Title: Craggy Mountaintown
Word Count: ~6k
Summary: It's Broncos Bowl day and Stan can't attend his uncle's party, but he's not willing to leave Kyle or Kenny alone with their crises.
The snow starts falling at two o’clock, and Stan cracks open a beer, though the game won’t be on for another four hours. Over at Jimbo’s, his uncle and father have probably been drinking since noon, or whenever they started roasting the pig. Jimbo’s Super Bowl parties are legendary in South Park, and particularly when the Broncos play. Last time that occurred was fifteen years ago, when Stan was twenty-two, and he’d made the trip home from college for the occasion. Now he’s just ten miles away from Jimbo’s party and not allowed to attend. He’s trying not to be bitter about it. Maybe the beer with help.
"Do you want to start the artichoke dip?" Kyle asks, emerging from the bedroom. He’s been in there all morning, a bad habit he developed when he broke his arm and subsequently quit his job.
"I’ll make it later," Stan says. He’s at the dining room table, trying to fix Kyle’s reading glasses. He got a repair kit from the drugstore yesterday, insisting he could do it himself, but it’s proving more difficult than he expected, though he’s not ready to admit that to Kyle yet.
"Don’t spend all day messing with that," Kyle says. "I need new frames, anyway."
"No, you don’t. These are good. They look good on you."
"I’m not talking about expensive ones," Kyle says, sharply, and Stan withholds a comment about Kyle’s traditionally expensive taste in everything. Their cat, a purebred Russian Blue, cost seven hundred dollars as a kitten. Stan loves Bluebell and even considers her a sort of surrogate child, but ever since Kyle decided to spend some time being unemployed, Stan keeps looking at their cat and remembering that Kyle insisted upon a top tier show quality kitten when they visited the breeder, though he has no plans to show her.
"Kenny called," Kyle says. He’s lingering over Stan’s shoulder and watching him work, making Stan feel extra clumsy. "He was in a state about something. I told him he could come over."
"Kyle, what?" Stan looks up from the glasses, and when he sees Kyle’s face he tries to soften his expression. Kyle has been very sensitive about annoying him recently, heading into his sixth month of living off of Stan’s salary. If they were legally married, maybe it would feel different, and the fact that they’re not isn’t Kyle’s fault. "I thought it was just going to be us watching the game?" Stan says. "I thought that was the whole — thing."
"Well, he’s not going to stay for the game, and you know that’s not the whole thing. The whole thing is that I don’t want to see your father."
"Yeah, yeah." Stan drinks from his beer and resumes his attempt to screw the right arm of Kyle’s glasses back into place. "I told you, he’s over it."
"Of course he’s over it, but I’m not."
A few months ago, Randy and Kyle got into an argument at a town meeting. The whole incident was possibly the most embarrassing moment of Stan’s life, and he wasn’t even present at the meeting. Kyle and Bebe had put forth a proposal: they wanted the South Park Fire Department to do a sexy wall calendar which would be sold to raise money to refurbish the firehouse. Bebe volunteers with the department and had convinced twelve attractive South Park firemen, many of whom are in love with her and will do anything she asks, to pose for the calendar. Everything was in place, and Kyle was very cheered to be spearheading the project, having found a sense of purpose for the first time since leaving his job. At the town meeting, he requested a small loan from the city which would be repaid by the sale of the calendars, all further proceeds going toward the firehouse repairs. Everything seemed tied up neatly until Randy, who is on the treasury board, suggested that the whole thing seemed like ‘bad PR’ for South Park. What followed eventually escalated into a screaming argument with Kyle about Randy’s homophobia and alleged (by Kyle) personal dislike of Kyle. In the end, the calendar proposal went unfunded and was squashed. Kyle has refused to see Randy since then, and has barely left the house. He wants to move out of South Park altogether.
"If you want to go, just go," Kyle says after a few tense moments of silence, Stan fixating on the glasses. "I don’t care. Really, Stan, I don’t."
"Well, I do. I don’t want to watch the Broncos win without you. That’s lame."
"I don’t see why it matters," Kyle says, but Stan can tell he’s pleased. It’s true that he doesn’t want to watch without Kyle, but it will be weird not to have Randy and Jimbo there to shout at the television alongside him. "Thank you for supporting me," Kyle says, speaking softly now and playing with Stan’s hair. "That must seem like all you do anymore."
