This idea has been swirling around in my head for probably the past year and I'm so glad to finally be able to share it with others. A huge, HUGE thank you to my beta, phunthyme. This wouldn't be what it is now without all your help. And another thank you to the artists who provided artwork for this story. Sorry for all the trouble with the draft. And finally, a thank you to the brilliant mods of SPBB! Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this awesome project and for putting up with my flakiness with deadlines. You guys are amazing!
"A fucking razor? Really, Marsh? Really? Look, if you're gonna do it, you're gonna do it but—believe me—if you're going for quick and easy, a razor's not exactly gonna cut it."
Stan Marsh does not need to turn away from his bedroom mirror to know that Kenny McCormick is leaning on the doorframe. Stan is used to his frequent visits by now to sense Kenny's presence without needing to see him.
Kenny is fixed on the razor firmly gripped in Stan's hand; the blades are tiny little things, barely grazing the skin of Stan's neck, but Kenny swears there is a knowingly eerie glint to those blades, as if they are the teeth of a monster about to tear into its victim. Said victim looks back at Kenny with a strange calmness. The razor is still set on his neck with full conviction, as if challenging Kenny: Stop me. I dare you.
Kenny smirks. He's always been a fan of challenges. He looks at Stan with a sort of malice in his eyes. All American good looks. Football star. Typical. The pussy. Suicide? He could entertain the notion, but Kenny knows he wouldn't dare. Kenny continued, "Get it? 'Not gonna cut it'?" and smoothly glides across the mess of Stan's floor to join Stan at the mirror. "It's a joke. A pun. Remember those? Everyone in South Park loves a good joke."
"Oh ha ha," replies Stan, darkly, keeping his eyes focused in front of him. "Hilarious. Now get the fuck out." Stan has planned this out. Thought everything through. The same idea has been running through him, has captured and held his attention for more than twenty-four hours, which is a lot more than he could ever say about this godforsaken town.
"And miss out on this? No way, dude. It'll be a fucking wreck. Oh, you'll bleed, that's for sure," says Kenny, knowingly. This is Stan Marsh. The same Stan Marsh who gets misty-eyed over animal shelter advertisements with three-legged puppies. Stan Marsh, obscenely concerned about old Alzheimer patients over fucking gay as fuck little bolo ties. "But there's gonna be time, see? Lots of time with you just lyin' there. You can do the neck, sure. And the wrists too if you really want. But with a razor, it'll be a fucking while before you fully bleed out. You're gonna feel yourself dying for every...single...minute."
Stan is unmoved, the blade still wrapped tightly—so tightly, they quiver with anticipation—between his fingers. As if to prove Kenny wrong, he presses the blade closer to his neck. Small beads of blood begin to form. The monster's teeth are sinking in. He is absolutely going to do this. He is going to make sure he follows through.
"And you'll be thinkin' to yourself, "What the fuck am I doing?'" Kenny goes on, undeterred. "But the catch is, you can't even do anything about it. Because by the time you second-guess yourself you've already bled-out to the point that you can't even move."
Still nothing. Stan's eyes stay fixed on his own reflection. Today of all days, he has chosen to forgo the usual red puffball hat and brown coat. He hates that outfit, and yet every single day he finds himself putting it back on again for no reason whatsoever. Not today. Today he wears a teal collared shirt he had found in the back of his closet, and a pair of nice slacks he always knew he had but never bothered to try on. Why hadn't he ever worn these? For once, it was something different.
"You'll say to yourself, 'You know, I've learned something today...'" Kenny persists, in a callous falsetto, "killing yourself is wrong because it's not nice to take away something people care about...someone people love."
It is subtle, but Kenny can feel a slight tremble. He knows. The blade has lost the full brunt of that monstrous edge and Kenny smiles, whispering with conclusiveness, his words laced with victory. "It's not like, say, a car crash, where you're dead before you know it."
Bingo. Stan Marsh has been broken over a messy car wreck, barely hanging on only by the help of a bottle. Kenny knows. Stan Marsh doesn't have the guts.
In that instant, Stan sets down the blade with a clatter, and turns to Kenny. He is silent, but his eyes flash with something Kenny can't quite understand. Is it annoyance? Or guilt? Is it sadness? Is it even relief? Stan Marsh is unreadable. He isn't even sure if Stan himself understands what he is feeling. He wouldn't be the first, in this town. No one ever knows what they're really doing, really saying. Really understanding that certain actions carry consequence.
Stan slumps down onto his bed, lying across a confusion of schoolbooks, passed notes, old photos, and empty beer bottles, and says nothing. Stan has done it again, hasn't he? He has fallen victim to a stupid impulse. He has fooled himself into thinking this was something, anything significant. Like somehow he has been above everything this town stood for. But really what is this? This is him, dressed up in some Sunday best playing around with a razor. Like he'd been making some statement. Like this was somehow going to be seen as something different and more special than normal teenaged angst or a stupid shaving accident that would somehow set off the town on a ridiculous mission against Gillette Razors. No, he actually hasn't thought this through.
And that, Stan has learned not just today but again and again and again, is the mark of South Park.
Before him, Kenny's face cracks into a victorious smirk, standing over Stan's crumpled figure.
"You know, to tell you the truth. I really don't want you to die," Kenny begins, breaking the moment of silence.
Stan looks up, his eyes blank, "Oh really?"
"Dying is the easy way out, and maybe it's selfish but you are an asshole in every sense of the word and you deserve every second of pain, living through the guilt of what you fucking did."
In spite of himself, Stan can't help but let out a scathing chuckle. Of all people, he doesn't need Kenny to remind him. Kenny's mere presence is reminder enough.
