the street, dumbass. It was the closest place.”

Being this vulnerable in front of Cartman was not something Kyle had ever wanted to experience. It was uncomfortable enough that he was here, in his house, laying on his sofa and pulsing with so much pain and exhaustion that he wasn’t even sure he could stand up if he tried.

“And you didn’t put me out of my misery, huh?” he asked bitterly as he set his empty cup down, looking up to get his first actual good view of Cartman’s face that day. The brunet was eyeing him with a sort of exhausted expression, one eyebrow raised as he sat down on the other end of the couch.

“Would it kill you to be grateful for once, you fucking ginger nerd?”

Kyle affixed him with a tired stare as the pain in his body slowly began to ebb away.

“What happened to wanting me dead, fat-ass?”

“That was five years ago. They’d probably send me back to the nuthouse if I tried again, anyway.”

Kyle wasn’t sure what to think of that cold remark, and watched as Cartman got back to his feet, picking up the empty cup and leaving the room. He returned with more juice and handed it over, and the redhead eyed it unsurely. Maybe the first cup had been a decoy?

“Fuck, dude. It’s not piss.”

“So you dragged me into your house,” Kyle stated, more to himself than anything, trying to put the pieces together as he eyed the old green chairs next to the front door. “And you didn’t call 911, or anything. That doesn’t seem fucking suspicious to you?”

“I’m not a fucking idiot,” Cartman replied levelly, head snapping up to eye Kyle in obvious frustration. “You could’ve died in a minute or two. I was trying to save your life.”

Those words made something twist inside Kyle. This, ironically, hadn’t been the first time Cartman had, well, saved his life… though he preferred not to think about that whole debacle from literally a decade prior.

“So, what?” Kyle asked, relenting and pulling more juice thirstily past his chapped lips. “You think I owe you, now?”

Cartman actually smiled a little, though it was a far cry from the self-righteous smirks of his past. If anything, he mostly just looked amused.

“Well, a little ‘thank you’ might be nice.”

This situation felt completely surreal. Certainly, he and Cartman had a history that included crazier things than this, but being vulnerable at Cartman’s hands left him uneasy for many reasons. He took a moment to shift, feeling the pain subsiding, watching as the numbers on his pump began to creep up while the minutes passed. With a blood sugar that low, Cartman was actually right- who knew how long he would have made it past the time of collapsing? If he had been out cold for a few minutes longer and nobody had seen him go down, well… Maybe he actually could have gone comatose, or worse.

Why was this happening to him, anyways? Kyle knew he hadn’t been eating enough, but had he really been putting himself through that degree of stress to where he was skipping that many meals? Despite his diabetes, Kyle was in relatively good health. Usually, as long as he checked his sugars regularly and made sure to eat a reasonable amount, he didn’t have any problems.

“Thanks, fat-ass,” Kyle managed and sat up a little further, disgusted by the mud he could still feel drying on the side of his face. It didn’t make a lot of sense, though. Something wasn’t adding up.

“How did you even know what was wrong with me?” he asked, pulling his hat down a little, able to feel pieces of hair poking out around his face.

Cartman snorted.

“Uh, you’ve been diabetic since we were kids. It wasn’t that hard to figure out. I do have a fucking brain.”

“You act like you know everything about me,” Kyle replied in annoyance, pulling himself up into a fully seated position. The other teen stared directly into his eyes, a recognizable look that had the hair on the back of Kyle’s neck standing up.

“I pretty much do, Kyle,” he replied, a half-smile still playing on his mouth. “We’ve been through a lot together.”

For some reason, Kyle actually remembered having a conversation like this before. Something about how they had gone through so much, and how maybe that didn’t make them friends, but it made them “something”. As much as he still wanted to think Cartman was his sworn enemy, well… Sworn enemies didn’t really save one another’s lives and get nothing in return.

Somehow, Cartman’s statement didn’t piss Kyle off enough for him to fight it.

“I’m gonna go,” Kyle stated and got up, head swimming even as he stayed on his feet. Cartman walked over to him and, horrifyingly, grabbed him by the arm with a hand Kyle badly wanted to shove off and yet found himself too weak to do so.

“Sit down.”

Kyle winced but did as told, too unbalanced to do much but settle back onto the sofa.

“Why, so you can fuck with my head some more?”

“By the time you get outside, you’ll fucking pass out again, dumbass.”

“Why do you care?!” Kyle spat, energy starting to come back in waves of confused frustration. “You have to be messing with me. You probably spiked that juice with arsenic, or some shit.”

“Four times,” Cartman stated, stopping his rant in its tracks. “I’ve literally had you alone four times since I got back, and you still look pretty damn alive to me. Still think I have it in for you?”

The redhead didn’t know what to say. Yes, this defied all logic, that much was obvious. He struggled to think up a response when Cartman got to his feet.

“I’m gonna order a pizza. Here.”

He tossed a slightly greasy TV remote into Kyle’s lap and disappeared down the hall, leaving the other seated awkwardly on the suede of the couch.

Kyle fished his thankfully undamaged phone out of his pocket, gulping down what remained of his beverage as he checked the time. Thankfully, it was still early. He couldn’t have been passed out for very long. He reached up to scratch his face and winced in disgust as mud began to flake off down the front of his jacket.

When Cartman returned, Kyle stood up unsurely. He had to agree- it wasn’t the safest idea to try to ride his bike all the way back home before he ate something, and he certainly didn’t want to go home covered in mud. His mother would freak out if she had any idea what had happened, of course, and he didn’t think he could handle that kind of added stress on top of today’s other challenges.

“I need to wash my face,” he stated and got back to his feet, steadier this time as he walked past Cartman. Strangely, he didn’t feel particularly unsafe, despite really not wanting to be there. If anything, there was actually something nostalgic about being in Cartman’s house. It didn’t appear to have changed much, save for some peeling wallpaper and a few strange cracks in the walls.

“Dude, just use the shower. I’ll give you extra clothes.”

Kyle frowned, not trusting that offer for several reasons.

“…no, thanks.”

“You look like shit.”

A glance down at his mud-covered clothes told him he was right. Wondering what nightmare he had managed to get himself into, he muttered a ‘whatever’ and made his way into the familiar bathroom, shutting the door behind him. He did feel pretty disgusting. At the moment, his pride was pretty much beaten down for the day.

Making sure the door was closed completely, the redhead tried to avoid his pale reflection as he toed his boots off, stripping quickly and stepped into the shower. He drew the curtain and turned on the spigot, relieved to feel his strength returning bit by bit as the sugar began to energize his system.

The hot water felt like heaven itself. For a few minutes, Kyle let himself not care about the weirdness of this situation. He supposed, objectively, it was something a normal human being would do- take in somebody who was sick or hurt and help them recuperate. Eric Cartman, however, was not a normal human being and never had been. The thought of him doing anything out of the goodness of his heart seemed incredibly unlikely. Then again, Cartman was full of surprises, though they normally weren’t good ones.

Kyle glanced down at the multiple bottles set at the corners of the shower, finding a vaguely innocuous-looking liquid soap and lathering it over himself, focusing on the areas where the mud had soaked through his clothes. He washed his hair as well with some cheap blue shampoo, scraping at the dried flecks of dirt with his short fingernails.

By the time the water started to turn cold, the redhead froze up at the realization that, well, to leave clean clothes for him, Cartman would have to walk into the fucking bathroom while he was in the midst of showering. Unsure, he peeked out from behind the curtain, red curls hanging wetly over his forehead as he noticed the plain white shirt and folded pair of sweatpants that were sitting next to the sink.

Truly, this was a strange dream.

Was it possible that Cartman had changed? There was some truth to the guy’s words. He had seen him four, well, actually five times now since being institutionalized, and at no point had Cartman attempted to murder or injure him, though he still seemed to find it funny to rip on him for the usual stuff. Kyle still didn’t trust Cartman, not really, but he had to admit he didn’t exactly fear for his life at the moment. There was something about being back in Cartman’s house, with the same wallpaper and same sort of quietness he remembered, that relaxed his nerves a little bit. He had been here many times when he was younger, so maybe it wasn’t freaking him out as much as it should have.

Kyle got out of the shower and dried off with the towel hanging on the rack, surprised to find it actually looked fresh and folded. He eyed the clothes unsurely before stepping into them, pulling the shirt on over his head, reaching to replace his hat when he realized it was positively fucking covered in mud.

Reluctant, he finished drying off his hair and stepped out of the bathroom, gathering his gross clothes into a pile and walking into the living room.

Cartman sat on the sofa with his legs up on the cushions, digging into an open pizza that sat on the ottoman amongst the glare of the television light.

“The food came,” he stated when he saw Kyle and flicked through the channel guide. Surprised he had been in the shower long enough for them to deliver it, stomach twisting with hunger at the scent, he stuffed his clothes into his backpack and sat down awkwardly on the sofa, reaching for the slice closest to him.

“…Do you have the calc textbook?” he decided to ask, glancing up at Cartman unsurely. If nothing else, he was surprised the guy hadn’t taken a jab at his hair by now. Cartman looked back over, smirking at him as he dug in what looked like his own bag on the floor next to the couch.

The heavy book landed in Kyle’s lap.

“Jeeze, Kyle, on your last legs and still trying to study?”

“Fuck you,” Kyle replied, meeting the amused expression head-on and shoving a slice of cheese pizza into his mouth.

“All right, all right. If you die from math poisoning, don’t blame me.”

Horrifyingly, Kyle felt himself begin to smile, for some reason, and continued stuffing his face to make it less obvious.

The Maury-esque show that Cartman had chosen to watch was sort of annoying as it played in the background, littering the otherwise quiet living room with boos and cheers, but Kyle somehow didn’t find himself all that distracted. He merely copied down the practice problems from the relevant chapters of the calculus book and slowly worked through them, referencing the book examples when he was unsure of a step. The pizza slowly disappeared between them. Kyle noticed that Cartman’s side looked like pepperoni and sausage, not that that surprised him.

“Why is my side cheese?” he asked curiously, looking up from problem #6. Cartman glanced back over his shoulder.

“What’s the point of getting you a pizza you can’t eat?”

Kyle paused. The other boy stared back at him.

“Or do you not eat Jewish anymore? Eating meat with cheese, now?”

“Nah,” Kyle relented and went back to his problem set. The fact that Cartman had even thought about that was amazing, but maybe not as amazing as the realization that he had made an attempt to accommodate it, rather than use it as a means by which to torment him. He seriously had to ask him what had gotten into him, when he felt less like shit.

“You’re up to something, fat-ass,” Kyle remarked calmly as he worked over his seventh differential equation, dividing through and watching him from the corner of his eye. “I’m gonna figure it out.”

Cartman had the audacity to literally flutter his eyelashes at him, a gesture which Kyle had seen before. It had looked a lot different before, though, given how completely different Cartman looked now compared to when he was nine or ten. Something about it disturbed him greatly, and he found himself wanting eye bleach for the second time that day.

“Me? Up to something?”

“Uh-huh. Unless you just want to keep me alive, in general, so you can fuck with me longer.”

Cartman reached out and actually shoved Kyle.

“Y’know, Kyle, there’s only so many times a guy can say ‘sorry’.”

“I don’t need another ‘sorry’,” Kyle replied, shoving Cartman in the side in return. “I want an explanation.”

“For…?”

“You know what ‘for’,” Kyle shot back, looking him directly in the eyes. Cartman’s white t-shirt was too large for his leaner frame, and was sort of slipping off one of his shoulders, but he avoided fixing it, not wanting any comments about how he was “scrawny” or anything in that vein.

Cartman opened his mouth like he planned to say something, when a loud ping drew both of their attentions. Kyle pulled his phone back out of his pocket and spotted the notification for a new email, tapping his thumb against the screen to read it.

‘Mr. Kyle Broflovski,

Thank you for your application to Cornell University’s freshman class of 2023. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you placement as a student at this time. We want to express our utmost gratitude for your interest our pre-Med program, and hope to hear from you in the future.’

Kyle didn’t bother to read any more. Cold finality was starting to settle in. He knew there would be other colleges, other opportunities. Still, though, he couldn’t help but feeling like he’d failed himself in every way.

A loud shriek broke him out of his reverie. He tensed and looked up, startled, glancing over at Cartman, who was pointedly staring at the carpet as another wail traveled its way down the stairs.

“Yeah, maybe you should go now,” Cartman eventually broke the silence over the squeaking of bedsprings.

Oh…Oh god. He had forgotten whose house he was in.

“Yeah,” Kyle agreed and got up, shoving his remaining items into his backpack and throwing it over his right shoulder. He glanced back awkwardly at the other teen, shoulders tensing at the sounds of the moans and screams.

“…See you later,” he stated awkwardly, catching Cartman’s eye before turning around and walking to the door. He stepped out into the twilight air with a chill, surprised he had stayed out so long without realizing the amount of time that had passed. Thankfully, after the juice and pizza, he was pretty sure he felt strong enough to make his way back home without incident.

Spotting his bike across the street where he’d accidentally left it, the redhead crossed over the asphalt and lifted it up from the mud, climbing back on and heading back off through the wet grass towards the sunset.

Shit was starting to get real fucked up.

--

Chapter Text

--

Kyle’s chemistry final was sufficiently challenging, but thankfully, it was also his last one before Winter Break.

Quietly, the redhead packed his bag and handed his packet of papers to the teacher seated at the front of the room. He walked out through the classroom door and into the hallway, heading for his locker to drop his textbooks off one final time before he broke free for a few weeks.

Since his, well…health episode, Kyle had been packing more snacks and forcing himself to eat three full meals a day. It was actually a huge relief that nobody, save for his childhood rival, had seen the incident, since it meant that nobody was treating him any differently or showering him with pity that he certainly didn’t need or want. Eating regularly was making a huge difference in how he felt, though he found he still forgot to pack a full lunch sometimes. Stan, despite the fact that it was now finals week, still made an effort to pick up fast food and eat it with Kyle whenever he wasn’t busy gallivanting out with Wendy somewhere. It made Kyle feel a little guilty about how he had been avoiding him.

When he pushed his locker door shut, he was immediately confronted with an unexpected face and stepped backwards, surprised to see someone else out in the hall at the same time.

“Kyle? Can you come to my office, please?”

PC Principal eyed him with a slightly upturned lip. Kyle nodded silently and followed the taller man down the hall and into his office as requested, pushing the door closed behind him and standing awkwardly in front of the desk.

His mind slowly tread over the possibilities as he pulled his first Hanukkah present, a knitted burgundy scarf, closer around his throat. Maybe this was about his college applications. It was possible that a rep from some bigshot University wanted to speak with him. After being rejected from both Cornell, and, more recently, Princeton (who hadn’t even seen fit to give him an interview), he wasn’t feeling so self-assured on the college front. It would be nice if an opportunity would come to him, for once. Recently, Kyle’s life had been a mixed bag of stress, of exhaustion and health scares and emotional uncertainty. He sincerely hoped this was good news.

“What’s going on?”

The blond took a seat, adjusting his dark sunglasses over his eyes. “Kyle, we have some reason to believe you might be involved with Eric Cartman in some way. Is this true?”

Kyle paused, taking a seat unsurely in the single chair across from the other man. “Uh…involved how?” he asked warily, recalling his conversation with Vice Principal Woman a few weeks back.

“You know, fraternizing. Spending time together in a friendly manner.”

“We’re not friends,” he replied easily, mind trailing back to the night two days prior, when he and Cartman had sat together on the couch eating pizza and studying.

“Well, regardless of your relationship, we were wondering if you might have any insight on his whereabouts.”

This was not the ‘Harvard wants to accept you into their Genius Program’ conversation Kyle had been hoping for. Unsure of the turn this conversation was taking, he reached up and pulled his green hat down a little further around his ears.

“Yeah, so, uh…” He had no idea how much the Principal and Vice Principal were privy to, but as far as he knew, nobody was aware of his recent accident. He hadn’t even told Stan or Kenny, though he might have, if it wasn’t so…weird.

“I saw him two days ago at his house,” he relented, deciding not to lie. “He was fine.”

PC Principal leaned forward a little.

“Eric Cartman actually failed to show up for his mathematics exam yesterday evening. We were curious whether you had any ideas as to why.”

“What’s that got to do with me?” Kyle shot back, starting to get irritated. Cartman was worming his way deeper and deeper into his life, an invasion Kyle was sure he had never invited and that he was immediately suspicious of. He had always been Cartman’s favorite person to torment, so maybe he had been stupid to even entertain the thought that things were any different now.

“Well, we’ve been attempting to contact his mother, but nobody has been answering the phone. We’re beginning to consider the possibility that there’s been some kind of emergency.”

Kyle scoffed. Yeah, right.

“He’s probably just skipping out.”

“Eric has taken a no-nonsense approach to his schoolwork ever since returning. His file shows that his grades have improved substantially since he was removed back in middle school. It’s uncommon for him not to attend his scheduled exams.”

“I don’t know,” the redhead replied and stood up, eager to get out and start his winter vacation. “Just try and call him again, I guess.”

“We were hoping you could do us a favor,” PC Principal replied and stood up. “We’d appreciate it if you visited his house and attempted to make contact.”

“Dude, he’s not my friend,” Kyle replied and took a step backwards, forgoing any previous politeness out of annoyance. “Why can’t you do it?”

“I’m concerned that he might react negatively to a school official. It’s imperative that he doesn’t think he’ll be penalized if his absence is the result of problems at home.”

Liane Cartman’s moaning crept its way back into Kyle’s mind, and he shook his head back and forth quickly in an attempt to knock it out.

If Cartman had seriously been attending his evening classes every day without fail, he didn’t see a reason for the guy to skip out on his final exam. Horrifyingly, Kyle realized that he was sort of curious, even though going back over to Cartman’s house probably couldn’t accomplish anything good. There were still hundreds of frustrating questions in Kyle’s head that he was trying to let go of and move on from. He still knew next to nothing about Cartman’s treatment, and was horribly unsettled by just how…tolerant of him the guy seemed to be lately, despite the continued use of a lot of his favorite insults. He was still Cartman, through and through, but something had changed in him, and finding out what was tempting, even though it still seemed like a tremendously bad idea.

“I’ll knock on his door on my way home,” he relented. “But that’s it.”

“Thank you, Kyle. That would be helpful,” PC Principal replied and smiled slightly. “Please let him know that we can reschedule his exam for a later date. He’ll just need to come to my office sometime this week and arrange a new time with me, or he can call my office landline during school hours.”

Sighing, Kyle shrugged and made his way out, muttering a goodbye as he walked down the hall and out into the cold air.

His winter finals were finished. All he had to do now was spend the week relaxing, keep checking his email for acceptance letters, and hopefully waste some time with Stan and Kenny, if Kenny could get any time off work. Christmas was right around the corner, so the poor guy was busting his ass doing overtime and trying to also finish finals and, well, sleep a reasonable amount. Kyle supposed he should be slightly grateful that he wasn’t quite that desperate for employment.

Having forgone his bike that morning in favor of walking, Kyle pulled the remaining half of a granola bar out of the pocket of his backpack and finished it off, shoulders tense as he walked down the sidewalk and up to the edge of the nearest neighborhood. He supposed he should have told PC Principal to go fly. Kenny was out making bucks, Stan was probably getting laid, and here he was on some stupid quest to locate the last person in the world he wanted to see.

The green façade of Cartman’s house came predictably into view at the end of the street. From far away, Kyle could discern that there was something markedly different from usual about the square window to the right side of the front door. As he moved closer, he could discern the shiny fragments that littered the top of the hedge under the window-frame, and the darkness that peeked out from inside the house under the sharp, tooth-like spikes of glass remaining in the window.

Had somebody broken in? Unsettled, starting to regret his decision, he approached the front door and leaned forward unsurely on the balls of his feet. If there was some kind of psycho inside, well, aside from the usual one, it wasn’t really a good idea to make his presence known.

His curiosity had gotten the better of him, though. Eyes roaming the grass nearby, he took a few slow paces around the garage and towards the side of the house, noticing a flower pot smashed on the concrete. Soil was streaked across the driveway and up to the sidewalk, as if the thing had literally been thrown several feet instead of kicked over or pushed by accident.

Walking as quietly as possible towards the backyard, he approached the short gate sandwiched between the low wood fence and turned his head to peer around the side of the wall. Bright and vivid red droplets came into view on the backyard brick, leading his eyes upwards and forwards until he spotted the figure seated in the grass a few feet away.

Cartman sat in that same stupid black puffer jacket, back facing the gate and legs crossed on the damp grass. He was hatless, and hunched with his right arm cradled to his chest, with dark crimson splattered over the ripped denim of his jeans.

Kyle gasped loudly, and immediately stiffened when the other boy slowly turned his head towards him, facing him with wet cheeks and pink, puffy eyelids.

Before he could say anything or go anywhere, Cartman turned his face away again and sat there, still and silent, causing Kyle’s alarms to go off.

“What the fuck?” he stated quietly and reached for the gate, pushing it open, suspicion mingling with cold dread in the base of his stomach.

“Go away,” was the reply, measured and quiet, as Cartman breathed heavily where he sat facing the opposite direction. Kyle stared incredulously, watching more blood slide the fabric near Cartman’s knee.

“Cartman,” he said in mounting alarm and shoved the gate open further, stepping into the backyard. Quickly, as though pulled upwards, the brunet pushed himself to his feet and spun around, giving Kyle a better look at his arm. The black fabric of his jacket was slashed open, revealing a glimpse of red flesh which Cartman hugged to his abdomen.

“What the fuck happened?” the redhead called out and took another step forward, prompting Cartman to take a wide pace backwards.

“Fuck off, you dumbass Jew.”

Kyle had never seen so much blood in-person. It was starting to trickle over Cartman’s bare fingers, and down the wrist of his uninjured hand. He looked incredulously into his face, meeting large brown eyes that stared back at him with the utmost suspicion and fatigue.

“Dude,” Kyle stated and made his way up, moving fast, catching Cartman off guard. The other tried to step back again, but was caught in place when Kyle grabbed his shoulder, jerking forward again and trying to shove away the hand.

“Go eat shit!”

“You’re fucking bleeding everywhere!” More blood began to drop on the grass between their feet. Actually panicking, surprised Cartman was still standing at this point, he reached out with his other hand and gripped the opposite shoulder. “Sit down.”

“Fucking dumbass kike! Go suck your mom’s fat dick!”

“Cartman, SIT DOWN!”

Kyle shoved with enough force to send Cartman stumbling. Feet unsteady, Kyle followed him down gracelessly into the grass, landing on his knees at his side, watching how Cartman clutched his forearm like it was a matter of life or death.

“Let me see, god damn it!” he demanded when the other stayed silent, tugging at his elbow softly, not wanting to exacerbate an open wound. Wincing, unable to hold his arm with the added force, Cartman shivered visibly and let his good hand drop to his side, leaving Kyle holding his bleeding wrist.

Kyle felt a little faint when blood began to drip heavily into his own lap. Quickly. He had to think quickly. He wasn’t oblivious to the fact that wrist cuts were dangerous, especially at certain angles. As much as this guy had put him through, he didn’t exactly want to see him bleed out and die.

He reached up around his neck and pulled the deep red scarf off, holding the trembling palm in one hand as he began to wrap the cloth tightly around Cartman’s forearm with the other. Cartman drew a fast breath in and Kyle winced, feeling the arm jerk in his hold. He was starting to get nauseous at what a gory sight this was, even though a lot of the wounds were still covered up by the fabric of the torn jacket.

Kyle pulled the thick scarf as tightly around the shaking limb as possible, wrapping Cartman’s hand up to the thumb and pulling up the bottom of the fabric to make a thick knot in his palm between both ends of the scarf.

“She’s a fucking whore,” brought Kyle’s attention back up to the wet and flushed face, glistening cheeks hitting him with the realization that Cartman was still in tears.

“Who?”

“Who do you think?” Cartman replied quietly, voice a little shaky as the taller boy pulled his arm away. He grit his teeth, obviously in pain, and moved backwards, though he seemed loathe to get to his feet.

“What the fuck is going on?” the redhead replied, eyes large in disbelief as he stared down at the pool of blood. “Do you need to go to the hospital??”

“Fuck the bitch-ass hospital!”

“If you die, I’m not being responsible for it,” Kyle stated bluntly and leaned back on the grass, looking into the wet gaze, finding himself locked onto his eyes.

Something about Cartman’s brown eyes had always made him tense. Certainly, brown eyes weren’t uncommon. It just so happened, though, that of their typical childhood group of four, Cartman was the only one not possessing green or blue eyes. However, they weren’t particularly dark- they were a chocolate brown around the rim that faded into a honey-gold near the center, one that sometimes looked almost disturbingly yellow in the right light. At the moment, though, Cartman’s eyes were noticeably dim- like black coffee glimmering with flecks of sad gold.

Kyle winced and looked away, suddenly uncomfortable.

Cartman hadn’t replied. Upon hesitant inspection, Kyle found the other staring down at his arm. A little blood seemed to have soaked through the scarf, though thankfully there didn’t seem to be much. Maybe the pressure was working, for now.

“Your front window is busted,” Kyle continued on, pushing, unable to ignore a situation that was so clearly incredibly screwed-up. Cartman narrowed his eyes, but didn’t meet his gaze.

“And my fucking arm is, too. What a coincidence.”

Tears continued to run slowly down his face. Never once had Kyle seen Cartman cry without an included screaming tantrum.

“I’m calling 911 if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s that fucking slut-bag.”

The redhead took a slow breath, inspecting Cartman’s forearm for blood again. He nodded slowly.

“Okay. What did she do?”

“My fucking money’s gone, Kyle.”

“What money?” Kyle pressed, brows drawing into a frown. Brown eyes moved up to meet his.

“All of it.”

“Uh…?”

“I had fifty-two dollars,” was the response, louder this time. Cartman’s shoulders shook as he kept his stare on the grass between their legs. Kyle stayed silent, able to tell he would continue.

“And this fucking crack-whore disappears for three days and I don’t have a god damned dime!”

Cartman stood up fast, startling Kyle considerably. His fist, still streaked with dried blood, clenched around the knot of the scarf in his broad palm, and Kyle stood up fast, grabbing him by the forearms before he could lash out.

“Calm the fuck down, Cartman!”

“I should’ve fucking killed her when I had the chance!”

“Shut the hell up!” Kyle shouted and shoved the other backwards, surprising him enough to silence him. “Why would she take your money?!”

“Why do you think?!” Cartman all but screamed, stepping backwards, still held somewhat in place by Kyle’s hands on his shoulders. “Geez, Kyle, what does a crackhead spend their money on?! Why don’t you enlighten me?!”

“Cartman-“

“I can’t keep living off fucking Dr. Pepper!”

Kyle just stared. The other shivered visibly again, pulling himself out of Kyle’s grip and striding a few steps to the side.

“I’m so fucking pissed! I get out of that god-damned piece of shit nuthouse and this bitch fucking sold all my shit! She stole all my fucking savings! That CUNT!”

“Cartman-”

“You don’t fucking get it,” the other teen replied poisonously, turning his face, casting angry brown eyes directly on Kyle from a few feet back. “Tell me what it’s like to be fucking alone for five years, and come back and find all your shit going missing!”

Kyle said nothing, trying to process what was being thrown at him.

“Tell me how you’re supposed to fucking function when your parent just drops off the face of the Earth! Huh?? Tell me how you’re supposed to get any fucking homework done when your whore mom keeps moaning her cum-dumpster head off!”

“Dude-”

“You told me I was like her.”

Totally thrown off, Kyle just stayed frozen in place, blinking rapidly.

“What??”

“Before they took me away,” Cartman replied more quietly, looking back at Kyle over his shoulder. Kyle paused.

“Wh…no, I didn’t-”

“You wanted an explanation, right?”

Kyle waited silently, brain combing through the possibilities when he realized what Cartman was referring to.

“We were at your place and she was too busy out spreading her legs to come pick me up.”

“…I don’t remember-”

“We were doing homework,” Cartman clarified and turned his head away again. “You said with my grades, I’d better watch out or I’d end up giving head out on the streets just like my cheap whore mom.”

The redhead felt himself go cold. He certainly didn’t recall saying that, like, at all, but he had a feeling it was something he might have said if Cartman had pissed him off enough that day.

“…So you literally tried to stab me in the throat in my sleep because of one stupid comment,” he eventually replied, voice incredulous. “Do you realize how insane that is?!”

“I do,” Cartman stated coolly and turned around, holding his wrapped arm against his abdomen. “I’ve been told I’m fucking insane every day since I went into that place. It’s old news, Kyle. Get with the times.”

Slow, pulsing realization began to move through Kyle as he watched his classmate. Cartman’s life was…well…obviously incredibly fucked-up at this point, if even half of what he was claiming was the truth. If he had no money, no food, and no parent to ask for either of those things, well…

“…” Kyle walked up and grabbed him by the shoulder again, looking him in the face intently.

“Come on,” he stated, pulling, surprised to see Cartman taking a step with him. The other watched him, obviously unsure. Kyle sighed.

“Let’s go get burgers. I’m starving.”

He pulled Cartman by his good wrist, and watched as the other took a step in response, eyes focused on the ground. Thankfully, there still didn’t seem to be a whole lot of blood soaking through the scarf, so Kyle could only imagine it was doing a decent job of staunching his wounds. Deciding not to hesitate, he led Cartman out through the still-open gate of the backyard and down the sidewalk.

Kyle had had no idea that Cartman was this worse for wear. Maybe it was no great surprise, after all, that he’d chosen to continue high school in-person, if the alternative was doing online classes at home in the midst of such a living situation.

Liane Cartman had certainly never been a saint, but Kyle had never expected her to treat her son that badly. From what he remembered she had always spoiled him, given him whatever he wanted with a minimum of hesitation. Then again, Kyle had heard story after story about addicts targeting whatever remained of their loved ones’ money. Leaving the guy alone for days with no cash and no groceries, though? Was she out turning tricks? Had something happened to her?

The McDonald’s came into view at the edge of the nearby shopping center across the street from the park. Kyle made a beeline for it, still pulling Cartman by his good wrist, and walked in through the front door, surprised how easily he remembered Cartman’s usual fast-food order from years back.

“Go sit down,” he told him and let go, heading up to the front counter and approaching the blond girl who stood at the register.

“Can I get two McDouble meals?” he asked and opened his wallet, feeling almost guilty at the sight of three twenty-dollar bills inside. “No cheese on one of those, uh…” He checked his insulin pump, unsurprised to see a high sugar level after that morning’s breakfast. “With one coke and one water, please.”

Thankfully, since it was between the usual lunch and dinner hours, Kyle’s order came out fast. He picked up the red plastic tray and carried it over into the dining area, spotting Cartman tucked in a corner booth on his phone and setting it down awkwardly in front of him.

“I got you a coke,” he stated to break the silence and sat down across from him, reaching for the burger marked ‘NO CHZ’ on its wrapping and slowly pulling the paper away. Cartman looked up, tucked his phone back into his pocket, and reached out to pick up his own, unwrapping it and sinking his teeth into it silently as he closed his eyes.

Truthfully, Kyle had never seen anybody look like they were enjoying themselves quite so much. Cartman thankfully stayed speechless as he continued eating with his good arm, wrapped limb resting against the tabletop as he used it to reach for his drink. It was at that moment that Kyle noticed how his rival had curled his legs up onto the seat of the booth, folded underneath him, as he leaned back against the padded seat and pushed the burger into his mouth with a lazy little smile.

“I do know how it feels,” the redhead found himself compelled to say, locking eyes with him, seeing the confusion there. Cartman actually looked kind of spaced out, stopping mid-bite into the burger.

“To come home and find that one of your parents dropped off the face of the Earth,” he clarified, voice mild as he picked up his cup of water.

The brunet began chewing again and swallowed, brown eyes brighter now.

“Heh, I guess so,” he commented in a weirdly pleasant way, picking up a handful of French fries. “At least you still have one.”

Kyle would have taken this remark as a confrontation had the tone not been so eerily relaxed and gentle. He sucked on his straw unsurely, still looking at Cartman sideways, expecting an insult about his mom or something was coming next.

“None of this is my fucking fault, you know,” Kyle commented in return, a little disturbed by the surreal vibe of the situation. Practically nobody but him seemed to have seen Cartman since his release. “You fucked up by trying to kill me, so they locked you up. It isn’t my fault your mom’s a slut.”

He regretted the words the moment he said them, but Cartman actually just smiled around his mouthful, shrugging as though Kyle had commented on the state of the weather.

“Like I said before, carrot-top, words are words,” he replied, finishing his burger in a single bite and licking some ketchup off his thumb.

Kyle breathed slowly, sort of amazed by the total 180 Cartman had done in the past half an hour. He had gone from screaming and destroying his own property to sitting in a public restaurant, laughing about the same shit he had attempted to commit murder over half a decade prior. It was unsettling, but somehow, Kyle didn’t feel like he was in danger.

“I guess they taught you how to manage your anger in that place,” he commented around a mouthful of fries, looking down at his own half-finished burger. Cartman sucked from his own straw with obvious pleasure, bangs long and obscuring the tops of his eyebrows as they framed his round face. He snorted.

“I guess. Among other shit.”

“Shit like what?”

“Y’know. About life,” he said cryptically, though he continued talking as he soaked his French fry in ketchup. “About how you just get what you get. Life sucks, that way.”

Kyle wasn’t entirely sure what to say to that, and just watched as Cartman took his phone back out, running a thumb over the cracked screen.

“Dude, do you play Resident Evil?”

“Uh, yeah,” the redhead admitted, wondering what Cartman was looking at. The brunet boy looked up, holding his phone out.

“They’re coming out with 8.”

“Already??” Kyle asked in surprise, frowning when Cartman pulled his phone away quicker than he could read it. Cartman grinned at him, and Kyle stood up in return, walking over to Cartman’s side of the booth, bending at the waist and peering down to read the heading on the article.

“Dude, sweet.”

“I know! You’ve got money, right? Your Jew ass should buy it so I can come play.”

Kyle had to bark out a laugh as he sat down, peering in closer to read the text on the phone screen. “Yeah, right. My mom will murder you if she finds out you’re back in town.”

“C’monnn,” Cartman wheedled from beside him, voice maintaining that spoiled air from his childhood even as he sat in his torn-up jacket without a dollar to his name. “Just wait for her to go out on a hot date with some Jew guy.”

Kyle affixed him with a disgusted look, not even wanting to think about the possibility of that happening.

Cartman snickered.

“You owe me, Kyle. You stole my calc book, after all.”

Kyle paused, recalling the reason he had gone to the other’s house in the first place and feeling like an idiot.

“Oh. Sorry,” he said honestly, having forgotten all about it when he was shoving his textbooks into his locker earlier that afternoon. “That’s…That’s why I went to your place anyway.”

Cartman swallowed another mouthful of fries, gazing at him curiously.

“You never showed up for your final today,” he reminded him. “PC Principal told me to tell you to go talk to him.”

The other teen sighed and sank down onto the tabletop lazily, letting out a groan.

“Like I had time to think about that bullshit,” he commented, pillowing his head on his bandaged arm. The redhead sighed, reading between the lines. Now that he knew the kind of emotional and physical shit Cartman had been dealing with at home, it didn’t surprise him that he had slipped up in terms of attendance.

“Well, you better go talk to him.”

“I need my book for that dumbass final,” Cartman replied lazily, sitting back up and turning his head to look at Kyle. “Go get it for me.”

“It’s in my locker,” Kyle replied, frowning in annoyance. Okay, so it was technically his fault, but he didn’t want to go back to the school for a thing like that. “I’m done with my finals, already.”

“Give me your combination, then.”

“Like hell,” the redhead stated immediately. He basically only kept textbooks in his locker, nowadays, but he still didn’t want his arch-rival rooting around in there. Cartman just grinned at him, face a picture of relaxation and amusement, so different from how it had been earlier.

“Aww, Kyle, what could it be that you don’t want me seeing? Porn?”

Kyle choked out a laugh, finding the very idea of that incredulous. Around his mouthful, though, his chuckle sounded sort of awkward, prompting a toothy smile in return.

“Is it gay porn? Are you a fag?” Cartman prodded teasingly, sending Kyle’s nerves immediately into the fire.

“I’m not fucking gay,” Kyle stated harshly, trying to keep his voice down despite his irritation. Cartman had already made a gay joke to his face before, at that party, but the fact that this was the second time was making him uneasy. It wasn’t exactly common knowledge that Kyle was sometimes attracted to men, so the mere fact that Cartman seemed so smug about a remark like that made him wonder.

“Who told you?” he whispered harshly, looking at the teen next to him with an intense stare. Cartman actually replied with a blink of surprise.

“Dude, no way,” he said in awe, eyes large, apparently startled enough not to look smug about his accidental discovery quite yet. Kyle winced, again wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. There was no question about it now. Their last exchange on this subject had been anger-fueled, and left more up to the imagination. This kind of series of direct statements, however, didn’t leave him much soil to cover his tracks with.

“Seriously?”

“I’m not gay, I’m bi. Get the fuck over it,” Kyle replied, still trying to keep his voice down and painfully keeping their eyes locked. He wouldn’t back down or act ashamed of this, not now. He wasn’t one to surrender to Cartman, regardless of circumstance. Cartman, in return, stared at him with maintained amazement, before sitting up a little straighter and leaning against the back of the booth with a yawn.

“I guess I was half right,” he commented and set his cup down, eyes lidded as he half-smiled and, slowly, leaned over into Kyle’s space.

Having Cartman in his general bubble wasn’t something new to Kyle. Having him leaning against his side, though, with his head resting against Kyle’s shoulder, was definitely new. So new, in fact, that Kyle had no idea how the fuck he was supposed to react to it, so he simply sat there stilly for a few moments, still meeting that brown gaze with his own. Cartman seemed unfazed by his own gesture, and reached out from his leaning position to steal a fry from Kyle’s carton.

This was wrong. This was wrong on so many levels. Very, very wrong, and very bad, and definitely something Kyle should be putting to a stop at all costs. He didn’t want it, he didn’t understand it, and he didn’t have any idea where it was coming from, but he also didn’t have any idea why it didn’t seem easy for him to shove Cartman away.

Cartman looked him in the eye, smiling up at him.

“I think we’re more similar than you wanna think.”

--

Chapter Text

--

Kyle really, really wanted to be mad, but the spark just wasn’t in him, so he crushed his plastic water bottle between his fingers instead.

“My mom freaked out. We got her a whole new kitchen set,” Stan continued on chatting from the driver’s seat, hatless and bringing the truck to a stop in front of the nearby red light. “Dad was trying to go cheap, but I told him I’d pitch in to get her the fancy ones.”

“Uh-huh,” the redhead replied and crossed his legs in the passenger’s side, trying to be more engaged in the conversation. “What’s so fancy about them?”

“I dunno. I think they’re all the nonstick stuff?” Stan pondered, hanging a left around the edge of the curb as he headed down the frontage road. “What’d you get Ike?”

It was a weird coincidence that Ike Broflovski and Sharon Marsh had birthdays a day apart from one another, and close to Christmastime to boot, so Kyle and Stan commiserated yearly over the agony of having to figure out what to get their hard-to-buy-for family members.

“Hockey tickets,” Kyle said, retying the loose laces on his right shoe. “Mom gives me a bigger allowance. He was whining about not being able to go. The game’s up in Ontario in January.”

Stan hummed in reply, leaving Kyle alone with his thoughts again for a minute as they merged onto the highway. Honestly, it was kind of a relief to spend some one-on-one time with Stan again. After the confusing events of the night before, which had culminated with a very awkward goodbye in the McDonalds parking lot and a lot of residual Cartman-related confusion, Kyle had needed an interaction that actually made a little bit of fucking sense.

The entire vibe of the past few days seemed surreal. Cartman basically saving his life, for one, seemed like something out of a Hallmark movie. However, Kyle was even more concerned with the incident from the day before- Cartman bashing out a window, shouting about his mom being an addict, about being broke and hungry and…Kyle didn’t want to remember. He especially didn’t want to remember their later interactions at the restaurant, particularly that disturbing and personal cuddling-up to him Cartman had done near the end.

No. He didn’t want to think about that, and there were more entertaining matters at hand.

“What time does he get off, again?” he ended up asking to get his mind out of the weeds, catching Stan’s eyes from across the dusty dashboard.

“Eleven,” Stan explained, taking the off-ramp and pulling into the nearby mall parking lot. “He’s gonna be so surprised.” Kyle grinned.

Since Christmas was just around the corner, which meant that Kenny would be working his ass off, Stan and Kyle had managed to wring information about his hours out of him, so they could actually hang out a little before the holidays got in the way. Kenny had told them that his shift ended that day in the early afternoon, and didn’t have to go to work at his other job for four hours after that, so Stan and Kyle had decided to give him his Christmas present early.

“He’s gonna freak out,” the redhead commented as he hopped out the passenger door and into the slush of the parking lot, pulling his hat down further over his ears and checking for his wallet in his jeans pocket.

Stan smirked.

“Fuck yeah, he will.”

It was no secret that Kenny was still the poorest kid at school. He worked two jobs, mostly to support his mother and siblings. His dad had descended sadly into increased alcoholism over the past five or six years, leaving Kenny in a tight spot with delegating the little money he did earn at both of his low-paying stores. His phone was a piece of crap iPhone 4 with a destroyed screen and spotty data capabilities, meaning he could never answer the group chat or do anything fun when he wasn’t sucking off the work WiFi. Stan, like Kyle, didn’t have a job, but both got decent allowances, and they had decided together that the blond deserved something better.

Stepping into the Walmart, the two walked into the store and up to the electronics desk at the back.

“Hey, can we pick up an iPhone 7 on prepaid, please?” Stan asked the brown-haired guy at the counter, sending Kyle a grin to the side.

Kyle took a few large bills from his wallet and handed them over to Stan, waiting for the attendant to return from his trip into the doors at the back behind the displays. With Kenny’s two jobs, they were pretty sure he could afford an equivalent monthly plan, but both of them were aware that Kenny could never afford to spend several hundred dollars at once for a new device.

Considering people in unfortunate circumstances…

“Hey, I’m gonna go look at something really fast,” Kyle stated and turned, leaving Stan with his half of the money and heading away from the electronics section. There was one thing he was having a hard time getting off his mind, even as he tried to distance himself from that psychopath in every way he could think to.

This fucking crack-whore disappears for three days and I don’t have a god damned dime!

Kyle made his way towards the clothing section. He shouldn’t be doing this, and he knew he shouldn’t be doing this. He had already gone out of his way to buy the guy dinner the night before. He was definitely going overboard, but he still remembered how fucked-up that black jacket had been. Cartman had been wearing it every single solitary time Kyle had seen him since his return, from their encounter in the school bathrooms, spanning up to their meeting the day before. It was obvious he didn’t have anything else to wear, and now that the arm of the jacket was totally ruined, too…

Thankfully, the winter-wear section was pretty stocked, being December, with a few clearance signs up over various racks due to the upcoming holidays. Hannukkah was already in play, but Christmas wasn’t for another three days. Kyle was just thankful it was midday at the moment, and that they had probably avoided most of the mad rush of potential holiday shoppers who wanted to stock up on gifts after they got off work.

What fucking size was Cartman, anyway?

The redhead looked down at himself awkwardly as he picked through the winter jackets on one of the clearance racks. He was about a size 35 in coats, so what would Cartman be? What color did he get? He eyed a glaringly strawberry-red one, avoiding it intentionally. The world didn’t need that kind of reminder of the person Cartman used to be.

He moved to another rack and picked through, pulling jackets aside as he checked them out. What was he even doing? What was he looking for?

Kyle stopped on a zip-up fleece hoodie in a dark maroon, eyes skimming the size info printed under the faux-fur hood. Size 40. He took it off the hanger and held it up, trying to judge, pushing away his brain’s complaints when he saw the price on the hanging tag. He was already spending a couple hundred dollars on Kenny’s present, but maybe adding another eighty on top of that for someone else was acceptable, in the spirit of the season, and all.

“There you are,” brought Kyle out of his thoughts. He turned, looking at Stan, who stood with a plastic bag hanging on his forearm and a quizzical look.

“That looks way too big for you,” Stan commented. Kyle swallowed, throwing it over his shoulder. He couldn’t pussy out, now. Well, he could, but he had already committed to this, damn it.

“Yeah. It’s not for me,” he said, glancing at the bag. “You got it?”

“Yeah, dude. Let’s go.”

“Hold on, let me pay for this.”

Kyle took off towards the front of the store, approaching an empty cashier and quickly paying for the jacket with his credit card. They left the store together and hopped back into Stan’s truck together, clicking their seatbelts into place.

“So, who’s it for? Ike?” Stan tried again, setting the bag containing Kenny’s new phone onto Kyle’s lap as he started the truck. “It looked huge.”

“Cartman,” Kyle replied as nonchalantly as possible, trying to keep the situation calm as he buckled his seatbelt. Stan did a double take, gaping back at him.

“Cartman??”

“Just…he wears that same ugly black jacket all the damn time,” the redhead explained, taking out his phone and opening the group chat as he avoided his friend’s eyes. “And he punched out a window the other day, and now it’s even more fucked up.”

“Punched out a window??” Stan asked, staring so incredulously that Kyle basically had to meet his gaze. Kyle gulped.

“Yeah, he’s pissed off at his mom.”

“How the fuck do you know all this shit about Cartman?”

“I saw him the other day,” he admitted, tossing the bag containing the jacket onto the floor between his feet. “He didn’t have any money to get dinner. We went to McDonalds.”

Stan blinked rapidly as he stopped at the light.

“Dude, you did what? You didn’t tell me about any of this stuff!”

“It’s not important,” Kyle said coolly, wishing the other had the sense to drop it. “It’s Christmas. I’m just trying to be nice.” Stan shook his head and hit the gas, brows drawn together in obvious confusion.

“Who are you, and what have you done with Kyle?” he eventually replied, voice thrumming with maintained puzzlement as they approached the Best Buy parking lot. Kyle just half-smiled, and thanked the situation at hand for a distraction.

--

Kenny had, understandably, been over the fucking moon.

“Gimme that!!” The blond shouted and grabbed for another birthday beer over Stan’s shoulder, new phone sitting in his lap as he leaned back against the sofa on the floor. Stan’s house tended to be the choice hangout spot for the three of them these days, for obvious reasons. Kyle smirked to himself as he grabbed another handful of Doritos out of the bag, watching the guys on either side of him resume multiplayer mode on God of War.

“You’re fucking on fire today, Ken,” Stan replied and stared at the screen, thumb clicking against his joystick as Kenny laughed.

“Fuck, I hate working so god damn much,” Kenny sighed in exasperation, grin still playing on his lips. “I miss this shit. You guys are the best.”

“You’d get to see us more if you weren’t always hooking up with Bebe,” Kyle butted in, voice light and joking in its tone as he crunched down on his chips. All of them knew that it was really just because Kenny worked all the time, but his sexual freeness was always an easy target for ripping on.

Kenny scoffed with a smile, eyes fixated on his character. “Yeah, suuure. The Bebe train left the station weeks ago.”

“She’s been hanging off Clyde a lot,” Stan commiserated, patting Kenny on the back in a gesture of sympathy. “Were you really into her?”

“Pff, hell no. She’s even looser than I am.” Kenny glanced over to Kyle for a moment, smirking. “You know, huh Kyle?”

Kyle grimaced and looked away.

“Gross, dude.”

“Did you guys really only screw once?”

“Yes,” Kyle insisted, licking some nacho dust off of his knuckles. Kenny barked out a laugh, attention back on the screen.

“Didn’t like it, huh?”

“I was blackout drunk. I barely even fucking remember it.”

“Bebe’s pretty hot,” Kenny commented, sort of emitting his own thoughts in a stream of consciousness as his main focus remained on the game. “Skinny, though. She doesn’t have much in the rack department. You’re lucky, Stan.”

“Shut up, Kenny,” Stan replied and shoved him with his elbow, mouth turning into an embarrassed smile.

The blond laughed again. “What’s Wendy? A D cup?”

“Double D,” Stan admitted, prompting a loud whistle.

“Man! My tit senses are off today!”

“Dude, don’t talk about my girlfriend’s tits. She’d kill you.”

“C’monnn. My flavor of the month doesn’t even have tits. I gotta talk about ‘em with someone.”

Kyle raised an eyebrow but said nothing, scrolling through his feed instead with a greasy thumb and listening to the conversation.

“Who are you messing around with this time?”

“I’ll give you three guesses,” Kenny lilted, grinning through a swig of beer. Kyle raised an eyebrow, genuinely kind of curious and wracking his brain as he set his phone down.

“Heidi?” Stan butted in first, prompting a snicker.

“Hey, I said no tits.”

“It’s a guy, then,” Kyle realized. Kenny was known for being up for interactions with all genders. It wasn’t a secret at all, but he did seem to usually get with girls, so the redhead was a little surprised.

“Yep! Try again.”

“Token?” the dark-haired boy tried. Kyle snorted in response.

“Token’s straight, dude.”

Kenny simulated the sound of a buzzer being pushed.

“Wrong again! Any final attempts? I’ll give you a hint: cute blonde. Not as cute as me, though.”

Kyle’s first reaction to this was the thought that Craig would probably strangle Kenny if the guy had been engaging in weird conduct with Tweek, but then it hit him, and the amused glimmer in Kenny’s eyes told him he was right.

“Butters,” the redhead stated, honestly amazed. Kenny replied with a whoop and wrapped a friendly arm around Kyle’s shoulders, grabbing him by his bicep.

“Woo-hoo! Smart as ever, Mr. Mathlete,” the blond laughed fondly, shoving Kyle in amusement and dropping his game controller to the ground as the level ended. “He gives great head. We gotta get you laid. You’re the only one missing out.”

“I don’t need to get laid.” Kyle also didn’t need to be thinking about Butters’ dick-sucking skills. He hadn’t even thought Butters liked men, but he was trying not to think about the details. Kenny raised an eyebrow at him, looking unconvinced.

“You’re, like, super tense lately. You need to loosen up.”

A familiar ringtone blasted out with the chirping of birds and a piano chord, and Stan immediately pulled his phone out of his pocket and held it to his ear.

“Hi, babe,” he greeted as Kyle shoved Kenny all the way off of him. His grey-blue eyes lit up, and he grinned, obviously totally enthralled with whatever Wendy had to say on the other end.

“That’s awesome! Congrats!” He paused, lips pulling into a wider smile. “Yeah, come over later!! Okay! Love you! Bye!”

Kenny leaned over. “What’s she want?”

“She got into UCD!” Stan replied, beaming with the force of a thousand suns. “We’re gonna be able to room together!”

“You got accepted to UCD?” Kyle asked suddenly, startled. The University of Colorado Denver wasn’t particularly difficult to get into, but Stan hadn’t even mentioned that he’d applied, let alone sealed the deal.

The blond grinned and patted Stan hard on the back, leaving Kyle dumbfounded.

“…What the hell? You already got your letter?”

“Oh, yeah,” Stan replied, blinking, seeming to remember himself as he glanced over at Kyle with a smile. “A few weeks ago. Wendy said she just got hers.”

“I thought you didn’t know where you were going,” Kyle replied, pulling his hat off and scratching at the back of his neck where his collar was getting itchy. “You never said anything.”

“Uh, sorry. I guess I forgot to mention it.”

What…was even going on anymore? Kyle began to feel cold, stress balling up at the base of his throat. This was Stan, his best friend, and he hadn’t even bothered to tell him that he had applied for a college and gotten accepted there already? College was kind of a big deal. It dictated where they’d be living, how often they got to see each other…

“Yeah, you did,” he said bluntly, not sure why the hell he suddenly felt so hurt. Stan blinked at him, seeming pretty confused.

“You’ve been really busy with your own college stuff, dude,” he replied, glancing over at Kenny and back to Kyle. “I figured you were going out of state, anyway.”

“I don’t know where I’m going,” the redhead admitted, suddenly realizing the implications of this. Kenny and Stan were going to be staying in Colorado, and he didn’t even have the slightest inkling of whether he’d still be around, or not.

“Dude, I’m sorry.” Stan leaned a little closer, smile falling from his face. “I just forgot, okay? What’s your problem?”

“Were you trying to keep it a secret?” Kyle asked, genuinely starting to wonder. “You seriously didn’t think to tell me that when it happened?”

“Uh, you’ve been hanging out with Cartman and you never thought to tell me about that,” his friend replied, face a picture of wariness. “I don’t see you that much lately, Kyle. Stuff just doesn’t get brought up.”

Kyle was not prepared for the two sets of eyes staring him down. Taking a slow breath, feeling an onslaught of confused emotion coming on, he forced a smile and shrugged, getting up to his feet.

“You’re right, Stan. Congratulations.” He took a breath. “I have to piss.”

Kyle left the room slowly and headed down the hall, out the back door, and into the wet grass of Stan’s backyard. He was sure he’d have to do damage control and deal with some awkward conversations later, but he didn’t care. Questions were surfacing in his mind, floating around, making his stomach churn and pang.

Stan was going to be staying in-state. He’d room with Wendy, effectively removing any vague possibility that he and Kyle could room together. Kenny had no finances or plans to go to college, so he would continue living in South Park, which was about an hour away from Denver. He and Stan could probably hang out all the time, if they wanted to.

Kyle kicked a nearby rock in irritation. Maybe Stan really had forgotten to tell him about his plans. It just didn’t seem right. He had obviously told Wendy, so why hadn’t he mentioned something to Kyle? Was Stan’s head just so high in the clouds that it didn’t even matter to him whether he ever saw Kyle again? That he didn’t care if Kyle knew what he did with his life?

Holding his beer in his right hand, Kyle eyed the back gate and walked over to it, peeking out along the street. He finished the final gulp and set the bottle on top of the brick wall, stepping out into the grassy front yard and walking down the sidewalk aimlessly for a few paces. He didn’t really feel like talking to either of those guys right now. Maybe it was his slight inebriation, or maybe it was the dismal-ass cold weather, but Kyle wanted to be alone.

His feet took him to the corner store a few blocks East. Eyes mossy and downcast, strode up to the front doors and pulled one open, coming face-to-face with-

“Kinda late out for a day-walker,” Cartman stated as he stood in the doorway with his hand on the other end of the same handle. Kyle blinked, coming slightly out of his depressive state.

“Fuck you, fat-ass,” he responded blandly, eyes wandering down to the other’s arm. Sure enough, his sleeve was still torn to shreds, though otherwise he looked pretty normal.

Cartman stepped outside into the brisk air, effectively shutting the door behind him. The silence felt awkward for a moment, when Kyle looked up and found the guy standing within a foot of him, looking into his face curiously.

“You don’t look so good,” the brunet hummed, eyeing Kyle as if not sure what to expect. Kyle smiled bitterly, head a little light.

“Guess I know what it’s like to be you,” he breathed vindictively under his breath, eyes burning with the telltale signs of tears that were about to spill over. His nose stung with the cold, and he watched Cartman huff and take a step backwards.

“You stink like beer,” the guy told him. “Get dumped, or some shit?”

“Pretty much,” Kyle replied without really thinking about it, brain foggy. He certainly had not been dumped, but he definitely did feel…forgotten. Left out. Confused. Alone. Hurt.

Before he knew it, there was an arm around his shoulders, and somehow, the redhead didn’t have an urge to fight it.

“I just won fifty bucks off a scratcher,” Cartman stated, waving a few bills in front of Kyle’s face as they stood outside in the orange neon lights. “Wanna go to the arcade ‘n get beer from that dumbass at the snack bar who doesn’t check ID?”

A friendly offer from Cartman certainly wasn’t something Kyle got every day. Typically, Kyle would have told the brunet to fuck off without a second thought. He knew he should be heading back to Stan’s house, smoothing things over, spending time with his best friend and Kenny before he split from them that summer to go who-knew-where. He should be asking Cartman who the hell he thought he was to keep getting in his space like this, and yet…

Booze and gaming sounded pretty freaking amazing.

Kyle shoved Cartman off with an elbow and smiled at him, deciding not to give a shit about how weird the situation was and just try to have some actual fucking fun.

“You’re gonna be sorry.”

“Bring it on, Jersey-boy.”

It was in this way that the duo made their way six blocks north to the local arcade and gaming center, pink lights displaying the word ‘ARCADE’ across the top of the building. Stumbling slightly over the curb, Kyle pushed his way in through the revolving doors, heading for the snack area and feeling a hand on his wrist holding him back.

“Dude, let me get the beers. I have a fake ID,” Cartman muttered under his breath, tilting his head towards the front area. “Go get us tokens.”

Kyle didn’t have the energy to argue. Maybe beating the sense out of Cartman in some stupid game meant for preteens was exactly what he needed tonight. Unlike around Stan and even Kenny, lately, he didn’t feel the need to fake a smile around Cartman. They didn’t like each other, and he knew they didn’t like each other, so he could stand up for himself and be pissed-off to his heart’s content, if he wanted to. Somehow, the impending relief of this was already starting to dissolve the knot between his shoulders, even though something in his chest was beginning to feel kind of strange.

“Don’t pass out on me,” the brunet announced himself as he shoved a clear plastic cup into Kyle’s hand, bumping slightly into his shoulder. “How drunk are you?”

“Not that drunk,” Kyle replied with a snort, taking out a five-dollar bill and feeding it into the token machine. He gulped back half of his cup as the machine began to spit out coins, green eyes wandering up to Cartman’s searching face. For the first time since he returned, Kyle didn’t find that face particularly offensive. Cartman just stared at him with a cocked brow, watching him with the brown eyes he knew so well.

Bending down, Kyle fished out the tokens and shoved a handful into Cartman’s palm, which was already extended.

“I’m gonna kick your ass at basketball,” he told him and grabbed him by the wrist unthinkingly, startled by the shout he got in return.

“Ay! Watch the fucking arm!”

“Shit!” Kyle replied and let him go, realizing which wrist he’d grabbed and cringing in actual guilt. “Sorry,” he stated, watching Cartman roll his eyes and snatch him by the shoulder instead.

“Oh, you’re gonna get it now.”

The more Kyle thought about it, the less weird it seemed to be interacting with Cartman in a friendly manner. Certainly, a lot of his interactions with the guy had been less-than-pleasant, but when he really considered everything, plenty of them had been fine, too. Cartman had always been his ‘friend’ in one way or another, through the good times, the bad times, and the ridiculous times. Maybe that, combined with the alcohol, was the reason that Kyle wasn’t feeling strange about this in the least.

Kyle quickened his steps over to the arcade area and ran over to the basketball machine, Cartman quick behind him on his heels. He set his cup at the side and shoved three tokens into the coin slot, listening to the automated countdown from three and smirking over at his companion from over the divider poll between the two stations.

Cartman was terrible at basketball. He kept muttering “god damn it!” and “mother fucker!” under his breath as they played while Kyle shot hoop after hoop with resounding success. Kyle laughed a little too hard and stumbled to the side, bumping shoulders with his partner at the console.

“You fuckin’ suck!” Kyle jeered at him in amusement, eyeing the counter that said ‘3’ in red LEDs when the beeping alerted their game was over. Cartman frowned and shoved him in return, throwing back his own cup of beer.

“Fuck off, gingerbread!”

“Loser!” Kyle laughed, heart light. He hadn’t gotten a chance to just let go and relax in so long.

“Your scrawny ass is no match for me at air hockey.”

Kyle wanted to prove him wrong. Before he could challenge him, Cartman had grabbed him by the shoulder and yanked him over towards the other end of the arcade, moving around a group of young kids as they went.

The redhead didn’t exactly care that this entire situation was immature and stupid. Even Cartman was grinning at him as they smacked the puck back and forth against the tiny air holes in the tabletop, swaying a little bit as he waited for Kyle to serve it across. Kyle leaned over in kind, motor skills impaired due to the previous two beers combined with this new one.

“Fuck!” he shouted too loudly for a family-friendly institution when the puck slid into his slot. Cartman leered at him.

“Yeah! Suck on that!!”

“Best out of three!” Kyle found himself laughing, putting a hand awkwardly over his mouth as they smiled at one another. He could forget about this later, if it wasn’t a fever dream.

The smells of burned popcorn and beer were starting to cloud his better judgment. He leaned across the table for a second round of air hockey, gritting his teeth when Cartman won yet again, and shoved him over in the direction of the Skee-ball lanes when he lost his footing and had to grab onto the guy’s arm again to keep from landing on his ass. He could hear Cartman chuckling under his breath, and Kyle stared at the shredded black material in his hands.

“I’ve got shit for you,” he slurred slightly and shoved Cartman away, steadying himself on his feet. Cartman stared back at him curiously under the fluorescent lighting, almost like he was suspicious.

“Oh, yeah?”

“…C’mon. We’re out of tokens, anyways.” Kyle wracked his brain and grabbed ahold of Cartman’s forearm again, pulling him back through the arcade and out into the cold. For whatever reason, he wasn’t feeling compelled to wait to give the guy his jacket. He was drunk, and hanging out with Cartman right now wasn’t setting him on edge, so it was probably better if he took care of it now when the booze would make things less awkward. Not that giving your friend a gift should have been awkward.

Friend…

“Fuckin’ Christ, Jew. Slow down,” Cartman complained from behind him, and Kyle felt the arm yank itself out of his grip. Their shoulders collided as they walked out into the cold, Cartman following slightly to his right.

It was cold as hell out, and Kyle could see the foggy breath curling out in front of their faces in the night air. The redhead made his way down the block, starting to sway slightly as he moved, green eyes fixated hazily on the horizon. He made his way towards the familiar facade and felt a hand on his collarbone, turning to look into the unsure gaze.

“Stan’s house,” Cartman stated flatly, voice slightly thick with inebriation. Kyle paused, looking into the chocolatey brown of his eyes and shaking his head.

“Nah, his truck.”

It did occur to him, though, through the fog, that he didn’t exactly want to ring Stan’s doorbell. He had left Kenny and Stan alone awhile ago, hadn’t he? Oh, yeah…He didn’t wanna face those guys right now. Stan wouldn’t care, anyway. He was too busy with Wendy to mind where the hell Kyle was.

Instead, he made his way over to the truck and grabbed for the door handle, pulling it open and laughing victoriously. This was such a stupid night. He usually wasn’t this happy when tipsy, but something about the surreal-ness of yucking it up in an arcade with Cartman while drunk off his ass was kind of fucking amusing.

“s in here,” he called and picked up the bag from the driver’s seat floor, stumbling in the gravel as he turned back around and shoved it into the guy’s chest. Cartman looked down and frowned, holding it in one arm and reaching inside with the other to pull out the jacket.

Kyle’s entire body tensed up as he inspected it, reality starting to creep in. Yeah, he had spent almost a hundred dollars of his fucking money on a guy who had tried to murder him half a decade ago. He just… It wasn’t that he felt bad, though he did. He suddenly remembered the blood, the moisture on Cartman’s cheeks. He recalled the tremor in his voice, how upset he had been, and how happy he had looked sitting in the booth at McDonalds with a burger stuffed in his face.

“Is this fucking pity?” Cartman asked quietly, brow furrowed. Kyle swallowed, alcohol making him honest to a fault.

“Nah,” he stated quietly, unsure what else to say.

Suddenly, arms were around him.

--

Chapter Text

--

The arm of the jacket brushed the side of his face as Cartman all but lunged for him, thick hands grasping into his shoulders and pinning him back against the door of the truck.

“You think this is fucking funny?” was the addition to his last statement, thick and slightly rough with the alcohol in Cartman’s system. The redhead opened his mouth to talk when he was shoved again, and he stared up into the angry brown eyes with surprise.

“You gonna go tell Stan and Kenny you took pity on me?” Cartman all but hissed, face slightly red as he breathed through his teeth. Kyle felt a surge of trepidation, recalling what had happened the last time this guy had loomed over him like this, but his motor skills were sluggish at best right now, so the best he could do was shoot back a poisonous frown.

“Fuck off, dude. I was trying to be nice,” he breathed. He braced his left foot in the gravel as best as he could, raising his right knee up to protect his abdomen from any potential assault. Cartman’s fingers seemed to loosen against his arms, but then the other boy leaned in, breathing against his face, boring into Kyle’s gaze with his own.

“Yeah, sure you were,” Cartman whispered, eyes slightly shiny even in the darkness.

The confusion on his face was obvious. It occurred to Kyle that, perhaps, he wasn’t wrong to be confused. They had never gotten along, after all. Maybe Kyle was the idiot for doing something like this in the first place. Maybe he was inviting this hostility without even meaning to.

“Back. Off.” he breathed in response, reaching forward and gripping handfuls of that ugly black jacket with awkward fingers. He shoved his weight forwards, having a hard time due to the close proximity, and brought his knee further upwards in an attempt to shove Cartman off of him. Cartman shifted, and Kyle, braced only on one foot, felt himself begin to slide down the back of the truck. He reached out with one hand and grabbed at the smooth metal, heart racing when he felt himself start to go down.

As close as Cartman had been, the guy moved even closer. Hands that had been gripping into his shoulders reached down to grasp at his sides instead. Kyle felt hot breath against his ear as they stumbled together, hearing the pang of something smacking into the car door, before a familiar yank and sting of searing pain wracked through his abdomen.

“FUCK!” he shouted and caught onto the other’s forearms in a panic, barely catching himself from falling. He choked as a wave of nausea hit him, brain foggy as Cartman gripped him around the back, pushing his body against the truck to stabilize him back on his feet.

He looked up with teary eyes, blinking back the pain with shaking arms as Cartman stared at him in shock.

“What the fu-“

“You ripped out m- f- my pump!” Kyle stammered back, alcohol really starting to muddy his motor skills. He reached down and grabbed onto his side with a hiss, sucking breath in through his teeth as the other’s stuttering met his ears.

“Shit, fuck… I-I-”

“Fffuck you,” Kyle groaned in pain, weakly shoving his body weight against him as he hugged onto himself with both hands. It vaguely occurred to him that they were right outside Stan’s house, but for a multitude of reasons, he really didn’t want to go in there at the moment.

A hand pressed against his lower back and he was adjusted slightly upwards. Kyle wavered on his feet and raised his chin suspiciously, watching as Cartman wrapped an arm around his back and pressed Kyle’s drunken body against his broader side.

“I can get Stan-”

“Fuck, no,” the redhead replied with a moan, eyes sliding shut as the shooting pains pulsed through him. “Just need to – get it back in.”

“’Kay…Walk, you dumb-ass Jew. Can’t see shit out here.”

Kyle wasn’t sure where they were going, but he followed anyway, clutching his side and stumbling as they moved out of the driveway and onto the pavement of the neighborhood street. The cold air stung at his wound even through his coat, and he could feel Cartman’s new jacket sort of hanging over his own shoulder as they went, pinched between the juncture of his ribs and Cartman’s upper arm.

The stars were bright above them as they walked over the muddied slush in the streets. Cold licked at his ears and neck, and breezed over the sweat at his forehead and underneath his chin. When they reached the familiar green façade, Kyle hesitated and pushed the balls of his feet into the welcome mat, casting Cartman an annoyed stare from under his hair.

“Just fucking trust me for once, okay?” Cartman breathed in the air, fumbling in his pocket with his free hand. Kyle winced, suddenly hyper-aware of Cartman’s arm around him, and shoved the limb away from him with both hands, stepping slowly into the house once the door was open and heading for the guest bathroom in the hall next to the living room. Despite the tremendous embarrassment and vulnerability he felt in this situation, he didn’t intend to give his rival an inch of power over him.

He didn’t think to voice his plan as he flipped the lightswitch on the wall, and sat his ass clumsily down on the bathroom floor, unzipping the front of his jacket to pull his t-shirt up to his waist. Footsteps met his ears and he looked up in frustration to find Cartman standing in the doorway with an incredulous stare.

“Shit,” Cartman stated when he saw the few blood droplets against Kyle’s bare abdomen. Kyle gasped and shoved a foot at him uselessly.

“Get the fffuck out of-go!”

The guy kneeled down in front of him and, horrifyingly, reached for the thin plastic tube hanging out of the pump clipped at his hip. Kyle tried to knee him in the chest, bringing the hand not covering his injury to shove at Cartman’s shoulder.

“I can do it!” he insisted as his hand slipped drunkenly down the thick arm, feeling his heart starting to flutter into panic mode. No. He didn’t want this guy seeing him like this. Totally inebriated, bleeding, and cornered on the floor was not how he wanted to die.

Thankfully, for the moment, Cartman just looked back at him unsurely.

“You’re too drunk,” was his conclusion as Cartman leaned further into his space, prompting Kyle to turn his head away as his heel slipped on the bathroom tile. “Let me do it.”

“D-D- You don’t know…what you’re fucking doing,” Kyle argued back, eyes stinging from the assault of the fluorescent bulbs. He tried to pull his shirt back down over the small wound caused by the needle being ripped out of his abdomen, only to find one of Cartman’s bare hands already on his ribs.

There was a voice in his ear, quiet, and Kyle just gazed over Cartman’s shoulder silently, swallowing a gulp of trepidation.

“Breathe in,” was the command, and Kyle followed it.

The jab of pain jolted through his stomach as the cannula pierced his skin once again, skin slightly soothed by the sensation of soft cloth and adhesive that sealed around the puncture. He groaned through his teeth and sank both hands into Cartman’s forearms, letting the wave of lightheadedness die down with a few deep and slow breaths.

“How the fuck?” he questioned in amazement, looking down, seeing the little white pad sticking to his stomach with no blood in sight.

“Told you to trust me,” Cartman stated, locking eyes with him. The previous surprise and anger had been replaced with a look of concern. It was so uncharacteristic that Kyle felt himself blinking, trying to make sure his eyes were actually showing him reality. How Cartman knew how to insert and re-attach an insulin port was beyond him, but he was even more surprised by the way Cartman was looking at him, like he was willing to take real responsibility for a stupid mistake that hadn’t even entirely been his fault.

“Why…?” Kyle breathed out and shifted against the wall, eyes large. Something was twisting inside him as he watched Cartman. He remembered waking up on his living room couch, looking up at the ceiling, staring at that glass of apple juice that hovered in front of his face. More clearly, though, he remembered Cartman’s tear-streaked face, and how he was clutching onto his arm as it dripped blood over the wet grass.

How had he known how to help him? Why would he help him? Why did he care? Maybe, somehow, this was a new Cartman. One that could feel pain, not just his own, but other people’s, too?

Kyle felt cold as he looked into the brown gaze again, feeling his stomach curl when Cartman’s flushed face moved into a smile.

“Why? Seriously?” the brunet asked, eyes moving to the side, almost like he was embarrassed. “Jesus, Kyle, did you never realize?”

The redhead remained silent, alcohol clouding his judgement. He somehow didn’t even feel the need to move away when Cartman leaned in impossibly closer, closing in on him until their noses nearly touched. Hot breath fanned out over Kyle’s cheek and ear.

Realize…what?

Cartman half-grinned at him, and something exploded inside Kyle’s chest, sending sharp tremors and tingles down his arms and along his fingertips. His heart began to pound when he found himself prone, legs splayed out over the rug in front of the bathroom sink and back barely supported by the wall behind him. Cartman’s abdomen had settled against his side as the guy crouched over him, effectively straddling one of Kyle’s legs between his knees. He kept eye contact even as he began to feel smothered, hands coming up from his sides to grab at Cartman’s jacket with the intention of shoving him away. Blood began to surge in his face, and the distance closed with a sudden and forceful push.

Kyle was aware of a hand against the side of his face. Fingers brushed the space beneath his eyelashes as the chapped lips pressed against his mouth, warm and present. Hands shifting unsurely at his sides, Kyle sat up a little further, eyes wide and panicked when he came to understand.

Oh…

Conflicting jolts of emotion surged inside him. He wasn’t afraid, and he wasn’t angry. He wasn’t sad… The alcohol was starting to soothe his unsureness as Cartman flattened his palm and fingers against his cheek, cupping his face. The familiar fingertips brushed against his temple, carding hesitantly into his red curls, and Kyle closed his eyes, temples throbbing.

He tightened his grip on the jacket in his left hand and reached up with his right, fumbling before gripping hold of the back of Cartman’s neck as their bodies slipped closer together. Kyle allowed the flow to sweep him away, releasing a sharp exhale through his nose as he tasted that familiar scent in the back of his throat.

Kyle knew this guy. He knew Cartman like the back of his hand. He had touched him so many times, gripped him, held onto him, pushed him, and fought him. Maybe this wasn’t any different. As a rule, the redhead was not a particularly touchy person. He had had girlfriends in the past, and kissed, and had sex, but in general, he just wasn’t particularly fond of displays of affection. It felt forced and strange, so much of the time. However, after months upon months of watching Craig and Tweek hold hands in the hallways, and Stan and Wendy grip one another behind the outdoor bleachers, Kyle suddenly felt like he understood that need to touch another person.

“Mmnph,” was the sound he heard as he shifted out of his reverie, eyes still shut as he felt another hand slide into his hair. Something hot and wet skimmed his bottom lip, and he opened his mouth without hesitation, pulling hard on the front of Cartman’s coat. His skin began to prick with goosebumps as the other’s tongue pushed in past his teeth, fingertips dancing along his scalp, rubbing around in small and soothing circles.

Their tongues met, and Kyle pushed up forwards and away from the wall, feeling their abdomens slide together as he pulled Cartman as close as he could. His stomach still throbbed with the fading sting, but he didn’t give a shit. Fuck, did he want this.

Heat began to pour through his abdomen, running down between his thighs as his tongue was caught between Cartman’s teeth. He sighed shakily as he pushed hard on the back of the other’s neck, tilting his head so their faces meshed together better, so their tongues reached deeper. Kyle opened his mouth wide and forced his own tongue forwards, feeling their lips collide as his upper body was shoved back into the wall.

It briefly occurred to him that he’d left his hat at Stan’s house earlier in the day, but he couldn’t bring himself to care, given how Cartman’s fingertips circled and stroked over his scalp like the guy had a fucking doctorate in how to touch.

“Ghh,” he gasped and pulled back just enough to breathe, feeling hot breath against his chin and allowing his eyes to open. The burning fire between his hips surged, and his heart clenched inside his chest when he saw the amber of Cartman’s eyes gazing right back at him. Cartman was breathing heavily, and staring at Kyle like he was unsure whether he was actually there or not.

Despite the inkling that something was wrong, Kyle took a deep breath and sat up, fingers sinking back into Cartman’s jacket as he met his gaze head-on.

If he was going to lose everybody he cared about in a matter of months, then god damn it, he was going to get whatever the fuck he wanted right now.

“Don’t you fucking stop,” he hissed, gripping Cartman by the collar of his shirt instead and pulling that shocked and surprisingly handsome face in to meet his own.

Their lips collided harder this time, and the hand still in Kyle’s hair began to tense, pulling forcefully until Kyle’s head was tilted backwards. His brain began to swim with thoughts as he ran his tongue along Cartman’s teeth, effectively shoving the other back against the cabinets underneath the sink.

One of his hands fisted in the bottom of Cartman’s shirt and he pulled upwards, veins surging with excitement. A slightly larger hand came around his wrist, stopping him, but he leaned closer anyways, undeterred and thinking nothing of it.

Desire began to pulse inside him, lighting his nerves aflame, making him push into Cartman’s body with a desire he had never before felt in his entire life. Everybody was going to fucking forget about him? Fine. He was going to do this, no matter what anybody thought. He didn’t care why he wanted it so badly right now, or whether he would want it later. Kyle was one big ball of anger, stress, and confusion, and Cartman’s tongue was soothing all of it out of him with each passing second, licking out his fears, making Kyle feel hot and light and like he was young again.

“Fuck,” he felt Cartman groan against his lips before his tongue joined him once more, hand stroking through Kyle’s hair again with surprising softness as the other arm wrapped around his waist. Kyle scooted forwards agreeably, letting himself melt into the feelings.

His eyes began to swell with tears as he followed Cartman backwards, holding onto his shoulder with one hand and his shirt with the other as he allowed his childhood rival to hold him close in return.

Maybe it wasn’t perfect. Maybe it made no sense, but he fucking wanted it, and for the first time in months, Kyle wasn’t feeling an undercurrent of uncertainty and fear.

Cartman’s mouth sucked its way down his chin, stopping at his throat. The feeling of lips at his pulse point made him stiffen, and his eyes opened slowly before immediately falling closed again. Whatever. He shifted and gripped into the thick brown hair instead, shunting Cartman’s face into his collarbone as he let himself breathe.

That hot tongue moved along his neck, trailing softly, sending Kyle’s flesh into goosebumps along his shoulders and chest. Kyle leaned to the side slightly, and Cartman pulled his face away, straightening and looking down at him with the expression of a parched man eyeing a bottle of water. Kyle stared, frowning slightly, trying to process what was going on.

“I finally get to…to-” Cartman put a hand over his mouth, cutting himself off, eyes moving to the side.

It was in this moment that Kyle began to feel reality creeping in. Cartman’s hand had migrated to his hip, and the other was still around him, draped beneath Kyle’s underarm and holding on around his back. Kyle then looked to his own hands, felt the softness of the brown hair against his fingertips, and sensed the cold and aching dread beginning to crawl up his spine, accompanied by the stark realization that this was Cartman, that they had kissed twice, and that he somehow still wasn’t feeling the urge to puke.

He was, however… Pretty sure something about this was really fucking wrong.

“I gotta go,” he stated and pushed himself unsteadily to his feet, brain working hard through the alcohol, trying to catch up with what had just happened and why. Cartman stood up beside him, swaying as well in obvious inebriation, and took a step backwards, seeming reluctant to meet his gaze.

“Yeah, uh, cool…see ya.”

Kyle turned and stumbled out of the bathroom. He made his way through the familiar living room and out the front door, down the steps, shivering, feeling the cold wind biting at his scalp where Cartman’s fingers had been just a few minutes ago.

His heart began to pound more quickly in his ears the further from Cartman’s house he got. He passed through a nearby alleyway and went over to the other side of the neighborhood, approaching his own back door. He unlocked it, and stepped into the kitchen, meeting his mother’s figure with mossy eyes as she stood in the hallway with the house phone.

Sheila’s screams of relief mingled with Kyle’s own internal screams.

--

The final semester of his high school career arrived quickly after Christmas break. After making his excuses to Stan and Kenny the week before, apologizing for ditching them that night and reconciling over a Starbucks, the redhead wasn’t too worried about his relationship with his closest friends at the moment.

There was, however, one fucking enormous problem that he did have, and he didn’t even want to venture into thinking about it, especially not unnecessarily.

They had both been completely drunk, Kyle thought to himself as he approached his locker, shoulders tense. Totally, irreparably drunk. Too drunk to know what they were doing. Too drunk to stop it. It never should have happened, and it certainly would never, ever fucking happen again, because he was NEVER going to SEE Cartman again. He had made up his mind. Cartman had to be too fucking embarrassed to mention it to anybody, and Kyle DEFINITELY didn’t plan on telling a single soul about what had transpired in that god damned house.

He opened his locker, and stared in horror at the sight of the maroon scarf that sat nicely folded atop his neat row of textbooks. How-

“Hey, dude.”

Kyle nearly jumped out of his fucking skin. He spun around to see Craig standing there, wearing his usual blue jacket and what looked like a new knitted pink chullo seated atop his thick black bangs.

“Jesus, don’t scare me like that!” he snapped at the other, back muscles twinging in pain from the stress. Craig looked back at him flatly, a look that was sort of comical given the small yellow and black chicks that had been knitted into his hat by someone. Kyle had a feeling he knew who.

“I literally just said ‘Hey’,” Craig stated, glancing into the locker, obviously noticing the scarf sitting there. “The lunch bell just rang.”

“I know,” Kyle replied, stuffing the books he’d need after lunch into his bag and pushing the scarf into the back of the locker. He slammed it shut, standing awkwardly when he realized he had forgotten to bring a lunch that day.

“Tweek made sugar cookies. Want one?”

That didn’t sound bad in the least. Relieved that Craig seemed to be acting normally, despite the fact that clearly nobody could have known what was on Kyle’s mind, anyways, the redhead nodded and followed the beckoning hand around the corner. He followed Craig outside without a second thought, figuring Tweek was waiting with baked goods at one of the outdoor lunch tables, when the guy spun around and all but cornered him against the side of the building.

“What the hell?” Kyle asked and stepped backwards with a frown, irritation already mounting.

“Dude, what is wrong with you lately?” Craig asked flatly. Kyle immediately realized that there were, in fact, no cookies, which served to irritate him even further. He reached out and shoved Craig by the shoulders, breaking free of the tight contact.

“What are you talking about?” he spat back, obviously already pissed-off. “We just got back.”

“Uh-huh. And Wendy already told us she thinks something’s seriously wrong with you.”

“Wendy?!” Kyle asked incredulously. What did Wendy have to do with anything-

Fucking Stan.

“What did Stan tell her?” he asked with an irritated sigh. Wendy, though quite the moral and genuinely nice person, did have a reputation as someone who spread gossip. Craig shrugged, tucking his hands into his pockets.

“I dunno. I think Stan is freaking out about you. He probably doesn’t want to tell you to your face.”