"I mean, look at you, fixing my glasses. Jesus, Stan. Let me — let me do something for you. What do you want? Anything? Can I blow you? Do you need another beer?"
"C’mere," Stan says, sensing an oncoming meltdown. He’d really prefer to get through the big game without any emotional turmoil. He puts the glasses down and pulls Kyle into his lap, holding him there and kissing his face. "You were there for me when I was going through some shit," Stan says. "Don’t worry so much."
"I can’t help it." Kyle puts his arms around Stan’s neck and clings to him. "Everything’s just gotten so weird."
Stan grunts, unable to contest that. He does feel that he owes Kyle some sanctuary while he works out whatever he’s going through. When Stan dropped out of grad school he experienced a kind of identify crisis-induced paralysis, and Kyle took care of him. He’d let Stan fuck him three times a day and had gently reminded him to shower. He’d sliced up oranges so Stan wouldn’t get scurvy. Remembering this, and what it was like to feel irreversibly motionless, Stan holds Kyle tighter and kisses his neck. Lately Kyle’s skin feels perpetually overheated, probably because he’s always coming from the bed. Stan hopes he’s not getting sick. Kyle doesn’t have any insurance at the moment, something that Sheila calls to badger them about daily.
"How are you feeling?" Stan asks, pulling back to touch Kyle’s forehead. Kyle shrugs.
"Like a half-melted soft cheese."
"As in — you want to eat that?"
"No, Stan, as in that’s how I perceive myself: I am a slobby, disintegrating lump of dairy on a greasy cheese board."
"Mhmm, that’s no good."
"I would also eat that, if we had it, but we don’t, and now it’s snowing."
"How’s your arm?" Stan asks, rubbing the one that was broken.
"It aches when it snows."
"Poor Kyle." Stan hugs him and rocks him a little, letting Kyle deflate against him again. When Kyle's arm was in a cast, taking care of him had felt so different. Even his decision to leave his job had seemed appropriate, since he wasn’t enjoying his work at his father’s firm and had come to see his fall off of a step ladder while trying to retrieve a box of client documents as representative of his legal career in general. Now, however, the cast is gone and the new, post-law direction of Kyle’s life has yet to reveal itself.
"I think I hear Kenny’s car," Kyle says. He sits up listlessly and looks down at what he’s wearing: a t-shirt from a St. Patrick’s Day 5k Stan ran in college and a pair of flannel pants with a large toothpaste drip on the right leg. "I guess I should get dressed," Kyle says. "Would you let him in?"
Stan goes to do so, stopping himself from protesting that Kyle hardly needs to dress up for Kenny, who is like some combination of their other surrogate child and an older brother who never got his life together. Stan is disheartened to see Kenny coming up the front walk in a mauve puffy coat and some effeminate argyle rain boots. He’s wearing the wig, too, which hasn’t been seen in a while. It’s ratty and blond like his real hair, shoulder-length. Kenny’s occasional cross dressing had been cute, if mysteriously motivated, when they were younger. Now he looks like a sad cat lady when he shows up in women’s clothes.
"Dude," Stan says when he pulls open the door. Kenny has obviously been crying. Stan embraces him there in the doorway, noting the fruity apple sent that he seems to have spritzed into the wig. "What’s wrong?"
"Butters," Kenny says.
"Oh, Christ. What’s he done now?"
"He’s a monster," Kenny says, pushing into the house. "A heartless — where’s Kyle?"
"Getting dressed. Sit down, take off your coat. You’ve got to stop expecting that little prick to leave his wife, dude. It’s been, what? Fifteen years?"
"It’s not even the fucking wife." Kenny throws the coat onto the couch and sits down to pull off his boots. "You won’t believe it. I still can’t believe it."
"Kenny!" Kyle hurries out of the bedroom, wearing a clean sweater over the flannel pants now. "Oh." He stops short when he sees the wig. "Oh, god."
"He’s cheating on me," Kenny says.
"Well." Kyle glances at Stan. "Of course he is, honey. But he’s married to the bitch, after all."