Kenny first started appearing to Stan about a year ago; the day when the news of his death spread around the school. Stan remembers that day. For twenty-four hours the school had cared. There was a vigil. A memorial service. Classes were cancelled. Counselors were on hand to talk to the hardest hit. It was a big deal. A very big deal. Wendy as student body president managed to pull herself together enough to write a nice speech for him. Bebe was sobbing and locked herself in the girls' bathroom. Butters was a silent crier; he mostly sat at his desk doodling pictures of airplanes, letting his big, fat tears stain the paper. Even the fatass was shocked; he asked to be sent home and Stan knew that the request was in earnest, and not part of some dumb scheme to get out of school early. Stan and Kyle grieved together. They still did most things together back then. When the news hit them, they sat and held each other and for once no one dared to crack a gay joke in their direction. Even in grief, Kyle was loud, and Stan, always there, always solid, tried his best to soothe him.
So when Stan came home from school that afternoon and saw Kenny hanging around his backyard, Stan was relieved. Relieved and hopeful that maybe it all never happened. That Kenny came back, as he always did.
The sullen look that Kenny gave when Stan ran over to greet him was enough to tell him otherwise.
Kenny McCormick was dead. For good.
And Stan had killed him.
There was a bunch of birds in the sky and Tuesday was just another day at South Park High School. No one ever really cared if some deers went running by. Maybe for a moment, some kid's attention would fleet away towards the window, allowing the deers to distract them from their math class, but every time without fail their focus would go back to the humdrum equations on the blackboard as if nothing had happened.
On this particular day, the lights in the school were flashing on and off because the school administration was currently immersed in a heated battle about whether or not they should just save on electricity for the month now since the seniors would be gone in about four days, or if they should just suck it up and keep the lights on for the brats in the younger grades who had, as some concluded, pretty much already mentally checked out by now.
Kyle Broflovski was absolutely livid. As long as he or his brother Ike were still attending South Park High School, he vowed to make sure that, least of all, the lights stayed on. How could anyone concentrate without the lights? How could anyone read or see or comprehend anything that was going on around them? Even with graduation on Sunday, Kyle was prepared to fight back. Most people—meaning, the unfortunate schmucks he chose to assault with an earful of his shrill arguments and high decibel debates—could agree that his fighting spirit was admirable, but most people also did not give much of a shit at all, really.
"I feel you, bro," Ike Broflovski said, after having sat through an entire rant over the merits of electricity and how influential a well-lit environment was on the human brain's ability to concentrate. Truthfully, Ike considered the lights a pretty fuckin' ace distraction for sneaking his way into a bathroom stall with a senior he'd been eying, but he was smart enough to know by now not to stand in the way of Kyle Broflovski on a mission.
"Really, I do," Ike continued, "I'll totally be your wingman on this one, but I don't think there'll be much we can do about it. Rumor has it, the fatass himself is supporting the lighting cut down."
"That fat son of a bitch!" Kyle seethed, gesturing wildly, as the two brothers walked down the hallway, the ceiling lamps flickering lamely above them. "He would! You know, I'm still convinced he rigged the results because who the fuck would honestly vote for him for student body vice pre—"
"Gettin' off topic, dude," Ike said, cutting off Kyle before he could start on that one again. Kyle was grateful for that. His little brother was one of two people he could always count on to have his back on any number of the stupid happenings going down in this town. Kyle liked things logical thank you very much, and he liked to believe that things in South Park only remained logical (or as close to logical as it could get) thanks to his personal on-going crusade for the good of rationality. And crusaders needed fellow crusaders to help them on said crusade. Or something.
"Right. Well, whatever," Kyle said, getting back to the issue at hand, "If the fatass is behind this retarded lights situation, we're gonna have to get Stan in on this too. That lard's definitely not gonna listen to me, and he's probably not even gonna listen to Stan either, but Stan happens to be dating the only person that fatass is obligated to listen to."
"Whoa, Stan? I almost forgot he got back together with Wendy," said Ike, "I feel like I haven't seen him in, like, forever, bro."
In fact, the last time Ike remembered hearing from Stan, he was also subjected to some brotherly bonding time that mostly meant Kyle waking him up at 2AM to whine about what a negative Nancy Stan was being and how it was coming from, like, way out of nowhere and blah, blah, blah, now he's back together with Wendy, he should give him some space, right? He doesn't really need me when he has, like, Wendy? Right?
"I mean, I still see him around and we hang out in school with everybody and stuff." Kyle stiffened, looking pointedly towards the right, "But you know, I've been busy. He's been busy. SATs and shit."
"Busy," Ike repeated, unconvinced.
"Yes, busy," Kyle stated, in a way that actually meant I-know-what-you're-thinking-and-don't-you-fucking-go-there-Ike-I-swear-to-God. Ike gathered as much from the evasive look in Kyle's eyes and knew that he was gonna be hard-pressed to get anything more out of pursuing that particular vein of conversation. Which obviously, for Ike, meant that he was going to give it a shot anyway.
"You ever think you should just, y'know, tell him?" Ike ventured, not even bothering to keep his voice down. It wasn't as though it was a giant secret to anyone who hadn't been living under a social rock in South Park High. Kyle was not exactly the definition of subtle, and so by senior year most people had speculated at one point or another that there was at least some bit of truth to the jokes often told at the resident super best friends' expense. Most people, as luck would have it, did not seem to actually include Stan Marsh whose head, as Ike once gracefully put to Kyle, seemed to have bought out permanent real estate up Wendy Testaburger's ass.
The lights shone dimly and uncertainly. Kyle, whose head had been turned resolutely towards the direction of the hallway that housed Stan's locker, suddenly snapped his neck back to stare straight at his brother. Kyle hoped the steely look in his eye was enough to communicate to Ike, as succinctly as possible, everything he had to say about the matter: Stan and Kyle were friends. Granted, they were friends who hadn't actually seen much of each other for the past couple of months or so, but they were friends all the same. Friends.
Kyle would be fine with it, really he would. Except for the fact that Stan was always there being Stan and Kyle hated him for that a little.