Shaking his head, Kyle took a breath and stepped backwards away from Craig. At the very least, the guy had been conscientious enough to tell him that people were talking behind his back. Kyle didn’t really want people to be concerned.

“Why is he worrying anyway??” he asked, glancing up in honest confusion. Craig stared.

“Well, you have been biting people’s heads off for the past few months,” he admitted. “Stan said something about you walking out on him and Kenny around Christmas.”

“I told him I was sorry about that,” Kyle replied, blinking. Biting people’s heads off? Had he been doing that? He vaguely remembered snapping at Kenny before finals…

Craig’s eyes fell to the other’s collarbone before moving back up again.

“Nice hickey. Is she a good kisser?”

Both of Kyle’s hands moved up to cover the right side of his throat, and Craig just watched him with an infuriating little smile playing at the corners of his pale mouth.

“Gotcha,” he stated blandly. “I knew it.”

Kyle wanted to curl up in a hole and actually die.

“Wh- fuck you!”

“Sorry, I’m taken,” Craig said sarcastically and took a step forward, keeping his voice down more effectively than Kyle had feen as people began to file out of the school through the back doors about ten feet behind them. “I figured you were dating someone. No wonder you’ve been so on-edge.”

“Did you go around telling people?!” Kyle hissed, gritting his teeth.

“Nah. Wasn’t sure it was true. You just proved me right,” Craig stated, raising an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t do that anyway.”

Craig, quite honestly, was exceedingly cool about things like that. Unlike Stan, who had a habit of running his mouth, and Kenny, who couldn’t keep quiet about anything that had to do with relationships or sex, Craig typically kept his mouth shut about personal shit.

Sex… Kyle squirmed visibly and let out a sigh of frustration, wanting to yell.

“I’m not in a relationship,” he muttered darkly, eyeing Craig suspiciously with obvious bitterness. “Shit happens. I fucked up. We can’t all be like you and Tweek and stay with our middle school sweetheart for ten fucking years.”

“Hey, don’t bring Tweek into this,” Craig replied with equal sourness, frowning. “I just wanted to know if you needed any help.”

Kyle remembered his temper for the moment and exhaled slowly, bringing his balled hands back down to his sides.

“I don’t need help,” he stated, trying to let the stress go, even as the memories plucked on his nerves. “We were drunk. I gave him-“

He regretted it as soon as he had said it.

“Him,” Craig repeated immediately, obviously shocked. Kyle balked, blinking rapidly and holding his hands back out.

“Shut up! Don’t you fucking tell anybody!”

“You really do like guys,” his classmate stated, surprise seeming to dwindle. “Did you go all the way?”

“We will never go all the way!!”

“Easy, dude. Does he go here??”

“No,” Kyle promised, shaking his head, voice starting to crack and fail him. “We were wasted. I just felt- God, never mind. It doesn’t fucking matter.”

Craig eyed him with obvious unsureness, but took a couple of steps away from Kyle again, as though he was giving it up.

“My lips are sealed,” he promised, soothing Kyle’s anxiety for a split second before he turned away and gave his parting statement.

“But your face is really red right now, so if you don’t like him, maybe you should go to a doctor and get that checked out.”

Kyle felt like he genuinely wanted to run out of the entire state as Craig walked away. He watched the other silently as Craig walked over to Tweek, who was over drinking at the water fountain, and observed the pair as they locked fingers and made their way over to the table where Clyde and Token were already sitting eating.

“Hey, Kyle, I got McDonalds,” Stan’s voice rang out, and Kyle felt a hand on his shoulder, turning to see a somewhat nervous smile on his friend’s face. He forced one in kind, trying to look convincing.

“Thanks.”

To Kyle’s extreme relief, the rest of the day passed mostly without incident. As soon as his classes had finished, he made his way back to his locker to put his books away, and heard his phone chirping at him from his coat pocket. He immediately tensed up, wondering what to expect, and slipped it out to read the notification, seeing that he had a new email.

‘Mr. Kyle Broflovski,

Congratulations! We at the The University of California Berkeley are delighted offer you admission for the Fall of 2019! You have been admitted to the Pre-Med program within the College of Science.’

Kyle dropped his book bag and actually staggered, pushing his palm and fingers against his lips and chin with a gasp of shock. Berkeley…

After his previous rejections and the stress over winter break, Kyle had almost forgotten about his college applications during the past couple of weeks. His mouth spread into a broad smile as he stood up, picking up his backpack woth shaking shoulders.

This was it. This was his excuse. Berkeley was a fucking amazing school. He could leave South Park, forget about the stresses at home, allow Stan and Wendy to only have eyes for one another, and just…make his own life. His heart panged when he thought of it. Sure, he would miss it, but he had a life to live. He had to make his own decisions, and lately, South Park was bringing back so many memories that were stinging him to his core.

Not to mention, almost certainly, that if he moved to California, that fucking fat-ass would probably be out-of-sight, out-of-mind, for good.

Yeah…for good.

Kyle was buzzing as he ran out through the front doors of the school and down the concrete steps. As he made his way down the icy sidewalk, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, he couldn’t stop his mind from wandering. He remembered the bright, painful lights in Cartman’s downstairs bathroom, and the way the other had pushed his tongue inside his mouth like he had been waiting to do it for years.

The events of the night prior had made no sense. At least when Kyle had been trashed and fucked around with Bebe, Kyle had somewhat understood his reason for doing so. She was cute, she had been drunk, too, and both of them had been horny and ready to work the stress of exams off. Cartman, though, was a different story. Kyle had NO reason in heaven or hell to find Cartman attractive, or want to kiss him, or be in his space. It was Cartman.

He certainly could picture the sweep of hair that laid atop his forehead, the diagonal swoop of thick bangs that framed his face as they always had. Cartman’s hair was short at the sides, and his face, while round, had a straight jaw and high cheekbones. Now that he thought about it, Kyle would have been lying if he told himself he wasn’t objectively an attractive guy, with his big penny-colored eyes that glistened within their rim of chocolate. Kyle definitely intended to lie to himself forever if that was what it took him to forget.

All things considered, Cartman was the definition of a repugnant human being. He was selfish, spoiled- well…maybe not as spoiled anymore. Crass? He certainly cursed and pushed his buttons, but Kyle had yet to see him do anything too disgusting since returning. Er, conniving…? He had to be plotting something with this bullshit. Never in a million years did Kyle think Cartman would fucking make out with him because he actually wanted to.

His face burned. Kyle let himself into his house through the front door and went directly up to his room, flopping down on the bed and holding onto a pillow in frustration. This college thing was his out. He opened the email again and read the remainder of the message, eyeing the link to the ‘Campus Tours’ section of the Berkeley website and tapping it with his thumb.

This was the first step. As much as he liked Stan and Kenny, South Park just wasn’t the place for him anymore. He pushed away the thought of Cartman’s fingers running through his hair, of that hot breath on his neck. It didn’t mean a damn thing, and it never would, if he had anything to say about it.

Kyle was his own man, and he was going to do this his way. Alone.

--

Chapter Text

--

With Kyle’s stellar-as-usual grades, it hadn’t been any problem for him to arrange a Friday off with PC Principal so that the redhead could book his Berkeley tour. He had selected the weekend roughly midway through February, once his final high school semester was in full swing, so that he could complete his assignments and square away his usual responsibilities before he went out-of-state.

Kyle knew from the get-go that he wasn’t interested in an eighteen-hour drive, so he booked a three-hour flight from Denver on Friday afternoon, which allowed Sheila to take him up from South Park to the Denver airport. After calming his mother down and reassuring her he would be safe alone until his return the following Sunday, Kyle dragged his suitcase to his terminal and took a seat in one of the leather-backed chairs, eyeing his plane ticket.

Tingles began to run up and down his forearms. Was this what being an adult was like? Handling your own travel arrangements, plane tickets… It was new to him, but then again, he felt a certain thrill at the prospect. Maybe after he got his general pre-med requirements out of the way, some professor would recruit him for medical research while he completed his actual education. Perhaps he could even be a professor, if he decided not to become a practicing doctor. He had time to figure those things out.

Maybe…South Park would even become sort of a distant memory while he lived out the rest of his life.

Kyle had already made arrangements to have Stan pick him up at the Denver Airport on Sunday evening, since his plane didn’t come in until ten o’clock, and he didn’t want to ask his mother to drive two hours to Denver and two hours back that late in the day. She had had her reservations about Kyle arriving so late before a school night, and Kyle had a feeling she’d wait up until midnight for Stan to deliver him, anyways, but Stan had seemed cool with it and Kyle genuinely had thought it might be fun. Maybe he and Stan could treat it like a mini road-trip and stop somewhere, get shakes, and look up at the stairs.

Kyle wasn’t naïve. He knew his hours spent with Stan were numbered, at this point.

As the terminal began to call out ticket numbers for boarding, Kyle felt his phone buzz in his pocket, and took it out to glance at the screen. An alert for ‘5 new messages’ popped up, which didn’t surprise him, until he saw that the sender was, in fact, not his mother.

(1-720-445-0169)
hey strawberry shortcake

Fuck no. Kyle cringed, having to force himself to read the other four.

cmon we gotta talk about it

kyle im srsly

hey

dont ignore me u stuck up jew

‘It’ was not something Kyle wanted to talk about. The mere fact that Cartman suddenly now wanted to talk about ‘it’ was pretty strange, in the first place, given how completely embarrassed and confused he had acted right after ‘it’ happened. It had been weeks since the dreaded ‘it’ had occurred, and Kyle almost felt a sense of victory at this point, given that he was about fly out of state for what would probably end up being his new home, away from South Park and Cartman and all of this ridiculousness.

Letting his smugness get the better of him, he typed out a response.

jokes on you, I’m boarding a plane rn

He had a feeling that Cartman would reply back fast, so Kyle immediately turned his phone off and stuck it back in his pocket, standing up when his ticket number was called and heading up to board. He wasn’t sure what exactly Cartman hoped to accomplish by bugging him like this, especially about that incident that he never wanted to think about ever again, but he had a feeling ignoring this was his best bet. He had bigger things to think about.

Kyle walked down the carpeted aisles and sat in his seat near the back of the plane, taking out his earbuds. Pretty soon, all of this was going to be a distant memory.

--

The student tour of UC Berkeley had been everything he had dreamed it would be. Geared towards all types of students, Kyle was guided through multiple areas of the campus in an adventure that had spanned a full six hours throughout the entire Saturday, with a break for lunch at the central dining facility. The university’s dedication to its incoming students was impressive; the tour guide was exceedingly knowledgeable about the interplay between departments, about the various laboratories, recreational spots, and lecture halls. Kyle had been treated to an in-depth tour around the historic campus, between the tall, chalk-white buildings with their Grecian-style pillars, and the wide-open fields of green grass.

Of course, Kyle was most interested in the science facilities, and he wasn’t disappointed. Though Berkeley did not have a medical school on the campus itself, the pre-med program offered classes not only in the usual maths and sciences, but also in specialized areas like nursing chemistry and bio-stats. The college’s chemistry laboratories therefore boasted specialized instrumentation, from low-range micropipettes to UV spectrophotometers, as well as refrigerators and cabinets stocked with expensive chemicals and volumetric glassware. Everything was immaculately clean, and even the shiny glass on the lab doors boasted the Berkeley logo.

There was no question in Kyle’s mind that this was a good place for him to be. Regardless, nerves itched at the base of his brain as he finished his tour for the day, thanking the guide for his time and starting his walk back to the hotel that was close to the East edge of the campus. It was a cloudy day, and the wind whipped at his ears, since he had thought it might be inappropriate to wear a hat to a formal university tour.

Kyle breathed in the scent of fresh grass as he approached the Best Western and stepped inside. Using his keycard to get into his ground-floor room, he shut the door behind himself and kicked his dress shoes to the side, collapsing face-first onto the firm mattress.

Could this really be his life? Old, historic buildings, cut grass, clean labs, tens of thousands of students to meet and interact with? It was really strange, being here alone and trying to see into the future. Where would he be in a year? What about in five years?

He thought back to his mother momentarily, eyeing the fading twilight outside the window. Shifting, doing his best not to get overwhelmed, he slipped his phone out of his pocket and scrolled through his contacts, bringing up Stan’s name in his messaging app.

you’re still picking me up tomorrow in Denver at 10 right

Not really anticipating an immediate reply since Stan was often occupied these days, Kyle got up and made himself a cup of ramen that he had purchased at the corner store earlier that day. By the time he got back to the living room and sat down on the sofa, his notification light was blinking and he picked his phone up, stomach clenching when he saw the response.

shit man I forgot…that’s valentine’s day

Kyle tensed. What… He paused and checked the date on his phone, realizing that the following day was, in fact, the fourteenth.

my flight doesn’t get in til 10

dude me and wendy have the whole day planned out

fuck I’m sorry I forgot i’m an idiot

Frowning, the redhead grit his teeth and took a deep breath. It figured. It fucking figured. They had made plans for this. Stan had known what day and time he was going to be coming back in. The guy knew he needed a ride. Was his head seriously that far up in the clouds?!

won’t you guys be done by then?

Kyle felt his eyes burn, startling him. He had been really looking forward to it. After an overwhelming campus tour and long trip all by himself, he had wanted to meet up with Stan in Denver and hang out late at night in Randy’s beat-up truck, talking about stupid shit and getting fast food. After all, who even knew when the next time they’d get to do it would be…?

kyle im so sorry

That answered his question. Dragging the chat head bubble down to the ‘x’, Kyle swallowed and began to run a list of possibilities through his head. Getting an Uber or a taxi for two hours was most definitely out. He didn’t need to be spending every cent he had in the bank just to get back to South Park. He couldn’t ask his mom to drive up that late at night. Stan had bailed. Kenny didn’t have a car. Hell, most of the people in their class didn’t have a car yet. Another message came in, and Kyle gazed back at his screen, only for his hopes to be immediately squashed.

(1-720-445-0169)
u really think ur too good to talk to me huh

This was not a stress he needed right now.

Fuck off and die

I have enough to deal with today

Cartman’s response was unsettlingly fast.

dude where even r u

UC Berkeley

And my ride back from Denver just fucking bailed on me

Kyle sighed and closed his eyes. If there was anything that was good about Cartman in any possible way, it was probably that Kyle never felt any guilt in being honest with the guy. Lately, he had had to be so considerate of people’s feelings, especially when it came to his mom and his close friends. Maybe Cartman actually was useful, since he never felt bad about using him as a stress ball or a punching bag.

hmm lemme guess

golden boy’s busy with hippie bitch

Kyle just wished Cartman was dumber than he actually was sometimes. Then again, he didn’t even want to defend Stan right now. The guy should have fucking remembered, damn it.

 

what do you think??

so now I’m gonna show up in Denver and be stranded

oh u need a ride??

No shit

Dude my mom left the car

No. No. No. This couldn’t be happening.

Go fuck yourself

Jesus fucking Christ tampon top

I’m trying to help u here

More like you want to fuck with my head some more

we’re both gonna be sober

afraid something’s gonna happen?

Something welled up inside Kyle, strong and hot. He collapsed onto the couch on his side and curled up, eyes closed tight, feeling his heart begin to freak out. Everything about this entire situation was like a fucking nightmare. Maybe he just needed to go online, find the airline website, and try to reschedule his flight back home for a different day. Sadly, Sheila would freak out if he did such a thing, and he knew it.

C’mon jew

I have a license if ur worried

How do I know you wont pull shit

uh cos you’d break my nose again if I tried

That was NOT a comforting response. Cold dread began to run down his back and shoulders. Kyle had sincerely wanted to read “because I’m not gay” or “because I don’t fuck with creepy ass gingers”, or even “because you’re Jewish and that’s nasty as fuck”. He certainly hadn’t wanted to hear “because you’d stop me even if I tried to.”

Ur sick cartman

Why are you even offering

Ugh ur gonna make me say it

Cos this jackets real nice

i don’t freeze my ass off at nite now

Before, back in the days of the “old” Cartman, Kyle would have dismissed this statement as a typical tactic, a way for the guy to exact some sort of evil plan while under the guise of false gratitude and commitment. Kyle was certainly suspicious. Still, though… It wasn’t like anybody else was offering to help him, and Cartman was probably right. Neither of them would be boozed up. There was no reason to think anything would happen. Kyle had done something pretty fucking nice for this guy, so maybe he should just accept this as good karma and stop being so afraid.

He couldn’t help the unsureness that twisted within him. Okay, yes. They had made out. He’d acknowledge it. It was stupid, but both of them had clearly been having an emotional moment for other reasons, so there was no reason to believe that it had had anything to do with one another. Hell, they probably would have made out with anybody who was in their personal space at that moment, maybe. Kyle shivered. He didn’t want to think about it.

No, he didn’t want to see Cartman again, but…he also didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to take an Uber back to town, and he didn’t need to be giving his mother a heart attack. Maybe he just needed to suck his pride up, admit to his mistake, and allow the guy to do him a favor.

my flight lands in Denver airport at 10pm tomorrow

if ur not there I’ll fucking strangle you

ooh

kinky

Kyle threw his phone onto the loveseat, ate his ramen, and rolled around in bed for three hours before actually getting any sleep.

As expected, his trip back took about three hours, minus the time he wasted with his bags and security checks at the airports. Kyle was glad he had only brought a single carryon bag, so he didn’t have to wait for his luggage. Exiting the final checkpoint and stepping out into the waiting area near the currency conversion desk, the redhead glanced around momentarily, thoroughly expecting the person who was supposed to be picking him up not to be there at all.

As usual, Cartman was full of surprises and sat over near the greeting area on his cell phone, wearing the maroon jacket that Kyle had bought him and holding a bottle of water in his left hand. Suddenly feeling awkward, not having expected him to actually show up, the redhead strode over and approached the broader male hesitantly, meeting those brown eyes that moved up to look at him.

“You actually came,” Kyle stated in honest surprise, catching the bottle that was tossed his way and watching Cartman get to his feet with a huff.

“You thought I was fucking with you?”

“Yeah. Does your mom know you took the car?”

“Hell no,” Cartman snorted and grabbed Kyle by the arm, leading him out through the automatic doors and into the adjoined parking garage. Kyle wrenched his arm away immediately, not at all appreciating how his gut flexed and his neck stung with goosebumps.

Maybe this had been a terrible idea.

“She’s been out for like four days again. Like I give a shit if that bitch comes back to her car gone.”

He couldn’t afford to keep feeling bad for Cartman, so Kyle just looked away and walked up to the old beat-up red station-wagon that was parked kind of haphazardly in the end space of one of the rows. Opening the door, he sat down and pushed his small suitcase down near his feet, sensing eyes on him and looking over.

“Dude, just shove that in the back,” Cartman suggested. Kyle tensed, looking away and playing with the water bottle in both hands.

“It’s fine.”

Yep, this had definitely been a bad idea.

Hanging out with Cartman, when they were younger, had never felt weird. Sure, he had often been angry at Cartman, or fighting with Cartman, or deeply and thoroughly disturbed by something Cartman had done, but this feeling was a new one entirely when it came to his childhood friend.

“I’m fucking starving,” Cartman replied as he shifted the car into gear and backed out of the space, driving up to the gate and looking at the metallic silver console with the card swipe in irritation. Realizing it was a pay station, Kyle blinked before reaching into his wallet and shoving his debit card into Cartman’s free hand where it sat in his lap. Their eyes met, and Kyle looked away.

“Just use it,” he said, sinking his teeth into his bottom lip. He couldn’t expect Cartman to pay, given the state of things. Thankfully, Cartman swiped it and immediately shoved it back over to him, pulling out of the garage and onto the street.

“Like I need your pity,” the brunet whispered, drawing Kyle’s gaze back up. Kyle gulped.

“It’s- dude, you picked me up. Just call us even.”

“How was Berkeley, Kyle?” Cartman replied, stopping at the red light and turning his face away. “Have fun hanging out with a bunch of other snobby-ass rich kids?”

“I’m not rich, Cartman,” Kyle snapped, irritation mounting. Why he had thought this could be a civil situation, he wasn’t sure, but he had at least hoped they could both be quiet. “What’s your fucking problem with me??”

“Do you want me to start alphabetically?”

“You offered to pick me up, fat-ass.”

“Well, your boyfriend left you hanging, didn’t he?”

Kyle swallowed hard, having a seriously hard time not breaking a window.

“Stan is not my fucking boyfriend,” he hissed, affixing his eyes on Cartman, who still wasn’t looking at him.

Cartman smirked slightly.

“It hurts, doesn’t it?” he said airily, voice lilting with a tone of fake and saccharine pity. “That he ditched you on valentine’s day, I mean. How insensitive.”

“Cartman-”

“It’s already dark out,” Cartman continued, eyes gazing somewhere out the front window over the dusty dashboard. “And you never even got a kiss from your prince charming.”

“You’re one to talk!” Kyle shouted, voice straining with his anger. “Like anybody would fucking kiss you!”

“You did,” the brunet replied immediately and looked over, and Kyle immediately felt like the jaws of a steel trap had closed around him.

“You! YOU kissed ME!”

“If you say so, Kyle.”

“That was your fucking fault, Cartman!”

“You even asked me for more,” Cartman recalled. “You must not have minded too much.”

It wasn’t safe practice to wail on somebody who was driving a car at speeds upwards of 70MPH, but that didn’t mean Kyle wasn’t seriously considering it.

He remembered. Both of them had been drunk, Kyle probably more so, but sadly, that didn’t mean the events of that night were a blur. He remembered it all- Cartman’s hand on his pump tubing, and Cartman’s lips on his mouth.

“We were fucking wasted,” the redhead stated harshly, heart pounding, turning his face away. “I probably thought you were a chick. You’ve got the tits of one.”

He heard Cartman sigh from the driver’s side. Kyle probably should have felt victorious in that silence. Instead, though, he honestly felt guilty when Cartman tilted his face down slightly.

“Yeah, I get it,” the guy replied, pulling the car off on the nearby exit. Kyle frowned.

“Where the fuck-”

“I’m hungry,” Cartman cut him off, taking a right off the frontage road. “And since I was such a wonderful and generous friend to offer to drive you back to South Park, I think you should repay my kindness with dinner.”

If Kyle hadn’t been so desperate to get off that conversation topic, he would have complained. Instead, he grunted his assent and hopped out into the McDonald’s parking lot, slamming the car door shut. He didn’t really need McDonalds visits with Cartman to start becoming a regular thing, but maybe if the guy got full he’d calm down, and the rest of the trip could go by in relative peace.

They walked up to the register and Kyle nudged him, eyes downcast as he dug his wallet out of his pocket. “Tell her what you want.”

By the time their number was called, Cartman had already started making his way towards the door. Confused, Kyle picked up the bags and carried his armful over to him.

“What’re you-”

“Just eat in the car,” he replied bluntly, walking across the parking lot and opening the driver’s side door. “No use dragging this shit out.”

Something in Kyle actually felt slightly hurt, but he slipped into his own seat without complaint and bucked his seatbelt. He set his soda cup in the holder not already occupied by Cartman’s giant coke, and pushed Cartman’s food bag into the other’s lap before getting to work on digging in his own. He felt the car pull forward and back out onto the highway as he stuffed his face with fries, looking in the bag to find the napkins.

“I’m glad it fits you,” Kyle admitted after a few awkward minutes of silence, catching Cartman’s eye from the side.

“The jacket,” he clarified.

“Oh, yeah?” Cartman mused, sounding like he wasn’t really listening. Kyle looked back down.

“I had to guess your size.”

“I’m actually a 41, but it’s pretty good.”

The dynamic felt familiar to Kyle. They had always been like this. At one another’s throats one moment, and conversing normally the next, though this time, something about it felt wrong. His fingers itched as he wiped the French fry grease onto his napkin stack, watching Cartman from the side as the guy drove with the entire burger sticking out of his mouth. It was almost amusing, but he made sure not to smile.

“You lost a ton of weight, dude,” Kyle commented, more out of his own amazement than anything else. Cartman just snorted.

“That’s what happens when you’re on a controlled diet for five fucking years.”

“You didn’t pay someone to sneak junk food in for you?” the redhead asked. It seemed like something his rival would do. Cartman smirked slightly, though it didn’t have the edge it often had.

“I did at first. Some kid named Jason. Diabetic,” was the reply. “He was a serious sugar addict. They had him on the regular nuthouse menu for a while, but he kept getting pixy sticks and stuff from somewhere.”

“So you paid him to get that shit for you,” Kyle stated, starting to realize where this was going.

“Pssht, like I had any money. I had my ways of getting him to do what I wanted.”

Kyle didn’t doubt that.

“But then you stopped?”

“Well, you know. People change,” Cartman said as he finished his double burger off, eyes on the road. Kyle huffed.

“Does that include you?”

“I dunno, Kyle. What do you think?”

“I don’t know what to think of you,” the redhead admitted, looking down at his half-finished chicken sandwich. “But…you’re probably better than you used to be, I guess.”

He heard Cartman snicker around his mouthful of French fries.

“Still don’t hold a candle to Stan, though, huh?”

The mention of Stan immediately put a sour taste into Kyle’s mouth. He dug his fingertips into the knee of his jeans, resisting the urge to shove him only because he was currently driving. He wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by that comment, but it certainly couldn’t be good, especially given that Cartman was privy to Kyle’s sexuality, now.

“Will you shut the fuck up about Stan?” he spat, kicking both feet up onto the dashboard.

“Heh. Sure you aren’t sour he picked Wendy over you?”

“Fuck you! We’re just friends, Cartman,” Kyle emphasized, glaring daggers directly at him, not one to back down. “It figures a psycho like you can’t even distinguish between being someone’s friend and being hot for them!”

Cartman turned his head to look at Kyle as he approached the on-ramp for the next highway. He stopped at the yellow light and raised an eyebrow, staring at Kyle with the slightest of smiles. Kyle was preparing for a rebuttal when Cartman shrugged his shoulders, eyes moving slightly to the side.

“Not with you, I can’t.”

The mild rushing of other cars in the background was deafening in comparison to the stark, shocked silence between them. Kyle’s mouth ran dry as he gazed up, green eyes bright and wide, ludicrous. There was…no way he had just heard that. There was no way. He had to have misunderstood. Something had to be getting lost in translation, somewhere.

He had to say something.

“F-Fine, I’ll make the distinction for you, then,” the redhead managed, not wanting the silence to prolong itself. He watched the brown eyes carefully, demandingly, intending to end this charade once and for all. “Me and you aren’t friends.”

Cartman’s smile faded slightly, and Kyle felt relief wash through him. It pulled back though, tight and cold, when the other leaned in closer. Kyle sat up straight, standing his ground, even as their faces moved closer together.

“Good,” Cartman stated, brown eyes nearly gold in the streetlights.

“I don’t wanna be.”

Those hands were back in his hair again, moving against his scalp as their mouths pushed together. Kyle tilted his face, too shocked to do anything but stare. Cartman’s eyes were open, too, and they looked at one another through it as their lips flexed, finding a warm and soft home together. The fingertips stroked against his scalp like magic, though, and Kyle felt his eyes wanting to close when the blaring of a horn jolted them out of their hypnosis.

“Ay! Fuck you, too!” Cartman shouted at the car behind him as he pulled back, slamming his foot on the gas at the green light to pull back onto the next highway. Kyle just blinked rapidly as the hand lifted itself out of his hair, trying to shake himself out of this stupor. They were sober, and this was…well… Oh…dear God, why?

Why did all his interactions with Cartman seem like a dream he couldn’t wake up from? Why were they kissing? WHY WERE THEY KISSING GOD DAMN IT?!

“This…This is fucked-up,” Kyle managed quietly, feeling like his voice wasn’t really working. His ears were hot, as were his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. He could feel the sweat beginning to run down the back of his neck, and the way his heart was hammering and freaking out as he stole a glance at Cartman, who was pointedly looking the other way. Kyle was almost sure he could see the slightest flush of pink against the side of Cartman’s face as he drove, which sent his internal alarms into a frenzy.

Cartman didn’t reply. Whatever this was, it could not be allowed to continue. Even if he was having some sort of…horrific reaction to Cartman, that was all it was. A reaction. He was better looking now, and Kyle was exhausted and emotional and, well… There just had to be a reason.

“What’s next?” he continued in honest amazement, jade eyes moving back down into his own lap. “I wake up with a knife in my face again?”

“Mmh,” Cartman hummed as a response, thankfully breaking the awkward silence on his part as he kept his brown eyes on the road.

“Nah, but I suppose I could be persuaded to stick something else in your face.”

The sound that Kyle emitted was nothing to be proud of. Reaching out, he shoved him harshly in the side and stared incredulously, trying to ignore the realization that his face was probably as red as his hair right about now.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?! Don’t even joke about that!”

“You know you like it.”

“Shut up! Don’t fucking talk right now!”

“I can use my mouth for something different when we get back into town.”

Kyle wasn’t sure what he had been expecting when he had decided to let Cartman drive him back home, but it sure as hell hadn’t been this shit.

Cartman, thankfully, decided to stay silent after that. Kyle matched his silence, sticking his earbuds in and shakily opening his music app to play the loudest, unsexiest, most blaring rock ‘n roll playlist he could find on Spotify.

If Cartman tried to say anything else to him over the next couple of hours, Kyle mercifully didn’t hear it. It was amazing, really. How many deep breaths did one have to take before their system got the idea and actually calmed down? How many frantic pumps did his heart have to beat before it began to get tired and returned to its normal state again?

As much as he felt like the guy deserved to lose a few teeth for his tasteless jokes, Kyle didn’t have it in him to risk both of their lives, given that they were now in the fast lane. Only when he felt the car begin to slow down did he dare to look up, and he gazed out the window in surprise as the car began to pull into their shared neighborhood. They were back already…?

“Get out.”

Cartman’s voice called out from beside him. Sticking his phone in his pocket, Kyle frowned and opened up the passenger’s side door, picking up his suitcase. What was with the attitude?

“Whatever,” he replied and took his first blessed step out of Cartman’s car, shivering when the cold air bit the back his neck. The image of the scarf, neatly folded and sitting in his locker, flashed in his mind. He had to make a point to ask Cartman how the fuck he had gotten into his locker in the first place. Maybe another time.

He rolled his suitcase away from the car and up to his front porch, fishing his keys out of his pocket and unlocking the door. He pushed it open, and took a quiet step inside, picking up his suitcase and carefully carrying it inside. The house was dark. Sheila must have gone to bed already.

Kyle turned to push the door shut behind him, and froze when he saw his enemy standing there in the doorway, wearing an unreadable expression that looked most like slight dissatisfaction.

“Jesus,” Kyle gasped in shock, taking a step backwards. “Dude, what the fuck?”

Cartman stepped in and shut the door behind himself, reaching for the lock and clicking it closed between his thumb and forefinger. An electric shock pulsed up through Kyle’s entire body when the brown eyes met his, dark, looking almost black in the dim light of the living room. His feet, planted solidly on the polished wood floors, felt unsteady where he stood, like the ground beneath him was about to give way.

Cartman took a step closer, and Kyle just closed his eyes.

--

Chapter Text

--

Kyle didn’t know what it was like to die, but he almost swore he could see his life flashing before his eyelids when he felt Cartman’s chest against his, demanding and warm.

Even if he had wanted to say something, to shout a protest or scream a question, the redhead felt his voice swallowed and sucked out through his open mouth. Cartman pressed up so closely that he could feel their teeth click together, head foggy and thick as that wet tongue pushed its way between his lips.

Heat began to run down through his abdomen in surges. He shouldn’t…they shouldn’t... That much was clear. Still, the hand that reached up and slipped itself back into his curls began to stall his thoughts, fingertips rubbing out the tension that was pulsing in his temples.

Against his better judgment, Kyle took a step forward and allowed Cartman’s thick fingers to sink into the meat of his bicep. He felt himself being pulled and followed his cohort silently through the darkness, heart pounding hard in his ears as they toed their way up the steps. Suddenly realizing what he was allowing, he reached out and gripped the other by the shoulder, stopping his assent.

“Are y- what the hell are you doing?!” he whispered harshly, pupils blown in the dim light as Cartman spun to face him.

The expression on his companion’s face was stark. His chocolate eyes were narrowed, but not angry. Confusion gleamed within them, and the redhead wasn’t sure whether to find that comforting, or try to jump out the nearest window, because even Cartman didn’t seem to understand this insanity.

“My mom is asleep in there,” Kyle snarled and pointed to the bedroom door just a few feet to their left. Before he knew it, his heel skidded against the carpet, and his body jerked forwards as Cartman all but yanked him into his bedroom, pushing the door closed with a quiet huff.

“Then be quiet.”

Why the time of night seemed to be the primary reason not to be alone in his bedroom with Cartman, Kyle hadn’t yet figured out. He stumbled as he was pulled in again, and let his lids fall when their mouths met, feeling the smooth teeth nipping at his lower lip.

The redhead reached up to grip hold of Cartman’s forearms as their tongues slipped together, head and heart pulsing with hot blood. He felt the broad fingers creep back around him, pulling on the back of his jacket, and another surge of reality hit him, sending him leaning backwards into the darkness.

“This …?” His voice was rough as it escaped his esophagus, hot breath fanning between their faces. Cartman gazed into him from a few inches back, a small grin playing at the corner of his cheek.

“Heh… never got any action?” he breathed, voice hushed and lilting with amusement.

“Fuck you,” Kyle spat and shoved the other back, trying to control the pounding in his chest with deep and frantic breaths. “Of course I have!”

“You sure? You’re pretty red, there.”

Before he could respond to that, Kyle found himself backed up against the side of the bed, knees hitting the mattress. He winced as it bounced beneath him, and those lips were back on his, and his head spun with dizziness as his body literally began to tingle.

“Just not with guys,” he found himself explaining against Cartman’s chin, unsure why he felt the need to clarify. The deep and slow groan of response that met his ears set his system on edge, shooting a pulse of heady excitement deep through the shocked branches of his nerves.

Cartman backed him up along the mattress, one arm around Kyle’s waist while the other hand pulled in his curls. The heat pressed from his flat chest against Kyle’s abdomen, and the thinner boy stiffened, tongue pushing its way slowly in against Cartman’s slick teeth. His heart fluttered, and then stilled as he scooted forwards, shunting his knee up against the soft abdomen, feeling the smoothness of Cartman’s jacket collar against his neck and earlobe.

“God,” Kyle panted as he shoved the other back into the wall, bodies uniting again with a snap like two magnets. He wasn’t drunk, but he sure as hell felt like he was, with the buzzing in his ears and flames licking down his throat with each breath. The scent of laundry detergent met his nose as he stumbled on his knees, hips pressing deep into Cartman’s pelvis with the force of his fall.

Even in this situation, with the blooming fire between their legs and the wet breath on his cheek, Kyle was not going to lose this.

Their mouths met again, and this time Kyle felt Cartman’s lips move down his chin, over his skin, into the junction of his collarbone. His teeth were everywhere, scraping, biting. Green eyes met the glowing stars on his ceiling as Kyle shivered, feeling both of Cartman’s clothed arms tighten around his body to hold him in place.

This…was bad. Slowly, he felt his legs slipping wider, heels butting up against his wall as Cartman all but cradled him in his grasp. The slippery appendage pressed against his pulse point, and Kyle shifted as those hips pressed up, effectively lifted slightly and then set back down against the mattress.

Cartman’s hip slipped between his thighs and he reached out, pressing on Cartman’s shoulders and shoving him back further into the wall. “Are you kidding…?!” he breathed out harshly, pupils large and black as he stared into the round face. Cartman’s eyes were narrow, and dark in the low light, and noticeable flush of pink had faded in over over his cheeks and lips. Lips that were wet with the saliva they had shared, Kyle realized, staring into that intense gaze as the tips of their noses brushed.

“Does this feel like I’m kidding?” was Cartman’s response, thick and deep, as the broad hands gripped onto his hips and, suddenly, rolled Kyle’s pelvis down against his.

“Je-!” Kyle literally slapped a hand over his own lips as their groins dragged together- hot and hard, horrifyingly hard, against one another.

Cartman was hard. Oh-

“Shhhit!” he breathed between his fingers as Cartman looked up at him, raising an eyebrow.

No. This couldn’t be real.

He was not hard for Eric Cartman.

“Mmnh,” Cartman sighed through his nose, focus moving back down to where their erect bulges were pressed close. As Kyle was watching, the hand in his curls slipped free, fingertips trailing down the pale arm before they literally slid in through the gap at the waistband of Kyle’s jeans.

As soon as the hand hit his burning flesh, Kyle swung forward and forced Cartman back into the wallpaper again, eliciting a rough thump against the drywall that he could only fucking pray his mother hadn’t heard. Trying to get his bearings, he swayed slightly and leaned forwards against the firm chest, gasping for breath behind his tense fingers.

“You like that?” Cartman breathed in his ear. Kyle froze, silent and still, as the soft pad of Cartman’s thumb pressed over his head. It certainly wasn’t feeling like a dream…

“Cartman,” he murmured, free hand gripping his arm, for some reason, not pushing him away. The unbelievable slide of slippery fluid over his tip caused his hips to push forwards, straining against Cartman’s side as a deep and shameful gush of pleasure rose inside his belly.

“I can feel you getting wet for me, Kyle,” Cartman practically crooned into his ear, voice slightly breathless and rough as his hand smoothed over his length over and over.

Kyle saw colors as the other boy stroked his cock.

“I’m not a fucking girl,” he practically growled back, feeling those talented fingers ghosting over the vein at the base of his shaft. A chuckle.

“I know. That’s just how I like it.”

Exactly what that meant was momentarily lost on Kyle, but there was no question in his mind that this was wrong. That he would regret this. That it was insanity to begin with… but Cartman kept talking, and Kyle began to take deep breaths again, hand moving down from his enemy’s shoulder and towards the front of his pants.

Like hell he was going to finish first from this guy.

The warm air blanketed them in the dark bedroom as he gripped hold of the stiffness beneath Cartman’s corduroy pants. It pulsed, and the sharp inhale of surprise that Kyle felt against his cheek was a sick satisfaction running down his spine.

“Shit,” Cartman groaned into his hair, hips shifting, pushing into Kyle’s palm. His hand began to move again, and Kyle, throwing his better judgment completely to the wind, gave into the warm hand and soft body, allowing Cartman to lean forward slightly as he popped the snap button on his fly and slipped his hand inside.

At that moment, the brunet gave his base a hearty squeeze, sending Kyle’s voice into a higher-pitched whine. Green eyes closed tightly as he bucked up, their fronts pushed closely together, Kyle still straddling Cartman’s thigh as the larger boy thumbed his slippery crown. Kyle’s fingertips met with cloth, and he applied some pressure, curling his fingers around the-

Oh god…Oh…Oh god. It felt different from his.

It stiffened immediately in his fingers, followed by a raspy ‘fuck’ in his ear, and Kyle felt pleasure surge down between his legs, hot and searing and his length slipped and slid within Cartman’s stroking palm. The thing twitched in his hand and he fumbled, leaning his shoulder against Cartman’s front as he dipped his hand inside what felt like a pair of soft boxer briefs.

Kyle, despite being bisexual, had never done anything with another guy. He had kissed girls, certainly, and gotten to second base a couple of times, but his only experience beyond that had been that single drunken party night with Bebe. It had been about ten seconds of fumbling with the condom, and about thirty of actual sex, with both of their endurances cut vastly short due to the inebriation. He had certainly enjoyed it at the time, from what he remembered, but he had never in his life done a thing like this- kissing a guy, being felt up by a guy, having a guy stroke and squeeze him just like he would do to himself, except it felt about five fucking thousand times better-

“Car-” Kyle choked when he felt the fat cock throb in his hand, brain trying to catch up with what he was feeling as he avoided looking at it. Despite being inexperienced with guys, he was certainly familiar with what his own penis felt like in his hand, and Cartman’s was…thick.

“Jack me off,” the brunet breathed in his ear, sending a deep and hearty pang right down to his erection. Kyle jerked when Cartman’s free hand, that wasn’t stroking him, gripped ahold of his wrist, the tip of a wet tongue gently tracing the spot underneath the crook of his jaw. Frozen, startled and overwhelmed, Kyle could only stare back up at the wall over Cartman’s swath of brunet hair, smelling the scent of shampoo and pine as the broad hand encircled his and gripped their organs together.

Then he squeezed, and Kyle’s hand moved in tandem, fingertips running along the base of the thick, firm shaft of his partner.

Releasing a strained gasp like had never heard himself make before, the redhead gripped on a little harder, relishing in the teeth that gently sank into his earlobe, the hand that made its way around to the small of his back. For a moment, he remembered that brief session they had had in Cartman’s bathroom under the fluorescent lights, that hot and light feeling that had made a home in his chest. It was back, swelling between his ribs as he ground up against him, thighs open. He felt Cartman’s leg shake underneath him slightly as the air between them became humid, almost suffocating.

“Just look at you,” Cartman whispered against his temple, pressing two fingers against his tailbone as he guided Kyle’s hand around their wet, pulsing cocks. “Damn, you’re loving it. I-”

“Shut the fuck up,” Kyle moaned as he began to push his hips up into the hold, thrusting, feeling their dicks slip together underneath his own hand. Cartman snickered breathlessly and moved his face down against his collarbone, scraping his teeth against the hollow of his throat.

“You’re so hard for it,” he continued on, and Kyle felt himself shudder, unsure whether it was out of anger, embarrassment, or pure fucking lust. “I wanna see it.”

Kyle blinked, only to feel a hand at his shoulder, pushing him back slightly. Hips still working, member slipping up against Cartman’s thicker girth with each thrust, the redhead blinked down at him and daringly looked into the flushed countenance, meeting the slight smile with a full-body tremble.

“Wanna see the face you make when you cum.”

For all intents and purposes, Kyle was not a fucking pussy. He wasn’t shy, he wasn’t easily embarrassed, and he wasn’t one to back away from a challenge. This, though… His stomach tightened and he choked, having a tremendous difficulty maintaining eye contact when Cartman stroked him. Mercifully, he then found his lips in a hard and ravenous kiss, and closed his eyes tight as he upped the pace of his hips, the image of Cartman’s deep stare burned into the dark of his retinas.

Despite his previous experiences, Kyle couldn’t help but think to himself that Cartman’s kisses made him feel like he had never kissed a single soul before in his life. It wasn’t as if the guy kissed perfectly- his sucks and licks were messy, but the need there felt deceptively authentic, like he had been waiting for who knew how long. As his cock pulsed, legs tensing, he felt the other push that smooth tongue back along the inside of his cheek, and opened his own mouth up wider. He shunted his own tongue defiantly back against his lower lip, hand still blanketed by Cartman’s as the guy pleasured them together. He found himself groaning, unable to keep his voice down as his mouth was deliberately and mercilessly plundered. The free hand on the small of his back moved back upward, nesting itself in his hair, and he turned his head as it was guided to the side, feeling Cartman’s tongue reach for the back of his throat.

Cartman’s hips began to move, and Kyle swallowed hard, pulling back, inhaling, green eyes wide and leaking. No, this-

“Ghh…!” Choking down his scream, feeling Cartman’s thumb press at his slit, Kyle stared in shock at Cartman as stars burst out over the top of his vision, blinding him. Deep and searing pleasure shot through him, bringing him higher, making his hand tense and squeeze hard around their dicks. Hot liquid slipped across his knuckles, causing his wrist to stutter. His other hand came up and fisted in Cartman’s hair, needing something to pull on as he swayed forwards, body surging up against Cartman’s. He yanked hard, exhaling into his ear, trying desperately to keep his cries silent and pressing his face into the shoulder of the t shirt peeking up above Cartman’s unzipped jacket.

Ecstasy continued to burst through him in little fireworks. Kyle’s hips twitched, and his lungs swelled with air. He sank forwards into Cartman’s shoulder, feeling the other’s teeth back at his own neck, vaguely aware of the new gush of thick fluid that was now dribbling out over his palm.

“Nnh…” Cartman’s body began to rise and fall quickly as his partner breathed, causing Kyle’s limp form to move with him. Their fingers, entwined, softened in their grip, and he felt Cartman let go of his own hand, leaving the air of the room to ghost warmly over the wetness of their exposed privates.

Reality began to fade back slowly as he listened to their breathing, inhaling the smell of something hot, and slightly salty between their shared air. Shocked, to say the least, Kyle shifted and slowly fell out of Cartman’s lap and onto the bed beside him, blinking in amazement as his gaze fell to the thick and spent, dusky cock with the broad head and crowning foreskin.

“…?!” Reaching down to tuck himself back in, feeling the semen smear against his boxers as he winced at the sensitiveness, he reached out and wiped his wet hand on the sheets. Trying to process what the fuck had just happened, he listened to the rustling beside him, able to tell that his companion was doing the same.

Blinking, looking up, he shrunk back slightly when Cartman’s visage immediately leaned in towards his, turning his own face away so he couldn’t see his expression. He didn’t want to. Kyle still couldn’t believe this was real…

“That was fucking hot,” Cartman’s voice stated softly, slightly ragged, sounding a little surprised among its usual air of smugness. Kyle turned, staring intensely as he reached out and shoved the other by the shoulders backwards so hard that Cartman had to stick an arm back and grab the bedframe.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” he asked and pulled his shirt down, starting to feel his heartrate ramping back up. There was no way he had just…jacked off with Cartman. No fucking way.

Cartman snorted, raising an eyebrow.

“Uh, yeah. That’s been established, Kyle,” he stated, pulling his shirt back over his zipped fly like he was just getting done in the bathroom. Kyle wanted to retch at the mere thought and slid forward.

“If you tell-”

“Jesus Christ, Jew. My lips are sealed,” Cartman stated as though it were obvious, craning in a little closer. Kyle sat still, not daring to show weakness, not wanting to move backwards despite the fact that their foreheads were almost touching.

“Can’t have Stan finding out, can we?”

Kyle wrapped his hand around Cartman’s throat and yanked him to the side so hard that the guy had to bend sideways to prevent slamming into the bedpost. He choked and stared up in apparent shock as Kyle bore up against him, face pale with shock and rage.

“Me and Stan aren’t fucking together!”

“Ch-okay, okay! Ffuck!” Cartman sputtered as he wrenched Kyle’s hand away from his neck, wincing and hanging forward slightly in immediate surrender. Kyle immediately grabbed onto his shoulders instead, pushing up against him threateningly.

“That’s fucking disgusting! He’s my best friend!”

“Maybe that’s why…this works so fucking good, huh?” Cartman eventually managed, putting a hand to his throat. His dark hair, thick and brown, was swept over his forehead in a messy streak, and Kyle looked down at him, genuinely confused.

“…”

“We don’t have to like each other,” the brunet clarified, voice slightly rough as he sat up, looking smug for someone who had been gasping for air less than a minute prior. “We get what we want, no strings attached. None of that messy emotional bullshit.”

The pieces began to fall into place for Kyle, though they may as well have been pieces to five different puzzles. This- this didn’t make sense. They hated one another. The guy had tried to kill him. There was no reason in the world for them to want to do anything together, or spend any time together, or get this close…

“You want me to be your fuckbuddy?” Kyle asked, not liking the weakness in his voice. He was just…so shocked. Never in his life had this crossed his mind, but, even sober, it was scary for him to recognize these feelings for what they were. Cartman was fucking attractive as hell with those deep eyes and soft lips, and…

Jesus Christ. He was really going insane.

“Heh,” Cartman chuckled and straightened slightly against the wall, turning his head and looking at Kyle from under thick eyelashes. “There’s the honors student. Y’know, when you bother to use that big brain you have, it actually works pretty well.”

“This is ridiculous,” the redhead stated bluntly, hands slowly falling from Cartman’s shoulders. The brunet blinked.

“Really, now? You didn’t seem to think it was too ridiculous when you were cumming all over my hand.”

Kyle reached back and formed an immediate fist, and paused when thick fingers encircled his wrist.

“C’mon, Jew, live a little,” Cartman mused, slowly bringing the hand up against his face, placing Kyle’s palm against his cheek in a weird gesture and blinking quickly to bat his dark eyelashes at him. Kyle stiffened.

“Think about it. You work out all that pissed-off tension you so obviously have going on,” the guy explained, letting go of Kyle’s hand and reaching up to gently pull at the red hair at the back of his neck. Kyle waited for the second part of that sentence, and frowned when he was met with silence, feeling weird tingles travel up the base of his skull.

“And what do you get?” he asked, immediately suspicious. “A chance to humiliate me? What are you fucking planning?”

“God, can’t a guy get his rocks off without an interrogation?”

“This shit is insane, what we did,” Kyle stated and shifted backwards, shaking his head, trying somehow to convince himself it was a dream. Cartman rolled his eyes.

“Gonna be a baby about it? I jacked you off, Kyle.”

“Cartman-”

“You jacked me off, too. You liked it. It felt so good.”

“Get the fuck out,” Kyle hissed out, teeth clenched as he sat back further on the bed. “This is never happening again, do you hear me?”

“Well, if you say so, Kyle,” Cartman sighed and got off the bed, zipping his jacket back up and glancing over at him from the side. Kyle watched him like a hawk, cheeks burning and yet gaze trained, not planning to leave his figure for a moment until he was certain he was gone.

“But you know,” Cartman continued when he was met with silence, voice still low as he turned to face Kyle. “You should really text me if you ever need someone to fish that stick out of your ass. I do house calls.”

The mere mention of his ass sent Kyle standing up from the bed and heading over, fists balled at his sides. The brunet snickered and stepped out of the bedroom, shutting the door behind him. Kyle listened to the sounds his feet made as he walked, thank god, quietly, down the steps, and even heard the front door open and close.

It was a disgusting realization that semen was cooling in his boxers, and beginning to itch against his privates. Kyle warily opened the bedroom door, quickly heading into the bathroom and locking the door behind him. He stripped and stepped into the shower, turned it onto hot, and sat down into the bathtub, pulling the curtain closed as the warm water began to rain down over the top of his head.

If he didn’t wake up the next morning, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. He had…just masturbated with Eric fucking Cartman. To orgasm. In his bed.

Kyle closed his eyes in shame. Ever since Cartman had returned, Kyle had been sure that something was off. The guy had been, well, to put it bluntly, pretty fucking nice compared to how he had been in the past. The insults were still there, mostly, but he had actually displayed himself to be capable of doing things that friends might do for one another. He had picked him up from the airport earlier, after all. He had even given him help when he was sick.

What the fuck was going on? Was it all a ploy? Did he really still have some sick fetish for humiliating Kyle? Was that why he was being so nice, to lure him into a false sense of security, before Kyle went to school tomorrow and found some degrading photo of himself posted all over the bulletin boards and on everybody’s Facebook timelines?

Kyle shivered, holding his knees to his chest in a rare gesture of vulnerability. This didn’t make any sense. If Cartman was somehow attracted to him, in that way, well…he didn’t know what he could do about it. The fact that he himself was going along with this was fucking disturbing. Cartman was…attractive, god, was he attractive. Kyle never in a million years would have dreamt he would be thinking such a thing, but it was true- the brown eyes, the glossy chocolate locks, the smooth, slightly olive-toned skin with the broad shoulders and thick build.

Kyle liked his hair. When it came to guys, Kyle was starting to realize he was into bangs. Thick ones, ones that framed the face, sort of like how Craig had been keeping his lately. And his body… That was an entirely different thing altogether. Kyle was no shrimp, but there was something fucking exciting about how Cartman was just a little taller, and yet substantially broader, with wide hands and soft hips, and smooth palms that rubbed him just right.

Kyle stared up into the stream of water, wondering if the guy had somehow spiked his diet coke earlier that night. Cartman was creeping into his life, and there was no denying it. As much as they still bantered back and forth, he had to admit that spending time with Cartman lately was usually not unpleasant. There was a familiarity there, which felt sort of warm and inviting, in a creepy way. Maybe…

God, was he considering this? The redhead got to his feet, turning the water up as hot as it would go. Something hurt in his chest, stinging, feeling tense and cold. If Cartman had just wanted to be sexual with him, as insane as that seemed, the guy should have fucking said something months ago. Was that really what all of this was about? The benevolent gestures? The softer tongue? The smiles? It was just the guy trying to get in his pants?

Stan… Why Cartman kept acting like Kyle had some kind of interest in Stan was beyond him. It was probably just to get underneath his skin, but Kyle had never been less attracted to someone than he was to his best friend. He was fine looking, he supposed, but they were BEST FRIENDS. Kyle basically regarded Stan as a brother, and that made this all the more difficult.

They were going to be separated in just a few months’ time. He was going to go to Berkeley, or some other college out-of-state, and everybody else he cared about was going to stay in Colorado. Stan might even forget all about him. He already seemed to be starting to, what with Wendy taking up so much of his time. Kyle felt anger stinging in his brain when he remembered their text messages from that morning.

It wasn’t fair. All things considered, it felt like Stan just wanted him for homework help and occasional company, and Kenny worked so much he barely fucking saw the guy anymore. Most of the girls didn’t show much interest in Kyle nowadays. Cartman, sickeningly, seemed to actually want to talk to him more than any of his other friends, and the guy had basically just admitted that he just wanted to use him to fucking get off.

It seemed obvious, from the mention earlier as well as the random comment Cartman had made a couple week back, that the guy was bisexual. Not that Kyle really gave a shit. He did, wonder, however, what Cartman found so attractive about him. Hadn’t he always ripped on him for being a Jew? For being ginger? For anything he possibly could?

His stomach dropped as he recalled all the times Cartman had taken his hat off, pulled at his arm, poked him in class. That, in retrospect, was most certainly what young guys tended to do when they were crushing out of their minds.

Not that Cartman had a crush. He had made it clear his feelings were purely physical, and Kyle certainly never wanted it to go an inch deeper than that. Not now, not ever.

Turning the shower off, he dried off quickly and made his way back into his bedroom, throwing a t shirt and boxers on and falling back onto the mattress. Given the pitiful state of his social life, currently, he felt like he should be angrier, or sadder, or…something. He certainly felt a little sour, but somehow, when he thought of Cartman, he still felt his insides churn in a way that wasn’t entirely unpleasant. His phone buzzed from somewhere on the floor, and Kyle reached down to pick it off of the carpet, eyeing the message on the screen.

(1-720-445-0169)
my offer still stands jew

Kyle felt his emotions spiral, flipping and twisting between embarrassment and anger, between shame and excitement. If his entire world was going to be ending, then… what harm could this do? In some, sick recess of the redhead’s mind, having Cartman's warm arms around him, feeling their lips mesh together in a gentle dance or a rough battle, felt so, so much better than nothing at all.

He wasn’t an idiot, though. If he was really making this choice, it was on his fucking terms. It would be a cold day in hell when he submitted to Cartman in any way.

If you tell anybody about this you’re fucked

I bet your rehab place would take my word over yours

Do we understand each other?

He almost felt bad when he pushed the send button for the third time. Yes, he was consenting to this. For some freaky, god-awful, nonsensical reason, he was proposing to go ahead with this arrangement for some ill-conceived amount of time, but Kyle wasn’t stupid. Not only was the thought of them doing anything intimate like this pretty shocking, even to himself, but he had a feeling that the authorities would be pretty damn concerned to hear that Eric Cartman was…doing personal things with the kid he had tried to knife in the face half a decade prior. Kyle normally held himself to a high moral standard, but if Cartman tried a damn thing, he had no reservations about doing his best to send the guy right fucking back to the nuthouse where he probably still belonged.

His phone buzzed again.

ha that’s more like it

hey btw call me eric nxt time u moan for me

last names kinda ruin the mood

As a final act of defiance, he opened the contact page for the ‘unknown’ number, and added the number on the message into his contacts list, setting ‘Cartman’ for the name. With that, his last strand of desire to remain awake broke, and Kyle dropped his phone back onto his bedroom carpet, rolling over in bed on top of the sheets. It was official, the world was ending, probably. Somehow, at the moment, he wasn’t even afraid of indulging in the insanity. He was going to lose almost everybody he cared about, anyways, so maybe having someone around who could acknowledge that their entire relationship existed for bullshit entertainment would be kind of a relief.

No commitments. No hurt feelings. No missing them when they left for good, and no thinking about them when they weren’t around. It sounded good to him. If Kyle was going to leave South Park and all of his old, bad memories behind, maybe this was just one of the things that was going to be easier to forget.

--

Chapter Text

--

For whatever reason, as the redhead sat on his bed that one Wednesday evening, images of Stan Marsh were fading in and out of his conscious thoughts.

Slow and coiling swaths of nervousness began to churn inside his abdomen. Somehow, even after ten years of unstoppable and constant friendship, it felt like Stan was suddenly beginning to slip out of his life. Kyle remembered his hand up Wendy’s shirt in the computer lab, and the dopey smile that stayed planted on his face whenever that same chimey text sound rang out through his phone speakers. More and more often, as the days passed, he didn’t see Stan at their usual table at lunchtime, or the group chat was populated with messages between himself and Kenny, with Stan’s last blue bubble somewhere up too far for Kyle to want to scroll.

Such was the case that day. Kenny and Kyle had arranged to meet at Shakey’s for dinner after school, with Stan having messaged them the night prior to say that he was sorry but couldn’t make it. Since Kyle and Kenny were both sure that they knew why, neither had felt a need to question it. Kyle had found himself wondering how Stan and Wendy’s Valentine’s Day had gone a couple of days prior, that night when Cartman had come into his house and they had-

Kyle realized grimly that he had gotten action on Valentine’s Day for the first time in his life.

Stomach twisting, he got out of bed and checked the time, hand wrapped in the scarf around his neck. His backpack was strewn at the foot of the bed from his return from class a few hours previous, so he kicked it to the side and made his way up to his chest of drawers, digging around for a change of shirt. The tiredness was beginning to set in from his long day at school, the hours he had spent tutoring in the library and the extra research he had been doing on other prospective colleges.

In his exhausted state, he couldn’t help but think that the Broflovski household had become quiet over the past couple of years. Gerald Broflovski had often spurred the house into chatter, or played the radio, or had the TV up loud to watch a football game. Sheila was now at work or in the kitchen for most of the day, and Ike spent a lot of his time alone in his room. Maybe it was sad that even after the second year had passed, Kyle wasn’t entirely used to the silence.

“Bubby?” A familiar voice called out from behind the door. Kyle tensed, turning to look over his shoulder.

“Yeah?”

The door slid open and revealed Sheila in her work slacks, who stood there holding an envelope.

“Your new prescription came in,” she stated, handing him the piece of mail. “You should probably go and pick up your pump supplies while you’re out tonight. I don’t want you forgetting again.”

Oh, shit. Kyle looked at the envelope and tucked it into the back pocket of his jeans. As annoying as her constant motherly reminders could be, Sheila had a fair point. There had been a couple of times he had forgotten to pick up his insulin refills on time, due to overworking himself with college applications or getting caught up with schoolwork.

“Thanks,” he replied blandly and turned back around, sort of hoping she would go away.

“Kyle, is something bothering you?”

Kyle turned back around, meeting his mother’s eyes. “No, mom. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, frowning slightly. “You’ve been wearing that scarf a lot lately. Are you sure you aren’t coming down with something?”

Kyle’s shoulders tensed up as she reached out, the palm of her hand making contact with his forehead.

“Mom, it’s-, no. I’m not sick.”

“Are you getting a chill? It doesn’t feel like you have a fever.”

Kyle winced and gripped her arm gently, pushing her wrist back down.

“I’m fine. I promise,” he stated levelly, feeling a little guilty when he saw the unsureness in her eyes.

“All right, bubbala. Have fun with your friends,” she told him kindly, offering him a tired smile before leaving the room. From the corner of his vision, Kyle made eye-contact with his full-length mirror, painfully aware of the purple bruising that peeked up just barely over the top of his scarf.

At least Stan wouldn’t have any chance of noticing it, since he wasn’t fucking coming, as usual.

Kyle changed his shirt, threw his scarf and orange jacket back on, and pulled a dark grey hat over the top of his red curls, making sure he had his wallet and walking down the stairs and out of the house.

The journey on foot to Shakey’s took almost twenty minutes, but Kyle hadn’t felt like dealing with trying to lock his bicycle anywhere. As he made his way over the damp sidewalks, eyeing the slight grey of the blanketed sky, he tried to squash down the heaviness that pulsed in his chest. Two months. In two months, he’d probably be leaving South Park for good, leaving behind Kenny, Stan, his mother, and his hometown.

Oh, and Cartman. That was probably the only plus to leaving everything behind.

He shivered, stuffing his hands into his pockets. Cartman hadn’t sent him a single text since their meeting a few days prior, which probably shouldn’t have relieved him as much as it did. Kyle did have his suspicions that Cartman was plotting something silently, but then again, it seemed equally possible that the guy had been equally freaked-out by their, erm, interaction, and had just managed to keep his smug coolness until Kyle was out of sight. Maybe, blessedly, he would never contact Kyle again, and all of this could just be swept under the rug.

Kyle winced when he felt the sour taste twinge at the back of his tongue. Cartman…fuck. He was hot. God damn it, he was freaking attractive, okay? His hands were smooth, his body was broad and warm…His eyes were deep and brown, with the light taking them from a dark chocolate to a bright copper, depending on the time of day. His face, even, though still rounded at the cheeks, was smooth and sloped, punctuated by a sharp chin and high cheekbones, and that damn swath of chestnut brown hair that swooped low over his eyebrows at the top.

It didn’t mean he liked the guy, not really. His personality was still aggravating as shit, and his situation, well…Kyle didn’t necessarily want to be wrapped up in that, either. He had to admit, learning more about Cartman’s fucked-up home life did give him a little more perspective as to why he might have turned out the way he did in the first place. As a kid, Kyle hadn’t really thought much about it, at least not past using the unfortunate circumstances as the butt of a few jokes at Cartman’s expense. Now, however, as an adult, he could sort of see why Cartman might have become so, well…mal-adjusted, to put it nicely.

Walking up to the front door at Shakey’s Pizza, Kyle let himself in and immediately spotted the familiar blond seated in the booth at the back, chatting with one of the better-looking waitresses that worked a lot of the evening shifts. The redhead was assaulted with loud chatter and the scent of cooking cheese as he approached and sat down, glancing up at the woman with the black pigtails.

“Can I get a water?” he asked, watching as she stepped away from the table and turning his attention towards Kenny.

“Whoa, adventurous,” his friend commented, whistling. “What’re you gonna get next, the French fries?”

“Shut the hell up,” Kyle replied with a half-smile, pausing when a crinkling against the leather of the booth seat reminded him of something. “Oh, dude, I gotta get out of here by like, eight.”

Kenny paused, shrugging as he sipped at his own dark-colored soda.

“Okay, why?”

“I need to grab my prescription before the pharmacy closes.”

“You should probably get some condoms while you’re at it,” the blond replied without hesitation, lips twisting into a knowing smile before Kyle could totally process that statement.

“Seriously, Kyle, the scarf trick? It’s almost March. Nobody’s buying that you’re cold.”

Kyle’s insides tensed and he grit his teeth, resisting the urge to reach up and hide whatever might have been showing. Kenny blinked, giggling.

“Jesus, don’t look so pissed-off.”

“What did you hear?” Kyle spat back, face a picture of obvious, peaked embarrassment. Kenny laughed airily, obviously genuinely amused.

“Nothing. Kyle, you’re talking to me, here. I know about this shit.”

Kyle sighed, looking away and reaching for the cup of water that the waitress had just set in front of him. He took a sip, unaware it was completely the wrong time to do so.

“I always knew you guys had tension, but I never thought you’d actually let Cartman plant one of those on you.”

Choking, Kyle looked up sharply at Kenny at complete and immediate horror, feeling his cheeks starting to flush with heat. Kenny paused, clearly noting the accusatory gaze.

“Nobody said anything,” he reassured, reaching his hands out. “Man, Kyle, are you okay? I-”

“Fuck!” Kyle replied a little more loudly than he should have, gripping the edge of the table and leaning in to whisper harshly. “We aren’t going out!”

“I didn’t…say you were,” the blond stated in confusion, blue eyes clear and large with interest despite his surprise. “I mean, Stan told me you guys were hanging out. I just sorta put two and two together.”

“We’re- It’s not…I…was trying be nice,” the redhead said, not liking the shake in his voice and clearing his throat into his napkin. “His life is fucking awful. He just- okay, he drove me back from the airport on Sunday, that’s…”

Kenny reached out, gripping Kyle’s shoulder from a few feet across the table.

“Calm down,” he ushered, looking Kyle in the eyes with a little smile that the redhead absolutely did not like. “I’m not judging you dude. I mean, not that much.”

“Yeah right,” Kyle replied sarcastically, forcing himself to take a deep breath. “Call it temporary insanity or something. All this college crap has me losing my mind.”

“He did get way hotter,” Kenny mused, pulling his hand away and leaning his cheek on his palm as he looked at Kyle thoughtfully. “How far did you guys go?”

As much as Kyle wanted to be angry or shut the conversation down, the words spilled out of him before he could even help them, obviously needing a release.

“Third base,” he stated thickly, eyes boring a hole into the surface of the table. The silence between them was deafening for just a moment, before Kenny’s startled gasp broke the tension.

“That’s fucking amazing!” Kenny all but rejoiced, scooting over beside Kyle in the booth and putting an arm around him jubilantly. “Did you both cum?!”

“DUDE!” Kyle shouted and shoved the other away from him, ears hot with burning blood. “Nasty!”

“Just looking out for you!” the blond replied with a laugh, eyes wide and nearly sparkling. Kyle winced unsurely, hating how shy he felt. Kenny was a serious weirdo when it came to any kind of sexual conversation. He got too excited about it, and the fact that he wasn’t even trying to keep his voice down about it in public made it obvious that he wasn’t at all ashamed for people to know what they were talking about.

“C’mon, where did you do it? I want details!”

“I said he brought me home on Sunday night,” Kyle reminded, relenting to telling the truth and slumping as he looked pointedly away from his friend. “We, uh, went up to my room.”

“Man, and you stayed quiet? I always thought you’d be a screamer, Ky.”

“I’m not a fucking screamer,” Kyle hissed under his breath, trying not to break out into a full-body blush again. Despite how freaking embarrassing this was, he just… he had to tell someone, and Kenny was one of his best friends. Honestly, he was kind of glad that it was Kenny who was hearing this, and not Stan. He had a feeling the latter might have a heart attack, and Kenny, as embarrassing as he could be, tended to have positive reactions even to weird and surprising things. Stan typically had a weaker stomach.

Kenny continued to grin at him as the cheese pizza was brought to their table, waiting for the waitress to get a few paces away before leaning a little closer towards Kyle’s side again.

“So you’re just fucking around with him?” he prodded, reaching to pull a slice from the aluminum tray. “That’s…man, I didn’t see that coming.”

“Neither did I,” Kyle said as blandly as possible, actually feeling a little relaxed compared to earlier. As horrifying as it was to admit that he and Cartman had…jacked off together, keeping it to himself had felt something like holding sulfuric acid in his mouth for days. It was a secret so horrible and incredible that not being able to tell anybody had literally been eating him alive from the inside out. At least now, the terrible truth was out in the open, slightly.

“Are you gonna do it again?” Kenny inquired, appearing very interested as he focused on Kyle. The redhead sighed.

“I don’t know. It’s not like it fucking matters.”

The blond stared at him, obviously confused.

“I’m gonna be moving soon, anyway,” Kyle clarified, reaching for a piece of pizza and staring down at his lap. “So after May, I’ll probably never see him again. Who cares what happens between now and then?”

Kenny actually narrowed his eyes slightly, and Kyle looked over at him, slightly concerned by the atypical expression.

“You make going to college out-of-state sound pretty damn depressing,” Kenny replied, picking at his pizza crust. “I’d love to get out of this town and take Leo with me.”

It took Kyle a good five seconds to realize exactly what Kenny meant by that. He opened his mouth to talk, and caught the blue eyes with his own, noticing a steely dullness there.

“His parents are total shitheads,” Kenny explained, setting his half-eaten slice down. “I have to sort of…cherish my time with him while I can. They don’t even know we’re together. I’m pretty sure they’re gonna freak if they find out.”

“You and Butters are still a thing?” Kyle couldn’t help but ask. Kenny was known for his hookups, but not typically for long-standing relationships. This type of seriousness was pretty rare for their blond friend, who glanced back up at Kyle with a nod and a sad grin.

“He’s amazing,” Kenny stated, breaking into a gap-toothed smile that looked as surprised as it was joyful. “I know, weird, right? But he is. He drives me crazy. I never thought I’d be into a guy like that, ‘specially not him.”

Kyle gulped, not sure what to say in response to the odd conversation turn but glad that Kenny wasn’t making such a sad face anymore.

“I guess anything can happen, you know?” the blond continued, sitting up a little straighter. “I mean, once we graduate, I’m probably going to be pulling 60-hour weeks and trying to figure out how the fuck to afford my own place. And I mean, I’ve gotta get him out of that house. His parents still do weird shit, like give him fucked-up punishments and try to ground him. If they find out about us, they’re not gonna like it, but…” A deep breath, and Kenny met Kyle’s gaze again.

“When I’m with him, it makes me feel like stuff is gonna work out, somehow,” Kenny stated, voice clear and honest, eyes legitimately shining with something hopeful.

“I feel like I don’t have to be afraid.”

Kyle felt his stomach wrench inside him painfully, and he winced and bent slightly at the waist. Somehow, he felt like he had heard something just like that before, but this time, it was making his spine tingle with nervousness, caused his lungs expand wide as he sucked in a deep breath of anxiety.

“Dude?”

“…” Kyle was catching his breath when he felt eyes on him.

“Man, those are some big-ass hickies,” Kenny admired, obviously having gotten a view of Kyle’s neck due to his prone position. Kyle sat up slowly, aware the secret was out.

“Please don’t go spreading this around,” he asked, voice slightly quiet in his genuine desperation. “Me and Cartman aren’t a fucking item. It’s just-”

“I get it, I get it.” Kenny waved a hand, smirking slightly. “Having fun. Dude, anything that gets you off. Like you said, live in the moment. As long as he’s not trying to kill you again.”

The mere idea that Cartman was now known, even to one human being, as a “thing that got him off”, made Kyle feel like he wanted to punch a hole in something, but he was well-aware that this situation was mostly his own fault. Cartman, though a little bigger in size, was no match for Kyle on a strength level, and he could tell. If Kyle hadn’t been completely into the action, he easily could have broken more than just the guy’s nose.

Kyle finished a couple slices of pizza in silence as Kenny played around on his phone, seemingly not wanting to prod the redhead into any further exasperation. When the pie was mostly gone and Kenny had ordered a box to take the remnants home, Kyle slid his half of the cash onto the greasy tabletop and stood up once his companion had done the same.

“I’m heading to Walmart,” he stated, sending Kenny a nervous smile. “See you tomorrow?”

“Seeya,” Kenny replied jovially, staying seated in the booth as he waved a hand at him. “I’ll keep it to myself~ Promise.”

Kyle hoped he could trust that. Turning around, he made his way back out through the restaurant doors, and walked another ten minutes West until he met the Walmart on the corner.

Envelope in-hand, the redhead strode past the cashiers at the front and towards the corner where the Pharmacy resided. Slightly detached from his surroundings, he approached the single available cashier and handed her the slip of paper, eyes moving to the side out of boredom when he met a brown gaze that he certainly hadn’t expected to see.

“…!” He gulped as his eyes locked with Cartman’s, staring at the teen who was standing with a white bag in his hand in front of the second cashier to his right. Seemingly equally surprised, Cartman just looked back at him and quickly shoved the bag behind his back.

“Oh, hey Kyle,” he said coolly, even as he began taking a step backwards.

Kyle froze, wincing a moment later when he heard the cashier giving him his total. He turned and fished his credit card out of his wallet, swiping it before glancing back over at Cartman, who was already a few paces away and heading for the exit. Immediately sparked with curiosity and the challenge, despite his better judgement, he gave his cashier a quick ‘thanks’ and snatched his bag of insulin before rushing out after the other male, meeting him at the automatic doors and bumping shoulders with him accidentally.

“What the hell are you doing here?!” he asked as he caught up with him, catching the wide-eyed look again as they stepped out into the evening air. The bag was gone, presumably in one of Cartman’s pockets. “What’s that shit?”

“Stuff for my mom,” Cartman replied a little too quickly, shoving Kyle back as he averted his eyes. The redhead scoffed, unable to let the lie go.

“Buying some drugs to poison me with?” he shot back, actually kind of amused. Normally, he would have avoided Cartman at all costs upon seeing him in public, but having him on the ropes was pretty freaking fun, for some reason.

Cartman clicked his tongue at him as they walked.

“Well, if you must know, they don’t sell fifteen-inch condoms over the counter,” the brunet elucidated, shoving his hands into the worn pockets of his jeans and closing his eyes with a triumphant smirk. “A pharmacy is necessary for us gifted ones, Kyle.”

The grin that was pulling at Kyle’s lips was broken only by his laugh of genuine amusement. “Yeah sure,” the redhead snickered, wondering what the hell was wrong with him that he found that so funny. It was pretty weird to see Cartman buying something at a pharmacy, but he had a vague feeling he wasn’t going to get the real answer out of him by prodding.

“I’m assuming yours is a gentle cleanser to remove the sand from your vagina?”

“Fuck you,” Kyle snorted, bumping into Cartman harder as they walked along, not really thinking about where they were going.

“That’s pretty bold. Didn’t know you wanted to go all the way.”

“With you?” Kyle spat, unable to help the flush he felt settling over the bridge of his nose as he kept his eyes on the road ahead. “I’d rather take a shower in human piss.”

“Whoa,” Cartman breathed out, voice full of smugness. “First the choking, now the watersports. Can’t hide your kinks too well, can you?”

Kyle shoved into him hard, effectively pushing the other off the curb and onto the asphalt. The brunet stumbled, but caught himself on both feet, grinning broadly over at Kyle.

The redhead found himself grinning back, and he wondered what universe he had fallen into.

Certainly, in their youth, Kyle had normally been the butt of Cartman’s jokes, but he had to admit, often it had been the other way around, too. As ashamed as he would have been to say it out loud, Kyle had been the one who initially made it cool to assault Cartman with fat jokes, way back in the day. There were several times when he had been the one to express his amusement at something bad happening to his rival, despite the fact that Cartman’s own methods of retribution were decidedly more fucked-up than his own had been, but right now, under the stars on a random Wednesday evening, with Stan having better things to do and the end of his high-school career a few measly weeks away, being around Cartman felt something like holding onto the mast of a ship in a storm, or sleeping under the covers in bed while torrents of cold rain poured down outside.

Maybe he really was losing his mind, but he couldn’t say he hated this. Cartman was familiar. This was familiar, and it wasn’t bad.

When they stopped at the last crosswalk before the entrance to their shared neighborhood, the two looked at one another, seemingly both realizing that they had walked all the way there together. It was awkward, for a moment, before a hand made its way to Kyle’s side, effectively pulling him in.

“You wanna come over?” Cartman murmured in his ear, sending Kyle’s back muscles into a hard line. “The bitch is gone again.”

“People will see,” Kyle whispered, shoving Cartman away and starting to cross when the light turned from red to green. Was he insane?!

Cartman snorted from beside him as they walked, hands in the pockets of that familiar maroon jacket.

“It’s night. Nobody’s out.”

True to his word, there weren’t any cars on the road. South Park had died down from its SoDoSoPa days, and had actually become kind of a quiet town again over the past few years. Still, though, being seen doing any variation of “holding” or “snuggling with” Eric Cartman in public was not something Kyle wanted to have to deal with.

“Fine,” the redhead stated, swallowing a hard lump in his throat. Then, a hand was on his upper arm, and Cartman was all but pulling him down the sidewalk, up to the familiar front door, and into the dim house with the peeling yellow wallpaper.

If anybody had told him even three months ago that he’d be here now, shooting non-serious banter back and forth with Cartman on the way to his house to hook up, Kyle would have most certainly asked them what they were smoking on. However, despite the clear heinousness of the situation, Kyle found himself slipping back against the front door as Cartman cornered him, meeting eyes with him momentarily before that warm mouth covered his.

It momentarily occurred to him that his mother, who still didn’t even have any idea that Eric Cartman had returned to town, would probably fucking call the cops if she knew what was transpiring right now, and for some sick reason, the knowledge that this was insane and crazy and totally, incredibly WRONG wasn’t helping to cool the heat that pooled between his thighs.

Cartman’s mouth was hot as he felt his tongue slip across his bottom lip, pushing its way between his teeth. Kyle gasped and closed his eyes, allowing the exhaustion from his day to slacken his jaw as the short fingernails grazed the t-shirt on his hip.

“Mmnh, anyone see your bruises?” the husky voice breathed into his ear, sending Kyle’s hand up to grip dangerously at Cartman’s throat.

“You fucking did that on purpose,” Kyle growled back, brows drawing down in realization. He felt the chuckle against his collarbone.

“My my, Kyle, what do you take me for?”

“A fucking giant dick,” the redhead replied and yanked Cartman forward into his space, pushing their lips together again. A low snicker let him know he should have picked a better choice of words.

“Mmf, objectifying me, huh? I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m not a porn star.”

Kyle wasn’t sure if it was weird to look someone in the eyes while you kissed them. Cartman didn’t seem to think so, as when their lips met again, and their tongues slipped alongside one another, those brown eyes stared into his, sending his heart into a strange and illogical frenzy. Kyle just looked back while he could, red curls starting to spill out over his forehead as his hat was jostled by the movement of his back against the door.

Cartman’s hand skimmed its way over his insulin pump, and down over his inner thigh, sending a shock of arousal deep through Kyle’s core.

“Fuck,” the brunet whispered as he pressed closer, their foreheads butting together. “You’re so fucking sexy.”

Kyle would have been embarrassed by his moan if he had been in his right mind. Hanging around Cartman, though, seemed to make one a little bit insane. Maybe his psychosis was contagious.

Leaning in, Cartman grinned at him as he smoothed his hand back over his leg.

“Damn,” he breathed, teeth closing around the cartilage of Kyle’s ear. “I was gonna stroke your cock, but it looks like stroking your ego gets you off just as well.”

“Suck my balls, fatass,” Kyle replied unsteadily, wrapping an arm around Cartman and pulling him as close as he possibly could. That evil hand smoothed over his groin, palming his sensitive privates.

“Don’t mind if I do.”

Before he knew it, Kyle felt himself being pulled, and stumbled slightly as he was gripped by the shoulders and all but shoved back into the suede of Cartman’s sofa. He gasped as he looked down, watching those hands quickly undo his fly and pull his jeans and boxers down in one swift yank. Despite some of Cartman’s lewd comments over the years, Kyle had never in his life pictured himself with his legs dangling over the edge of his rival’s couch, with the brunet reaching for his painfully erect member.

The redhead started thanking whatever gods existed that the room was nearly dark when he felt the hot mouth close in around his tip, pupils wide as he had to force his hips from jerking upwards in the direction of that wet heat.

That most certainly was not his balls.

Kyle had never received a blowjob in his life, but he had a feeling that even if he had, he was pretty sure he’d still think that Cartman was…disturbingly good at it. Jolts of pleasure immediately began to shoot down his shaft and into his balls as Cartman took him in, hollowing his cheeks slightly, running his tongue up the underside. Stars literally exploded out in the redhead’s vision as he shut his eyes, gripping into the couch cushions as his hips strained.

“Oh, god,” he breathed out shakily, overwhelmed and breathing heavily through his swollen lips.

He never thought he’d see the day when Cartman did something that wasn’t completely selfish…

Feeling those warm lips catch on his tip, groaning and trailing into an embarrassing almost-whine, Kyle felt his rival’s tongue begin to probe at his slit, curling up from underneath the crown. He reached out on instinct and sank his fingers into the brown hair, gripping onto the thick strands and allowing his instinct to take over for him.

A smooth hand found his sac and began to thumb it as Cartman gripped his base, humming, sending tingles of ecstasy through Kyle’s gut and up his spine.

“Ah...hhah…!”

He was so far gone.

Consumed by the pleasure, trying not to think about the mounting sense of victory in his chest at the realization that it was freaking Cartman on his knees below him, Kyle tightened his hand in the brown hair and bucked upwards, pressing the head of his wet cock against the back of Cartman’s throat, feeling him swallow and suck around it, taking it all in.

“Cartman,” he gasped when he felt the suction increase, both hands moving down to grip his rival’s head in a demanding squeeze. Suddenly, cold air hit his member, and Kyle opened his eyes in horror to stare down at the brunet, who clenched his shaft tightly in a broad fist and looked him dead in the eye as he laved the very tip with the flat of his fat tongue.

Thick bursts of seed fountained down over Cartman’s fist, and Kyle screamed.

--

Chapter Text

--

The scream ripped from his throat as Kyle arched his back, hips pushing upwards with the violence of his orgasm. He forced his eyes shut firmly and gasped, body wracked by twitches, pelvis rocking forwards as the hot seed leaked down the shaft of his length. Pleasure coursed up through his chest and into his lungs, air biting at the sudden soreness in his throat as bright colors danced across his vision.

Overwhelmed by the intensity, he took a couple of deep breaths and slowly dared to raise his lids again, looking down at his partner with immediate and silent confusion.