"Not her! He’s having another affair." Kenny throws one of the boots across the living room. Bluebell, who had been hiding behind the television, darts out and runs back into the bedroom, fleeing the boot.
"How’d you find out?" Stan asks. He goes to get Kenny a beer, not really interested in the details of his long and sordid relationship with Butters. Hopefully they can wrap this up before the game. Surely some run of the mill Butters-related disappointment won’t take four hours to parse.
"I’m not the one who found out," Kenny says. "He found out about me."
"He?" Kyle sits beside Kenny on the couch and puts a protective arm around him. "Is it anyone we know?"
"Of course it is!" Kenny stands with a growl and jams his palms over is eyes. "It’s South Park! Of course it’s someone we know!"
"Who?" Stan offers the beer, cautiously. Kenny swipes it from him and glowers at it.
"Cartman," he says.
"What!" Kyle shoots off the couch, looking almost excited for a moment. He turns his wide-eyed look on Stan, who shrugs.
"I always told you he’s gay," Stan says. He once caught Cartman masturbating during a middle school sleepover, looking in Kyle’s direction. Despite knowing this, Wendy still slept with Cartman in high school, during the short period of time when he was good looking. He somehow got her pregnant, possibly by poking holes in the condom, though that has never been proven. Stan sometimes blames himself for Wendy’s inability to go through with the abortion, because he was the one who drove her to the clinic and coddled her when she started freaking out. Stan was eighteen, deeply in love with Kyle and half-thinking that maybe they could raise the baby themselves if Wendy decided she didn’t want it. He was already preoccupied with the idea that they would never be able to have children of their own, and that Kyle would surely want them. It was, of course, an idiotic thought: even if Wendy had given Connor up for adoption, Kyle could never love anything that Cartman’s dick brought into the world.
"So good riddance!" Kyle says, bringing Kenny back to the couch. "This just proves what we’ve been telling you for years. Butters is a philandering sociopath. He seems nice and caring on the surface, but it’s facade!"
"He’s not a sociopath." Kenny shrugs Kyle’s arm off and drinks from his beer. "He’s an emotionally disturbed person who was stunted by his parents. I just thought I was the only one who ever managed to coax him out of the closet. That meant something to me, goddammit."
"You love him," Stan says, and Kyle gives him a disapproving look. "It’s okay. You’ve been, uh. Seeing him for a long time. Give yourself some time to grieve, and then move on. This is a good thing, dude."
"Who the hell am I going to move on to?" Kenny asks. "Look at me."
"You look fine."
"Though maybe we could take this off?" Kyle says, touching the wig like it’s an animal that might bite. "Hmm? Would that make you feel better?"
"Actually, that would make me feel worse, Kyle."
"Leave him alone," Stan says. He throws back the rest of his beer, wanting another. Maybe he’ll be allowed to nap before the game, and maybe Kenny will be gone when he wakes up. Wanting this makes him feel like Randy, but his dad isn’t wrong about everything.
"Look, you’ll find something else," Kyle says. "Someone, I mean. We’ll find you someone."
"What do you mean, where? Wherever single gay men are, I don’t know."
"You say that like they’re all over the place. Look what got me into this situation, okay? The lack of selection."
"No," Stan says. "What got you into this was your play dates with Butters in high school. You gotta let that shit go, man."
"Oh, right." Kenny looks from Stan to Kyle and back again. "So easy to let go of your first love, right?"
"It’s not the same!" Kyle says. "I’m the Butters that Stan should have moved on from? Really, Kenny? Jesus!"
"That’s not what I meant, okay, and you know it."
"I don’t know it, and I think that’s exactly what you meant."
Stan slips into the kitchen to start the artichoke dip, though he wasn’t planning on making it until the game was closer to starting. He doesn’t want to participate in this or any of Kyle’s fights. That makes him feel guilty, but he can’t pretend that he wants to keep being Kyle’s white knight, flying into battle for him after he’s set another village on fire. He’ll be Kyle’s nurse, his counselor, his sex slave, whatever, but his knighting days are over. He opens the fridge to dig out the ingredients for the dip, noting that Kyle hasn’t cleaned it out in a while. Stan is still a hoarder, especially when it comes to leftover food, and Kyle was once quite disgusted by this. He’d clean the fridge every Sunday morning, admonishing Stan for having saved things that he was never actually going to eat. They were symbiotic like this, for a while: Stan could ease his guilt over wasting food by packing it into Tupperware containers and shoving it into the fridge, convincing himself that he would eventually find a use for it, and Kyle could later feel efficient and decisive by getting rid of all of it and wiping down the shelves. Now, rooting through containers full of fuzzy lentil soup and Thanksgiving turkey remains, Stan can’t help but feel that their system has broken down.