Because who was Stan to be kind of annoying, somehow getting sucked into doing stupid shit like coaching hockey or becoming the next leader of the Church of Scientology or just being an all around cynical asshole douche bag? Who was Stan to somehow simultaneously be the bravest, smartest, most loyal friend Kyle ever had, who always had his back despite all their inane Guitar Hero, egg assignment, anti-bullying campaign video arguments?
And, like, who was Stan to come to Kyle's bar mitzvah dressed in the most ridiculously adorable suit and tie that really brought out the color of Stan's eyes and complimented his developing form that was just not fair and made Kyle's heart drop to the floor as soon as he caught Stan's eye (that was stupidly, stupidly really, really blue) in the synagogue pew, nearly causing his voice to crack over the sacred lines of the Torah?
And, and! On top of that, Stan even had the gall to give Kyle a beautiful pair of golden candlesticks as a bar mitzvah present because he wasn't sure what to do so he googled what to give someone for a bar mitzvah present because he figured this was really important to Kyle and he wanted to show Kyle how much he cared and stuff because, like, you know, with Kyle being his best friend and all...and well, he saw these candlesticks and he thought, well, everyone could use a little more light in their lives, right?
Kyle didn't have the heart to tell him that traditionally, it's actually more appropriate to give girls candles on their bat mitzvahs because God, why was Stan so fucking awesome? At that moment, as he held the candlesticks in his hands, crude newspaper and scotch tape wrapping still in his lap, Kyle had decided that, regardless of any of his drunken and depressing mishaps, Stan was... kind of adorable. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realized Stan was actually more than adorable and wait, wait, WAIT—
"Now look who's getting off topic!" Kyle deflected, wanting to believe that he had no idea what Ike was talking about. The color flushing into Kyle's face and the tips of his ears said otherwise. It was true Kyle had been a bit—more than a bit, really, if he was being honest—sparse in Stan's life; They saw each other occasionally, but college shit and insane all-nighters always seemed to convene at the most inconvenient of times. Inconvenient of times meaning I-fucking-don't-want-to-hear-about-your-fucking-white-girl-Wendy-problems-dickface-so-take-your-candle-your-pretty-smile-your-silhouette-and-oh-my-god-am-I-actually-quoting-fucking-musical-theatre-now-Jesus-am-I-really-this-much-of-a-fag?
"Look," Kyle continued, trying to maintain what he considered his ultimate composed face. It wasn't working. "Yeah. They got back together like forever ago, which is fine because I would rather have that shithead fucking Wendy than drinking his liver straight into hell, okay? Now let's just drop it and find him so we can just get the lights back to normal."
As they walked through the hall and towards a familiar cluster of lockers, the lights continued to flicker. Sometimes they would stay off for as long as three or four minutes at a time. In those fleeting moments of darkness, Kyle occasionally found himself feeling vaguely disoriented, despite the fact that he had walked those halls an innumerable amount of times. It was as if for a split second, the world he had grown accustomed to would be abruptly replaced by a strange alternate universe in which everything and nothing was the same.
Kyle shook the strange feeling when he heard a sudden yelp and a thud. He looked down and saw his brother sprawled out on the floor. "Ike, you okay?!"
Ike sat up and waved it off casually, walking it off in a way that Kyle had never been apt to do. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just tripped over something is all. Some asshole doesn't seem to understand the novel concept of a garbage can." Both boys looked down at the floor at the offending object lying by Ike's foot: a beer bottle. Curious, Kyle's gaze followed the trickle of caramel-colored liquid that had leaked from it and was led to a scattered array of more trash.
Kyle looked up, mouth revved up to give aforementioned asshole a stern gay, little speech about the dangers of scattering your shit all over the fucking floor but found himself taking in the sight of his best friend at his locker instead. Typical. He should have known from the bottle. "Hey, watch where you leave your stuff, dude. You almost killed my little brother!"
Stan stiffened for a second at the accusation. He willed himself to relax and cast a quick glance to acknowledge the brothers' presence, before delivering a curt 'sorry' in their direction. Kyle raised an eyebrow at the half-assed apology, but said nothing as he hoisted Ike up off the ground. Whatever. Stan was his best friend. He could give him a free pass. He had figured out a long time ago that, for Stan, he would give all the free passes he needed. Didn't mean he had to be particularly happy about it though.
"You sure you're okay, Ike?" Kyle asked, noting a scrape on one of his brother's legs, a perfect illustration of why keeping a constant flow of electricity live in the school was ten times more important than listening to the constant flow of crap coming out of that fatass' big mouth, "I can take you to the nurse if you want."
Ike flashed his brother a quick grin, waving it off again. "Nah. S'all good bro. I'll go myself," he said, already turning toward the nurse's office. Ike didn't need to be a genius to allow his self-preservation skills to kick in and if he knew one thing, Stan, Kyle, and a bottle of alcohol didn't mix and he didn't want to be around to see the explosion.
"Are you sure you can get there okay alone with the lights going out?"
"Tch, relax bro, I've got this. Superior Canadian hockey coordination, remember?" Ike scoffed, and then went on his merry way, practically marching off down the halls. "Oop! Sorry!...Ow—my bad.."
Kyle rolled his eyes, shaking his head. Some super Canadian coordination. Once it looked like Ike managed to clumsily amble his way around the corner to a hallway that was actually lit, Kyle let out the breath he was holding and finally turned his attention to his best friend.
"Dude, have you seen what they're doing with the fucking lights?" Kyle began his tirade, eyes blazing with a fervor that could only mean that he frankly didn't give a shit about anything that was going on right now except the sound of his undoubtedly logical argument, "It's ridiculous. I mean, like, sure whatever, we're leaving and everything but that doesn't mean the whole school has to pretty much shut down or whatever! And they have the nerve to pretend they're doing this shit 'for the good of the environment' or some bullshit but—come on—everyone knows that they're just being cheap bastards. Seriously, can you even believe it? Like, really dude, doesn't this bother you?!"