There, in the dimness of the small living room, sat Cartman between his legs, with one hand still at the base of his waning erection and thick essence splattered across the right side of his cheek and temple. The redhead met his gaze, and immediately wished he hadn’t.

Cartman was staring. Like…staring, staring. His brown eyes, dim and coppery in the low light emanating from the corner of the room, were disturbingly shiny over the top of his reddened cheeks. His mouth was slightly open, and his chest rose and fell slowly as he gaped at Kyle, seemingly unfazed by the thick fluid smeared over his visage.

Immediately, before he could think further, Kyle felt two trembling hands settling against his face. Soft thumbs pressed against his cheekbones as Cartman’s mouth collided with his, tongue slipping between his surprised lips as an unmistakable drip of warm, salty liquid grazed against Kyle’s teeth-

“Fff!” Saliva smacking between their faces, Kyle reached up and immediately shoved Cartman backwards with two palms against his chest, pressing his knee against the soft abdomen as he shunted his weight against him with disgust.

“Sick!” he shouted and immediately wiped his mouth against his bicep, reaching down and yanking his pants back up around his hips with his free hand. Stomach turning in disgust, Kyle curled forwards and ran his forearm against his tongue and teeth, retching with the nausea and anxiety that began to pull at his stomach.

“What the fuck is your problem?!”

Cartman, seeming to remember himself, shifted backwards onto the other side of the couch and huffed, folding his arms and looking away. He opened his mouth, and froze where he sat just a second later, leaving the jingling of keys in the front door the only noise in the room.
They shared a look, and Kyle immediately got to his feet, darting out into the hall and up to the stairs when he heard the door swing open. Out of the prospective visitor’s line of sight, but feeling his heart beat fast in his ears, Kyle quickly toed his way up Cartman’s staircase and stopped at the top, hesitating near the scratched banister and listening intently.

Maybe he was morbidly curious, but he was certain he already knew who would be arriving at the Cartman residence so late at night.

“Ohhh, poopsykins! Why are you sitting down here in the dark?”

Kyle tensed up when he recognized that voice, high-pitched and lilting as it always had been. It had been many years since he had seen or heard Liane Cartman. A bitterness twinged at the back of his tongue when he recalled that afternoon several weeks prior, visualizing the broken glass over the driveway, and the way his rival had clutched his bleeding arm over the grass in the backyard.

“It’s fine, mom. Jesus fucking Christ.”

“Ohh, you can be quiet tonight, can’t you, sweetie? No movies. Mommy has to work tonight.”

“Hey, uh, I need money.”

Kyle’s teeth played on his lower lip as he listened. It was kind of surreal to hear her speaking in that same familiar saccharine tone, almost like baby-talk, but with an added twist of something unstable. Cartman’s voice, or what he could hear of it, sounded exasperated. Another unfamiliar sting of pity pulsed through Kyle’s skull.

“I’ll order you a pizza tomorrow, Eric. It’s about time for you to be getting to bed, mmm?”

“Mom!”

Kyle leaned forward to listen more, but the sound of footsteps on carpet sent him backing up immediately, shoulders tight. Looking around between the walls with the peeling yellow paper and various doors, the redhead swallowed quickly and made his way into what he knew to be Cartman’s bedroom, silently shutting the door as much as he could in the darkness before pressing his back into the wall beside it.

It occurred to him, momentarily, that maybe hiding wasn’t entirely necessary. He probably could have done his fly up in time before she had gotten the door open, and he could have made a bullshit excuse about tutoring Cartman, or something, but he definitely didn’t need any of the other parents, particularly his own, finding out about the fact that he and Cartman were…well…at all involved, even platonically.

Muffled voices caught his ears, and he backed away from the door, away from Liane’s wavering laughter and Cartman’s shout. Breathing deeply, he turned to the side and froze in horror as his elbow barely missed knocking over a stack of orange bottles atop Cartman’s chest-of-drawers. His eyes focused, grazing over the white labels wrapped around the amber plastic.

X…

The bedroom door creaked slightly as it opened, drawing Kyle’s attention, and Cartman stepped his way in through the crack, before turning and pushing the door shut behind him. He immediately eyed Kyle from the side with his more typical stony expression and clicked the lock shut, soothing Kyle’s frantic heartbeat for a moment before the reality of the situation began to set in.

“Dude,” the redhead stated quietly and backed up a step, looking away awkwardly. The brunet immediately made his way over to the window, opening the curtains slightly and peering out. From his spot against the other side of the small bedroom, Kyle could hear what sounded like laughter from outside, following by the slamming of a car door.

“God damn it,” Cartman hissed under his breath, turning around to face away from him. Kyle swallowed, still recalling Liane’s airy and high-pitched voice.

“What’s out there?”

“Just- don’t fucking leave yet,” Cartman replied shortly in a whisper, folding his arms. “She’s not gonna be done ‘til late. Might see you.”

The sound of the front door opening again, combined with the chattering of simultaneous male voices, began to press the pieces together in Kyle’s mind.

Working tonight, huh?

“I’m fucking trapped in here with you?” he hissed back, wondering if he should take his chances being seen and just leave despite the visitors. Cartman looked up at him with a frown, pointing to the window.

“Fine, go fucking jump and break your Jew neck. See if I care.”

“Maybe I will,” Kyle spat, annoyed and altogether jarred by the situation. His eyes grazed over the stack of orange bottles in sudden realization as he stepped up towards the window, looking down, watching as a beat-up red car pulled up behind the current black Sedan parked halfway on the sidewalk in front of the house.

“Your mom is this big of a whore?” he stated in disbelief, more to himself than anything, as he watched two more men exit the red vehicle. Kyle recalled that night a few months prior when he had woken up from his diabetic shock to Cartman’s apple juice and Liane’s moaning wafting down the stairs, and everything fell into place in his brain.

Liane Cartman was an addict and a prostitute. Kyle hadn’t really thought about it in such terms for quite a while, but it was clearly true. He recalled Cartman’s words about his psychotic incident years prior, and how it had had something to do with some comment Kyle had made about his mom, and he suddenly felt like he had a sense for how painful this had to be.

“Shut the fuck up, you fucking ginger bitch,” Cartman all but snarled. A loud groan chose that moment to echo its way through the undeniably thin walls, and Kyle, for the first time in weeks, felt that same painful pang in his chest at the angry expression on his rival’s face. Despite the casual nature of what they had just done, well…he couldn’t say he didn’t care at all.

Unsure how to respond, Kyle strode over and shoved Cartman again in warning, puffing his chest forwards and pulling his shoulders back.

“You’re the fucking bitch,” he tried, taking a step forwards and cornering Cartman against the wall. Maybe if he pushed for familiarity in the form of aggression, the situation could feel more normal.

Cartman looked up at him quickly, eyes wide and startled, and Kyle paused, unsure of himself for a split moment until one of those thick hands slipped into his red hair.

“Yeah? Think you could you make me take it?” was the soft question, whispered and smooth, as Cartman leaned close enough for their stomachs to brush. Kyle flushed darkly, feeling those same fingertips skating against his scalp, and opened his mouth to speak when a loud and raucous shriek pierced its way through the house.

Cartman immediately let go of him, and Kyle could only watch as he paced his way over to the other end of the bedroom. Yeah, the mood was officially ruined. Pulsing with sickening disappointment and arousal, the redhead took a step forward before pausing, eyeing the stack of papers next to his foot and recognizing the worksheet on top of the pile of stuff.

“Your calc test is take-home too?” he asked, looking back up at the brunet, whose face was still averted. Blood rushed through his nether regions as Cartman, glancing up and to the side, gave him a shrug.

“Not done with it. ‘s hard.”

“It’s due tomorrow,” Kyle reminded softly, and Cartman’s shoulders drew up sharply, gleaming in the streetlight pouring in between the curtains.

“Mother fucker.”

Kyle almost wanted to laugh at the poor choice of words given the situation, but the grimness was threatening to overtake the mood again.

“Dude, I’ll help you with it,” he decided, kneeling down and looking through the pages in the dim lighting. “You’re already half done.”

“I don’t need your fucking pity, carrot-cake.”

Kyle frowned, looking up and meeting the flushed and apprehensive look on Cartman’s face. Okay, so maybe this situation wasn’t exactly optimal for fooling around, given the moans that were already starting to reverberate through the wall, but they were both trapped in there together, so he had to try and get the guy’s mind off it, somehow. The prospect of actually having Cartman underneath him, though, was still floating around in his mind, ready for serious consideration later.

Kyle bit back his temper.

“It’s not pity, fat-ass. Call it, uh, payback for the head,” he coughed and looked to the side, trying to keep his embarrassment at bay. It had been pretty mind-blowing, no pun intended. Never in a million years did Kyle think he’d openly talk about their arrangement, but the fact that Cartman turned on his bedside lamp and sat down on the carpet beside him let him know his distraction tactic had worked.

“Fine, fine,” Cartman sighed blandly, sending him a tired smirk. “Offering to help me cheat, huh? Maybe you aren’t such a little goody two-shoes anymore.”

“Get fucked,” Kyle replied and jabbed him in the side with his elbow, watching as the brunet picked up his notebook and placed his exam on top before digging in his strewn backpack for a pencil.

“Ah, ah. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“Just you,” the redhead fired back without really thinking, suddenly feeling something seize in his chest. Cartman just grinned and leaned back against the chest of drawers, and that familiarity began to spread between them as Kyle shifted onto his side, peering down at the paper.

For the moment, Kyle pushed the day’s memories into the back of his mind- the sudden kiss, the dinner with Kenny, the little orange bottles stacked atop Cartman’s dresser, and he began to talk him through it. Surprisingly, Cartman actually seemed to be listening, though Kyle was impressed by how many of the problems he was working through without assistance.

He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised, given that Cartman’s intelligence was unquestionable.

“When do you take the AP test?” the redhead found himself asking, watching as Cartman boxed one of his final answers. Cartman snorted.

“Fuck if I know. May, I think.”

“Yeah, me too,” Kyle corroborated, seeing an error and pointing to it. “You missed a negative.”

“Fuck.”

Suddenly, hearing another moan and realizing it was getting late, he took his phone out and eyed the time. 10:14PM. Also, he had three unread text messages from his mother.

It’s getting late, Kyle

Where are you?

Did you stop at a friend’s house??

Kyle winced. He tried to turn the screen away, but by the time he looked up, Cartman’s eyes were already glued to it.

“She having a heart attack yet?”

“She would be, if she knew I was here with you,” Kyle replied honestly, scratching at the back of his neck. Even he knew he shouldn’t be there with Cartman at such an hour, but he had to admit…the two of them seemed to have reached a truce, if only for now, and he wasn’t exactly afraid of the guy anymore. At least, not currently.

“Tch. At least she gives a fuck.”

No. Kyle was NOT about to let this get depressing again.

“What do I tell her?” he found himself wondering in a whisper, glancing over in his direction. Cartman seemed to hesitate, and looked up from his paper, humming under his breath.

“Just sleep over there for the night,” he suggested, gesturing vaguely at the small sofa in the corner of the room like it didn’t make any difference to him either way. Kyle paused, affixing him with a sharp stare.

“You sure you won’t disembowel me in my sleep?”

“And miss out on that dick you promised me? I’m a selfish man, Kyle.”

Kyle’s nether regions panged hard, and he shot Cartman a glare.

“This is serious.”

“So am I. Just tell her you’re with golden boy. Like she knows.”

Something in that statement, whether it was the flat acceptance of such a surreal situation as the two of them actually spending time together, or the fact that Kyle didn’t even have to think twice about who Cartman was referring to, sent a hand to Kyle’s mouth as the redhead began to laugh under his breath. Maybe it really said something that he currently felt more comfortable in the bedroom of a confirmed murderer, than he probably would have in that belonging to his “super best friend”.

God, life was fucked up.

“Fine,” he relented, watching as Cartman flipped to the final page of his exam. “If you try a damned thing, you’re dead.”

“With my record?” the brunet inquired thickly, replacing the sin/cos expression on the page with a tan(x) and factoring it out. “You think I wanna go back to that shithole?”

“It can’t have been that bad,” Kyle commented bluntly, betraying some of his own curiosity about what had occurred. Even still, Cartman had yet to really open up about the asylum.

“Eh,” was the response, absent of any tone that would have indicated one way or another. “Boring. No internet or videogames. Kinda crappy food. I hated the roommate shit, ‘til I realized mine was a total bottom.”

Kyle swallowed, not having expected to hear a detail like that. Something reared up inside him, and he narrowed his eyes, watching as his partner looked up with a slight smile.

“Thought I never got any ass?”

“You don’t need any more ass,” the redhead snapped a little louder than he had intended. Cartman paused, wincing slightly before smiling and placing a hand over the right side of his chest.

“Oh, Kyle! So cruel! My feeble heart can’t take your fatphobia!”

“I’m surprised they didn’t kick you out if you were fucking around with the other patients,” Kyle replied. Honestly, the fact that Cartman was into men had initially surprised him more than it probably should have. The guy did have a history of, well, doing…things that seemed kind of gay, for lack of a better word.

“They never found out,” the brunet replied simply, working at his last problem. “The kid didn’t say shit. Nervous wreck named Bradley. I guess he went to some gay camp awhile back and it fucked him up.”

Kyle blinked, trying unsuccessfully to put a face to the name. He had known of a couple of Bradleys over the years, but the chances that it was somebody from South Park seemed low.

His phone buzzed again, and he picked it up from the carpet, eyeing the fourth message from his mother and, against every semblance of better judgment he had, typing out a reply and hitting Send.

Spending the night at Stan’s

Cartman slipped his math packet back into his binder and zipped his backpack up, standing to his full height and reaching down to undo his zipper. Kyle stiffened slightly as the other threw his jeans into the hamper underneath the window, plopping down on his small single bed in the corner and looking up at the ceiling with his t-shirt riding slightly up his abdomen.

Another moan emanated through the wall, and Kyle wondered if those types of sounds were commonplace at the Cartman residence. The brunet tilted his attractive chin up towards the ceiling, and sighed, and Kyle made his way over and sat down unsurely on the side of the bed, not sure what to say.

For some reason, Cartman chose that moment to sit up slightly, and immediately yanked his shirt down to cover up the slight slit of skin that was showing over the waistband of his black boxers, startling Kyle with the sudden movement. Kyle winced, and Cartman raised an eyebrow at him.

“Just take the loveseat, Jew.”

Kyle supposed there was no merit to arguing with such a dismissive tone of voice. Taking his hat off and placing it on the bedside table, ignoring the eyes he felt on him, he slipped off his boots and climbed onto the loveseat across from the bed, rolling onto his back and propping his knees up over the far arm. It was clear that he certainly shouldn’t be trusting himself to Cartman in any kind of vulnerable state, but honestly, for whatever reason, he really didn’t expect his rival to do anything violent. Kyle had…well, already trusted him with his body, he recognized with an awkward shift. Maybe this wasn’t any different.

It seemed clear at this point that within a few weeks, this part of his life would be over, so maybe it didn’t matter how heinous things were getting. He’d be able to forget about it as soon as the summer began.

Somehow, Kyle managed to drift to sleep with his neck propped on the soft arm of the worn sofa.

--

The next couple of days passed without much incident, to Kyle’s intense relief. He had woken up very much alive the morning after his impromptu, er, sleepover at the Cartman residence, and had managed to tiptoe his way out early in the morning, past a discarded set of panties that had been hanging kind of grossly from the banister near the bottom of the stairs. Since then, Cartman had neglected to text him, which was pretty much fine with Kyle, since he didn’t exactly always need that kind of confusing distraction in his life.

Life, in general, felt a little like standing on a tightrope lately. Not only was his entire living situation going to change in a matter of months, but he was probably going to lose Kenny, Stan, his mom…at least, he wouldn’t be seeing them very often. Not to mention this fucked-up thing he had going on with he-who-must-not-be-named, which simultaneously was making him feel ashamed and equally excited. He had never in his life expected that he could possibly be attracted to Eric Cartman, but life had a way of surprising him, that was for damn sure. There was something familiar about their usual insulting banter that made Kyle feel, well…sort of relaxed. It almost felt like nothing had changed since they were kids, except for the addition of, well… a little more physicality.

It was obvious that he couldn’t let people start finding out. If it spread, and his mom learned that Cartman was back in town, let alone near Kyle in any way, Kyle was pretty sure the cops would get involved. Not only that, but the redhead was going to be completely humiliated. Thankfully, Kenny was the only person privy to the whole story, and he seemed to be making good on his previous promise to keep his mouth shut.

After a couple more bland days of classes and studying, that same Kenny had thrown an arm around him in the cafeteria while he ate his turkey sandwich.

“Dude, football game at five. We’re doing Chinese after. You in?”

Kyle most certainly was in. After submitting a few more stressful college applications, complete with having to obtain letters of recommendation from various teachers, he was ready for an excuse to eat junk food with friends.

It was in this manner that Kyle found himself seated early on the outdoor bleachers behind the high school, scrolling through his timeline on his phone and waiting for the before-game set-up to begin. South Park High was an understandably small school, so their football field basically consisted of a large grass quad with a set of bleachers at one end. After a few more minutes sitting in the breeze in the twilight, smelling the scent of impending spring under the slightly orange sky, the sound of shuffling footsteps brought Kyle’s attention to his right.

A familiar blond was struggling to carry a big cardboard box up to the folding table near the field’s edge, so Kyle immediately hopped down from his seated position and ran over to him, gripping the other end and helping him hoist it onto the surface.

“Gosh, thanks, Kyle,” Butters replied, wiping his forehead with the arm of his periwinkle-blue sweater and beaming a smile at him. “I didn’t know you were gonna come to the game today!”

“Oh, yeah. I needed to get my mind off some stuff,” the redhead explained, pausing, immediately seeing the blond in a different light without really meaning to. So this was the reason Kenny was pushing on, despite being ridiculously overworked and dreading the future. Though he certainly had never really considered Butters as potential boyfriend-material, he had to admit that that happy grin was pretty damn charming.

“Well gee, do you mind helpin’ me out? I’ve gotta, um, unbox all these sodas and get ‘em into the cooler.”

“Sure.” Kyle helped Butters unload the various cartons, eyes wandering over towards the gym building where Stan and the rest of the football team were undoubtedly getting dressed in preparation. Stan acted as the team’s running-back because of his relatively slim stature, and was honestly one of the best players due to his extensive history with the sport. Illogically, Kyle began to feel a streak of bitterness at the fact that basketball wasn’t supported anymore, so he just upped his pace at unboxing the soda cans.

For some reason, his mind drifted to thoughts of Cartman, and he took a deep breath, willing them away.

Cartman and him were just fuckbuddies, nothing less and definitely nothing more. Honestly, this thought should have been relaxing to him. It meant that, when they weren’t bickering or making out, the guy could theoretically stay as far away from his mind as Kyle liked. Still, though, the situation clearly had to be kept a secret. Thankfully, the damn hickies had faded out of existence by that point.

Another distraction came in the sound of a familiar voice, and Token stepped into view on the other side of the table, smiling brightly at Kyle.

“You made it!”

“Yeah,” Kyle replied, smiling in return. Token smiled at him, shoving his shoulder playfully.

“Hey, you’d better come to my party next Friday, too. My parents are going on a second honeymoon.”

“Seriously?” the redhead inquired, wondering what the occasion was when his mind caught up with the date.

“Yeah. Friday before Spring Break, fuckin’ perfect!”

“I’m there,” Kyle promised, though his gut twisted slightly. Undeniably, he’d be expected to fraternize with Stan a lot there, and though they obviously spent time together as it was, he didn’t need to walk in on more Wendy action, nor did he want to sit and hear the guy gush about his future plans with her. He didn’t like to hold grudges, but he still felt a little bitter about the way Stan had handled the college situation, not to mention how he’d forgotten about picking him up at the airport.

Token frowned and waved a hand in front of his face, catching him off-guard.

“Well jeeze, don’t look so stressed out about it. You really need to get wasted more.”

Rolling his eyes, Kyle helped Butters unpack the selection of chips and cookies, only then really recalling that he was a part of the Student Council and thus was usually the one to set up the bake sales and athletics concessions. Out of nowhere, another familiar blond stepped into his frame of view, meeting Butters behind the snack table and putting an arm around his waist as he planted a soft kiss on his cheek.

“Hey, Ken,” the shorter blond said with a gentle smile, closing one eye as Kenny grinned back at him and glanced over at Kyle.

“Wow, you emerged from the library for once, after all,” Kenny cajoled at Kyle, glancing over briefly at where the group of black-and-white-clad cheerleaders were gathering over at the opposite end of the field.

“I’m not that much of a loser,” he defended, snatching a Hershey bar and dropping a dollar in the money box before following Kenny back over to the bleachers. It was then that he caught sight of Tweek and Craig, together as usual, seated on the middle bench together with their hands entwined between them. Kyle looked away and sat at the edge with Kenny, inhaling the scent of pine on the slight breeze.

Kenny nudged Kyle as he held his new phone in his right hand, sending him a simpering smile.

“C’mon dude, I’m just teasing you,” he promised, shifting over slightly as Clyde and Token joined them on the bench.

“Yeah, yeah,” Kyle all but yawned, unwrapping the end of the chocolate bar. His phone vibrated as he listened to the other three engage in small talk, and he slipped it out of his pocket, and immediately wished he hadn’t.

hey kyle what’s bothering you

is it fatass?

His attention was severely compromised when the cheerleaders began their routine, and he ignored the whistling of the referee as more and more students began to pile in. Kyle gulped, at least glad to see that Kenny wasn’t talking out loud about this shit in front of Token and Clyde. Shoulders softening, he brought one foot up to rest on the metal bench.

We hooked up

FUCK really??

was it bad?

Kyle winced, a little amazed by how convincingly Kenny chatted with their friends between sending the covert messages. The guy was socially smart in ways that Kyle couldn’t quite match, and he knew it.

Uh not exactly

He sucked me off

The game had started, but Kyle wasn’t paying any attention. Almost immediately, his phone buzzed again, leaving him to look down at Kenny’s typed disbelief.

AHHHHHHHH OMFG

Dude gET SOME!

Holy shittttt!!

Kyle swallowed the lump in his throat, averting his stare. He vaguely felt Kenny’s blue eyes on him, and focused on the slim figure on the field with the number 7 jersey, focus migrating over to Wendy, who jumped and cheered with her yellow pom-poms at the front of the squad near the side of the field.

Kyle glanced back at his phone as it continued shaking, reading over Kenny’s further messages.

dude Leo gives head amazing too

like who would think right??

The next touchdown was scored, followed by the loud cheering of the cheerleaders and other students in the bleachers. A dragonfly buzzed its way past Kyle’s face, and he caught Kenny’s sideways grin before moving his gaze back out onto the field, where Stan stood at the end line with the ball under one arm and tilted his face over towards the cheerleaders with a victorious thrust of his hand in the air.

Another glance back at the stands led Kyle’s attention to Craig and Tweek, who were sharing a bag of kettle corn from the concessions table and seemed to be alternating placing pieces in one another’s mouths. Something heavy settled itself inside Kyle amongst the cheers, and when his phone buzzed a third time, he moved his eyes down slowly, only to see the name of the person he had been trying to forget.

hey jew u wanna go get burgers tonite?

i’m fuckin starved

Somehow, he couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like to be loved unconditionally.

As the noise quieted down around him, Kyle hesitated before holding down on the power button, watching as his screen cut to a harsh black.

--

Chapter Text

--

Kyle woke up that Thursday morning to the beeping sound of his phone alarm, and he found himself standing in front of the full-length mirror in the corner of his bedroom, eyeing his bare-chested reflection.

The redhead stared blandly at his pale self, observing the green of his eyes in the dim light as he slowly mulled various memories through his tired mind. Afternoon basketball with Token, pizza with Kenny, long nights gaming with Stan…

In a couple of months, who knew if he would ever see his close friends again?

Kyle paused as he moved to slip his pajama pants off. Okay, maybe that thought was a little too morose. Friends moved away from one another all the time, and plenty still made the effort to see each other on breaks and holidays. Touring UC Berkeley had been an amazing experience, though, and Kyle didn’t think he had the balls to let an opportunity like that pass him by, even if it meant that the boys he grew up with became, well, people he used to know.

For whatever reason, in that moment as he stood naked in front of the mirror, Eric Cartman’s wide-eyed visage passed through his thoughts, and he looked down at his front, silently observing his taut abdomen and the red hair that formed a line down to his groin. There was no reason to believe that Cartman wouldn’t also fall into the category of “ex-friends”…well, if he had decided to consider him a friend in the first place, that was. He supposed it sort of made sense, given that total strangers didn’t usually bicker together or do sexual favors for one another. Still, somehow, the thought of considering Eric Cartman as a “friend” made him feel a little uneasy.

Kyle blinked and looked back up at the second him. It occurred to him, vaguely, that he had yet to see Cartman fully naked. That realization was a little bit startling, given that he’d literally had the guy’s dick in his hand and jacked it off. Squashing down his remaining disbelief, Kyle let his eyes wander back down to meet his reflection’s pelvic region, observing his soft package surrounded with fiery curls and hanging at what he guessed was probably an average soft length.

As someone who was aware of their sexuality, Kyle had most certainly viewed all types of porn, usually on his laptop with headphones in bed late at night when the rest of the family was asleep. While he had always preferred videos featuring cute girls, over the past several months, he had been venturing more into the ‘Gay’ section of various websites to peruse features that were guy-on-guy. It was actually kind of startling how much some of that stuff turned him on, given how different it was from what he typically chose. Kyle could only suppose he really was a true bisexual, and genuinely attracted to both genders.

The redhead couldn’t help but think it was interesting, however, that his “type” of person seemed to vary based on gender. With girls, he tended to prefer skinnier bodies, with smaller breasts and thinner legs, if he had his choice. It was the main reason he didn’t find himself particularly attracted to Wendy, whose big bust and round hips were certainly attractive, but not necessarily what he was looking for, and the same reason he had found himself in such a frenzy to hook up with Bebe, despite not really having any romantic inclinations with her. With men, though…

Kyle felt himself flush slightly, turning away from the mirror.

Men were different. Somehow, he liked size when it came to guys. He liked broader shoulders, softer stomachs, bodies that he didn’t often see on boys in his age group. He had to admit a passing interest in Craig, probably due to his glossy hair and strong figure, but there had never been any question that Tweek would probably rip off his balls if he even dared to look at the guy that way.

Whatever. As far as Kyle was concerned, he just sort of liked who he liked. The mere fact that he was currently willingly messing around with Eric Cartman was still pretty shocking, There was just something…fixating about the guy. Soft, but sharp. He had those thick bangs, the dark eyelashes, the knowing smiles and glances. The fact that Cartman never took his shirt off was starting to seem like the workings of an evil plan. He’d have to rectify that next time they fooled around.

The day passed rather uneventfully, his first few classes keeping him busy with note-taking in preparation for upcoming exams. It was the Thursday before Spring Break, so he was doing his best to finish the majority of his homework before Token’s party the next day inevitably left him hungover and unmotivated.

About halfway through his Calculus class, after receiving his graded exam with the ‘97%’ written in red ink that the top, Kyle felt his phone buzz in his pocket and blinked, looking down and seeing the familiar last name across the top of his notification screen.

hey wanna come over?

Kyle blinked, feeling himself heat up slightly inside, and placed his phone under the surface of his desk, typing back quickly.

I’m at school, fat-ass

duh I mean tonight

Something fluttered inside Kyle, and he hated himself for being so excited. It was still difficult to admit to himself that Cartman physically allured him, with his deep eyes and husky tone, and the softness of his damn hips.

I have homework

He typed back hurriedly, focusing his eyes back on the whiteboard. Okay, so maybe he couldn’t work up the nerve. So far, he and Cartman’s private interactions had been decided…masturbatory, and he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to open himself to the possibility of something more intimate.

He and Cartman were just sex-friends. This entire idiocy would end within the span of a few weeks’ time, so Kyle wasn’t too concerned about the impact it could have on his future. Still, though, there was something about the situation that seemed a little bit…off, and not only for the obvious reason that it seemed surreal to be doing such a thing with Cartman in the first place.

Amazingly, after all of the outright insanity that had happened in their quiet little town over the past decade, this situation seemed the least believable.

Unfortunately, he and Cartman had been privy to one another’s more vulnerable moments over the past few months. Kyle stiffened when he recalled being woken up with a glass of juice held to his lips, mind immediately flashing with images of wrapping Cartman’s bleeding arm. It didn’t really mean anything. They had just caught one another at the wrong times. He didn’t need to be involved in the gory details of Cartman’s life, especially not after what he had witnessed the last time he’d gone to the guy’s house.

His phone vibrated again.

ur soooooo lame jew

im srsly

like u don’t want my hot body pshhh

Kyle shivered, shoving his phone back into his pocket and focusing on the lecture. He’d be damned if he ever told Cartman there was any ounce of truth to that accusation.

After a lunch of cafeteria pizza with Butters and Kenny, who had seemed to be having a hard time resisting holding one another’s hands, Kyle finished the day with his final three classes and completed his late-afternoon tutoring session before he found himself at his locker near the end of the hall. He rustled through it, a dark crimson hat settled atop his brighter curls, when he heard a voice behind him.

“Hey, Kyle.”

Turning his head slightly, Kyle gave into the curiosity and spun around, surprised to see Wendy standing across from him wearing a mint-colored sweater and a hesitant expression. Her hair, long and black as always, was topped with her usual soft pink hat, and she stood holding a stack of binders, and gazed at Kyle with unsure yellowy-brown eyes.

“Oh, hey,” he replied awkwardly and shut his locker, head swimming. It was rare that Wendy attempted to speak with him one-on-one.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?”

Not seeing any reason to say no, Kyle made his way over to the side of the hall, turning the corner near one of the stairwells and standing by the bulletin board. Thankfully, it was almost five o’ clock, so nobody else seemed to really be around to invade their privacy. Wendy sighed and pulled her book-bag in front of her, letting it drape off one shoulder as she shoved her binders in through the open pocket.

“Listen, I wanted to tell you that I’m really sorry about Stan,” she began, thin black brows drawing close into a frown. Kyle blinked, startled by the direction the conversation was going.

“Um, why?”

“I heard about how he forgot he was supposed to be picking you up at the airport last month,” she admitted, looking back up with an expression of clear annoyance. “He didn’t tell me until the week after. He shouldn’t have stood you up like that.”

“Oh,” Kyle replied, surprised to hear such a thing. “That’s okay.”

“No, it’s not okay,” she continued, rolling her eyes slightly and taking a step to the side. “He should have told me he already made plans to pick you up. I wouldn’t have cared if we did our Valentine’s stuff a different day.”

“…Thanks?” the redhead tried, surprised to hear such a thing coming from Wendy, of all people. Granted, the girl was known to have a high standard for morals, but he would have appreciated this kind of in-person apology more from Stan, if he were honest.

Wendy sighed, shaking her head.

“I don’t know what he’s thinking,” she remarked, sounding slightly puzzled as she glanced back over. “You’re his best friend. When you move away, you guys probably won’t get to see each other that much anymore. He should be making time for you.”

“He’s too stuck on you,” Kyle cut in, voice slightly flat. “Wendy, he’s already talking about moving in with you and getting married, and shit. He’s not really thinking about me anymore.”

“He’s being an idiot,” Wendy replied, looking down with tense shoulders. “Listen…I love him, but that doesn’t mean he needs to keep being a brat like this. You’re going to move away and go to Berkeley, aren’t you?”

Something about that statement, the certainty and finality from somebody else’s lips, sent a pang of something scary through Kyle. He took a deep breath. California. Berkeley…

“I don’t know,” he eventually replied, voice slightly dry as he looked down at Wendy with slight anxiety. “I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s really hard to pick.”

“You don’t have to move,” Wendy stated, voice a little softer than before. Realizing he might be looking sort of vulnerable or stupid, but somehow not able to bring himself to care, Kyle reached up and gripped a hair into his own hair, inhaling sharply as the stress began to build.

“It’s just- Everybody else is staying here,” he continued on with a slight tremor in his voice, somehow unable to stop the flood gates from opening. Moving. Saying goodbye. The realities of his situation were starting to creep in. Maybe he should have been excited, looking forward to his life away from South Park, eager to make new friends, but somehow-

“I’m kind of scared,” he admitted, swallowing and looking Wendy in the eye. “What if I don’t like it? What if I fail out, or something?”

“You’re…way too smart to fail out,” the girl replied, seemingly a little surprised by the tangent but looking at Kyle levelly. “Are you still sending out applications?”

Kyle took a breath, able to steady his emotions for a few moments. “I think I’m done,” he admitted, eyes meeting the ceiling as he recycled the names of the universities in his head. “They’re all out-of-state, so…I tried to go for some of the ones that would let me apply for grants.”

“Why don’t you apply for UCD?” she asked, taking a step closer to him and taking up his frame of vision. “Kyle, if Stan can get in with his average grades, they’ll take you with no problem.”

UCD… Kyle had initially dismissed it. It wasn’t exactly the most prestigious university.

“Just think about it,” Wendy pressed gently, striding backwards as if trying to remove herself from Kyle’s personal space. “The worst that can happen is they say yes, and you turn them down.”

Somehow, Kyle had never quite thought of it like that. Nodding quietly, working the possibilities over in his brain, he shrugged and chanced a glance over at Wendy.

“Yeah, okay,” he decided, and offered her a smile, watching as her bright eyes lit beneath her dark lashes.

“I need to get to cheer. See you tomorrow.”

With that, Wendy was gone down the hall, leaving Kyle there with his backpack and a confused expression. It seemed logical that maybe, on some level, she was right. It couldn’t hurt to apply, even though he had already been accepted other places.

Shaking his head, he turned and made his way back down the hall, pausing at the sound of a loud rattle.

The distinct shout that sounded out immediately set Kyle’s nerves on edge, and he quickly made his way around the corner and towards the end of the empty hallway. Given that it was pretty late, it would make sense that most everybody else at the school was gone-

Except for Cartman, who was pouting at the door to the nurse’s office with his knee pressed against the wood.

“Son of a bitch,” he spat, voice sounding odd and rough as the brunet, seemingly feeling the eyes on him, turned and spotted Kyle near the other end of the wall, clutching a tissue against the lower half of his face.

Maybe it was just his own bad luck that contributed to Kyle constantly meeting up with this guy in awkward situations, but whatever the case may have been, the redhead couldn’t help his curiosity. He had almost felt guilty when he realized he had ignored those messages he had received about going out to eat, but it wasn’t as though he could deal with Cartman every day. He did have a life.

They were just fuckbuddies, after all.

“What’s wrong with you?” he tried and took a few steps forward, surprised to see Cartman sniffling and holding his face.

“The fucking nurse left,” the brunet replied, voice slightly thick as he turned, coughing into his arm. Suddenly, Kyle recognized the redness over his cheeks, and paused.

“You’re sick,” he stated, rolling his eyes. “Just go buy-”

Oh. Right.

Cartman looked up at him warily, and Kyle glanced up at the clock, resisting the urge to sigh. Something whispered silently in his ear, telling him to do the right thing, the moral thing, and he reached out and grabbed Cartman by the shoulder, tugging on him.

“I have cough syrup at home. You can tell them you went home sick. Come on,” he decided, letting go and walking off down the hall. Unsurprisingly, he heard the footsteps sidle up next to him, and glanced over to see Cartman looking at the ground beside them.

“It’s not some weird Jew-syrup, is it?” was the quiet reply, and Kyle almost had to fight the urge to laugh. Typically he didn’t find Cartman’s Jew jokes funny in the slightest, but there was something about the stuffed-up tone of voice that set off his sense of amusement.

“Really?” he replied flatly, pushing open the doors at the back of the school and making sure the area was empty of people before striding out and onto the pavement.

“Just making sure you aren’t trying to poison me, Kyle.”

“You’re one to talk,” the redhead replied, stopping at the corner to look both ways when he felt something hard settle itself atop his shoulder.

He turned, something hot spiking in his stomach when he caught sight of the brown hair and chocolate eyes. He then took a step forwards in an attempt to shake him off, only to feel two arms encircle his bicep, holding on tight as Cartman followed him across the street.

“Knock it off,” Kyle stated and lightly tried to shake him away, feeling his throat run slightly dry as he glanced down the road. Thankfully, he didn’t see anybody he recognized, but still. Why did Cartman keep doing weird shit in public?

“I’m weak,” Cartman stated matter-of-factly as he held on, thumb pressing uncomfortably into Kyle’s underarm as his voice lilted into that familiar deadpan teasing that Kyle knew so well. “Vision…fading…need…to be carried…”

“Like I even could,” Kyle spat, trying to pull out of the grip as they approached the house. Thankfully, he knew that Sheila probably wouldn’t be back from work for over an hour, and that Ike would be at soccer practice until seven, so he wasn’t too worried about her finding out about their impromptu visitor. Walking along with Cartman gripping onto him, he fished his keys out of his pocket and opened the front door, stepping in and pulling his arm out of Cartman’s clutches.

“It’s upstairs,” he explained, casting a wary glance over before walking up the steps and into his and Ike’s shared bathroom. The gentle odor of vanilla hit him, which told him that Sheila had been burning a scented candle in there at some point over the past day, or so. Kyle opened the mirrored cabinet and took out an unopened bottle of dark cough syrup, turning, seeing Cartman stepping up the top step and shoving it into his chest.

“Here.”

Cartman looked down at it, sniffling with his cheeks still slightly flushed.

“Eugh. Cherry, seriously?”

“Take it or don’t,” the redhead stated in irritation, wondering why he’d even bothered. In that moment, though, Cartman slumped slightly against the wall, knocking into it with just enough force to jiggle one of the nearby hanging paintings. Suddenly actually concerned, Kyle took a step forward and awkwardly placed a hand against his forehead.

“Dude, you’re burning up,” he admitted. “You should go home.”

“Can’t sleep. Mom won’t shut up,” Cartman replied with a groan, looking up, meeting Kyle’s eyes with a blink of shock. Kyle immediately tore his hand away, wondering if he really was turning into his mother as he had been teased about in the past.

“So wear headphones, or something.”

Cartman’s brown eyes moved quickly to the side, in the direction of the open bedroom door. Before Kyle could process it, the brunet carried his bottle of cough syrup into Kyle’s bedroom, and took a seat on the edge of the bed, leaving the redhead to step in fast after him.

“Just need a nap,” was the reply to his last statement as Cartman popped the lid off, sucking down an unmeasured amount of syrup from the bottle and setting it down on the bedside table.

“Hey-” Cartman literally rolled onto his side on top of the pristinely-made bedding, settling his head softly atop Kyle’s favorite pillow.

“Get up. My mom’s gonna come home soon,” he explained quickly, staring down at the unwelcome visitor with a twinge of guilt. Cartman sniffed again, voice thick with congestion.

“So coooomfy…”

The smugness wasn’t lost on Kyle as Cartman made a show of nestling into his bedcovers, chest rising and falling more slowly as his brown eyes closed and he genuinely looked like he had passed out.

It figured that Cartman couldn’t even resist teasing him even when he was clearly visibly ill. Sighing, deciding it would be a little bit too mean to force the guy out when he was so obviously feeling like shit, Kyle walked over to the door and locked it before dropping his backpack beside his desk. He’d wake him up in a few minutes and make him get the hell out, but he had homework he could finish in the meantime.

Maybe it should have been telling, in some way, that Kyle didn’t feel concerned about having Cartman in his room. On the contrary, actually, it… kind of made him feel funny, in a way that maybe should have been disturbing, but somehow wasn’t.

Cartman clearly wasn’t out to kill him now. His life was fucking shitty, and he just wanted to fuck around, probably to distract himself, so… Perhaps, in a really screwed-up way, they had finally reached an agreement. They could be civil until May, when Kyle left and could forget about the guy for the rest of his days.

Maybe he could have a little bizarre fun in the meantime.

About halfway into his Calculus worksheet, a soft shuffling noise brought the redhead’s attention back over to the other end of his room. Pausing, he turned and looked back at the larger male who laid atop his mattress, eyeing the shivery movements with trepidation.

“Nnh…”

The fabric sounds got a little louder, so he got up and turned around, vaguely apprehensive at the thought that Cartman might be going into a deep fever, or something. What he saw, though stopped him in his tracks.

The brunet curled on his side, clutching one of Kyle’s two bed-pillows in both arms and curling himself around it. His face was pressed into the pillowcase, and he shifted until his knees were drawn up closer to his chest, brown hair messy over his slightly glistening forehead. Starting to get a little concerned, the redhead walked over and shifted to sit down atop the mattress, peering down unsurely.

“Hn,” the brunet breathed out softly, clutching the pillow a little closer and curling around it.

“Sorry…’m sorry…”

Kyle froze at the voice that came out of him, soft and whispery, and undeniably shaking with some kind of pain. Tensing, trying to avoid the sense of discomfort that was pulling in his chest, he reached out and took hold of the firm shoulder in his hand, shaking him lightly.

“Hey, wake up,” he stated in a low tone, giving him a slight shove. To his immediate dissatisfaction, Cartman wrenched in tighter on himself, as though he were attempting to move away from his palm.

“Don’t go…”

Kyle’s mind flooded with possibilities as he shook him again, swallowing a hard lump in his throat. Okay, so he was clearly having a nightmare. He tried not to imagine what it could be about, and gave him another hearty shove.

“Wake the hell up, Cartman.”

“Shh…No!” Cartman exhaled sharply, practically hissing through his teeth as he curled in closer and began trembling a little harder. Any possibility that this were some kind of elaborate prank faded from Kyle’s thoughts as he watched, heart tight and chest a little achy.

This was not pleasant to see.

Acting on instinct despite his better judgment, Kyle slowly settled down a little on the bed until he was laying against the remaining pillow, reaching out and, inexplicably, letting one of his arms drape around Cartman’s waist such that his front was gently pressed to the firm back.

Never in his life had Kyle felt like something was logically so wrong, and yet emotionally so...not-wrong. He felt his heart beating in his ears as he pushed against him slightly, gently holding on, trying to give him a sense of somebody there so he’d stop, well, having a fit. Still, even as he performed this decidedly friendly act with the certainty of an untrained tightrope-walker sixty stories high, there was something inside Kyle that felt warm and decidedly solid.

The redhead shifted, arm curling a little more around Cartman’s firm chest and soft belly. A slight roll of flesh settled itself under his elbow as he turned his face, accidentally finding himself nose-to-skull with the thick and soft brown hair. He inhaled slowly, tasting the scent of green apple shampoo at the back of his throat, and it suddenly felt like something undefinable had changed in the air of the bedroom.

Moment by moment, his guest began to relax underneath his arm, uncurling as the seconds passed until he was laying with his knees bent slightly. The trembling ceased, and Kyle raised his head up from the pillow slightly in curiosity, starting to pull his arm away when Cartman did something horrific.

The brunet slowly rolled more, until he had shifted completely onto his back, and, eyes still closed, rolled promptly onto his other side and encircled Kyle in both arms.

Their cheeks brushed, and Kyle immediately felt something surge inside him. His green eyes swelled in size as he shifted, trying to push himself out, trapped in the larger arms as he was embraced. Cartman’s scent began to pervade his senses even more as he moved, shoving his shoulders with both hands.

“Cartman, I’m serious,” he tried a final time, somehow finding himself tired enough to close his eyes. He felt Cartman’s palms press against his back, forcing their bodies close, and took a slow breath. The softness of the mattress behind him, and Cartman’s front against him, was starting to make the situation decidedly comfortable.

A nap actually didn't sound like a bad idea…

In the vague blackness of time and space, a loud knocking on his door brought him suddenly awake. Kyle blinked, feeling the arms around him and looking up in horror at his closed door, realizing with intense relief that the knob was still in the locked position.

How long had he been asleep?

“Kyle, are you all right in there?”

“Yeah, ma,” Kyle called, forcing Cartman’s upper arm off his ribs and sitting up, heart pounding at the sound of the sharp voice. “I was just studying!”

“All right, well, I got home a little late, so I brought some Chinese food for dinner.”

“Okay!”

“Don’t forget to eat before you go to sleep! Your blood sugars will go low!”

“I know!”

“Leave one box for Ike, all right?”

“I will!”

“I’m going to bed, now. I love you, Kyle!”

“I love you!” Kyle replied loudly, listening to the footsteps that passed by on the hallway carpet and slumping with relief. He heard a shifting, and glanced over at Cartman, who was now sitting totally awake and observing Kyle with slightly flushed fever cheeks.

An undeniably stiff silence passed between them before Cartman perked, sitting up and peering at Kyle with his hands together atop the comforter.

“I like Chinese food~”

Kyle sighed. His Jewish mother DID always try to give him enough food for two people.

After making sure he didn’t hear any noise, Kyle got up from the bed and shut his bedroom door carefully behind him, toeing his way downstairs and finding, unsurprisingly, three Styrofoam boxes stacked neatly on the marble countertop beside a set of plastic-wrapped silverware. He obtained an extra knife and fork from one of the kitchen drawers and two unopened water bottles from the refrigerator.

As he carried his precarious stack of items back up the staircase, Kyle couldn’t help the little tingles that made their way up his spine. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly subtle that Cartman had dealt with some serious traumatic issues and emotions. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised to catch him in the middle of a genuine nightmare. Still, though, he wondered what had come over him. He had just been trying to help ground him a little bit so he’d calm down, but Cartman had literally latched onto him like a baby koala with its mother, clinging and holding on.

Whatever. It didn’t ever have to happen again.

He opened his bedroom door again and propped both of the pillows up against the headboard, sitting back on the mattress as he placed the containers between them. The arrangement was weird, given that he usually ate his meals at the dinner table, but Cartman didn’t seem to see anything strange about it and immediately grabbed for the metal fork, popping one of the boxes open and descending on the chicken Lo Mein like he hadn’t eaten in days.

Maybe he hadn’t, Kyle realized as he watched him, opening his own box to find a mass of crab rangoons and popping open the cap to the sweet and sour sauce that came with them. How much did Cartman remember? He eyed the guy, and Cartman peered back at him, seeming almost curious.

“Really can’t take your eyes off me, huh?” the brunet inquired seriously, lips curving into a slight smirk as he leaned in slightly. “I get it, Kyle. I’m amazing.”

It was actually impressive how someone in such a vulnerable position could seem so genuinely smug.

“You’re sick,” Kyle replied and butted shoulders with him, shoving him slightly and realizing how that could sound. “You have a cold. Don’t touch me.”

The sounds of chewing faded between them as Cartman finished off his box, and Kyle collected the empty boxes and placed them on the bedside table. He rolled to the side with the intention of getting up, only to feel warm breath on his throat, and looked up to find the brunet climbing over him on all fours.

“Don’t touch you, huh?” Cartman whispered in his ear, sending a shock of hot arousal straight down Kyle’s spine. “Or what?”

Only a moment of time passed before Kyle reached up, gripping lightly onto his partner’s throat.

“I’ll touch you back.”

--

Chapter Text

--

There was certainly a multitude of reasons why doing this with Cartman was a bad idea, but Kyle couldn’t really be bothered to take any of them to heart.

Currently pressed up against the headboard with Cartman on all fours above him seemed, for all intents and purposes, like a pretty freaking amazing place to be. Kyle opened his mouth as their lips met, hand tightening slightly on the front of the brunet’s throat as their tongues immediately touched.

There was an arm around his waist, and a hand immediately settled itself at the side of his face, fingertips running along the point of his cheek. Heart starting to race, Kyle arched his back up against the warm abdomen that pressed against him, turning his head to the side to break contact in sudden realization.

“Shit,” he whispered, breathing heavily. How did Cartman do this to him so quickly? “My mom’s home.”

“So?” the brunet replied softly, hovering over Kyle with the wide-eyed eagerness of a child being tempted by a hot-fudge sundae. Something in Kyle swelled slightly- felt warm. It was bizarre, to think that Cartman actually was this fucking attracted to him, after all these years. Maybe the guy had been right that stroking his ego was…effective at getting him into bed.

God damn it.

“Mm, Kyle,” Cartman all but whispered against his jaw, hand sliding up against the curve of Kyle’s visage. Before the redhead could complain, there was a distinct breeze across the top of his forehead, and the resulting thud sound brought his green eyes over towards the carpet, where his dark red hat laid crumpled by the dresser.

“What?” Kyle replied unsurely, voice slightly shaky as he felt the hand slip into his hair.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Cartman crooned into his ear, running his fingertips against Kyle’s scalp and sending vicious tingles down through his back and spine. “Nnh…You hate your hair that much, huh?”

Before Kyle could have much more of a reaction, he felt the softness of his partner’s mouth against this temple, and stared up awkwardly at the close-up view of Cartman’s throat as the other’s nose and lips buried themselves in his curls. A gentle waft of air ran along his scalp. Was he…smelling him?

“What the fuck are you doing?” Kyle whispered and gripped onto Cartman’s shoulders, forcing him back a little. Cartman stared down at him, seeming dazed as he held onto Kyle’s skull gently in both hands. It actually stunned Kyle for a moment, seeing Cartman with such a placid and pleasant facial expression. Something twisted inside him, feeling sharp and uneasy, but the heat between his legs kept him sitting against the headboard.

“What is it? Don’t like me worshipping you?”

“You’re a fucking weirdo,” Kyle replied a little unsteadily, hating the liquid heat that poured directly in between his legs. Okay, so maybe there was something hot about having Cartman reacting so strongly to him.

Were they really going to do this?

“C’mon, Jew,” Cartman whispered, leaning in, sending pricks of excitement down Kyle’s arms as he leaned in closer. “I can keep quiet~ Think you can keep your screaming to a minimum?”

“I don’t scream!” Kyle spat, realizing he was talking too loudly as he reached up instinctively to loop his arms around Cartman’s neck.

“Yeah, sure you don’t.”

“Fuck you, fat-ass.”

“I think you like my ass, Kyle,” Cartman replied smoothly, leaning in, barely touching their lips together as he murmured to him. In that moment, Kyle felt the other take his hand, and swallowed hard when Cartman literally placed it against his round backside, dragging his fingers along the smooth slope of flesh.

Kyle’s hips bucked instinctively, and he heard the victorious snicker.

“I think you like it a lot.”

“You’re way too into this,” the redhead accused, eyes wandering up the curvy body, the thick thighs and soft sides he had been privy to for a while now. He couldn’t lie to himself anymore. There had always been a power exchange between them, and he was going to win this time. He liked the thought of Cartman naked, arching up against him, straining and holding on, gasping and whispering in that slightly husky voice. Moaning for him…

“Mm,” the brunet whispered, one hand slipping down between Kyle’s splayed legs as he pressed their foreheads together. “Just me? I thought you were the one who called me ‘your bitch’.”

Kyle immediately recalled that exchange, the soft pull of Cartman’s fingertips in his hair as he had whispered to him in the dim light of his bedroom.

“Thought you were gonna make me take it, Kyle,” he provoked, taking that moment to squeeze firmly around the thick protrusion in the redhead’s jeans. Kyle gasped, horrified by the loudness of his voice as he jerked up against the thick palm.

“That’s not what...I said-”

“So you want me to ream this sweet little ass instead, then?”

A warm hand squeezed what it could reach of his seated backside, and something hot surged inside Kyle, prompting him into pushing up forcefully and gripping Cartman by the shoulders again. He shoved him back against the pillows and pushed a knee up between the soft thighs, gripping one hand into his t-shirt and bringing him closer until their noses brushed.

“Like hell,” he spat, green eyes narrow and pupils dilated under his mess of red, curly bangs.

If they were doing this, there was no way he was trusting Cartman with his fucking ass-virginity on the first try.

As they let themselves be slammed into another heated kiss, it occurred to Kyle that, besides a couple of small and experimental finger-plays, he had never really touched his own ass in a sexual way. He would have been lying to say it didn’t intrigue him, but there was a certain hesitance he had there. It seemed…incredibly intimate, like something he couldn’t just do without mentally (and physically) preparing himself.

Thankfully, Cartman yielded immediately to his aggression, opening his mouth wide and grinding his obvious erection up against Kyle’s thigh.

When they pulled back simultaneously to breathe, something immediately felt off in the lucid view of Cartman’s flushed cheeks, his clear, brown eyes and mussed hair immediately alerting Kyle to the newness that was sexual-contact-in-visible-light. His stomach twisted, and Kyle hoisted himself off the bed, immediately hitting the light switch on the wall by the closet and watching as the room plunged into mostly-darkness, with a little streetlight pouring in through the window.

“Get your fucking clothes off,” Kyle demanded curtly as he sat down on the side of the bed, pulling at his shoelaces and shucking away his t-shirt.

To hell with this. If they were going to do it, they were going to be fucking naked and it was going to be hot as hell before he had the chance to regret it.

In the back of his mind, Kyle recalled how he had told Craig that he and his mystery-partner would never go all the way. It was amazing how much he had believed himself at the time, given how fucking hard this was making him right now. His eyes caught the lime-green glow from the stick-on stars he still had on his ceiling from childhood above the bed, and he glanced over warily at Cartman as his eyes adjusted, seeing the brunet there frozen with his red jacket in one hand and body still.

“What’s your problem, huh?” the redhead breathed, trying not to let the mood go thin. Maybe it was all of Cartman’s ego-stroking, or maybe it was just overcompensation for some of the embarrassment he had felt during their earlier exchange, but Kyle was really fucking turned-on. He wanted to be on Cartman, against him, in him-

“Don’t have one,” was the response, quiet, and Kyle went back to stripping off the remainder of his clothes, watching as Cartman’s decidedly larger pair of jeans and briefs hit the carpet next to Kyle’s strewn tennis shoes. When Kyle reached for the waistband of his own jeans, he hesitated at the slight tug from his insulin pump line, eyeing the port area on his flat stomach where the needle was taped in.

Shit…maybe he should have thought about this more.

Kyle’s heart began to race slightly as he peeled off his socks. With Bebe, he had literally just taken his dick out through his fly for quick-use, and his pump had just stayed clipped at his hip pocket. If they were going to do this naked, though, where did he-

All of a sudden, something shifted in the bedding behind him, and Kyle felt his insides scream when one soft thigh settled at each of his hips, thin cotton riding up between their chests as Cartman literally straddled his lap and began to lave a hot tongue at the base of his throat.

Maybe he really was catching some of the guy’s insanity, but when he felt Cartman’s soft shirt riding up against the top of his leg, Kyle’s cock hardened thickly and he rutted up against his front. Wait…

“Take your fucking shirt off,” he demanded, deciding to forget how absolutely ridiculous the situation was and just go with it. God damn it, he was so fucking horny. Cartman’s scent, his softness, his lips and those eyes and that thick hair…it was driving him crazy.

“Heh, in due time, Kyle.”

“Right now,” Kyle demanded, unable to help but lean his head to the side. Cartman’s teeth grazed his pulse point, and he moaned softly, ears burning with embarrassment. How Cartman seemed to know he had an erogenous zone there, he had no idea.

Suddenly, with those lips and teeth still playing at his collarbone, Kyle felt one hand gripping at the seat of his pants, pulling as Cartman slipped closer up towards his chest. He shifted instinctively, only to tense up at the expectation of sudden and ripping abdominal pain.

Instead, the warm air of the room brushed over his naked cock and thighs, and Kyle hurriedly shifted to kick his pants and boxers awkwardly off the edge of the bed, managing to get them over his ankles and feet before they got caught around his calves.

“Jesus, Jew. Was trying to do your bitch-ass a favor,” Cartman murmured in his ear, pulling back slightly with a raised eyebrow. Eyes fully adjusted to the darkness, now, Kyle looked down at the male seated comfortably in his lap, immediately spotting the familiar little box that was currently clipped to the collar of Cartman’s t-shirt.

What had he-

Cartman’s hips rolled, their hard cocks pressed against one another, and Kyle decided he didn’t give a shit about the logistics anymore. This was probably a dream anyways. At least, he sort of hoped it was.

Kyle shifted when his mouth was consumed again, feeling the hot tongue skimming against his bottom teeth. Moaning, deciding not to be ashamed of his reactions for the moment, Kyle sifted one hand through the chestnut brown locks and pulled, forcing Cartman to turn his head to the side so he could kiss him deeper. One of Cartman’s palms found its way between his legs, squeezing there, and Kyle ran his hand down the other’s flat chest and soft stomach, hips jerking under the weight of Cartman’s body that was currently settled against his pelvis.

It was fucking dirty, illicit even, to be doing this shit in his childhood bedroom…and he couldn’t even say he minded. There was just something so fucking hot about the idea of pinning Cartman down, wiping that smug grin off his face, making him gasp and admit defeat.

“Mmmnph…” Cartman groaned deep in his throat, lips finding their way to Kyle’s ear as he squeezed his erection with one hand and gripped into his curls with the other.

“God, Kyle,” he whined, fucking whined, and Cartman’s weight began to press them backwards into the mattress. Kyle tensed, arching his body to the side as he used his leverage to pin him down.

Why the fuck was this such a turn-on?

“I’m gonna make you take it, fat-ass,” Kyle breathed, throwing all inhibitions to the wind as he leaned down against him. “Any questions?”

Cartman stared up into him with large brown eyes, and exhaled sharply through his open mouth, eyelashes dark and face red.

“Yeah,” he breathed out, smirking and yanking on the red hair.

“Is that a threat, or a promise?”

Their mouths crashed together again, and then they were off and running, Cartman’s fingers suddenly squeezing around both of their cocks, slipping with the precum that was started to gather at their tips. Cartman’s cock felt smooth as Kyle thrust up against it, the soft hairs of his own groin flattening under the smooth palm and fingers. Shit, they were both fucking naked now, except for Cartman’s shirt, of course.

“Think you can breed me?” Cartman whispered into his ear, running his tongue along the lobe as he spread his legs so they could rut their groins together in rhythm. Whatever hesitation the guy had had before seemed to have dissolved as the brunet moaned wholeheartedly, setting Kyle’s nerves on fire.

“Fuck,” Kyle whispered, jolts of red-hot arousal pooling in his gut.

“You liked my mouth on your cock, didn’t you, Kyle?”

“Shut the hell up,” the redhead hissed against his lips, eyes traveling down between them, observing their hard cocks and the way Cartman stroked them together. For the first time, he caught a good glimpse of Cartman’s dick, hard and a little duskier than Kyle’s, thick at the base and tapered at the crown, with a slight skin riding up around the tip. He blinked, only then realizing what he was looking at, when he felt Cartman’s breath against his temple.

“I could suck you down again,” the brunet murmured, stroking his hair as he fisted around the base of their hard cocks. “Make you feel so good.”

A thick bead of precum welled at the tip of Kyle’s dick, and the redhead watched as it slipped down amongst Cartman’s stroking fingers, face hot.

“Mmnh,” he responded in a breath, swallowing at the sudden realization that Cartman’s groin was totally hairless, including the hanging spheres beneath his shaft.

“Like what you see?” Cartman asked, catching Kyle’s glance and grinning up at him with darkened eyes and pink cheeks. Kyle tensed, glaring, not wanting to give an answer.

“Isn’t it fucking obvious?” he replied as he thrust forward into the grip, shaft plumping inside Cartman’s grasp. The brunet hummed, arching forwards in a full-body shudder, and Kyle decided that he was done playing around, tugging roughly into Cartman’s hair as he reached out and gripped ahold of that plush ass with his free hand. Having Cartman blow him again was tempting, but…he couldn’t wait.

Fuck. He was really going to have sex with Eric Cartman.

Something primal surged inside Kyle as he leaned forward, totally naked and sporting a fucking raging erection as he forced his firm chest up against Cartman’s t-shirt.

“Get on me,” he demanded, heart beating so hard he could hear it in his ears. The brunet gazed up at him, eyes large, before chuckling out a mercifully quiet laugh, twirling one of Kyle’s curls on his pointer finger.

“Whoa there, what a greedy Jew,” he lilted teasingly, sitting up slowly and removing his hands from Kyle. The redhead hissed through his teeth as their cocks, slick and hard, panged coldly at the loss of friction, pulsing wet against one another.

“I’m gonna fuck you until you shut the fuck up.”

“Then I’ll be needing some of that lube you have in that nightstand,” Cartman practically cooed at him, sending Kyle’s back into a tense and hard seize.

“Have you been breaking in here??” Kyle hissed, actually starting to panic slightly. Cartman had certainly made a habit of sneaking into his house and bedroom frequently when they were kids.

His partner scoffed, smiling as he rolled his eyes. “More like I know you can’t resist jerking off to thoughts of my hot body.”

Keeping a wary eye on him, the redhead shifted back, limited in movement by the stretch of pump tubing currently ending somewhere near Cartman’s throat. He slipped a hand into the drawer and, suspiciously casting a glance at what he could see of the lush backside, shoved the bottle of KY into Cartman’s clothed chest purposefully.

“You fucking do it,” he breathed, bearing down over him, falling easily back into the mood. It turned him on to order Cartman around like this, and Kyle, despite never having had intercourse with another man, had seen enough porn to know the logistics of how it worked. He couldn’t lie to himself about it anymore, given the massive hard boner he was currently sporting. Cartman blinked at him, smile falling.

“Come on. Get yourself wet,” Kyle demanded, leaning in and nipping his ear as he ground their stomachs together. “Hurry up.”

The soft noise that Cartman emitted should have been fucking illegal. Both exhaled simultaneous gushes of hot breath as they rocked together, and Kyle watched in amazement as his partner bent one of his thick legs backwards at a surprising angle, listening to the pop of the lube cap in the relative silence.

They weren’t even drunk…and this was happening.

Kyle gripped hold of their cocks again, squeezing, stroking up from the base as Cartman’s hand disappeared beneath their bodies. A deep and heady thrill shot through every vein as he loomed over his partner, listening to the slick and lewd sounds of Cartman’s fingers as they…

Somehow, a dark and hot feeling of bravado surged up through Kyle, spurring him on, causing him to jerk and pull up along their cocks with increased gusto. The room was quiet, air decorated only by their gasps and the wet sounds of flesh-on-flesh, and Kyle kissed Cartman hard on the mouth, thumbing across their slits with the dripping pad of his finger.

“Ahn,” Cartman gasped against Kyle’s chin. He shifted underneath him, placing his ankle against Kyle’s right shoulder as he rutted his cock up against Kyle’s and arched up to press his face back into the wild curls.

“Y-you smell so fucking good,” the brunet moaned out, hips twitching as he thrusted up into Kyle’s hand and flexed his other hand beneath himself. The wet squelching brought a deep groan up from Kyle’s sternum as he rocked closer, shocked to hear just how fucking wrecked Cartman sounded already.

“God, fuck me, Kyle.”

Kyle gritted his teeth, stopping his movements as he tried desperately to hold himself back from the brink.

“Yeah? You want it?” he tried, embarrassed to hear that his own voice sounded strained.

A soft tongue soothed over his bottom lip, and he shuddered, just taking a moment to listen to that soft and husky tone.

“Fill me up with that big ginger cock. Come on…”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” the redhead groaned, voice betraying his intense arousal. He had never thought he’d see the day where he willingly got up close and personal with Cartman’s ass again, but-

A hand around his base made the decision for him, and Kyle saw stars when he felt the head of his shaft press against something hot and tight and wet.

Though he didn’t consider himself particularly…kinky, Kyle definitely liked to get rough when it came to sex. He enjoyed the exchange of power, the physicality of it- the sounds, the feeling of sucking, biting, grabbing, smacking. Right now, though, Cartman’s words were magic in his ears, brushing over him in a soft and sweet stroke, feeding his ego and filling his chest with hot bursts of excitement.

Throwing caution to the wind, the redhead pressed down instinctively atop his partner, shunting his weight forward, eyelids fluttering as he pressed his wet dick deeper in past the yielding softness of Cartman’s entrance.

It was, well…Tight. Tight as fuck. The tightest thing Kyle had ever felt. It softened for him, though, as he pressed forward, one hand against the bottom half of his face as he stared down at the other with lidded eyes.

His mother was the next room over, and he was balls-deep in his childhood rival whilst in his childhood bedroom.

Something settled around Kyle’s waist as he bottomed out, balls heavy and settling against the soft meeting of Cartman’s ass cheeks. Kyle shook his head, brought slightly out of his reverie, and looked down at the smooth knee that had settled against his ribs, only then gazing back down at his partner, who was wrapped around him like a pretzel, with one ankle still propped up on his shoulder and the other leg wrapped around him with a smooth heel against his hip.

Cartman being so fucking smooth everywhere was way hotter than it should have been.

It was in this exact moment that Kyle realized he may have made an error in his positioning of Cartman, because the guy was staring up at him with such big chocolate eyes and red cheeks that the face-to-face-position suddenly seemed like a bad idea. It felt too close, too…intimate for what they were doing, for what they were. The mere fact that Cartman had agreed so easily to taking the “girl” role in this had shocked Kyle at first. Then again, the guy had worn dresses and skirts more times than Kyle could really count. Maybe Cartman was really into being like this…being submissive in bed.

Kyle’s dick swelled as he chanced a look back down into Cartman’s eyes, only to feel the pointed chin pressing against his pulse point opposite Cartman’s foot on the other side.

“Kyle,” he whined, rolling their hips together, and the redhead realized he had stopped moving.

“Shit, Cartman,” he stated, honestly shocked by the position they were finding themselves in. He felt his partner expand slightly, ribcage jutting from his soft abdomen as he spoke.

“Eric,” the brunet murmured, hand once again finding its way into Kyle’s hair. “Call me Eric while you wreck me, Kyle.”

As much as Kyle wanted to deny him, on principle, the electric pang of thick arousal that shot through his dick didn’t make him want to fight. Reaching out, gripping Cartman’s free wrist, he shoved his arm back into the bedding and stared down at him with narrowed eyes, able to tell he was blushing up to the tips of his ears.

“You’d better not fucking wake my mom up,” he hissed out as he began to pull his hips back, heart clenching when the brunet, somehow, despite being speared by a dick and vulnerable on his back, had the gumption left to tilt his chin up at Kyle and grin.

“I can’t help it if this ass is so good her baby boy starts screaming his head off.”

Kyle surged forward with a deep thrust, gasping, startling himself with the intense pleasure of it even as he gripped onto the collar of Cartman’s t-shirt.

“You’re gonna be the one fucking screaming,” Kyle managed, opening his mouth the moment Cartman pulled his head in for a kiss.

“Mmh,” his partner gasped, sucking at his lower lip around his words. “Prove it, Jew.”

Kyle wasn’t entirely certain how others perceived him in bed, but it was a little scary how unraveled he was feeling as he began to establish a push-and-pull, slipping his hips back before thrusting forward hard until the bones of his hips slammed hard into the undersides of Cartman’s soft thighs.

The brunet’s abdomen shifted with each push, flexing against the hardness of Kyle’s chest and stomach, and the redhead found himself upping his pace, startled by the gasps and groans that were starting to leak out between their faces from Cartman’s lips.

“Fuck,” Cartman whimpered, eyes lidded and cheeks burning as he again pressed his face into Kyle’s neck and sucked. “Fuck me hard. Please-”

The moment the begging met his ears, Kyle knew he was too far gone. His body tensed, and he forced his dick upwards and deeper into his partner, eyes falling to the hard and sizeable, thick shaft that was pressed up hard against Cartman’s belly.

Heavy breathing clouded between them in the relative silence of the room. A whiff of refreshing soap scent met Kyle’s face, and he tensed, recalling that bottle of cheap blue shampoo that had been sitting in Liane’s shower several months back and starting to wonder when this surreal fucking dream would come to an end.

Kyle had never felt more turned on than he did in that moment, under the popcorn ceiling with the glowing plastic stars. The soft bedding shifted beneath them as they moved, Cartman meeting every thrust, arching up against him and wrapping his legs around him like he was the only thing he wanted in the entire world. Intentionally, Kyle kept his eyes averted, holding one of his forearms up to his mouth to silence his own moans and grunts as he pinned Cartman’s wrist above his head with his other hand.

“Hahh!” Cartman gasped out suddenly, raising his voice to a dangerous level. Kyle immediately removed his elbow from his own mouth and slapped a hand over those smooth lips.

“Are you fucking stupid?!” he hissed out in a sharp whisper, still pushing in and out as he glared. “Sh-hhut the hell up!”

The brown eyes caught his, and Kyle stared in shock as Cartman fluttered those dark eyelashes at him as his mouth was smothered, running his hot tongue along Kyle’s palm in a silent and sexual gesture of defiance.

Immediately, they were back on again, Kyle’s newly wet hand hooking itself underneath the softness of Cartman’s knee as he forced the entire length of his cock back inside the slick heat. It occurred to him, through his thrusts, that his companion must have done an amazing job preparing himself to be met with such little resistance despite the tight grip, a realization that sent Kyle’s balls tightening up beneath his shaft as he leaned back down to breathe into his ear.

Something was giving him the feeling that it might be a mistake to look into Cartman’s eyes for too long.

“Damn it,” he cursed under his breath, picking up speed, trying desperately to hold his orgasm back. His hips twitched and he choked, pressing his eyes closed as he forced Cartman’s arm harder into the mattress.

“Kyle,” was the breathy response, wet and raspy, against his own jaw. “Fuck me raw! Shit…”

The redhead was too far gone to reply. Instead, he just sank his teeth down into Cartman’s earlobe, hearing him emit something that almost sounded like a sob. Instantly, the brunet tightened like a vice around his dick, and Kyle shuddered hard, biting into his tongue.

“Hnnh!”

“C’mon, make…make me cum, Kyle, fuck!”

“You’re gonna fucking take it all!” Kyle whispered shakily. Having his rival coming apart, bouncing against his dick, was making his pride swell. His balls drew upwards again when Cartman cried out into Kyle’s chest, teeth scraping one of his small nipples and sending a jolt through him.

Pleasure began to melt down his thighs as he forced his pulsing shaft in and out, feeling Cartman’s heels trembling against him as the mattress began to rock hard.

The soft belly brushed against his abdomen again, and Kyle chanced a look down into his partner’s face, taking in the closed-eyed expression with a victorious shiver and a jolt of pleasure straight to his dripping cock. He pressed his pelvis down, grinding against the other’s tight ass, and, better judgment thrown out the window, slapped a victorious palm down against the smooth cheek beneath a dimpled thigh, scraping his teeth against Cartman’s throat as that tight passage squeezed the life out of his dick.

“Kyle!” Cartman practically cried against his chest, thrashing beneath him, and the suffocating grip around his base sent an intense pulse of hot pleasure directly up through his core, making him see white.

“Fuck…Eric,” he relented, giving into what felt right.

Liquid heat spread over Kyle’s abs as he forced himself inside in one final time, coming hard, shooting slippery essence inside the tight entrance. He moaned lowly and covered his mouth again, resisting the urge to shout, eyes closed and lips parted as the waves of pleasure crashed hard over his entire being. His hearing faded out for a moment as he basked, overwhelmed by the gushes and spikes of ecstasy still buzzing through him, running down his spine and into his back, fizzing through his stomach and groin and down to the tips of his bare toes.

He vaguely felt something trembling beneath him, and, after taking a few deep breaths to reset the burning in his lungs, Kyle dared to open his eyes, only to immediately find his lips in a soft kiss.

The reality of the situation began to fade in after a few moments, and the soft the beating of his heart ceased in his ears, replaced by the feeling of a separate, yet not dissimilar, thrumming against his chest. As Cartman licked into his mouth, tongue pressing against the inside of his cheek, the redhead suddenly recognized it to be his partner’s heartbeat, pounding frantically through his pectorals and settling its vibrations into Kyle’s shaking form.

In an instant, Kyle was pushing the brunet backwards, present time and place beginning to settle silently over them.

“Jesus Christ,” he breathed and looked down, eyes large and mossy, catching Cartman’s easy chocolate gaze and tired smirk.

“Good guess. No need to get down on your knees and start praying, Kyle.”

“I…” Upon shifting, the atmosphere hit his dick, sending Kyle’s face into a tight wince of discomfort when the cold air assaulted his most sensitive part.

“I came in you,” he realized, bravado from earlier fading. He had just fucked Eric Cartman. Oh God…and…

“Eh, whatever,” the brunet replied, waving a hand at him as he rolled onto his side. “I’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

Tomorrow…

“No. You’re leaving right now,” Kyle replied quickly, reaching out and pulling at the soft shoulder. Cartman looked up at him with a raised eyebrow, releasing a huff of air.

“Jeeze, Jew, my ass isn’t enough payment for a night at Hotel Broflovski?”

“If my mom finds out you were here, she’ll fucking slit your throat,” the redhead replied honestly, voice a little uneven in his realization. Never in a million years did he think he’d be in this fucked-up of a situation. Okay, jacking off with the guy was one thing, but getting naked and listening to him whisper those filthy things in his ear…

“Duh, that’s why you keep the door locked, asshole.”

“Cartman,” Kyle warned, gripping his shoulder and sitting back. “Go home. We did it, it’s over.”

Releasing a whiny noise, the brunet rolled over onto his back, turning away and reaching for his pants that had been discarded on the bedroom carpet. Kyle sat up a little straighter, trying to hide any signs of his current existential crisis.

Sex with Cartman. Was Hell going to freeze over, next?

“Fine. Can’t disturb your beauty sleep, I guess,” Cartman sighed, thankfully maintaining some quietness as he pulled up his briefs and zipped his fly. Kyle swallowed a lump in his esophagus as he watched the other shrug his jacket back on, surprised to see Cartman extend an arm towards him. Immediately recognizing the small black box in his hand, Kyle snatched his insulin pump back, holding it awkwardly down by his hip.

A distinct and uncomfortable awkwardness filled the room as the guy got up, walking over to the door when Kyle leapt off the mattress and grabbed his bicep.

“What?!”

“Go out the window and grab the ladder,” Kyle demanded, pointing. “If my mom hears that door open-”

“You’re too fucking panicky,” Cartman snorted, but walked over to the window anyway, opening the curtains and then pulling the window up. Kyle found himself jumping at the noise, and suddenly remembered his nudity, pulling the comforter over his pelvis and grimacing at the feeling of the fluids against the soft duvet as he slipped his fingers along the plastic back of his pump clip.

“Oh, and Kyle?” his rival called breathlessly, brown eyes weird and shiny in the darkness as his breath fogged out in the coldness of the nighttime air.

“As much as I enjoyed being split open by your Kosher sausage, that tight little ass is mine next time.”

As Cartman hoisted his last leg out the window frame and disappeared into the darkness, Kyle wondered when, in fact, his life had managed to go so wrong.

--

Chapter Text

--

When Kyle awoke the next morning with a pounding behind his eyes and a deep, itchy coating at the back of his throat, all he could do was glance around hazily until he recognized the knocking on his door that had woken him in the first place.

“Kyle? Why do you keep locking your door??”

The alarm clock beside his bed glowed out a time of ‘6:14AM’ in blue. Cursing internally, wrapping his brain around the situation, Kyle sat up on the edge of the bed and tensed at the sight of the very obvious white stains spattered over the visible part of his sheets.

“Just- getting dressed, Mom!”

“I have to be at work early today, so I left you and Ike some cinnamon rolls!”

“Okay!” Kyle called out, staring down the door as though he were in a wild west movie. At the very least, his throat didn’t sound raspy. There was almost nothing worse than being even mildly ill in the Broflovski household, given that Sheila always forbade him from going out or doing anything. Token’s party was later that night, and he couldn’t afford to be cooped up at home being force-fed chicken soup and cried over like he was dying.

“Have a good day at school today, sweetie. I love you!”

“Love you, Ma,” he replied finally and slumped with relief as he heard her heels pad down the steps, listening, not relaxing fully until the front door had opened and closed. Immediately, he glanced back over at his soiled bedding, and succumbed to the throbbing headache that was building in his temples and tingling at the top of his nose.

That fat son-of-a-bitch.

Kyle supposed, as he got out of bed and blew his nose into a tissue from the nightstand, that he should be thanking his heavenly stars for Sheila’s awkward work schedule. The late nights and early mornings had made some of his sneaking-around possible, and he was sure that his moter didn’t even have any idea that Cartman had returned to South Park. He intended to keep it that way, of course. The redhead wasn’t even sure he should be fraternizing with Cartman anymore anyways, given how out-of-hand the situation had become.

Kyle’s cheeks burned as he tossed the tissue into the small trash bin beside his desk, seeing the notification blinking on his phone. God, the sex… He hadn’t known it could feel that amazing.

What was happening to him? Since when did he find Cartman attractive? Attractive enough to fucking have sex with while he was exhibiting every symptom of a bad flu? He groaned under his breath, frustrated and annoyed by the memories that were passing through his head. Cartman whining, calling his name. Cartman-

No, Eric. Thinking of him as ‘Cartman’ in bed really WAS too weird, even for their fucked-up arrangement. ‘Eric’ was weird, too, but at least it sounded like the name of a human being one might…well, make out with on occasion.

Shaking his head, trying to knock the memory of last night’s tryst from his brain entirely, Kyle forced himself to his feet and out into the hall, opening the bathroom door and closing it behind him. A small night-light illuminated the simple room as he took out his length, thanking his past-self for cleaning up and changing his clothes before falling asleep, and pushed the toilet seat up.

Suddenly, a slit of brighter light made its way into the bathroom, only to disappear immediately, accompanied by the loud slam of the door.

Kyle turned his head in shock, wincing when he heard the familiar voice groaning from outside. Finishing up and shoving himself away, he flushed the toilet and washed his hands before stepping back out into the hall to meet the startled fifteen-year-old standing by the staircase.

“Knock next time, dumbass.”

“I didn’t need to see that,” Ike moaned dramatically, leaning over the banister in his dark blue pajamas with two hands still plastered over his face. “Eye bleach! I need some goddamn eye bleach!”

Kyle rolled his eyes, cheeks slightly pink as he reached out and lightly shoved his brother by the arm.

“Don’t be a pissbaby, Ike.”

“Don’t show the world your dick, Kyle!”

Suddenly, Kyle felt apprehension building in his spine. He and Cartman had tried to be quiet, but what if Ike had heard something? Did he know?? He quashed it down and shifted where he stood, choosing the wrong moment to inhale through his nose and sniffling obviously.

Eyes wide and dark, Ike peered into his face and cocked his head to the side.

“Are you sick??”

“Don’t say anything to mom,” the redhead demanded, turning and walking down the carpeted stairs. Morning sunlight emanated in through the closed blinds as he entered the kitchen, pouring himself a glass of milk and picking up the only remaining plate of cinnamon rolls before walking into the living room and sitting down on the sofa. To his slight annoyance, Ike followed him over, sitting down to his right and crossing his legs underneath him.

“Ooh, you wanna go to that big party tonight at Token’s house.”

“How do you know about that?” Kyle asked around a mouthful of breakfast, glancing over suspiciously. With his dark eyes and black, long bangs, Ike kind of creeped him out sometimes, mostly due to his propensity to kind of stare. Maybe it was a Canadian thing, but he doubted it. Ike was just a weird kid in general, and didn’t really fit in with Kyle and Sheila’s general physical look.

“Everybody at school’s talking about it.”

“Whatever.”

“So you’re going??”

“Yeah,” Kyle replied and swallowed down some milk, catching Ike’s half-grin from the corner of his eye and turning his head to frown over at him.

“What’s so funny?”

“You gonna go see your girlfriend?” Ike inquired, clutching onto one of the couch pillows with his skinny fingers, and Kyle felt his chest go numb. Slowly, he set his glass down on the side table, trying not to choke. Fuck. Fuck fuck. Fuck-

“I don’t have a fucking girlfriend,” he stated, never having had to force himself to sound so convincing about a fact that was legitimately true. Blinking, the other teen got up and walked into the hall, returning moments later and dropping a big red something into Kyle’s lap.

“What’s this about then, hmmm?”

Kyle’s green eyes moved down and he set his plate of rolls onto the ottoman, reaching for the cellophane-wrapped box that now sat on his pajama-clad thighs. A surge of relief passed through him when he realized that Ike’s initial accusation had been due to whatever this item was, rather than, well, hearing him bonk his fuckbuddy’s brains out the night before, but his shoulders soon pulled tight again as he eyed the red glitter over the heart-shaped front.

Unsure, Kyle turned it over, seeing the ‘$10’ sticker on the back and the black sticker boasting the fact that the contents were ‘SUGAR FREE’.

“What’s this?” he asked and looked up. Ike shrugged in obvious befuddlement, black hair thick and messy at the sides of his face.

“Fuck if I know!” he replied, glancing at Kyle kind of sideways. “I guess your girlfriend thought you wanted some cheap Valentines discount stuff. Is she cute?”

“I said there’s no girlfriend,” Kyle stated flatly, trying to ignore the apprehension creeping up his spine. Ike clearly wasn’t aware of his current arrangement, but the kid never stopped sassing him sometimes. “Where the hell did you get this, Ike?”

“I thought I heard somebody out front like an hour ago,” the teen replied, shrugging. “When I opened the door, it was just sitting on the mat.”

“You were up at five in the morning??”

“Duh. Ontario AM was on,” Ike replied like it was obvious, taking a step closer and looking down at the box curiously. “They’re four hours ahead. Seriously, Kyle, you’ve been acting like a weirdo. What’s her name?”