He preheats the oven and starts grating the parmesan and gruyère, trying not to listen to Kyle and Kenny’s speculation about how long Cartman and Butters might have been fucking each other. Stan has never liked the idea of Butters having sex with Kenny or anyone else – it seems obscene, like the thought of a Pomeranian experiencing sexual passion. He’s glad when the phone rings, and less so when he hears his mother’s voice on the other line.
"You’re really not coming?" she says.
"Mom, I told you." Stan turns away from the living room, sensing that the word ‘Mom’ has drawn Kyle’s attention. He walks out onto the back porch, where his hair is immediately dampened by fat, wet snowflakes. "Kyle’s uncomfortable with that crowd right now."
"That crowd? We’re his family. Gerald will be there!"
"I know, but it’s just – it’s not just the fireman calendar thing. He’s embarrassed that he still doesn’t have a job."
"Maybe he should be! Even Sheila says so. He’s too old not to have insurance, and what’s he even doing with all this free time? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to come down on him – you know I love Kyle."
"But Sheila and I both worry that you never really let him grow up, and that this is what it’s come to. He leans on you too much."
"I never let him grow up? Me? Mom, he has a law degree. He grew up. It’s just a mid-life crisis. Remember Dad’s? All six of them?"
"Stanley, don’t be mean. Your father has emotional problems. He’s very upset that he hurt Kyle this badly. He loves Kyle!"
"Okay. But the thing is, you guys are like, ‘we love Kyle, we love him!’ And then you call me up with a list of all the things that are wrong with him, and his own mother does the same thing—"
"See, you protect him too much, you get so defensive."
"Mom, I gotta go. Kenny is here, and I’m making party food."
"Alright, I’m sorry! But we’re going to miss you tonight. What if the Broncos win the Super Bowl and we’re not together?"
"That’s—" Stan is saddened by the thought, unexpectedly.
"It’s fine, honey," Sharon says. "I don’t mean to make you feel bad. I just – sometimes it’s like you live on the top of this craggy mountain, in this forbidding castle, with your little prince."
"Mom. Are you drunk?"
"I had some beer! Jimbo has a keg."
"Oh, you’re – you’re calling from over there?" Now Stan can hear it, distantly: the party, happy shouts and chatter in the background. Or maybe he’s just imagining it, suddenly, his mouth watering at the memory of Jimbo’s roast pig. The sight of that thing on the spit had upset him deeply as a kid, but he’d always eaten plenty of it when it was transformed into sliced pork on a paper plate.
"Tell Kyle we say hello," Sharon says. "And call your uncle if the Broncos win. He’ll expect to hear from you."
"Okay. They’re not gonna win, though, Mom."
"How can you say that? Don’t be so dark."
Stan walks back inside after he’s hung up with her, and runs his hands under some hot water at the kitchen sink, trying to get warm again. It’s already getting dark outside, the snow clouds heavy and gray. He smiles and turns when Kyle comes up behind him, resting his chin on Stan’s shoulder.
"They hate me," Kyle says.
"What? No, they don’t. Who?"
"Your family. Jimbo, certainly. He was against the calendar, too, you know."
"Only because he’s closeted and he’s afraid he’d beat off to it." Stan turns around all the way and pulls Kyle into his arms. Kenny appears to be asleep on their couch. "Nobody hates you. They just want to see you. They missed you during the holidays."
"I’ll reenter society eventually," Kyle says. "Let me help you with the dip. Or the wings – you’re doing wings, right?"
"Dude, it’s the Super Bowl. Of course I’m doing wings."
Stan spends the next hour cooking, Kyle hovering nearby and drinking Chimay from a wine glass. In the living room, Kenny has begun to snore.