Stan's eyes quickly flitted up from his locker towards the ceiling, before answering in a dull monotone, "Yeah man, that sucks." After a brief pause, he turned his face fully towards Kyle, eyes focused in a way that could only mean that something was up. He said, more earnestly, "Actually, Kyle, I'm glad you're here because there's something I wanted to talk to you about..."
Yet Kyle, transfixed on his current crusade, and best friend sense dulled vaguely by the lack of use over the past few months, had overlooked the cue Stan's eyes were trying to signal out. Kyle instead turned his focus to Stan's hands. Stan's hands, which were in Stan's locker, shaking ever so slightly as they cleared the remnants of his locker out.
"...What are you doing?" Kyle asked, staring at the mess on the floor, completely missing Stan's gaze transition from serious to seriously annoyed. Stan was notorious for never cleaning his locker out—ever—so its contents basically encapsulated his entire high school experience in a slightly musty nutshell. Collected at Stan's feet was a mess of football sweatshirts, winter gloves without matching pairs, quizzes with adequate to occasionally more than adequate grades, a stack of notices and flyers that his parents were probably supposed to see, borrowed pens and pencils that probably once belonged to Kyle, notebooks that were not so much note-books as they were crappy-poetry-and-emo-song-lyrics-scrawled-in-the-margins-and-back-pages-books; the sort of assortment one might expect to see in the locker of a normal seventeen year old boy.
"What the fuck does it look like I'm doing? I'm cleaning my locker," Stan replied in a deadpan tone, turning to rip an autographed Denver Broncos poster off the inside door. Kyle raised his brow.
The poster had been a gift from Wendy the beginning of sophomore year. Stan, Kyle recalled, had been pretty stoked when he got it and had subsequently lavished his attention on Wendy for the rest of the day, calling her "the best girlfriend ever." The euphoria hadn't lasted that long, however, and the next morning Stan was right back at Kyle's side.
Kyle swiftly felt a fleeting wave of something that was sort of like nostalgia, except mixed with a fizzier type of feeling, over the days that he and Stan had once been inseparable. The days when they practically slept at each other's houses. The days when Stan or Kyle would begin a funny story and the other would interrupt like Yeah, I know! I was there, dude! He was more than ever excruciatingly aware that honestly, Kyle's conscious avoidance of Stan wasn't even really fair.
Had it really been a couple of months since...or was it more like—Jesus Christ—almost a year now?
At that second Kyle suddenly sensed somewhere in his gut that it was very, very important, imperative even, that he rekindle that connection he had deliberately dampered. Now.
"So what—did I somehow miss you suddenly having a total epiphany about the necessity of keeping a clean locker in the last month and a half?" Kyle said, trying to lighten the mood. "I'm impressed. Gone from full-on TLC hoarder status to super neat freak melvin. It's too bad you couldn't have had this miraculous recovery, y'know, during school and not at the very end. But I guess, better late than never, right?" Kyle grinned.
"Yeah...yeah, sure." He returned Kyle's smile before going right back to his work. His smile was forced, strained even. His tone was short and brusquer than Kyle was used to being addressed with. Kyle tried to meet Stan's eye. Something was telling him that he really, really needed to meet Stan's eye right now. That he really needed Stan to tell him what was wrong. But before Kyle could open his mouth and ask, a particularly abrupt blackout of the lights overhead brought him back from super best friend mode into super crusader mode.
"Anyway" Kyle said, changing the topic as abruptly as the electric flares, "The lights, dude."
Stan looked down at Kyle for a moment, absorbing his image as if he was taking a mental photograph of him. Kyle, in that instant was struck dumb, and he felt Stan's blue, ridiculously blue eyes bore into his. And then, quick as they came, they were gone.
Stan said nothing, and shoved all the stuff previously inhabiting his locker into a trash bag. It looked like he hadn't even filtered through any of it, but rather simply decided that nothing—no memory of the last four years—was worth keeping.
"Okay, honestly dude? Who gives a shit about the fucking lights?!" Stan yelled, slamming his locker shut. Above them, the lights crackled into darkness. "They're just gonna fix it tomorrow aren't they? Aren't there more important things to worry about?! Get the fuck over it!"
And soon after the words tumbled out of his mouth, Stan tore his gaze away from Kyle's look of utter disbelief, muttered yet another cursory, "Sorry," grabbed his stuff, and ran away towards the door.
"Eric!" Wendy Testaburger was on the warpath, the dim lighting casting shadows upon her face that somehow made her more intimidating than usual. The responsibilities that came along with the student council presidency had a tendency to drive Wendy's temper up several notches and at that moment she was cranked up to eleven. Most people had the good sense to move as far away from her as possible, rushing around in the dark to avoid her eye. Tweek Tweak had the poor luck to accidentally glimpse up from his locker at the wrong moment, and was immediately treated to the trademark Testaburger laserbeam-a-hole-through-your-fucking-soul glare, before cowering and scurrying quickly away into the refuge of some janitor's closet in the corner.
The hallway was empty, that is except for one Eric Cartman who, slammed his locker door perhaps a little too abruptly just as she marched herself over to him. Standing a mere five foot six to his enormous six foot five, Wendy somehow still managed to look intimidating, craning her neck up to give Eric an eyeful of her that notorious glare of hers.
"Well, well, President Testaburger," Cartman began, casually, "You seem stressed. You know, even though we're, like, five days away from leaving this shithole for good, it's not too late to resign your student body presidency and relinquish the title to me. Everyone will understand, once you cite your truly horrendous monthly uterine lining problems, I'm sure."