“There’s no ‘her’, you little shit,” Kyle replied and pushed Ike away by the shoulder, observing the box warily. His first thought was that it might have been from one of the girls at their school, given that he had had a few random confessions in his day, but everybody knew Kyle pretty well by now, and he hadn’t gotten much feminine attention throughout his senior year in general. There was, however, a second thought that passed through his mind, but he squashed it down for the moment, not wanting to believe it had anything to do with Cartman or his usual dirty tricks.

Besides, Cartman knew that he knew they were just fuckbuddies. There would be no reason for the guy to try and act like they were anything but that, since Kyle wouldn’t buy it, anyway.

Ike rolled his dark eyes at him, clearly not believing, and trailed the tip of his tongue along the edge of the cinnamon roll.

“Liar. Liar, liar.”

“You’re a fucking weirdo,” the elder accused with a sigh, hoping he wasn’t giving off any obvious signs. Ike looked over suddenly, tilting his chin so quickly that Kyle legitimately wondered if he had hurt his neck.

“Oh! It’s a guy! Right??”

“No!” Kyle shouted a little too quickly, reaching out and brandishing his utensil at him.

“Heyy, it is!”

Kyle often wished he hadn’t admitted he was bisexual to his family members those two years back. Sheila had been understandably surprised, but had immediately reassured him that his sexuality was of no consequence to her, and that she didn’t mind as long as he found a respectable ‘partner’. Ike, who had been thirteen at the time, had seemed kind of embarrassed and hadn’t said much about it, but now that he was in high school, it had become a semi-frequent subject he could use to tease his older brother.

“I’m single, Ike.”

“No way, I’m right, right? It’s a guy!”

“No. I will stab you with this fucking fork.”

Ike’s laugh was oddly jubilant, and Kyle found himself sliding down against the couch cushion, less than amused by the turn the conversation was taking. Quickly, he finished up his plate of rolls and walked into the kitchen, washing his dish and fork before heading back up the stairs when he realized what he still had tucked underneath his arm.

Sighing, Kyle set the box of chocolates onto his nightstand and headed back to the bathroom, stripping off and hoping he didn’t have a second intrusion as he flipped the slight switch. As he removed his insulin pump and stepped into the shower, drawing the curtain and turning on the hot water, he did his best to push the surprise gift out of his mind completely.

After feeding himself some Emergen-C and getting dressed, deciding to brave the impendingly hot day without a hat, Kyle rode his bike to school and headed to his first class. The day was relatively doable, with an English exam second period and only two freshman showing up for his tutoring session in the library. Once his table had become quieter, Kyle navigated to the University of Colorado Denver website, and clicked the link to the ‘Applications’ page. Hell, maybe Wendy was right. The worst thing they could do was accept him, and he could turn it down.

It took him about half an hour to complete the online form, complete with attaching his transcripts and other necessary documentation. The moment he clicked ‘Submit’, his phone vibrated in his pocket, and he pulled it out and gazed down onto the one name he had been hoping not to see.

hey bby

watchin u

Kyle immediately winced, looking over his shoulder, not seeing the bastard anywhere. Gritting his teeth and trying to shove down the residual feelings of heat that swirled in his abdomen, he immediately began tapping his thumbs across the screen.

Where the fuck are you

ahahahahah gotcha jk

stuck in independent study

made u look

Unamused, the redhead sighed and shifted in his chair, unsure why he didn’t feel more relieved.

Fuck you

mmm

yea u did

Kyle didn’t like this at all. The way Cartman, somehow, had wormed back into his life, and into his BED, of all things…it genuinely seemed like a bad dream, one that was somehow sickly wonderful in its complete and total absurdity.

Don’t get smug asshole

You liked it

dude it was fuckin hot

mustve felt good for you too huh??

filled me right up

“Hey, Kyle.”

Kyle barely had time to register the five glass-of-milk emojis that populated his screen before losing grip on his phone and shoving it screen-down on the tabletop, glancing up and meeting shocked bright eyes across from him at the other side.

“Whoa!” Kenny replied jubilantly, showing off his usual gap-toothed smile and sitting down with a plastic water bottle in his left hand. “Don’t get too excited, there.”

Kyle had had enough surprises for the day.

“Shit, dude, you scared me,” he tried to play off, green eyes wandering to the side as he fumbled with his phone.

“Must be some good nudes you don’t want me seeing,” the blond stated, thankfully in a relatively quiet library-type voice, and Kyle stared up at him apprehensively, aware his face was getting slightly red.

“God, no.”

“You still hooking up with he-who-must-not-be-named?” Kenny whispered, grinning at Kyle a little too smugly for his liking. Voice-box seemingly out of commission, Kyle opened his mouth and closed it, looking away as he tried to come up with some kind of convincing response.

“Holy shit…You guys did it, didn’t you?”

“Sh-th-…Kenny, fuck!” Kyle hissed back, watching Kenny smile behind his fingertips.

“Dude, right on!! Never thought I’d see the day.”

“Don’t tell anybody!”

“I won’t, Kyle, seriously. I already promised. Who topped?”

“You think I’d let him?!”

Kenny gasped, and then smiled, and Kyle’s head swam as he leaned back in his chair, frantically glancing around for any other students that might be heading towards his study table. Thankfully, his corner of the room seemed to be pretty empty for the moment, so he took a deep breath and leaned back across the table, meeting Kenny’s still-surprised gaze.

“Party tonight, right?” he stated, trying to change the subject.

The blond blinked. “Oh, yeah. Mind riding me over to the liquor store after school? I’m supposed to pick up some Mike’s.”

“Yeah.” Kyle paused, suddenly wondering something. “Is Stan gonna drive us to Token’s? He didn’t reply to the group chat.”

“Oh, he’s not gonna show up ‘til later,” the blond replied, fiddling with the strings of his hoodie. “He said he has football practice til six.”

It figured. Kyle inhaled slowly, realizing it might be him and Kenny on the transportation front. As the usual mix-master, Kenny tended to get to events like this before they even started.

“Dude, I’ll just bike us back to my place after school, and we can take an Uber to get booze and then get one to the party? My mom won’t get home ‘til like six, anyways. I’ll text her and say I’m at Stan’s.”

“This is why we’re friends,” Kenny replied smugly, scooting his chair over and slinging a skinny arm around Kyle. “Mr. Valedictorian, coming up with inventive ways to get wasted without getting caught.”

“Please tell me your fake ID is convincing,” the redhead replied, trying to get the focus off of himself.

“Tch. Who do you think I am?”

Kyle opened his mouth to reply with whatever sassy remark he could think of off-hand when another male, with whiter hair and baby-blue eyes, peeked his head around the nearest bookshelf, startling Kyle for a moment before he realized who it was.

“Kenny!” Butters exclaimed cheerfully, raising his voice a little too high as he walked over and took a seat next to the two.

“Baby!”

Kyle watched as Kenny reached out, putting an arm around the blond’s shoulders and kissing him on the cheek.

“How was your test?”

“W-well, gee, it was pretty hard. I was doin’ real good until the end, there, but I think I got nervous.”

“You’ll pass,” Kenny promised, leaning against Butters’ shoulder. Something inside the redhead’s chest began to hurt, and Kyle turned his eyes away, unsure whether he should feel guilty for having a negative reaction to such a thing.

“Hey Leo, you told your parents you’re staying at my place tonight, right?”

“Yeah, I told ‘em we were doing that group project. I’m not grounded right now, so it should be all right.”

“You’re coming to Token’s party?” Kyle butted in, genuinely surprised that Butters of all people wanted to go. He had an inkling that his parents would go completely mental if they knew their son had gone out drinking, and he sent Kenny a confused look, receiving a chuckle in return.

“Just to hang out. He doesn’t drink,” his friend explained. Butters smiled.

“Yeah, I don’t like it.”

“We’ll get an Uber back to my place when he starts getting tired,” Kenny explained, glancing back at Kyle. “Looks like you’re on your own for a ride back home. Sorry, Kyle.”

“Don’t be,” the redhead replied shortly, unable to help his clipped tone. He was sure he knew how this night would go. Stan would show up late and hang out with Wendy alone in the pool or something while and Craig and Tweek played video games together, and Clyde and Bebe drank, and Token and Nichole…

Why was he going to this party, again?

“Hey, Kyle? Why’re you lookin’ so sad?”

Kyle glanced over, meeting the light-blue gaze with a slight wince and a smile. Damn, the kid was way too sweet. The redhead couldn’t help but wonder how he and Kenny seemed to be such a perfect match, given the level of sexual perversion and general worldliness Kenny had that Butters obviously still lacked. Some of Kenny’s words played themselves in his mind again, the ones about how being with Butters made Kenny feel like he didn’t have to be afraid.

“I’m fine,” he played off, waving and throwing his bag on over one shoulder. “I’ll see you guys later.”

His gut twisted, and he stood up at the ring of the school bell, shoving his textbooks in his backpack and heading down the hall.

--

Token’s old house had been incredibly nice, but his newer one was even nicer, if that was possible.

Kyle strode over the main walkway of polished rock and up to the front door with Kenny at his side, carrying one of the cartons of hard lemonade under his left arm and a plastic bag filled with solo cups on his right wrist. The front yard was coated in thick, green grass, and was spotted with various large fruit trees, and lined with tall pines that shone slightly with swaths of dew. A giant fountain caught his attention in the center of the main lot, squirting delicate curls of water through the air and burbling gently beneath the soft buzzing of the summer cicadas. The evening was beginning to settle around them as he rang the bell, looking up when the dark wood door swung open and revealed Token with a bottle of vodka and a smile.

“Hey, guys!” he greeted, stepping back and elbowing Kyle lightly in the arm. “You made it. I thought you might be cooped up in the library.”

“Fuck off,” Kyle replied with a slight grin, following Kenny into the almost palatial kitchen and trying to let the hum of the giant-screen TV in the living room soothe his nerves. Maybe a party was exactly what he needed. He could hang out with his friends, maybe play some beer pong, and, when he got sick of seeing people make out, send his mom a quick text and drink himself into blackout state. It wasn’t like it was a school night, after all, and Token had said his parents would be gone all weekend.

“You want me set up in here??” Kenny called over his shoulder, eyes following Token as he walked into the kitchen from the side door near the SmartFridge.

“Yeah, that’s fine. Feel free to leave your post and have a good time once shit starts getting fun,” Token replied, pulling a few liquor bottles out of the shiny black cupboards above the microwave.

“Note taken,” the blond snickered, and Kyle glanced over at him, arms stilling in the bag.

“Butters is still coming, right?”

“Oh, yeah. He said he has to make his excuses to his parents before he can get the bus,” Kenny explained, glancing over when Token sent him a pointed stare.

“Kenny, you’re still dating that guy? It’s been, like…a while.”

“I know, right? I guess it’s the real deal.”

Kyle sighed, tuning out the background conversation as he unboxed the lemonades and helped Token pull down more booze from various cupboards.

“Hey, Kyle…” Token tried slowly, opening the fridge and taking out a big platter of chilled bean dip before setting it on the kitchen island. “There’s…a serious rumor going around.”

“What, that I have a girlfriend?” the redhead replied immediately, fully aware that people had been saying various things. “I don’t.”

“Uh, maybe not a girlfriend,” Token explained.

Kyle gulped. So help him god, if Craig had said something he was going to beat the living shit out of him…

“Then…what?”

“Like, a hookup, maybe?” his friend asked, setting down a bottle of Jim Beam. “Are you on Tinder?”

“Why does everybody keep thinking I’m having sex with some random person?!” he sighed in exasperation, deliberately keeping his eyes off of Kenny and grabbing the bag of tortilla chips from the marble countertop next to the sink. He opened his mouth to say something else, but sniffled, and looked around quickly, stealing a napkin from beside the coffee pot and turning to blow his nose.

Maybe once he got trashed enough, his head would stop throbbing with the beginnings of what were obviously the flu.

“Hey, I’m sorry. I’ll drop it,” Token promised, feeling a little guilty and offering Kyle a soft smile when he looked up. “Tonight’s all about fun. I’m gonna tell people to grab a room upstairs if they start getting too gross.”

“How many rooms do you have in this place??” Kenny asked in awe, helping Kyle pour out the tortilla chips into the large dish. Token shook his head.

“Fifteen bedrooms. Dad kind of went overboard.”

“Can I move in when we graduate?” the blond inquired jovially, glancing over his shoulder when the doorbell rang again.

Kyle’s phone tingled at his hip, and he excused himself to go to the restroom, heading down the hallway and staring down at the notification.

i woke up hard this morning

Kyle immediately recalled Cartman’s last tasteless joke and winced, finding the bathroom down one of the wide hallways and shutting the door behind him as an entirely unwelcome pang rocketed through his nether regions. It really wasn’t at all fair what the guy did to him, especially since he probably wasn’t even having to try very hard.

You're sick

heh yep

wanna come over??

His ears burned as he leaned against the countertop beside the bathroom sink, looking at his slightly pale-faced reflection in the large mirror opposite.

I’m at a party

Token’s?

He gulped, once again wondering how everybody seemed to know about it.

Yeah

dude wtf i wanna come

You’re at school fat-ass

i get out early on fridays

Everybody will see you

eh so what

Cartman wouldn’t actually show up…would he? Kyle knew better than to put things past him, even things that seemed unlikely.

And why do you even want to?

to get my lips around your cock again

Kyle had to set his phone down and pushed a hand against his mouth, ears burning. God damn it. He had sort of been hoping that all of these sexual encounters with Cartman would turn out to be a messed-up dream, or a result of hallucinations from school-related stress, but it seemed like he actually had let himself be roped into this. Why did he find him so hot??

yeahh you’d like that huh??

tease that hot tip with my tongue

suck you dry

Don’t do this right now

and then when ur ready

maybe I’ll bend you over and get a nice taste of that sweet little hole

Kyle had never sexted in his life. Hell, he had never even FLIRTED with someone over a text. Maybe that was why he felt like he was sweating, and the tightness in his pants was so sudden and so unwelcome.

I am gonna hit you so hard

mm yeah

do it

spank me Kyle

i’ve been a bad girl

That was the single corniest line of dirty talk Kyle had ever bore witness to, and it still made his fucking cock twitch. Cartman actually did seem to be into him. If nothing else, the night before had proven that. His mind flickered to those weird orange bottles that were sitting on Cartman’s nightstand, and he wondered what types of psycho drugs the guy was probably on at that very moment.

Taking a deep breath, Kyle washed his hands to keep them busy and observed his hatless reflection one final time, blowing his nose and disposing of the tissue carefully in the appropriate bin before shoving his phone back into his pocket and heading back out.

God damn it. He was going to have fun tonight if it killed him.

By the time the redhead had returned to the main area, he saw Nichole in the kitchen doorway holding a paper bag in one arm, and smelled the unmistakable scent of pizza. Deciding that food would keep him relatively busy until the party really began, he made his way back into the kitchen and, surprised to see several boxes propped up by the “bar”, helped himself to a slice of cheese and greeted the girl, catching Kenny’s eye across the tops of the bottles.

“Hit me with a margarita,” he decided, meeting the blond’s grin.

“Lime or strawberry?”

“Surprise me.”

About an hour in, enough people had already shown up that Kyle was starting to feel more relaxed. Well, that, and he was starting to get slightly buzzed, so he was pretty sure the alcohol was helping settle his nerves. Craig eventually appeared at the door with Tweek in tow, the latter in a pink scarf that was wrapped snugly around his neck and shoulders, and Kyle let them both inside and walked with them into the kitchen.

“You look fucked up,” Craig stated flatly, casting steely blue eyes in Kyle’s direction as he let Tweek survey the alcohol options. Kyle snorted, sniffling and realizing he was probably getting a little more flushed than normal.

“I wasn’t gonna wait for your permission to drink, asshole.”

Tweek whimpered, and Craig patted him on the shoulder soothingly, squeezing his upper arm.

“Well, you’d better be able to chug. I want to play King’s Cup.”

“Count me in,” Kyle replied and picked up his cup, carrying it into the living area and sitting down on the plush carpet. The bouncy rave music playing from the TV filled any silence as he walked over to the coffee table, taking a seat on the floor next to the armchair and grinning as Token sat down next to him with a pair of dice.

As people gathered around the table, Nichole opposite them and Bebe to the side with her bright green hair bow, the redhead wondered what it was going to be like in May, when he moved away. Would their faces stick with him, or would they become less familiar, just more faces on his timeline to mingle with those of his new friends and classmates in college? Would he miss them?

He heard the door close again in the distance, and looked up from his plastic cup and over towards the hallway, spotting his best friend standing there in his grass-stained football jersey with a carton of regular beer and a smile on his face.

“Hey, dude!” Stan greeted cheerfully, taking in the sight before him and dropping the carton of bottles to the side as he ran over. “Are we doing King’s Cup? Wait for me, okay?”

Tasting something sour, Kyle smiled back at him, and ignored the buzzing in his pocket.

--

Chapter Text

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Kyle couldn’t really remember if he was on his third or fourth drink at that point, since Kenny, the epic ghost of a mix-master that he was, had been circling their King’s Cup group and refilling solo cups as they went dry. As people continued to file into the party through Token’s front door, helping themselves to snacks and booze in the kitchen and hovering around the living room, the group of ten teenagers that sat at the polished coffee table began to increase their volume, populating the dim room with laughs and chatter.

“Okay, okay,” Clyde stuttered through his snorting chuckles, similarly hammered on Kyle’s right as he grinned through the flickering light of the nearby fireplace. “My turn, hold up.”

The plastic dice clattered onto the surface of the coffee table, and one of them went tumbling off the edge, falling onto the hardwood floor.

“It still counts!” Token shouted over the thrumming Drake beat emanating from the TV speakers, arm around Nichole and free hand on his own cup.

“Okay, er…four and one…Five! Guys drink!”

Clyde sat up woozily from grabbing for the die, and Kyle grinned, tossing his concoction back. After his initial margarita, a pink and fizzing strawberry-flavored cupful that Kenny had formulated himself, Kyle had requested a couple more surprises, and again found the blond at his left when he looked up. Kenny was pouring two bottles into the mouth of his cup and over the remaining ice cubes at the bottom.

“Broflovski special,” the blond promised, holding up the bottle of Dr. Pepper and winking. Despite having already taken a swig that same turn, Kyle raised the cup to his mouth again, immediately tasting the strong bite of vodka and leaning forward to cough hard.

“Fuck, dude!”

“It’s a Dr. Kevorkian,” Kenny cajoled and elbowed him, moving over to the other side of the table to give Butters a kiss to the forehead.

Kyle’s lips stung a little as he leaned across the table, taking in the laughter and loud conversation. His eyes swept around the perimeter until Clyde elbowed him roughly in the ribs.

“Your turn, dude.”

“Oh,” the redhead replied, running a hand through his hatless head of curls as he reached for the dice and shook them clumsily in his palm, having to cup his hands together to avoid dropping them prematurely. Nobody had remembered to bring a pack of cards, so they had opted to use dice instead, which was starting to result in a lot of clumsiness amongst the group. He caught Wendy’s eye from across the table, where she sat beside Stan with her cup in her manicured hand, and looked away, able to tell she was giving him a look.

Okay, so he could tell he was getting pretty trashed, but that was the fucking point!

“Eight!” Kyle totaled, voice raising loudly over the rest of the chatter.

“What’s eight?” Clyde asked, voice slurred.

“I pick whoever has to drink with me for the rest- the rest of the game,” Kyle stated, gaze moving across the table. Stan looked back at him with a blink, clearly having been distracted with one of his arms around Wendy’s shoulders. In his haze, Kyle remembered that day in the computer lab a couple of months back, the entwining of bodies and Stan’s arm all the way up Wendy’s shirt.

It was no secret that he and Stan were spending less time together nowadays, but that wasn’t exactly by his choosing. If anything, Kyle was really starting to feel forgotten. They only had a few more weeks, after all, and he might not even see Stan again after that. As much as he had tried to play it off, he couldn’t help but feel the residual sting from that text message he had received that night in Berkeley, all alone in his hotel room with the cold air-conditioning blowing down over his half-dressed body.

kyle im so sorry

Something sour churned inside him, and without hesitation, he locked his eyes on the male with the dark bangs and blue eyes, raising his cup in the air.

“You’re drinking with me, now, asshole!”

“Whatever, dude,” Stan replied with a roll of eyes and a half-smile, watching as Bebe snatched the dice from Kyle’s left and rolled. Kyle actually snickered to himself in amusement, swaying slightly and leaning on one elbow. If only his mother knew where he was right now.

If only his dad knew…well, if he was still around, that was. Man, his thoughts got weird when he was blitzed.

A few more rounds in, somewhere between Token’s roll of snake-eyes and Nichole’s start of her singing-around-the-table turn, Kyle realized his cup was empty again and glanced over his shoulder, world spinning slightly when he realized that his current favorite blond was nowhere to be found.

“Be right back,” he stated and got up, ignoring a flat-voiced jeer from Craig and heading slowly into the kitchen.

Kyle actually felt that he should be rather proud of himself, given his ability to walk with the moderate swirling of his surroundings. He made his way into the kitchen past the fridge, not seeing Kenny behind the makeshift bar where he’d hoped he’d be, and instead being greeted with a grey-shirted blond standing over by the sink.

Kyle’s green eyes fell, focusing in on a small, orange bottle in the trembling hands.

“Hey,” he announced himself more loudly than he had meant to.

The blond literally screamed, and looked up at Kyle with nervous grey eyes, clutching hold of the item in both hands as if afraid he’d throw it into the air by mistake.

“Ahh! J-Jesus Christ, man!”

“Sorry,” Kyle replied, watching as Tweek nervously set the little white cap down onto the countertop. His attention skimmed over what he could see of the label, recognizing the leading X and reaching a hand out as a familiar image flashed in his mind.

“What’s that shit?”

Glancing up, Tweek shook a couple of little rectangular pills into his open hand, staring at Kyle unsurely.

“My meds,” he explained, tossing the pills back and drinking from his big plastic Starbucks cup to wash them down. Kyle rubbed at one of his eyes, sniffling, trying to forget about the rearing flu that was still collecting thickly at the back of his throat.

“You take stuff?”

“I’m on Xanax,” the blond admitted, recapping the bottle and tucking it into his pocket. Kyle vaguely realized something, and reached out, lightly shoving him by the arm in a moment of alcohol-induced roughness he wouldn’t have normally applied.

“No wonder y’ haven’t been drinking shit.”

“I’m not supposed to drink with my pills,” Tweek stated, frowning slightly and backing up. “Wh-What’s your problem?”

“What’s it for?” the redhead interrupted, cheeks flushed as he stumbled backwards on one foot and leaned against the countertop. Tweek stared at him flatly.

“What do you think, huh?? The fact that I’m- nnh, an anxious mess!”

Something halted in Kyle’s mind for the moment, bringing him back to that night in a familiar bedroom, sitting against a dresser littered with orange pill bottles.

“Anxious mess,” he repeated, and the blond chewed slightly on his chapped bottom lip.

“Yeah, I-I gotta take it twice a day so I don’t get panic attacks and freak the fuck out,” Tweek explained, taking a deep breath in through his nose and seeming a little less fidgety already. “It helps with my… my nightmares, and I don’t get stomachaches as much.”

Kyle stood for a moment, eyeing the countertop and visualizing the familiar label in his mind.

“Hey, Kyle, nnh, um…”

When he looked up, Tweek was a little closer, nervous and bony hands clutched into the fabric of the grey shirt. Kyle just stared, confused by the sudden proximity and feeling tempted to push him away.

“Are…” Tweek’s voice became quiet. “Are you…going out with Cartman?”

If the world had been spinning before, Kyle physically had to grip onto the edge of the countertop this time, bowled over by a sudden and harsh jolt of shock. Feeling as though he had been plunged into the depths of Stark’s Pond in the middle of December, heart seizing up in horror, Kyle shoved himself back upright and stepped into Tweek’s space, stopping a few inches away from his chest.

“Where the fuck did you hear that?” he asked loudly, voice raising.

Kenny? No. It couldn’t be. Kenny had promised not to tell a soul. Who else fucking would know-

“I-I- oh, Jesus, I’m sorry!”

“Who told you?!” Kyle all but shouted, hearing footsteps and looking up into familiar blue eyes that peeked in from the hallway.

“What the fuck is going on?” Craig asked, eyes narrow with anger as he walked past the kitchen island and yanked Kyle back away from Tweek. Realization dawning on him, Kyle spun around and faced the newcomer, shoving an accusatory finger at him.

“What’d you fucking tell him?”

“Back off from Tweek, you drunk piece of shit.”

“Are you telling everybody I’m fuck- fucking with a guy?” the redhead asked in a harsh ‘whisper’, stumbling slightly as he was yanked back and asserting himself into Craig’s space instead. His heart pumped fast in his ears, sending sparks of anger up and down his arms.

“I didn’t say shit,” the dark-haired male admitted, seeming a little less angry and more confused as he sent a glance to his timid boyfriend. Tweek trembled noticeably, leaning a little into Craig’s side.

Kyle opened his mouth to make another accusation, when Tweek blinked his wet eyes and shrank back slightly, holding onto his lover’s bicep.

“I just- I heard Stan say…that you and Cartman were hanging out…and…”

Slow, deep pulses of horror began to surge through Kyle’s veins, spreading with licks of fiery rage, tingling in his fingers and down to his toes. His chest tightened, and he took in a deep breath, teeth gritting hard and jaw tight.

“Hey, Stan!” he called out, feeling a hand on his arm and yanking it off harshly as he toed his way back to the kitchen door.

“Dude, stop it-”

“Stan!” he called again and continued his way unsteadily into the living room, voice ringing out over the hip-hop beat that hummed in the background. Upon approaching the table, the redhead focused in on the familiar face, catching his shocked eyes with his own.

“…Kyle?” Stan inquired and looked up, voice slightly slurred as he took his hand off Wendy’s shoulder.

“What the fuck have you been spreading around?!” he asked loudly, taking another aggressive step forwards. Brows rising slightly, Stan got to his feet and stepped past the crowd of confused faces, reaching a spot a few feet back from the redhead’s aggressive stance.

Token’s words from earlier passed through his mind. If some of their classmates already knew he was messing around with somebody...then it had to be originating from somewhere. How Stan had figured out his and Cartman’s arrangement was beyond him, but it didn’t really matter. Did the guy have no fucking logic? Why would he go talking behind Kyle’s back to everybody in their class about it??

“Dude, what are you talking about?” Stan asked, blue eyes large in confusion.

Rage surged inside him, beating harshly against the insides of his ribs. Kyle took another step forwards, and shoved both hands up against the other’s chest, forcing him back a pace.

“You know what I’m talking about,” he spat, stepping forwards with his shoulders tense.

“Fuck!” Stan gasped, catching his footing in obvious surprise. “What’s your problem?”

“You’re my fucking problem!”

“Kyle, you’re trashed.”

“Stop spreading rumors about my goddamn sex life!” Kyle shouted, reaching out to grab a fistful of Stan’s jersey. Frowning, the dark-haired teen reached out and gripped hard onto Kyle’s wrist, forcing his arm back and away from him.

“I’m not spreading anything!”

“Then how the fuck does Tweek know all this shit?!”

Someone said Kyle’s name from somewhere in the background, but the redhead focused his attention on his friend who stood across from him, eyes angry.

“What, that you’re hooking up with someone?” Stan replied, taking a step backwards towards one of the armchairs with a darkening look. “Jeeze, Kyle, maybe because you keep being so goddamn obvious about it.”

Something hollow and sickening swirled inside Kyle, and he actually stumbled where he stood, eyes large in shock.

“You’re full of shit,” he spat, pulse hammering in the base of his throat as his vision darkened slightly. This was an absolute, unadulterated nightmare.

“Oh, really?” Stan asked, shoving Kyle lightly by the shoulder. “You keep walking around with fucking hickies all over your neck. Everybody knows. I didn’t have to say anything.”

Was he?? Kyle’s brain spun, gears clicking, trying to force things into place. No, that couldn’t be true…

“Don’t play stupid!” he yelled, surging forwards and gripping Stan by his upper arms. “Don’t act like you don’t know anything!”

“I DON’T know anything!” Stan shouted back at him, voice hoarse with a streak of confused anger as he stiffened under the assault. “You never fucking tell me anything anyways anymore!”

“I don’t tell you anything?!” Kyle practically screamed, feeling hands around his arm and shunting his elbow backwards into whoever was gripping hold of him.

“Kyle, chill the fuck out!”

“Fuck you!” the redhead shouted, breaking away from Craig’s grasp. “You didn’t fucking tell me you were going to UCD!”

Stan shoved against him, hands pressing into Kyle’s collarbone in the tight proximity as he breathed hot air against his face.

“Kyle, calm down, shit!” he shouted, struggling the break out of the redhead’s grasp.

“And you didn’t fucking tell me you weren’t going to pick me up in Denver!”

“You’re being a psycho!” Stan yelled, holding him in place. Kyle seethed.

“And you’re being a shitty friend!”

“You’re the one who’s been treating everybody like shit since Christmas!”

“You’re the one telling everybody I’m fucking Cartman!”

Stan’s blue eyes swam, staring with horror and obvious confusion, but it was too late.

“Cart-”

“FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!”

Kyle thrust his knee up into the muscle of Stan’s abdomen, a whiff of grass and soil stains from the jersey bursting up into his face. His fingernails buried themselves into Stan’s shoulders, and the shorter body surged up against his suddenly, muscle and bone slamming the both of them harshly into the wall next to Token’s TV.

There was a chorus of gasps and shouts from the captive audience, but Kyle merely pushed himself forwards against the sputtering male, body shaking with rage.

“I hope I never fucking see you again!” Kyle managed through gasps as he found himself pinned, staring into the angry and wet gaze he knew so well.

“Yeah, you know what??” Stan asked, tone rough. “Me too.”

The thump of his knees against the floor sent Kyle’s abdomen into a thick seize. Elbows shoved against his ribs, sending painful shocks of pain into his lungs, and the redhead slammed his tense fist directly into the raven hair, feeling the sweat flicker against his knuckles.

“Shit!”

Kyle choked as he was suddenly forced back against the nearby couch among shouts and yells, kicking, trying to grab hold of his adversary to slam him back and away. His feet caught purchase, and he shunted his weight up onto the backs of his heels, swaying forwards unexpectedly when-

Stars. Pain exploded behind his vision, wiping it white, as the deafening crunch rattled deep within his ears. Hot liquid poured from between his lips as he tumbled from against the couch and back down to the floor, hands coming up to clutch at his open mouth.

He couldn’t breathe. Throat thick with blood and mucus, he descended into a fit of wet and bubbling coughs, tasting copper over his lips, his teeth, his-

His tongue moved against the roof of his mouth and he screamed, closing his eyes as his vision blurred. The voices around him erupted loudly, clustering together in exclamations and shouts.

“Holy shit!”

“What the fuck did you do?!”

“Stan!”

Shakily, Kyle pushed a hand more firmly to his lips. He wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol, or just his own staunch and unflinching character, but he pushed himself slowly back up to his knees, agony screaming behind his eyeballs as he stared at his “best friend” with tears streaming down his face.

Stan looked back at him in horror, skin around his eye blotchy and blue as he raised a shaking finger and gestured to the floor.

Kyle looked down, eyeing the pool of blood as another nauseating surge of pain passed through him.

“Kyle!”

Hands came underneath his armpits, and the redhead tensed as he felt himself being moved to his feet. He braced himself, legs stiffening, and blinked as bright blue eyes came into view past his cataract of streaming tears, a sob welling in his throat.

“Hey, stay with me. Do I need to call 911?”

Humiliation began to settle inside him as he picked out the various gazes, seeing Wendy’s light gold, Stan’s grey-blue, and Kyle shoved Kenny weakly to the side, hand still clamped hard over his lips and chin as he staggered out of the room and into the hallway.

A nub of flesh against the roof of his mouth confirmed it. He had bitten through his tongue and part of his cheek, and the blood was still dripping down into his shirt, smearing against his chest and clavicles.

Sparks danced in his vision as he slowly forced himself down the curb of the hall, free hand against the wall, moving shakily against the cream-colored paint. He didn’t want them looking at him. He didn’t want them knowing, seeing…

When an open door came into view on his right, he forced himself to turn, only to catch honey-brown eyes that he knew even better than he knew his own.

Cartman stared, and Kyle took a sudden step backwards, hand leaving his mouth for a moment.

The world spun, and Kyle reached out, only to find himself suspended mid-fall. He inhaled sharply through his nose in a gasp, shuddering hard in agony when his teeth grazed past his open wounds, and stared wide-eyed at the man who pressed up against him, the one who owned those two arms that were keeping him from tumbling over.

“Kyle,” Cartman stated, pupils blown wide in obvious shock. Shivering, feeling something sharp pulse inside his chest, Kyle opened his mouth to speak, only for blood and saliva to immediately stream down over his bottom lip and slosh onto the front of his shirt.

The thinner boy didn’t think he had ever seen somebody look so incredibly terrified. Starting to get freaked out, wondering how bad he must have looked, Kyle reached up with the half-hearted intention of shoving Cartman away when he felt both arms lock around him, pulling him into what looked like a guest bedroom with a made bed and a table lamp in the corner of the room.

“What happened??” came the voice in his ear, and Kyle winced as he felt an arm at the backs of his knees, world swaying.

“Ch…S…” Afraid to talk, Kyle just shook his head and tried to look over that jacketed shoulder. The round face came back into view, and he realized he was being sat down against the edge of the bed, backside sinking into the plush rug on the floor.

“Who did this to you?!”

“Stohp,” Kyle attempted, pressing a hand back over his mouth. Why was Cartman staring at him like that?! The honey-eyed gaze was unnerving, boring into him, gazing like he was on his death-bed, or something.

Not wanting to be seen like this, he leaned backwards and let his eyes lid, hearing a shuffling.

Suddenly, a hand was against the side of his face, and he opened his eyes fully to see something white just out of his field of vision.

“Open your mouth.”

Kyle turned his face away, feeling something wet drip against the inside of his wrist. He cursed himself for crying, until he caught Cartman’s expression, and was stunned by the wet eyes and trails along those soft cheeks.

What the fuck-

His mouth fell open, and, after a couple of seconds, he felt the soft fabric pressing against the top of his tongue.

“Yeah…okay, close it now.”

He didn’t really have a choice. Gingerly, lulled in by the shockingly genuine stare, Kyle let his bruised lips fall back together, feeling the cloth as it put pressure on the top of his pierced muscle. His heart hammered in his chest when he felt two hands back at the sides of his face, tilting his head as those brown eyes ran slowly over the rest of him.

For a moment, there was just breathing. Kyle’s brain swam with the impossibilities of the situation, the fact that Cartman was even there, first of all. How had he gotten there? WHY was he there? It was almost like Tweek’s party before Christmas the year before, where he had shown up wholly uninvited and pretty much assaulted Kyle in the bathroom. This time, though, it was different.

This Cartman was no longer a stranger, Kyle realized as the other sat between his legs.

Something cold made contact with the skin under his eye, and he turned his face aside again, feeling the softness of what seemed to be a second cloth skimming over his cheek and chin.

“Oh my god,” Kyle heard him mutter, and glanced up unsurely, wondering why his heart was beginning to pound.

The brunet used his hands to tilt Kyle’s head at various angles, exhibiting an impressive gentleness as he wiped the wet cloth over his cheeks, chin, temples, throat. It occurred to Kyle that his companion was wiping the various body fluids away, and he shrank back suddenly against the mattress, not at all liking how vulnerable it felt.

Cartman stopped immediately, and Kyle heard him curse under his breath.

“Fuck. You okay?”

“…” Kyle forced himself to nod, and caught Cartman by the eyes.

The look there was, well, intense to say the least. He looked focused, cheeks wet and pink, as he continued wiping along Kyle’s face with a dedication and a care that the redhead had never seen him exhibit before. At their close proximity, he could smell the shampoo again- that blue stuff that sort of smelled like a dollar-store ocean, with a hint of coconut in it. Teeth clamped around what Kyle could only assume was a washcloth from god-knew-where, he winced and gave Cartman an unsure stare.

Why on Earth was he doing this?

“Kyle, look at me,” Cartman eventually urged, taking one of Kyle’s shoulders in each hand. Kyle did so, wondering why he didn’t feel more afraid. As a rule, Kyle didn’t like feeling defenseless, especially in front of, well…this guy.

“Do you need to go to the hospital?”

Kyle shook his head fervently. It was still fucking agonizing, but he was more certain now that his tongue was still in one piece, and, shockingly enough, the makeshift compress Cartman had placed between his lips seemed to be staunching a lot of the blood flow.

“Are you sure?”

He nodded this time, sniffling, feeling the fever in his forehead and throughout his face. Something very bizarre twisted down inside him as he looked Cartman, watching his brown eyes, shocked by the concern there.

“’M ffine,” he managed underneath the cloth, shifting.

The mere situation seemed pretty surreal, that in a dim room in Token’s mansion, Cartman would show up somehow and quite literally take action for his fucking agonizing injury. Had this happened any sooner, Kyle would have automatically assumed it was a trick- that Cartman was going to pull out his phone and take a picture, or maybe finish the job on his tongue that his teeth had already started. Instead, though, he felt the soft body sidle up against him, and Kyle reached up and gripped onto Cartman’s back for leverage.

His fluttering heart now beat at a normal pace beneath his eardrums, thumping, pumping slowly despite the shooting pain. Stan’s words echoed in Kyle’s head again, and the redhead seized up suddenly, tears gathering freshly in his eyes.

This was his fuckbuddy. The guy who sexted him distractingly during school hours. The man who snuck into his house late at night and left through the window when their business was done. His best friend had put him in this position, and this asshole who probably didn’t care at all had to be the one to help him get through it, except…

Except Cartman’s hands rubbing his back didn’t exactly feel like they didn’t care.

Oh god, fuck. He was so confused.

Sniffling, Kyle tried to shrink away, congested and tasting blood and feeling tears starting to run again. Cartman stared down at him with shock, eyes darting around over him.

“Shit, fuck, what’s wrong? I-”

“Wht d’ya want?” Kyle asked despite the searing pain, affixing Cartman with a serious look. Cartman stared back like he didn’t understand the question, which prodded Kyle’s mounting irritation further.

He opened his mouth to speak again, and cringed when another rivulet of blood slipped past his lips and down his chin.

The cold cloth was back, and Kyle became suddenly aware of how the brunet’s body was pushed up close against his as Cartman cleaned his face.

“Shh, don’t talk.”

“FFfuck,” Kyle immediately disobeyed, tasting the metallic flavor against his teeth. Before he could do anything more, though, the sound of running footsteps rang out loudly from down the hall, and the redhead immediately recognized his name.

“Kyle?! Hey, Kyle! I’m sorry! Kyle?!”

He tensed, sitting up, and Cartman looked down at him, catching Kyle’s eye in obvious thought. Unable to move much, the redhead shifted and merely looked over towards the open door, watching as his best friend of a decade came into view.

“Kyle! I was loo-” Stan stopped in the doorway, face smeared with a little blood and sporting a very obvious black eye and bruised cheek. Kyle locked eyes with him, and then looked over, watching, gut cold as brown eyes met with blue.

The figure in the doorway stilled, jersey rumpled and hair a mess over his shocked gaze.

“H-Holy…What the hell are you doing?!” he shouted, taking a step forwards. Kyle opened his mouth in an effort to come up with something, anything to say when the cloth fell from his cheek and Cartman got to his feet.

“Hello, Stan.”

“Get away from him,” Stan replied, moving forward slightly. Kyle watched, frozen, as Cartman got to his full height, standing with his chest out and with a placid, unmoving expression.

“Kyle’s speech is a little compromised right now, golden boy,” he stated coolly in a tone that sent a chill up Kyle’s spine.

Kyle recognized that voice.

“So why don’t you tell me who touched him?”

Inexplicably, Kyle felt something very confusing and very warm swelling up inside his abdomen, and he halted his attempts to pull himself to his feet by gripping the top of the mattress.

What…?

“You weren’t even fucking invited, fat-ass,” Stan slurred slightly, sounding rather sure of himself, though, as he stared up at Cartman challengingly. “I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“Stan, jus-…go,” Kyle gulped from his place on the floor, drawing both sets of eyes onto him. Stan faltered.

“Kyle- I didn’t mean to…it was an accident-”

With three quick paces, Cartman had effectively backed the shorter figure up against the wall beside the door. Stan shouted, and shoved up against him, startling Kyle out of his momentary silence.

There was a silent beat of shock amongst all three in the room, when another familiar figure ran into view.

“Kyle?!” Kenny shouted when he laid eyes on the three figures. Quickly, though, despite his open-mouthed stare, the blond darted over and sat down next to the redhead, taking in his visage and looking up at Stan and Cartman.

The brunet took a slow breath, and stepped to the side.

“So help me god,” was the whisper, low and dark, as Cartman stared down the three incredulous faces. Inexplicably, Kyle felt his heart seize, and the brunet turned around and hurriedly left the room, leaving both sets of blue eyes to move onto Kyle instead.

It had been years, perhaps decades, since Kyle’s entire being had felt quite so shaken. As Kenny helped him to his feet, putting an arm around his shoulders, and Stan stood by with an incredulous expression on his face, Kyle found himself staring down at the floor, somehow not courageous enough to look either of them in the face.

“Dude, did you bite through your tongue? Are you okay to go?” the blond asked, sounding slightly unsure. “I told everybody not to chase after you. I thought you might not want people, um, y’know…”

Seeing him like this. Kyle got it. He nodded and turned his head, still muffled by the washcloth in his mouth and dizzy from the alcohol in his system as he chanced a look at at Stan. Stan caught his eyes, and then looked away.

“All right. I just have to grab Leo and we can get an Uber.” The redhead allowed himself to be maneuvered out of the room, Kenny helping him walk as his inebriation caused him to stumble. Kyle felt a separate hand on his forearm, and immediately pulled his arm away, not meeting Stan’s eyes this time.

When they met the front door, Kyle heard footsteps and looked up to see Token staring at him in obvious horror, vaguely aware of eyes on the back of his head and choosing not to meet them.

“Jesus Christ,” his friend breathed. “Are you okay? Do you want to stay the night?”

“I think he just wants to go home,” Kenny stated, looking to the side when a familiar blond ran up and into view

“Oh, hamburgers!” Butters shouted at the sight of the three, suddenly twitching at the loud blaring of an alarm from outside.

Frowning, Token opened the front door and walked out in front of the group, heading through the front lawn path under the dark sky and out towards the street. He stopped abruptly, and cast a slow glance back at the other four. Stan looked out, seemingly freezing, before he burst out into a sudden run, leaving Kenny and Kyle to follow after him.

“Dude, what’s going on??”

“That’s my fucking- my…”

When the street came into sight, everybody stopped walking. The old silver truck was blasting its alarm in loud pulses, flashing its headlights, sitting parked where Stan had presumably left it next to the sidewalk. Glittering fragments of glass were littered over the decorative rocks and asphalt under the nearby streetlight, spilling out over the hood and over the dashboard inside. White paint had been sprayed across the side door, swirling in sharp curves and angles over the rims, and over the tires that were flat and sagging against the street.

"I think..." Stan started, turning towards Kyle with a hollow voice.

“Your fucking boyfriend trashed my car."

Kyle coughed blood into his sleeve.

--

Chapter Text

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Perhaps the only saving grace of Kyle’s current skewered-tongue chest-flu situation was the fact that everything had come to a head on a Friday night.

Currently seated up against the headboard of his bed, three pillows behind his back and laptop balanced on his knees, Kyle shifted uncomfortably and took a sip of the chocolate milk on his bedside table through a plastic straw. He had been holed up at home for the past three days, being waited on more than necessary and riding out his remaining sniffling and coughs. Since it was finally Monday, he had been able to convince his mother that he could survive alone at home while she went to work that day, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t already received three text messages regarding his wellbeing.

That night… The redhead winced at the thought of it, staring down at the floor. Kenny and Stan had chauffeured Kyle back to his house, upon which Sheila, at the sight of him with a stuffed mouth and blood on his chin, had understandably screamed the house down. Kyle supposed he really owed Kenny some lunch, or something. The blond had an incredible capacity for calming people down. He had managed to explain the situation to her, omitting a lot of the grizzlier details regarding the fight and presenting the events of the night as a tipsy accident, while Stan kept away in the background and remained pretty silent.

Above all, Kyle was exceedingly grateful that nobody had seen fit to mention the night’s explosive finale regarding Stan’s truck.

Honestly, aside from the very brief scolding Kyle had gotten regarding drinking, Sheila hadn’t come down on him too hard. Kyle was a little surprised he hadn’t gotten in more trouble. “I was your age, once, Kyle,” she had told him, checking his temperature with a thermometer between his lips. “I just want you to be safe, all right? These things happen when people don’t have their wits about them. Thank God you weren’t hurt worse!”

Kyle sometimes felt like he didn’t deserve his mother.

There was, however, still a heavy bucket of things weighing on his mind as he sat in bed, eyeing the light that passed in through the curtains. Since he could now speak, but his tongue still hurt, Sheila had insisted that he stay home for at least another day or two, which he had complied with without much complaint.

His phone vibrated beside him, and he looked down, seeing the name of his ‘best friend’ over the top of the screen.

hey can I come over?

Kyle realized it was nearly three o’ clock, and sent back the affirmative, skin itching.

There was no doubt in his mind that he and Stan needed to have a talk. Stan had gotten an Uber back home that night, but not before briefly casting a glance at Kyle that Kyle had had no problem reading.

The truck…

The redhead groaned and got to his feet, throwing on a jacket over his pajamas and glancing at his pale self in the wall mirror. How was he supposed to have known Cartman would go that far?? Hell, Kyle still had no idea WHY he had done what he had done.

He recalled the darkness in his voice, and swallowed hard, listening to the ring of the doorbell and toeing down the steps.

They ended up in Kyle’s backyard on the swing set that Gerald had installed for him and Ike when they were kids. Stan was in his purple beanie that day, and wore his usual dark-brown jacket and a tired expression as he sat to Kyle’s right and kicked his black vans in the wet dirt. Kyle sniffled from the swing beside him, awkwardly looking up at the cloudy sky.

“I’m sorry.”

The two spoke in unison, and glanced up at one another, surprised.

“Fuck,” Stan continued, face abashed and grey-blue eyes wide. “I’m-”

“It’s okay,” the redhead replied, relieved the ice was slightly broken as he looked over. “I started it. I drank too much.”

“I…listen,” Stan replied, voice weary. “You were right about what you said.”

Kyle raised his eyebrows slightly, focusing on the dark bruising around Stan’s cheek and eyeball.

“About me,” his friend clarified, hands tight on the chains of the swing. “I’ve been a shitty friend lately.”

“Stan,” Kyle replied, turning to face him and setting his hands into his lap. His back tensed, anticipating where the conversation would lead and trying not to think about it. “We just- we should have talked.”

There was a brief silence between them, punctuated by a slow sweep of spring breeze, and Stan sighed, lanky body sagging against the seat.

“Kyle, what’s going on with you?” was the question, honest and confused.

“I…I’ve been focusing too much on college?” Kyle replied, catching his friend’s eyes. Stan looked back at him, gaze slightly flat.

“I already know that. I’m talking about Cartman.”

A shiver made its way up Kyle’s spine, and he sat up a little straighter, looking away.

“It’s just some fucked-up shit,” the redhead settled on, feeling Stan’s eyes on him.

“What the hell was he doing at Token’s party?”

“I seriously have no idea,” Kyle replied, daring to glance over. “He just showed up.”

“Is he blackmailing you with something?”

“No!”

“Dude, you can tell me. We’ll call the cops and-”

“Don’t!”

Kyle snatched Stan’s hand before he could think not to, eyes large. Stan stared back incredulously, and Kyle swallowed hard, letting go slowly and staring at the mud beneath their legs.

“It’s- He’s going through a lot. He isn’t hurting anybody, okay?”

“Kyle,” Stan replied suspiciously, looking at the redhead sideways with a narrowed gaze. “This…Don’t tell me you guys are actually…”

Kyle glanced away immediately, sniffling and trying to ignore his sore tongue. His swing jilted, and he looked back over, seeing Stan grabbing onto his chain.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Stan said hollowly, face white in shock.

“It’s not what you think,” Kyle immediately shot back, looking similarly startled. He had been keeping their arrangement a secret successfully for so long, that he had never really considered how the fuck he’d explain it to anybody else.

“Dude, he was fucking holding onto you like a life raft. He literally tried to back me into a corner.”

“We aren’t dating!” Kyle promised, voice raising up a little higher. “Stan, it’s just- we just-”

“Do you kiss that guy?!”

“Only when we have s-…”

Stan jerked backwards on his swing so suddenly that he toppled into the dirt, feet in the air and eyes wild under his dark bangs.

“SEX?!”

“Shh!!”

“Je- Fucking SHIT, Kyle! Tell me you’re joking!!”

“Shut up!” Kyle hissed, tongue panging with a deep ache as it pressed against the roof of his mouth. Stan scrambled up to his feet, still looking like he’d seen a corpse floating in a pond, or something.

“Kyle, this…this is CARTMAN we are talking about here!” Stan said shakily, blinking wildly and hoisting a leg back over the swing seat so he was straddling the leather and facing Kyle entirely. “This has to be bullshit.”

“It is bullshit,” Kyle admitted, voice slightly hoarse as he paused to cough. His cheeks were hot and he winced, shrinking on the spot and shutting his eyes. “It was just- It’s just a stupid fling, Stan. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“That’s…” Stan’s voice was full of disbelief. He stared at Kyle, until Kyle looked back over again, pale lips parted and face white.

“That’s…who else knows about this?”

“Just Kenny,” Kyle admitted quietly, wincing. “I mean, he basically guessed. I didn’t have to tell him much.”

“Jesus Christ, Kyle!”

“I know,” the redhead stated, voice dulling as he pressed his face into his hands. “I’m…I just…”

There was no good explanation for it. He found Cartman hot, he supposed. That had to be the only reason he tolerated him, right?

“Please tell me he isn’t manipulating you.”

Kyle sniffled, and looked back warily at his friend, hearing the worry in his voice.

“He’s a psychopath,” Stan continued, mouth tugged into an uncertain line. “They put him away for a reason.”

“He’s not like that anymore,” Kyle promised, trying to sound sure of himself as he took a deep breath and sat up straighter. “He’s just...his home life sucks. He doesn’t hurt anybody.”

“He hurt my truck pretty bad!” Stan fired back immediately, still sounding more shocked than anything. Kyle grimaced, swallowing.

“Yeah…uh…”

“I told my parents I didn’t know who did it,” Stan continued, blinking a few times in a row as his obviously struggled in processing what he was hearing. “I didn’t want them, like, calling the cops and freaking out, but...”

“I’ll pay for it.”

Stan turned his head, and Kyle looked back at him with a bit lip.

“What?”

“You need to fix all the windows and get a set of new tires, right?” Kyle asked, feeling something unfamiliar shaking inside him. What…was wrong with him?

Stan seemed to echo his thoughts, staring back in utter shock.

“You’re kidding.”

“I’ve got a lot of inheritance,” the redhead stated, swallowing. “So, um, let’s just keep telling our parents we don’t know who it was. I’ll write you a check. I’ll tell my mom you’re paying me back.”

“This is Cartman’s fault!” Stan stated, leaning forward. “Kyle, we can just call the cops on him and make him pay for it.”

“He can’t,” Kyle stated. “He can’t even buy food, Stan. They’re broke. If you take him to court, you aren’t gonna get anything except a hassle.”

“And him stuck back in the nuthouse,” Stan replied bitterly, glancing up at Kyle with a wary intelligence that made Kyle stiffen from his shoulders to his toes.

“…Yeah,” Kyle agreed, kicking his heel on the ground and swinging slightly. “I’m eighteen. I’ve got enough money for college. I’ll just tell my mom I’m doing you a favor.”

“It’s going to be like three grand,” his friend explained, mimicking Kyle’s swinging motions slightly despite his shocked expression.

“Done,” Kyle promised. Stan faltered.

“Seriously??”

“Yes, Stan, just keep your mouth shut about Eric, okay?”

The shockwave between them was palpable in the air. Kyle realized his misstep and winced, again evading Stan’s bug-eyed fish-out-of-water stare.

“You’re…you really are fucking Cartman!”

“Keep your voice down!”

“The hickies- that’s-” Suddenly, Stan swayed on the swing as though he were going to pass out, and Kyle gripped hold of the chain, staring his friend unsurely in the eye.

“Yes, okay?! It’s him.”

“You didn’t tell me!”

“Yeah, ‘cause I knew you’d freak the fuck out like this!”

“Of COURSE I’m freaking out!” Stan stated like it was obvious, putting a hand to his chest like his heart was threatening to beat out of it. “You and Cartman HATE each other!”

“That’s- okay, listen,” Kyle reasoned, supposing he did owe Stan some kind of explanation. They had been clashing lately, after all, but above everything, he really did consider Stan Marsh his best friend. “He’s…He’s hot. He pisses me off, but shit just kind of…happened.”

“Hot,” Stan repeated like he had never heard the word, and Kyle winced, kind of wanting to sink into the ground.

“It’s just a sex thing, okay? It’s not like I like him.”

“Kenny knows?” his friend inquired, obviously making a real effort to wrap his brain around the situation.

“Yeah,” Kyle sighed, scratching at the back of his neck. “I mean, I’m probably going to be moving away pretty soon. I figured it wouldn’t matter anyway.”

“I’m gonna miss you.”

The two looked at one another, gazing through the soft breeze, and Kyle took a deep breath into the back of his aching throat.

“…I’ll miss you, too,” he admitted honestly, biting into his lower lip. “I, uh, applied for UCD the other day.”

Stan perked up, obviously startled.

“You did?”

“Yeah,” Kyle agreed, nodding. “I figure, what’s the worst that can happen, right? Maybe if Berkeley doesn’t work out, I can stay in Colorado.”

Stan swallowed, and then offered Kyle a sudden and bright smile.

“Really?!” he asked, showing white teeth behind his lips. “Dude, we could hang out! I mean, if…if you want.”

The awkwardness began to melt for the first time in months, and Kyle reached out to shove Stan by the shoulder.

“Dude, of course I do,” the redhead promised, affixing Stan with a grin. Suddenly, the sound of his doorbell rang out from the open back door, and Kyle got to his feet in the grass.

“Oh, hold on.”

Still in his pajamas underneath his usual orange jacket, slightly unsure he wanted to see a potential stranger while he was hatless, Kyle approached and pulled the front door open, faced immediately with the blue-uniformed man holding a tablet under one arm.

“Delivery for Kyle Broflovski,” he stated, offering Kyle the large vase stuffed to the edges with red roses.

“…” The image of the red, heart-shaped box of sugar-free chocolates came into his mind, and Kyle looked back at the grey-haired male unsurely.

“Uh, I didn’t order flowers.”

“Well, I guess somebody ordered them for you,” the stranger explained, holding out his tablet. “Sign here, please.”

Apprehension gathered in Kyle’s chest as he dragged the pad of his finger over the screen, picking up the cold glass in both hands and shutting the door. He heard the footsteps behind him, and turned to face Stan, catching his startled gaze.

“Wow,” his friend stated, approaching. “That’s like, three dozen.”

Kyle blinked, doing a rough count silently in his head.

“Are they for your mom?”

“I guess,” the redhead muttered, stomach churning uneasily as he set the bouquet on the dining room table. He spotted the small greeting card tucked into the front, and quickly turned the vase around to hide it, hoping Stan hadn’t already noticed.

“Maybe some guy at work has the hots for her,” Stan commented, and Kyle replied with a shrug, turning around and sneezing promptly into his arm.

“Oh, hey. Sorry to show up when you’re sick,” his friend said awkwardly, pulling down the sides of his beanie. “Feel better, dude. We should go get pizza sometime.”

With an uncertain twisting in his stomach, the redhead tore his eyes off the roses.

“Yeah,” Kyle replied gratefully, checking the time. “Let me write you that check before you go, okay?”

He tried not to notice Stan’s look of abject shock.

--

Kyle was only barely into a midday nap when his phone buzzed against his hip and woke him. Sleepy-eyed, he checked the time, surprised to see it was only 4:12PM. Sheila wouldn’t be back from work until around seven, so he doubted she would be texting him so late in the afternoon.

The name that stared back at him sent a familiar pang through his abdomen.

yoooo it’s cold out here

my balls are shriveling up

A distinct and clear tapping brought Kyle’s attention to his windowpane. Gulping, he got to his feet and walked unsurely over, opening the blinds and coming face-to-face with his…well…

He wasn’t sure what they even were anymore, and his heart jumped into his throat when he saw the bright smile and brown eyes.

“Kyle!”

Kyle pulled up the window quickly without thinking, staring at the hunched figure in the crimson coat.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I don’t have class today,” Cartman explained, leaning forward and helping himself into the bedroom over the window frame. Kyle reached out and shoved him backwards slightly by the chest, locking onto the wide-eyed gaze.

“You’re a fucking dick, you know that?”

“That’s all you see in me, huh? I’ll have you know I’m an ass, too.”

“I already knew that,” Kyle deadpanned, ignoring the strange sweeping of amusement that threatened to curve his lips into a smile. “I should report you.”

“For being too sexy?” Cartman tried, blinking ‘innocently’. Kyle frowned, unable to help the grin at the corners of his mouth.

“You seriously fucked Stan’s truck up.”

“Who, me?? That’s quite the accusation, fire-crotch.”

“Who else?” Kyle inquired, facing Cartman’s smiling sigh with a flat expression.

“Okay, okay. I couldn’t help it. There was a bunch of construction shit on Token’s back porch. That can of spray paint was calling my name, Kyle.”

For somebody who was kind of being forced to pay thousands of dollars to cover up the actions of a remorseless jerk, Kyle was a little disturbed by the fact that he didn’t feel more perturbed. Something was definitely wrong, there, and he was starting to suspect himself of catching the insanity bug.

“You really should be worshipping me like a fucking god,” Kyle stated, watching the way Cartman leaned casually against his window frame like he didn’t have a care in the world.

Cartman blinked at him, eyes large.

“Ohhh?”

“I’m making this go away for you,” he admitted, folding his arms. “You’re lucky I have the money and Stan didn’t go running his mouth.”

“Vanilla-boy can’t prove anything,” the brunet replied, leaning in with an obviously surprised expression. They looked at one another for a moment, blinking in the bedroom silence, when Kyle turned away from him, taking a step backwards towards the bed.

“You should go home. Mom gets off work in a couple of hours.”

“But you can talk, now,” Cartman replied smugly, taking a slow pace forward. “How can I go home knowing your mouth is fully functional?”

Kyle took a quick step forward, hoping to intimidate his surprise guest, but Cartman didn’t move, smiling back at him fondly in a way that made Kyle’s hands itch. His gut heated slightly, jabbing and pulling at his insides, and he took a deep breath, trying to come up with a rebuttal.

He had questions. The Friday night situation still wasn’t making any sense to him, not to mention the surprise gifts, the random encounters, the tenderness of Cartman’s hand on his teary cheek. All of it seemed like a very bizarre dream, like pieces of different stories that didn’t fit together.

They exchanged a look, and Kyle immediately felt his face in familiar hands, and decided to let go.

Kisses with Cartman, Kyle thought to himself, were typically less gentle than this one was. He let his eyes close immediately and just melted in, feeling their lips slide together, surprised by the lack of a tongue against his.

It wasn’t haphazard enough. Reaching out, the redhead pushed Cartman away by the shoulders, sending him a narrow-eyed glare as he breathed through his mouth.

“What are you, a girl?” he spat, heart pounding in his ears. “You usually eat my fucking face off.”

“What are you, a masochist?” Cartman shot back with a half-grin, cheeks slightly pink in the afternoon light. “We don’t need you losing that tongue of yours.”

He had a point. Fears calmed for the moment, realizing the guy was only holding back due to the potential for further injury, Kyle leaned in and initiated the kiss that time, one hand digging into Cartman’s jacket and the other pulling in his thick hair.

The pair made out languidly for a few more minutes, pressing up chest-to-chest, taking steps forward and backwards based on whoever had decided to be rougher at each moment. Kyle almost immediately felt both hands in his hair, rubbing, stroking, and shivered when the very tips of their tongues slipped against one another, gasping out and tilting his face downwards in embarrassment.

Why he reacted this way to Eric Cartman, Kyle would never understand, but he supposed Kenny’s previous remark about them “always having tension” maybe held the slightest grain of truth, after all.

For the moment, Kyle let all the logical quandaries fade to the back of his brain, and just allowed himself to feel Cartman’s tongue lightly teasing his, leaning into the hand that had migrated to his hip that squeezed and rubbed against the bone.

If somebody had told Kyle that he could be so easily turned-on while he was still recuperating from two separate painful illnesses, he never would have believed them. As he was pushed backwards on his feet, though, with the fingers rubbing magic circles into his scalp and his side, the itch at the back of his throat began to fade into the edges of his consciousness.

“Mmnh,” Cartman groaned, breaking away just when the backs of Kyle’s knees hit the bed.

“Sure you weren’t a virgin before me?”

Kyle paused, confused by the serious tone that accompanied what he would have thought was a sly jab at his ego.

“Fuck you,” he replied blithely, shoving Cartman lightly with his body and staring up that extra aggravating inch or so that separated the tops of their foreheads. “Of course I wasn’t.”

“Hmm,” the brunet responded, moving his hands down to rub and squeeze at Kyle’s hipbones through his blue pajama pants. Kyle stiffened all over, inhaling sharply through his nose.

“You react like nobody’s ever touched you before.”

“I fucked Bebe last year,” Kyle spat back, trying to hide the tremor in his throat. Cartman’s hands stopped moving immediately, and those dark eyes gazed down at him again, wide.

“Bebe. Seriously??”

“We were drunk,” the redhead stated, sort of regretting bringing it up. Cartman huffed, raising an eyebrow in seeming disbelief.

“Is she loose?”

“Dude, gross!”

“Just a question, Kyle. That bitch’s probably been with the whole class.”

“She’s dating Clyde right now,” the redhead replied, trying to hide his slight smile. Cartman reciprocated, snickering.

“Knew she’d end up being a whore.”

“Whatever.”

Cartman kissed him again, and Kyle couldn’t help but wonder how the mood wasn’t totally and entirely ruined. There was weight against him, and the redhead felt himself shoved down into a seated position at the edge of the mattress, rutting up against the sudden pressure that was squeezing acutely between his legs.

“Fuck, Kyle,” the brunet breathed into his ear, voice sounding a little shaky as that hand worked against his quickly-stiffening cock.

“I wanna eat out.”

Kyle frowned a little and let his eyes slip back open. Was he actually bringing up his appetite at a time like this?

“Okay,” he muttered as Cartman nipped onto his throat, shivering and tugging in his hair. “KFC?”

The nibbling stopped, and Kyle swallowed the lump that was building in his throat, staring up awkwardly at his partner.

Cartman stared back with wide, teary brown eyes, hand over his mouth as his shoulders began to shake.

What the…?

“N-No, Kyle! Something Kosher!” his companion spat out, bending at the waist and literally toppling onto the mattress with loud screams of laughter.

“What’s s-”

He was hit with realization, and his face and ears burned so hot that he felt compelled to reach out and literally force Cartman backwards into the headboard with a harsh and powerful shove.

“Dude!”

“AHAHAHAHA!!!!”

“Shut the hell…sh-shut…” Kyle grinned and turned his face away, trying to control the laughter that was bubbling up out of him as he stared at Cartman’s flushed and beaming face.

Embarrassment exploded inside of him, and Kyle found himself gripping onto his own waist, totally caught off-guard by how fucking funny it was despite being kind of at his own expense.

Cartman continued to sputter, literally bending himself in two as he gasped for breath amongst his shouts and screams.

“Gahaha!! Kosher, Kyle, get it?!”

“Stick your mouth on my dick and shut up.”

“Ooh, okay! I’ll do that after!”

It suddenly occurred to Kyle that, since his return a few months prior, he had yet to see Cartman looking so completely happy as he did in that moment. Something felt light in Kyle’s chest, and he shoved him by the shoulder again.

“You’re insane if you think I’m letting you do that to me.”

“Why noooot??” Cartman all but whined, still snickering and gasping under his breath as he invaded Kyle’s space and breathed into his ear. “You’re always telling me to kiss your ass.”

“It’s called an idiom,” Kyle shivered, trying to ignore the deep and heady pang in his abdomen. Okay, so he had thought about anal…stuff before, but for God’s sake!

“Mm, feels like you like it,” his partner murmured into his ear again, squeezing around his hard member and shocking Kyle out of his thoughts.

“Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Cartman cooed into his ear, pressing up against Kyle as he manhandled them onto their sides with his free arm. “Turns you on, huh?”

“Hahh,” Kyle groaned softly as he slipped into another deep kiss, wanting to refute that but feeling a little too lazy as he sank into the mattress. Cartman’s tongue began to play with his, just at the tip, and he found himself hating the fact that it was still sore about halfway down. It was kind of curious, though, that the guy seemed to be deliberately avoiding his injury.

The hand palming between his legs slipped down the elastic of his pants, and Kyle allowed himself to gasp against the brunet’s lips, feeling the thumb smear over his head and thrusting his hips forward.

“C’mon,” he groaned, eyes lidding as he looked into the brown gaze. “Use your fucking mouth. I don’t have all day.”

Cartman’s grin set off alarm bells in Kyle’s head immediately, but it was too late.

“Well, if you insist~”

--

Chapter Text

--

When their mouths slipped together once more, Kyle found himself practically blistering with the heat in his own blood. His cheeks burst into a flush cherry as he pressed up against Cartman, allowing his partner between his legs as those magic fingers worked his hair and scalp.

That smooth hand continued to stroke at the meat of his cock, squeezing and pulling up to the head, and Kyle hissed when the thumb smeared directly over his tip, alerting him to the presence of slippery fluid against his crown.

Already?

“Seriously?” Cartman hummed into his ear, fingers pulling gently at the base of the head and sending a snap of pleasure up through Kyle’s belly.

Kyle winced, breathing out and closing his eyes.

“Shut up.”

“You’re getting wet for me, Kyle,” the brunet replied softly, murmuring in Kyle’s ear as he continued to stroke up and down the pale shaft in his pajama pants. Kyle shivered, trying not to be so affected by the husky tone when those teasing fingers slipped down the back of his neck.

“Like you aren’t,” he replied and reached forwards, feeling around, skimming his palm up Cartman’s thigh and locating the obvious hardness between his legs.

Cartman groaned, hips twitching as Kyle palmed him. Kyle opened his mouth to continue his rebuttal when he felt cool fingers against the meat of his backside, and pulled backwards fast in horror.

“Whoa,” he stated and held his hands out in front of him. “Seriously, Cartman-”

“Eric,” the brunet stated smoothly, leaning in and letting his lips curve into a little smirk. Kyle swallowed, staring back into those lidded eyes.

“Eric,” he relented, deciding it maybe was too weird to call him by his last at the moment. It wasn’t exactly sexy to think about the guy he had known as ‘Cartman’ while they were doing these…types of things.

“Hands off.”

“But you’ve got the best ass in class,” Cartman whined a little, sucking a wet bite into the base of Kyle’s jaw that left the redhead gasping. “Everybody says so.”

“People say a lot of things,” Kyle stated, trying to keep his voice from getting shaky. Cartman huffed into his ear, tongue teasing the lobe.

“Never thought about it?”

“Fuck off.”

“Oho~ So you have,” Cartman murmured, and Kyle hated the warm fingers that continued to stroke at his cock. “Bet you’ve wondered how it feels.”

Kyle chose not to reply to that, instead thrusting up into his partner’s grip to feel the tight friction. “C’mon,” he relented, voice a little shaky as he pulled back enough to stare into those brown eyes. They were dark like milk chocolate and with wide, blown pupils that surprised Kyle out of a more elaborate response.

Cartman licked his lips as he looked back at him, and that same smooth hand squeezed into the meat of Kyle’s ass, rubbing against his cheek.

Kyle had half a mind to knock Cartman on his back when he found himself moved, one of his partner’s arms underneath his right knee and the other around his back. He winced, shifting awkwardly as the brunet tried to pull him onto the mattress, startled by the arousal that shot deeply through his veins.

Okay, so he had never really been in this kind of position, but there was something that was sort of…attractive about it, in a strange way. After all, he did sort of still feel like shit, with a sore tongue and a stuffed head. Also, Cartman did appear to have some, er, prowess in the bedroom, at least when it came to giving head-

Was he seriously considering this?

There was weight on him, and Kyle stiffened a little as that hand began to stroke his cock a little faster as Cartman pressed him back into the bed and settled between his legs. The fingers at his cock slipped away and Kyle growled out loudly in annoyance, sitting up and narrowly avoiding bonking his forehead into Cartman’s face.

“Damn it,” he spat, only to feel the smooth slide of plastic at his collarbone. He looked to the side, catching sight of the black jacket of his insulin pump, which was now clipped to his t-shirt.

They exchanged a look, and then they were sitting up together, yanking and working at one another’s pants.

Kyle shifted backwards, startled to feel the hand against his ass making quick work of the elastic around his waist, and lifted his legs up to kick his pants off around his ankles, hearing the zip of Cartman’s fly as he began to slide it downwards.

It vaguely occurred to Kyle that this was their first time doing something like this in a relatively lit room, but he couldn’t bring himself to care much. He let his eyes lid as he reached out, watching as Cartman kicked his own pants and briefs down and clambered back onto the mattress.

“Mmh,” the redhead breathed out, shivering. Fuck, he really was getting hot looking at Cartman over him, those thick, pale thighs and the red shaft that curved up between their abdomens.

Kyle rolled his hips, and forced their dicks up together, mind starting to get a little hazy.

“Mmn, Kyle…” The sentiment was hoarse in his ear as Cartman began to suck and bite again, mouthing at his pulse-point. Kyle trembled, feeling one hand encircle their cocks simultaneously as the other wandered its way back behind him.

“Your ass is fucking incredible.”

Kyle inhaled sharply when he felt Cartman squeeze at his cheek, ashamed of the way he felt his own cock pulse in Cartman’s hand and gripping onto his wrist unsurely.

“You’ve never even touched my ass, idiot,” the redhead murmured, breathing through his open lips as their gazes aligned once more. Cartman grinned, cheeks pink and eyes lidded.

“Is that an invitation?”

Kyle was pretty sure some facet of his masculinity was at stake here, but he couldn’t bring himself to pull away from those stroking hands, and leaned forward to murmur against Cartman’s mouth instead, gripping threateningly into his thick hair.

“You’d better...fucking get to it before I change my mind.”

The force of Cartman’s kiss knocked the wind out of him, and Kyle jerked upwards immediately, cocks sliding together under his partner’s stroking fingers. He yanked in his hair, ignoring the slight ache in his mouth as their tongues touched, slipping against one another.

Cartman’s hand squeezed into his backside again, and Kyle groaned, voice broken and weak.

“Shit,” Cartman breathed into their kiss, upping his pace as he thumbed their cockheads together. “Fucking look at you.”

“I’d rather not,” Kyle replied, voice a little shaky when one of the smooth fingers dipped down between the mattress and the parting of his-

He seized up and gripped hold of Cartman’s shoulders, stopping him.

“Dude,” he stated, eyes widening slightly in sudden realization. “This…this is unsanitary.”

Cartman pulled back, staring with flushed desperation.

“God, seriously? Just let me ravish you already.”

Kyle swallowed, entire body tightening.

“It’s just-” He took a breath, hips twitching a little as Cartman’s hand stilled around their leaking cocks. “That’s…”

“Kyle,” Cartman sighed, leaning in and wrapping the hand that had been around their shafts around Kyle’s back instead. As he was pulled into the unexpected embrace, Kyle shifted slightly over the duvet, feeling the hammering of his partner’s heart against his own ribs.

“It’s fine. You probably shower like twice a day, right?”

Kyle paused, having a hard time speaking for some reason as their bodies pressed together between their shirts.

“How do you know??”

“’Cause you’re a hygiene freak,” the brunet chuckled, licking his lower lip and fluttering his eyelashes in a way that should not have been arousing and yet was anyways. Kyle shoved him by the shoulders in warning, slightly embarrassed.

“Come on~” Cartman’s voice was breathy against his lips, and Kyle tilted his head back slightly, unable to believe he was actually considering letting Cartman touch his-

“I’m gonna tease this tight little ass,” he promised, laving his tongue over Kyle’s mouth. “Until you cum all over yourself.”

He would never admit to it, but Kyle was pretty sure he had never been this fucking hard.

His groan must have been taken as an assent, because the redhead suddenly found himself on his side. Their tongues met, and he hissed into the deep kiss, ignoring the painful twinge as they sucked onto one another’s open mouths.

One hand on his ass became two, and Kyle bucked his cock up against his partner’s thick, wet shaft.

“Shit,” he gasped as his cheeks were kneaded, closing his eyes, not wanting to know quite how red his face was getting with each passing moment. In his minute of weakness, he suddenly found himself being pressed back into the bed.

One hand made its way underneath each of his thighs, but it was too late to stop, and he looked down in complete and utter shock as his knees were pushed up against his shoulders.

He practically screamed, and Kyle thanked God and Jesus that Ike had such regular after-school activities.

Never in his life had he felt so exposed, naked from the hips-down and quite literally bent in half under Cartman’s scrutinizing gaze. It certainly wasn’t a position he had imagined himself in very often. He had spent the majority of his life chasing skirts, after all, and girls tended to be the ones ending up on their backs with their legs in the air. Only recently had this type of thing even crossed Kyle’s mind, the thought of…laying back, accepting the pleasure. He looked up warily, heart beating fast in his ears, expecting a sneer or a smirk, when the sight of his partner’s expression caused him to forget his next few breaths.

The brunet observed him, eyes roaming down his exposed stomach and legs. Cartman’s mouth was closed, but his face was pink, and was becoming pinker by the second. Kyle swallowed, unable to help but half-smirk despite his own strong unsureness.

“What’s the matter, huh? Too pussy to-”

The mouth on his dick sent his voice up into another shout. Kyle tensed, and then relaxed a little, reaching down and gripping easily into the thick brown strands.

“Nnh, suck it,” he hissed, trying to ignore the cold air that was ghosting down further between his legs. Thankfully, Cartman kept his lips on the shaft, working his tongue up under the crown.

Kyle slowly moved his hips up and down, shivering, trying to keep control of his pace as Cartman sucked him down. He supposed, on some level, it should be surreal, having Cartman looking so eager between his legs, licking along the length and nuzzling at his sac below-

“Gh!!” Kyle literally choked, spasming and arching up when he felt his companion dragging his tongue down beneath the smooth skin of his balls.

Cartman gazed back at him, staring lewdly with a half-grin.

“Surprised?” the brunet murmured, gently pressing his fingers into the flesh under Kyle’s knees.

Kyle faltered. Was this seriously happening? “You’re-…”

“Christ, Jew, let me eat in peace.”

There was no comeback in the world suitable for the sensation that resulted. Kyle barely had time to get both hands over his mouth before he screamed, bucking up off of the mattress as the hot tongue slipped deep in between his cheeks.

“C-!” he whimpered behind his fingers, squirming, green eyes directed up and at the plastic stars on his popcorn ceiling. To make matters worse, not only were they in the open daylight pouring in through his windowpane, but the vague and…wet noises emanating up from between his legs made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.

Cherry-red curls spilled messily out over his forehead as Kyle trembled, mind trying to wrap itself around the situation at hand, around the slick and warm feelings dancing up through his core.

“Fuck,” he stated, wanting to hate the weakness in his voice even as his cock plumped, head bobbing up above his belly as his legs shook.

The brunet eased his face further in between his thighs, pressing Kyle’s legs further upwards so that his kneecaps butted into each side of his collarbone. That slick muscle pressed against him, and he felt his partner’s lips encircling him, sucking, flicking at his soft muscle.

“Mmnh.”

Cartman’s low growl sent a deep and heady pang vibrating through him, shooting through his lungs, prompting a loud moan the likes of which Kyle had never heard himself produce.

“Eric,” he breathed out, more a statement of shock than anything. He had never felt anything like it… the smoothness, the heat. He would have likened it to getting head, a sensation he was more familiar with, but it felt more…intimate, closer. Like something dirty, but in a good way-

Slowly, apprehension draining from his limbs, Kyle reached down awkwardly around his thigh and sank his fingers back into the familiar hair, gripping, forcing his companion’s face up deeper into the flesh of his ass. He choked suddenly, feeling that same hot tongue press its way up past his tight ring, and immediately jerked up from the mattress, horrified by the spike of deep arousal that shot up inside him.

“FUCK!” he shouted, looking down and meeting the smug expression hesitantly. He only barely had time to open his mouth again before Cartman slid his right hand from under Kyle’s knee, and reached out to stroke his dick instead, hard and fast until Kyle began to gasp and pant.

He was licking him again. Cartman’s tongue slipped down below his balls, circling his entrance, curling against his rim as he sucked and licked against his soft, pink skin.

The ecstasy began to crest inside him as he shivered, single leg falling over Cartman’s shoulder as he pushed back into his wet mouth. His heart began to beat faster, pounding in the base of his throat as he began to press his ass against his partner’s lips and chin.

Cartman stroked him faster, pressing his thumb against the head, and Kyle bucked, closing his eyes.

“Don’t stop,” he rasped, voice starting to feel weak as his balls drew up tight against him.

His muscles were pushed apart once again, and Kyle cried out suddenly, feeling a harsh tug at his base and a deep suck against his pucker that made a surge of white pass behind his eyelids.

“F-F!!” He threw an arm over his mouth and screamed loudly, propped leg breaking free of Cartman’s hold as both of his knees slammed into the sides of his partner’s head, forcing his skull deep against him as he shrieked.

Hot fluid streamed between Cartman’s fingers and his dick, slicking up over his head and running down over his abdomen in two sudden squirts. Exhaling sharply, he blinked his way through the remaining pleasure, looking down, catching sight of his partner with the back of his hand against his mouth and a pair of averted brown eyes.

“Jesus,” Cartman muttered, and Kyle slowly sat up, trying to blink himself out of his daze.

“…I’m the one who should be saying that!” the redhead replied and reached out, yanking his shirt down in sudden self-consciousness as the reality of the situation came back to him. The brunet looked back up at him, and suddenly, he was grinning, poking a finger into the mess on Kyle’s abdomen.

“Told you you’d like it.”

“Eugh,” Kyle groaned and squirmed away from the hand, shivering and nervously glancing at his alarm clock. 4:35PM, he realized with relief, aware Ike had a game that day and that Sheila probably wouldn’t be back for a couple of hours as well.

“You tasted good,” Cartman continued, leaning in and climbing back over Kyle before the redhead could free himself from the mattress. For some reason, Kyle’s cheeks chose that reason to flush dark, and he turned away.

“You’re crazy.”

The brunet chuckled, and Kyle rolled out from underneath him, surprised by the slight feeling of emptiness that resonated through him as he stood up and made his way to the bathroom across the hall. He paused, immediately bumping hips with Cartman at the sink as they tumbled into the room together.

“Dude.”

“So, how was it? On a scale of one to ten?”

“What do you think?” Kyle replied, reaching for a wad of tissues from the box on the countertop and quickly wiping down his abdomen, momentarily pausing when Cartman followed suit. He turned, startled by the sight of his partner leaning against the counter lazily and wiping the insides of his own thighs.

“You came from that?”

“Uh, no shit,” Cartman replied, glancing up like he was surprised by the question even as a little grin played on his lips. “Heh, you were moaning like a bitch in heat. I think your neighbors know my name, now.”

“Maybe I should leave the country,” the redhead stated blandly, pulling his pants back up and washing his hands carefully in the sink.

“Aww, don’t be like that, cherry-pie.”

Kyle turned, and immediately felt himself in a firm embrace, sharply aware of the nuzzling of soft lips behind his ear.

“Get off,” he demanded and reached out, squirming in the grip and forcing Cartman away by the chest as his mind spun. “Oh my God, why the hell did I let you do that to me?”

“Maybe ‘cause you knew I’d make you see stars?”

The redhead breathed in deeply, not wanting to dignify that with a response. Quickly, though, he felt weight hanging off his right arm, and turned to look his companion in the face, seeing a little hesitance there.

“Erm, so I just ate, but…can I raid your fridge?”

Cartman’s tone lilted with a little humor, but Kyle easily recognized the hollowness throughout and sighed, turning and taking him by the bicep.

“You have to leave by six. Latest.”

The two made their way downstairs and into the kitchen, and Kyle turned as he opened the door to the refrigerator, surprised to see his companion waiting by the doorway.

“Uh, you want a sandwich?” he asked, trying to hide his embarrassment by surveying the various packages throughout the fridge. “We have roast beef.”

“Dude, sweet. You have cheese?”

“Yeah, you want Swiss or cheddar?”

“Both.”