"Is he okay?" Stan asks.
"I don’t know," Kyle says. "I don’t think he’s been ‘okay’ for a while."
"Well, yeah. That wig?"
"Kyle. It’s just his — thing. Don’t be judgy about it."
"I’m not! It’s just off-putting. He won’t have a conversation with me about what it means, you know. Gender identity wise."
"Why does it have to mean something? You always want to label everything."
"Well. Excuse the fuck out of me for wanting to have something to call you."
"Me?" Stan looks up from the wings that he’s brushing with glaze. "What have I got to do with it?"
"Are you my husband? No. Are you my boyfriend? That’s so trite, it sickens me. You’re just this — essential entity."
The phone rings again, and Stan groans, though he’s not sorry to have this stale conversation interrupted. Kyle crosses his arms over his chest and waits for Stan to answer. He hasn’t touched the house phone since the town meeting incident.
"Hello?" Stan says, sharply, prepared to hear his father whine drunkenly about the fact that Stan isn’t at Jimbo’s party, as if he doesn’t wish that he was.
"Is Kenny there?" It’s Cartman; his voice is unmistakably awful, now featuring a kind of fat man wheeze that is especially evident over the phone.
"I believe you have the wrong number, sir," Stan says, though he knows Cartman meant to call here.
"Fuck off, Stan, is he there or not?"
"Why do you need to know?"
"Who is it?" Kyle asks, and he walks over to put his ear beside Stan’s. Cartman grunts, and Kyle rolls his eyes. "You asshole," he says, taking the phone from Stan. "Why are you fucking Butters? I thought you liked women."
Stan is glad to have Kyle take over, though always irritated by his willingness to speak to Cartman, which is rare. He sighs when Kyle puts Cartman on speaker and rests the phone on the counter, beside the wings.
"That son of a bitch slashed my tires," Cartman says. "I know it was him."
"Bullshit," Kyle says. He checks the living room, but Kenny doesn’t seem disturbed by the sound of Cartman’s voice; he’s out cold. "Plenty of people want to do you harm. And Kenny’s not angry with you. His beef is with Butters."
"I don’t want to hear about that freak’s beef. It’s disgusting enough to think we’ve been fucking the same hole."
"Don’t refer to Butters as a hole!" Kyle says, and this manages to rouse Kenny. Stan elbows Kyle to indicate this and turns to put the wings in the oven. He’d been hoping to at least have a peaceful day at home in lieu of the party, so of course this is happening instead.
"Is that Butters?" Kenny calls from the couch.
"No," Stan says.
"Ah-ha!" Cartman shouts, the phone vibrating against the counter. "I hear him! He’s there! So I should send the cops to your house, Marsh?"
"What cops?" Kyle says. "Fuck off! You have no evidence!"
"Jesus, Cartman," Stan says. "The Super Bowl’s on in two hours. What’s wrong with you?"
"Eh, fuck the Broncos. You guys know I’m a Cowboys fan."
"Ugh," Kyle says, and Stan hangs up the phone.
"What happened?" Kenny rushes over from the living room, his wig askew. "Is Butters okay? Why’s he calling the cops?"
"Did you slash his tires?" Stan asks, feeling like an exhausted parent. Kenny rears backward and frowns, but Stan can tell when he’s lying.
"Fine," Kenny says. "It was a moment of weakness."
"Oh, well, great. If the cops come knocking on our door in the middle of the game—"
"Shhh," Kyle says to Stan, coaxing Kenny into the kitchen. "Calm down. Nobody’s calling the cops. Cartman is all talk. Kenny, have some artichoke dip. It’s still hot. There you go. Cheese makes everything better."
"This is fuckload of cheese," Kenny says, attempting to dig a chip beneath the bubbling layer of cheese to access the actual dip. Kyle shrugs.
"The cheese is the whole point," he says. "The artichokes just add texture." He looks at Kenny, then Stan, who is going for another beer. "It’s the Super Bowl!" Kyle says, defensively. "What’s the Super Bowl without cheese? Huh?"
"I prefer wings," Kenny says.
"Well, we have those, too."