"Oh, don't give me that shit! Cut the crap, Eric! What. Did. You Do?" Wendy practically hissed. Eric tended to have that sort of effect on her. "Why am I hearing from the administration that this whole lighting business was your idea? I mean, granted, I thought 'Well that sounds like classic Eric Cartman to me' but then I thought to myself 'You know what, I'm going to maybe give him the benefit of the doubt and ask him myself.' So spill it. You know I'm going to find out sooner or later. What's your angle?"
"Hmm, Wendy, I'm not quite sure I understand what you're getting at."
"Is this a ridiculous senior prank?"
"I don't joke about the distribution of funds, Wendy. I'm not a Jew like Kyle who has enough Jew gold that he can throw around all over the fucking place."
"Augh!" Wendy screeched. He was enjoying this and Wendy wanted nothing more than to wipe that stupid fat grin off his face. "Stop changing the subject! Did you or did you not—though I'm sure you did—plant the idea to reduce the electricity bill in the administration's heads?"
"Why, yes, Wendy. If that's what you're asking, yes. I did happen to merely suggest to the superintendent that cutting down on the electricity bill could allow the school to use that money for more significantly beneficial purposes."
It took everything for Wendy not to completely lose it right in the middle of the hallway. He was doing this for some underhanded, convoluted purpose that would somehow reroute itself to be ultimately more beneficial for him in seemingly irrelevant but unbelievably powerful ways, she knew it. She was five days from graduating, but she was absolutely not going to go down in South Park High history as the student body president who let everything fall to shit as soon as she left.
"In what way, pray tell, is everyone tripping all over themselves just to walk three steps forward beneficial in any way at all?"
"Wendy, Wendy, Wendy." Cartman shook his head, patronizingly, leaning into his locker in a way that might have been what Cartman considered super coo'. The fucking nerve. "I think the student body can afford a few scraped knees and misplaced books, in exchange for the greater good. Can we both agree? Greater good? Few scraped knees?" He held his palms like a mock scale and continued, "Wouldn't you say Wendy that the greater good is far more important?"
God. She could feel a migraine coming on, as she reached up to rub her temples, "Eric, level with me. Please. Why do I feel the 'greater good' in this situation is in reference to you?"
Cartman leaned back into his locker further, gasping dramatically and pressing his mass into the locker with more pressure than Wendy thought was necessary. "Why Wendy, I am surprised that you would think so little of me. I happen to be the vice president of the school and I want nothing more than to serve my fellow students the best way I can."
Wendy actually snorted at that one. "You've never done anything that wasn't self-serving or self-righteous. You have got to be shitting me."
"No, Wendy, I think you'll find that my shit is quite legit. Quite legit indeed," he detached himself from his locker, and hugged his book bag close to his fat stomach in, what seemed to Wendy, a protective fashion. A bizarrely protective fashion. He gripped the straps of the bag as though it was filled with a lifetime supply of Cheesy Poofs, or a pot full of Jew gold, or any number of disgusting possibilities Wendy ran through her head.
"What's in the bag?" Wendy asked, though it was more of a demand than a question really. She made a grab for it, but missed as Cartman narrowly dodged her hand, turning his torso away. He tried to keep his mask of cool poise, but his eyes betrayed a wide-eyed fear. This was more than a childish gawk that might be found on the face of a toddler caught sticking his hand in the cookie jar. No. This was more reminiscent of an animal, trapped in the hunt.
"I know it must be a difficult topic for a Communist hippie bitch like you to grasp—"
"What's in the bag?" She made snatching movements, trying to maneuver around Cartman's evasive stumbling.
"—but for strapping, intelligent young capitalists like me, I find that that money can be utilized for a plethora of things in lieu of a silly thing like electricity." He looked as though he was about to make a mad dash away, large hands still clenching the backpack for dear life. Not on Wendy's watch.
"Eric!" She chased after him. Wendy was fairly nimble, and she knew she could outrun Cartman's lumbering form any day of the fucking week.
"Extra textbooks—" he shouted after her, as if he somehow held hope he could talk Wendy out of this. That's what Eric Cartman primarily was. All talk. Big words coming from a man who felt the need to overcompensate.
"ERIC!"She grabbed after him, managing to find a grip hold onto one of the bag's straps.
"—More food options in the cafeteria—" Jesus Christ. Was he really this desperate? Whatever was in that bag must be something fucking crazy.
"ERIC CARTMAN—SO HELP ME GOD—" She tightened her grip and pulled as hard as she could. Even after Cartman had gone through puberty, Wendy was still a force to be reckoned with. When that girl was on an anger induced adrenaline rush, all bets were off.
"—New desks for the classrooms!—" She could feel his grip starting to slip against hers.
"I WILL FIND OUT WHAT YOU'RE UP TO IF IT'S THE LAST FUCKING THING I DO!"
"—Funds for the McCormick Memorial Foundation—" Al...most...there.
And just like that, the lights snapped shut down the entire floor, immersing Wendy and Cartman in total darkness. It took Wendy a brief moment to find her bearings again and readjust her eyes as she grasped blindly in the blackness but that brief moment would cost her. She could hear Cartman's fat feet clomp as fast as they could as far away from Wendy as possible. Shit, shit, SHIT. That fucking son of a bitch!
By the time the lights crackled back to life, Wendy could only confirm what she already knew. Cartman, and the mysterious contents of his book bag, were already long gone.
"Wow, giving up so easily? I guess we can add 'quitter' on to the list of things that define Stan Marsh. Right up there alongside 'pussy,' 'cynical bag of dicks,' and, my personal favorite of course: a fucking 'murderer.'" Kenny elicits casually. He's sitting—or floating rather, really—over Stan's bed. At first, Stan found Kenny's occasional bouts of transparency and insubstantiality rather disturbing, but after a good year now of being haunted, Stan is now quite used to it. What can he say really, when he honest to God deserves it?