“You’re fucking greedy as hell,” Kyle snorted and pulled the various containers out from the door, vaguely hungry as well and placing a jar of mayonnaise and bottle of mustard on the side. Cartman raised an eyebrow at him.

“I like to think I’m a giver,” he cooed, leaning in a little closer. Kyle tensed, averting his eyes and shoving a butter-knife into his hand.

“Whatever. I’m not your fucking kitchen maid. You make it.”

Cartman squeezed in next to Kyle at the countertop, reaching into the nearby bread bag. “Maybe you should be. You could walk around naked in an apron and I could see that ass every day.”

“You have twice the ass I do,” the redhead replied, smiling a little as he smeared mustard over his own slice.

“Mm, touché, Kyle, touché.”

The shorter boy retrieved a bag of potato chips from one of the top cupboards, snatching a couple of paper plates from atop the refrigerator and setting them out next to the stove.

For whatever reason, Kyle’s mental alarm bells were remarkably silent as they stood together in the kitchen, side-by-side, bumping frequently into one another as they reached for jar lids and plastic utensils. It was kind of a relief, and yet unsettling at the same time, how natural it seemed to feel- that this guy, his enemy-turned-sex-friend, would be in his kitchen five years after disappearing, laughing in that same husky tone he always had and shooting him the same types of stares with those honey-brown eyes.

“Hey,” Cartman broke the silence, holding his plate in one hand and a fist over his mouth with the other. “You ever get that new Resident Evil game?”

“Eight?” Kyle inquired and left the kitchen, shaking himself out of his reverie as he sat down on the sofa with his legs crossed. “Yeah.”

“Killer. We should totally play.”

“Don’t get crumbs on the sofa,” the redhead chastised, watching as Cartman settled his plate onto his lap and descended upon his sandwich like someone who legitimately hadn’t eaten in several days.

Cartman huffed. “Yes, Mrs. Broflovski.”

“Do you want to play, or not?”

“Does it have multiplayer??”

“Yeah.”

Cartman grinned around his mouthful, and Kyle shifted as he set his own plate to the side, digging the controllers out from the black leather ottoman under the side table.

“Seriously, just an hour. Ike gets home after his game tonight.”

“Oh, right. How’s the little pinhead doing?”

“Don’t be a dick,” Kyle shot back, bumping shoulders with him as he spotted Cartman’s grin.

“Fine, fine. Can’t have anybody knowing that I get you on your back, right?”

“You’re full of shit,” he countered, tossing a controller at his companion. “Everybody’s gonna fucking figure it out, anyway. Stan already knows we’re…uh-”

Cartman looked over curiously, devilish tongue from earlier sweeping out to lick his pink lips.

“Oh, yeah? Is the hippie finally growing a brain?”

“You fucking crashed that party, dumbass,” Kyle reminded, pausing thoughtfully for a moment as he turned the TV on. “Why did you even show up?”

Cartman seemed to hesitate for a moment, confusing the redhead, until he shrugged and cast his eyes down onto his sandwich instead.

“Uh, to party, obviously.”

“Really?” Kyle inquired flatly, shaking his head. “Not to cause a fucking scene? Stan had a heart attack when he saw what you did to his truck.”

Cartman clasped a hand over his mouth and immediately started giggling, gaze dark and shiny with mirth as he made a diligent effort not to spit food everywhere.

“Mmph, fuck! You should’ve taken a picture for me!”

“What do you have against Stan?” Kyle asked flat-out, too overwhelmed by curiosity not to ask. The entire situation of that night hadn’t made any sense. It had been weird enough to have Cartman doting on him like that, quite literally wiping body fluids away from his visage and clinging to him like a baby koala, but he supposed he might have actually looked like he was near-death, due to all the blood, so maybe that was sort of understandable. Cartman’s interaction with his best friend, though…

“I dunno. What do YOU have against him?” Cartman shot back quickly. Kyle gulped, frowning.

“What?”

“You two had a little lovers’ quarrel, am I right?” the brunet inquired smoothly, spreading his arms out over the back of the sofa. “Trouble in paradise? Thought you were gonna grow up and get married someday.”

The thought alone made Kyle cringe, and he rolled his eyes, shifting to the side a little.

“Shut up. It was a misunderstanding,” he admitted, stomach twisting. “I thought he was telling everybody that me and you were fucking.”

The silence was unexpected as Kyle waited for the next rebuttal. Receiving nothing, the redhead turned, seeing his companion seated there beside him with a wide-eyed stare. Almost instantly, though, Cartman turned his face away, and Kyle felt the air in the room change a little, heard the silence become so stark that he could hear his own breath in his ears.

“So he figured it out?” Cartman finally inquired, voice quiet and still. Kyle swallowed.

“Uh, he knows now,” he admitted, voice a little louder as he tried to fill the silence. “I mean, people are gonna find out…”

“Tried that hard to keep it under wraps, huh?”

The tone of Cartman’s voice was eerie, but Kyle recognized it immediately, shoulders tensing up defensively in response.

“Well, yeah. So, what?” Kyle replied, voice raising slightly. “I didn’t exactly need the whole school knowing I was fucking you.”

Cartman kept his gaze averted, and Kyle took note of the half sandwich that still sat on his paper plate, brows drawing together in confusion.

“Guess not,” the brunet eventually replied standing up slowly and letting his eyes trail to the side. Kyle paused, startled by the sudden position and opening his mouth to speak.

“What’s your problem?”

Cartman stilled where he stood, giving no visible indication that he was going to respond. Once again, the room was quiet, lit mostly by the muted screen of the television. Something heavy settled itself inside of the redhead, and he sat up straighter, resisting the sudden urge to reach out.

“Eric?” Kyle tried unsurely, feeling the itching fibers of uncertain guilt rubbing at the corners of his consciousness.

“Doesn’t matter,” was the reply a few seconds later, quiet and dark, and Eric turned away completely.

“It isn’t your problem anymore, Kyle.”

Before Kyle could speak further, Cartman made his way slowly out of the room, approaching the front door and opening it with one hand. He stepped through the doorway and out of sight, pulling the door shut quietly behind him with a click.

The true silence, accompanied by the ticking of the living room clock, sent Kyle’s nerves suddenly into overdrive. Inexplicably, jolting up on instinct, Kyle got to his feet and immediately walked over to the door.

“Hey,” he called out, voice raising in a sudden and alien desperation.

What was going on? Why was he leaving?

“Cartman,” he called out as he got to the door, opening it and looking out, halfway expecting him to be waiting outside at the front stoop. He paused, swallowing hard when he saw nobody and peering out into the front yard.

“Hey!” he shouted to no one before he could stop himself, heart speeding up in immediate and tangible apprehension.

Logically, Kyle was sure, this really wasn’t something to be worried about. He and Cartman always parted ways after doing the deed, didn’t they? Well, almost always. Maybe the guy had just felt weird and wanted to get out as soon as possible?

He remembered the half sandwich and winced, feeling something like fear rising up along the vertebrae of his spine.

Taking a few breaths, Kyle turned around and strode back inside, finishing his own sandwich and clearing off the plates carefully. He cleaned up the mess in the kitchen, erasing any trace of his visitor, and tried to push their encounter to the back of his mind.

Sitting back down, he turned the TV onto the gameshow channel and stuck his controllers back into the ottoman, fidgeting on the couch cushion.

Somehow, he couldn't relax. Hands itching, Kyle fished his phone out of his pajama pocket, surprised to find it was still in there after the earlier roughhousing. With a deep breath, he flipped through his contacts and paused at the one he had been looking for, teeth gritted behind his lips.

No. It wasn’t any use trying to text the guy. Their business was done for the day, after all. He’d probably wake up to eight new vulgar messages the next morning, anyways.

It was with this logic that Kyle found himself back upstairs in bed, laying under the comforter with his eyes closed. Something told him that it was a good time for a nap.

--

Chapter Text

--

Despite having returned to school with his tongue intact and flu mostly gone, Kyle was already finding himself massively irritated by the time the lunch bell rang.

He was no stranger to the fact that news spread quickly at South Park High, mostly due to the small student population. The redhead was doing his best to ignore the lingering gazes, the glances and awkward stares directed his way, as he made his way into the cafeteria and picked up a clean tray, approaching the hot line with his eyes focused downward.

At the very least, Kyle supposed there hadn’t been all that much harm done that night. He was mostly healed, and Stan was supposedly in the process of getting his truck returned to its normal condition. The greatest damage suffered probably was to his ego- People were looking at him like they felt sorry for him, or something, which irked Kyle to his very core. If there was anything he disliked, it was being pitied.

Honestly, Kyle wasn’t entirely sure WHAT the going rumor was about him now. He had definitely made a fool of himself during the fight, bringing up Cartman’s name and calling attention to the fact that they were involved in some capacity, even though he doubted most of the partygoers had caught sight of Cartman that night.

Whatever. As embarrassing as the entire ordeal was, he supposed it would be over in a few weeks, anyways. He could just brush off any questions in the meantime and act like the booze had been speaking for him.

Kyle glanced up and immediately spotted his friend seated at a table on the west side of the room, hesitating for a moment before walking his way through the crowds of people and sitting down across from him. Stan looked up from his spot beside Wendy and smiled, soothing the redhead’s nerves a little bit.

Maybe things really could go back to almost-normal, until they all graduated.

“Hey, dude.”

“Hey,” Kyle greeted, pulling his hat down a little over his red curls and reaching for his bottle of Dr. Pepper. An image of sad brown eyes flashed in his mind, and he cast his gaze back down to his tray, tearing open a packet of ketchup and squirting it over the tater tots on his paper plate.

“Is Kenny around?” he found himself asking, glancing up into familiar blue eyes.

“Oh, he’s been hanging out with Butters a lot today. I think something happened.”

“Oh,” Kyle stated, frowning slightly. Even when Kenny broke off relationships, he rarely heard of anything resembling a fight or an emotional upheaval. “Are they breaking up?”

“Nah, Butters just got really upset.”

“Why?”

“I dunno. Kenny was trying to calm him down.”

As if on cue, a familiar petite blond set his backpack down on the bench beside Kyle, and Butters placed his own bagged lunch on the tabletop, face slightly downcast as Kenny shuffled in beside him.

“Hey, fellas.”

Stan opened his mouth, but seemed to hesitate as Kenny wrapped an arm around his charge, pulling him close and kissing his temple.

“C’mon, babe, try not to think about it.”

“I can’t help it, Ken. I should’ve checked up on him more.”

“What’s going on?” Kyle butted in, suddenly too curious to ignore where the conversation was going. Butters turned towards the redhead with pursed lips, and Kyle immediately felt guilty for intruding. The smaller blond shifted, platinum hair wispy around the round cheeks of his face.

“One of my friends just…killed himself.”

The table became silent, Stan setting his phone face-down onto the tabletop in an apparent gesture of attention.

“…Wow,” Wendy broke the silence, gold eyes gleaming with concern. “I’m sorry. That’s terrible.”

Butters seemed to hesitate, and Kenny sat up a little straighter, smiling sadly at the other members of the table.

“I guess his obituary was in the paper this morning,” the taller blond explained, keeping his arm protectively around his boyfriend. “His funeral is this weekend.”

“You’re still comin’ with me, right, Kenny?”

“Of course.”

Kyle’s mind ran over the possibilities as he watched them interact, stomach tensing slightly as he tried to think of who on Earth Butters was friends with that he wouldn’t already know directly. “Who was it?”

“Well, y’ see…When we were kids, my parents sent me to that Camp NewGrace place, y’know, ‘cause they thought I was bicurious,” he explained, fidgeting slightly beside Kenny despite the arm around him that kept him somewhat contained. Kyle paused, only to hear Stan interject with a curious tone.

“You knew him from there?”

“Yeah, hold on.” Butters wrestled around with his backpack and pulled his phone out of the front pocket, swiping across with an unsteady thumb before handing the device over to Stan. Stan lifted it into his grasp, glancing suddenly over to Kyle in a way that gave Kyle immediate pause.

“Hey, Kyle, uh…” Stan reached out, offering him the device. “He looks like you.”

Caught off-guard by the response, the redhead reached out and immediately took Butters’ phone with the baby blue case into his right hand, staring back at a photo that actually gave him pause.

The kid was, well… Yeah. He had a familiar unkempt mop of golden-blond curls above his head, with short sides and sideburns around his ears and the nape of his neck. His eyes were green, and his chin was slightly pronounced. From what Kyle could see, he appeared to be very slender, with the collar and sleeves of his t-shirt hanging off of him, exposing his skinny arms and collarbones.

“…Maybe if I never fucking ate,” Kyle conceded and handed the phone back to Butters, who took it with a slight twitch and began to pick at his container of something that looked like potato salad.

“He was a real nice kid,” the blond continued on. “He was in that- that Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Denver for a few years, now. I guess they couldn’t help him enough. His parents were awful mean…”

Something about the words ‘Juvenile Rehabilitation’ sent the hair on the back of Kyle’s neck pricking upward, and he shifted a little closer, ignoring the food cooling on his tray.

“Uh, what’s this guy’s name, again?”

“Bradley,” Butters stated softly, and Kyle felt his stomach tighten into immediate knots.

As the rest of the table began to steer the conversation elsewhere, undoubtedly for the sake of the blond with the sad eyes, Kyle glared his own food down silently. He had only heard that name once recently, out of the mouth of his enemy-turned-rival-turned…whatever, and the mere thought of it sent chills up his spine, sent his jaw into a harsh line as he stood up and shrugged his backpack on over his shoulder.

“Kyle?” Stan asked, catching Kyle’s gaze and eyeing him with obvious unsureness.

“I’m not hungry,” Kyle replied quickly and picked up his tray, dumping the uneaten food into the nearby bin and leaving the cafeteria without further explanation.

Uncertainty churned within him as he approached his locker, undoing the combination lock and looking at his slightly quivering hands. He sucked in a deep breath, trying to pick his own emotions apart one by one.

Cartman. The conversation from weeks prior echoed in his mind, about the kid named Bradley who had been, as he had put it, a ‘total bottom’. Anger pulsed within him, sudden and hot, as he stared at his stack of textbooks. Why was he feeling this way…? Was it possible that that Bradley was the same Bradley that Eric had mentioned back then?

Another steak of anger shot through him, and he reached and slammed his locker door shut aggressively, pausing when he saw Stan looking at him from near the wall.

“…Are you okay?” his friend asked, and Kyle swallowed, lowering his arm.

“Yeah, sorry,” he apologized, sighing and walking over to him. Stan raised an eyebrow.

“You look really fucking pissed off.”

“I’m not,” Kyle replied, taking a breath. Stan glanced back at him suspiciously, but seemed reluctant to press the issue, falling into step beside him as they walked together down the hall.

“So, uh,” Stan began after a few seconds, stopping at the water fountain next to the library door and glancing up at his taller friend. “You and Cartman still…”

Kyle shivered, rolling his eyes and trying to be unfazed by the question. “I dunno. He hasn’t texted me in a few days.”

Stan gulped down some water, readjusting his usual blue beanie atop his dark hair awkwardly. “Is that normal?”

“I guess,” the redhead relented, watching Stan take a pace forward and stiffen visibly on his heels with a slight limp.

“Football injury?” he guessed, confused by the sudden blush.

“Um, no,” Stan admitted, holding a hand to the side of his pink neck. “Me and Wendy tried…something different.”

The end-of-lunch bell rang out, and Kyle just observed unsurely as Stan gimped his way down the hall and towards his class with a departing wave, brushing the encounter off and just feeling relieved that that particular line of questioning was over.

As he made his way into the library and towards his usual tutor table at the back, the redhead found himself wondering about the lack of text messages. He hadn’t heard from Eric since their last in-person encounter, when he had quite literally walked out on him for no reason. Kyle took a seat and began to unpack his books, flipping to the study guide for his physics class and digging a mechanical pencil out from his binder. It wasn’t his job to babysit all of the guy’s issues. He was probably just having a hissy fit for no good reason, like he always had.

Kyle had finished his third practice problem when the sound of something settling onto the tabletop drew his attention upward, into the dark blue gaze that gave him a momentary pause of recognition.

“What do you want?” he asked curtly, not really in the mood for sass.

“You sound happy,” Craig deadpanned back at him, wearing a chullo in a soft periwinkle color as opposed to his usual royal blue. Kyle eyed it for a moment, catching Craig’s look of recognition.

“Tweek got me it for my birthday.”

Kyle gritted his teeth, immediately reminded of Stan with his recent purple beanie. “So this is a thing now? People who are dating buy each other hats?”

“Wow,” Craig sighed, leaning back in his chair a little and tugging at his white t-shirt lazily. “You really need to get fucked.”

“Go suck some dick, Craig.”

“I do. Pretty much every day.”

Kyle winced, face slightly red as he tried to push the unwelcome images from his tired brain. For whatever reason, Craig just got to him. Maybe it was because of the fact that Kyle had crushed on him hard for a few weeks back in the day, or maybe it was just his dry, bland way of speaking that always led Kyle to believe he knew more than he was letting on. He usually did, actually, a fact which was setting Kyle’s nerves on edge lately.

“Can you help me with this?” came Craig’s voice, nasally and level as ever as Kyle found a paper sliding into his field of vision. “It’s the review sheet for the chem final.”

“…Oh.” Kyle swallowed, realizing the nature of the visit and moving his own binder to the side. “Yeah, sure. What part?”

Craig gestured to one of the problems, and Kyle wrote out a few simple equations at the top part of the blank worksheet space.

“The percentages are volume by volume, see?” he indicated, writing out the units at the side. “So you just have to use density. Once you have the mass, you can use the molecular weight to convert to molarity.”

“Okay,” Craig conceded and took out his own pencil, working quietly on the problem set. Kyle reached into his pocket and checked his phone for any notifications, lips tightening.

“Waiting for a text from your boyfriend?”

Kyle tensed immediately, hating how hot his face and ears felt. “What?”

“Everybody knows you and Cartman are shacking up,” Craig stated, taking out his own phone and typing some numbers into the calculator. “It’s not exactly a secret, anymore.”

It occurred to Kyle that Craig had already pinned him down about his hickies a few weeks prior, and he shivered, realizing he now knew the full story.

“Can you keep your voice down?” Kyle asked exasperatedly, stomach feeling heavy as he chanced a tired look at him. Craig raised an eyebrow just slightly, working through his next problem. “We aren’t dating.”

“If you say so.”

“It’s a sex thing.”

“Uh-huh,” Craig drawled, erasing one of his numbers with a squeak of rubber against the paper. “That’s why you’ve been acting like an emotional nutcase.”

Had he? Kyle found himself silent, grasping silently at what to say next when Craig shifted a little closer and elbowed him in the side.

“Relationships can have rough patches, dude.”

“Oh my god. Me and Eric are not in a relationship,” Kyle stated quietly, staring at Craig with exasperation.

“Eric, huh?”

Kyle felt like slamming his face into the table and just shut his eyes tight instead, wondering why calling his rival by his first name just sounded right lately.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” the redhead eventually admitted, taking a slow breath as his heart rate began to rise. Confusion raced within his veins, sending a chill up his back and into his lungs. “He’s just…my sort-of friend, or whatever.”

“You can stop trying to bullshit everybody about this.”

“It’s not bullshit,” Kyle insisted, a little unnerved by the certainty in Craig’s tone of voice. “He never even texts me unless he wants to screw. It’s been like, three days.”

“Do you suck in bed?” Craig inquired dryly.

“Fuck off. He’s just having a tantrum.”

“Why?”

Kyle swallowed, shifting and glancing down to his own notebook.

“I dunno. He came over on Monday,” he admitted, a little relieved to tell somebody even if it was, well, not his absolute favorite person in the world. “He got all pissy and walked out.”

“Mm.” Craig flipped to the next page of his worksheet, starting to attempt one of the other problems near the top. “And you don’t know why?”

“No,” Kyle stated honestly, eyeing Craig’s messy handwriting as he splayed its way over the white paper. “He was asking about why me and Stan were fighting at Token’s party.”

“Did you tell him you were drunk off your ass and looking for trouble?”

Kyle cringed a little, sending Craig an annoyed glance.

“I told him it was a misunderstanding,” he clarified, feeling a little lighter getting everything off his chest. “I mean, I thought Stan was talking behind my back about me and Eric, uh…”

“Fucking,” Craig supplemented helpfully. Kyle groaned a little.

“Yeah, fine, whatever.”

“So Cartman asks why you got pissed at Stan,” the black-haired boy started, boxing his final answer on the page. “And you tell him it was because you thought Stan was telling everybody you guys were screwing.”

“Yeah,” Kyle replied honestly. “I gave him lunch and everything. He just walked out.”

Craig stared at Kyle, eyes slightly larger than normal, and the redhead looked back.

“What?”

“Dude. You told somebody you were ashamed of them,” he began, voice dry. “To the point where you tried to break someone’s face for telling anybody you’re involved with them. And you don’t see how that could upset someone.”

“That’s not-” Kyle paused, thinking about his words carefully for a moment. “That’s not what I said, asshole.”

“It’s what you meant, though, right?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kyle stated, starting to feel something twist inside him. Craig sighed, flipping back to the first page of his worksheet and leaning back against his seat.

“You know, for a smart guy, you’re pretty oblivious. You should probably save his heart and tell him if you really don’t give a fuck about him.”

Kyle watched him, trying to process the reality of the situation as Craig packed his bag up and got to his feet.

Did Cartman even have a heart to save?

“Hey-” he interjected suddenly. Their gazes met, and Kyle felt a wave of something cold pass over him, sharp and bright, like the terrifying crest of a tsunami.

“I…I give a fuck,” he stated, voice clear and quiet.

Craig looked at him for a moment, surveying Kyle with obvious surprise, and shifted his bag over his shoulder.

“Yeah, I can tell. Thanks for the tutoring,” he stated, and stepped back out towards the main hall, leaving Kyle alone at the table.

Immediately, something inside Kyle stiffened hard. Was that…really what that entire exchange had been about? Cartman had thought he was ashamed of him? WAS he ashamed of him? Biting into his bottom lip, he reached back into his pocket and fished his phone out, gazing on the last text message from his sex-friend that he had received a few days back. His thumbs hesitated before he began to type, rereading his message about ten times before finally relenting and hitting the enter button.

hey wanna go to McDonalds later?

He tried not to listen for his phone as he sat at the table, drumming his fingertips against the edge.

--

That Friday night, with no social plans and not much homework on the horizon, Kyle found himself propped up in bed watching Vine compilations in a blue tank top and grey sweatpants. The quiet actually began to get a little eerie as the minutes passed, minutes turning to hours, numbers on his alarm clock counting upwards until 2:00AM displayed itself on the screen.

Annoying screams began to emanate from his laptop speakers, so Kyle hastily closed the tab and shut the lid, setting the computer onto his nightstand and shifting restlessly as he remembered Craig’s words from days before.

Ashamed.

Was he ashamed of Cartman? Well… He was definitely adverse to him, if that made any sense. Even after reuniting with him several months back, their relationship had never ascended above bickering, above insults. So what if some attraction and sex was newly sprinkled in? Kyle hadn’t exactly needed everybody at their school misunderstanding what they had become. If anything, they were still rivals, with new ways of working out that tension that always came out whenever they were in the same room together.

Kyle’s temples pulsed as he got up, pacing back and forth around his bedroom. He had honestly thought that “Bradley” kid was a figment of Cartman’s overactive imagination, or, equally likely, a lie made up to seem like he had some leverage over the redhead in the form of sexual prowess. It seemed, however, like he had been telling the truth- After all, how many Bradleys could there have been in that rehab clinic?

Kyle swallowed, feeling his throat becoming dry. The unanswered questions were starting to irritate him. He still had no idea what therapy had been like for Cartman for all those years, what he had been thinking back then, or what he was thinking now. Honestly, he didn’t really understand why it seemed like it mattered, either.

What the hell was happening to him?

Vaguely, he began to recall that evening drive back from Denver in the back of Liane Cartman’s red station-wagon. He could almost feel it, when he let his mind delve into the images- the soft feeling of Eric Cartman’s mouth on his, between the beaming of the streetlights and the salty aroma of French fries. He could remember the taste of apple juice on his tongue, and the feeling of the soft towel under his eyes, wiping coppery blood and tears from his face.

Kyle immediately paced over to his door and shrugged his jacket on, dull dread gathering in his stomach.

He couldn’t ignore this.

Treading as silently as possible down the carpeted steps, ensuring that his cell phone and key were in his right-hand pocket, Kyle let himself out of the house and into the summer night air, inhaling the crisp smells of pine and melting snow. His feet moved without his brain telling them to, taking him down the sidewalk and several blocks over. Vaguely, he found himself appreciating that South Park was still so small that he could visit the houses of most of his classmates on foot.

The walk didn’t feel long as he approached the corner, rounding the cul-de-sac and passing a newly sprouted grove of baby pines. Summer moisture hung in the air, and Kyle winced at the knowledge that he was probably becoming a walking ball of red frizz, passing the next few homes and pausing about thirty feet from his destination further up the road.

Four cars were parked outside the house, two butting up close to one another in the driveway and two up on the edge of the curb close to the mailbox. Immediately, Kyle caught the echoes of loud voices, and he hesitated, stepping behind the small trees and peering out.

A screaming laugh rang out along the street, and the redhead froze behind his makeshift hiding spot, feeling his heart start to beat a little faster. Maybe this had been a bad idea.

Moments later, a large, black truck drove its way up to the curb further down and parked its way up close behind the two other vehicles in the driveway, headlights bright and causing Kyle to squint slightly even from his distance. The doors opened, and the loud voices of two men rang out, gravelly and deep with laughter.

One loud horn blare nearly startled him out of his skin, and Kyle immediately turned around, literally skidding and tumbling backwards onto his ass as a shadowy figure leapt back in kind.

“AH!” he yelped out and scrambled back, heart pounding as his eyes focused sharply.

“Shit, dude! Sorry, sorry!!”

“…Kenny?!”

Another loud horn noise punctuated the shock between them, and the blond reached down to grip onto both of Kyle’s arms, helping to pull him back up to his feet.

“Uh…” Kenny swallowed, tone hushed as he glanced back over in the direction of the Cartman household. “…We should go.”

“Yeah.” Kyle had no objections. He stood up straighter and followed the blond’s lead down the road, heart starting to slow in its pounding as they got closer to where the streetlights stood at the crosswalk.

Taking a slow breath, Kyle turned and looked over at Kenny, anxiety starting to melt down.

“…What the fuck are you doing out this late?”

Kenny blinked, eyes large, before smiling brightly beneath the fake fur of his hoodie that drifted in the light wind.

“I should be asking you the same thing.”

“Uh, taking a walk,” Kyle replied eloquently, a little unsettled by the stiffness in his friend’s face. He looked up at the sky, eyeing the dimness of the crescent moon that illuminated the dark clouds, and suddenly realized why it smelled so much like rain.

“Hey, wanna go to IHOP? I really need some coffee.”

“Sure,” the redhead decided, trying to ignore the humid sweat collecting at the back of his neck. “Is that why you’re out?”

“Nah. My parents were fighting,” the blond sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets as they crossed the next street in the evening dimness. “It was getting loud.”

Kyle felt a twinge of guilt and followed along silently. That explained it.

“Nothing compared to what’s going on back there, though,” Kenny continued, eyeing Kyle sideways such that the redhead could feel his gaze even without looking.

“…No shit,” Kyle settled on, stomach in knots as they stopped at the light for a single car to pass them. “Who the hell are those people?”

“Tweaker johns?” Kenny tried, beat-up white converse appearing particularly dirty in the darkness around them. “I mean, that’s kinda what she’s known for.”

“Right,” Kyle agreed as they approached the nearby shopping center, unable to help but wonder about his rival as he stepped in through the restaurant doors. He followed the waitress to the booth and sat down, head aching as he shifted onto the cushion and ordered himself a water.

“Black coffee,” Kenny butted in with a passing smile at their waitress, drawing Kyle’s attention up to his face. For the first time in a long time, the sparkle was gone. His lips didn’t quirk and he didn’t watch her as she walked away, and Kyle swallowed in realization.

“You and Butters are really serious.”

“Huh?” the gangly teen inquired, glancing up and smiling. “Yeah, of course. Why?”

“You didn’t flirt with the waitress.”

Kenny paused, chuckling and leaning in with a little grin. “I’m not an asshole, you know.”

“I know,” Kyle replied as he glanced over the menu, not too sure whether he was hungry or not. He really had just wanted to get the hell out of the house, primarily. That bedroom was way too quiet with his thoughts, images and memories that kept drifting in and out of his consciousness without him even wanting them there.

The waitress set their beverages down, and Kyle muttered something about needing a minute, eyeing the thoroughly unappealing menu images of greasy sausages and pancakes.

“So,” Kenny replied quietly, trailing his fingers along the rim of his mug. “A midnight stroll over to Cartman’s house, huh?”

Kyle sat silently for a few moments, mulling the reality of his own insanity over in his mind. “He’s pissed-off at me.”

“Oh, yeah?” the blond asked, voice slightly quiet. Kyle, at the very least, appreciated Kenny’s ability to be private about things when around other people. “What happened?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Kyle stated, not wanting to recount the events for the second time that day. “I was trying to be nice and he stormed out on me on Monday.”

There was a moment of silence while they sipped their drinks, eyes focused on their individual menus.

“You know,” Kenny eventually stated, leaning one elbow casually on the tabletop. “He’s been through a lot. Maybe you should cut him a little slack.”

Surprised by the solemn tone, Kyle slowly raised his chin upwards, trying to look Kenny in the eye. “What do you mean?”

There was no response for a moment, and Kyle’s stomach began to feel heavy.

“Do you think we should call the cops?” he tried hesitantly, fingers working nervously at the fabric border of the menu. “Maybe all those guys are dangerous.”

“Well…He probably doesn’t want people knowing,” Kenny stated, finally catching Kyle’s gaze with his own. Kyle took a breath.

“Yeah, I guess not.”

“Are you worried?”

The waitress came over, and Kyle ordered himself an Oreo shake, satisfied he’d refilled his pump with sufficient insulin that same morning.

“I guess,” Kyle stated when she had left the table, leaning forward. “I…” He swallowed, focusing on the table. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

The blond leaned a little closer, looking surprised, and Kyle exhaled sharply through his nose.

“Why am I the one that has to deal with him?” he asked suddenly, voice harsh but quiet. “Why am I getting shit delivered to my door? What is he trying to do? What is his problem?”

“What, the chocolates?” Kenny asked, waving a hand at him. “It’s probably just a girl from class. Maybe Heidi wants another chance at you.”

Silence fell between them as Kyle watched Kenny, catching the surprised look in his blue eyes and tensing.

In that moment, a surprised and unsure pause settled between them. Kyle thought back, trying to remember how the events had transpired. Kenny had been his confidant, certainly, and he knew how far he and Eric had made it, but even still…he wasn’t there for everything.

The blond watched him, expression wary, and Kyle took a breath.

“Uh, Kenny,” he started, eyes narrowing as his companion stared back with tense shoulders.

“When did I tell you about the chocolates?”

--

Chapter Text

--

The silence was punctuated only by the clink of dishes that were set down between them, accompanied by the gentle aroma of steaming French toast and scrambled eggs. Kenny’s eyes were clear and blue, and Kyle felt an itch of apprehension creeping up between his shoulders.

“Uh, wasn’t it chocolates?” the blond inquired, raising an eyebrow and sitting up a little. “Stan said you got some like, Valentine’s delivery with no name on it.”

“…The roses?” Kyle inquired, insides twisting unsurely as he eyed the whipped cream atop his shake. “They didn’t have a tag.”

“Oh, it was roses? Shit, those are expensive.”

The redhead sipped at his drink silently for a moment, wondering when Stan and Kenny had had that conversation. Stan had indeed been present for that impromptu delivery, so he supposed he probably had mentioned it, after all.

“Yeah. Somebody’s been leaving shit,” he clarified, wiping his lips primly on his napkin. Kenny shifted a little, cutting into his food as he leaned a little closer across the tabletop.

“Any idea who?”

“Probably Eric fucking with my head,” Kyle stated, voice blunt as he took another deep drag on his shake straw. “That’s a pastime of his, if you haven’t noticed.”

“Why would he bother?” Kenny inquired. “He already fucks you in bed.”

Kyle gulped, feeling himself flush deep in the cheeks. “Jesus Christ, Kenny.”

Kenny grinned from across the table and reached out, gently shoving Kyle in the arm with his open palm.

“Do you guys still hook up?”

“Not really,” Kyle stated, immediately tense at the line of questioning. “He hasn’t texted me in like four days.” The redhead was suddenly aware of the heat in his cheeks, and he turned his face to the side slightly, wishing he could hide when Kenny sent him a pointed glance.

“Dude, it’s okay if you’re, you know…catching feelings.”

“Kenny,” Kyle stated immediately, trying to ignore the sharp pang of something that passed through his chest. “We’re fuckbuddies. That’s it.”

They looked at one another, and Kenny leaned in even further over his plate of hot food, fingers closing around the handle of his coffee mug.

“Are you sure?” he asked quietly, lips turning into the slightest of very Kenny-like hesitant smiles. “Is that why you’re out at three in the morning going to his house?”

Kyle sighed heavily and sipped at his shake, suddenly very much not in the mood for dessert.
He opened his mouth to reply when his phone buzzed heavily in his pocket, and he reached in to fish it out from beside his house key, immediately seeing ‘MOM’ above the top of the screen.

“Fuck,” He hissed, gingerly swiping the phone icon and lifting the phone to his ear.

“KYLE! Where are you?!”

“Mom, I’m fine,” he said levelly as possible, voice slightly thick as he tried to keep his volume down. He caught sight of Kenny’s amused smile in the corner of his eye as he stared at the plastic rack with the various pancake syrups at the side of their table, feeling a headache starting to come on.

“Why are you out in the middle of the night?! Come home this instant!”

“I- yeah, okay,” he mumbled, aware those in the vicinity could probably hear the shouting from his phone speakers. “Just hold on a few minutes.”

“Where are you right now?!”

“I’m getting food with Kenny,” he stated, taking a deep breath of irritation. “I’ll be right there.”

He hung up immediately and shoved his phone back into his pocket, digging out his wallet and swallowing hard to clear his throat.

“Busted,” Kenny replied smoothly, sending Kyle another sympathetic little grin. “Guess that’s the plus of having parents that get drunk and fight too much to know where the hell I go.”

Kyle huffed and set a ten-dollar bill onto the table, getting up and pushing his shake over to Kenny.

“Here, you can finish it.”

“Thanks,” the blond replied with an awkward expression, giving Kyle a moment of pause as he stepped over to the side of the booth.

“So, uh,” Kenny stated, stopping him in his tracks with a look of hesitancy. “You really don’t, like, think about Cartman that way at all?”

The pause between them was tangible. Among the salty scents of the restaurant and the gentle clatter emanating from the kitchen in the back, Kyle, eyes tired and throat dry, let the truth rise up out of him unfiltered.

“I don’t know what I think anymore,” he stated, and then turned, promptly heading out through the front doors and into the night before the conversation had the chance to continue.

The night air was warm. Kyle took his time walking back home, wondering why his mother was awake at such an ungodly hour. There was something that hung around him in the darkness like a pervasive fog, something that made him blink a few times in an effort to clear his mind.

He remembered Cartman curled up in his bed, muttering about how he was sorry for something, and Kyle immediately felt as though he were physically sore from head to toe.

The grey clouds laid thickly in the sky above him as he walked, eyes wandering over the shadows of pointed pines in the distance. As he turned his head to ensure no cars were speeding down the next street, a large and cold droplet of something splashed between his eyes, and he glanced upwards.

Shit.

Kyle picked up his pace, heading into a slow jog as the rain began to drip onto the fabric of his jacket, soaking in through his pajamas and slipping against his bare skin. He approached his front door quickly and unlocked it, stepping inside and immediately finding himself less than a foot away from his mother.

“Kyle!” Sheila shouted and reached out, wrapping the teenager in her pink-robed arms. Her long red hair, normally kept up in the daytime, was thick and long against Kyle’s face as she gripped him, clinging on for a few more moments before stepping back with a deep frown.

“What are you thinking, going out this late?!”

“Ma,” Kyle groaned and immediately shucked his jacket off, grimacing at the feel of moisture against his neck. Sheila stepped closer, dark eyes large and confused.

“You’re soaked!”

“It’s not that bad,” he replied, using what was still dry on his jacket to wipe any remaining moisture from his neck and chest. Sheila sighed and reached out, placing her palms on Kyle’s shoulders before he could move to head back upstairs to his room.

“Kyle,” she said levelly, voice tinged with relief but otherwise sounding a little raw. “We need to have a talk.”

Kyle stilled, slowly pulling his wet hat off and letting his messy red curls spring free. Very rarely did Sheila use a solemn tone unnecessarily. He was certainly accustomed to hearing her tone get higher with worry, or deepen with concern, but the softness of her current voice was rare. It immediately reminded Kyle of the day his dad had died, two years ago, and how she had broken the news to him when he had returned from school that Tuesday afternoon.

“…What?” he asked unsurely, surprised to find himself taken by the arm. Sheila led him to the sofa and sat down, and Kyle hesitantly took a seat next to her.

“I need you to tell me what’s going on.”

It wasn’t what the teen had expected to hear, and Kyle just blinked back at her, feeling his heartrate begin to rise as he forced himself not to break eye contact.

“Uh, nothing?”

“Don’t lie to me,” she pressed softly, keeping a firm hold on his arm in a way that was reminiscent of how she had kept hold of Kyle when he was a kid and had misbehaved. “You’ve been acting strange for weeks. Is it about your father’s death anniversary? Are you upset?”

Kyle took a slow breath, feeling his eyes prick and burn. Immediately, he felt Sheila’s small hand on his other arm, and hesitantly looked up to meet her tired expression. He wasn’t a good liar, and he knew it, so he decided to be as vague as possible.

“Not really,” he admitted, shoulders tightening up as he finally allowed himself to look away. “I’m just- it’s…I’m getting really stressed.”

“Stressed about what, bubby?”

“Just…everything,” he admitted quietly. His eyes continued to sting, and he swallowed, suddenly horrified by the realization of what he was already having to hold back.

“Is it about college? Are you getting nervous about moving away?”

Very rarely did Kyle Broflovski find himself at a loss for words. The events of the past several months, however, were testing him, and he didn’t really even entirely understand why. College applications were certainly near the top of the list, but his scholastic activities alone normally didn’t weigh on him so heavily. He had even been excited back in the beginning, excited to move out of South Park and start a new and fresh life somewhere else. Kyle Broflovski wanted to accomplish things. He wanted to become somebody that people respected. He didn’t want to be that angry, pissed-off, insecure little kid that always got tripped up by-

Hot fluid began to stream down his cheeks, and Kyle immediately found himself encircled in a hug.

“Kyle, what’s wrong?!” Sheila asked, sounding genuinely distraught as she held him close. Kyle took a deep breath, trying hard to hold it in for a few moments, and then just closed his eyes tighter, allowing the tears to flow.

“It’s him,” he stated quietly, a fresh fountain of tears pouring down over his cheeks and into his mother’s robe. His heart pulsed as he absorbed the shock, the total unthinkable nature of what he had been doing for so many months without telling a soul.

The room was quiet as he sniffled, reaching up, pushing his mother away as he wiped his face on his pajama sleeve and stared down at his own lap behind the cataracts of tears. Sheila blinked at him, obviously completely thrown off-guard.

“Are you and Stan having problems?” she asked, tone betraying her obvious confusion. “Were you the one that damaged his truck? Is that why you paid for-”

“It’s not about Stan,” Kyle stated honestly, voice clear despite the waver in his throat. His eyes threatened him again with a deep burn and he clenched his fists in the fabric of his pajama pants. His stomach twisted, and he dared to look up into his mother’s eyes, lungs aching for oxygen as he took a forgotten breath.

“It’s about Cartman, okay?”

Sheila sat up straighter immediately, watching Kyle like she was afraid she had misheard. Kyle began to shiver, meeting her gaze, toes curling in his shoes as he crossed his legs on the couch cushion beneath him.

“Eric Cartman?” she eventually tried, saying the name like it was that belonging to a dead person. Kyle remained silent, immediately feeling the pressure of impending questioning settling over his brain.

“Have you been having nightmares?” Sheila continued, leaning in and reaching out to grip one of Kyle’s hands in both of her own. The smoothness of her acrylic red nail grazed Kyle’s wrist as he tensed, shaking his head.

“No.”

“Do you need to go to a therapist? Are you traumatized?”

“No,” Kyle repeated, swallowing the fluid at the back of his tongue. It was probably kind of a miracle that Sheila had not yet heard about his rival’s return to South Park, but Kyle had known from day one that it was really only a matter of time. Sheila gazed at him, waiting, and Kyle shifted.

“He’s back in town…”

“WHAT?!”

“Mom.” The redhead reached out and immediately gripped Sheila by the upper arms, holding onto her in a gesture of reassurance and staring into her face. “It’s okay.”

“Okay?!” she asked, lips parted in obvious shock. “Kyle, how do you know this?!”

Kyle inhaled sharply, keeping his grasp firm and hoping to God his tone was convincing. “I’ve seen him at school.”

“School?! When?!”

“Mom- mom,” he stated, changing position so he could lean in closer. “They released him. He checked out of the facility last year.”

“And you never told me?!” Sheila practically cried out, standing up despite Kyle’s grasp and taking a step backwards. “Did he threaten you?!”

“No!” Kyle promised and got up, raising his voice. “He isn’t hurting anybody!”

“Do I need to call the police?!”

Kyle’s cheeks heated as he stepped forward, taking his mother’s hand as she had his and holding on.

“Mom, calm down,” he stated as levelly as possible. For whatever reason, Sheila’s features softened, morphing into the picture of confusion as she stared back at him.

“Kyle,” she stated, voice audibly shaky. “I need you to tell me what’s going on right now.”

Kyle couldn’t help but wonder how his appearance had changed sufficiently enough for his mother’s frantic rage to dissipate so fast.

“We’ve…We’ve been hanging out,” he eventually managed, letting his hands fall to his sides. There were a few seconds of silence before Sheila leaned in a little closer.

“And?”

“And what?” Kyle asked, suddenly painfully aware of the heat in his ears. “And we’re- we’re friends, okay? He’s not dangerous anymore. He’s normal.”

“You said he was stressing you out,” Sheila replied immediately, tone coated in deep suspicion. Kyle shivered, mind scrambling for an explanation that didn’t sound forced. “What has he been doing to you?”

“His home life sucks,” he replied honestly, voice thick. “His mom- He’s stuck with no money. I bought him lunch and stuff a couple of times.”

Kyle immediately felt himself in another hug, this one as tight as the first, but somehow less urgent.

“You’re worried about him?” Sheila inquired, and Kyle took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down.

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure he isn’t manipulating you?”

“What’s happening?”

The familiar lilt brought Kyle’s attention up to the staircase, where Ike stood halfway up in the oversized red hockey jersey he used as a nightgown.

“…Listen,” Kyle stated, almost relieved for the momentary distraction as he glanced back at his mother. “I haven’t even seen him for a while, anyway. It’s fine.”

“Seen who??”

Kyle grit his teeth as Ike stumbled down the stairs, closing his eyes.

“Bubby,” Sheila stated, wringing her hands together in a classic gesture of concern as she looked between both of her sons. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“Because I knew you’d get worried,” the redhead stated, glancing between the two before looking up at the clock on the wall.

“Of course I’m worried! Kyle, that boy is unstable.”

“Was,” Kyle corrected, trying to avoid Ike’s weirdly intense stare and looking at his mother instead. “They released him. He isn’t dangerous.”

Sheila looked back at Kyle unsurely, and Kyle fixed the top button of his pajama shirt to keep his hands busy.

“I need to go to bed. We can talk about this later, okay?”

“I don’t understand,” Sheila immediately stated, gripping Kyle by the arm once more, albeit with a lighter grasp than before. “Please tell me he hasn’t laid a finger on you.”

Kyle turned away immediately and took a shiver breath, eyes large as he tried with every fiber of his being to force any outward reaction down deep inside him, far from the surface.

“Nope, never,” he stated hollowly and turned. “Night, mom.”

“Kyle…”

He tried not to be visible in his hurry as he made his way up the steps, entering his bedroom and closing the door. He immediately ran over to his bed and fished his phone out of his pocket, clicking into his messaging app and gritting his teeth when he realized his last message didn’t even say ‘Seen’. He sent a couple more before setting his phone slowly onto the nightstand.

wanna go to the arcade again?

I’ll pay

It was probably good that it was a Friday night, given the fact that Kyle was pretty sure he wasn’t going to get any sleep.

Sheila’s footsteps creaked slightly up the stairs, but Kyle felt himself relax a little when he heard her bedroom door open, followed by the distinct click that told him he’d probably evade her questioning until tomorrow. Kyle worked his way under his covers and wrestled with the sheet, closing his eyes, trying hard to put the events of the miserable day out of his mind. As he shifted, he heard the bottom of his door brush against the rug, only to hear the voice he hadn’t expected.

“Ooh, he’s the girlfriend, right?”

“Fuck off, Ike,” Kyle groaned, throwing his arm over his face as he tried to ignore his little brother. The side of his bed dipped down, and he shifted up into a reluctant slouch against his headboard, catching the shine of Ike’s dark, almost-black eyes in the dim light.

“That’s why you’ve been getting flowers and chocolates,” Ike hummed, creeping a little closer where he sat at the edge of the mattress.

“I didn’t ask for that shit,” the redhead replied, holding a pillow against his chest as he sat up further. His brother just eyed him, as though trying to figure out what he was thinking.

“Don’t say anything to mom.”

Ike made a noncommittal sound, and Kyle reached out to grab him by the jersey.

“Ike.”

“Okay, okay. I won’t,” his brother promised, not sounding particularly threatened as he wiggled away from Kyle’s grip. “Why are you so bitchy??”

“I’m not ‘bitchy’,” Kyle spat, keeping his voice low to a whisper. Ike looked back at him, lips flattened together as though he was considering something.

“I don’t really know that guy,” he admitted, voice slow and ponderous as he stepped back off the bed and kicked his foot slowly along the carpet. “But...I remember him, y’know.”

Confused, Kyle stayed silent, watching Ike warily lest he raise his voice to an unsafe volume.

“You guys were together all the time,” he continued. “Like, you’d sit next to each other, and then fight and whatever, and then sit down together again. It was weird. I never got it.”

The brothers looked at one another, and Kyle waited for a continuation to the thought. Instead, though, Ike hopped towards the door and turned to glance back over his shoulder.

“Night!”

Kyle laid there for a good hour before he was actually able to force himself to sleep.

--

Another week passed filled with final exam preparation and restless nights. Kyle’s usually quiet study periods were packed with students from all different grades, resulting in multiple groups lining up at his corner library table for help with review packets and final homework assignments. Honestly, the redhead was relieved for the distractions, given the fact that, well, Eric Cartman still hadn’t sent him any reply texts.

“He’s probably just busy with finals, too,” Stan had commented when he had mentioned it offhand, still seeming a little weirded out by the prospect that Kyle gave a damn where Cartman was or what he was doing. “You could go bang down his door.”

That hadn’t appealed to Kyle after his last attempt, so the redhead had done what he did best and thrown himself deep into his studies, also attending his best friend’s football games and his brother’s soccer games to make the evenings pass even faster than they already did.

After a quick hour of helping freshman with their geometry assignments, as well as a distraught Clyde who was insistent that he needed Kyle’s tutelage to pass his chemistry final, the redhead made his way down the hall and towards his locker, having stayed over into lunch period and starting to get hungry. Stan had already texted him and promised to retrieve him an iced coffee and a breakfast sandwich from the Starbucks down the street, probably as a thank-you for the money he had contributed into restoring Stan’s truck to drivable condition, so Kyle swapped out his textbooks for the afternoon and shut his locker quietly, tossing his backpack on over his shoulder again and turning around.

Kenny stood at the end of the hall, gulping from the drinking fountain in his usual orange jacket, and Kyle caught his eye as he stood up, waving over to him.

“Hey,” he called, losing his train of thought when he caught the pinched expression on the blond’s face. Kyle blinked, and Kenny sent him a brief and forced half-smile before turning around and heading off down the hallway.

Confused, the redhead turned around and made his way out to the back area of the school, sitting at one of the empty picnic tables that faced the parking lot. Within about ten minutes, Stan’s newly-repaired truck pulled up and two black-haired teenagers stepped out of it, heading over to the table with brown bags and clear plastic cups.

“Thanks,” Kyle replied immediately and reached for his coffee, cracking his neck to the side and staring blearily out at the dull mountaintops in the distance.

“You okay?” Stan inquired, sitting close to Wendy as he held his own chocolate croissant in one hand and some kind of cream-topped frappe in the other. “You look tired.”

“Too much studying,” Kyle admitted, licking his lips and opening his breakfast sandwich. He immediately observed the bacon peeking out from under the top piece of bread and picked it off, digging into the egg and cheese instead.

“Oh, sorry,” Stan apologized, realizing his error as he eyed the strips of pork on the piece of paper.

“It’s cool.”

“Hey, Kyle,” Wendy addressed, picking at the paper cup around her blueberry muffin. “Did you hear back from UCD yet?”

Kyle paused, finishing his mouthful and wiping his lips with his sleeve. “Oh, uh, not yet.”

“We have a few weeks left,” she acknowledged. “I’m sure you’ll get in.”

Kyle didn’t doubt it. If his resume and application was good enough for Berkeley, he was pretty sure UCD would be a snap.

“Did you guys see Kenny today at all?” he chanced, glancing between the two.

“He was in my English class this morning,” Wendy replied, raising an eyebrow slightly. Stan shook his head.

“I didn’t. Why?”

“He kind of blanked me earlier,” Kyle explained, starting to feel a little bit uneasy. “You don’t…know if something’s going on with him, do you?”

Stan and Wendy looked at one another, echoing Kyle’s confusion on their faces.

“Uh, not really, dude.”

The rest of the day went by relatively quickly, and Kyle couldn’t decide if he wanted to go home yet by the end. Every day since the night out at IHOP, Sheila had been badgering him with questions about Eric Cartman, many of which Kyle didn’t dare answer truthfully lest he betray the dirty details of their involvement. Figuring an extra hour wouldn’t cause too much suspicion due to his mother being at work until six that night, the redhead finished his homework in the library and did a little studying for his history class before packing up and heading back outside towards the now-empty tables.

After a moment of consideration, Kyle settled down on the steps that descended from the back doors of the school building, staring out at the green grass that was springing up around the pavement of the empty parking lot.

The wind was mild, and the clouds were starting to build yet again, as they had every night over the past several weeks. It was April, so it was normal that the rainy season was upon them, sprinkling intermittently throughout the afternoons and evenings and bringing up new growth. A few fresh clusters of daisies were springing up through the spring mulch, waving slightly in the dewy breeze, and Kyle wondered how much longer he was going to be able to smell this air and have this mountain view.

Kyle checked his phone again, frowning, yet again seeing no response from the person he had been thinking of the most.

As he sat silently, he barely registered the soft scraping on the concrete steps behind him, until somebody brushed arms with him and sat down directly at his side.

“Hey, Kyle,” Butters said softly, and Kyle glanced to his side in surprise, startled.

“Oh, uh, hey.”

Butters cast his blue-eyed gaze down at the pavement beneath him, and Kyle shifted, wondering what was going on with his expression.

“You okay?”

The blond looked up, catching Kyle’s eye, and swallowed visibly, Adam’s apple bobbing in his pale throat.

“Yeah, I guess,” he admitted, voice still soft and high-pitched compared to most boys their age. “I’m still a little bummed about the funeral last weekend.”

Oh, right. The Bradley kid.

“Sorry, dude.”

“That’s all right. It was a real nice little service, with flowers, ‘n everything. Um, but my parents grounded me again for bein’ out past dinner. I’m supposed to be headin’ home right about now.”

“That sucks,” Kyle replied, suddenly realizing something. “Where’s Kenny? Doesn’t he usually walk home with you?”

“Oh,” Butters sighed, sitting up. “He’s off at the pharmacy pickin’ up some medication.”

Kyle opened his mouth to stay something, pausing.

“For who?” he asked, and his classmate immediately sat up straighter.

“O-Oh jeeze, I wasn’t supposed to say that.”

The redhead stared, and Butters slowly got to his feet, working his hands together like he always had when they were young.

“He’s just...helpin’ a friend, that’s all.”

“What friend?” Kyle asked, slowly standing up to his full height. “Butters, what’s going on?”

For the second time that week, Kyle’s conversation was interrupted by the loud buzzing of a phone call, this time accompanied by a gentle melody the redhead didn’t know the name of. Butters hopped up in surprise, and then reached into his backpack to pull his cell-phone out from the front pocket.

“Ken?”

The voice that emanated from the speakers was so loud that Kyle could hear it from several feet away. Butters hesitated, waiting for a break in the conversation before looking up at his classmate with wide eyes.

“U-Uh, Kyle’s here,” he stated, and Kyle perked up from where he stood. He heard his name being said loudly, and without thinking too much, reached out and snatched the phone directly from Butters’ hand, pulling it up to his own ear as his irritation began to boil.

“Would you mind telling me what the fuck is going on?!”

“Kyle!” Kenny’s voice met him immediately, sounding loud and slightly out-of-breath. “I need you and Leo to come over to Cartman’s house.”

Kyle paused, momentarily stunned by what he was hearing. “Cartman’s…house.”

“Yeah, I’ll explain when you get here,” came the familiar voice, accompanied by a conspicuous banging sound. Kyle winced, pulling the phone away from his ear momentarily.

“What the hell do you need me for??”

“Just trust me,” Kenny asked, voice slightly raspy. “Please. Just grab Leo and come over, okay? I really need both of you.”

“Is he okay?” Kyle inquired without really thinking.

“I don’t know! Just get over here!”

Gritting his teeth, Kyle sent Butters a narrow-eyed look.

“Fine.” He hung up and handed the phone to the shorter boy, suspicious of the shocked expression on his pale face.

“Kenny wants us to go over to Cartman’s house,” he stated shortly, and Butters averted his eyes.

It was in that moment that Kyle recognized how his heart was racing, pumping hard in his chest and in his ears. He took a step down from the stairs, and had to pause. For a few seconds, he considered unleashing his frustrations on the smaller boy, but he found himself looking towards the horizon instead, wondering just what on Earth could be happening that Kenny would require his presence for, and why he had to be the one so wrapped up with Eric Cartman in the first place.

Maybe today he’d find out exactly why that asshole had been ignoring his texts, after all.

--

Chapter Text

--

As they cut through the streets and towards Kenny’s supposed location, Kyle found himself picking up his pace, feet skidding along the pavement and asphalt as the shorter blond kept close behind him. Despite the early hour, the darkness from the overhead clouds seemed to thicken the air somehow, blanketing in the warm humidity that had been lingering for the past several days. A car passed by in front of them, and Kyle waited before crossing the next street over, feeling a hand on his arm and glancing back.

“What?!” he spat, irritated by the distraction. Butters hesitated, pointing downwards to the area between them.

“Um, you’ve got…there’s some kind o’ noise.”

In the moment of stillness, Kyle detected the soft beeping of his insulin pump alarm, and looked down, eyeing the battery warning and shutting off the volume with a sigh.

“It’s just dying,” he stated and kept walking, feeling Butters return to his previous quickness beside him.

Realization began to chew at Kyle’s brain as he picked up into a quick jog, weaving around parked cars at the side of the street as he entered the neighborhood on the West end of town. Kenny had been aware of the chocolates. He was probably aware of more than that, too, but how? Why? Why would one of his best friends share something about Eric Cartman with Butters, of all people, but not HIM?

Kyle spotted Kenny's tall figure immediately as he rounded the next block, standing out in front of that familiar green façade with his hands in his pockets. Immediately, the redhead burst into a sprint and made his way up to him, ears hot.

“Why did you lie to me?!” he shouted as he came within speaking distance, affixing Kenny with a deep glare. The blond looked back at him, blue eyes dim, and then glanced over at his boyfriend for a moment before looking back at Kyle.

“I’m sorry,” he admitted quietly, lips pursed slightly without even the slightest hint of a smile. Kyle paused, anger fading into confusion at the seriousness of his expression.

“What the fuck is happening?”

Butters moved quickly over to Kenny’s side, and Kenny gently bumped shoulders with him, staring at Kyle silently.

“He isn’t answering his door.”

“So?” Kyle asked, mind starting to spin as he saw the lack of any cars in the driveway. “Maybe he isn’t home.”

“He said he’d be here,” Kenny explained, kneeling down and digging a hand into the grass. He fished out a pebble and reached up, tossing it, watching as it clicked against the second-story window before falling down again. Kyle tensed, waiting for an explanation, until Kenny stood up straight again.

“Okay, listen. You need to not freak out on me,” Kenny stated.

“Are you hooking up?”

Kenny blinked, obviously taken aback. “What?”

“Are you and Eric fucking?!”

“No!” the blond replied honestly, actually cracking a momentary smile before his lips fell once again. “He texted me the first time last week. I dunno how he got my number. I’ve just been helping him out a little.”

“Bullshit!” Kyle replied immediately and took a step forward, fingers tensing into his palms. “Something’s going on! I want to know why you smile in my face one day and then go talk behind my fucking back the next!”

“Dude- Kyle! Listen!” Kenny raised his voice, reaching out and gripping onto the redhead by the shoulders. Kyle looked up at his taller friend, startled by the contact, and jerked backwards slightly, not liking the sudden proximity.

“Let me explain,” Kenny breathed, watching him levelly before glancing up at the side of the house. “He needed someone to talk to. He asked me to go pick up his Xanax earlier, but he isn’t answering. I’m getting worried.”

Those words gave Kyle pause for a moment, and he took a step backwards out of Kenny’s grasp, eyes wandering up to the bedroom window.

“Pick up his Xanax,” he stated, more to himself than anything. Kenny hummed in assent, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a crumpled, white paper bag with the Walmart logo on it.

“He’s…not in a good place right now.”

An image of the cluster of orange pill bottles atop his rival’s nightstand faded its way into Kyle’s consciousness, focusing in on the white labels with the numerous letter Xs. How exactly Kenny would legitimately be able to pick up a prescription for somebody when he quite obviously didn't match the picture ID was uncertain, but Kyle wasn't oblivious to the fact that many of the people in town were complete and absolute idiots. He suddenly recalled the night at Token’s party, standing beside the sink with Tweek, and something heavy settled at the back of his neck.

“...So, what do you need me for?” Kyle inquired suspiciously, feeling raw. “He obviously talks to you. He hasn’t texted me in weeks. He ignores me whenever I-”

“He’s not ignoring you,” Kenny replied, Adam’s apple bobbing visibly. His eyes shifted over to Butters, who had been standing quietly beside him, and the latter looked back nervously at Kyle, hands working together in front of him.

“He’s been textin’ Kenny about you, Kyle,” the smaller blond whispered, chewing at his bottom lip nervously. “Every day.”

Kyle had never felt so hot and yet so cold simultaneously in his entire life. His stomach tightened, feeling heavy, and he looked up slowly at his close friend.

“What?”

Kenny reached into his pocket, fishing out his iPhone and tapping the screen a couple of times. The moment he extended his arm, Kyle moved over to his side and lifted the phone into his own palm, eyeing what he could see of the conversation on the screen.

idk if i can

C’mon you really have to

im a fuckin idiot

fucking fat piece of shit

hey NO chill out!!

do you need help?? Want me to call someone??

HEY dude answer!!!

can u grab my meds from Walmart

i’ll leave u my license under the mat

ok don’t do anything stupid!!

i’ll be there at like 3!

Immediately nauseous, Kyle pushed the phone quickly back into Kenny’s hand. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to read the rest, didn’t need to know how the rest of that conversation had gone, didn’t want to see his name. Urgency clawed at him as he stepped over to the front door, pounding his fist angrily into the painted wood.

“Hey, fat-ass!” Kyle shouted, voice loud and hoarse. “Come to the door!”

From the corner of his eye, he vaguely saw Butters and Kenny share a look, before a hand settled itself back on his shoulder.

“Dude, calm down!”

“Answer your fucking door!” Kyle continued instead, feeling his guts begin to tighten and knot. “Don’t you fucking ignore me!”

“Kyle! Jesus Christ!”

“FINE!” he almost screamed, suddenly overcome by tremors of shock and rage. Kyle spun around, trudging his way past Kenny and up to the gate that separated the backyard from the front. He passed the large rolling trash can and stormed his way in through the back, momentarily stopped by the memory of being in that very spot.

He remembered his partner seated on the ground, clutching his bleeding arm, and sprinted his way through the small garden, jogging up to the sun-bleached back door.

One yank of the knob, and the door emitted a noisy creak as it swung open, immediately populating Kyle’s personal space with the aromas of crumbling paint and dust. The redhead took a step forward through the doorframe, and promptly stopped where he stood a few feet in.

It was dark. Kyle vaguely recognized the living room window, which was currently covered completely by a set of drab grey curtains. The peeling paint was visible in several areas over the wall, curls of yellow exposing a deeper layer of dusty taupe underneath. Sweat began to gather on the back of his neck as he took a second step forward, listening carefully for any signs of activity.

Why hadn’t Cartman been texting him if he needed something? Kyle swallowed as he nervously made his way through the dim house, past the visibly dusty green sofa and up to the wooden stairs. Slowly, he put one foot in front of the other, forgetting about the other two visitors behind him as he made his way up alone.

The creaking in the stairs set his nerves on edge as he made his way up, genuinely wanting to shout but feeling a little claustrophobic from being sandwiched in the narrow space between the wall and the banister. Liane’s car had not been parked in the driveway, he had noticed, so he could only assume the house had, at most, one inhabitant currently.

Dust filled his lungs again as he swallowed, stifling a cough against his wrist. Kyle reached the top step, and peered down the narrow hallway towards the door at the end. Forcing himself to stay quiet, he made his way unsurely up to it, and tried the knob, surprised to find it turning readily under his fingers.

He pushed it open, and immediately tensed at the complete and utter darkness, looking up towards the area where he knew the window was. Something thick had been hung over it, allowing only the faintest halo of light to peek in from the afternoon outside. In the bare illumination, Kyle allowed his eyes to focus, and then swept them over towards the bed, where he froze in his place near the doorway.

The figure on the mattress wasn’t one he recognized. It was curled to one side, wrapped around a pillow, with sharp shoulders and unimpressive legs curved inwards around the torso. The sudden and stuffy scent of the room made Kyle swallow, trying to clear his throat as he inhaled slowly through his nose. As his vision adjusted, he began to make out the slow and steady movement of breath, the rise and fall of the tapered side and…strangely sharp arm at the person’s side.

Kyle took a step forward, legitimately startled, brows drawing down into a frown as he got closer. In the slight light from the window, he was able to discern an illuminated patch of strawberry-cocoa hair splayed out over the crumpled pillow, and he felt his chest seize immediately.

“…Hey,” he managed quietly, taking another pace closer and looking down at the person. His heart began to pump faster as he stared down over the curled form, the bone that peaked up from the exposed wrist. The person’s face was pressed down into the pillow, but enough of his temple was illuminated for Kyle to feel panic spike up along his spine.

“Eric,” he stated and reached out, gripping his shoulder and freezing at the bone he felt.

“Hey, get up.”

Footsteps sounded out behind him, and Kyle heard the softness of voices in the stagnant air. “Is he up here?”

“Ken, look…”

“Wake up,” Kyle insisted, voice rising in volume as he shook him by the arm. That familiar warmth, the one he knew so well from years of childhood up until the present day, felt disturbingly cool and unyielding.

The person on the bed shifted, startling him out of his next command as he pulled his hand away. Audible gasps spread out behind Kyle as the sleeping guy shifted up slightly, pushing himself into a seated position with his hands on the mattress and his face directed back over his shoulder.

The thick bangs, though greasy, were immediately recognizable above the coffee-colored eyes. Kyle stared into the slimmer face, and forgot to breathe when he realized that the person looking back was hardly even bigger than he was.

Before the trio could move in their surprise, Cartman turned back onto his side and laid down again, curling into the sheets and exposing a bony shoulder underneath the blue t shirt he wore.

“…Oh, no, you don’t,” Kyle stated, starting to feel panic rising up in his lungs as he gripped his arm and shook it again. “Get up, Cartman.”

There was no response.

“What is wrong with you?” the redhead tried, eyeing the way his shirt bagged out at the front with rising panic. He recalled those several nights where he had watched his rival inhale burgers, lo mein… Why hadn’t he told him if it was this bad?!

Where was Liane?!

“Damn it,” he spat in his frustration, yanking on Cartman’s shoulder. “Get the fuck up.”

“Kyle,” Kenny stated quietly from beside him, and Kyle felt a hand on his arm, which he promptly yanked off.

Something began to rise up inside Kyle as he observed the thin figure on the bed, something entitled and proud. Before he knew it, he was grabbing onto Cartman with both hands, eyes burning as he shook him.

“Why didn’t you tell me?!” he asked, voice raising into a shout. “What is your problem?! Why are you ignoring me?!”

“Kyle, for the love of God!” the blond stated, closing a hand around Kyle’s wrist. Kyle yanked it away.

“You don’t get it!” he replied, shaking harder at Cartman’s shoulder. “Answer me! Why is it always ME with you?!”

“Dude!” Kenny called out and grabbed ahold of Kyle by the arms, pulling him backwards even as Kyle fought to keep his grasp. In the moment of struggle, Cartman shifted, and then slowly pulled himself back up to a sitting position, raising his pointed chin to meet Kyle’s shocked gaze.

There was a moment of silence, still and suspenseful, as the brunet quirked his lips into the softest of sad smiles, meeting Kyle’s eyes in his own. In those few seconds, Kyle was painfully aware that his heart was seizing, tight, pulsing with concern and anger and emotions he couldn’t name.

“It’s always been you,” said the familiar voice, and Kyle reached for him moments before he slipped off to the side and promptly hit the floor.

“Eric!” Butters’ soft voice was unbelievably loud as the smaller blond dropped to his knees, grabbing at the brunet as Kyle took a step backwards in shock. Kenny gasped and bent down, gripping hold of Cartman from behind as Butters leaned in and pressed two fingers underneath his jaw. Something strong reared inside Kyle and he took out his cell phone, hand trembling as he skimmed over the keyboard and dialed out 9-1-1.

“H-Hi, um, my…” His voice felt weak as he watched Kenny grip hold of his unconscious lover, barely listening to the steady tone of the operator on the other end of the line.

“My friend needs help.”

--

Kyle hadn’t been to a hospital since childhood, so the sterile-smelling hallways weren’t doing anything to calm his nerves.

The ambulance had arrived pretty quickly after his call, with paramedics making their way up the stairs and quite literally carrying the brunet out of the house on a stretcher. Butters and Kenny had ridden along in the ambulance with him, sitting in the back. Kyle had found it particularly disconcerting how gaunt his rival had looked in the bright light of the afternoon.

Once he had gotten over the shock of it, the redhead pulled out his cell phone and sent his mother a quick text message, letting her know what was going on. It wasn’t particularly that he wanted Sheila to have a heart attack, but rather that he was starting to realize how panicked she got when Kyle wasn’t exactly where he was supposed to be at any time. He was starting to realize how lucky he was, having a mother who gave a shit…

“Hey, Kyle,” Kenny called, waving a hand in front of his face from his seat in the waiting room directly to Kyle’s left. Kyle blinked, slowly looking over at his friend.

“You all right over there?”

Kyle swallowed, opening his mouth and then closing it again as he looked around the waiting room. Aside from one other older man seated in the corner, the ER appeared to be shockingly empty. The sound of heels began clicking down the hall, and Kyle immediately tensed up, looking up at the blonde-haired nurse who appeared in her maroon scrubs with a clipboard.

“Eric Cartman’s family?” she inquired, zeroing in on the three waiting boys. Without hesitation, Kyle found himself standing up, pausing when the nurse stepped into his path.

“I’m sorry. We usually only allow family members when the patient is unconscious.”

“Is he okay?” Kyle asked instead, voice a little wavery in his ears. The nurse blinked a couple of times.

“He’s stable,” she replied, glancing over at the seated blonds before looking back at Kyle. “But he isn’t awake yet. If you’re his friends, you should contact his family and let them know the situation.”

“That’s not gonna work,” Kyle replied, irritation mounting as he took another step forward. “Let me see him.”

The nurse stepped into his path, grey eyes growing a little large as if unsure. “We don’t generally allow friends,” she explained, lips parting. “Are you his significant other?”

Butters made a little bit of a noise from behind him, but Kyle, feeling the panic spreading inside his chest, tried not to focus on how that word typically would have made his skin crawl, and cleared his throat into his fist, tilting his chin downward slightly as he let himself fall.

“Yeah,” he stated, voice uncharacteristically quiet as he felt his ears heat. “Something like that. Show me which room he’s in.”

Thankfully, after a brief hesitation, Kyle found the nurse walking down the hall in front of him, and followed along quickly, ignoring the two gazes he felt glued to the back of his head. His phone vibrated in his pocket, and he ignored it for the moment, reasonably certain he knew who was contacting him.

“He’s on fluids and a low dose of antibiotics,” the nurse explained as she opened the door to the hospital room, stepping in and leaving Kyle to walk in behind her. Kyle zeroed immediately in on the bed, on the disturbingly changed figure with the messy chocolate locks. He had never quite realized before just how much red was in his hair. “He’s showing some flu symptoms. His immune system appears to be compromised.”

“He’s…he lost a ton of weight,” he admitted quietly in disbelief, taking another step towards the bed. Certainly, Cartman’s weight-loss after returning from Denver had been surprising, but he had still been sort of chubby, with thick legs and a soft stomach.

“He’s malnourished,” she confirmed, taking a seat at the desk beside the wall with her clipboard. “We’ll have to try to get him to eat once he wakes up.”

Kyle stayed silent, pulling up one of the two guest chairs beside the bed and sitting down himself. He took a slow breath and ran his eyes up the plastic tubing, looking at the bags of liquid hooked into the stand.

“I’m supposed to get the details from family,” the nurse continued, clicking her pen against the clipboard as she cast an unsure glance in Kyle’s direction. “But if he has none, I’ll have to ask you.”

“I-…I don’t know,” Kyle admitted honestly, eyes wandering over to the bed. “He was…normal until a couple of weeks ago.”

“What is his home life like?”

“Bad,” he stated, focus not leaving the peaceful face as his stomach began to feel heavy.

“Have there been any police reports?”

“I don’t know. No?” Kyle almost snapped, starting to get irritated. “He seemed like he was okay! I didn’t know he’d go and do this.”

The confrontational tone hung in the air, and the nurse stared back at Kyle in surprise, frowning softly as Kyle remembered himself.

“Sorry,” he stated, feeling awkward. “I just…I feel like…” His eyes burned, and he turned his face away, unable to say it in front of a stranger. Guilt began to twist inside him, and he heard the click of a knock on the doorframe, turning and looking at his two friends.

“Excuse us,” Kenny said suavely as always, smiling a little sadly as he ushered Butters in. “We’re just worried about our friend, here.”

The nurse stood up, checking the clock on the wall with a tired expression.

“All right. I’ll go and get the doctor for you.”

The moment they were alone, Kyle felt Kenny’s hand against his shoulder, and turned, surprised by the slightly smug little grin.

“Significant other, huh?”

“I had to get in here, didn’t I?” Kyle replied unconvincingly, for once unable to care too much about his ego as he stared back down. Butters sighed from beside them, reaching up to hold onto one of Kenny’s arms.

“Poor Eric… I didn’t know you loved him back, Kyle.”

“I- never said that,” the redhead replied, heart pounding as he tried to push all dangerous thoughts to the side, tried not to think about how Butters seemed to be privy to details that, for all intents and purposes, should have remained private. He turned a little closer to his friend, staring Kenny unsurely in the eye.

“He’s literally been starving himself. What is his problem?”

Kenny bit his lip, raising one shoulder.

“I didn’t know it was this bad,” he said, voice clear with honestly. Kyle tensed.

“You’ve been texting him.”

“Only since last Friday,” Kenny explained, words quiet. “I guess you said something that really upset him.”

That night was immediately there, fresh and in the front of Kyle’s mind, and Kyle shunted his hands into the pockets of his jacket, looking away.

“That- I wasn’t fucking trying to be a dick,” he stated, gritting his teeth behind his lips. Kenny just looked back at him, eyes gleaming with confusion.

“He wasn’t too clear. What did you say?”

“I told him that I didn’t need the whole school knowing I was sleeping with him!” Kyle practically shouted, unable to keep his voice down. “I get it, I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t tell him to go fucking rot away in his room alone for fucking weeks!”

“Whoa, whoa,” Kenny replied, holding one hand out in a gesture of piece with his other arm around Butters. “I know. I don’t think it was just what you said.”

Silent, the redhead made his way back over to the bed, eyes wandering slowly over the unconscious body. Still shivering with frustration, he leaned in and watched the still face. There was something a little eerie about the way Cartman was just laying there, silent and skinny, obviously unaware of what was going on around him.

Was it really his fault?

Kyle had been trying to help him. He’d bought him a new jacket, after all. Coughed up the money for McDonalds. Given him his leftover Chinese. Let the guy kiss and touch him, and…

“Why didn’t he just tell me?” Kyle whispered to himself. “I didn’t know…I don’t get it…”

“Hey,” the familiar voice came from over his shoulder, and Kyle turned his face up, only to find Kenny smiling at him sadly. Something slipped against his palm, and he looked down at Kenny’s phone, swallowing hard when he realized what he was implying.

“You’ll have to scroll back a little bit.”

Kyle accessed the thread labeled ‘Cartman’, a little hesitant as he scrolled up while trying not to look. Kenny’s lack of smugness was soothing his nerves, on one end, since it seemed to imply that Cartman wasn’t exactly detailing every sordid aspect of their sexual contact, but on the other hand, it raised his nerves a little higher. If Cartman wasn’t talking about him with regards to sex, then what…?

He began to read from the top, eyes skimming along each day of the week as it slipped into view.

(Friday)

hey

who’s this???

eric cartman

WHOA hey!!

what’s up?! been awhile!!

hello?? how’d you get my number?

How was the institute? you ok??

does kyle have a gf?

Uh no??

ty

dude whyyyy?

???

i left him chocolates but he never said anything

chocolates?!

wait WHAT

omg dude explain

(Saturday)

hello???

hey

HEY are you doing ok??

Ermmm so kyle told me u guys are screwing around-

uh

we were

‘were’???

what is this CHOCOLATES thing about WTF?!

Kyle felt himself flinch visibly, closing his eyes for a moment as he tried to take it all in. The mere realization that Cartman had been speaking so much with his close friend was incredible enough, let alone the knowledge that Cartman had been evading his texts while he sent these very messages.

(Sunday)

dude ur SHIT at replying

hey so don’t tell kyle I txted you

???

i need advice

OOH mannn did you seriously catch feels???

Cartman?? hey

ok ok fine whatever

OMG

dude sorry TTYT gotta work!! give me details!!

(Monday)

he’s amazing

Stomach tight, the redhead looked away from the screen again, wondering whether there was still any chance that all of this was a joke. If anybody was good at dragging out long and convoluted schemes, it was the person whose texts he was currently scrolling through.

seriously?!

You did!! you so did!!

I always knew you guys had something AHHH

i can’t stop thinking about him

Ask him out!!

Hey seriously

Hellloooo???

i can’t

Why not?

Do it!!

Kyle’s sinuses began to burn hard as he forced himself to keep reading.

(Tuesday)

are u gonna do it?

can’t

Why not?!

You guys are already hooking up!

I think he likes you!!

he doesn’t

How do you know?!

idk what I’m doing

losing my mind

Hey um are you doing okay? Do you need anything?? I can drop by...

Yoooo??

(Wednesday)

are you okay??

(Yesterday)

Heyyy so ur worrying me!

Kyle said he hasn’t seen you in awhile

he doesn’t wanna see me

What do u mean??

he doesn’t want people to know

i don’t wanna be here anymore

Don’t do this dude

I can talk to Kyle for you if you want!!

don’t

kenny don’t plz

I swear he likes you man!

I really think so!!

nah

Hey don’t get sad!

you just gotta tell him!!

The remainder of the messages were the same ones that Kyle had read earlier, so the redhead settled the phone into his lap and relaxed, trying to take it all in. Never in a million years had he ever expected to have heard those words from his arch-rival, from the guy who had made a practical job out of teasing and badgering and foiling him day in and day out. Even with their new arrangement, Kyle had done his best to close himself off to even the slightest possibility that there was anything substantial there, that his companion’s public grasps and random kisses meant anything at all.

Suddenly, the bright lights from Liane Cartman’s downstairs bathroom gleamed in the forefront of Kyle’s mind, illuminating the memory of his companion’s eyes, averted and unsure.

“Jesus, Kyle, did you never realize?”

His cheeks began to feel hot, and Kyle felt something buzzing against his leg. He reached down and looked at the phone, eyeing the large text over the top of the alarm screen that read ‘GO TO WORK’.

“Fuck,” Kenny cursed as some kind of hip-hop song began to pulse from the speakers, snatching his phone back. “Shit, I’m gonna be late. Uh-”

“Go ahead,” Kyle cut him off, glancing at Butters before looking back to Kenny. “Both of you. I’ll stay.”

The blonds looked at one another in obvious surprise, and Kyle just decided to give up.

“Just go. Don’t get your ass fired.”

“Okay,” Kenny relented, putting an arm around his partner and flashing Kyle a ghost of a grin. “Keep me updated.”

“Yeah.”

“Should I tell Stan you guys are an item now? He might need a full year to get over his heart attack.”

Kyle turned around, deciding not to bother with a response. As he looked down, watching Cartman’s chest rise and fall, another annoying beeping sound began to grate at his subconscious, and he eventually looked down, clicking onto his diabetes pump to see the battery at 2%.

Slowly, tearing his eyes off his companion, he made his way over to the empty chair at the corner of the hospital room, wondering when the doctor might arrive. He set his backpack down and began to dig through the front pocket, words from Kenny’s phone fading in and out of his head. Starting to feel hot, he stuffed his hat into his backpack and fished out a small plastic snap case, taking out two new batteries and unclipping his pump from his hip.

The heart monitor pinged in the background as he clicked the fresh batteries inside, popping the plastic backing back on. Could he and Eric even…work that way? It seemed dangerous to think about, to even consider. Maybe that was why Kyle felt so antsy at the thought of being mistaken as a couple. Something about it seemed kind of…tempting, or something like that. He paused, sucking in a deep breath through his nose.

What world was he living in where the thought of dating Eric Cartman seemed like a temptation?

More importantly, what did the guy even like about him? Kyle certainly was aware of his many good traits, most notably his intelligence and academic skills, but Cartman had never seemed particularly impressed by those. Then again, Eric had never made a point of complimenting much about him at all, including his appearance. Well. At least not until recently, that was…

Kyle had never before had anybody call him ‘sexy’ in such a convincing voice, and he found himself wondering when on Earth his rival had begun feeling this way.

“Kyle!”

In the midst of clipping his pump back to his belt loop, the redhead found himself gathered in soft arms, and looked up to feel his mother’s hoop earring against his cheek. He embraced her hesitantly in return, gently pulling back, following her dark eyes to the teenager who was still laying unconscious in the bed.

“…Oh my God.”

Sheila looked at Eric, and Kyle immediately noticed her disbelief. It was her first time seeing him in nearly six years, after all, and he was a far cry from the fat, loud little boy he once had been. Even still, Kyle had no problem recognized the small similarities, the flat squareness of his fingernails, for one, or the side-part in his thick hair, or the sharp peaks of the same knuckles Kyle had grabbed, and held onto, and had against his scalp.

“He looks terrible,” his mother said softly, and Kyle looked over at her, genuinely surprised by the immense sadness in her voice. “He’s so pale.”

The silence permeated the room for a few more seconds, and the closed eyes chose that moment to slip open, large and coffee-brown.

--

Chapter Text

--

Something snapped inside of Kyle the moment Eric’s eyes opened, so he reached out and attempted to keep himself on his feet with tense fingers on the cool metal of the doorframe.

As his mother stepped aside in the corner of his vision, allowing two women in white coats into the hospital room, the redhead locked his gaze onto his classmate, watching Cartman as he shifted and immediately averted his eyes.

“Sheila?”

“Oh, Marie! I didn’t know you were on shift today!”

Trying to block out the speech in the background, Kyle attempted to take a step in the direction of the bed, suddenly stopped as Sheila moved into his path. He glanced back, confused, and looked at the older woman with the short, grey hair and white lab coat.

“Is this your oldest son?”

“Yes, this is my son, Kyle,” Sheila enlightened the doctor, gently putting an arm around Kyle’s shoulders. “Kyle, Marie is in my book club.”

Kyle paused, a little stunned by the sudden number of people in the room as he extended his hand and awkwardly shook the doctor’s.

“Hi,” he said distractedly, glancing back towards Cartman over his shoulder, watching as the blond-haired nurse from before attached a blood pressure cuff around the brunet’s arm.