When the wings are done, they convene on the couch to watch the Puppy Bowl until the game starts. Stan wants a dog; Kyle wants a kid. The compromise so far has been the cat. It’s probably for the best, Stan thinks, because neither of them are prepared for the challenges of any dependent that would be more demanding than Bluebell, who is well-behaved enough to only stare at the plate of wings longingly from her place on the floor. Plus, they’ve got Kenny to look after, perhaps moreso than ever now that he’s lost the pleasant distraction of Butters’ ass.
"You gonna get tested?" Stan asks, four beers in and impatient for the actual game to start. The Puppy Bowl’s narrator is obnoxious. "For STDs," Stan says when Kenny looks at him quizzically.
"Oh," Kenny says. "That’s irrelevant."
"How can you say that?" Kyle asks, looking up from the bowl of artichoke dip, which has migrated to his lap. "Kenny!"
"No, I mean, I’m clean." Kenny holds up his hands in a surrendering gesture. "I have a sort of immunity. Or restart button, whatever."
"You’re drunk," Kyle says. He’s slurring a bit himself, allowing chip bits to collect all over his sweater, which is something he’s usually extremely self conscious about. "You need medical attention, honey. Cartman was in the same hole as you. Cartman. The very personification of filth."
"Butters is not merely a hole," Kenny mumbles, rubbing his hand over his face. "You said so yourself. Ah, god." He pulls the wig off, which is jarring, his real hair standing up straight with static. "What am I going to do?"
"You’ll be okay," Stan says, doubtfully.
"You know what?" Kyle sits up and sets the artichoke dip on the coffee table, chip bits tumbling down into his lap. "You know what me and you should do?"
"What?" Kenny asks, warily.
"Start a business! I’ve got legal expertise, and you’re a master plumber. We could start a consulting business or something. For plumbing."
"I guess," Kenny says. He eyes Stan, who isn’t sure what sort of expression to put on his face. It’s good to hear Kyle speaking of ambitions, but Stan isn’t sure that the idea of a plumbing consulting firm is sane. He digs out his phone to Google the concept.
"We could make you into an expert witness," Kyle says. "And I could book you gigs. I have all sorts of construction malpractice contacts!"
"This isn’t a bad idea," Stan says, scanning through the list of results on Google. "It’s a real thing."
"Of course it’s a real thing." Kyle gives him a look of betrayal, and Stan feels horrible. Kyle never lost faith in him during his own period of wallowing. "I didn’t have a mental break with reality. I do know what I’m talking about some of the time."
"Dude," Stan says, reaching for him, but Kyle leans away. He looks down at his sweater and groans, brushing chip bits onto the floor.
"I’m getting another beer," Kyle says, standing. "Kenny?"
"What about me?" Stan asks, flopping back onto the couch when Kyle walks into the kitchen.
"You’re an asshole," Kyle says. "That’s what about you."
Despite this assessment, he brings Stan another beer as well, and only resists a little when Stan tries to pull him into his lap. Kenny cracks open his beer and watches glumly as Kyle allows Stan to nibble at his ear.
"I’m sorry," Stan says. "I didn’t mean to — you’re so smart. I keep telling everyone."
"Your parents." Kyle drinks from his beer and relents when Stan holds him closer, Kyle’s left butt cheek shifting onto Stan’s thigh. "I saw my bone, Stan."
"I know you did, dude." Stan has heard this many times; Kenny probably has, too.
"No, you don’t understand. I know you think you understand, but you can’t possibly comprehend this existential paralysis until you look down at your shoulder and see your skeleton trying to escape your skin. It makes you think about things, okay, deeply."
"I know what that’s like," Kenny says, softly, as if he knows they’re not really paying attention.
"I’m glad you’re thinking about things deeply," Stan says. He runs his hand through Kyle’s hair, feeling him gradually relax as he wiggles more of his butt onto Stan’s thigh. "It’s good. You’re gonna be happier, not working for your dad."
"Maybe," Kyle mutters. He turns up the volume on the Puppy Bowl and sighs. The phone rings, and nobody moves to get it.
"It’s probably Butters," Kenny says. His foot begins bouncing on the floor. The wig is hanging over the arm of the couch, looking dead.
"I think Butters is at my uncle’s party," Stan says. "He and Lottie usually go, with the kids."
"It’s so unfair that Butters had children," Kyle says. "And fucking Cartman!"