"Huh, that's funny, Kenny. Just a second ago you were convincing me not to do it," Stan says dully as he lays, unmoved, on his bedspread. He realizes that the puffed up bravado of his failed suicide attempt is a vaguely embarrassing, inconsequential blip in the grand scheme of things, but frankly he's really too numb to give a shit. "But you're right. I am a fucking pussy aren't I?"
"Hey. You never did manage to fuck a pussy, so it makes sense that you ended up being a fucking pussy," Kenny scoffs. "Imagine that."
Stan says nothing. What can he say to that when it's all true?
"So, whatever, this little spectacle of yours didn't work," Kenny continues, gliding away from the bed and picking up the tiny razor blade off the desk. With the blade lightly resting between his thumb and pointer finger, he casually makes a single, seamless cut on his wrist. He studies the cut, curiously amused, noting the blood that doesn't and will never again seep out. "What are you going to do now?"
Stan stares vacantly at the ceiling, still in his stupid teal shirt with his stupid church slacks, with a freshly opened bottle of beer in his hand. Belatedly, he also realizes, that fuck he really looks like his fucking father in this outfit, but he finds it somehow oddly fitting that he would have then theoretically performed his stupidest act yet costumed as the stupidest person he knows.
Stan thinks of his father, born and raised in South Park. Who would live out the rest of his years in South Park. Who would die in South Park. In a godforsaken mountain town in the middle of East Bumbleguam, never knowing, never wondering if a life beyond government conspiracies or celebrity shitfests existed.Brought up on a consistent diet of the crazy Kool Aid, believing that no, actually, it doesn't get any more normal than this. Sorry, kiddo, this is just the way life works.
And for a long time, Stan believed in it too. Maybe he liked to pretend that he was the most "normal" of anyone he knew, and maybe he was. But wasn't there blood on his hands? Hadn't he taken someone's precious life and torn it to shreds until it ceased to be? Hadn't he gotten off, without so much as a trial or even a warning for god sake? Was that what normal was? Was that just the way life works?
On the night of the car crash, it was like Stan truly woke up for the first time in his life, as though the life he had been living before had been some crazy dream-like state where mecha-Streisands could destroy the town and rogue crime syndicates could hold entire classes hostage in a pioneer village. Where little boys could die a hundred thousand deaths and come back, unscathed, good as new, with a smiling, laughing face ready to face the next brand new adventure.
Something broke inside of him that night, as if he was breaking the surface for air after being submerged in an icy pool. Suddenly it wasn't funny.
Suddenly, the concept of grief could not be contained into a simple, casually thrown out, "Oh my God."
And then he thinks back on his father. His mother. His sister. Every. Fucking. Person. He. Knew. Every fucking person who got to wake up the next day after that night and forget everything, reset their minds, and prepare for the next brand new adventure. And he knows. He knew even back then. He can never go back.
"I have to leave," he concludes. And there's an air of finality to these four words that makes Kenny almost shiver with a feeling he can't quite place. Immediately, he can tell that this isn't like his half-baked, angst-laced attempt at suicide.
But he can't let Stan see this. Can't let him know that's he's spooked the spook. So instead, Kenny puts the blade down and places both hands to his cheeks, letting out an exaggerated gasp. "You mean for foreeever?!" He throws his head back with a sneer, "Forever. What a novel concept in this town. You sure you're not just gonna pussy out on that one too? Come back in the morning to your mommy and ask for a batch of pancakes?"
"Shut up!" Stan tosses a pillow at him without getting up, missing Kenny's spiteful grin as it passes right through his body. This, this was for real this time. No tricks. No uber angst-laced planning. "And yeah, for forever. I have to leave and never come back. Just disappear from South Park. I can't do it Kenny. I can't stay here anymore."
Kenny is not particularly impressed by this revelation. "Woah, heavy. You do realize, you're probably never gonna see any of these people again. Now, I know you already said your pussy-ass pretentiously cryptic goodbyes to everyone. You gonna do it for real this time? Let everyone know exactly what you're doing and for what reason? Don't they even deserve that?"
Stan almost laughs at that one. "Like anyone would even care." If anyone did care, where were they now? Why did it take a fucking ghost to stop him from offing himself?
As far as Stan was concerned, those assholes all pretty much abandoned him to die.
The last time Stan had walked down the halls of South Park High, he had come to the grim conclusion that, honestly, if he couldn't trust any one of these people to notice, to even care that he felt like pure shit inside, then he couldn't trust them to believe in a word he said. That last time, the lights had still been out of sorts. Maybe it had been the electricity issue that was fucking with the atmosphere, but things warped for Stan then; and it was as if time was going by in slow motion as Stan lost himself in his thoughts. With every flash of the faulty lights, a new face would pass into his vision.
Butters. Bebe. Craig. Tweek. Clyde. Token. And so on.
Friendly faces everywhere indeed.
"Really, now." Kenny responds, rolling his eyes at this dull display of self-pity. "You, honestly, really don't think there's any person out in South Park who would care if you up and left? No one out there who deserves an answer? Gonna give up that easily?"
"No. There's no one." Stan answers, plainly. As though to emphasize this point, Stan gets up, reaches into his closet and pulls out two large suitcases.
Kenny watches Stan ravage his drawers for a moment, before he shakes his head, incredulously. "Wow. Tch. You know what, Marsh, you are honestly one of the most spoiled assholes I've ever met."
Stan shoots up at the accusation. "What the fuc—how?!" Stan demands. Because Stan tries to be a good person. How is it his fault that no one in this town even knows what a good person actually is?
Kenny, whose orange hood lays haphazard over his head, not even tight enough to cover his mouth, reaches up and removes it in full. "You know, some people underrate the true value of a goodbye."
And he leaves it at that.
Stan finds the scene uncannily familiar, before the vision hits him. An eight year old boy in an old orange parka, standing at the very mouth of hell, surrounded by the mangled bodies of his fallen comrades. His first and only real goodbye. The final time he died, Kenny had left this world with words unsaid, as more often than not he always did.