“Nice to meet you, Kyle. Can I speak with the both of you outside for a minute?”

“Of course.”

Kyle winced as Sheila practically herded him out through the door, forcing his eyes away from the taller teenager as he stepped into the hall. The door closed, and Kyle felt his chest tense up, inexplicably not liking the fact that he couldn’t see what was going on in that room.

“Kyle, you were the one who called the emergency services, correct?” the doctor inquired, bringing Kyle’s attention back forward with a calm voice. He swallowed, nodding his head a little hesitantly.

“Yeah.”

“Do you have any idea what caused your friend to get to this state?”

Kyle swallowed, feeling slightly crushed under the two pairs of searching eyes. “His home life is bad,” he settled on, voice thick in his throat. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to divulging his possible part in any of this, and just sort of…prayed to whatever forces existed that this wasn’t his fault.

It couldn’t be, right? One stupid comment couldn’t have driven Cartman to that…

“In what way?”

“His…mom’s an addict,” Kyle explained. “She spends all their money on drugs and disappears for days on end. He’s depressed, I guess.”

“You knew about this?” Sheila cut in, tone rising up. “Liane Cartman is doing this?”

“I didn’t know it was that bad, okay?!”

“Did you contact any authorities?” the doctor inquired, voice placid in comparison as she held her clipboard. Kyle took a deep and slow breath, trying to keep his heartrate under control.

“No. He hasn’t even talked to me in forever. I thought I pissed him off, or something.”

The doctor hummed, and Kyle did everything in his power not to look at his mother, not wanting to see her reaction. “In that case, if his home environment isn’t safe, he’s probably going to need a place to go.”

Reality began to sink in as Kyle considered the situation. If Liane was really abandoning her son to that extent, there was no way they could send him home. Even if he did return to relative health, it wasn’t safe. It was slowly occurring to Kyle just how horrible it must have been to be sent away from one’s family for years and treated in a restrictive and clinical environment, only to return home to a parent who didn’t seem to care whether you lived or died.

“Yeah,” Kyle assented, casting another glance back towards the closed room door and feeling suddenly desperate to get in there. “Mom…”

Sheila stared back at him, and the redhead forced himself to meet her gaze, face flushed slightly with the emotions he was trying to keep down.

“We have to take him.”

“Kyle,” she replied, voice dropping in surprise. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”

“Why not?” he asked, softening his tone when he saw her flinch. “He doesn’t have anywhere to go. He can just take the spare room.”

“Do you hear what you’re saying?” Sheila inquired, reaching out to take hold of his arm. “That’s that boy-”

“I know, I know,” he cut her off, trying in vain to keep his voice level. “But he doesn’t deserve to live on the streets.”

“Of course not. I just don’t think-”

“He’s changed!” Kyle interrupted again, pulling his arm out of his mother’s grip as heat began to climb up through his chest. “He isn’t even hurting anybody!”

“If I can interject,” the doctor commented smoothly, light eyes passing between the two as she glanced down at her paperwork and then back up. “Is your friend at least eighteen?”

Kyle gulped, trying to soothe his suddenly tight throat. “Yeah, he is.”

“He won’t be able to seek foster care, then,” she explained, clipping her pen to the board. “Does he work?”

“I don’t think so,” Kyle replied, painfully aware of a million questions he had no answers to. Sheila glanced over at her friend, seeming unsure.

“What are the options?” she asked.

“I’m happy to have the details filed in a police report if you suspect that abuse and drugs were involved,” Marie replied, glancing back to Kyle. “They’ll probably want to speak with you. You seem to know the details.”

“What does it matter?” Kyle spat back, feeling restless in place. “So they’ll arrest her. Who cares? He still doesn’t have any place to live.”

The door slid open, and the nurse from earlier peeked her head out into the hall.

“He’s stable. I got him to finish his lunch,” she explained, voice quiet. “He says he wants to leave, now.”

And go where?

“Let me talk to him.”

Before he could be stopped, Kyle reached out and pushed the door open further, stepping into the room, pushing past the trepidation surging up between his shoulders as he came upon the slim figure seated on the bed.

Eric was dressed in the same blue t shirt from earlier, and appeared to be wearing a pair of grey sweatpants as he sat atop the disturbed white sheets. Kyle wondered whether he had already changed as he approached the bed, a little unnerved by how the other teenager simply sat there with his hands folded in his lap and his gaze directed to the side.

Kenny’s text messages began to creep back at the edges of his mind, one word in particular standing out to him as he eyed the gentle and familiar swoop of strawberry-brown.

amazing

“Hey,” Kyle stated softly, managing to work up the nerve. His classmate eyed him, expression tired, and the feeling in his chest got tighter. Eric stared at him knowingly, eyes large and chocolatey, and the redhead had to force himself to stay in place, wondering why his feet itched to move in his shoes.

“So, uh,” he continued, trying to think of something, anything to say that wouldn’t darken the mood to even a deeper black. “You almost gave Butters a heart attack.”

The brunet smiled slightly, and Kyle took in the slimness of his jawline, listening to the huff of breath.

“Guess he has all the luck.”

Something hurt inside Kyle, and he frowned, taking another step forward.

“You said you wanted to leave, right?”

“Better than spending my life here, I guess.”

The quietness of Eric’s tone became evident in the silent room when the door swept open, and Kyle heard his mother’s heels on the floor, but decided not to look back, eyeballs burning in his skull. This wasn’t right. In that moment, it felt as though the lights were dimming over his head, like if he didn’t do something, if he didn’t say something-

“You can stay with us,” he promised, catching Sheila’s eye. He braced himself for a moment, expecting a shout or a forceful argument, and was stunned to see her just watching him, a few red strands loose around her surprised gaze.

“Until you get back on your feet,” she eventually interjected, startling Kyle with the solidness in her voice. Immediately, Kyle felt his ears starting to flush, and glanced backwards out of pure disbelief, only to inhale sharply when Eric slipped out of bed and headed for one of the chairs in the corner.

Eric’s thinness was jarring as he moved, shirt loose against his chest and stomach as he made his way to the side of the room. Kyle recognized the jacket, dark red and still visibly-new, as he slipped it on, movements slow and stiff. He wanted to say something, anything, but with the three pairs of eyes watching him from a few feet back, he couldn’t seem to find any words.

Kyle had never experienced such a quiet drive home.

--

The moment that they pulled up into the garage, Kyle could already hear the familiar beat of Canadian pop music streaming down the stairs, and opened the passenger’s-side door, unsurprised to see Sheila shut her own side and step into the house through the door on the right.

“Ike! Did you finish your homework?” she called up the stairs, pulling out her hoop earrings as the music was quickly cut down to half-volume.

“Yeah, Ma!”

“We have a visitor! Come down in twenty minutes for dinner, all right?”

Kyle paused awkwardly in the doorway, hearing footsteps behind him and feeling thankful when his mother broke the remaining moment of silence.

“Kyle, why don’t you show Eric the spare room? You can let him borrow some of your clothes. He’ll need something to change into after dinner.”

The slight hardness in her voice was audible, and yet Kyle couldn’t help but feel rather astounded that Eric was currently in his house in the first place. He never would have anticipated Sheila allowing this, and was a little suspicious as to what had changed her mind, but he didn’t plan on asking any questions that might alter her current opinions, whatever they were.

“C’mon,” he urged and grabbed his companion by the wrist before he could stop him, pulling him up the stairwell and down the hallway.

In that moment, Kyle began to recognize the differences between his home and what Eric was used to. The walls were a crisp white, dust-free and not peeling, and the carpet was vacuumed and cleanly as always. Since she had started working, Sheila had hired a single housekeeper to do more of the strenuous cleaning every Friday afternoon when nobody was home, and Kyle could still smell the Febreeze in the air as he pulled his classmate towards the spare bedroom.

“Oh,” he stated and stopped, immediately latching onto a sudden thought for small talk. “I think I still have those clothes you, uh, loaned me that one time.”

Eric maintained his silence, eyes on the floor, and Kyle pulled him into his own bedroom, walking over to the dresser and digging inside to locate the white undershirt and sweatpants from that night.

The few seconds gave Kyle an unwanted dose of sudden reflection. This was the guy that lived without heat in his house, who apparently survived day-to-day on Xanax and whatever scraps his mother left him. He was also the one who had saved him from a potential diabetic coma when he had passed out on his bike at the side of the street. Eric Cartman was the person that had rescued him from Denver International Airport in his mother’s red station wagon, and who had kissed him at the frontage road stoplight, and who had sent him chocolates, and-

Kyle Broflovski felt like the worst person in South Park.

“Here,” he managed and pulled out the clean clothes from the top drawer, turning around and blinking when he realized that Eric had moved over to the other end of the room. Kyle watched him as he began to pull at the window curtains and raised an eyebrow, feeling something familiar click into place in his brain.

“Don’t. You’ll knock them down,” he commented calmly.

Eric paused, and Kyle felt his chest tighten, only to recognize that very same, very familiar expression on his face.

“Fuck you,” Cartman returned without malice, voice tired and thick. “Maybe I needed something to keep my hands busy.”

“I’m right here, aren’t I?”

The words were out before he could stop them, and Kyle paused, mouth open, momentarily stunned. Their gazes locked together, and Eric reached once more out to grip hold of the curtain, yanking harder as he eyed Kyle from the side.

Something searing rose up inside him, and Kyle frowned, walking closer and grabbing his hand when Eric tried to pull the curtain further to the side.

“Stop that!”

“I fail to see the problem,” the brunet replied, voice undeniably tired and quiet, but eyes still narrow and knowing as he reached for the window latch and began to snap it open. Kyle stared, suddenly recognizing his intentions.

“Oh, no you don’t!”

“And you’re going to stop me, why?” Eric mused, pausing in his movements to hoist one knee up onto the windowsill. “You made it clear you don’t want me in your life, didn’t you?”

“That’s…” Kyle had to halt in his speech, taking a breath, promptly overwhelmed when Eric tilted his head slightly to the side.

“Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. I don’t plan to stick around to soothe your stupid martyr complex.”

“What??”

“Kyle,” Eric stated, and the redhead felt like his heart was being squeezed, pierced by long and sharp needles that skewered their way completely through. “I know you. I know you better than anybody in this town.”

The statement sounded sad, but certain, and Kyle found himself unable to deny it, looking back into the expression that told him what his partner didn’t have to.

“I know you pretty fucking well myself,” he replied knowingly, receiving a humorless huff in response that told him that Eric had already picked up on his double meaning.

“Should’ve known Kenny couldn’t keep a fucking secret.”

“You never told him to,” Kyle pointed out quick in his defense, feeling cold at the realization that both of them were fully aware of everything, now. “I- I read the whole thing.”

“Sneaky as always, I see.”

“I was getting worried,” he replied, voice honest and raw, and Eric watched him, seemingly a little surprised before his eyes darkened again.

“Yeah, sure. Worried about your ego?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“I get it, Kyle. I’m fat, I’m poor, I’m an emb-”

“I’M SORRY!!”

The proclamation, hoarse and sharp, ripped itself out of Kyle with the force of a bomb, tearing through his hot breath and into the air between them. Kyle’s hands, suddenly, were entrenched in Eric’s wrinkled t-shirt, and his sinuses stung as he stared him in the face, heart pulsing inside him with a beat and swell comparable to repeated punches to the chest.

“I’m…I’m sorry, Eric. I’m so sorry.” His voice softened, and he let go when he realized what he’d done.

By the mercy of some god, Kyle didn’t have to wait long before comfort was forced upon on him in the form of two slender arms wrapping around his waist, a familiar yet firm chin settling against his shoulder. There was weight against him, albeit not as much as he was accustomed to, and he stepped backwards in the forceful embrace, immediately aware of the cold sting of air conditioning on his cheeks.

Fluid dripped from his chin, and he tried to blink the tears away, reaching up to wrap his arms around his partner in return.

There were no words in that moment, and Kyle felt the guilt churning inside him as he held on, shifting his weight from foot to foot as they moved awkwardly around where they stood. Somehow, despite the questions that still settled at the back of the redhead’s mind, he didn’t feel a need to interrogate him. For the first time since meeting Eric Cartman, the silence between them felt like enough.

“Say it again…” came the soft voice, lilty and undeniably Eric, and Kyle faltered.

“I’m…sorry?” he tried, relieved to find it was a little easier to say a second time. There was a shift, and the brunet pulled away from him just enough to look him in the face, fingertips curled against his lips as he smiled in that way that made Kyle feel like he was working off the shock from a defibrillator.

“Not that part,” he hummed, batting his eyelashes at him from his irritatingly higher gaze. Kyle paused, brows drawing down into a slight frown of confusion.

“Eric?”

“Yeah, now moan it out so I can record it with my phone.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Kyle spat, caught off-guard enough to feel himself practically blushing. “How can you even afford a phone?”

“Phone bills are monthly bills, Kyle,” the brunet replied quietly. “Dinner bills typically aren’t.”

He had a point. “It’s not like I knew you weren’t going to school,” he commented, wiping the residual moisture from his eyes. “Nobody…told me you weren’t showing up.”

“I’m done,” Eric explained, voice a little stronger as he turned around and promptly flopped down onto Kyle’s mattress with his legs in the air. Kyle blinked.

“You’re done?”

“Uh-huh~ Except for finals. I have those in May.”

“How did you finish?” Kyle asked, taking a seat on the bed beside where his partner shuffled endearingly into a curled position on his side.

“My classes are just a shitload of worksheets, remember?”

In that case, Kyle realized it probably wasn’t strange that PC Principal hadn’t tracked him down yet again and sent him over to his rival’s house.

“Yeah,” he commented, unable to stop his next choice of words. “You know all about finishing fast, don’t you?”

They shared a look and, despite the questions that still needed to be answered and the lewdness that he somehow couldn’t hold back, Kyle was the one to lean down and catch his prone companion by the lips, placing a hand against the sharp jaw he had never expected to feel.

It had never really made any sense to Kyle, how the mood between himself and Eric could shift on a dime, twisting, fading from sadness, into anger, into lust, and back into comfort, all on a stare or a single remark. Still half-expecting to be pushed away, he couldn’t help but feel the gentle tingles envelop him again as Eric sat up, wrapping an arm around Kyle’s back as he returned the gesture with a push of his own mouth. Their eyes were open, watching one another through the kiss, but unlike their union among the streetlights on their way back from Denver, this time their gazes were lidded, heavy with something hot that didn’t seem to want to be brushed away.

“Kyle?”

The voice was familiar, but far-enough away, and Kyle had time to sit back up, thankful that the sound seemed to be coming from downstairs.

“Dinner’s ready in five minutes,” his mother explained with a shout. “Come set the table, please!”

The sound died out, and Kyle slipped into a standing position, swallowing hard as realization began to settle in.

“C’mon,” he decided and reached out before any more awkwardness could pervade the room. He grabbed Eric by the arm and tugged, watching the other as he forced him to sit up straight. “We aren’t a hotel. Make yourself useful.”

It was in this manner that Kyle, painfully aware that he was probably redder than his hair at this point, threw his hat aside to avoid further unnecessary heat to his face and made his way down the steps and around the banister. He could hear Sheila setting things down in the dining room and made a beeline for the kitchen instead, hearing Eric close on his heels.

Ike chose that moment to amble out from the living room in his soccer uniform and stepped dangerously close to Kyle’s foot with one of his cleats, grazing Kyle’s ankle sharply with a stumble.

“Ike!” the redhead shouted in pain, pushing him back with a forceful shove. “Take your damn cleats off in the house, you little shit!”

“You’re so mean!” Ike complained but leaned back against the wall, propping one ankle up on his knee and freezing when he caught sight of their obvious visitor. He stared, black eyes shiny, and Kyle cursed under his breath and brushed past, digging in the silverware drawer and shoving a stack of forks and knives into Eric’s nearby hand.

“Go set the table, f-…” Kyle faltered, stopping himself from his typical habit and catching a little bit of a grin in the corner of his vision.

“Hah! Can’t call me a fat-ass anymore, can you Kyle? I win.”

It was almost uncanny how any given interaction with Eric Cartman could lighten a mood, even when the underlying situation was a serious one.

“You didn’t win shit,” he replied, opening one of the cabinets and taking out a stack of cloth napkins.

“I won!” Ike chirped up intrusively, appearing smug and too-interested as he peeked in through the doorway. “I won our game! Winning goal, right here. Eight to seven.”

“Who’d you play?” Kyle asked, catching the lingering look between his younger brother and his friend and swallowing. “Oh, uh, Ike, you remember Eric Cartman.”

“I remember,” Ike commented, curling his fingers into a weird little wave that made Kyle legitimately nervous for some reason. Kyle wasn’t entirely sure exactly how much his brother knew about the situation, but the look on his face told him it was already too much…

Sweat began to break out on the back of Kyle’s neck as he passed his mother on the way into the dining room, setting out napkins and trying to push away any remaining vestige of that warm feeling that had made a nest between his ribs. He busied himself with arranging the table, watching with mild surprise as Eric handled with utensils without complaint. It occurred to him just how long ago it must have been since Eric had eaten an actual meal at a dinner table, and Kyle took a moment to wonder how long he had been taking things like this for granted.

“I’m sorry that your first night with us is leftovers,” Sheila announced herself as she re-entered the room with a tray, still dressed in her work-clothes and with residual red lipstick. Kyle immediately avoided her gaze, a little surprised to hear Eric’s soft words.

“Thank you for having me in your lovely home, Mrs. Broflovski.”

The pleasant tone almost put Kyle’s nerves on edge, but he sat down anyway.

“That’s all right, Eric,” Sheila commented, sounding just as sweet in return as she uncovered the dish of marinated chicken marsala. Pulling a chair up, the redhead tried to thank his lucky stars that Sheila did sometimes have the capacity for delicacy and loaded up his plate with white rice and green beans, barely listening to the chatter between his mother and his brother as he watched Eric settle into the chair beside him.

For a moment, Kyle was afraid that his companion wouldn’t make any move to eat, but his fears were assuaged when Eric reached out for the serving spoon.

“Kyle, did you get Eric some clothes to wear?” Sheila eventually asked, stopping her eldest son mid-bite. “Maybe you can go to Walmart together tomorrow and get a few things.”

“Oh, uh, yeah, I did. Okay,” Kyle managed, genuinely surprised to hear a comment like that from his protective bear of a mother. He stuffed a heaping forkful of steaming vegetables into his mouth, and glanced to the side at the sound of Eric loading his plate up like he was planning to feed five people with it.

“Would you mind if I used your shower after dinner?” he heard Eric inquire over the clink of utensils. His large-eyed expression, coupled with the general softness in his voice, prompted Kyle to watch a little closer. He never thought he’d see the day where Eric Cartman and Sheila Broflovski sat down and had pleasant conversation.

“Oh, of course we don’t,” Sheila remarked. “You can use the spare bathroom upstairs. It should have everything you need. Kyle, can you get him some fresh towels?”

“Yeah.” For whatever reason, as he listened to the clinking of utensils and watched Eric’s face pass into that pleased, sleepy expression that always seemed to come whenever he was eating, something began to come to clarity within Kyle’s mind. Even if Kyle had to sit down with his mother later and be more open about what the guy was going through… It would be worth it. He couldn’t let his classmate be forced to go back to that house. He couldn’t let his own discomfort and embarrassment get in the way of Eric Cartman being treated like a human being.

Kyle was going to make things right.

Dinner concluded reasonably quickly, with it being Ike’s turn to wash the dishes, and Kyle excused himself from the table, grabbing Eric again by the arm and muttering for him to follow before any questioning could go on.

He felt a pang in his chest as he all but pulled his companion up the stairs, leading him into his and Ike’s shared bathroom and flipping on the lights. Immediately, the door swung shut, and Kyle looked up into the familiar gaze, barely seeing it for a second before he felt the fingertips back in his hair.

“Fuck,” he breathed out, forgetting to control the volume of his own voice as he sank a hand into his shirt. “Get off me and go shower.”

“I could get you off IN the shower.”

“Are you crazy? Everyone’s home.”

“You promised you’d give me something to do with my hands.”

Kyle shoved him away, falling back into old instincts, and Eric grinned at him as he took a step backwards. The redhead met his gaze, and something inside told him to stop denying it.

“Here,” he murmured, digging in the bathroom closet and pulling out a single towel from the center shelf. He set it on the countertop, and met the confused expression face-first.

“What??”

“I need one for my hair.”

“Your hair,” Kyle stated, processing that statement for a few minutes. “Just use the same towel for everything.” Eric raised an eyebrow, and the redhead watched him pull the curtain back, peering in.

“Can I at least have a razor?”

For whatever reason, the level tone tripped Kyle’s sense of alarm.

“What for?!” This was the guy who had laid in bed starving himself for days on end, after all. Who knew what other self-destructive shit-

“To shave my legs,” Eric commented as though it were obvious, and Kyle suddenly felt stupid, averting his eyes.

“Wh…” Embarrassment turned quickly to confusion as he looked back. “You shave your legs?”

“Duh.”

“Why do you shave your legs?!”

“Uh, I shave everything. You know that.”

Images of his companion naked from the waist down began to reappear in his head, and Kyle had to physically turn himself away. Whatever they were, whatever they were going to be… Thinking about sex with Eric Cartman always seemed to get him into trouble.

He still had yet to see his partner shirtless, after all, the fiend.

“Hold on, you fucking weirdo,” he muttered and headed to the master bathroom, awkwardly locating a brand-new hand razor from his mother’s medicine cabinet and returning, setting it onto the counter next to the towel. It suddenly seemed dangerous to be in the same room with Eric, so he turned away again, avoiding the narrow and searching eyes that seemed glued to him regardless of what he did.

“I’ll leave your clothes by the sink,” he promised, and shut the door behind him, heading back to his bedroom with a short sprint and standing awkwardly in the center of his bedroom.

After placing the shirt and sweatpants he’d unintentionally borrowed months back on the bathroom counter, relieved to see that the blue curtain was drawn and hear the water running unsuspiciously, Kyle found himself sitting at his desk, forcing himself to work through his Calculus review packet.

His phone went off about ten minutes in and he pulled it out of his pocket, eyeing the message there.

YOOO so what happened?! is he ok??

The name at the top of the screen was familiar, and Kyle took a deep breath, trying to decide how to respond.

Yeah he’s at my house

STAYING???

Ur mom didn’t kill him?!

I think she feels sorry for him

Kyle gave up and slid his worksheet into his notebook when it buzzed again, realizing from the hour that Kenny had probably just gotten off work.

WHOA I’M LIVING

So uh

You guys an item now for real??

IDK

UDK?!

This is a love story if I ever heard one!

Knight Broflovski in shining armor!! :D :* <3

Kyle hesitated, ears reddening, until another message came in.

u do at least LIKE him right???

like a crush???

Taking a breath, he left his phone at his desk and stripped off naked, making sure his bedroom door was closed before shucking on his pajamas and sitting back down. Even in the dim and filtered light of his bedroom, all Kyle could think about in that moment was the solidness of his classmate’s bathroom wall against his back, the sting of the newly-inserted needle in his abdomen, and the brightness of Liane Cartman’s fluorescent lights. Kyle thought about the way they’d kissed, then, as impossible as it had seemed, and how right it had felt. Undeniably, South Park was known for its incredible happenings, but this one seemed like the most incredible of them all.

Apprehension began to climb its way up through his abdomen, hooking its claws into him, stuffing his lungs tight as he forgot to breathe. The redhead was no stranger to crushes. He had always crushed on girls throughout school, and even a couple of guys more recently. Crushes were gentle and exciting things, things that made you smile for a moment, or that made your heart beat a little faster.

When he looked at Eric Cartman, Kyle didn’t feel himself getting just a little excited. He didn’t feel his blood pump just a little faster, and he didn’t feel his stomach only flutter, or his face only warm. No. When he looked at Eric Cartman, Kyle felt as though he were being sucked underneath a tidal wave, or thrown into a giant pit of fire. It was a never-ending, never-softening rush of feeling, something that hurt and enveloped him, something that thrilled and comforted him, and something that he was realizing he would welcome forever, over and over again, because it made him feel whole.

i can’t stop thinking about him

Those text messages again ran themselves through his brain, and Kyle found himself pressing a hand against his chapped lips, eyes burning and wide and glossy.

 

Yeah

he sent, typing out a second message before Kenny could question him further.

Let’s go with that

--

Chapter Text

--

The sound of the shower running went on for so long that Kyle was actually starting to wonder how the water hadn’t already gone cold.

His phone continued to vibrate under the sheets beside him as he sat in bed, laying on his side and staring into space. Never in his life had he EVER expected to feel so incredibly crushed by guilt. He certainly wasn’t oblivious to pain; Gerald’s death two and a half years back had thrown him for a serious loop, and yet, that was a different kind of pain, one where there was finality and a sense that he, as a direct victim of the situation, would be able to put himself together and move on.

There was no doubt now, though, that Kyle was far from the victim in this instance, and he was a little freaked out to realize that he didn’t know how to deal with that.

Kyle knew he wasn’t perfect. He could admit there had been times in his past where, out of his own pride, he’d made a show out of standing for something. Still, didn’t everyone do that to some extent? In that moment, the reality of what he’d said began to come back down on him, and he found himself wanting to close his eyes and hide.

I didn’t exactly need the whole school knowing I was fucking you.

Maybe Craig was right when he had called him out for being a dick.

He vaguely registered the sound of the shower being turned off, but didn’t think much of it until the bathroom door creaked out in the hall. The redhead sat up, waiting, and watched as the silhouette of his classmate passed down towards the spare bedroom. He released a slow breath and got up out of bed, pausing at the doorway.

No. He wouldn’t force this. He had already apologized earlier, and in legitimate sincerity, so he wasn’t entirely sure what more he could say or do. Judging from their exchanges earlier, Kyle genuinely couldn’t discern…what Eric wanted, or what Eric was feeling.

For the past several months, he and his childhood rival had just been fuckbuddies; close physically, but supposedly uninvolved in matters of the mind or heart. Kyle had forced himself to accept that part of himself a while ago, the part that liked to press up against Eric, feel his sides, squeeze his cock and force his tongue roughly in between his lips. As the days had rolled on, though, it had become increasingly apparent that there was more to what he was feeling. Sometimes, even a single look from past rival made it difficult for him to breathe.

Fuck. He had no idea how he was going to explain this to his mother, or to Stan, or to ANYONE, but…he was feeling something for Eric Cartman, and it didn’t have anything to do with their previous arrangement.

Deciding not to push it for the night, aware that Eric was probably already disoriented from the sudden change in living situation, he made his way to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and turned his bedroom light off. Often Sheila would come and tell him goodnight, but something told him she would be up for a while longer, so he figured he’d be falling asleep on his own devices.

Kyle climbed underneath the covers and shoved his phone onto the bedside table.

Eventually, he succeeded in drifting off, aware only of the darkness and soft blankets surrounding his body. It was April already, so the scent of summer pines that passed through the walls of the house was pleasant, relaxing him enough despite the lingering confusion that floated around his thoughts. Sleep was welcome, even if it was still early for a Friday night.

At some point, something began to feel warm at his right side. He shifted, appreciating the slight increase in temperature, and tried to let himself slip back to sleep when a distinct and audible crinkling of plastic began to invade the quiet. Stretching, Kyle tried to ignore it, only to hear a crunching sound that made him open his eyes.

His impromptu bed-partner laid on his side a few inches away, gaze wide and bright as he propped one arm on Kyle’s spare pillow and crunched down on the sandwich cookie between his teeth.

“…” Blinking out of his haze, Kyle shifted up into a seated position on his forearms, watching as Eric immediately averted his gaze but stayed in position. He definitely looked better than, with a fresher face and thicker swath of chocolate bangs, but the sharp chin and angular shoulders were so out of place. Somehow, waking up and discovering a close-proximity invasion from his past rival didn’t surprise him, nor did it give him any cause for concern. Instantly not wanting it to be awkward, the redhead reached out and shoved him lightly by the collarbone.

“Are you seriously eating in my bed?” he asked, voice thick with sleep as he rubbed at his eyes with his wrist. “What are you, eight?”

“Hmm,” Eric replied in a whisper, picking another sandwich cookie from the packet and glancing back over at Kyle with a little smile. “More like eight and a half, last time I measured.”

Kyle frowned, blinking his way through understanding when the smirk on Eric’s face gave it away.

“Yeah right,” he stated, smiling in return at the guy he knew so well. “I’ve seen it, remember?”

“Relish that memory while you can, Raggedy Anne.”

Kyle sat up and leaned in slightly, feeling something start to churn inside him. Suddenly, without much preface, the slightly puffy look on his companion’s face made his eyes start to sting. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, since the great Kyle Broflovski can’t be seen with me,” Eric hummed back, glancing at Kyle with a gentle frown.

“Looks like you’ve missed out on your ch-”

“Go out with me.”

The silence was palpable. It felt stark, yet tense, populated only be the soft sounds of their breathing. They watched one another, and Kyle turned to cough awkwardly into his arm, trying so hard not to give a shit about how hot his entire being was starting to become.

“Uh…I mean…”

Eric sighed, and Kyle felt chills running down his arms, immediately recognizing the absence of joy in that familiar face.

“Didn’t I tell your Jew ass I’m not interested in your pity?”

Kyle stiffened, watching the other shift up into a sitting position and scoot towards the side of the bed next to his legs. Reacting before he could think, he grabbed his companion by the face and pushed himself up onto his knees. Eric gasped, and Kyle watched him, able to see even the redness in his own cheeks from his downward point of view.

“Don’t do this,” he murmured, turning Eric’s face and forcing him to look him in the eye. “I read those fucking messages, asshole. You s…you sent me goddamn roses.”

Eric stared up at him, and Kyle slowly let go of his chin, reaching for his shoulders instead and turning him to face him.

“And…?” the brunet eventually managed.

All the tightness in Kyle’s chest burst as he reached for Eric, wrapping his arms around his body and forcing him in close before the words could burst out from his burning lungs.

“And I like you too, okay?!”

Eric’s immediate reaction was lost on Kyle as the redhead gathered him close, pulling his partner against his front, holding on and trying to force back the sting in his throat. He could feel the ribs underneath the white undershirt, and Kyle immediately felt the tension in his muscles release, felt the dull, sick ache of dishonestly beginning to lift from his insides.

The silence remained for a few more seconds, and Kyle finally reached back up to push him by the chest.

“I like you, so we should fucking go out,” he rephrased, staring, eyes Kelly green and bright even in the darkness.

Eric watched him, and Kyle waited for the inevitable bark of a laugh, or the grin that told him it was an elaborate ploy all along. He waited, and waited, and his friend eventually just shifted a little closer, shoulders still clutched in Kyle’s tight grasp.

“You’re serious right now,” Eric stated with a slow deadpan, and Kyle felt like he had just been punched.

“Of course I’m serious!” he promised, squirming in embarrassment and looking down at the bedding beneath them. “I- Okay, I get it, this makes no fucking sense, but, um…”

Eric gathered Kyle in his arms suddenly, and Kyle just let his eyelids fall as he returned the hug.

“Oh my god,” the redhead muttered to himself, startled, feeling the enormity of the situation beginning to settle over him when he felt the breath on his neck.

“Aww, are you shaking?” Eric cooed against his skin, tone wavering strangely, and Kyle tensed up in realization.

“Shut up!”

“Ooh, you are.”

“This is freaking me out!”

“It’s okay, baby.”

“Fuck,” Kyle found himself groaning, wondering why he felt frozen and sweaty all at once, combined with the distinct and frighteningly real sensation that he was somehow about to die. “Don’t- just…don’t call me that.”

“Why not??”

“It’s weird!”

“But you like me~” came the teasing tone again, and Kyle was painfully aware he was redder than a ripe tomato. “And here I thought you only wanted me for my hot body.”

“You’re too skinny,” the redhead retorted without really thinking, brash as he shoved him back a little and then immediately felt the sting of guilt scrape along his nerves. Thankfully, Eric was smiling at him- beaming, actually, with a giant grin and big brown eyes that practically shone. The warmth began to pass from his cheeks and to inside his chest, and Kyle just sat, stunned.

“No skinnier than you, basketball boy!”

In the past, this kind of bright and jubilant behavior would have elicited definite suspicion from Kyle. Right now, though…Relief pulsed through him, leaving behind curls and tingles of embarrassed disbelief.

“I’m not skinny, you mother f-ff!!”

Kyle’s head hit the mattress as he was bowled over, legs in the air as he was enveloped in body heat. His mouth was immediately occupied, smooth lips pressing up against his in a shunt of desperation, and the redhead stared up at the glowing green stars on his bedroom ceiling, aware of the hands weaving into his curls.

“Hah,” he breathed out, allowing himself to be swept away in the impossible deepness of the kiss.

It was actually incredible how relaxed Kyle could feel so instantaneously when Eric was around. Somehow, it didn’t seem to matter that he had no idea where he would be living next fall, or whether he’d see his best friend ever again. It didn’t even seem to matter that his mother was asleep in the bedroom down the hall. All that mattered was the body pressed up against him, and the way that his brunet companion, the grinning, infuriating bastard, seemed to make the tension uncoil from his muscles moment by moment.

Kyle felt like he couldn’t really justify why this was wrong anymore, because nothing had ever felt so goddamn right.

Eric stroked his scalp gently, fingertips skimming his temples, and the redhead groaned quietly as he pushed himself up into a seated position. He snatched his partner’s shirt in both hands and leaned closer, opening his mouth and pushing his tongue in between the two rows of teeth.

Despite his tryst with Bebe and brief stints formally dating both Heidi and Lola, Kyle hadn’t done a lot of kissing in his day. Maybe it should have been disturbing, how natural it felt to kiss Eric, particularly after their history together. A hot tongue grazed against his, and Kyle decided he didn’t care how unlikely all of this had seemed.

“Mnph,” Eric breathed, tone heavy as he pulled back just enough to slide his hands onto Kyle’s cheeks and smile at him. “You’re blushing, Kyle.”

“So are you,” Kyle whispered back, eyeing the thick lashes with a dry gulp. Since when was Eric Cartman so fucking attractive?

“Diversion tactics, huh??”

Something crinkled in the bedding, and Kyle noticed the empty cookie packet crushed between their touching thighs, throat tightening in realization and concern.

“Hey, uh, did you get hungry?”

Eric leaned in a little further, expression fond. “Does my boyfriend Kyle want to feed me?”

Kyle had a split-second urge to punch him for his comment when he realized that it wasn’t even the slightest bit untrue.

“Come on, idiot,” he ushered bluntly and grabbed him by the wrist, tugging Eric up off the bed and quietly out into the hallway. Kyle spotted a family photo of himself with his brother and parents at the far wall and quickly turned his face away, suddenly enveloped by the instant and sour guilt of knowing that he at least had one parent who cared about him.

--

By the time Kyle woke up the next morning, he had almost forgotten the events of the night before, until a gentle pressure at his side alerted him to the fact that he was not alone in his bed.

He could vaguely taste the cinnamon from the cereal the night before at the back of his mouth. Shifting, he managed to look down at the visitor under the covers, observing the peaceful expression. He legitimately didn’t recall falling asleep with Eric beside him, especially not nestled up so close to his side like that, but the late-night exhaustion had probably knocked them both out directly after their midnight snack. Vaguely, he remembered seeing that same curled position the time that his rival had visited him to borrow some cough syrup, and he couldn’t help but wonder why it was so easy to fall asleep next to his ex-nemesis.

Kyle only caught a few peaceful seconds of his bed-mate’s sleeping face before a loud and irritating string of beeps jolted him out of his reverie.

“Motherfucker,” he hissed and immediately rolled out from beneath Eric’s clinging arm and leg, stomach tensing as he grabbed for his charging phone and eyed the name on the caller ID. He took a breath, and swiped the phone icon, voice hoarse.

“Hello?”

“Hey, dude.”

“Hey, Stan,” he stated, swallowing and trying to sound normal as he felt a stirring beside him.

“Dude, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just woke up,” he admitted, aware of the bright blue 10:02AM that blared from the alarm clock. His heart jumped into his throat as he glanced at the door, seeing it closed as he had left it the night before. Sheila must have been allowing him to sleep in after the ordeal, given that she typically checked on Kyle around eight on Saturdays.

“Oh man, sorry dude.”

“It’s cool. What’s going on?”

“Hey, Kenny told me that, uh…Cartman’s staying at your place for a while?”

Kyle met the brown gaze instantly and swallowed hard, wondering exactly how much Kenny had explained. Stan did seem to be alive, so he could only imagine his friend didn’t understand the whole story, and therefore hadn’t yet suffered a stroke as a result. Maybe it was better to keep it that way.

“Yeah, he- Cartman’s mom is in trouble with the law, so we’re letting him take the spare bedroom.”

The line was silent, until Stan piped up again, sounding wary but otherwise normal.

“Oh, okay. Hey, so me and Kenny were gonna go see the new Deadpool tonight around six. You in?”

Kyle felt the apprehension climbing inside him as he shifted, taking a deep breath, eyes migrating down the comforter.

“Is Wendy coming, too?” he asked without thinking, hearing Stan hesitate for a moment.

“Uh, I don’t think so. Butters isn’t coming either. He’s still upset about that kid.”

Suddenly, horrifyingly, Kyle felt a hand on each thigh underneath the covers. He gasped and looked down to see Eric’s form making its way over his knees, settling in between them as he stared Kyle down with a little grin.

“What?!?” he choked, freezing when he heard Stan’s hum on the other end of the line.

“Are you…sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah! I’m cool!” Kyle promised, shooting a stare of pure, unadulterated shock in his partner’s direction. Slowly, Eric settled himself between Kyle’s knees and underneath the blanket, eyeing him silently from the makeshift cave as his hands went fast to Kyle’s waistband.

“Okay, you want to come? Kenny wants to grab dinner after at Outback.”

His privates were exposed, and Kyle had to slap a hand over his mouth to prevent himself from shouting as Eric literally leaned in and slipped the entirety of his flaccid length deep into the back of his throat.

“…Mhm, yeah,” he managed into the receiver, taking a shaky breath.

“Cool, we’ll meet you at the AMC. See you.”

“Bye!” Kyle frantically swiped to hang up and threw his phone onto the carpet as soon as the call ended, turning his head back to the chocolate gaze and warm mouth.

“What is wrong with you?!” he hissed, feeling the pads of Eric’s thumbs pressing into his hipbones and forcing his mouth closed as another scream threatened to rip out of him. He glanced up fast, realizing the bolt on his door wasn’t locked, and stared back down in horror, feeling a hand slowly intertwine with his.

Stunned out of words, blood rushing fast between his legs, Kyle stared in awe as Eric moved his hand into his hair, pressing his face back down and swallowing him whole.

The hot tongue teased at his base as Eric pressed his face into his pelvis, nose and cheeks brushing against his auburn curls. Suddenly feeling flushed all-over, throwing caution to the wind at the familiarity, he tightened his grip in Eric’s hair and pressed his head down, pushing his hardening dick up between the wet lips.

Despite being familiar with porn, it was hard for Kyle to recall seeing anybody look like they were enjoying giving head quite so genuinely. Eric swallowed him down, flexing his throat with a dedicated eagerness that made Kyle shudder with lust.

“Yeah,” he found himself murmuring, lids fluttering as he watched Eric bob his head slowly up and down.

Kyle had never gotten so hard so fast in his life. Exhaling through his nose, he pushed his free hand onto the other side of the thick hair and gripped hard, watching as Eric literally took him all down with a lewd slurp.

“Suck my cock,” he choked out, pressing his hips upwards, heat streaming through his dick and pulsing down deep in his balls.

The suction became instantly tighter. Kyle felt wet breath against his lower stomach as Eric pressed his tongue up along the base, head sliding up and down, lips catching around the crown and pulling hard as he sucked. The redhead gasped, shakily tugging on his brown locks in warning.

“Fuck, hey, g-gon-”

He was enveloped with heat, and Kyle sank his teeth into one forearm to hold down his shriek, head butting up against the ribbing at the back of his partner’s throat. He gasped for breath and tensed, hips twitching, jerking a few times, hot fluid shooting against the velvet of Eric’s tongue.

“…Gh!”

All he could do was stare as Eric easily slipped off of him, swallowed, and licked his lips almost casually. Reality began to come back to him as he took his next breath, face pink and bright.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he groaned. At that moment, he heard the familiar patter of his brother’s light footsteps outside the door and sat up. He exchanged a flushed-cheeked look with Eric and slid out of bed, immediately aware of the smooth arms around his waist.

Did he seriously shave everything?

“Mom’s making breakfast,” he explained, studying into the pink face that had just been doing something so unmentionable. Instantly, Kyle spotted the glossiness in his companion’s eyes, and could only watch as the brunet sniffled and pressed his face into Kyle’s chest, clinging onto him tight. He heard sniffling and paused, reaching out to grab for Eric’s arm.

“What’s wrong?” he asked quietly, suddenly replaying the events of the moments before. “Shit…I’m sorry, did I-”

“Kyyyle,” he hummed, hiccupping and looking up with a bright smile that made the redhead’s chest feel tight. “You’re my man, right?”

The lilting, flirty tone sent tingles down the back of his neck. Stunned by the sincerity and earnestness of the sweet words, Kyle just gazed down at him.

“What?” he managed, watching as Eric’s grin spread wider.

“You’re my man, so we’re gonna hold hands, and go out on dates, and blow each other.”

“Keep your voice down,” he hissed, aware of the awake parties directly downstairs. Eric leaned up, clutching onto him a little harder.

“Nope, I’m gonna tell everyone!”

“Eric-”

“We should make out in front of golden boy and Kenny later.”

Kyle swallowed hard, face bursting into blushing alarm at the thought of it. For some reason, the thought of anybody else knowing about it didn’t upset him that much, or anger him, but it did make him feel like he was a few moments away from a fucking heart attack.

“You…You wanna come?” he eventually asked, throat tight as he averted his gaze from the clinging male. “Kenny wants to get dinner after the movie.”

They stared at one another, both visibly surprised, when Kyle again was saddled with the weight of his clinging partner.

“Ohh, Kyle! You really want me bad!”

“Christ,” the redhead stated, slipping from the bed and struggling to stay on his feet as Eric attached himself. “Remind me why I’m agreeing to this??”

“You asked me out, Jersey-boy,” Eric reminded, lips curved and fond. “Your shifty tricks won’t work this time!”

There was audible chatter from downstairs, and Eric perked up and headed for the bedroom door, opening it silently and peeking out. Kyle followed along and sighed, tugging his sleeve before silently making his way down to the dining room.

Breakfast was actually biscuits and gravy with fruit, one of Kyle’s favorites. Sheila was surprisingly pleasant again, even sticking a second round of biscuits in the oven when the brunet asked politely for more. Kyle sat and stared at his plate when his phone buzzed in his pants pocket, and he tuned out the continuing conversation in order to scroll into his emails.

Dear Kyle,

Congratulations! We are excited to inform you of your admission to the College of Science at The University of Colorado, Denver, for the upcoming Fall 2018 semester. Your admission to UCD is evidence of the Admissions Committee’s confidence in your academic potential.

“Kyle, are you listening?”

“Huh?” the redhead asked and glanced up, feeling a little awkward at the three pairs of eyes that settled onto him. “Uh, sorry.”

“Were you and Eric planning to go out shopping today?” Sheila inquired, pale face make-up free and hair pulled up into a messy bun above her earlobes. “It probably won’t be too crowded if you go out early. Can I give you my grocery list?”

The smile on her face surprised Kyle as he shrugged, stabbing a strawberry with his fork and glancing over at Eric in a way that he hoped was casual.

“Yeah, you want to check out Walmart?”

“Oh, I’d be honored, Kyle,” Eric crooned back at him, and Kyle felt a tingle in his stomach, vaguely listening as Ike began chattering on about some hockey game he wanted to attend in the Fall. Innards twisting, he tried to force the thought of August out of his mind, pushing away the intrusive feelings of anxiety that came with the knowledge that he might be away from everyone at the table by then.

After helping to clear the table, Kyle excused himself back upstairs, managing to bypass his bedmate and shutting the door behind him. Within moments of seeing his own expression in the mirror, he felt his throat beginning to close up, blood pounding in his ears, fingers starting to grow cold.

He was…He was going out with Eric Cartman. They were dating.

“What am I doing?” he breathed, watching his reflection in the morning light that shone in through the sheer curtains of the window. A scented candle sat on the counter, mostly burned, and Kyle gulped down the dry feeling behind his tongue, vaguely tasting the airborne scent of green apple.

What the fuck was he going to do? Move away and leave all his friends behind? Sheila? Eric? Not that he had to. He knew he could easily take his acceptance into UCD, move a couple hours up the road to Denver and hang out with Stan on the weekends. He could drive down to see his mother and Ike, of course, whenever he had the time off. Berkeley, though…It was so much more prestigious. He could probably become a big name there, do research in the big labs there, get cited in published papers and work his way into graduate school…

Come to think of it, what was Eric going to do with his life?

Fingers drumming against the countertop, the redhead reached out and hurriedly turned on the hot water. He pumped an obscene amount into his palms, shaking his head, eyes wide and stunned when a soft knock sounded out on the door.

“Uh-!!” he yelled and paused, hearing the latch click and looking up into his mother’s face with surprise. “Oh,” he breathed, shoulders relaxing visibly, only to tense again as he listened to the water running.

“Kyle,” she said quietly, observing him for a moment before stepping into the bathroom and shutting the door behind her. “Are you feeling all right?”

It was an expected question from Sheila Broflovski, who tended to treat Kyle as though he were made of glass. His diabetes was a contributing factor, but ever since Gerald’s death, the redhead had noticed her becoming even more observant of his behavior.

He managed a nod, rinsing the soap from his palms under the hot stream.

“Yeah. Why?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her tone was too knowing, so knowing, in fact, that Kyle couldn’t bring himself to turn and face her. Instead, he watched her in the mirror as she placed a hand on his shoulder. Absently, Kyle realized that one of her acrylic nails was missing.

“You fell asleep together. I saw you this morning.”

“Fuck,” Kyle groaned, forcing himself to glance backward into his mother’s face. Sheila held a hand up, seemingly startled by the reaction.

“Kyle, it’s okay. I’m just a little worried.”

“He’s not like that anymore,” the redhead stated. Somehow, hearing it from his mother’s mouth made this too real, too concrete. Eric wasn’t his dirty little secret anymore, something to get off on and forget about. Kyle felt a searing pain of intense guilt at the sudden realization that, at one point, he had kind of forgotten to treat Eric like a human being.

“Are you sure?” Sheila inquired, tone laced with worry as she grasped Kyle by the shoulders. “I knew something was going on. You’ve been getting so upset lately.”

Cringing, Kyle allowed himself to take a couple of deep breaths, just listening as she continued on.

“I know you trust him. We just can’t really be sure what’s going to happen to Eric, now.”

“I don’t know,” he replied quickly, shaking his head, throat burning as the bridge of his nose began to fill. “I don’t…I don’t know, okay?”

“Do you want to get the police involved?” she pressed on, nails pushing into his pajama shirt. “That boy hasn’t had an easy life. I know you’re worried, but I just don’t want him putting all of his troubles onto you. You have your own life to live.”

That was not what Kyle had expected to hear. He waited for another moment, listening the pulse that thrummed between his ears.

“Are you together?”

His heart seized, and Kyle legitimately reached up to grasp his chest, stunned by the solidity of it all, of the reality that almost certainly stood the next room over, getting dressed or listening in through the wall.

He and Eric Cartman had always had a complex relationship, one where they flung insult after insult at one another, but still didn’t make much effort to distance themselves from each other, in the end. Kyle knew now that could only imagine what the guy must have been through as a child, being exposed to Liane’s flagrant promiscuity and ignored in favor of sex and drugs. Maybe it wasn’t actually so shocking to find out he’d grown up bigoted, angry, desperately in need of fantasy and attention. Kyle had never felt the need to play with a stuffed animal, or dress in girl’s clothing. He had never understood why the boy had always seemed so egotistical and flamboyant, so desperate to get any attention of any kind, even if it was a seemingly-deserved punch in the face.

Even with his own father now gone, Kyle could see now just how much easier he had had it. It wasn’t as though he liked Cartman for his flaws, but there was something about his smile. His hair, too, and the smoothness of his hands, and the way he laughed and grinned and made light of things when Kyle felt like his world was turning upside-down. There was also something in those big brown eyes, something that asked for help, but was sometimes too proud to take it, and something that shone with a big adoration no matter how insensitive or oblivious Kyle had been over the past several months.

“Yeah,” he admitted, and found himself in the familiar embrace that he was sure he would inevitably come to miss.

--

Chapter Text

--

Life was kind of a blur for Kyle over the next hour or so, a blur punctuated by his mother’s firm hugs and the April air in his face. The enormity of the situation hadn’t quite settled onto him until he found himself standing in the middle of the men’s clothing section at Target with a very insistent clinger at his right arm.

“What’s your problem?” the redhead breathed.

“You are,” Eric replied smoothly, grinning brightly with obvious satisfaction as he clung onto Kyle’s bicep.

Kyle, understandably, had never even conceived of this situation. After everything they had gone through, from their first reunion in the school bathroom all the way up to their last serious encounter in Eric’s home, Kyle still found himself filled to the brim with questions. Somehow, though, amongst the thousands of anxieties that frittered away at the edges of his brain, he couldn’t help but feel the little spring in his step as they walked together, the extra energy in his cheeks and quiver in his chest. It seemed so unreal, the fact that they were…an item, now. Even thinking of their current status in explicit terms made his face feel warm, so he averted his gaze as they continued walking together, matching his companion’s steps around the nearby display of denim jeans.

“You need clothes, right?” he managed, voice thick as he all but pulled his partner over towards the t-shirt section. “Go ahead and pick something.”

“Aww,” Eric sighed, detaching himself only to glance up at him with clasped hands. “Always the doting boyfriend, eh Kyle?”

“Shh,” Kyle replied shortly, startled enough by the comment to find himself at a loss for words. Thankfully, after a chuckle, the brunet looked back up to peruse the selection on the shelves, face bright and undeniably…sweet.

He was so fucked. Damn it. Why did life have to constantly surprise him like this? Also, since when did Eric Cartman LEGITIMATELY enjoy his company?

Stan’s invitation from earlier resurfaced in the back of his mind as Eric picked through the offerings, face bright and interested. Kyle wasn’t sure what the fuck to do. He had already told his friend, and Kenny, by extension, that he’d go with them later for dinner and the movie, but something told him it probably wasn’t a good idea to leave Eric alone at his house. Not only did that seem enormously insensitive, but…

If they were seriously going to be a couple, he probably had to admit it to his closest friends, right?

“Kyyyle? Earth to Kyle?”

Kyle tensed, eyeing the Star Wars shirt that was being flashed in front of him.

“Check it out!”

“Oh, yeah,” he acknowledged, eyeing the other shirts flattened behind the display plastic. “They have Star Trek, too.”

“Pff, Star Trek’s fuckin’ gay.”

“You’re gay,” Kyle blurted back without thinking, eliciting a snort of laughter.

“Wow, Kyle! How’d you know?”

The pale and pointed face from that obituary suddenly faded into Kyle’s subconscious thought, and he found himself biting down the first question that came to mind.

“Uh, speaking of that…” he started instead, throat tight. “Did you say you were going to come out with Stan and Kenny and me later?” It was an awkward transition, and Kyle knew it, so he was relieved when Eric opened his mouth to drown out the silence.

“What’s with the face? Worried the hippie will try and sissy-punch me?”

Kyle immediately remembered the events of a few weeks prior, shoulders tensing as he watched Eric choose another t-shirt. Why had he even gone to that fucking party?

“Uh, he might be pissed,” he admitted. “I mean, you did slash his tires with a knife.”

“A poker, Kyle,” Eric corrected, looking a little proud of himself. “It was right in the fireplace. Token’s back porch was a goldmine, that night.”

“You smashed his windows in, too.”

“Oh, yeah. Sharp rocks work wonders.”

Kyle was suddenly torn between feeling impressed, and feeling dangerously, startlingly fondly for someone who had literally cost him thousands of dollars.

“You’d better not pull any weird shit if you come,” he commented as Eric pulled a Batman shirt down from the highest shelf. Once again, the atypical thinness of his profile startled Kyle and made him look twice. He just wasn’t used to seeing the guy so slim. Honestly, he sort of wanted him back to the usual. It felt more familiar.

“Mm, okay, so no jacking you off in public. Got it.”

“That’s not what I meant!” Kyle practically shouted, realizing his own volume and pressing his lips together in silence. He shivered, observing those chocolate-brown eyes as Eric crept closer and wrapped one arm around his waist.

“Heh, made you blush,” Eric practically giggled at him. “You’re so cute.”

This was clearly an alternate universe.

“I’m…not.”

“Uh-huh, you are.”

“I’m not cute!”

“Sooo cute. I’m seriously.”

“Just pick out more shit,” the redhead groaned, shifting away from Eric in his disbelieving embarrassment. It wasn’t typical for him to feel…shy, and the sensation was seriously unnerving.

After a short period digging in the shirt area and selecting a few new pairs of jeans, the two made their way across the store, picking up packs of socks and other miscellaneous clothing items. Kyle noticed in passing that the rubber of Eric’s shoe soles was cracking up the sides and pulled his clinging companion over to the shoe selection, leading him through the aisles. Suddenly, his phone began to beep at his hip, and Kyle reached down to wrangle it out of his pocket, not recognizing the phone number and swiping to answer with a slight frown.

“Hello?”

“Hi there, this is Sergeant Harrison Yates of the South Park Police. Is this Kyle Broflovski?”

His hands felt cold. Swallowing, catching his companion’s gaze, Kyle walked over to the mirror stool beside the shelf and took a seat, trying to keep the phone close to his own face.

“Uh, yes.”

“I wanted to speak with you about Eric Cartman. Is he currently living at your residence?”

The brunet was staring at him, and Kyle looked away, instantly realizing the potential for something to happen that he really, really wanted to avoid.

“Look, can you call me some other time?”

“We at least need to be sure of his whereabouts. He was last seen by an officer at one of the local parks a few weeks ago, but our detectives at the station received word that he left the central hospital with you and your mother just the other day.”

“Okay, yes, he’s with me,” Kyle relented unsurely, hearing some gentle footsteps and glancing up. The brunet stood in front of him, face placid, and extended a hand, beckoning for the phone with two fingers.

The redhead paused, unsure he understood until he saw the knowing sparkle in those brown eyes.

Should he…?

“Right. Well, we were hoping to get some details about his previous living situation. There are some pretty serious matters involved.”

“Do you wanna talk to him?” Kyle blurted out, stomach heavy.

“Is he with you?”

Kyle slowly pulled the phone from his ear, only to watch as Eric snatched it from his grasp and held it casually against the side of his face.

“Yo, Sherriff whatever.”

It was a little unsettling just how intelligent Eric Cartman was sometimes. Apprehensive, Kyle stood up and looked on as his partner played with the strings on a tennis shoe located atop the nearest display.

“Mhm. Yeah.” Eric’s voice was calm, soft but not unsure, almost as if he had anticipated the phone call and was merely going through the motions.

“Yep.” Eric sighed, listening with what looked like disinterest. “Yeah, I guess. Sure. Bye.”

Kyle found the phone back in his hand, locking gazes with his classmate.

“They arrested mom.”

“Th…What?!” Kyle gasped, genuinely taken aback as Eric shrugged and looked back at the shoe of interest.

“Yeah, I’m supposed to go talk to those assholes today.”

Towards the end of his sentence, the redhead began to hear the slight softness in his tone, the uncharacteristic lilt of something hollow. Kyle checked the time and grit his teeth, trying to think of something, anything to melt the tension.

Maybe in the past, Eric would have deserved it, but not anymore.

“C’mon. Let’s go pay for all this stuff, first,” he decided, trying to keep his voice positive as he reached out and put his arm securely around Eric’s back. “You wanna get a pretzel, or something?”

Eric’s quick reaction far surpassed Kyle’s original expectations. Suddenly, the brunet had his arm and was smiling down at him. Kyle sighed and tugged him along towards the front of the store, loading everything onto the closest conveyor as he tried to process the reality of Eric Cartman quite literally snuggled against his side right in front of the female cashier with the septum piercing.

“Can we get extra cheese? And Dr. Pepper??” Eric practically whined as Kyle picked up the two large bags of clothing, mentally berating himself for forgetting to ask Sheila for her shopping list earlier. He nodded and awkwardly tugged the other towards the Food Court, immediately assaulted by the smells of butter and salt.

“Yeah,” Kyle promised as he approached the counter, ordering for them both and sitting down.

It was always kind of amazing just how pleased Eric looked when he got something to eat, particularly since his return to town. Even around his little smile, however, Kyle wasn’t oblivious to the dullness in his eyes, and tore his own pretzel in half as Eric ate silently.

“What do they need to know?” he asked, breaking the silence. “Do you want me to talk to them?”

“Nah. It’s cool.”

“No, it’s not cool,” Kyle replied, a little unnerved by the calmness and wondering if a blowup was on the horizon. “They should leave you out of it.”

“They need a witness, I guess,” Eric replied, licking some nacho cheese from his thumb. “Guess they wanna make sure I’m not fuckin’ crazy.”

“You’re not crazy.”

“You sure?”

Kyle swallowed, feeling a deep and frightening wave of fondness engulf his entire body.

“None of this shit is your fault.”

Eric swallowed, looking genuinely surprised before sighing and resting his cheek on one hand.

“Fucking coppers should stay off my ass. Probably assume I should’ve gotten three jobs and moved out of that hellhole, by now.”

Kyle opened his mouth to speak and paused, suddenly finding himself bursting with curiosity.

“Why didn’t you try and get a job?” he asked, green eyes bright as he watched his companion from across the table. Eric covered his mouth with one hand, laughing heartily with a volume that startled Kyle.

“HAH! You think I didn’t try?!”

Kyle paused, mouth tasting sour.

“Fuck, Jew. I’ve applied for every place in this goddamn town like three times over. “Cartman”’s not exactly the best name to have, here.”

For whatever reason, that had never once occurred to Kyle. He had heard the kids at his high school gossiping about the guy for years, whispering things about details they weren’t privy to. Kyle had never felt the desire to correct them, but had somehow never realized quite how ubiquitous Eric Cartman’s name still was in South Park. Maybe it was no great surprise that people weren’t exactly lining up to offer him work.

“You’re still coming to the movie later, right?” Kyle tried to divert, sipping on his own fountain drink unsurely. Thankfully, Eric snorted and finished off his pretzel casually with a fluttering of lashes.

“As long as my sugar daddy pays for me.”

Kyle’s face was steaming as he shunted his own tray over towards his partner, slamming his fists on the table.

“FUCK!”

“Eheh~”

“Don’t say shit like that in public!!”

“Eric?!”

The voice was high and unsettlingly recognizable. Kyle froze, looking up into two sets of blue eyes and blond hair that accompanied the two similarly startled expressions.

“Cartman!” Kenny stated, letting go of his boyfriend’s hand in his legitimate amazement. Eric stared, gaze moving visibly from one to the other, and then elbowed Kyle’s general direction across the tabletop, voice calm with the restrained amusement the redhead knew so well.

“Dude, it’s the children of the corn.”

“Dude!” Kenny laughed in obvious relief and amusement, placing his hands on the table and beaming at the two seated boys. “You’re alive!”

“Aw, heck, Eric! I thought you were gonna die!”

“What are you guys doing here?” Kyle asked in amazement, filled with relief to see the interaction moving smoothly despite the fact that both blonds had been present for the rediscovery of Eric just the day before.

Kenny smirked, lips turning slightly crooked as his focus flicked over to Kyle. “Leo needed to pick up a new backpack. Didn’t mean to walk in on your date.”

Kyle gulped, only able to watch as Eric grasped the tense hand he had on the table and smiled back almost dreamily at the taller blond.

“Oh, well, as long as you keep your hands off my man, we won’t have a problem.”

Butters gasped so comically loudly that Kyle felt as though the entire store was watching. Swallowing, he covered his face with the hand that wasn’t being clutched, groaning into his palm.

“Kyle! Are you and Eric really dating?!”

“You know it,” Eric interjected helpfully, literally bringing Kyle’s hand over to the side of his face and nuzzling his cheek against it. “So yeah, hands off the Kosher goods.”

“Just shut up,” Kyle sighed heavily, trying desperately to ignore the heat in his cheeks as he managed to catch Kenny’s eyes. The blond all but leered at him, lips knowing and relaxed as he scooted into the booth and sat himself directly beside Kyle, leaving Butters to sit on Eric’s side at the corner.

“So,” Kenny hummed, glancing obviously between the two. “Looks like we’ll be a group of five tonight?”

Kyle hesitated, recalling the previous discussion and looking curiously over at the smaller blond.
“Are you coming?”

“Oh, yeah, I think I need to get outta the house. I’m just makin’ myself sad.”

Kyle found his hand freed and pulled it back over to click into the menu of his insulin pump, feeling a sharp elbow against his side.

“Guess I know who you’re going to the Spring Dance with, huh?”

“Spring Dance?” Kyle asked, confirming his carb number on the screen.

“Yeah, in two weeks.”

Feeling eyes on him, the redhead turned his face to the side. “Uh…”

“Aww, I think you’ll look really cute together,” Butters cut in with clear sincerity, cheeks pink. “Well, as long as you don’t do what Craig and Tweek did last year in the boys bathroom. Jimmy walked in, and Tweek was on his knees suckin’ Craig’s wiener!”

“Honey!” Kenny cackled and Kyle had to look away for a moment, a blush of embarrassment exploding back out over his cheeks the moment it had begun to wane.

“Well, he was!”

“Watch out, Leo. You’re getting Kyle hot and bothered!”

“Would you fuck off about Craig?!” Kyle spat and glanced up, avoiding his partner’s gaze desperately as he glared over at Kenny. He internally cursed himself for getting drunk that one night and talking about Craig’s hair. Kenny and Stan had never let him live it down.

“C’mon, man, I’m just teasing. Cartman, you wanna come see Deadpool with us tonight? It’ll be like old times.”

“Mmph, this one already invited me, Kenny,” Eric commented, finishing what Kyle recognized as the remnants of his own pretzel before picking up the large shopping bags and shuffling Butters out of the way. “I’m in. Got shit to do first, though.”

Kyle caught his eyes and felt his chest get tight, watching his boyfriend get to his feet as Kenny stood up too.

“Oh, okay. Hey, this is yours…”

Kenny pulled the white, crumpled prescription bag out from his back pocket, and Eric took it, tucking it into one of his own bags before smiling and blowing Kyle a kiss.

“See you later, gingerbread.”

Kyle watched the other walk away, recalling exactly where he was probably headed. Was there any possibility that the police would find Eric somehow at fault? No, this was about Liane’s arrest, he reminded himself. She was the one who was in trouble. Maybe, somehow, they could serve justice to her for being such a miserable parent. Eric Cartman may have been a troubled kid, but he had certainly deserved better than that.

Kyle couldn’t help but be concerned, remembering the Xanax conversation he had read from Kenny’s text messages. As quickly as Eric had seemed to be recovering, he was still recovering.

Apprehension flooded his chest as he shouted out after him.

“Meet back at my place by five!”

The silence that resounded was brief as Kenny shuffled back over to Butters’ side, wrapping his arm around the other’s waist and whistling loudly.

“Do you wanna write Stan’s obituary, or should we work on it together?”

--

He was dating Eric Cartman.

Kyle laid on his mattress facing the ceiling, a Let’s Play video rattling on from his laptop as he traced the outlines of the glow-in-the-dark plastic stars with his eyes. In what world was he living? In what world did he want this as badly as he did?

What was everybody else going to fucking think?

There was no doubt, now, that he was attracted to Eric on a dangerous level. It wasn’t just an issue of physicality, either; in fact, that was taking an obvious backseat to the current matters at hand. Kyle was legitimately concerned about his future. After all, he had seen time and time again lately that he did have a heart, and that he wasn’t doing anyone any harm. What would become of them, come May, when everybody parted ways to start their adult lives?

Thankfully, by the time Kyle had started getting dressed for the movie, Eric had manifested in the guest bathroom and flicked the light on. Recalling an earlier text from Sheila indicating she had taken Ike out for dinner, the redhead frowned and poked his head in through the doorway.

“How the hell did you get in?” he asked, a little bit relieved to see that he hadn’t somehow been taken in for questioning or detained for some reason. The brunet glanced over at him, combing through his swath of thick chocolate bangs with one of Kyle’s bristle brushes from beside the sink.

“Your lovely mother gave me a key,” Eric replied simply, wearing the black jeans and dark green t-shirt he had purchased earlier. His voice was casual, and not in the stony way, so Kyle allowed himself to take a breath of relief and scooted in beside him to wash his hands. It was kind of shocking how fast Sheila was trusting him, but Kyle supposed that was…a good thing.

“Move,” Kyle muttered and bumped hips with him as he reached for his toothbrush, squirting some toothpaste onto it and glancing at his hatless reflection. Instantly, he watched his companion press his face into the juncture of his neck and shoulder, and Kyle turned his face away so he wouldn’t have to see his own reaction.

“You smell good.”

The redhead shifted back, reaching out to shove Eric by the arm when he felt lips brushing beneath his jaw. Even spanning back to when they were kids, the guy had never really hugged normally. Instead, Eric always seemed to throw himself at Kyle with all he had, hanging on, and apparently this moment was no different.

“C’mon, get off,” Kyle groaned and tried to nudge him away, spitting into the sink and rinsing out his mouth. Eric breathed in his ear, huffing.

“Ooh, don’t mind if I do.”

“Not like that!” he groaned and pushed Eric away, soaking his hands with water from the faucet and beginning to run his hands through the mop of frizzy curls. The brunet snickered, snatching the comb again as he grinned in the corner of Kyle’s eye.

“Jeeze, it’s a joke, not a dick. You don’t have to take it so hard.”

“…” Kyle smiled and tried to hide it by pressing his lips together, legitimately embarrassed but unable to help but find that kind of amusing, even as a disturbing string of heat uncoiled through his nerves. He bent his head down and ran his fingers through his curls, shaking his head a few times and standing back up.

At any time in the past, he might have been more hesitant to have his real hair out around Cartman, but he figured that once you literally had your cock down someone’s throat…

Privacy probably became an unrealistic expectation.

“I’m never taking your dick,” he eventually replied, soaking a washcloth and smoothing it along his cheeks as he caught Eric’s eye from the side.

“Aww, never?”

“Never.”

“Kyyyyle, you’re breaking my balls.”

“Like you even need them,” the redhead sniffed, running the cloth underneath his bangs. “You always end up on your back, anyway.”

“Mmmn,” Eric sighed, staring over almost dreamily. “But you really do have the best ass in our class, remember?”

Before Kyle could respond, he felt two thick fingers pinching at the meat of his backside. He spun around and shoved Eric back against the wall with a yelp, startled.

“Cartman!”

“There’s that little Jersey devil I know~”

In a split-second response, Kyle snatched the can of spray deodorant from beside the sink and unleashed a jet of white fog into his rival’s face.

“f-Fffuck, Kyle!!”

“Who’s a Jersey devil, now, huh?!”

Eric slid up close to Kyle, wrapping his arms around him through the smoke, and the redhead barely had time to look down at him when he felt their lips meet.

A powdery aroma settled through the air of the bathroom as Kyle slipped closer, feeling the warm arms around him and daring to close his eyes and get lost in it. Kissing Eric Cartman was nothing like kissing anybody else had ever been- there was no initial discomfort, no question as to whether it felt right or whether he was doing a good enough job. No hesitance even accompanied his tongue as he nudged it in between Eric’s lips, smoothing it over the fronts of his teeth and gripping around his back to sink his fingertips into his shirt.

It didn’t even seem confusing, the fact that his anger and embarrassment could mellow so quickly into a soft fondness when Eric was pressed up against him. Kyle couldn’t help but miss the familiar softness, instead feeling the sensation of muscle and ribs pressing up close against his sternum.

Regardless, though, the heat in his groin was enough to convince him to pull back, shivering and peering into the fond brown gaze with mounting disbelief.

“We have to go,” Kyle muttered and stepped past him on his way out of the bathroom, checking his pockets for his key and wallet when he felt Eric brushing up immediately alongside and tugging at his jacket sleeve.

“Your hair’s still wet.”

“Whatever.”

“Oh, I used up the rest of your conditioner,” Eric commented as they stepped out into the evening, lingering beside Kyle as the redhead unlocked the door. Kyle blinked, glancing over in confusion with some residual peach in his cheeks.

“Huh?”

“Yeah, sorry. You were almost out.”

“Out of what?”

Eric looked at him, obviously confused.

“The pink bottle.”

“That’s mom’s,” Kyle stated, shoving his hands into the pockets of his pants. Outside, the cicadas buzzed loudly, drowning out the gentle sound of the spring breeze that whisked airily against their sides as they walked. Like many things in South Park, the theater was close-by, so a walk wouldn’t take more than twenty minutes. Kenny had already texted him with the suggestion of cramming into Stan’s truck to get to the restaurant later.

“Oops~ You’ll have to show me where you keep your conditioner, then.”

“What’s conditioner?” the redhead asked, casting an unsure glance back. Eric blinked at him.

“Uh, conditioner. Hair conditioner.”

“…Shampoo?”

Eric eyed him in a way that made Kyle’s skin crawl with self-consciousness.

“What?!”

“Do you seriously not use conditioner?”

“No. Why should I?”

“Whoaaa. You give a new meaning to ‘low maintenance’, gingersnap.”

“Hair products are for girls,” Kyle bantered back, shoving slightly into him as he kept his hands in his pockets. “Why the fuck would I need to put all that flowery shit in my hair?”

“Yikes. No wonder you’re hurting for curl definition over there. Way to torture those luscious locks of yours.”

“Shut up,” the redhead stated blandly, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious and frowning to himself. Maybe he had been naïve to think that Eric, due to his own obvious struggles with body image and esteem in general, would have any delicacy about the one physical attribute Kyle despised about himself.

“I get it. You hate my hair. You can stop talking about it, already.”

A gentle tug pulled at his scalp, and Kyle swallowed hard, feeling hot breath against his ear.

“Oh, Kyle,” Eric whispered, voice slipping from unmistakably smiling lips. “It’s a good thing you aren’t driving tonight. You’d be stopping at every green light.”

There were a few seconds of confusion on Kyle’s part, followed by disbelief. For whatever reason, the vague image of a little boy tugging on a girl’s pigtails made its way into his conscious mind.

Christ. This was so fucking embarrassing.

Thankfully, Eric didn’t make a continuous show of hanging onto his arm as they approached the nearby plaza, crossing the street and heading up towards the outdoors ticket counter of the old theater that had somehow managed to stay in business throughout Kyle’s childhood and up to the present day. Almost within moments of stepping over the curb, a skinny figure made its way over from one of the baby pine trees next to the street, eyes blue and shiny in the evening light.

“Kyle!”

Kyle swallowed hard, turning to face his best friend with a soft smile.

“Hey, dude.”

“Hey-” The moment Stan came fully into view, purple beanie tucked over his swath of jet-black hair, Kyle watched his face turn a little pale, mouth dropping as he locked eyes with the person at Kyle’s side. His tongue panged with a pain of remembrance, and he braced himself with the recollection of Eric and Stan’s last interaction.

“Stan,” Eric sighed coolly and turned his face away, effectively dispelling one of Kyle’s two primary concerns.

“…” Obviously confused, Stan swallowed visibly and looked over at the redhead, gaze travelling back and forth between his best friend and the guy who had previously backed him into the wall. “Kyle, uh-”

“Hi, ladies,” Kenny lilted pleasantly as he ran over from the adjoined parking lot behind the lit sign of the Arby’s, waving as he jogged close with Butters beside him in tow. Kyle noticed momentarily just how bundled the smaller blond was in the thick white scarf he wore around his neck, and then glanced up at his taller friend unsurely.

“The gang’s all here, huh?”

“What are you doing here?” Stan blurted out, pointing at the brunet accusatorily. “You have some nerve showing your ugly face.”

“Stan,” Kyle stated calmly, breathing out sharply. “Don’t.”

“What’s going on??” his friend replied, glancing over at the two newcomers before staring incredulously at Kyle. Instantly, the reality of the situation began to settle in, spurring Kyle’s anxiety into sudden overdrive. Kyle wasn’t sure whether to be relieved that Kenny really had kept his promise about keeping his and Eric’s relationship a secret.

People didn’t really bring their fuckbuddies out on group outings to the movies with friends, though.

“Kyle, seriously!” Stan emphasized, voice sounding a little raspy. Eric, on the other hand, merely sniffed and raised an eyebrow at the shorter male.

“Don’t start crying too much, there. I didn’t bring any tissues for your issues.”

“You fucked up my truck, you piece of shit!”

“Hey, whoa, whoa,” Kenny slid in closer, putting an arm around Stan and smiling kindly. “Water under the bridge, right?”

Three sets of blue eyes moved up to Kyle, and the redhead felt a weight beginning to lift itself in his guts, begging to be released.

“Stan, uh…” He struggled, voice coming out thick as he forced himself not to look down. The tension released in his lungs, and he breathed out hard.

“Me and Eric are a couple, so I brought him along.”

The silence was deafening for a few moments, accompanied only by the sidewalk footsteps of another couple near the ticket booth, when Butters clasped his hands together and smiled with the brightness of a lit phone screen in a dark bedroom. Kyle’s stomach churned, and Stan stared him with the expression of someone who had witnessed a particularly grizzly death.

“That’s…dude…You can’t…do that…”

“He can do whatever he wants,” Eric inserted suddenly, sneaking an arm around Kyle’s waist and digging his fingertips into his hip. “Including me, you hippie crybaby.”

“That’s enough,” Kyle managed and winced with pink cheeks, holding a hand out and taking a slow and full breath. “Stan, it’s…I get it. It’s okay. He won’t do anything.”

“I-Hold on…” Swallowing, Stan reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose in his typical expression of disgruntled disbelief. “You and Cartman are…dating.”

For some reason, hearing it out in the open from the mouth of his best friend was like a shock to the heart. Stunned, Kyle tried to speak, only to feel a seize of relief when the tallest member of their group took him by the arm and gestured to the ticket counter.

“C’mon, we’re gonna miss it!”

--

Chapter Text

--

Kenny’s quickness in ushering them inside was probably both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, Stan didn’t have time for a pulmonary embolism, but on the decidedly negative side, Kyle felt like he might be close to having one of his own.

“Kyyyyle, can we get popcorn?” Eric whined, holding onto his sleeve as they entered the theater with tickets in hand. Kyle wasn’t sure how many eyes were on him, so he kept his focus directed to his side. Eric’s clinging was seriously causing him to have to look down, which was weird considering the guy was actually taller than him.

“You have to share,” the redhead muttered, handing his ticket over to the attendant and pulling his stowaway over towards the concessions area. Thankfully, there was no more complaining thus far, and Kyle was relieved when the two blonds sidled up next to him.

“Hey, Leo, you want an Icee?”

“Aww, Ken, are you sure?”

“Yeah, hun. I just got paid yesterday,” Kenny reassured and slipped his arm around Butters’ waist, picking a couple of large red cups out of the holder. Pale faced, Stan made his way between the couples and over to one of the heaters containing the cups of chocolate chip cookies, clearly avoiding both couples with a pinched expression. Kyle only had a moment to feel guilty before Eric tugged at him again, pointing to one of the standees at the side.

“Dude! Another Jurassic Park?!”

“That’s been out for weeks,” Kenny butted in, gaze moving from Cartman over to Kyle. “Guess that gives you guys something to do.”

“Kyle, we HAVE to see that!!”

“We can see it,” Kyle muttered and pushed a cup into his hand, hoping the flush on his cheeks was at least reasonably pale. “Get your drink.”

“It wasn’t even that good,” the black-haired teen commented. “It had a bunch of social justice bull-crap.”

“Ohh, I bet you loved it, then!” Cartman commented offhandedly. Stan stared back, looking like he couldn’t choose between exhausted and annoyed, and Kyle put both hands on the back of that familiar crimson jacket, shoving his companion forward.

“You’re holding us up, asshole.”

The group managed their way past the next set of cashiers and down the hall, treading over the slightly stained carpets that evidenced the theater’s age. “I thought they were gonna renovate this place,” Kenny hummed, red straw nestled in the gap of his teeth. Kyle shook his head, ignoring the close figure at his other side as he carried the large popcorn with both arms.

“Remember? They redid the parking lots.”

“I guess they needed it,” the blond snickered, gently elbowing Stan who walked at the edge. “Remember when you lost that hubcap?”

“Oh, yeah,” Stan replied, voice a little more alert this time. “We were coming to see Fantastic Four.”

“KA-JUNK!” Kenny mimicked, making a jerky movement with both hands in the air in front of him. Butters laughed, casting a light-eyed glance over at the brunet. He smiled softly, and Kyle braced himself, trying to hold his expectations low. After all, it wasn’t like Cartman had hung out with their group in years. Maybe the situation was just destined to breed awkwardness.

“What kinda movies do you like nowadays, Eric?”

Eric looked up, seemingly genuinely surprised to be addressed. “Uh, awesome ones. Duh.”

“Yeah, me too! Did you see that Annabelle movie? With the clown doll?!”

“That wasn’t a clown doll,” Stan stated, raising an eyebrow. Kenny laughed, lightly bumping shoulders with his charge.

“You’re way too freaked out by clowns, babe.”

“Well, it sure looked like one! It had that red hair, ‘n stuff. Kinda like you, Kyle.”

A distinctive burst of laughter in his ear made Kyle turn just in time to see the wide and jubilant grin break out across Eric’s face.

“Pfffbt!”

“That doll was a girl,” Kyle stated in annoyance. The blond pouted back at him, looking guilty.

“Aw, sorry. I just meant that hair, you know? I mean, it’s not like you get up and night and run around the house tryin’ to murder people.”

“Nah, Kyle likes to stay in bed with me instead!”

Stan swayed visibly on his feet and Kyle stepped promptly onto Eric’s shoe, shoulders hunched.

“OWW! Kyle!!”

“You’re the one that snuck into my room, Cartman!”

“That’s domestic abuse!” Eric whimpered and tripped in after him, following the group at Kyle’s side. Kyle turned and ignored the sniveling, avoiding Stan’s obvious expression of blank shock as they walked into the darkness of the theater. Kenny took the lead, walking them into one of the middle rows and sitting down in a seat close to the center. The air conditioning tingled at the back of Kyle’s neck as he sat down, realizing only once settled that Stan had ended up directly between both couples.

On further consideration, Kyle supposed that Stan’s disbelief regarding his and Eric’s arrangement wasn’t out of the ordinary. He had summarized it to his friend before, but that was back when their relationship hadn’t progressed beyond fuckbuddy status, and aside from that, Stan’s last encounter with the guy had been watching him inexplicably wipe tears and blood out of Kyle’s face at Token’s Spring Break bash. Stan hadn’t really gotten much of an explanation after that, and clearly hadn’t expected the two of them to go as far as they had.

A hand slipped its way into his own, and Kyle had to take several seconds to process that their fingers had intertwined.

Kyle thought that maybe the common term for the feeling was “butterflies in the stomach”. He had experienced it before, usually when getting to brush fingers or lips with a pretty girl, but when he turned his head slightly to catch those brown eyes and thick bangs, the butterflies expanded their wings and became like bees, shaking his core with a buzzing ferocity that had him averting his gaze in just a couple of seconds. Dangerously, something panged deep between his legs when the pad of that thumb began to stroke along his palm, the short nail scraping against his wrist.

“Hey, Kyle, pass the popcorn?”

“Uh!” Kyle jolted in his seat, glancing over at the group on his right and slowly passing the container over with his free arm.

The lights dimmed, and Kyle was merciful for the brief darkness when he felt his partner squeezing at his hand, tickling his knuckles with his fingertips and holding on tight. For a moment, he considered pulling away, but the feelings in his gut stopped him. No. He wouldn’t make Eric feel like he wasn’t wanted, not again.

Even if he did feel like he was going to do something stupid at any moment.

The redhead hadn’t noticed the sparse assortment of other moviegoers in the same theater until the previews began to roll, and soft chuckles erupted out around their group. A rustling brought his attention over to the blonds in their row, and he watched for a moment as Kenny held his cup up for Butters to sip from, trying to ignore Stan’s purportedly stiff position.

About twenty minutes in, Kyle began to feel buzzing at his hip and reached down, relieved that he typically kept his phone on vibrate as he had forgotten completely about shutting it off beforehand. The message he saw there was bright, a green bubble that was almost soothingly familiar until he realized what the text actually said.

im so fucking horny for u right now

He turned his head in slow horror, peering past the curly swoop of his bangs as he stared at the nonchalant brunet holding the beat-up old phone in his left hand.

Since when was Cartman even fucking left-handed?!

Eric’s face was guileless and focused on the movie, a deceptive smile playing on his lips. Kyle’s temples began to heat as he looked back down at his own screen, holding it close to his chest to keep the brightness as muted as possible.