"Connor’s no prize," Stan says. The kid is twenty now and still living with Wendy, starting to get seriously fat despite her efforts to get him to adopt her vegan lifestyle. He lived with Cartman for a while, but apparently liked that experience even less, possibly because Cartman was nailing Butters in the bedroom next to his.
"I don’t want Cartman’s kid," Kyle says. "Or Butters’. That’s not what I’m saying."
"I don’t want any kid," Stan says, as gently as possible, just in case Kyle suspects he might have changed his mind over the years. Stan tries to nudge Kyle’s gaze toward Kenny, to remind him of what looking after someone is like.
"Well, I don’t want a baby. Oh, look!" Kyle says when Bluebell leaps up onto the couch and into his lap. "It’s like she knows! My poor baby, I didn’t mean to dismiss you. Aw, Stan, look."
Kyle nuzzles the cat, who purrs and makes herself comfortable. Stan switches away from the puppies and turns on the pre-game show. The phone starts ringing again, and Kenny leaps up to answer it this time.
"We’re not here," Stan says. "If anyone asks."
"Stan," Kyle says. "Please. Everyone knows where we are. It’s big news, me holding you prisoner here."
"Not really." Stan remembers his mother’s metaphor about the craggy mountaintop and wonders if Kyle is right. He decides he doesn’t care, and that it’s actually kind of arousing, the thought of all those people at the party grumbling about the fact that Kyle has seduced him into seclusion. In the kitchen, Kenny has picked up the phone and is speaking quietly, probably to Butters.
"I want to kill Butters for this," Kyle says, whispering. "Look at how much he’s already regressed."
"Kyle, it’s just a wig."
"I don’t mean the wig! Okay, yes, I do, but also his pallor. We need to fix him up with somebody. Who’s single and gay in South Park?"
"Don’t even joke about that!"
"It actually makes a kind of sense," Stan says, though he doesn’t like the idea of Kenny settling for Cartman. "Isn’t Cartman into cross dressing, too?"
"I don’t even want to know. I mean, to me, the whole point of being gay is staying as far away from all that shit as possible."
"What shit — women?"
"No, just — ugh, I don’t know! I’m drunk, sorry."
Kenny returns from the kitchen just as the game is starting, and he and Kyle begin a lively rehashing of everything Butters said on the phone. Stan tries to tune them out, but their conversation eventually proves to be more entertaining than the horror of a game. Stan can’t stop picturing Jimbo’s face as the Seahawks’ touchdowns mount, and the beer and wings aren’t helping. Kyle rubs Stan's back consolingly as things continue to deteriorate in the third quarter.
"I knew they weren’t going to win," Stan says. He also knows he should stop drinking beer, because it’s Sunday and he has to work tomorrow, but he’s starting on his sixth – or seventh?
"There was a chance," Kyle says. "But, well. They should be proud they got this far."
"Kyle, they’re getting slaughtered. It’s an embarrassment. People are laughing."
"What people? Fuck them. At least we’re not at that party, god. The atmosphere must be grim at this point."
"I’m glad I’m here with you guys," Kenny says, and they both turn to look at him. He’s still wig-less, the static in his hair having settled down for the most part, and he’s curled up on the other end of the couch, hugging a pillow and staring at the television. "Seriously," he says.
"We’re glad, too," Stan says. He picks up a throw pillow and thumps Kenny with it affectionately. Bluebell rouses in Kyle’s lap, stretching. Stan is hit with a swell of terror and gratitude that comes to him inseparably: this is his family. His parents and his uncle and everyone at that grim party are related to him, but this, here, in the sad glow of the Broncos’ humiliation, is his real family.
He resists the urge to turn the game off before the bitter end, though he knows there will be no magical turnaround. Drunkenly, he likens this feeling of vicarious defeat to approaching middle age: he’s hanging around, resigned but invested, and no longer expecting a change in fortunes. It’s too late in the game. He’s not going to hate the Broncos for this, and he can’t even bring himself to resent them temporarily, aside from Manning. The franchise is still lovable, if broken. They’ll rebuild; things will change – not magically, not entirely, but he does believe, at least, that he’ll see them in the Super Bowl again before he dies. Maybe twice. He goes into the kitchen, considering another beer, or maybe a small glass of the good whiskey he received as a Christmas present from his father. Kyle walks in behind him and flips on the light. Stan grabs his Star Wars coffee mug from the cabinet and fills it with tap water.