How many goodbyes had been stolen from him? How many people had he loved? How many of them would never hear things unspoken or secrets kept that no longer mattered by the time the world reset?
Stan barely has to think in order to recant his answer. "No, you're right." How many times had Kenny been right today already? "Maybe, there...is one person."
'Meet me at the bleachers after school. –Stan.'
Stan had dropped the note into Wendy's locker while on the way to lunch a few periods ago. He looked up at the clock. There were three minutes left until last period was over and only the final announcements to sit though before their meeting.
Stan glanced over at the seat to his left where Kenny sat, slumped over his desk. He wondered why the guy even bothered coming in at all anymore, especially when it was way beyond unnecessary. Pointless really. Maybe the poor guy was just bored. No, there was something in his eyes that suggested something more than a dull stupor. Something distinctly sad.
Stan would never voice it aloud, but sometimes he thought that Kenny's ghost wasn't only after vicious revenge, wasn't just here as a cruel, permanent manifestation of his guilt. Sometimes Stan thought maybe Kenny still clung onto him because there was finally someone who showed even an ounce of caring, let alone remembrance over him dying. Stan couldn't imagine having to feel that isolation. Having to experience that over and over again.
The final bell rang, followed by the droning voice of the principal. The day's announcements barely found a place in Stan's consciousness. While his classmates took part in idle chit-chat, Stan kept to himself at his desk, mulling over the words he would have to say later.
He caught a glimpse of the desk to his right and sensed Kyle's eyes on him. They hadn't spoken a word to each other since Stan blew him off at his locker the other day. Stan knew they had to talk. Soon. Really soon. But not today, not until today's task was taken care of. He tried not to think of Kyle, tried not to dwell on the last time he saw him at his locker. His green eyes were burning –but then they were always burning, weren't they?—and red hair a mess sticking out from under his hat. His mouth was held in that perpetual frown that he had and—
Now was not the time. Stan focused and kept his eyes to the front. He would not allow himself to turn to the right.
After a few minutes, the seniors' dismissal bell rang. Stan got up and left the classroom before Kyle could catch up with him. He wouldn't have a chance anyway, Stan thought with a smile. Kyle had some fight, but it wasn't often he could outrun anyone with his short skinny legs and knobby knees or—
Not the time, he reminded himself.
Stan slung his mostly empty backpack onto his shoulder as he trekked into the regular afterschool hallway traffic, filled with purpose. Stan weaved his way through the crowds. Kenny, unnoticed at his side, kept up an unwavering pace, not budging an inch when people unknowingly walked right into him.
And before Stan knew it, he was outside. He headed around back to the baseball field. Wendy was there before he was. Of course. Prompt as ever. Kenny took this as a signal to leave and wandered off to who knows where. Stan was sure he'd be seeing him again later. He walked over to her and gave her their typical greeting. He briefly wrapped a slack arm around her shoulders in a shoddy hug. This time though, he chose to forgo their usual greeting kiss.
Wendy raised an eyebrow at this, but thought nothing of it. She opened her mouth to say something, but Stan cut in.
He held her by the shoulders. "Wait, before you say something. I've got something really important to say, so..." This was an odd feeling. He kind of wondered how she was able to do this to him so many times.
"Um, sure Stan. Go right ahead."
"Look, I've still got tons of stuff to do, and I'm sure you do too, so I'm just gonna say it." A pause, and then, "Wendy, I'm breaking up with you."
It took a second to register. "...I'm sorry?"
So he looked her in the eye and repeated it. "I'm breaking up with you."
Stan stopped talking after that and just stared at Wendy who, surprisingly, displayed no immediate reaction. Whether that was a good thing or not, Stan wasn't sure, but he really wished she would just say something instead of keeping him in suspense. The thing about Wendy was that Stan sometimes never knew exactly what she was thinking; often times, whenever Wendy thought she was being direct with him, it ended up raising more questions than it answered. It kind of pissed him off to be honest. He had let that mild irritation pass by without a word every single time they got back together.
Stan had no idea why.
After a minute of silence, Wendy finally opened her mouth.
"You're breaking up with me."
Stan blinked. "Um. Yeah?" He was rather clear about that wasn't he?
"Why? I know I've been really busy lately with classes, and college, and being class president, Stan, but we're doing okay, aren't we?"
"We are, it's just—" How could he explain this? 'South Park is an apathetic shit hole that doesn't care that I murdered someone, and I'm leaving you 'cause you remind me too much of it'? She'd think he was crazy. Or drunk. Probably both. It wouldn't be the first time someone thought that about him though. Lately those two qualities had come to be associated with Stan's persona more and more.
Initially, after the car wreck that no one else seemed to care about, Stan had tried to reset himself too. He thought maybe, if he could just get back into that mindset. Into the before time. Things would feel normal again and he wouldn't hate himself and he wouldn't have all this pent up guilt and he would stop hating everyone else for not feeling it too, for not incriminating him, for not doling out a punishment he so very much deserved. Stan had tried to allow himself to forget everything, like everyone else in this town seemed to do so easily.
He thought, maybe, if he just got back to together with Wendy...
"So. Who is it?"
Broken out of his thoughts, Stan looked up at his soon-to-be-permanent ex. "...Huh? What do you mean, who is i—"
"Who are you seeing behind my back?" Wendy answered plainly.
"What?!" Stan sputtered. "Why would I—I'm not cheating on you!"
"Well why else would you break up with me?" Wendy countered, in an inappropriately calm fashion.
"The fuck—Wendy, I'm not seeing anyo—"
"So who is it Stan? Is it Heidi?"
"No! Why the fuck would I--"
"Is it Nelly? Annie? Milly?! Lola?!"
"No, no, no! Wait—who?" To be quite honest, Stan actually had no idea who more than half the girls in his class were, which made the probability of Stan cheating on Wendy with one of them a hundred percent unlikely.