What the fuck is wrong with you??

hmmm well I have a massive boner

Kyle forced himself not to look over, swallowing hard as the hand gently squeezed onto his again. His stomach panged.

That’s fucking gross

We’re in public

i think you like it

imagine it Kyle

imagine if we were in the back row

Without his consent, Kyle’s brain produced a helpful picture to illustrate what that might look like.

yeahhh you’d like that huh??

me getting down on my knees

pushing ur legs apart

unzipping ur pants

Kyle wasn’t certain whether seeing this kind of explicit from Eric was a good sign. On the one hand, it was really fucking inappropriate, but on the other hand…given what he’d been through, the neglect and starvation and emotional turmoil, it was kind of a relief to see him acting happy or relaxed in any way.

An eggplant emoji appeared on his screen just before he managed to hit ‘Reply’.

You’re fucking incorrigible

oh baby

i don’t even know what that word means

but i want that tight ass in my face right now

Memories came immediately back into Kyle’s subconscious, memories of that hot tongue slipping around his most private place, and the redhead began to feel his heat, painfully aware of the stirring under his pants.

It wasn’t helping him that “baby” was leaving him feeling shook in more ways than one.

Kyle stole another glance at Eric. The brunet still looked at the screen, but there was the faintest hint of pink over his cheeks this time. Unable to help it, he ran his gaze down to the other’s lap and froze, seeing the tent there as promised and feeling the simultaneous squeeze to his hand.

“…Bathroom,” he whispered hoarsely and got up, not bothering to check if eyes were on him or not as he stepped briskly past his companion’s feet and let go of the clinging hand. He walked down the stairs and pushed out through the doors, running his way into the men’s bathroom and into a stall. He yanked the door shut and hissed in frustration, eyeing his obvious erection and hearing his heart pounding in his ears.

“God…fucking…” Kyle kneed the stall door, hearing it rattle on its hinges. Who did Eric Cartman think he was?!

Dear god, how was he going to go back in there? The protrusion was obvious, peeking out in a sharp slope from underneath his jacket. Kyle sank his teeth into his own hand. It wasn’t even going down in the slightest.

Horrifyingly, there was an audible creak of the restroom door opening and shutting, and Kyle stood up straight, hoping to god that whoever it was would be quick. The footsteps, though, were recognizable, soft and rhythmic, and carrying a figure that Kyle knew to be just a little taller than himself.

The new tennis shoes stopped in front of his locked door, and Kyle just stood there, filling his lungs with stale theater-bathroom air.

His phone buzzed again, and he pulled it out of his pocket.

think u can keep that body under lock and key huh?? sneaky jew

“You have some fucking balls,” Kyle spat and immediately thrust the door open, painfully aware he was flushed and taking in the image of his partner with that soft grin and lidded coffee stare. Instantly noticing their tented erections, he gripped the other by the shirt and yanked him forwards, forcing him into the stall alongside and shutting the door behind him.

“What the fuck were you thinking?!”

Eric gasped, and then raked his eyes up and down Kyle’s body in the most lewd way the latter had ever seen.

“What the fuck do you think?” was the breathy reply, and Kyle forced himself to let go of the maroon jacket, taking a step backwards and feeling his back hit the other wall of the stall. Before he could wring out more of an answer, Eric was on him, chest against his and stomach pressed up in between his legs.

“God,” the brunet practically whined, pushing his face into the right side of Kyle’s hair. “I couldn’t wait.”

“C...Eric.” Kyle’s voice box wasn’t working. The heat between his legs began to spread through him, pooling in his lower stomach, tingling up his spine like a spreading flame.

“Kyle,” Eric moaned softly in tandem, sending chills up Kyle’s arms. “I want to eat your ass so fucking bad.”

Two months prior, Kyle never would have ever considered hearing such a thing in his life, and now not only had he had it done to him, but the mere thought of feeling that again was making his ears burn.

“We’re in a fucking movie theater bathroom,” he stated, voice shaky from the disbelief. “No way in hell.”

“Nnnh,” Eric whined, running his fingers along Kyle’s scalp. The redhead couldn’t help but push closer into them, allowing the stroking, feeling the tingles running down his neck and shoulders. Someone’s hips moved forwards, and Kyle felt their erections grind together deliciously, trapped between their stomachs and throbbing hotly.

“Ghh,” Kyle gasped, reaching up and holding on around Eric’s neck to stabilize himself from falling. “This is…”

“Fucking hot?” Eric breathed into his ear, pressing his hardness against Kyle’s groin in a swift push. “I ah- know. Can’t get enough of this big dick, huh?”

“Mine’s bigger,” the redhead corrected with a groan, rutting his hips up against Eric’s in tandem.

“Nahhh…mine.”

“You don’t know what you’re ta-”

The creak that echoed through the silent bathroom made Kyle freeze up, thighs tensing as a smooth hand slipped its way down the front of his pants. Horror began to pervade Kyle’s consciousness- It was one thing for Eric to be blowing him at home in bed in private, even when Stan was on the phone like he had been earlier, but fucking jacking him off when someone else was in the goddamn room-

The whistling made it painfully obvious who had just walked in. Eyes wide, Kyle stared up at his boyfriend in literal shock.

Butters.

Eric looked back at him silently for a moment, cheeks visibly red and lips shining, and the redhead began to shift quietly, desperately trying to keep himself silent when that thumb slipped directly over the very tip of his slick head.

“Ahf-ff!” His heart leapt into his throat as he shoved a hand against his mouth, frantically trying to stifle his own sounds. He watched his partner in complete disbelief, startled by the lack of his own expected anger when Eric again leaned up close against his throat.

“Keep your voice down, Kyle,” he whispered softly, so softly that Kyle was sure it wouldn’t be audible to an outsider. The footsteps from outside made their way along the tile, and the sound of a stall door closing mercifully far from them made Kyle’s stomach drop. “Wouldn’t want anyone hearing you moan for me.”

“F-fuck you,” he whispered softly behind his fingers, painfully aware that Butters was still down the line of stalls. That thick hand squeezed around the base of his cock, smearing slick fluid over the tip.

“Mmm, yeah?” the brunet crooned at him softly, and Kyle could feel those soft lips at his temple as Eric began to pull up and down his shaft. “Fuck me? But I still need to fuck you…”

Eric’s free hand migrated to his ass and squeezed there, sending a deep quake through Kyle’s entire body. Swallowing, Kyle slowly allowed his eyelids to slip downwards, thrusting up into the magic fingers playing at his crown. That same hand soon pulled itself around his dick again, dragging along the skin, stroking him hard up and down as the coolness of the outside air suddenly made its way down the back of his pants. Startled, Kyle jerked up, still holding onto his partner with one arm as a single flinger slipped its way between his cheeks.

Kyle knew he should have been mad. He should have been slamming Eric back against the wall, kneeing him in the groin, yelling and shouting and cursing and asking him how he had the fucking nuts to even TRY doing something like this. Somehow, though, after what felt like so long since touching Eric this way, after all the emotional trials and tribulations, feeling Eric touch him like this, like he wanted him, like he NEEDED him…

Kyle’s ego was getting majorly stroked right now.

“Oh Jesus,” his voice broke softly, volume low as he felt that finger slip and press up against his hot spot. His hips stuttered between them, not sure whether to more forwards or backwards, and Eric ran his tongue along Kyle’s throat, flicking it up over his Adam’s apple.

“You like that?” he cooed, and Kyle had never felt his face get so warm.

The flush of a toilet caught his attention slightly, but Kyle still rocked up forwards and back, pressing his chest against Eric’s, listening to the soft and breathy groans in his own ear as that single digit gently pressed and stroked against his pucker. His cock jerked with each pressure and he swallowed hard, feeling the brunet fucking up against his thigh as he began to pull Kyle off in firmer strokes. Pleasure began to build inside him, a searing and deep need for more, and Kyle began to sink his teeth into his own palm, breathing fast through his nose to try and desperately keep his silence.

The faucet went on, then off, and then there was a clunk of a paper towel being dispensed. Finally, the door creaked one more time, footsteps fading out with the final thump that indicated their visitor was gone.

“Hhhhahh!!” Kyle jerked, practically screaming when Eric’s fingertip tugged at his rim and fucking up hard into the tight fist around his head. Pleasure burst inside him, warm and thick, spearing up through his stomach and chest. He came hard, squirting hot fluid up against his chest and abdomen, and the figure between his legs surged up against him in a fervent push, pinning him against the wall of the stall and thrusting up against his pelvis.

Bolts rattled somewhere as Eric literally fucked him through their clothes, one arm wrapping around Kyle’s waist to hold him close as the other played and toyed with the tight hole beneath his briefs.

“Oh God, baby, I’m gonna cum,” he breathed, voice thick and raspy, and Kyle felt his spent length twitching again under the sudden pressure, effectively pinned by the larger body and feeling Eric thrust up against him with the piercing hardness under his jeans. “I’m-”

As promised, Eric surged up between his legs and groaned out loudly, trailing into a whine as he buried his clothed dick up against Kyle’s inner thigh. His hips trembled, twitching, and the redhead felt the finger at his entrance gently slip along it, moving away from his hole and upwards along his spine.

Kyle’s eyes were green and bright as he just took a moment to feel, basking in the little tremors and aftershocks as Eric came down from his own high. In the moment of quiet, he became aware that the brunet was holding him, both arms wrapped around his waist. Reality began to fade back, and the redhead reached out, suddenly wondering why he didn’t feel like he could push him away. Instead, he reached out and wrapped his own arms around Eric’s body, hands flattening against his back as he caught his breath.

The two stayed that way for a few moments in the otherwise-silent room, until Kyle, finally getting his bearings, reached up and pushed the other away, finding he had to use some force to get Eric to back out of his space.

“Holy shit,” he stated, staring in genuine disbelief. Eric blinked, looking similarly shocked, before his face exploded in a cherry-pink.

“Are you even fucking real?” he asked. Kyle frowned, reaching down and freezing when he realized he had-

“What does that even- What the fuck were you thinking?! Look at this!” he gasped, instantly aware of the white, sticky goo present all over his own cock and Eric’s jacket. The brunet looked down, serving Kyle a huff of laughter and a flushed grin as he gripped hold of his own fly.

“Hey, at least you didn’t just cum inside your pants.”

“It’s everywhere,” Kyle stated, reaching out for the toilet paper dispenser and yanking rolls of paper from behind the flap. He stuffed a load into his partner’s hand and began desperately trying to clean himself up, relieved to see it didn’t seem to have dried yet. As if a playback, the memory of what he and Eric had just done replayed itself in his mind, and Kyle turned away fully to zip himself up, wadding the paper into a gross crumple and warily clicking the stall door open.

Thankfully, they did appear to be alone, so he stepped out and threw the wad into the trash can, evading Eric’s gaze at every motion as he began to wash and scrub at his hands in the sink. Okay, so maybe he and Bebe’s tryst hadn’t been the most private thing in the world, either, but Kyle had never imagined he’d be getting his rocks off with Eric Cartman in a literal public place.

The scary part of that was the feeling that he had never been so freaking horny in his life.

Smooth arms wrapped around him from behind, trapping Kyle in front of the mirrors. He looked up into the glass, catching the chocolate eyes and seeing the chin that had settled itself on his shoulder, and the strangely pure, picturesque image of himself and his lover, flushed faces and tousled hair, made something inside Kyle feel irrationally light.

“Wash your damn hands,” he spat and pulled himself away, relieved, at least, to see that Eric seemed to have cleaned the visible mess from his own exterior. His companion hummed and did so, lathering his palms up and staring at Kyle as he turned his own faucet off. Kyle took a step in the direction of the exit, only to feel warm fingers around his wrist.

“What?!”

“Let’s go together~”

“No, idiot!” Kyle whispered, still a little panicked that someone could walk in at any moment. “We have to go back separately or it looks wrong.”

“Kyle,” Eric sighed, looking exhausted. “Stan needs to know we fuck.”

“No he- He already knows that, anyways, dumbass.”

Eric sidled up next to him, and Kyle decided to give up, ignoring the pounding of his heart in his ears as he checked his reflection one more time and stepped back out of the restroom.

The rest of the movie was probably decent, given the high levels of laughter from the audience, but Kyle was sufficiently distracted by the hand that was again intertwined with his. He could easily feel Stan glancing over at them infrequently, probably gaping at the fact that Eric was practically cuddled to his side. A couple of times, Eric whispered in Kyle’s ear for popcorn, and the redhead had to ignore how that voice was dancing along his nerves again, painfully aware of the types of words that had been leaving those soft lips only minutes prior.

At one point, Kyle felt his phone vibrating in his pocket, and didn’t even need to look over to be sure of who was texting him. He held his phone at an angle, reading the words with a dry gulp.

my dick is bigger tho

You’re so fucking full of shit

nuh uh i’ll prove it when we get home

Home. A little tenseness flared in his stomach, followed by nausea, and he glanced down to see the number on his insulin pump screen, barely able to make out the digital ‘LOW’ in the darkness alongside the corresponding number. Annoyed at all of his body’s reactions that day, he reached for the popcorn at his side and began eating, focus compromised from what was going on on the big screen.

He and Eric Cartman were living together. What was going to happen to them when he had to go to college? Regardless of whether he chose UC Berkeley or UC Denver, he was going to be moving away. Eric had his own issues to deal with in-town, currently, regarding his mother. Was he going to keep living at that house, after all? What was his plan? Why did everything have to be happening so quickly?

The hand felt warm in his as he stared at the floor, stomach twisting.

What was going to become of this?

When the overhead lights came back on, Kyle took a breath and got to his feet, listening vaguely to Butters and Kenny as they began chattering. No, he couldn’t think about that right now. He stood up straighter, and glanced over at Eric, trying to push the thoughts out of his mind for the moment.

That was his boyfriend, and he was going to have as much fun as possible until this inevitably met its end.

“That was fucking hilarious,” Kenny chuckled as they shuffled down the row, speaking in a normal enough tone to soothe Kyle’s worries that Butters may have discerned the earlier events and explained them to him. “Do you think they’re gonna make a third one?”

“I mean, he’s alive at the end, so maybe,” Stan commented, dropping his empty cookie carton into the trash bin on the way out. Kyle threw out the empty popcorn container, stepping out into the lobby and feeling Eric bump shoulders with him at his side.

“Of course they made the villain a fat kid enemy,” Eric broke his silence, sounding pretty normal as he shoved his hands in his pockets. “Lush, plus-size dudes are evil, you guys.”

Kenny laughed loudly, and Stan sent Eric a narrow-eyed look. “Gee, I wonder where they got that idea.”

In that moment, Kyle accidentally stumbled slightly, and the taller blond raised an eyebrow at him.

“Hey, are you okay? You look kinda pale.”

“I’m running low,” Kyle admitted, glancing to Stan. “You’re driving to Outback, right?”

“Oh, yeah,” Stan replied, expression betraying his concern as he walked over to Kyle’s side. “Do you need to get a soda first, or something?”

“Nah, I’ll make it.”

There was an arm around him, and Kyle shifted in Eric’s sudden grasp.

“Hold onto me, Kyle.”

“I’m fine,” Kyle replied and tried to shift away, stepping outside into the parking lot and squinting at the sudden brightness of the April twilight. Kenny and Butters lead the charge over to Stan’s truck, which, thankfully, looked as good as it had before the party incident. A cicada buzzed overhead in the slightly humid air, and Kyle cast his gaze up at the yellowing sunset, following the tail end of a drifting cloud.

“Someone’s gonna have to sit in the bed,” Kenny noticed. Stan sniffed, casting a glance at the brunet.

“You sit back there, Cartman. It’s a two-seater.”

“Kenny, should we sit in the back together?”

“Well, we can sit in the back, or you can sit in my lap in the passenger’s side,” Kenny explained, sending a knowing glace over at the redhead. Kyle tensed, realizing what it would mean if he and Cartman decided to sit beside Stan. There was only one seat for guests, after all.

“We’ll go in the back,” he decided quickly and hopped up onto the tire, hoisting himself in and watching as Eric clambered up to sit beside him.

“Are you feeling faint?”

“No,” Kyle replied and looked over to his companion, seeing the unsure look and gazing at the sunset again as the engine rumbled the truck to life. The hand was quickly back in his own, interlacing with his fingers, and Eric’s lips were quirked when they looked at one another.

“Oh, Kyle,” the brunet murmured, squeezing his hand and leaning down to rest his head against Kyle’s shoulder. “This is so romantic!”

Kyle would never have thought that a violent comedy broken up by bouts of public bathroom sex could end in anything remotely “romantic”. Still, though, there was something strange in his chest when Eric snuggled up against him, something flushed and heavy and burning that ran from his lungs to the space behind his eyes. Kyle knew deep down that he had never felt anything like it before.

“You’re weird,” he settled on and looked down, reaching up and very gently combing through the swath of brown hair over Eric’s brow. “Your bangs are all messed up.”

“Yeah, from our passionate lovemaking.”

For whatever reason, Kyle felt himself seize up suddenly, heart beating frantically between his ribs as he sat up. Instantly, Eric had an arm around his shoulders.

“Shit, are you okay??”

“Yeah,” Kyle hissed out and shifted, not sure how to feel about the genuine concern in his tone. Mind running, he reached out and shoved Eric by the chest. “What is your deal with my diabetes?”

Eric eyed him, looking slightly flustered. “What?”

“You literally know about everything,” Kyle accused quietly. “You reattached my port, that one time. You got me out of that coma. You bought me fucking sugar-free chocolates.”

Suspiciously, Eric remained silent, which spurred Kyle on even more.

“Tell me.”

“Oh, y’know…” the brunet started, voice sounding a little weary despite the faux disinterest Kyle had come to know so well. “You learn about a lot of weird shit in a rehab center.”

“Weird shit,” Kyle repeated. “I thought you were there for therapy. Not to become a registered nurse.”

Eric actually laughed at that, which melted some of the tension between Kyle’s shoulder blades.

“I’m just that good, Kyle. A true talent in this world of under-motivated millennial douchebags.”

Kyle had to stop himself from laughing out loud.

“But, you know, you’re not very good at concealing those fetishes of yours. Now I know what to dress up as for Halloween~”

“Oh, shut the hell up,” Kyle sighed, unable to help the curiosity that wafted through his mind. The truck stopped at a light, and the breeze became gentler around them as they sat together, hands once again intertwining.

“There were a couple diabetic kids at that place,” Eric elucidated after a few seconds. “I had to watch them shoot up and change out their pump stuff all the time. It grossed me out, at first.”

Kyle listened, eyes on a telephone line where birds perched in the distance. “It is gross,” he corroborated, able to feel the pump clip at his hip. “I fucking hate it. I always have to go to the fucking pharmacy and pick up my insulin, and change stuff out, and wake up in the middle of the night to treat highs and lows. And I have to drink diet shit all the time.”

“You should keep a juice box by your bed at night,” Eric suggested, settling himself back against Kyle’s shoulder in a way that made Kyle feel a little faint. “But yeah. Fuck the pharmacy. Hate that shit.”

“Uh,” Kyle said lowly, glancing down hesitantly. He wasn’t sure he should even bring it up, but he had never felt so candid in front of his ex-rival, so he figured he should take advantage of the moment. “Did…Do you need to go pick up your meds, at some point?”

There were a few seconds of silence, but they were comfortable, and Eric smiled up at him with an expression that made Kyle’s heart feel like it was melting.

“I don’t think I need them anymore.”

Silence. Something began to hurt deeper in his chest, so Kyle squeezed his hand and looked back at the clouds. He opened his mouth, and then closed it again, fighting with his voice. In the quiet, there was something raw, and yet Kyle didn't think he could sit there and say nothing.

"I mean," he finally managed, watching as a leaf fluttered into the truck bed and wedged itself beside his leg.

"You never know."

--

Chapter Text

--

May brought with it a sheath of heat that covered South Park in the humid, mosquito-filled blanket of early summer.

To combat the impending stress of AP exams and college admissions decisions, Kyle had taken to throwing himself face-first into any distraction he could find, even if it meant sweating outside under the waning warm showers. He often approached Token and Clyde, and sometimes Craig, for basketball matches at the nearby park directly after school, whenever he could feel the anxiety creeping up the back of his neck and whispering in his ear about grades, or finals, or the future. Stan had also proved helpful in that regard, sometimes offering to drive them to Shakey’s or Starbucks during lunch when the weather was demanding the ingestion of cold drinks.

Eric Cartman was also pretty supreme distraction material, despite the fact that Sheila’s presence in the house made it hard for them to find time to distract one another in the best ways.

Kyle realized one Thursday, during his walk back from school, that he had still heard nothing from the South Park Police regarding Liane Cartman’s arrest. Eric also hadn’t elucidated any further details about the interview from a couple of weeks prior, regardless of Kyle’s obvious prodding and curiosity. The redhead reached his front stoop and took out his key, letting himself into the house and kicking off his shoes at the door.

Immediately, there was the distinctive smell of macaroni and cheese, which wasn’t at all unexpected anymore. Since Eric was formally done with classes until exams came around, the brunet had been staying at home in the afternoons, and seemed to be dedicating several hours each day to reviewing his textbooks and worksheets. However, he was also spending a decidedly large amount of time cooking for himself and playing Kyle’s videogames, which only bothered Kyle to the extent that he wished he could be at home doing the same thing instead of dragging his ass to school every morning.

Truth be told, learning to live with Eric actually hadn’t been that hard to do. Aside from the occasional “baby” and “Kyyyyyle” and other titles Kyle had never formally consented to, as well as the general habit Eric had developed of wanting to sit close to Kyle or hold onto his arm whenever he happened to be around, their day-to-day interactions weren’t actually a whole lot different than they had been in the months prior. They still bickered plenty, sassed one another, and attempted to get on one another’s nerves in small ways. At the end of the day, though, Eric still tended to creep his way down the hall and climb his way into bed with him, where Kyle would unerringly find him curled up on his side beside him the next morning.

The redhead stepped up the stairs and dropped his backpack into the corner of his bedroom, eyeing the empty bowl at his desk and the calculus worksheets set next to his laptop. He could hear the vague, soft sound of song trailing down the hall, and slowly made his way down to his and Ike’s shared bathroom, peeking in through the crack of the door.

His partner stood there at the sink with his cracked phone next to the sink, playing what Kyle recognized to be one of those lilty pop radio songs. Eric was leaning close to the mirror wearing some grey sweatpants and a blue tank top, a piece of red licorice poking from the corner of his lips as he tilted his head and sang along softly in a high tone.

“-tell you how proud I am to be yours, leave this dress a mess on the floor-”

He turned, seeming to feel Kyle’s presence there, and Kyle found himself noticing the small black brush in his companion’s hand, forgoing secrecy and pushing his way into the bathroom.

“Hey, Kyle!” Eric exclaimed with a smile, voice pleasant as he stood up a little straighter. As he moved, Kyle noticed the fullness in his face, the increased curve of his shoulders and slight dip at his waist below his chest. Never in his life had he expected to be so relieved to see somebody gaining noticeable weight.

“What are you doing?” he asked, gesturing to the brush. Eric chewed his licorice stick and swallowed, smile still in place.

“Dyeing my eyelashes.”

“…What?” Kyle inquired. Eric snorted and looked back to the mirror, leaning in to brush what looked like a black paste carefully over his top lash-line.

“It’s called man-scaping, Kyle. Your mom gave me a little spending money.”

Kyle was still legitimately startled by how well Sheila was taking Eric’s presence there. It was actually kind of nice to see her getting excited about a guest, cooking extra and smiling more. Thankfully, she hadn’t had any embarrassing “talks” with Kyle yet, which was another plus. “I just want you to be happy, bubby,” she had told him a few days ago, diamond earrings from an anniversary years back sparkling at her lobes.

“Men don’t dye their eyelashes,” Kyle stated and looked a little closer, confused by the precision of Eric’s delicate movements. Only then did he register the soft scent of vanilla, and turned his head to see one of Sheila’s usual candles burning on the shelf above the toilet. “That’s for girls.”

Eric snickered. “Ooh, your basic is showing.”

Truth be told, the guy HAD gotten Kyle into using hair conditioner. Though he was loathe to admit it, it actually was doing wonders for his usual frizz.

“Shut up.”

“Make me.”

Had this situation occurred a year prior, Kyle probably would have left the room in moderate annoyance. However, the glint in Eric’s honey-brown eyes was beckoning him, daring him, and Kyle was able to read the suggestions there, the reminder that Sheila and Ike wouldn’t be home for a couple of hours.

The brush clattered into the sink as Kyle forced him back against the bathroom door, nails digging into the olive shoulders as he forced his tongue in past those smooth lips. Within a matter of seconds, Kyle was pushing him out through the doorway, their feet stumbling together over the plush carpet until gravity had them collapsing over onto Kyle’s unmade bed.

Eric’s pants went easily due to the stretch waistband, tangling up in his ankles as Kyle pushed him onto his back and attacked his mouth again with fervor. Their teeth clicked together, scraping as Kyle felt a hand in his curls, pulling his head forward, deeper into their kiss.

The bedside drawer scraped as it was pulled out, and Kyle felt that familiar stiff heat pressing up against his thigh, grinding down, breaking mouth contact to gasp heavily as the friction rattled up through him. His partner hummed as he heard the telling squelch, and then, in a gesture that seemed undeniably Eric, two smooth legs wrapped their way around his waist, pulling him in close until they were stomach to stomach.

The moment was a blur of hard kisses and frantic hands as Kyle found himself squeezed, wet, and pressed up where he was supposed to be.

Eric’s whines were breathy even as Kyle leaned into him, one pale hand under his left knee, holding him open as he jackhammered up into that wet heat that made his cheeks burn. “Kyyyyle,” he gasped, voice soft, teeth scraping at the redhead’s pulse point as the mattress squeaked beneath them.

“Fuck,” Kyle gasped out in response, fervently sucked in by the velvet vice squeezing its way around his base. He felt his balls tighten as he pumped in and out, air hot between their faces as he slipped his tongue back into Eric’s mouth.

“Nnnnh…hhahh…ahh! Kyle!”

“What?!” The soft body reared up against him, cloth of Eric’s shirt catching between their bodies, and Kyle reached down for it in frustration, instantly feeling the grip of a hand around his wrist.

“Ahhn…harder!”

The tight body squeezed down around him again and Kyle sucked in a deep breath, eyelids falling as he pressed Eric down by the shoulders. He felt the soft legs shivering around his waist, tugging him closer, and then one arm clinging on around his back, bringing them nearly flush.

Kyle swallowed and looked down, staring into the pink face and fluttering lashes that gazed up with true desperation. Even the first time they had had full-on intercourse, Kyle had never felt quite this crazed, or quite so intent on having his boyfriend moan for him, ask for him, beg. Maybe it was just the time apart, but…

It was fucking hot having Eric Cartman at his mercy.

“You’ll get what I fucking give you,” he all but hissed, slowly pulling his hips back to the extent that he could move. Instantly, he could feel the tight body clenching around him, feel the short nails scratching along his back in sudden desperation.

“Kyle!! C’mon…”

“No,” the redhead moaned, face flushed as he forced himself not to push back in. They locked eyes, and Kyle had to physically stop himself from wrenching out another scream. “You need to learn some fucking manners.”

There was a momentary silence, both of them looking reasonably stunned, when Eric smiled at him, bringing one hand down to reach between his own legs.

“Please, Kyle,” he breathed, canting his hips up, shirt riding just slightly up on his stomach. “Please…raw me.”

Kyle’s hips starting moving again without his permission, snapping forward, surging forcefully in and pulling back smooth and quick. Each push was punctuated with a scream or gasp in his ear, and the arm between them began to move a little faster, rhythmically twitching forward and back.

“Kyle! Kyle, please!”

“Mother fucker,” Kyle groaned, gasping for breath as he pulled Eric’s knee up further and pistoned in and out. The flush began to spread down his front as he closed his eyes, getting lost in the squeezing feeling, the tight muscle yanking and pulling at his base near his slapping balls.

The soft lips met his, open with a whimper, and Kyle eagerly pressed his face down into the kiss, knees spreading for better leverage. Their tongues met, slipping together, and the hot saliva smearing against his lips and chin began to mirror the feeling of warm fluid leaking around his dick.

There were teeth at his throat, sending an immediate jolt deep between his legs, and Kyle pulled back with a full-body shudder, trying hard to keep himself from going off the edge.

That was, until Eric wrapped both arms around him, hugging him close and letting out a shaky gasp of need.

Forcing him back, Kyle fucked in three more times, then a fourth, and ground his stomach down against Eric’s wet hardness, feeling that hot length pulse against his abs as he felt the pleasure crash into him like a freight train.

“FUCK!”

The sudden heat against his ribs only gave him momentary pause as he was pulled into another kiss, leaning down, reaching out on instinct and catching Eric’s face blindly in both hands. Eyes still shut, he licked his way back into the hot mouth, scalp tingling as he felt the soft fingers stroking through his curls.

“Hhh…h…ck…” Kyle pulled back, blinking a few times as he slowly pushed himself up with both hands. Eric watched him, wide-eyed and red-faced, and the two took a moment for reality to sink in.

“…Mmnh,” the brunet finally broke the silence, sighing lazily as he brushed his heel against the small of Kyle’s back and plucked at a curl at his temple with obvious fondness. “How much do I owe you?”

Kyle smiled despite himself and turned his face away, sitting up and wincing slightly as he pulled himself out. “Shut up.”

“I thought you wanted me to talk~” Eric commented and slowly sat himself up, seeming loathe to be far from Kyle’s side. Something cool squished its way under Kyle’s knee when he shifted, wincing awkwardly against the sensation.

“We always end up like this,” the redhead sighed and looked away, wondering why staring into that chocolate gaze made his heart start to pump so fucking hard. He turned and felt arms around him again, pausing at the impromptu press of lips against his throat.

“Kyyyle,” Eric groaned, clinging. “Your pillow talk sucks!”

“C’mon,” Kyle muttered, deciding not to reply to that. “I’m gonna shower.”

“Fiiine.”

“You too,” Kyle stated, gesturing at the fluids on both of their shirts. He swallowed, vaguely able to see the still half-hard pink shaft peeking out under Eric’s tank top, hanging against the smooth sack.

Shit…he really did shave everywhere. Something panged in his stomach again.

“Mmh, fine. You go first.”

“Uh,” Kyle stated, suddenly feeling a little compelled to say something. The hand on his wrist from earlier returned to his memories, and he gripped his shoulders to hold him in place before he could get up.

“Let’s do it together.”

Eric sat back a little, averting his eyes. “Nah, I’m cool.”

“You need one, too,” Kyle reemphasized, pulling at his wrist.

“I’m basking in the afterglow,” Eric yawned loudly, flopping back awkwardly on the mattress with his wrist in Kyle’s grasp. Instantly suspicious of that tone of voice, the redhead stood up completely and wrenched at his arm, eliciting a whine.

“You never get naked.”

“Maybe because you’re always so impatient to destroy this sweet ass.”

“Cartman,” Kyle stated, falling back into old habits. “I’m not fucking stupid.”

“Heh, nope, you’re fucking me.”

Momentarily, Kyle wondered why he even cared about this. He remembered the first few times they had screwed around, before it got serious, before it had morphed into this thing where sex wasn’t just sex. He recalled Eric’s hand on his wrist, preventing him from pushing his shirt up or getting access to his chest. In fact, there were actually a lot of things they hadn’t done together in bed yet, but Kyle hadn’t missed the implications of that particular gesture. Come to think of it, accessing his upper body was the only thing Kyle could ever recall Eric stopping him from doing between the sheets.

“Come on,” he defaulted to force as usual, yanking Eric by the forearm until he got up and followed along to the bathroom.

“Kyle, wait-” Eric stated when Kyle took his own shirt off, tossing it onto the countertop beside the sink. Kyle swallowed, waiting.

“Uh, it’s…It’s fine, you go first.”

“What the fuck is your problem?” the redhead asked, inwardly sort of wishing he was better at breaching sensitive matters, well…sensitively. The truth of the matter, though, he was realizing, was that he actually cared about Eric Cartman’s feelings, and…He had to admit to himself that he had never been the kindest about his body back in the day.

“Spit it out.”

“I’m not exactly a model under this, all right??”

Eric tugged at his shirt, and had the conversation not taken such a serious turn, Kyle would have made a comment about how the guy didn’t seem to mind that his entire cock and balls were on show. The statement, though, so far from the brunet’s typical bravado and recent happiness, gave him pause for a moment, before a swath of frustration began to prick at his skin.

“…I literally just fucked the living daylights out of you,” Kyle stated, brow furrowed as he reached out and pushed the other by the shoulder. Eric took a step back, watching Kyle with obvious surprise as he backed up silently against the door.

“My dick was just inside you, and you actually think I give a shit?”

Eric paused, almost looking like he was going to smile for a second, when the paleness in his face became more noticeable. He turned his head away quickly and sniffed, and Kyle tried to turn to see his face, not getting much of a response otherwise.

“I th-” Kyle had to swallow, trying to break up the awkwardness with speech. “You think I’d fuck someone I wasn’t into?”

His lover looked at him, and Kyle felt his ears starting to turn red, throwing his pride into the wind.

“Get your hot ass in that shower.”

Eric immediately smiled, soothing Kyle’s nerves only for a second when his smile shifted, quirking at the corners. The brunet leaned in closer, whispering into his ear.

“Hmmm…On one condition, Kyle.”

The tone was sneaky, but not uncharacteristically so. In the past, Kyle would have chalked this change in behavior up to a scheme, but the genuine shine in Eric’s eyes was enough to convince the redhead that his boyfriend was legitimately self-conscious about some things. However, general insecurity had never been enough to keep Eric Cartman from using a situation to his advantage, and Kyle was completely aware of that. As time went on, Kyle was starting to realize that Eric Cartman was nothing if not resourceful.

“What’s that, asshole?”

“You let me fuck you.”

His chest tightened, and Kyle took a step back, swallowing at the sight of the eager face. He could practically feel their theater exchange from the weeks back, the finger rubbing up between his cheeks, teasing him in that spot that Kyle had never quite been brave enough to do much with. It wasn’t necessarily that he thought it was demeaning, or something, but…

“Uh, I don’t think so.”

Eric slumped, grasping onto Kyle in a tight hug.

“Kyyyyle, pleeeeeease?”

“How are you even still horny?” Kyle groaned, pushing him away.

“‘Cause I’m around you. My dick is gonna be hard on my death bed, at this rate.”

The fact that he turned Eric Cartman on so much was still kind of a shock to Kyle’s system. Eric fluttered his lashes, and the redhead shifted where he stood.

“That’s- I’ve never done that.”

“Mhm, I know,” Eric crooned to him, leaning into his personal space and wrapping one arm around his waist. He felt a hand gripping at his ass, squeezing lightly, and Kyle turned his face away, feeling the stir of hardness against his thigh that served as proof of Eric’s claim. “I’d be honored, Kyle.”

“It’s unsanitary,” he blurted out, feeling Eric’s shoulders shake against him accompanied by that familiar laugh.

“Hah! You think mine’s cleaner than yours??”

“Probably,” Kyle rebutted, face reddening as he allowed himself to consider the thought. So much of his life, he’d never even expected to consider the thought of letting someone touch him in a way like that. It just seemed bizarre.

Sighing loudly, Eric leaned in and pressed a pouty kiss to Kyle’s cheek, gazing at him endearingly.

“You liked when I touched it,” he murmured, bringing Kyle’s blush back to full-force.

“That’s- different.”

“It feels better inside,” Eric commented rather matter-of-factly. “You’ve seriously never fingered yourself?”

“No!” Kyle stated honestly. Seeming to sense the alarm, Eric half-shrugged and backed up off of him.

“All right, I get it. It’s c-”

“You’ll take everything off?”

They caught one another’s gazes, equally surprised, before Eric immediately began to beam at him, face suddenly pink with obvious disbelief and excitement.

“Seriously?!”

Kyle grit his teeth, unable to believe what was about to come out of his mouth, but undeniably curious. Sure, he and Eric Cartman were very different people, but there had to be a reason he cried and screamed so much when Kyle was deep in there, right…? The enormity of the situation began to settle in over him and he closed his eyes, having to force himself to say the rest of it.

“Use your fingers first,” he breathed. “If I tell you to stop, you fucking stop.”

Kyle had never seen anybody start disrobing with such quickness. Swallowing, he averted his focus and made his way over to the shower, turning on the faucet and watching as warm water began to rain down from the showerhead. He barely had time to process what he had just agreed to when there was a naked body pressed up against his side, soft and lush, and Kyle looked down at his grinning lover with a mix of apprehension and awe.

If Kyle had thought Eric looked happy before, apparently he had been oblivious to just what happiness looked like. It stunned him, though, for a moment, seeing his partner completely naked from neck to foot, the flat chest and soft stomach that curved at the sides with a very visible, clearly hard, pink cock pressing up thickly from his lower abdomen.

He mentally cursed himself when Eric wrapped his arms around him, pressing a soft kiss to the base of his throat.

“C’mon, the water will get cold~”

It was with a tense neck that Kyle stripped off entirely and stepped his way into the shower, partner clinging on at his side as though afraid to let him go. Thankfully, Eric’s lips were a welcome distraction on his, pressing smoothly and intently. The slick tongue probed at his lower lip, and Kyle found himself being guided back against the wall, heart starting to pound a little faster as a memory began to scrape in the back of his mind.

“Kyle,” the brunet murmured against his chin, wrapping an arm around his waist. “Fuck, I want to take you.”

“Mmph,” Kyle groaned in reply and pulled back slightly. “Why? Missing Bradley?”

Eric stepped backwards quickly, and the look in his eyes was pained as he groaned, clutching onto Kyle’s shoulders.

“God, you- you really know how to ruin a fucking boner, don’t you?!”

Kyle found himself surprised by the pinched expression, blinking, unsure exactly how to justify his accusation when Eric surged up close to him and cupped his ass in both hands.

“Gh-!!”

“C’mon, I don’t wanna think about that shit.”

“Eric,” Kyle stated, not liking how his voice was already slightly hoarse. The tongue ran itself up along his chin, back across his lips, and he shivered under the softness of Eric’s hips and stomach, feeling the firm head slide across his thigh.

Seeming to sense the impending questions, the brunet shushed him, stare dark and intense as he gazed into Kyle from a couple inches back.

“You’re the one I want, damn it.”

The redhead felt his cock swell, twitching between their stomachs, and decided that was good enough for the time being. The heat in his face was beginning to spread down his chest, and, throwing his pride to the wind, Kyle reached up and wrapped both arms around his boyfriend’s neck, pressing aggressively up into a new, wet kiss.

Thankfully, Eric’s erection didn’t appear to be ruined after all as pressed into the top of his thigh, dragging there, slicked by the warm water raining down overhead.

Kyle’s concerns were melting as Eric pressed his face directly into his neck, teeth scraping at his collarbone. All of his apprehension regarding the future began to melt. It was incredible, really, how Eric Cartman’s involvement with, well…almost anything seemed to make life more fun, more exciting, more worthwhile, even spanning back to their days as children. Regardless of the situation, Kyle had really always enjoyed himself at Eric’s side.

Currently, he was really fucking enjoying the nibbles to the base of his neck, the hands squeezing and kneading at the taut flesh of his ass. As they had the day before, Eric’s fingers began to slip down between his cheeks, sending a cold shiver up his spine. He released a sharp exhale, forcing himself to breathe.

He just wasn’t fucking used to it.

“I’ve got you, Kyle,” Eric promised in his ear, and Kyle suddenly remembered the peeling yellow wallpaper and glass of apple juice from months prior. His breathing slowed, and he felt himself warm from the inside, relaxing a little into the smooth hands and wondering why he felt light and heavy at the same time.

Those same fingers began to probe at him, feeling. Kyle closed his eyes in an effort to let the discomfort pass, vaguely aware of a clicking sound and tensing immediately when that voice husked at his ear.

“Breathe in.”

Before Kyle could recall exactly when he’d heard that from those same lips before, something was sliding up into him and he choked on air, coughing and blinking the red-brown hair out of his face.

“What th-” It slipped deep, and Kyle suddenly realized just what a vulnerable position he had gotten himself into, tensing up.

“Just relax, babe.”

“I can’t,” Kyle said honestly, voice raw as he squirmed and leaned back, trying to look Eric seriously in the face as he felt that finger probe and slip. He groaned, trying desperately not to be a vice around it, feeling the hard cock shunting up against his hip as the water trickled between his cheeks. “Th-”

White. Mouth open, Kyle barely heard the scream that ripped itself up his throat and out through the room, liquid streaming down his temples as his vision returned to him in a quick fade. The sensations came back, soft arm around his waist and thick finger running along his insides, and he heard that knowing chuckle under his partner’s breath.

“Damn.”

“What…”

“Found it,” Eric murmured against his jaw, low voice only serving to make Kyle’s dick pang and pulse. “Now you know why I like it so much when you rail me.”

It felt like THAT?!

Suddenly not even really caring about the suspicious slickness of those familiar digits, Kyle shifted backwards and threaded a shivering hand into the wet hair, yanking Eric’s head back and attacking his mouth without another word.

Their tongues slipped together, faces hot and wet under the stream as Kyle let his last tenuous threads of restraint snap, whispering into his mouth.

“You’d better fuck me good.”

The follow-up kiss was borderline violent, teeth scraping and biting as Eric surged up between Kyle’s legs, pinning him up against the tile with his weight. The pressure sent Kyle’s head into an unexpected spin, and Eric began to move his finger in and out, pressing slowly, teasing the edge of that deep spot that Kyle wanted pushed.

He pressed his hips downwards, instinctively spreading his legs as Eric pinned him even harder and groaned deeply against his shoulder.

“Damn, baby.”

Before he could respond, Kyle felt a hand underneath his knee, lifting it and pressing it closer to his chest between their bodies. He opened his eyes just in time to freeze at the warm kiss of familiar hardness in between his legs, right up against the yielding heat and slickness.

“I’m gonna make you scream,” Eric promised, and Kyle couldn’t bring himself to be angry, tightening his grip harder in the wet locks.

The arm tightened around his waist, and Eric leaned in, using his side to keep Kyle’s leg propped as he reached down to grip his cock. The redhead looked down, catching sight of his own dusky hardness, heart fluttering beneath his ribs as he got his first good look at the other in all his nakedness.

Before the reality of the situation could fully pierce his ego, he pushed forward, and Kyle turned his face away, inhaling fast and deep.

It was in this moment that Kyle felt, amongst the body-wracking sting, a sudden and immense appreciation for Eric Cartman’s talents at taking dick. Every time they fucked, he took a moment to lube himself up and then let Kyle hit it without hesitation, moaning and gasping with obvious mirth. Kyle, on the other hand, felt like he probably needed another twelve years to get used to this, the thick spread and push up inside him that felt so incredibly intrusive. Eyes green and bright, he looked down and instantly locked gazes with the man over him, wondering why the look on his face was so fucking intense and pink.

Eric looked at him like he was seeing an angel, and self-consciousness began to creep down under Kyle’s skin, itching alongside the pre-existing discomfort in his lower half.

“…Seriously…” The brunet stated, and Kyle laughed weakly before he could stop himself, blown away by the simultaneous familiarity and newness that was quite literally inside him. He was a little afraid to look down and see how much more there was to go. Blinking out of his obvious stupor, Eric licked his lips and leaned in to breathe against his mouth, hot, humid air wafting between their faces.

He moved, and Kyle felt that thick length slipping in a little deeper, bracing his back on the wall as Eric pulled on the underside of his calf.

In retrospect, Kyle realized that his athleticism was probably working in his favor, given that he was bent nearly in half to accommodate Eric’s broad waist and thick thighs. Suddenly, that hardness pressed in deep and up, sending another gasping scream from Kyle’s throat and into the meat of Eric’s shoulder.

Pleasure shot through him in jolts, and he heard his partner groan deep in his chest, sound trailing into a whine of desperation.

“Gotta move…Kyyyle…”

“I-Impatient much?” Kyle managed, relieved to hear he wasn’t the only one losing his voice. He pulled back slightly in the aftershocks, and Eric surged in close, taking his mouth again with a hearty suck against his chin.

“So fucking tight…nnh!”

Before he could react violently, he felt Eric’s hand slip up between them, and braced his weight on one foot as his lover squeezed the base of his stiff cock.

“I’m gonna fucking milk your Jew dick while I pound this tight ass.”

Apparently, those twelve years had passed in a single moment as the thick cock pressed against his sweet spot, wrenching another cry from his flushed lips.

“Eric!”

“Yeah…c’mon…” The rhythm had started, and Kyle’s brain was going haywire, thousands of thoughts bursting into his consciousness, wiped clean by a slate of white when the blunt head pounded its way deeper.

“I want the neighbors to hear you.”

“Y- insa- gahh!!” Kyle could barely form words as he braced his weight, ankle brushing against his partner’s wet locks.

“Oh god…ggod damn it,” Eric groaned, voice wrecked and soft as he surged up deeper in a hard press. Kyle choked, pleasure rattling through him in waves.

“Feel that, huh? Nice and deep.”

“Sss..” Kyle hissed out sharply, focusing on his lover’s voice. Never in his life had he thought it would be appealing to take this kind of role during sex, but honestly…Getting fucked like this was kind of a power trip, knowing he could get lost in the feelings of being, well, pleasured hard. Eric continued kissing under his ear, pressing in slow and slipping back smooth as Kyle tensed and groaned.

“I’m inside you, Kyle.” Eric’s voice was quiet, intense but ragged as he sped his pace, leaving Kyle clear indications of his level of wrecked-ness. “I’m gonna- ff…I’m gonna keep fucking you like you need it.”

“Shut up,” the redhead moaned, face flushed and dark as he pressed close and nosed along the soft jaw, sinking his teeth in and hearing the gasp of assent.

“God, y- Kyle, look at me!”

To follow Eric’s plea, Kyle found, was proving harder than he would have thought, given the simultaneous gushes of thrilling pleasure forcing up against his core and thrumming at his dripping crown. Feeling compelled, reason thrown aside, he gasped and let himself take a breath, finding himself pressed forehead-to-forehead with his lover.

The brunet kissed him, jerking his hand hard and fast along his leaking cock as he pounded up deeper with a soft murmur against the corner of his mouth.

“I want you to cum for me- I-”

Something inside Kyle’s brain exploded, shooting colors past his vision as he felt the thick shaft pressing up and slamming against his insides. He shut his eyes, mouth opening slack as Eric pushed his lips against him forcefully, pleasure shooting from his cock and between their bodies in three separate, burning gushes of hot slick. Instantly, he could feel the slip of Eric’s thick length, the smack of his sack between his cheeks, and the heat that spread up against his prostate and downwards through his knees.

His heart pounded hard, echoing in his ears as he came down, Eric’s arm still around his back. Their bodies felt warm and slippery together, sliding, and reality began to creep in barely at the edges of Kyle’s awareness, starting with the trickling of cooling water and the heaviness of Eric’s breath.

“…” He shifted, suddenly feeling a deep ache in the crux of his thigh, and Eric quickly moved backwards so he could drop his limb, leaving Kyle to stumble against the wet porcelain as the thickness dropped from his hotspot.

“…What the fuck?” Kyle asked honestly, stunned momentarily when he saw Eric’s cock, still half-hard and bobbing with movement, and covered in a thick white that sent his nervous system aflame.

“You f- No condom?!” he shouted suddenly, cheeks red as he reached out and pushed Eric back against the wall perpendicular to his. Eric shouted, clearly startled out of his staring silence.

“Jesus! You never use one when you fuck me!”

“Tha…Oh my GOD!” Scandalized out of his own embarrassment, Kyle backed up and forced himself not to cover his front with his hands, not wanting to appear as shaken as he felt. Eric watched him, and then a slow and satisfied grin spread its way across his cheeks, punctuated by an endearing reach and soft embrace that enveloped Kyle’s tense form.

“You’re so fucking cute.”

“I’m not!” Kyle insisted, and Eric began to mouth at Kyle’s lobe, sending a tickle up the side of his neck.

“It’s okay, sweetie baby~ Want me to suck it out?”

“Fucking gross!” Kyle groaned and turned, stepping into the stream of water and wincing as he felt the coldness soaking through his wet curls. “Gh!”

There was a hand against his bicep, and Kyle winced but allowed it to lead him out, taking the towel offered and averting his eyes.

The reality of what they had just done surfaced in his mind as he dried off, wincing, turning and trying to clean his nether regions as well as possible. As he wrapped the towel around himself, ears burning, he again found himself brought into an embrace, this one drier and warmer than the last.

“Kyyyyyyle.”

“…” It was the same voice from childhood, the same lilting tone that he, better than everybody, knew the meaning of. Sighing, Kyle reached up and gently ran his fingers through the damp hair, not really thinking about his own movements.

“You always need fucking attention.”

In the moment of quiet, Eric moved closer again and coiled his own towel around the both of them, stepping into Kyle’s space and holding him tightly.

“Tch, not always.”

“Yeah,” Kyle sighed and tried to back away, rubbing his own towel down over his front. “I guess you do sleep sometimes.”

“Honestly, Kyle. Making me out to be the needy one,” Eric scoffed, leaning in and gently poking Kyle’s nose with his index finger. Kyle reached out and shoved him in response.

“You ARE the needy one.”

“You were the one moaning for more.”

“At least I don’t fucking SQUEAL.”

Something made a rattling sound from beside the sink, and both sets of eyes turned in the direction of Eric’s discarded jeans. The brunet watched him for a moment, and then reached out suddenly to pull the phone from his pocket, swiping to answer the call before Kyle could get a good look at the screen.

“Hey, uh, yeah, it’s me,” he stated, and Kyle stared, surprised by the rushed tone.

“Yeah, no, I’ll be there. Yeah, cool. Hold on. Just w- yeah, wait, give me ten minutes.”

Eric hung up. Staring, the redhead hung his towel and reached down to pull his discarded shirt back on, recalling their brief conversation about Bradley from earlier and feeling something tighten in his stomach. That hadn’t seemed like another detective call.

“Who was that?”

“Oh, uh, the school,” Eric supplanted, hurriedly zipping up his fly. Kyle frowned.

“It’s after four. Everybody’s gone.”

“Nah, PC Principal wants to talk to me about some stuff.”

The tone, clipped and hurried, brought Kyle’s curiosity to a head. Maybe Eric wasn’t doing as well in his classes as he had seemed? Was it possible that he was failing something?

“Oh, okay.”

“Yeah, I’ll be back in time for dinner.”

“Mom texted me earlier,” Kyle told him, squeezing some of the water out from his curls. “She’s gonna make chicken parmesan once Ike gets back from practice.”

“Killer,” Eric groaned, sounding legitimately pleased and combing his fingers through his hair. Absently, Kyle realized he was wiping a little smudging away from his eyelids, and wondered whether his partner’s lashes would be black from now on. Before he could wave him off, the other boy slipped up into his space and softly kissed his mouth, grinning and hopping into the hall as he called out.

“Ask her to make those rolls, too! I want extra butter!”

“I know you do!”

Footsteps padded audibly down the stairs, and Kyle heard the door swing open and smack shut. He took a breath, redressed into some sweatpants and a t-shirt, and sat down at his desk, wincing at the mild sting in his backside. He still didn’t have any confirmation regarding what the fuck his partner had used for lube, but whatever it was had worked pretty well, given the circumstances.

His face burned as he let his mind replay over the events of the past hour, the pleasure, the surprise, the remaining suspicion he felt. Even still though, enveloping all of that, there was a warmth that seeped into his veins, some comforting fuzziness that made the ridiculousness of the situation feel like it was meant to happen.

The door clicked open again from down the stairs, and Kyle instantly jumped up from his seat, checking his reflection in the wall mirror for love bites.

--

Chapter Text

--

It was with a flushed face and a groggy head that Kyle made his way to school that Thursday morning, a few days following his and Eric’s last tryst. Upon finding himself alone in bed and hearing the footsteps emanating from down the stairs, he had cast his eyes over at his phone, pulling it up from where it rested on the bedside table and reading 7:13AM with a start.

Where was the time going, lately?

After sluggishly getting dressed and eating a simple breakfast consisting mostly of eggs, not having much of an appetite, Kyle had said his goodbyes to the family (and Eric) and made his way out into what seemed to be a worsening storm. The fat, warm drops of liquid began to smack into his exposed cheeks and forehead as he walked, shoulders tense and tongue feeling dry at the back of his throat.

He took a glance at the insulin pump clipped to his hip, frowning instantly at the blood sugar level of 284. Sighing, Kyle paused at the stop sign and dispensed insulin with a couple button-clicks, crossing the road and quickening his steps as he headed up to the face of the school.

Strangely, there was a lightness inside his chest as he walked, a little bit of a bounce to his step despite the thickness and fog that were creeping in between his temples. Like he did every morning, now, Eric had beamed at him the moment he had seen his face. They had brushed arms at the table, and the brunet had snuck in a kiss to his cheek before wishing him farewell for the day, promising him that his GameSphere wouldn’t be lonesome while he was gone.

Kyle wondered why those types of remarks didn’t really annoy him anymore.

His first few periods were filled with review problems for finals, mostly, which proved a good enough distraction from the strange feeling in his stomach. By the time the lunch bell rang, he could hear the rain still clapping harder against the windowpanes in the classroom, so Kyle got to his feet and made his way out into the hall, retrieving his lunchbox from his locker and heading for the lunch room.

As expected, the weather outside had caused a large influx of high-schoolers into the cafeteria, to the extent that nearly every table was packed among the wafting scents of burgers and French fries. Not really in the mood to be chatty or hang out with Stan and Wendy, Kyle approached the back doors of the school instead, pressing against the bar and peering out to the one outside spot he knew would probably be dry.

A blond head came into view as he looked, discerning the two figures that already sat on the stairs, safe underneath the roofing overhang that shielded the top step from the elements. The figure wearing the blue chullo hat leaned in a little closer to his partner, voice dry.

“You look good in green, babe.”

“Nnh, I don’t think so…”

Kyle shifted forward in an effort to hear a little more clearly, and felt the door bar click underneath his pressure, watching as the two heads turned to face him.

“Agh!”

“Sorry,” Kyle muttered, a little embarrassed and pinned by Craig’s flat stare.

“Spying on us? I thought you were getting action, now.”

Kyle’s ears burned. Of course, once Stan had heard about his arrangement with Eric, Wendy had found out, which meant the entire school knew.

“Shut the fuck up, Craig,” he decided on and stepped out, taking a seat a few feet away on the concrete step and unzipping his lunchbox with irritation. Upon a closer glance, Kyle realized that Craig was holding his phone out above his right knee, and that it was displaying a photo of a green vest and bowtie on a mannequin.

“Good one,” Craig replied, noticing the gaze. “You going?”

“Going?”

“The Spring Dance,” the dark-haired boy replied, putting an arm around the blond who began to shiver noticeably, probably from the unexpected attention. The rain dripped down about a yard from the three boys, splashing against the bottom of the concrete stairs, and Kyle tried to process those words.

“…”

“It’s tomorrow,” Craig reminded, watching Kyle as he sat up.

“Oh, uh, yeah.”

“You don’t remember??” Tweek chimed in, voice a little calmer than before. “It’s, like…there’s posters everywhere, man.”

“I’ve been busy,” Kyle replied, opening his lunchbox and feeling his phone buzz at his hip. He pulled it out, observing the string of messages there that he had undoubtedly missed during his classes.

i miss u

sweet bby

my little cherry popsicle <3 <3

i wanna suck u til u meltt

His face lit, and Craig broke the momentary silence.

“Are you going to take Cartman?”

Kyle legitimately had not considered it, so he shook his head as he tried to find his voice. Fuck. Having the school know they were an item was one thing, but going out to a dance together where everybody could see? And…dancing?!

Should they?

“I don’t have anything to wear,” he commented quietly, eliciting an honest and surprised laugh from the taller male.

“Sure, you don’t.”

“Don’t you have something better to do?” Kyle asked firelessly, sinking his teeth into his chicken salad sandwich. It didn’t help that he’d already had several accidental private conversations with Craig over the past few months, and been shown up each and every time by Craig’s powers of observation regarding his relationship with Eric Cartman. The asshole always seemed to know how he was feeling, unfortunately.

“Go study.”

Craig’s knowing grin suddenly passed into a flat expression of shock.

“Fuck- yeah, you reminded me! I have to go turn in my chem shit before fifth period!” he stated and stood up, swinging his blue backpack over one shoulder. Tweek looked at him, and he muttered that he would be back in a minute, heading into the building through the brown doors and leaving them swinging noisily on their hinges.

Kyle glanced over at the nervous blond a little awkwardly, focus wandering down to his own fingernails. He wasn’t often alone with Tweek. In fact, the last time he had been, he had been bat shit drunk and-

“Sorry,” he said without really thinking, looking up into the searching eyes.

“Wh-what?”

“Mh, sorry about…” Kyle swallowed the food in his mouth. “Token’s party, and all that.”

Tweek looked at him, and then shrugged a little and turned his face away.

“Oh, uh, don’t worry about it, man.”

Kyle took another bite of his sandwich, feeling the lightness in his head that alerted him to the fact that his blood sugars were still too high. Although he only remembered part of what he had said that night, the entire situation still made him feel queasy- He and Eric Cartman were an item, now, though, and Eric clearly wasn’t ashamed about it. It was all Kyle could do to keep Eric from putting an arm around him at the dinner table, sometimes, or grabbing for his dick in the hallway when Sheila was just a few feet away.

The absolute most awkward part in the past several days had been Sheila presenting him with a box of condoms and telling Kyle that it was “important to be safe”. He had been horrified at first, and still was, to an extent, that his mother apparently could tell that they were doing things other than sleeping in his bed at night. He could only pray to whatever gods existed that she hadn’t actually heard any of it, but mercifully, she had left it at that, seeming mildly embarrassed about bringing it up and keeping her advice pretty brief. Telling Eric about the incident had resulted just in some loud bursts of amused laughter, as well as a remark indicating that they should just have sex during Kyle’s period to avoid pregnancy. Kyle had seriously had to resist giving him a black eye.

“Is he living with you?”

The question was a surprise, but Kyle nodded.

“Yeah.”

“Wow. Uh, that’s what I heard, but…what happened?”

Kyle wasn’t at all surprised that only parts of the story were getting out. It was how gossip traveled, after all.

“His mom is in trouble with the cops,” he admitted, eyeing that message on his phone before typing out a brief response.

Yeah tonight

want to go to the arcade when I get home??

“The cops??”

“Yeah.”

“Why?!”

Kyle shrugged, trying not to make out like it was a big deal. In his mind, though, the questions kept surfacing, floating in the distance where he couldn’t quite grasp. He still hadn’t heard anything more, not after that last call at Target a few weeks back.

“I guess she’s in trouble,” he decided on, not really wanting to get into the grimy details. He was reasonably sure the entire school didn’t know about Eric’s depressed starvation episode, and he didn’t exactly need them to. Come to think of it, it was pretty incredible how well Eric was currently adjusting, given what he’d gone through.

“Oh, jeeze. Um…so…You guys are like, a thing?”

“Yeah,” Kyle sighed, actually finding it was easier to admit to Tweek than it would have been to Craig. Craig probably would have been smug about it in that dry way of his that made Kyle’s skin itch. The redhead was starting to wonder if he was attracted exclusively to assholes, at least when it came to men. It would have explained a few things.

“What about college?” the blond inquired, eyes large but seemingly curious, rather than frantic. Kyle’s phone vibrated against his thigh, and the redhead picked it up to scan the message first.

yea can we go out at like 5??

Something stung at the back of his mouth as he typed a response back, speech slowed by his split concentration.

“I don’t…know where I’m going, ahm, yet.”

I’ll be home by 3:30

ok just gotta go pick up my meds first

Kyle heard a shifting noise, and looked up to see Tweek adjusting his position, glancing at the phone and then back up to him with an unsure expression.

“O-Oh, Jesus. You can’t decide??”

“I’m still thinking,” Kyle admitted, suspicion brewing in the back of his mind. Tweek recoiled, and the redhead blinked out of his frown, realizing he was probably making an irritated face. “It’s either Denver, or Berkeley.”

“You got into Berkeley?! That’s insane!”

“Thanks.”

“What about, ah, Cartman?”

The heaviness in his stomach settled, and Kyle took a deep breath, trying to think of something, anything, to get his mind off the conversation.

“What about you and Craig?” he asked, trying to make his desperation less obvious. “What do you guys want to do?”

The blond perked up a little, seeming surprised by the questioning, and then began chewing at his lower lip.

“Craig got into Denver,” he admitted, fingers twiddling at the frayed hem of his pink scarf. “So, uh, we’re gonna…try and get a dorm together. He wants to major in Aerospace Engineering.”

Craig’s grades were actually surprisingly good. Kyle nodded, tucking his phone back into his jeans pocket tiredly. Maybe he was overthinking this. Maybe Eric did just have things to take care of. Maybe he was in contact with the South Park police and didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe Kyle just needed to accept that he didn’t know everything about Eric Cartman, anymore.

“How’s…that going?” Kyle asked, unsure why the words left his mouth. Tweek twitched visibly.

“Uh, college stuff?”

“You and Craig,” the redhead clarified, feeling awkward and clearing his throat. “You’ve been an item forever.”

Tweek looked at him, half-smiling and looking to the side.

“Eight years. Um, yeah, we’re still going.”

The silence didn’t feel quite as awkward when Tweek spoke, tone fond and smooth and cheeks very slightly pink. Curiosity getting the better of him, Kyle gulped and cracked the lid on his mini Gatorade, voice coming out slightly unsteady.

“How…did you know he was the one?”

It sounded like an idiotic statement, like something someone wrote into a bad book, or a poorly delivered line from the chapped lips of some waify movie actress with bleached blonde hair. He meant it, though, and locked green eyes with green eyes uncertainly.

“I guess we kinda made the choice,” Tweek admitted, and Kyle blinked.

“Choice?”

“Uh, yeah. I mean, at first it was like, we were fighting a lot! And we had to kind of make sure we weren’t…doing it for the wrong reasons, and stuff. And then I just kind of realized that…” Tweek paused, seeming like he was choosing his words before glancing back over at Kyle. “That he…he saw me at all my shittiest points, you know? And he knew me really…really well. And he still, um, wanted to be with me, and…I wanted to be with him, too.”

Kyle felt something begin to hurt inside him, deep inside his stomach, when Tweek’s smile reappeared on his face.

“And now it’s like…being with Craig, life doesn’t really scare me as much. I’m not really afraid of what’s going to happen.”

In that moment, with the rain splattering at the toes of his shoes and the queasy feeling in his stomach, Tweek’s wide-eyed, happy stare was like the blow of a hammer to the center of his chest. The door creaked open from behind him, revealing Craig with a relieved expression and a lopsided hat, and Kyle immediately zipped his lunchbox up and got to his feet.

“Thanks. See you guys.”

He didn’t bother to look back, voice slightly rough as he headed for the doors and pushed his way back into the main hallway. Something about Tweek’s words, honest as they were, made something feel jilted and off-kilter inside Kyle’s abdomen. He couldn’t help the feeling that he had heard something just like that before, and more than once, but he didn’t want to place those memories right now.

Thankfully, the warm rain was starting to ease up on his walk back from school at the end of the day. His mind ran over the slew of final assignments and study guides his teachers had given him, the various worksheets and papers he had to finish up before turning in. With everything he had been thinking about, it was no wonder he had sort of forgotten about the Spring Dance…

Would Cartman want to go?

He shivered as he unlocked his front door, wiping his wet shoes on the welcome mat before letting himself inside. He hung his hat and jacket on the coatrack and placed his damp shoes beside the door, turning the corner beside the stairs and wincing when a skinny figure darted past in front of him.

“Jesus, Ike.”

“Oops!” his brother commented and stepped backwards, holding a notebook in one hand and looking slightly rumpled.

“How are you back, already?” Kyle asked and made his way into the kitchen, bending over to open the refrigerator and noticing the quietness of the house. There were no bubbling clicks signifying that the coffee pot was on, no wafting music traveling down the stairs.

“I got out early. I had my first final.”

“Already?”

“Yeah, for Social Studies.”

The fact that most of his final exams were less than a week away sent Kyle’s shoulders up into a firm line as he reached for a Gatorade, noticing the high number still glowing from the screen on his insulin pump and reaching for a bottle of water instead.

“What’s Eric doing?”

“Dunno,” Ike replied, voice tinged with a little bit of curiousness or suspicion as it often was. Despite Kyle loving his little brother quite strongly, he had to admit that he was a strange kid, what with his pale skin and the pink rosacea at his cheeks and neck that often made him look oddly flushed. “Haven’t seen him.”

Kyle brushed past his brother and went up the carpeted steps, entering the bathroom and grabbing the hand-towel off the rack to wipe at his slightly damp face. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a pair of Eric’s newly-bought jeans and eyed the white cap that peeked from the pocket.

Curiosity getting the better of him, he reached out and pulled it up, hearing the click of pills against the yellow plastic and realizing it was almost full.

“Pick up your meds, huh?” he muttered under his breath, wiping along the skin of his face with greater pressure. For the first time in his life, he figured it was maybe better not to interrogate Eric or force him to be honest. Even if he was lying, there had to be a good reason for it. Kyle didn’t want to break him, didn’t see a need to stress him even more than he already obviously was. If he was talking to the police, or just needed some time to himself, or something…

Why did even thinking about that feel like a knife in the heart? Didn’t Eric understand that he was there for him?

As if on cue, Kyle heard the click of the downstairs door shutting. Embarrassed by his own train of thought, he took a deep breath and stripped his shirt off, heading into his bedroom to change. There was some chattering downstairs, and Kyle only hoped that Ike wasn’t saying anything awkward.

Expectedly, there were familiar, deceptively delicate steps up the stairs, and Kyle sat down at his desk and pretended not to notice, digging in his backpack for his math binder.

“Oh, Kyyyyle…”

The redhead turned around unsurely, looking into the soft face that made him feel all types of ways he didn’t want to. Eric stood in the doorway with lidded eyes, grinning as he clutched the doorframe in a way that was decidedly suspicious.

“What’s this about a Spring Dance?”

Kyle sighed, only then realizing what the muffled conversation had been about.

“Yeah, it’s tomorrow,” he admitted, watching him uncertainly. Eric gasped.

“And you haven’t asked me to go with you yet? I thought you were more of a gentleman than that.”

“It’s just a stupid dance,” Kyle replied and got to his feet to face him, painfully aware of the amusement in the happy tone. “And you don’t really even go there anymore.”

It was in this moment that the redhead realized that it was barely four o’clock, and that Eric’s hair was slightly mussed above his dark eyes, as though he had been out and about. He forced himself not to interrogate him, trying to steer his thoughts along a different path. He had to try to trust him. If they were going to be, well, together…

Even though it went against his instincts, he had to try.

“Dude, it’s a fucking SENIOR dance! There’s gonna be food, someone’s probably gonna spike the punch…Oh, hey, are Token and Nichole still a thing??”

“Yeah-” Kyle began without thinking, only then recalling the Kiss Cam incident at the Denver Nuggets game from their childhood and accidentally catching his partner’s eye. He hesitated, and Eric just grinned at him, walking a little closer into his space.

“So cute. Not as cute as you and me, though.”

The hand felt its way up his ass, and Kyle reached out to push him away, seizing up with surprise and accidentally jerking his knee up against Eric’s abdomen.

“FUCK!”

“Ah! Sorry!!” Kyle shouted when he realized where he’d buried his kneecap, watching Cartman stumble backwards with his hands on his groin in pain.

“Christ, Jew!” Eric whimpered, grabbing himself pitifully with both hands.

“You grabbed my ass!”

“You didn’t have to fucking neuter me!”

“Don’t be a whiny little bitch,” Kyle stated, bumping shoulders with him and taking a seat on the corner of the mattress. Eric huffed but sat down beside him with a moan.

“You break it, you buy it. That’ll be ten thousand dollars.”

Kyle huffed, unable to help but be amused, when the questions churning in his gut began to spin too quickly, turning in a slow tornado that felt heavy and empty all at once.

“Yeah, right,” he sighed, glancing down at his lap. “I need that money for Berkeley.”

It was the first time the subject of college had come up specifically between them since their first sober kiss under the highway lights. In all honestly, Kyle had never quite made that distinction so clearly in his head before that moment- he had been on the fence quite authentically, unsure whether it was better to keep close ties with Stan and Kenny, or venture off into a prospectively more prestigious, lucrative unknown. However, in that moment, it seemed obvious to him what he wanted, clearer, in fact, than it ever had before.

The surprise of his own self-discovery gave him pause for a moment while Eric shifted, still cupping his balls protectively under both of his hands as he rolled his eyes.

“Going with the hippie school, huh? Why am I not surprised?”

“It’s not a hippie school,” Kyle replied, not wanting to admit how endeared he was by the fact that, despite all those years, Eric’s manner of speaking had barely changed. “It’s really good.”

“Yeah, if you wanna be a professional commie.”

“I’m doing pre-med,” he replied, breath shallow as he forced himself to meet his partner’s gaze. The look on Eric’s face was startled, but fleeting, and then he smiled, but the dwindling gleam in his eyes made Kyle feel like his voice was lost in his lungs.

“Psh, figures,” Eric eventually replied, expression sarcastic, if that could be possible. “Dr. Broflovski, professional nerd.”

“Whatever,” Kyle sighed. He was smart enough not to ask about Eric’s plans for college. The Broflovskis were literally putting the clothes on his boyfriend’s back right now, so laying out tuition money was clearly out of the question for his partner. If he couldn’t get any work in South Park, though…what could he do?

“When are your finals?” he asked instead kind of lamely. Eric yawned, flopping back onto the mattress.

“Next Monday and Tuesday.”

“That’s it?”

“Mm,” Eric hummed, watching Kyle from his prone position. The glimmer was in his eye, shiny, and Kyle found himself leaning in a little bit, daring him. He took the bait, leaning up and carding his thick fingers through Kyle’s curly hair.

“But I don’t feel like studying tomorrow~ So you should take me to the dance.”

There was such a sincerity in that statement, a happy but serious one, that Kyle was again at a loss for words. His mind reminded him that yes, this was the guy that had had a literal mental breakdown after he had thought Kyle was ashamed of him and hidden himself away. He was the one who was now flourishing, eating and drinking and teasing Kyle in excess like he always had, sassing him and yet sleeping beside him in bed at night. Kyle knew their relationship would never be normal, at least by most people’s standards, but he had to trust Eric. If nothing else, he had to prove to him that he did…really care, about his feelings, and all of that sappy shit, even if a few weeks from now they ended up moving out of one another’s lives, or this insane dream came to an abrupt end.

The fingers moved against his scalp, and he looked down at him, redness spreading over his face.

“Okay, fine,” he relented. Eric grinned.

“You’re supposed to ask, Kyle.”

“Go to the dance with me.”

“My, that’s bold of you. Assuming I’ll say yes.”

“You told me to ask you.”

“Key word being ‘ask’.”

“Will you go to the dance with me?” Kyle gritted out, irritated by his own embarrassment. He felt Eric move against him, and chanced another look down, watching Eric clasp his hands together under his chin and bat his newly-black eyelashes.

“Oh, KYLE! Really?! What am I going to wear?!”

“Knock it off.”

“Aww, getting shy?? It’s okay, Kyle. Give in to your immense passion for me.”

“What are you?” Kyle snorted and leaned in a little, surprised how relaxing this felt, the familiarity of the banter bringing him back to a soft, cozy nostalgia that settled somewhere in his chest. “A middle-school girl??”

“Heh, I don’t need to be. Those skinny bitches better move over. This ass doesn’t need any silicone.”

Kyle couldn’t help his deep breath of laughter, finding himself naturally wanting to shift in closer. He let himself fall, exhaling, the trace of a quirk on his lips as he found his head naturally pillowing itself on his boyfriend’s shoulder.

Something echoed out audibly from the general vicinity in a harp-like tone, and Kyle shifted, feeling Eric wrap an arm around his shoulders and his heart begin to pound.

“Who’s that?”

“Probably just Kenny,” the brunet replied lazily, trailing his fingers along Kyle’s shoulder blade. The redhead raised an eyebrow.

“You and Kenny still talk?”

“Yeah.” They exchanged a glance, and Eric smirked at him slightly, eyes lidded and lazy.

“About all the hot sex me and you have.”

“You do not,” Kyle stated, voice tired but with the edge of a threat rather than actual disbelief. Eric sighed with an obvious air of fake uncertainty.

“I just don’t know what to say to him, you know? I mean, he gives me all the details about him and Butters, and I just feel awkward. I have to contribute to the conversation.”

“Don’t even,” Kyle groaned, not wanting to think about his second-best friend in bed with the new love of his life. “That’s bullshit. You just want to brag.”

“Yeah,” Eric yawned, and Kyle got a whiff of the scent of deodorant, somehow not put-off by the slightly floral, unfamiliar scent. “You’re right.”

It was in that moment that Kyle began to recall that day many weeks prior, the day when Eric had come over in secret for cough syrup and fallen asleep in his bed. He remembered how he had entrapped him in his arms, clinging on, mumbling about how he was sorry under his hushed breath. His heart fluttered, literally fluttered, and the redhead hoisted himself up from the mattress, resisting the urge to let himself be pulled into a doze when there were still four full hours of spring daylight left.

“C’mon, let’s go to the arcade,” he muttered and pulled at the brunet’s arm, watching as he rolled up into a sitting position with a grunt.

“Can we get chili fries??” Eric inquired, seeming a little more interested when he came to the sudden realization that there would be food.

Kyle shoved him and got up, trying to hide his smile. There had certainly been many times over the years that Eric Cartman had done something that amused him, or given him a challenge worth beating. Despite their new arrangement, that didn’t seem to be any different now. It was actually pretty amazing, how someone could be in such close proximity to someone for so many years, and yet still find them interesting enough to want to bicker and compete, and spend time together. He and Stan were certainly life-long friends, too, as were he and Kenny, but those friendships were just that- friendships, things that brought him a feeling of being liked and understood, fun diversions from the stresses of life. Good, certainly, and important, but not the same as the literal stirring Kyle felt inside of him when he saw those chocolate eyes watching him from under that swath of strawberry-coffee bangs.

Maybe it was no surprise, given Eric Cartman’s history of playing characters at any opportunity, that he could be a safe, dry island one minute and a torrential wave of passion the next. As he stood there, eyeing the carpet fibers, Kyle could only hope that this side of his partner wasn’t an act. Eric’s knowing smiles, the demanding yanks to his sleeve. Was there any chance that this was a ploy to get something that he wanted? Even the obvious depression, the medication, the signs of angst and upset… Maybe he was just troubled in general, and it didn’t have anything to do with Kyle. Maybe Kyle was actually just a placeholder, someone to take care of Eric in his emotional time of need. Maybe the guy legitimately was still crazy, underneath the warm grasp and secure stare that seemed loathe to look away from him at any time.

He felt that stare on him again, and decided to take his chances, trying to ignore the associations his brain automatically made between Eric Cartman and chili.

“Yeah,” he relented, turning around and looking down challengingly.

“Get your ass up so I can beat it at air hockey.”

--

Chapter Text

--

Friday morning came, and in the middle of lathering his scalp with his usual mint shampoo, Kyle recognized the familiar cooling tingle that he had felt in an entirely different region a couple of days prior.

“C’mooon, let me in!” came the muffled voice from the other side of the bathroom door, accompanied by an obnoxious knock.

Kyle grit his teeth, tempted to step out and give his partner a piece of his mind for using his shampoo as lube. “Wait your turn!” he settled on instead and stepped underneath the showerhead, rinsing the fountain of frothy soap down the front of his pale chest. Moments later, there was a suspicious rustling, and he turned to see Eric stepping into the shower, naked and beaming with his usual grin.

“I locked the door,” Kyle stated bluntly, red curls a deep cherry and wet against his temples.

“That’s what bobby pins are for, Kyle,” the brunet replied and pressed himself up into the redhead in a wet embrace, only to be shoved backwards in response.

“You took mom’s?”

“I have my own, babe.”

Kyle turned away, trying to hide his visceral reaction. He still wasn’t used to terms of endearment, after all, but something occurred to him as he continued washing the soap out of his face: the remembered image of a scarf, a dark crimson, sitting neatly folded atop his stack of textbooks.

“Let me guess. That’s how you got in my locker before.”

He heard Eric chuckling as there were footsteps behind him, and hoped to god that Sheila wasn’t awake yet to hear them talking together in the bathroom. Even if she was aware of their relationship, it wasn’t like he needed her hearing anything that alluded to the fact they were more than friends.

“Bravo, darling. Bravo.”

“You’d better go shopping today,” Kyle commented, trying to break his awkwardness as he turned back around. Eric looked up at him, eyes a little wide.

“Huh?”

“For the dance, dumbass.”

The brunet watched him, looking genuinely surprised, and Kyle couldn’t help but feel equally off-kilter. He had, as a matter of fact, agreed to go to the Spring Dance with Eric Cartman, partly so his partner would shut up about it, and partly because it felt like the right thing to do. He was a new Eric Cartman, after all. Someone who legitimately…liked him and wanted to spend time with him. It felt like it was only fair.

“Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously,” Kyle spat back, embarrassed and trying not to show it. “I’ll give you my debit card.”

“Well, all right, Kyle, but when I come back with a three-thousand-dollar gown from Neiman Marcus, you’re gonna be sorry.”

Kyle didn’t understand what he meant by that, but the unmistakable surge of amusement and elation in Eric’s voice gave him momentary pause. He finished rinsing the lather from his face and hair and turned around, locking looks with his companion.

He didn’t have to say anything to know it was coming. Expectedly, and yet amazingly, Kyle found himself embraced again and leaned up into the soft lips, eyelids heavy when he realized that Eric was staring.

The honey-chocolate gaze brought Kyle back to that moment under the highway lights, that span of a few seconds when neither of them had wanted to break apart. He could hear the ghost of cars rushing past them as he let his eyes close, aware that he was still being observed and feeling a smooth hand settle against his hip. As expected, he felt his boyfriend’s other hand stroking against his scalp and let himself melt just for a few seconds, back pressed against the tile of the shower wall and front settled against the soft ribs and stomach.

In the beginning, his and Eric’s physical contact had been purely needy, rushed and passionate, as though they were living out the last moments of their lives. Now, though, as the days passed and they spent more hours together seated on the couch playing video games or laying side-by-side under Kyle’s comforter, there seemed to be…more time, ironically, since Kyle knew his time in South Park was actually running out. As a matter of fact, more and more, Kyle was growing comfortable having Eric’s arm around him or feeling their knees touch when they sat down together at the dinner table.

Kyle wasn’t sure whether he should be scared, or relieved.

The kiss ended, and Eric predictably slapped Kyle directly on the ass, earning himself a shove into the corner of the tub.

“Don’t embarrass me tonight,” the redhead stated bluntly, turning his face away and drying off quickly before pulling his school-clothes on from the neat pile beside the sink. “Everyone’s gonna be there.”

“Tch. You’re the one that can’t keep your greedy hands off me.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“Boys! Breakfast!” Sheila’s voice called out from down the steps. Kyle tensed up, glancing over at his partner in crime. Eric justgrinned as he wrapped the towel around himself, gesturing with his hand.

“Ladies first.”

“Get bent.”

“But I won’t be able to reach your spot.”

Kyle threw his towel at him and promptly made his way down the stairs, hoping Eric would at least get fully dressed before presenting himself to the family. As usual, breakfast was brief but pleasant, thankfully mostly filled with Ike’s chatter about some hockey game he wanted to go see. Afterwards, the redhead pulled his hat on before handing Eric his card and making his way out the front door, feeling a round pair of eyes on the back of his neck as he left.

After his first couple of classes, Kyle walked into his third-period study hall and took a seat at one of the empty desks over beside the window, listening uninterestedly to the chatter around him. Stan’s voice, recognizable and clear, drifted into his conscious thought, so he glanced over to see a familiar blond seated a few desks to the left, arm around his best friend’s shoulder.

“C’mon, she’s still gonna go.”

“She was so mad,” Stan groaned, purple beanie atop his black locks as he shoved his face into his arms. Kenny, sliding his cell phone into his pocket, patted his shoulder in commiseration.

“Chicks.”

Kyle caught the blond’s eye, and glanced down at the boy who curled up in his seat, looking into the bitter grey-blue gaze. At that moment, Clyde plopped down in his varsity jacket a seat away from Kyle, staring down at Stan with a raised eyebrow.

“Man, you’re still upset about Wendy?”

“You can fuck right off,” Stan rasped, voice thick as he looked back up. In that moment, Kyle recognized the darkness under his lower lashes. Kenny stared.

“Dude, you look tired.”

“I can’t sleep,” Stan mumbled. Clyde sighed nasally, kicking one of his red converse up onto the desktop in front of him.

“Christ, stop complaining already.”

“Go to hell, Clyde. I’m tired.”

“What do you want me to do? Kiss you on the nose and sing you to beddy-bye?”