"Work tomorrow," he says after gulping from it. Kyle smiles at him uncertainly.
"Kenny fell asleep," he says. "And I don’t think he should drive."
"Of course not, just. Here – let’s get him some blankets."
They tuck Kenny in to a makeshift bed on the couch, not for the first time and probably not for the last. Stan will wake him up at six tomorrow morning, when he leaves for the bakery. He can’t imagine that Kenny might have any plumbing jobs before then. Stan has a wedding cake to make, along with the usual croissants and cookies.
"You okay?" he asks when Kyle is quiet while they’re brushing their teeth together. Usually he’s talking around his toothbrush, dripping toothpaste onto his pants.
"Yeah," Kyle says. "You?"
"Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?"
"Well, the Broncos."
"Mhmm. I feel like some part of me knew that would happen."
"You kept saying it would! You didn’t want to get your hopes up. Oh, Stan."
"Shit – should I call Jimbo?"
"No, god, he’s got to be at least five sheets to the wind by now. Call him tomorrow. Come here."
"To bed," Kyle says, and he pulls on Stan’s sleeve. Stan puts his toothbrush down without rinsing it, eager to be administered to after such a weird night.
In the dark of their bedroom, dozy from the beer, it’s like it was when Stan was the one clinging to Kyle for comfort: every needful reach is met with two handfuls of Kyle. He’s on top, kissing Stan and grinding down against him, whispering against his lips that he’s feeling empty, and could Stan please fill him? Stan feels the same way, which should mean that it’s impossible that they need the same thing. But it’s still true, if familiar: Kyle sinking down and Stan arching up into the feeling of completion that filling Kyle brings, the kind of sex they had in high school. They’ve done other things, have worn out a long list of curiosities and have continued to incorporate some, but they keep coming back to this.
Stan needs a shove over the edge these days, a little newness to add to the old mix, so he imagines a castle on a mountaintop, lightning raining down around its spiky turrets. He’s returning to this castle, his army defeated, his little prince waiting to hear why. Prince Kyle is overwhelmed by Stan’s beaten pride and responsive dominance, and he gasps when Stan flips him onto his back, Kyle’s legs spreading around him. They’re both grunting loud enough to wake Kenny, but Stan doesn’t care. He sinks his teeth into the softest skin on Kyle’s neck when he comes, gently, just enough to feel Kyle’s heartbeat pounding between the points of his canines.
"Sorry," Stan says, breathing the word out when he looks up at Kyle, who laughs and pushes Stan’s bangs off his forehead.
"For what?" Kyle asks. "I came. See?" He smears his hand through the sticky mess between their stomaches and licks a tiny bit of it from his fingertip. Stan nods and kisses him, exhausted. Maybe he’ll take the day off tomorrow, or at least go in late. His apprentices are getting good at the basic stuff, and he’d still have time to do the wedding cake.
"I wish," he says, thinking of weddings, but he cuts himself off when he lifts his face and meets Kyle’s eyes. "I wish they’d won," he says, because now is not the time for anything more serious than this. "Or at least put up a fight."
"You don’t know what putting up a fight looks like," Kyle says, still breathless from being fucked. "If you – if you don’t think that they tried for you."
"Mhmm, Stan, goddammit. You know what I mean."
They kiss again, and Stan nods as he licks into Kyle’s mouth. He knows. He can hear the phone ringing out in the kitchen, and he wonders if Kyle can, too. Their cell phones are on the bedroom floor, in the pockets of their discarded jeans, and Stan hopes the batteries are dead. He doesn’t want intruders in here, the royal bedroom, his sacred place where Kyle bares himself like this.
"There’s always next year," Kyle says, whispering, his thumbs stroking Stan’s cheeks.
"This year wasn’t so bad," Stan says, and he means it. In the morning, they’ll talk to Kenny about becoming an expert plumbing witness. Stan will shovel snow and Kyle might clean out the fridge. They will tunnel their way down from this craggy mountain – together, eventually.