Stan sat up again and Kenny immediately placed a hand on his shoulder, smiling but sending Clyde a sharp look. Kyle found himself looking into Stan’s exhausted visage. Thankfully, the situation was diffused by the school-bell, which silenced any impending arguments. Deciding not to poke his friend while he was down, unsurprised that the Wendy angst had cycled back into recent events, he took out his notebook and began mindlessly going over some of his history notes.

He and Cartman were going to the dance later that night.

Study hall quickly turned into a life-consideration session as he eyed the spine of his notebook, cheeks pink. Realizing he was zoning out, he reached for his backpack and paused when something crinkled inside. Upon closer inspection, he noticed the corner of a green wrapper peeking up from one of the bottle pockets on the side and reached down, pulling it out slowly and looking at the intact honey-flavored granola bar. When had he put that in his bag…?

Distracted, now, he took his phone out of his pocket and sent a covert text underneath the desk.

My suit is dark blue

Don’t get some ugly ass thing

Inevitably, Eric would snap back at him with some sassy remark. If the guy really did buy a dress, as he had threatened, Kyle was pretty sure he deserved any ass-beatings he received as a result. Still, though, the thought of Eric Cartman in a suit was starting to make him wonder. He was pretty damn attractive, after all… Maybe it would be hot.

Damn it. Embarrassed, he glanced down at his phone screen, frowning slightly. Eric was usually whiplash-fast at return texts.

By the time lunchtime ran around, Kyle found himself nibbling on the granola bar from earlier at one of the outside tables, sitting across from Token and Stan and eyeing his phone screen. The clouds overhead were beginning to get dark, and his napkin began to flutter in the breeze that began to waft past, bringing with it the scent of summer pine and humid heat.

“It’s gonna storm,” Token commented, Nichole-free and sipping on a Starbucks. Supposedly, a lot of the girls had gone out to lunch together, leaving the guys to fend for themselves on campus.

“Shitty night for a dance,” Stan grumbled in reply. Kyle glanced up unsurely from where he was looking at his phone screen, knee bouncing under the wood of the picnic table.

“What happened?”

The bitter look from earlier returned to his friend’s face, and Kyle recognized it immediately.

“Did you break up?”

“No. She’s just mad about something I said,” Stan sighed. Token blinked.

“Again? You and Wendy fight all the time.”

“It’s not like that,” the dark-haired boy commented, sounding exhausted as he stared down miserably at his own iced coffee. Kyle exhaled, a little relieved to get his mind off his own problems.

“Well, hey. You guys always work it out. It’ll be okay.”

Both sets of eyes moved up to him, and Kyle suddenly wished he hadn’t drawn attention to himself.

“You have a date for tonight, right?” Token commented, and Kyle looked away instantly, having a hard time finding his voice.

“…Yeah.”

The silence was painful, until Token’s voice returned.

“Just make sure he doesn’t trash my car this time. I’ll kick his ass.”

Kyle’s first instinct was to laugh, so he pressed his lips together until he realized that Token was smiling too, albeit with a slightly furrowed brow. “He won’t,” he reassured, appreciating that he wasn’t having to deal with another expression of disbelief. “He’s not like that now.”

“You’re seriously dating Cartman,” Stan commented dully. Kyle took a deep breath, crumpling the granola wrapper and stuffing it into his lunchbox.

“I know, it’s weird. I get it.”

“You have sex with Cartman,” Stan stated, sounding a little weak this time. “I feel like I’m going to throw up.”

“Wow, you’ve never done that before,” Kyle replied a little sharply, pausing, confused by his own reaction and smiling in a half-hearted peace offering. Token and Stan shared a noticeable look, and Kyle checked his phone screen again as he pretended he hadn’t seen it.

“I heard Clyde was going to spike the punch,” Token broke the silence. Kyle scoffed.

“Figures.”

“Think Tweek and Craig might get caught in the bathroom again?”

Stan made a whiny noise and looked suspiciously at the redhead.

“You and Cartman better not do anything gross.”

“Why are you being such a brat?” Kyle asked, genuinely surprised by the shift in attitude. His knee continued bouncing, and he glanced back down at his phone, eyeing the notification bar as Token shifted closer across the table.

“Are you okay?”

“That asshole isn’t texting me back,” Kyle replied, shrugging and zipping up his lunchbox. The dark-skinned boy watched him, gaze thoughtful, and Kyle stood up from the bench in preparation to go to his locker before fifth period, turning until he heard the familiar voice.

“Hey, can I talk to you for a second?”

Token’s tone was hesitant, and Kyle couldn’t help but be curious as he slung his backpack over one shoulder, smelling the scent of impending rain. He could feel a few other sets of eyes on him from some of the tables a little further away, but settled on a shrug as his long-time friend walked over towards him, briefly touching his bicep before leading him over behind the corner of the school building and into a shady spot beside the chain-link fence.

“You seem pretty stressed,” Token broke the ice in his usual pleasant way, eyeing Kyle skeptically. For some reason, on top of Kyle’s typical bad lying skills, he found it particularly hard to lie to Token. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that they had played basketball together for so many years. There was a certain trust there, or something with their movements and body language, maybe, that made it hard to flat-out hide his thoughts.

“I am,” Kyle muttered, thankful for his friend’s questioning silence as the admissions began to rise up inside him. “I just…It’s too much.”

“College stuff?”

“Yeah,” the redhead sighed, lungs expanding wide. “I’m gonna go to Berkeley.”

“You decided?” Token asked, face brightening. “Man, you’ll probably make a lot of money someday.”

“I guess,” Kyle stated, tone a little shaky. Token eyed him from the side.

“…So?”

“I just don’t have my fucking life together right now!”

The two looked at one another, and Kyle reached up and tore his hat off, shoving it into his backpack and gripping hard into his red curls.

“What the hell am I doing with Cartman?! It’s fucking weird! I must be going crazy! Everybody’s saying shit!”

“Whoa!” Token commented, voice level as he took another step forward. “It’s not a big deal. People are just surprised.”

Kyle breathed in deeply again, eyes wide as he looked over with a frantic flush.

“I’m more surprised than anyone else,” he mused, tone sour. “Believe me!”

Another glance at his phone told him that he hadn’t yet received a reply, and he felt an unexpected hand planting itself on his shoulder, tightening into a firm grip.

“Hey, it’s a stressful time for all of us,” Token commented, underlying tone betraying the intelligence that his words didn’t quite elucidate. “I got accepted to Boston University. I’m still not sure how I’ll say goodbye to everyone.”

Somehow, hearing somebody else speak about their issues brought Kyle into a different headspace.

“Dude, really? That’s awesome.”

“Yeah, I want to major in Social Work. I like flying, so I’ll come back and visit a lot.”

Kyle nodded, stomach squirming at the realization that his tenseness wasn’t coming completely from the thought of his academic and professional future. They locked eyes again, and Token let go of his shoulder.

“What’s your boyfriend going to do?”

For whatever reason, hearing Eric referred to that way by a reasonably-neutral third party made Kyle feel suspiciously warm, and not just in his face and ears. There was something in his chest that spread downwards, warming his core, making the space behind his ribs feel light and heavy all at once.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, releasing his hair from his hands. “We haven’t gotten that far.”

“That son-of-a-bitch is smart,” Token ‘complimented’, sliding a hand into his pocket as he eyed what looked like the building clouds overhead, button-up shirt flowing slightly in the breeze. “You two will figure something out.”

“You think?” Kyle managed, glancing over unsurely. His friend nodded.

“Yeah, of course. I mean, you’ve been dealing with each other for a long time. You probably know him like the back of your hand.”

It was relieving to have a discussion about Cartman that didn’t involve sex or shock. Token’s general nature was nothing if not tolerant, even when it came to people the guy wasn’t particularly fond of. Maybe Kyle shouldn’t have been surprised that he wanted to go into a career where the objective was helping people who were less fortunate. He vaguely recalled that winter day the semester before, when they had played basketball out at the park and talked about charities and ethics and all of that. It seemed more distant than ever, but the general feelings were the same. He wondered how he was going to manage without moments like these between himself and his best friends.

“…Thanks,” Kyle breathed and reached out, patting Token between the shoulders in a brief hug when a vibration in his pocket made him look down and scramble. The bell rang, and he waved distractedly to his companion as he scrolled into the text thread, startled by what he saw there.

got a suit bby <3 meet u there

His stomach churned as he texted back.

Where???

The dance isn’t until 5

ok meet in front?

Kyle stepped quickly and brashly back in through the back doors, heading for his tutoring table in the main library and evading a group of tenth graders seated near the front by the whiteboards.

Wtf are you talking about?

Where are you?

still getting shoes

It’s only 1

The lack of a prompt response itched at the back of Kyle’s throat as he silently welcomed the freshman girl who sat down at the table across from him, reaching for her algebra textbook with a forced smile.

--

Times like these were exactly the times when Kyle hated his hair the most.

Awkwardly holding the hairdryer over his scalp, the teen winced when the scalding heat approached one of his earlobes too closely, pulling it away. It occurred to him that he could only vaguely imagine what girls, with their long hair, had to go through when styling themselves for events like these- Even his short few inches of hair was giving him enough trouble. Kyle found himself eyeing his reflection unsurely and turned off the power, relieved that Sheila, though home from work, seemed to be leaving him alone.

The sight of one of the framed hall photos caught his attention as he soaked a cloth with hot water underneath the faucet, rubbing it over his sharp cheeks and the curve of his nose. It was one of their best family photos from several years back, Gerald bringing up the side and smiling in his usual pink yamaka and green sport coat. Kyle averted his eyes.

What would his father think?

Gerald hadn’t been particularly homophobic, as far as he could remember. As a matter of fact, he had actually been a pretty accepting person outwardly, despite the various prejudices he had proven to have during his trolling episodes. Kyle suspected that a lot of that had been borne out of some kind of deep-seated issue or insecurity, anyways. Still, though, he couldn’t help but wonder what his current situation would be like, if his father was still around.

Huffing, Kyle looked back down at his phone. Eric had eventually texted back saying he had stopped for lunch and was finishing getting his hair done at a salon, and the redhead supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised. He seriously did plan to strangle him if he came back in a dress, though.

His face reddened as he stared back at himself, stripping down to his boxers. Kyle swore that he was losing a little muscle mass since basketball had formally been canceled as a team sport at South Park High, which was kind of pissing him off. Maybe he needed to start lifting weights, or something.

4:26 glowed from his phone screen, and he decided he should just finish up and start heading over.

Kyle pulled his socks and dress shirt on first, doing up his pants so the white shirt was tucked in and hesitating as he glanced at the belt he had picked out. He didn’t have much occasion to dress up, usually, and he really wasn’t a big fan of it, but he couldn’t exactly show up at a formal dance in jeans and a t-shirt. Sighing, he resigned himself to the stiffness and shrugged himself into his suit jacket, buttoning it and taking a step backwards to look back up at his mirror-image.

Thunder boomed from outside the house as he looked at himself, fingers starting to feel mildly cold. His hair was curly, as always, and shiny with the pomade he had attempted to slick through it. The bangs were starting to get slightly long over his eyes, and framed his face in soft cherry-red loops, accentuating the paleness of his face and sharpness of the Adam’s apple beneath his blunt chin. If nothing else, the suit fit him pretty well, if not for the slight extension of tubing curling from the waist of his pants and disappearing into the right pocket. He adjusted his jacket over the pump line, not appreciating the reminder when he felt weirdly vulnerable as it was.

“Bubby!” Sheila called, and Kyle turned to find her coming up the steps, her expression passing instantly from neutral to wide-eyed.

“Oh…my gosh, you’re so handsome.”

“Mom,” Kyle complained and looked away, unsurprised to see her step up closer to him. It was normal, now, for him to look down at his shorter mother, the top of whose bun barely met his eye-level. Sheila smiled, embracing him briefly in the softness of her arms.

“Really! You look wonderful, Kyle. Don’t you need to be leaving soon?”

“He said he’ll meet me there,” the redhead replied, understanding the nature of the question despite not hearing his partner’s name. Sheila hummed, letting go of his hand.

“Do you need a snack before you go?”

“You don’t need to keep giving me snacks,” Kyle promised, recalling the granola bar that had been tucked into his backpack earlier. His mother raised her thin eyebrows, corners of her eyes crinkling.

“What are you talking about?”

Not wanting to get into it, Kyle shrugged and brushed past her in the narrow space of the hall, heading downstairs and for the fridge. He helped himself to a bottle of water, hearing another boom of thunder crashing its way into his conscious thought.

“Oh, you should take an umbrella. Do you need me to drive you?”

“Nah,” Kyle stated, voice slightly hoarse. He drained the bottle in a few hearty gulps and threw it into the trash bin, avoiding the questioning in his mother’s visage as he took the offered umbrella and popped it open. He did a momentary check to make sure that he had his phone and wallet, and he stepped his way outside into the sprinkling rain.

Unable to help himself, he glanced again at his phone screen as he crossed the road, not seeing any update messages from the brunet. It just didn’t make sense. If Eric was legitimately that excited about making their thing public, why the fuck would he disappear for the entire day and meet him THERE?

The drops began to splatter a little harder against the black top of the umbrella, and Kyle got a waft of humid, pine-scented air as the wind blew, sending shivers of uncertainty up his spine.

No. It wouldn’t be weird for Eric Cartman to spend a day eating and shopping. If he said he would meet him there, he would.

Taking a turn around the block, Kyle made his way past the familiar string of houses, one foot in front of the other, watching as the tips of his dress shoes became shinier with each drop of cold rain. He saw lightening flicker in the corner of his vision and glanced back up, pausing when he recognized the green façade with the noticeable broken window.

Cartman’s house.

The sound of a deep engine running brought his attention to a white Dodge truck parked next to the curb, pulled up close beside the familiar building. The red station wagon he remembered was absent from the driveway, no longer gracing the concrete with its previous sun-faded presence. As he approached, the truck moved its way out from in front of the house, reversing onto the asphalt and passing down the road in the opposite direction. As he watched, Kyle realized he could make out the figure of a man, or someone with short hair, through the tinted windows.

Gut twisting, Kyle stopped beside the mailbox as he approached the house, looking at the wilted grass on the front lawn. For the first time, he began to notice the fading of paint beneath the roof. He traced the patterns of high weeds that had sprung up in the front yard, eyes tracing the familiar pathway up to the front stoop. Had somebody just been parking there…?

Why did he suddenly feel so antsy? He and Cartman had been sleeping in the same bed at night. They had been eating together, showering together, studying together. It had been an adjustment, certainly, but a good one, one that made Kyle feel warm and steady despite the churning uncertainties that swam through his dreams. Regardless of their differences, he had thought there was maybe some kind of understanding that had built, something that felt significant and heavy in the best possible way.

Before he could think too much more, the door opened, and a well-dressed figure strode out onto the top step.

Kyle could only watch for a moment as Eric Cartman shut the door behind him, dressed from head to toe in a deep, burgundy suit with dark brown dress shoes. His hair was combed immaculately into its usual swoop, but seemed particularly shiny and well-parted, tucking itself in a gentle curl behind his right ear. His face looked reasonably normal, eyelashes dark as they had been for the last few days, and his chest was covered beneath the jacket with a cream-colored dress shirt, the buttons of which were muted yet shimmery, like pearls. In that moment, with his increased waistline and gentle movements, he looked entirely the part of the suave businessman or crafty professional he had so often played when they were kids.

Kyle’s brain began to scream. Body jerking instinctively, he took a step forward, the sound of his shoe scraping against the sidewalk nearly deafening in his ears. Instantly, the figure turned to face him, hand sliding from its place at his side. The familiar fingers opened, fingers that so often carded between his own, and a thick coil of something dropped onto the wet ground with a thud.

The redhead stared down at the roll of cash, and then turned his face back up at his partner, thunder booming in the distance.

--

Chapter Text

--

As the ice-cold raindrops began tickling their way down the back of his neck, Kyle realized that a moment had never felt quite so much like forever.

Eric stared at him, eyes brown and startled as he turned to face him where he stood. In those few seconds, the redhead found himself lost for words, voice caught tight behind his tongue as he tried to process what he saw. He looked down, eyes tracing over the mossy façade of Benjamin Franklin on the exposed bill.

His stomach tightened, and he took a sweeping step over the uncurling stack of cash, raising his chin and affixing his classmate with a disbelieving stare.

“You’ve got five seconds to explain this,” Kyle managed, not liking the weakness in his voice.

The gentle trepidation in his chest from earlier was gone entirely, replaced with a sickening spike of nausea and pulse of anger at the base of his jaw. It figured. It fucking figured. The day he finally let his guard down and decided to fully trust this person, he was going to be made out to be the fool.

Deception was Eric Cartman’s forte, after all.

Eric closed his eyes, and the sloped shoulders raised and lowered with a heavy sigh, chest flexing and pearl buttons gleaming in the low light.

“You weren’t supposed to find out.”

Alarm bells shrieked in Kyle’s head as a clap of thunder rumbled behind them. He grit his teeth as he stepped up closer, water dripping down the front of his throat and underneath his dress shirt. The brunet watched him, seeming startled, and Kyle’s mind exploded with the sudden images of suspicious text messages and medicine bottles filled with pills.

“Just listen,” Eric replied, but Kyle could feel the rage building in his gut sting. His lungs felt full and heavy, and he took a forceful pace forward up onto the doorstep, forcing his partner backwards. The brunet stumbled, gelled hair starting to sparkle with rain as he raised his hands in surrender.

“Just let me-”

There was another crack of thunder in the background, but Kyle’s heartbeat was drowning it out inside his skull. He sank his hands into the collar of Eric’s shirt and forced the other teenager backwards into the front door.

“Shit,” Eric cursed, wincing visibly as he held his hands up to protect his front. “Kyle, stop!”

The quietness in his voice lit another fuse and Kyle surged up against him violently, forcing him against the wood with a threatening shove.

“Fuck- let me explain!”

“Why should I?” Kyle hissed, one hand tightening into a fist. “So you can fucking lie to me again?!”

The silhouette of the man in the truck from earlier resurfaced in his conscious thought, and the redhead actually had to shift backwards a couple of steps, nausea rising as he tried to keep steady on his feet. Eric’s expression changed, and the brunet reached for him with both arms, only to be smacked away.

“Don’t FUCKING touch me.”

“Kyle, baby-”

“Don’t call me that!” Kyle all but screamed as he threw his weight into him, forcing him back against the doorframe with all of his weight. The impact jolted him and he hissed, holding back his sounds of pain as Eric gasped. His chest burned, heavy with the weight of a hundred memories he wished he didn’t have. He could feel the ghost of Eric’s hot breath on his neck, of their fingers intertwining and the smooth arms wrapped around his waist under the covers.

Kyle felt sick as the brunet struggled to stand up straight underneath him, twisting out of the grip in his hair.

“Jesus Christ, let go!”

“What the FUCK have you been doing?!” he shouted, gripped Eric by the shoulders and sinking his nails into the pads of the suit. He threw his body into him again, shoving his partner down into the grass and falling into the lawn behind him. Eric gasped out in obvious pain, scrambling over the wet grass as Kyle sucked in another deep gasp of air.

“You’ve been bullshitting me this entire time!”

“I haven’t!”

“You think I’m stupid?!” Kyle yelled, cold dew soaking through the knees of his slacks as he struggled his way over Eric’s collapsed form. “I knew you were lying about where you were going! You’re a shitty fucking liar, Cartman!”

As soon as he said it, the rain dripping down his scalp and cheeks began to feel particularly cold, stinging him through the silence between their close faces. He chanced a look at his partner’s visage and swallowed, seeing the placid, numb expression that sent a spike of remembrance deep through his core. That face.

Kyle felt his nerves sting as he stood back up, forcing back the shake in his chest.

“I trusted you,” the redhead managed, voice thicker than he had managed as he moved backwards on his hands and knees. “I let you live in my house. I f-”

He paused, and the silence only served to make his lungs ache further, voice raspy. His nose was suddenly clogged. Tears, hotter than the cold droplets against his temples, began to drip and slide down his cheeks, panging in agreement with the painful and clenching ache beneath his ribs. Without his own permission, anger exploded inside him when Eric stumbled back onto his feet.

“I FUCKING TRU-“

“STOP FUCKING SCREAMING AT ME!!!”

The yell was loud, startlingly so, and Kyle could only stare up into the red and tear-streaked face. Eric’s lips curved downwards at the sides as he shifted away, brown eyes large and practically sparkling with the hot fluid that ran down over the curves of his cheeks.

Kyle faltered, voice trapped suddenly in his chest.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like?!” the brunet shouted, voice rough and raspy as he pressed his foot into the earth with a stomp. “Having everybody tell you you’re okay, when your life is fucking falling apart?!”

Something ached inside Kyle, and it occurred to him that, since the incident in Eric’s backyard months prior, he had yet to see his classmate this openly upset. “Hey,” he started, holding his hands out when Eric backed away again and turned to the side to sink his fingers into his own hair.

“You can’t even fucking trust me NOW?! FUCK!”

The sudden silence was deafening. Kyle couldn’t even register the sound of the raindrops clicking into the pavement at the side of the lawn. Teeth gritted, trying not to be affected by the dramatics, he took a brave step forward and released a hiss of breath through his teeth.

“Why should I trust you?” he spat, voice shaky but hard as he narrowed his stinging eyes. “I fucking stood up for you. I f-… I told everybody we were together. You can’t even tell me the truth about your fucking medication-”

“Kyle,” Eric cut in, turning, hands still entrenched in his soaked strands as he faced him. The break in his voice made it sound like he meant to continue, but he swallowed and tilted his chin down as though he were trying to find his voice. Stomach tightening, Kyle took another step in his direction, hands shaking at his sides before he closed them into fists. Something inside him screamed at him to stay back, to let it be for just another second, but he pressed closer and past his pride, boot skidding against the wet concrete.

It hurt. He had been such an idiot, thinking this was anything other than one of Eric Cartman’s self-serving plans.

“What?” he pushed, breath heavy in his throat. “Want to play around with my emotions some more?”

Eric turned suddenly to face him, and the look in his face was stark with such a shock that it made Kyle miss his next breath. The brunet bit his bottom lip, and then smiled, eyes becoming glossy again.

“Why did I even let them kick me out?” he finally replied. Kyle faltered on his next words, entranced by the raw and quiet waver in his partner’s voice. He waited, and Eric just stared back at him, taking a shuddering breath before turning fast on his heel and swinging an angry punch at the air.

“I fucking BELONGED THERE!”

Kyle had never in his life heard such an agonizing cry. Senses on high alarm, he took another pace forward, only to watch as Eric swung at the air again.

“All they ever fucking taught me was how to be vulnerable!! I’m fucking SICK of being vulnerable! It hurts too goddamn much!!”

The “they” and “there” were obvious to Kyle, but he couldn’t find his voice before Eric went on.

“You really think this is a game?!” Eric continued, turning to face Kyle with a twist of his lips and a powerless, joyless bark of a laugh. “Don’t you understand how hard it is for me to fucking rely on you for everything?!”

“Why?!” Kyle managed, voice emphatic even in his confusion. “Because you don’t like having to rely on a Jew like me?!”

“Because I want to fucking take care of you, you fucking idiot!” Eric shouted. Momentarily stunned, Kyle just stood with his fists at his sides, brain helpfully providing him with images of both the scarf folded on top of the textbooks in his locker, and the green-wrapped granola bar that had been tucked into the bottle pouch on his backpack. What?

“Do you think I like this?” the brunet continued, taking a harsh step forward as the rain trickled down the sides of his face. “Coming back here to a home that doesn’t give a shit about me? To stupid assholes who won’t hire me to fucking flip burgers anywhere in this fucking town?!”

His voice broke, and Kyle forced himself to meet the brown gaze, chest suddenly overcome with a sharp and searing pain that almost made him want to hold himself in his own arms.

“Do you have any idea how it feels,” Eric murmured, voice quiet and tone weak as he stared down at the grass. “Being told you’re crazy, when you’re really just crazy for one person?”

Immediately, Kyle felt like he was numb. Tingles moved their way up his fingertips as he tried to speak, voice trapped behind his tongue as the cold rain pattered down over his shoulders and trickled down his spine. It seemed impossible, but never in Kyle’s entire life had he heard a voice that sounded so honest. Sucking in a breath, he swallowed and looked down, trying to figure out what to say.

“…Why me?” he managed, and Eric looked back up, seeming startled.

“Why you?!” he asked, sounding more shocked than anything as he pointed to him. “Y- Fuck, Kyle, don’t you get it?!”

“No, I don’t!” the redhead spat, heart pounding in his ears. Eric scoffed in what seemed like awe, moving his hands out in front of him.

“Just fucking look at you!” he stared, lips curving into a broad and sad grin. “It’s been like this since we were kids! I literally can’t fucking leave you alone!”

“I thought you always hated me,” Kyle said, eliciting another humorless laugh. For a few seconds, Eric’s voice actually sounded nervous, a tone that suddenly made Kyle’s ears feel hot.

“Yeah, it’s hate to steal someone’s fucking hat so you can go home and touch yourself to the smell. I literally just- fuck, I can’t get you out of my head. I couldn’t ever get you out of my head…” The brunet swallowed, leaving Kyle to stand in his amazement. “I…the whole time I was in there, you were all I could think about.”

“You were thinking about that Bradley kid,” the redhead spat before the entirety of that statement could sink in, eliciting another shocked stare.

“Uhh…Okay, I don’t have a picture, but,” Eric started, gulping and closing his eyes for a moment. “Imagine you, but with blond hair and skinny as hell. And gay. How the fuck could I say no to that?”

Kyle tried not to be overwhelmed, recalling the conversation where he had actually seen the photo of the boy in question and Stan’s comment about how they looked alike. Was it really possible? Had he really been doing all this bizarre shit because he was that fucking obsessed?

His knees ached from their impact with the soaked grass.

“I saw a picture,” he said honestly, drawing Eric’s gaze up in obvious confusion. “He had an obituary in the paper. Butters went to his funeral.”

There was a sudden silence, and Eric straightened his stance to watch Kyle as though he were seeing something new before turning to the side and gazing into the distance.

“Everybody I touch,” he murmured, and Kyle’s brain screamed with curiosity when he turned around and took a step towards the door. Unable to stand idly, he reached out and grabbed him by the wrist, fingers slipping against the rain that slicked between their palms.

“Eric-”

“Let go of me, Kyle.”

“Like hell!” Kyle replied and tugged him, stepping up onto the concrete step and staring him in the eyes. “I want you to tell me the truth, god damn it.”

“The truth?” Eric murmured, voice sounding a little weak as he stared down between them. “Everybody that I care about dies. There. That’s it.”

Hearing such defeat in the familiar and husky voice sent Kyle’s instincts on guad, and he reached up and grabbed him by the shoulders instead.

“I’m fucking sick of your dramatics,” he hissed, looking into the tired visage for a spark of something, anything that could make this feel normal. This wasn’t the Eric Cartman he knew, the bubbly, sarcastic, self-serving jerk who begged for attention and constantly gave him a run for his money. “What the fuck are you even doing here? Your mom isn’t even home.”

“She’s dead.”

Kyl’s heart clenched. The last contact he remembered regarding Liane was that phone call he had gotten in Target from the detective, which Eric had quickly intercepted. From what he remembered, Eric had just mentioned she was brought into custody.

“What?”

“She OD’d,” Eric stated levelly, voice quiet and heavy. “I went to the station to tell them what I knew…and by the time I got there, she’d gone into shock. Paramedics showed up. I guess she was really blitzed when they took her in, but she stopped breathing.”

Kyle’s capacity for speech was again stolen as he wiped some of the rain from his eyes. That phone call had happened weeks ago. He couldn’t even recall Eric crying, or seeming sad. Just…disappearing every now and again with meager excuses.

“I didn’t know,” he finally managed.

“Didn’t want you to,” Eric commented, still staring out in the direction of the mountains. “I didn’t want you to…y’know, worry, or any of that shit.”

“But…” Kyle’s memory was jogged instantly of the day two and a half years prior, when Sheila had broken the news to him about his father. He remembered just how stunned he had been, how amazed that the bright-eyed, smiling man who had raised and loved him was gone, extinguished by a real-life consequence of his own private troubles.

“It’s fine. I’ve been expecting it since I got back,” the brunet stated, albeit weakly. “She was out of her mind half the time. I kept thinking I’d go to take a piss and find her dead in the bathtub.”

Perhaps their situations were different in that sense, Kyle mused through his shock. Liane had been a troubled woman. Even when they were all kids, Kyle remembered making crack-whore jokes at her expense and happening upon pornographic videos where she was the star. Everybody in town had known. What he hadn’t ever considered, though, was just how that must have affected Eric Cartman. It made more sense, now, why someone would grow up so emotionally unstable when their only parent had been so unreliable and unhinged.

Still, though, Kyle was certain he understood what it was like to love someone who had serious issues to work through. Gerald hadn’t exactly been an exemplary father in most ways, particularly towards the end, but…

The redhead stared at his partner, and suddenly felt he understood especially well what it was like to love somebody who was so troubled. The shock to his system was real as he reached out, grabbing for Eric and feeling empty when the other stepped away.

“Don’t pity me,” Eric stated, and Kyle remembered hearing that before several times from those familiar lips, lips he had punched and kissed with the same ferocity time and time again.

“I’m not,” Kyle replied honestly, eyes wandering down the pavement and over to the coil of cash that was unfurling over the sidewalk. As it all came together in his mind, he found himself needing to ask. “Who was that guy in the truck?”

Eric hesitantly met Kyle’s gaze again.

“A buyer.”

Kyle was instantly afraid to ask more detail. Eric, though, seemed to note his hesitation and smiled, lips curving bitterly as he reached out and took Kyle by the wrist. The motion was startling, especially since the brunet had been avoiding his contact, and the redhead allowed himself to be pulled up to the front door, stepping into the house with a skid on the front carpet and gazing at the emptiness of the living room.

His brain spun as he tried to recall the last time he had been there, the time he and his two classmates had found Eric upstairs in bed with bony shoulders and a slim throat.

“…”

“I’ve been selling everything off on Craigslist,” Eric replied to the silence, looking away. “That guy took the loveseat.”

That explained the strange text messages that had been happening over the last couple of weeks. Still, though, the quietness of Eric’s voice gave Kyle a full-body shiver. If Liane was out of the picture, and Eric had his needs taken care of at the Broflovski’s house, then…

“Why?” he asked, no longer caring about the vulnerability in his own voice.

Their eyes met, and Kyle found himself suddenly unable to look away. Eric’s gaze looked apprehensive, as though he expected another outburst, and the redhead just waited, wrapped within the quiet of the air in the still room. The rain continued to splash down outside, and as he stood there, soaked to the skin and waiting, his lover took a few steps forward and wrapped a single arm around his back, grasping hold of his right hand and pressing something that was both hard and soft into his wet palm.

“Just throw it away if you don’t want it.”

Kyle tightened his grasp around the object, feeling the familiar warm throat against his ear and shoulder. He was aware of a new feeling spreading and rushing through his muscles, one that felt loose and warm. Extending his arm, he looked over Eric’s shoulder and down the back of his burgundy jacket, staring at the black, velvet box that sat clasped between his thumb and fingers.

A swath of realization came down over him and he tensed up, feeling breath against the soaked curls at the base of his neck.

“It’s fine,” Eric commented, voice stunningly level and yet quiet. Unable to wait any longer, he pressed against the hinge and opened the box with a push of his thumb.

Kyle had anticipated the end of May to be filled with college tours, tearful goodbyes, packing, and nights laying awake staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on his bedroom ceiling. He had never in his life anticipated that he’d be wearing a suit, drenched to the bone, standing in the Cartman residence with his lover wrapped around his body and a glistening silver band in his right hand. He had never thought he’d be looking at an array of small emeralds, square-cut and clear in their viridian brilliance, that alternated with what he could already tell were real diamonds, clear and shining stones that absolutely sparkled with the same brilliance of his mother’s anniversary earrings.

Hot fluid began to drip down over the back of Kyle’s neck, and Kyle let himself sink his free hand into the wet brown locks, pushing his face up against his partner’s and tasting the salt of tears as he forced their mouths together.

It didn’t make a lot of sense, the lightness inside his chest. He leaned into the kiss, feeling the stillness, and suddenly found himself wrapped into a tight and desperate embrace the likes of which rivaled anything he had ever felt. Without hesitation, he gripped hard onto the box and wrapped his arms around Eric in kind, pulling back to take a breath and pushing his chin onto the soft shoulder pad.

Eric tensed against him, and Kyle took that moment to spill his guts out.

“I wasn’t lying,” he said, voice in a whisper as the reality began to settle in. “I told you I liked you.”

“I’m in love with you.”

It wasn’t a statement Kyle had ever heard to his face. He couldn’t bring himself to question it, not when he remembered waking up on Eric Cartman’s now-sold living room couch being hand-fed orange juice, and not when he recalled the tapping and clicking of his lover’s short nails against the glass of his bedroom window. In that moment, Kyle wished he could take his suspicions back- He still had questions, but the emotion in his boyfriend’s voice was so raw. He could only imagine what growing up with Liane had been like, growing up likely without any real concept of what love even meant. And yet, here Eric was with his heart flayed open.

“Yeah,” he breathed, mind quiet as he spoke from the warmth in his own chest. “I love you, too.”

Every muscle in his grasp immediately softened, bringing their bodies even closer than before. He could feel Eric’s heart pounding through their wet clothes, the softness of his stomach and the slope of his ribs pressing up against his abdomen. Nothing in South Park had ever made much sense, but Kyle couldn’t help but feel like this was the most surprising event that had ever happened there among the unchanging pines and snow-covered mountains. Warm air wafted through the house, humid with the moisture that still pounded down outside. The moment felt somehow endless, as though time wasn’t passing. His fears melted inside him, melting down like the wax of a candle that had burned for a literal decade. There was no doubt, now, that Eric had become more honest, more open, but Kyle understood him better now, and didn’t want him to change any further.

In that moment, there was only one pressing issue at the back of his mind.

“I’m going to Berkeley next fall,” he stated, voice hoarse in his throat. Eric held on tight, so Kyle pushed him back just slightly with his free hand, still grasping the ring and box with the other. The brown eyes looked uncertain, and the redhead raised his chin to meet them, making up for that extra inch of height.

This wasn’t over. They a lot had more talking to do, but for the moment, there was just one more question he wanted to ask.

“You wanna get out of this fucking town?”

--

Chapter Text

--

Kyle was pretty sure he’d never forget that night, given the intenseness of his own heartbeat that still shook him under his soaked clothes. Sheila had looked very surprised to see them come home in such a state, particularly since the dance had still supposedly been going on at the time, but the fact that they had arrived with their hands intertwined had given her noticeable pause in interrogating them too far.

Somehow, the surreal nature of the situation and the pure emotional overhaul had successfully knocked both boys out merely a few minutes after changing into bedclothes and sharing a brief kiss. At the time, Kyle was hyper-aware of the cool band around his finger, and despite the fact that he wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, he didn’t find himself anxious about it.

Green eyes skimmed over to the nightstand when he woke the next morning, a pale hand extending out from under the duvet to grasp for his phone. It was at 4%, not having been charged, and the warm arm around Kyle’s waist made him feel strange as he found himself staring at the date on the lock screen.

May 26

Numerous messages were already previewed there, enough to jog Kyle’s memory of what that date actually meant. Shifting, Kyle rolled onto his back and looked down, seeing his brunet companion curled at his side. The arm around him tightened, clutching onto his waist, and he peered over at his phone again, tracing the pattern around the dots and clicking into Messenger to open Stan’s thread first.

Hey you coming??

???

Dude it got fucked up here the punch got spiked

Uh you alive?? Was gonna give you your present today at the lunch

“Nnnnnh…” Kyle felt a shift beneath the covers and set his phone down on the mattress, watching as the brown eyes opened and blinked blearily up at him. The softness of Eric’s front was suddenly obvious against his side, and the redhead forced himself not to avert his gaze out of embarrassment.

It was real. This shit had really happened…and was really still happening. Kyle wracked his brain for something, anything to say, when Eric leaned up suddenly into his space and tried to attack his lips, leaving Kyle reeling back with a twitch.

“Your breath fucking stinks.”

“Kyyyle,” the brunet whined and wrapped his arms around him again, pulling him into a hug that was legitimately difficult to resist. Kyle relented and leaned back into bed, closing his eyes.

“We ditched everybody last night.”

“We?” Eric snorted, voice lilting in a way Kyle hadn’t heard for a long time. Usually Eric’s pleasant tones were tinged with something sharp or proud. “I was gonna take your ass to that dance. You had to have a bitch fit.”

“Fuck you,” Kyle muttered, somehow relieved that he wasn’t expected to pretend like the night before hadn’t ever happened. “If you ever lie to me again, I swear to god.”

Eric sighed, and the redhead felt the plush stomach move against his thigh.

“Happy Birthday, Kyle.”

Kyle shifted, taking a deep breath as he sat up against the headboard. True to form, the man legitimately did know him better than almost anyone else in the world. It would have been eerie, were their position not decidedly intimate. “Yeah, thanks. Where’s my present?”

“It’s me,” Eric smiled without missing a beat, clasping his hands together. “Surprise!”

“You should work on your surprises.”

“Christ, a three-thousand dollar ring isn’t good enough for you?”

“Th…” Kyle felt his throat tense up, eyes wide in shock as he glanced down at the silver band. “F…You’re shitting me.”

“Nope.”

“Uh…” The issues were there, and Kyle didn’t feel like he could ignore them, casting a sideways glance at his lover. Inside his chest, the disbelief and joy immediately felt constricted, dragged down by the question that had been hanging at the back of his mind since the night before. “Your mom…”

Eric said nothing, and Kyle’s mind immediately lit up with uncertainty. He had a feeling he would never understand everything the guy had gone through, but it was obvious he had issues to work through, still. He felt guilty, assuming for so long that Eric could care less about him and others when he had been through so much in such a short period of time. That thought led to another, and Kyle nudged him, coaxing him to look into his face.

“You need to start taking your meds again.”

“Nah,” Eric sighed, raising a hand to his head and shifting until he was sitting up. Kyle followed suit, mimicking his position.

“Yes, you do. They prescribed them to you for a reason.”

“Medicine is for the weak,” the brunet said, waving a hand at him. Kyle instantly recalled the words from the night before, the desperate expression on Eric’s face that had told him he was ashamed to be so vulnerable.

“Because I want to fucking take care of you, you fucking idiot!”

“Oh, really?” Kyle replied and Eric looked up instantly, only to be cut off.

“You aren’t coming to California if you’re unstable, asshole.”

His boyfriend’s face was bright, hopeful and excited. Kyle felt his heart jump in his chest, only to have the wind knocked out of him with very familiar weight. This kiss, though less expected, was warm and welcomed. Their faces moved in together, lips brushing softly, like there was no need to rush. Indeed, Kyle thought silently, there really wouldn’t be one, except for the fact that…

“Mn, hey.” He gripped Eric’s shoulder, pushing him back a little. “Our class is getting lunch today at Olive Garden.”

“Huh?” Eric asked, sounding a little dazed.

“Yeah, Clyde and Bebe made a big reservation. It might be our, like…last time hanging out, for some of us.” In the thick of all the dramatics in his personal life, on top of final exams, Kyle had almost forgotten about it. Stan’s text message had reminded him, though, and he was sure he had other messages waiting in his inbox to be read. What with graduation happening in just a few days, his classmates had wanted to spend a few hours on the weekend fraternizing before many of them inevitably parted ways.

Eric hummed and shifted against him, flopping down ungracefully on his side.

“Have fun, candy-ass.”

“You don’t want to go?” Kyle asked. There was a pause, and Eric rolled over to face him, seeming surprised to be asked. The wideness of his eyes made the redhead feel guilty, so he frowned at him, trying to squash that sensation right down.

“What?”

“Whenever I come to one of your parties, shit hits the fan, remember?”

The realization that that was true almost made Kyle want to laugh. Still, though, despite the complete awareness that showing up with Eric Cartman would give some of his classmates pause, despite the drama and gossip he was aware of surrounding their relationship, Kyle suddenly really, really didn’t feel like going alone. It wasn’t fair, for one thing, but also…

Shit, he legitimately wanted Eric Cartman’s company. Hell had officially frozen over.

“Stop being so dramatic,” Kyle sighed, sitting up on the side of the bed with his red curls wild over his forehead. “You’re graduating, too. Just promise you’ll leave some of the breadsticks for everyone else.”

“Heh…Kyle,” Eric hummed in kind, lips pulled into an easy smile. “You know I can’t promise that.”

The sound of familiar footsteps creaked at the top of the staircase, and Kyle slid out of bed and quickly went over to his closet to change, realizing from the light pouring in that it was at least mid-morning by now. Breakfast was pleasant, with Ike being gone to a friend’s house the night before. Kyle ate with his left hand, leaving his right deliberately in his lap as he listened to Sheila chatting on the house phone beside the sink.

He knew he’d have to explain himself to her, his decision about Berkeley and about Eric… but the ring on his hand made him feel like something was solid, like there wasn’t any going back. It was actually a little freaky, that what was supposed to be the most hectic and tumultuous time of his life suddenly felt sort of calm. Kyle caught Eric’s glance from the other side of the table, glancing instead to his orange juice cup and clicking into the controls of his insulin pump.

After retreating to the bedroom again and changing clothes, the two ended up front-first on Kyle’s mattress with his laptop open, mindlessly scrolling through YouTube shoulder-to-shoulder. Kyle took that moment to reach for his phone and reply to his best friend, unable not to notice the heat in his own cheeks.

Sorry dude, shit went down

We’ll be there

A couple hours passed easily, with YouTube on autoplay and both boys messing around on their phones. Kyle couldn’t help but notice the jagged cracks splintered through Eric’s phone screen as he scrolled through Cracked.com, eyeing the broken photos of what looked like screen caps from Halo 5. Upon noticing the time, he rolled out of bed and pulled Eric’s arm until the other relented and got to his feet, making sure he had his wallet and keys before pulling his companion down the stairs.

“See you later, Ma!”

The thought that Eric may have been following him just for the impending food was negated when Kyle felt the other take his hand, intertwining their fingers together as they walked. It seemed hard to believe that the night before had been so incredibly filled with distrust and emotion, when in that moment less than twenty-four hours afterwards, walking down the street in broad daylight holding hands with his past nemesis felt comfortable. Almost normal…like it was something that could happen every day, and he probably wouldn’t even mind.

“You’d better start pulling your weight, you know,” he muttered as they crossed the street, getting a hum in response.

“When we move,” Kyle clarified. “You’re paying half the rent.”

“That’s it?” Eric asked, turning to glance at him with a half-grin and bright eyes. “Glad to know our sex toy budget is entirely in your hands, Kyle.”

“Shut your mouth,” the redhead spat, trying not to think about that comment in more detail. “I’m serious.”

“Chill out, babe. I have it covered.”

“Really,” Kyle stated more than asked. “You already have a job lined up in California, then. Good to know.”

“Well, I’ve got real estate,” Eric replied. Kyle blinked.

“All over your big fat ass?”

Eric laughed, immediately negating the sudden surge of guilt Kyle had felt over blurting out something that he knew would usually hit a sore spot. It was just instinctive, to insult the guy, after all. He was pretty sure not doing that was going to take him some time.

“Maybe you’ve seen it~” he sighed out finally in response, leaning over into Kyle’s space and bumping shoulders with him. “Beautiful two-story house that’s beat to absolute shit.”

“Wh…” It clicked. “You inherited it?”

“Yeah, there was no will, and I’m the only kid. Uh, the only one they can prove, I guess.”

“Do you, like, have to go to court?”

“One more time,” Eric replied. “The state’s handling it. I have to sign some shit.”
Kyle supposed he could only be grateful for the fact that his boyfriend was taking this so well. There was a quietness to his tone, something thoughtful and a little reserved, but the smile on Eric’s lips gave him a little reassurance. They could talk about this more in-depth when they were alone together, in private. Honestly, the redhead had never thought he’d see a day when the guy was mature enough to handle a large and disruptive event without having a tantrum or a breakdown.

Eric would probably always be full of surprises.

The Olive Garden came into view, situated in the center of the plaza surrounded by various small stores and restaurants. Hands still entwined, the two approached the front and made their way in through the glass doors, approaching the podium where the hostess stood and immediately seeing a cluster of waving hands from behind a line of fake plants around the corner.

Kyle could barely get past the front waiting area before a familiar blond head popped up, and a lanky figure came running over to meet them.

“Birthday boy!!” he greeted jovially, gap-toothed grin wide as he put an arm around Kyle and smiled at Eric. “Dude, you came at the right time. They just brought the appetizers out!”

“Fuck you, Kenny,” Eric replied, and Kyle was instantly reminded of the fact that the two had been communicating, and probably still were. The pleasantness of his tone was a relief as the brunet circled around the nearby wall to get to the table, leaving Kyle to follow along with Kenny at his side. The smell of food was warm in the air as he approached the group, easily able to tell there were at least fifteen people already at the table.

Stan came into view, seated beside Wendy in a way that made Kyle think that whatever angst the pair had been going through was at least partially resolved.

“Hey,” Stan greeted and stood up, blue eyes wide and clear. Kyle wrapped an arm around him, hugging on briefly.

“Hey, dude.”

“I was worried yesterday,” his friend admitted and stepped to the side, and Kyle felt the other eyes at the table wandering onto him, trying to ignore the stares as he sat down. “What happened?”

“Don’t ask,” Kyle sighed and glanced up at the table, trailing his gaze along. Clyde and Bebe were seated together sharing a menu, next to where Kenny and Butters looked up at him with similar smiles. There was Nichole, next to an empty spot where Kyle could only imagine Token had been sitting, and then Tweek with Craig, the blond watching him in his usual wild-eyed manner while Craig surveyed him with a flat expression. Red sat in the corner seat, chatting with Nichole from across the table. Kyle reached for his water glass, only to feel himself bump elbows with the familiar figure to his right.

“Eric,” Kyle spat, frowning at his partner as he clutched hold of the glass. “You almost made me spill that.”

“You’re in the way of the breadsticks, Kyle,” Eric replied matter-of-factly, reaching for the basket. Kenny laughed from across the table.

“Lovers quarrel~”

Stan made a choking noise beside him, gesturing to the pitcher of dark soda on the tabletop. Kyle picked it up and passed it over, not hearing a response and turning to glance over to him when a red-haired waitress with long bangs appeared at the end of the table with two menus. He took one and listened to the conversations from across the table, trying to ignore the fingers poking at his left hip. It was so familiar, listening to his classmates talking, the way they spoke over one another and cut each other off. It was almost hard to believe that, sooner than later, he would probably never be privy to this dynamic ever again.

“That bitch keeps talking crap to our boss.”

“Hey, Ken? Did, you, uh…”

“Oh yeah, I told them earlier. Mom’s getting all panicked.”

“Oh, gosh.”

“Pass that over.”

“Did you get your cap and gown yet, Bebe?”

“How was the dance?” Kyle inquired, looking up at Kenny from across the table when he noticed the waitress again at the side. “Oh, uh, the ziti,” he ordered, handing the menu back. Kenny grinned over at him.

“Fucking lit, dude! You missed out so hard.”

“You’re welcome,” Clyde commented from across the table. Tweek whimpered, wearing the face of someone who had bore witness to something they hadn’t wanted to see. A thick arm made its way into Kyle’s field of vision and he watched as his partner reached for the other breadbasket, expression intent.

“PC Principal showed up,” Craig commented blithely, catching Kyle’s eye as he reached for his own glass of what looked like iced tea. “We thought he was gonna crash it, but he had some punch and got really wasted. He’s more fun like that.”

“Dude,” Kyle breathed, trying to imagine that. He almost felt like he had missed out. It wasn’t like he and Eric could have shown up drenched to the bone and red-faced from screaming at each other, though.

“Yeah, no kidding.”

“It was crazy,” Tweek interjected, eyes wide and light as he fiddled with a straw wrapper in his fingertips. “He was like, break-dancing and stuff.”

Kyle snorted with disbelief, feeling a tug on his sleeve and turning to look at Stan. The pallor of his face startled him.

“Dude…come here.”

Stan tugged on his arm hard, so Kyle unsurely got to his feet and shifted awkwardly between the tightly-packed chairs, following his hatless friend away from the table and down the hall. The hand yanked at his wrist as he was pulled back out the front doors of the restaurant, next to the mounted ashtray and bench on the sidewalk beside the restaurant entrance. The air smelled fresh, like it often did after a rain, and Stan’s obvious distress suddenly seemed wildly misplaced.

“What??”

“Kyle, you’re…that…” Awkwardly, Stan extended a finger, gesturing towards Kyle’s left side. The redhead frowned at him, completely confused.

“What is your deal?”

“That ring…”

Oh…right. Swallowing, Kyle raised his left hand up, noting the brilliance of the emeralds in their shiny silver setting. It occurred to him, in that moment, that this was his first time seeing it in broad daylight. The diamonds sparkled vividly, glimmering between the flecks of green.

Truth be told, Kyle barely recalled putting it on his finger. They had trudged home that night, soaked and ready for bed, and only fuzzily did Kyle remember slipping it onto his hand to keep it safe, a gesture that meant something he wasn’t clear on, but that had also just felt right.

“Yeah,” he said thickly, finding his voice and forcing himself to meet Stan’s eyes. Stan gaped.

“From Cartman.”

“Yeah.”

“Wh-…”

“He gave me it last night.”

“Kyle, that’s…that looks real.”

Despite the stuttered and brief words, Kyle knew what he meant. “It is. It’s diamonds and emeralds.”

“No shit?” came a familiar voice, and Kyle instantly felt someone closing in behind him to peek over his shoulder. “If you guys break up, can you throw that my way?”

It was kind of surreal, standing outside in a public place with his two best childhood buddies, talking about his new diamond ring. Two sets of blue eyes were on him, and Kyle found himself at a momentary loss for words. Thankfully, Kenny was smiling as he nudged him.

“You haven’t given me my invite yet.”

“It’s not like that,” Kyle managed, glancing back down at the ring. At least, he didn’t think it was. He certainly had no plans to fucking…get married right now, or even in the near future. Kenny laughed.

“Dude, I’m teasing. That’s a promise ring, right?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, he didn’t get down on one knee, did he?”

“No way,” Kyle managed, starting to get flushed and avoiding Stan’s disbelieving and shocked expression. Kenny laughed, reaching up and scratching at the back of his neck.

“Kyle,” Stan butted in, expression almost hesitant. “You’re gonna go to Berkeley, right?”

Kyle paused. He didn’t remember telling Stan that, but maybe his enthusiasm over being accepted had made his preference obvious earlier on than he might have wanted. A wave of unsureness swept over him and he took a deep breath, forcing himself to tell the truth.

“I think so. It’s a really good school.”

“What’s Cartman gonna do?”

“He’s coming with me,” he admitted, and the admission felt like two heavy bags lifting off his back.

“Dude!! Moving in together! You’re way ahead of me and Leo!”

Kyle hadn’t really thought about it in those terms, and had a hard time ignoring the hot flush that was spreading over his cheeks and down his neck. Before he could think of a good response, someone peeked their head out the front doors behind where Kenny stood.

“Er…are you guys okay?” Tweek muttered. Suddenly very embarrassed by the situation at hand, Kyle turned to the side and tried to catch his breath. He wasn’t sure he was ready to be so open about all this. It seemed so fast, like one day, Eric had been kneeling over him with a knife in hand, and the next day, their lips had been locked in the softest and most trusting of kisses.

“Me and Cartman are moving in together,” he murmured, more to himself than anyone, trying to get the reality into his head. That chubby, chocolate-eyed sassmouth was becoming the center of his world, slowly and surely. Then again, hadn’t he kind of always been a key part of his everyday life?

Tweek made his way over, and the scent of fresh pine lingered in Kyle’s throat, eyes stinging with an emotion he couldn’t name. Everybody knew, now. There was no going back.

“Whoa…” He felt an arm around his shoulders, and Kyle looked up with surprise to see his skinny friend standing beside him. “Kyle, what’s wrong?”

“I’m just…” His voice felt trapped in his throat. Kenny and Tweek watched him, concern evident in their faces.

Kyle had never really realized it before. There he was, with a group of friends that supported and cared for him, even in the most ridiculous and insane circumstances. They wouldn’t just fade out of his life, even if he did move. He’d come back and see them, him and Eric would. The thought had him silent for a few seconds, when he felt himself beginning to smile.

“I’m good.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” Kenny replied, sounding a little relieved. “We don’t need you spamming us with bitching all the way from Cali.”

“Eat a dick,” Kyle replied, cheeks alive with blood as Stan patted him on the back.

“I still think you’re crazy,” his friend admitted, blue eyes unsure. “But, uh…I guess me and you can help each other with relationship advice.”

Kyle snickered, feeling the warmth from Stan’s arm around his shoulders. He still had so many questions. Questions about Liane, about Eric’s five years in the nuthouse, about the ring on his finger. It was kind of incredible, really, this bizarre and unexpected turn of being with Cartman, learning about Cartman, liking Cartman and even maybe…loving Cartman, a little bit.

“Do you, nnh…feel okay?” Tweek asked, breaking the momentary silence. The three boys looked up at him as he fidgeted slightly, shrinking back a little. “About moving in with him…?”

Kyle opened his mouth to speak, when the three faces seemed to bring him back for a moment. He could have sworn that, throughout the past year, he had slowly been coming to an important realization. Over the months, he had just felt stressed, mostly, confused, excited, and upset all at once. It had seemed impossible, even with Stan, to describe how he had been feeling about Cartman in a way that made sense. In those few seconds, though, there was a rush of sudden clarity that made his throat sting, a feeling that there was something he had actually learned, even if he was only understanding it in that moment.

“Yeah,” he stated, thinking about his boyfriend in the restaurant and how he was probably stuffing two or three breadsticks into his mouth at once. His voice felt raw, and his chest felt light, almost like he could float up into the summer air.

He and Cartman had been through an ungodly amount of shit together. Some of it was their own fault, and other things had just been part of life. He was sure he had more to learn about Eric Cartman, even if he felt like he knew him like he knew the back of his own hand. He just couldn’t it deny anymore, couldn’t refute the way his boyfriend made him feel. Even when they fought, there was always an underlying understanding, a sense that it would pass.

There was going to be so much more. He was going to have to pack all of his stuff away, and find a place to live on the West Coast. He’d have to help his boyfriend with some of his own issues before they could leave, too. It was hard to deny now just how much he wanted this to work, despite just how unbelievable the situation had seemed before. For the first time, he was open to letting himself be really vulnerable. Kyle had spent so much of the past few years trying to prepare himself to the future, attempting to be there for his mother, to make his family proud, to do for himself. It should have been jarring, the knowledge that life had thrown him for such a loop, and yet, he couldn’t bring himself to regret anything that had happened.

“I feel like…” He swallowed, eyes bright and kelly green. Eric Cartman was a big part of his life, now, and probably always would be. The words in his head sounded sappy, and stupid, and it was legitimately, truly stupid just how much he meant them.

“Like I know things are going to happen, but I’m not afraid.”

His three friends looked at one another, and then smiled back at him.

--

Chapter Text

--

The past seven months of Kyle’s life had been a complete whirlwind.

It wasn’t every day that someone from a middle-of-nowhere-mountain-town ended up doing his undergraduate degree at a place like UC Berkeley. This meant that not only had he had to make the numerous adjustments to living away from home in an entirely different state, but also that he was constantly flooded with texts and calls from his hometown asking him for photos and stories and descriptions of what it was like. It was probably partly due to the prestige, but it became more obvious over time that people really just wanted to know what he was doing, even if it was mundane. Kyle had quickly felt stupid for ever thinking that his friends and family would just forget about him once he was no longer in their faces.

Still, given the serious upswing in academic difficulty and numerous challenges associated with living without a parent around, there had been one blessing that made life easier. Had Kyle been living all alone in that small apartment near campus, it probably would have been more difficult to manage.

“Bubby!” Sheila called from the hallway, peeking her head into his bedroom with an oven mitt on her right hand. “Dinner’s in thirty minutes. Can you text Eric for me? I can’t find him.”

They were nostalgic, the pleasant smells of burning candles and roasting meat that pervaded the Broflovski house each holiday season. Kyle was legitimately relieved to see that Sheila was happier than she had been the December before, and that the wounds of Gerald’s death were healing over time. Glad to be back at home for the holidays, Kyle replied with a ‘yeah’ and sat up from where he had been laying on the bed with his phone, a frown working between his brows.

Despite having lived with Eric Cartman since July, he still found him unpredictable sometimes.

The wind howled outside and Kyle peeked out through his bedroom curtains, eyeing the blanket of snow that coated the streets and sidewalks. It was undeniably a Colorado winter day- something he hadn’t missed at all during his first semester in California, and also something that was currently worrying him a little.

After checking the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms, Kyle groaned and pulled one of his dark-grey hats on from inside the dresser, shrugging on a jacket over his long-sleeved flannel shirt and wrapping a scarf around his neck as he stepped into his boots by the front door.

“I’ll be right back,” he called to his mother, shoving his keys into his pocket and stepping outside.

Although the adjustment period had been hard on Kyle, he was starting to get a little more concerned about its impact on Eric as time went on. Before they had both left for Berkeley in late July, the brunet had had to sell Liane’s old house and car, deal with the mortgage debt being chased by the banks, and sign a bunch of legal stuff down at the police station. Eric had been surprisingly quiet about most of it, just as he had about his mother’s death before their emotional conversation in the pouring rain in May. As loud and brash as Eric was known for being, and despite his savviness with matters of business, Kyle tended to become concerned when he was too quiet for too long.

The redhead walked past the front door, peeking into his own backyard over the wood fence and frowning when he saw no sign of his boyfriend there. Come to think of it, Liane’s house had been a serious blessing; Kyle had intended to stick to his guns regarding Eric paying half their apartment rent, and Eric had been able to come through with all of that and more, handling a lot of their food expenses and other random bills that came up. Kyle recalled his initial surprise at seeing the guy actually pull his weight-

Liane’s house.

A lightbulb went off in Kyle’s head as he made his way a couple of blocks further down, shoving his bare hands into the pockets of his coat. The sky was blanketed entirely with clouds, with the surrounding area brightened only by the various lights that emanated from the windows of a few of the nearby houses. Cold wind kissing the sides of his face, he turned a corner and approached the familiar green façade, glancing around, noticing footprints in the snow that led up to the back gate.

Sighing, he followed the trail and peeked into the backyard, seeing the familiar figure seated facing away from him on a new-looking swing set in the corner of the yard.

Hesitant but somewhat trusting of Eric’s presence there, Kyle carefully opened the back gate and took a few steps in, a little afraid to make too much noise. He trod through the thick layer of snow on the dirt, approaching his partner from behind and giving a gentle shove to the crimson jacket he knew so well.

“There’s people living here now, dumbass,” he stated, voice absent of its usual cutting edge. Eric stiffened in his seat before turning his head, looking up at Kyle over his right shoulder with pink cheeks and wet eyes.

All at once, Kyle felt the bubble of dread burst inside him, his worst fears confirmed by the expression on Eric’s face. Unlike when they were kids, the brunet was no longer much of a crier…

Kyle sat down on the swing beside his boyfriend and tried not to stare, not wanting to cause further distress by doing something like hugging him the wrong way or getting too close into his space.

“You miss your mom?” he tried, glancing over at his companion. Eric was watching the ground now, staring at his shoes in a gaze of silent defeat.

Living with Eric in their Berkeley apartment had been something of an adjustment, but Kyle truthfully wouldn’t have traded it for the world. There had been squabbles, certainly, mostly about stupid shit, but having the person he loved there to hang out, eat, and rest with after a stressful day on a demanding campus had been better than he could have imagined. Despite his reputation as selfish, Eric had proven himself to be a giver- at least, with Kyle, that was. At the moment, with Eric gripping into the chains of the swing with soft hands and staring down between his feet, Kyle couldn’t help but wonder whether he had been giving enough back.

“Wanna talk about it?” he tried. He had known Eric long enough to know that trying to force him to open up only made him withdraw more.

A few more seconds passed, and Eric sighed audibly, shrugging.

“Just wonder what it would’ve been like.”

Kyle swallowed.

“If…what?”

“Y’know,” Eric sighed in that thick tone Kyle knew better than his own, hair messy above his ears and forehead. Kyle realized with horror that he wasn’t even wearing a hat, and the tips of his ears were dark, almost purple.

“If she’d been around. Maybe I’d be normal.”

The surge of nausea rose up inside him and Kyle reached up and quickly pulled his own hat off, reaching out and shoving it over the other’s head before he could stop him. Eric turned, looking at Kyle in surprise, and the two shared a moment of silence, green eyes staring into deep brown.

“You are normal,” Kyle eventually replied while he had his attention, ignoring the chill across the apples of his own cheeks. “You’re just a fucking idiot who doesn’t know how to dress for the weather.”

This elicited a soft, humorless huff of a laugh, and something hurt so deep in Kyle’s chest that it brought him to his feet.

“Okay,” Kyle decided, walking over to face Eric and standing in the snow before him. He was no stranger to the fact that he was not very good at comforting people, and he was legitimately sick at the knowledge that Eric had been going through emotional shit without telling him. “It’s…I’m sorry about everything, but you never told me you were this upset.”

“Should I?” Eric asked with a slow smile, sitting up a little straighter. “They’re my issues, Kyle.”

“They’re my issues, too,” Kyle said without missing a beat, leaning closer. “We’re together.”

Eric’s smile dropped, and the quirk in his eyebrows made Kyle start to panic, hesitating just a moment before reaching out and encasing his boyfriend in a strong embrace.

“It’s fine,” he whispered against the soft fur of his hat, hunching awkwardly to hold him closer. It occurred to him just then what a journey it had all been, from hating and fearing one another, to rolling around between the sheets, to what they were doing right now. That kind of change in relationship should have been unreasonable, and he knew it, but Kyle couldn’t deny that Eric wasn’t the only person that had changed.

Eric twitched, and Kyle felt him sob softly against his shoulder, wincing, wanting to bring him close.

There was no doubt that Eric had gained a little more weight since their departure from Colorado in late summer, and Kyle could feel it in his knees as he pulled him off of the swing with two arms around the soft back, sitting back into the snow and yanking Eric into his lap as he tried to bring him closer.

Eric pushed his face into Kyle’s collarbone, chilling him, and Kyle brought his own face closer so their cheeks could press, shivering from the cold winds that whipped around them.

“Listen,” he started again, still holding him tight. “It’s cold out here. We gotta-”

“I nnh…I never thought this would happen,” Eric stated, voice shaky and tone broken. Kyle felt a shiver pass up his spine, not used to hearing this kind of anguish in his lover’s voice.

“What?”

“Being with you,” Eric replied, sniffling and holding onto Kyle more tightly around his shoulders. “It- I always wanted…I thought about it for so many goddamn years…”

Kyle was so surprised by the words that he just found himself listening, setting one hand in the snow to support both their weights.

“You’re gonna…fuck!” he gasped suddenly, and the ache in his tone made Kyle’s whole body hurt. “You’re gonna be a fucking doctor, okay?! My loser ass c-…shit, I can’t measure up. I’m fucking sick of feeling like this.”

“Like what?” Kyle asked, genuinely baffled by the shaky tone. He hadn’t forgotten Eric’s outburst at that same house half a year prior, the one about how he wanted to take care of him and was so tired of asking for help.

“Like I can’t do shit,” Eric eventually managed, sniffling again. “I’m not good enough for you, Kyle.”

In that moment, Kyle began to think about the events of the past several months. The way that Eric had been tripping over himself to pay for things, and to do sappy shit, like rub Kyle’s shoulders after an exam or cook dinner for him while he was studying at the library so it would be ready when he returned home. Kyle had never thought of Eric as doing anything besides pulling his weight. It was why their relationship had been working so well.

“No way,” Kyle stated, seeing his breath fan out in the cold air over Eric’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s go ho-”

“My mom left me…” the brunet cut him off, voice becoming increasingly erratic. “All the time. She wasn’t around, not after we got to middle school. She f…I wasn’t good enough for her, why would I be good enough for y-”

“Stop it!” Kyle couldn’t help himself. He shouted, shaking Eric by the shoulders and shoving him backwards to look into his gaze. The pain there was startling, so Kyle quickly took him by the arms and scooted backwards, standing back up and trying to pull him to his feet. He gasped for breath, and the cold air burned in his lungs.

“Don’t say shit like that to me.”

“It’s true,” Eric replied, still sitting in the snow with cheeks that were lingering close to blue. Kyle yanked his arms, anger starting to pulse through him.

“No, it isn’t!” he stated loudly, forgetting for a moment that they were in someone else’s backyard. “I’m not your fucking mother!”

“So? I’m gonna end up being a plumber, or…I dunno, a waiter somewhere,” Eric hummed softly, eyes glossy as he turned them away. “I tried to hurt you, and it ruined my whole life. Couldn’t get a job…mom wasn’t proud of me, and now I’m fucked. I did this to us.”

For whatever reason, it had never occurred to Kyle that his boyfriend’s guilt could have extended that far back. He could understand the humiliation of having a crack whore as a mother, the emotional rockiness that came with losing a parent- God, did he understand that one- but he had never in his life thought about it in such terms; that Eric’s instability going all the way back to that night when they were thirteen and fighting with a knife between their faces. He remembered reading those texts from Eric on Kenny’s phone the Spring before, how self-debasing they had been, how much that had made his heart hurt for the guy he loved. Still, somehow, it hadn’t occurred to him that Eric still saw himself as a complete failure, someone who had deserved every rotten thing he got and would deserve it again in the future.

“Get up,” Kyle insisted, pulling. Eric didn’t budge. Hands shaking, Kyle took another heavy breath and leaned down to grip Eric by the soft sides of the face, acknowledging the startled expression before pressing their lips together. The kiss was cold, and it took several moments before the warmth of their mouths began to mingle, simple and soft in contrast to the sharp winds that roared past them with abandon. He found Eric’s hands and gripped them together in his own, feeling his sinuses burn and trying to ignore them.

He had had no idea Eric was going through so much in his head.

“We’re going home,” he stated, standing back up and pulling his lover by the hands. This time, the taller boy did get to his feet, looking visibly surprised.

“We’re going to eat dinner, and then we’re going to fucking talk about this in private.”

As much as Kyle attempted to keep his voice level, the implications of Eric’s anguish were beginning to get to him, starting to settle in his chest and grip onto the strings of his heart like fat crows snatching onto telephone lines. His voice broke a little at the end, and Eric stared at him before reaching out slowly, bringing a thick arm around his waist and pulling him up close to his side.

Kyle knew that this type of dynamic probably wasn’t normal as they left the backyard through the squeaking gate, holding down his own soft sniffs as Eric held him close. Not without his own pride, he avoided the chocolate gaze as they walked down the sidewalk, snow crunching beneath their shoes.

--

It was hard to stay too upset when Sheila welcomed the two with a large turkey dinner. Hanukkah had passed, as had Christmas, but she had been going all out with the cooking since her son and his partner were visiting until the near year. She had even made special meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so that Eric could ‘celebrate’, even though Eric had made it clear he wasn’t particularly religious (like, at all). Ike sat across the table as well, one hand on his iPhone and the other on his fork as he seemed to eye the both of them with what looked like discerning suspicion.

“Do you boys want pie?” Sheila inquired after getting up to start on the dishes, glancing at Kyle when he came over with his empty plate. Kyle shook his head.

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? We still have pecan from last night.”

“No, thanks,” Kyle replied, avoiding all sets of eyes before heading for the stairs and making his way up to his bedroom. Just because he wasn’t on the verge of yelling anymore didn’t mean he wasn’t still shaken.

By the time Kyle met his mattress, he couldn’t stop the tears that were already threatening to spill out over the apples of his cheeks.

Kyle wasn’t a crier. Most things didn’t upset him enough emotionally to actually cry, but Eric Cartman, as usual, pulled his emotions in directions that he didn’t want them to go, like a kid running off with a kite. In that moment, he remembered the previous time Cartman had made him feel this way, and how he had looked laying in bed, malnourished and tired, with numerous orange pill bottles laying atop his nightstand.

He heard the base of his bedroom door scraping across the carpet, and looked up to see his boyfriend shutting the door behind him, having stripped off his jacket to reveal the white undershirt he wore over his soft chest and stomach.

Eric made a beeline for him, and Kyle instantly scooted backwards against the mattress, unable to deny the burning at the back of his throat.

“Don’t touch me,” he stated, lips moving of their own accord. He wanted to hug Eric, tell him not to be upset, tell him it was all right, but-

“Huh?”

“You piss me off.”

Eric blinked, and Kyle wondered why he was so horrible at keeping his own emotions in.

The two stared at one another for a moment silently, neither saying a word, when Eric all but made a running leap for Kyle on the bed, bouncing against the mattress and wrapping him in such a tight grasp that he had to struggle to breathe.

“Hey!”

“I love you,” Eric hummed, sounding regretful and needy as he clung to him. Kyle winced despite the warmth that exploded beneath his ribs, teary-eyed and shoving at him.

“I’m mad at you, you stupid idiot,” he spat, struggling in the hug. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Hm?” Eric asked and pulled back just enough for Kyle to flick him between the eyes.

“You never told me you were feeling that way,” he said, aware the tears were beginning to spill over his cheeks again. Instantly, he felt Eric’s soft fingers wiping at the liquid, drying his face. His boyfriend swallowed audibly.

“I don’t…all the time,” he said, sounding honest. Kyle dared to look at him, taking a slow breath as he tried to work out what he wanted to say.

“I don’t give a shit about what you did before,” he admitted, more tears spilling over. “You changed so much, but you’re still you. You literally saved my life, for God’s sake.”

That seemed to surprise Eric, and the both of them relived that memory for a moment, Kyle recalling the dried mud on the side of his face and the clean clothes his then-rival had laid out for him beside the cracked sink in Liane’s downstairs bathroom.

Maybe he should have expected this, Kyle wondered, when they had left for California. They had never really resolved the issue of Cartman’s medication, or his mental health, and Kyle had just sort of assumed Eric would tell him if he needed help in that area. He might have been able to notice that something was wrong, given Eric’s lack of emotional outbursts compared to the past, but he had hoped his boyfriend would trust him by now.

“Sorry,” Eric eventually replied, letting Kyle go with obvious hesitance and sitting on back on the bed. His eyes, though, appeared brighter, and Kyle sat up a little more, spitting out the first honest words that came to mind.

“You’re more than good enough for me.”

For whatever reason, despite the numerous tears and curses and obvious frustration that had pervaded the air between them for the past hour or so, Kyle had suddenly never felt as simultaneously light and embarrassed as he did in that moment. It almost felt like a weight off his shoulders, saying that, even though he had been feeling that way for a long time.

The sensation in the air between them became sort of heavy, but not in a bad way.

Eric was kissing him again, and Kyle was suddenly glad that his boyfriend had bothered to close the bedroom door behind himself. Unlike usual, this kiss was gentle, and the redhead kept waiting for Eric to bite his lip or shove up against him, but he didn’t. Kyle breathed through his nose slowly, just leaning in a little, feeling soft and hot all at once.

Eventually, Eric shifted and he used the moment to push him back a little, looking up into the wide-eyed expression.

“When we get back,” he stated, keeping his tone level, massively relieved by the pink happiness in Eric’s surprised face. “You should go talk to a therapist, or something. To get stuff off your chest.”

“Okay,” the brunet replied, surprising Kyle again. He hadn’t thought his boyfriend would agree to further scrutiny by professionals after what he had gone through in the past, but it was evident that he wanted to take responsibility. Kyle was aware he probably wasn’t always the best listener, so it was the best thing he could come up with.

They kissed again, and Kyle, suddenly overwhelmed by the gentleness of it all, veered away from the taller boy with a groan.

“What?” Eric complained, and Kyle felt teeth on his ear. “C’meeeere.”

“Why?”

“I have a gift for you,” he replied, sounding like he was smiling even though Kyle wasn’t looking and couldn’t tell for sure. “Wanna play with my dreidel?”

“Ugh,” was Kyle’s response as he glanced back, the brightness of Eric’s smile and shining eyes making his heart stop for just a moment.

It wasn’t really that late at night, so Kyle hadn’t meant to doze off where he was with his partner clinging to his side, but something about the warmth of the bedroom and residual smell from dinner was soothing. There was a deep relief spreading inside him, a feeling that he had learned more about his boyfriend and that it was for the better. Sleep came easily and softly, with a warm face in his neck and a knitted blanket wrapped around his ankles, until a muffled series of shouts and hollow clinks brought him slowly out of his slumber.

“Look at this shit-”

“HAH!”

“Dude, I don’t wanna see it.”

“Eric! Hey, Eric!!”

Not quite registering what he was hearing, Kyle dredged himself up from the mattress and sitting up at the end of the mattress, finding himself suddenly eye-to-eye with four people through frosted glass of his bedroom window.

Stan stared at him at the front of the group, and Kyle instantly ran over and opened the window from the bottom, cringing backwards at the unwelcome burst of cold air.

“What the fuck?” he asked, watching Stan hoist himself in first, with Token and Kenny following suit.

“Dude!”

Kyle found himself completely encased in Stan’s arms, reaching out awkwardly to return the hug as he fought off a yawn.

“What the hell, man?! You’ve been here for four days and we haven’t even hung out yet!”

“He’s been busy,” Kenny butted in, blond hair messy over his bright face as he gestured to the sleeping figure in bed. A fourth figure hoisted himself up over the window frame and Kyle rubbed his eyes, looking at Token and Butters’ smiling faces in surprise and embarrassment.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Wanna come out?” Token asked and reached out, putting an arm around Kyle and bumping shoulders with him. The realization that the four visitors had seen his and Eric’s impromptu nap made Kyle want to cover his face.

“Where?”

“Kenny wants to go to Stan’s and drink,” Butters chirped up, drowned in a large grey parka with a furry hood. Stan, wearing a brown hoodie Kyle recognized well, wiped some frost from his cheeks and cast Butters a worrisome glance.

“My parents are coming back home later, you know.”

“We can’t go to my place,” Token said with a shrug. Kyle glanced back over his shoulder, only to realize that Eric had sat up and was observing their visitors with a sleepy gaze. He and Stan shared an obvious look, and Kyle was struck between finding it funny and being tempted to step between them.

“What’s this?” Eric muttered, clearly surprised to see a group. “Is your bedroom a brothel now, Kyle?”

Butters laughed a little too loudly, and Kyle shushed the group with a hand to his mouth.

“Guys, my mom’s downstairs.”

“So? Let’s go out!”

“Are Berkeley boys too cool to get wasted?”

“Fuck you,” Kyle sighed, meeting the groups grins with one of his own. The brunet slipped off the side of the mattress, surveying the group with a smug smile the likes of which Kyle was relieved to see.

“I’m gonna drink you under the table, Kenny.”

“Ohoh! A challenge!”

The awkwardness of six boys stumbling unexpectedly down the Broflovski stairs with Sheila looking on from the kitchen was muted by the erupting laughter and reunion hugs and back-pats. On their way out the door, Kyle made sure to steal back his hat as the cold singed onto the tips of his ears, ignoring the whine of discomfort and returning the gentle shove of complaint with one of his own.

Stan’s quiet discouragements were easily overthrown as the group quickly overtook the Marsh living room, Token digging in the cabinet over the kitchen sink and Butters trying unsuccessfully to pop open a can of Miller Kenny had produced from one of his coat pockets. Letting it go, Stan instead went over to the table beside the couch and flicked it on, heading over to Kyle’s side and nudging him.

“It’s been forever.”

“I know,” Kyle admitted and plopped down on the sofa, momentarily moving his attention away from Cartman. “How’s UCD, dude?”

“It’s fine,” Stan replied, shrugging and half-smiling. “You were wrong, by the way.”

“Huh?”

“Me and Wendy still live together.”

“Oh.” Kyle had to pause for a moment to remember that conversation, snorting and shoving him. “Congrats. She came down for break too, right?”

“Yeah, she’s at her parents’ house. She got sick over Christmas and didn’t wanna come out.”

“Oh.”

“Dude, your parents don’t have shit here,” Token complained and brought over a few bottles of Bud, sitting down on the floor and handing one to the host before turning his eyes on Kyle. “How’s Berkeley been?”

“Crazy,” Kyle admitted, reaching for the bottle-opener that was going around. “It’s hard. The campus is pretty cool, though.”

“You guys are such nerds,” Kenny sighed and plopped down next to Butters on the edge of the couch, unzipping his jacket and gesturing proudly to his name badge. “And here I took off early from my VERY IMPORTANT job to come hang out with you.”

The word ‘Manager’ was visible under Kenny’s name, and Token perked up from across the room.

“Hey, that’s awesome!”

“Dude, congratulations,” Kyle said honestly. Butters grinned and nodded his head, hand threading in Kenny’s as he played with his still-full can of beer.

“Uh-huh! And I got that job at the CVS downtown. We’re still gonna be movin’ next year, right, Ken?”

Kyle looked to Stan and thought they were exchanging glances for a moment, until he realized that Stan was focusing up above his head. Instantaneously, Kyle felt a familiar arm around his shoulders and turned, only to find his lips in a soft and momentary kiss.

He blinked and found himself face-to-face with Eric, who sat beside him with a smug smile.

“Careful Kyle,” he stated, offering him a can of Dr. Pepper despite the beer in Kyle’s hand. “Alcohol turns you into a raging Jersey devil, remember?”

Kyle wanted to say ‘fuck you’ or some variation, but the general warmth and laughter in the room was starting to make him feel like he’d already had a drink. It occurred to him that he must have been a changed person, letting a public kiss slide, but Eric’s smug smile made it feel, amazingly, like it wasn’t a big deal.

Actually, after all those months of living together and kissing on the regular, he was starting to realize that normality had changed. Bizarrely, though, it didn’t feel awkward, not with the familiar voices and laughter in the very familiar front room.

The time that was passing seemed to fly by as Kyle sat there, barely feeling the arm around him. Kenny talked on and on about the stupid customers at work, Butters about moving out of his parents’ house, Token about Nichole. Stan relayed with sheepish eyes a story about some frat party he’d attended his first few weeks of college, the photographic evidence of which Kyle remembered seeing on Facebook several months back. His best friend had been texting him for days about how he’d never drink again.

Eventually, he had the urge to piss, so Kyle stumbled up to his feet and made his way up Stan’s familiar staircase, vaguely chuckling at the realization that Randy and Sharon might show up at any moment to six blitzed teenagers in their living room. Reaching the bathroom door, he stumbled inside and took a momentary glance at himself in the mirror. Something seemed a little bit nostalgic about the scene, even though he hadn’t been to Stan’s house in ages, nor had their class ever really posted up there for drinks. His reflection looked pink-faced- maybe a little too pink, since he’d gone straight for using the Dr. Pepper as a mixer, despite Eric’s jokes.

The redhead unzipped his pants and scratched at the back of his neck, sighing, wondering why the alcohol seemed to be setting in quite so well. If anything, he probably should have been aggravated, tied up in the emotional turmoil from his partner’s earlier angsty outburst, but it felt as though a load had come off of his chest, one that had previously been nesting there in the corner of his heart even while they had been living together over the past several months.

He tucked himself back into his fly when he became aware of a knock and looked up, seeing the familiar figure there in the doorway.

“…” From the deep recesses of his mind, Kyle felt like it was appropriate to laugh, words exiting his mouth smugly like an echo before he could even quite remember where he’d heard them in the first place.

“Didn’t know you were into this. Take a picture, why don’t you?”

Eric’s sudden smile was infectious as he gestured as though he meant to reach into his pants pocket.

“Ohh, don’t mind if I do.”

Kyle’s brief snicker transformed into a full laugh into his arm, and he made his way over a couple of paces, shoving him gently in the shoulders with both hands.

“This is gay,” he sighed, amused, just tipsy enough to the point that he wasn’t controlling his word vomit very well. “What did you do to me?”

“I poisoned you. The antidote is in my ass. You might have to, you know~”

“Don’t tempt me,” Kyle threatened and shoved him again, using a little too much force and stumbling into the inviting body. Eric reached out to grip his arm.

“You fucking idiot, Kyle. Give your insulin.”

“Don’ wanna.”

There was laughter coming from downstairs, or somewhere, but Kyle couldn’t quite be bothered to check whether or not it had anything to do with their present conversation. Instead, he adjusted and found himself in familiar arms, and he couldn’t help but feel a little grateful to the alcohol for giving him such a good excuse.

It was obvious that there was still a metric ton of shit they had to work through before their lives could start moving perfectly on track, but the happiness that was bubbling up inside him was buoyant, and he was pretty sure it wasn't just the booze. As he thought about it, he felt a momentary pang for his mother and wondered how she had dealt with it, with knowing that her partner had had problems and that his death had undoubtedly left some of them unresolved. Kyle suddenly felt like he wanted to apologize to Stan, too, for questioning him about Wendy so many times. In that moment, he felt like he had learned why people made choices that only they understood. Being with Eric Cartman didn't always seem to make a lot of sense, but it just felt right.

In that span of several seconds that felt like an hour, Kyle couldn't feel even the smallest regret.

--