Wendy continued. "Is it Red? It's Red isn't it? I bet it's her. She's on the cheerleading squad. She's at every game!"
Stan dragged out a sigh at the mention of football. Another constant that came into his life around middle school. Like everything else, he'd gotten pretty sick of the sport over the past year, but still managed to stay on the team at both the urging of his father and in his half-assed attempt to pretend everything was perfectly normal.
He was tired of being "The Quarterback".
He looked back at Wendy, mid-rant about accusatory flings beneath the bleachers.
He was also tired of being "The Quarterback with the Valedictorian Girlfriend", the epitome of "High School (or rather in their case, Elementary School) Sweethearts." Now that the subject was brought to light, why hadn't he ever been with any of those other girls? Why had he never tried someone different? It wasn't as if they weren't pretty or anything. But no matter what, without fail, it was always back to Wendy. No matter how many times the two had broken up, they still managed to get back together somehow.
What was it his mom said before? "The best thing to do is stick with what you know"? Was that what held he and Wendy together for so long? If they were able to get back together so many times, surely there had to be something special there worth preserving right?
Or did they get back together all those times, simply because it was the easiest choice?
It certainly seemed easy when Stan, only two weeks after that night, called Wendy up and heard her instantly agree without a second thought. For the first few months Stan had done his best, did everything he thought a quarterback boyfriend was supposed to do. But the more time went on, Stan could feel a sickening sensation burning in his stomach that he felt sure had nothing to do with romance-induced nervousness.
"I'm not seeing Red!"
Ugh, why was this even a fucking issue? What did it say about Stan, about this town really, that he was being accused of cheating and had never once been accused of murder? What did it say about a town that cheered on a murderer on the football field without hesitation and chose to overlook the fact that a kid was dead because of him?
"HA!" Wendy spat. "How can I be so sure? You always did have a thing for redheads!"
Stan flushed and felt a heavy weight drop to the pit of his stomach. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!" That was a lie. How did Kyle of all people suddenly become part of this conversation? Despite any of the flaws he had found in Wendy, he always thought she was better than the fag jokes and gossip.
Kyle was the third constant in his life. But he had nothing to do with this. Absolutely nothing.
Somehow, Stan realized, he was more fearful for the conversation he was going to have with Kyle than the one he was having with Wendy.
Wendy rolled her eyes, not believing that for a second. "Well, if you aren't cheating on me Stan, then why are you breaking up with me? Am I not good enough for you?"
"No, I'm not good enough for you?!" Now Wendy was yelling, giving the reaction that Stan was expecting. She wrenched herself away from under Stan's grasp. "What the fuck Stan?!"
"No!—I mean yes! You are good enough for me—It's just that ugh.." Stan groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'm...going to go away and...I can't bring you with me to where I'm going..." Ugh. That didn't answer anything at all, but it was the best he could think of.
"Is this about college Stan?" she asked, calming down just a bit. "Did you decide to go to school out of state? I thought you were going to Boulder. If that's the case, I don't think you have anything to worry about."
"Wait, Wendy, that's not what I meant—"
"I know people say that long distance relationships don't really end well, and that most high school couples don't last past graduation, but I think we could make it work."
She kept going. "We were going to hit this hurdle eventually anyway, but there's no harm in discussing it now if you're that worried—"
"Wendy!" Stan took her by the shoulders again. He had to stop her before she got too carried away by things that just couldn't happen. "Look, I just—I can't be with you anymore, alright?"
"Stan, if you would just explain to me why—"
I could try, but you wouldn't get it. God damn, this was hard. How could she pull this break-up stuff off so easily every time? The bitch. Was he really that expendable that she could just easily cast him aside whenever she felt like it? Thinking back on it now, perhaps Stan may have had a hand in developing that habit, as he was the one who always allowed himself to take her back, without fail.
"I'm leaving South Park okay?!" Stan tore away from her and turned to leave, but paused.
Say goodbye, stupid, his mind said. Break if off for good.
Nodding, he turned on his heel back towards her, only to find her now turning to leave. "Hey! Whe--Where you going?"
She turned back, with a half smile, wearing a far more relieved look on her face. "Listen Stan, I finally get what this is. This is a simply a physical manifestation of your depressive tendencies. You're craving attention right now, aren't you?" She stood up on her tippy toes and gave Stan a quick peck on the cheek. "I'm sorry I've been busy lately. If you want, you and I can meet tomorrow or something, but right now I have got to get to Cartman's house to—"
"Cartman's house?" Stan repeated, genuinely confused. She was missing the point in its entirety, patronizing him. He knew that look, and he had been getting it a lot for a while now. It was the look that people gave him, this pitying stare that pretty much said oh, look at the poor depressed loser who doesn't know any better! As though he was the crazy one in this town!
And now she was bringing Cartman into this? Did she really care more about what was on that fat lard's agenda than to stay for another minute to hear a good bye? Now that he thought about it—wow, he certainly found himself doing that a lot lately hadn't he?—Wendy seemed abnormally very...preoccupied with Cartman. Stan couldn't count the amount of times he had to sit and listen while she bitched about how Cartman said this and Cartman said that and 'Oh my God! Can you believe he called me—insert whatever misogynistic term the fatass had decided to use that particular day—?!' From the sounds of it, 'ho' had strangely started to sound more and more like a pet name as the years went on rather than an insult.
"What do you need to go to the fatass' house for?"
"Because!" she practically groaned, wanting to get a move on. "Eric Theodore Cartman is most definitely up to something, and I am going to get to the bottom of it!" And away she went.
"...Okay, bye...I guess." Stan dropped his hand after a weak attempt at a wave. Wow. Stan didn't know what he expected from that. Maybe he thought there'd be some tears. A heartfelt hug. An understanding smile. A kiss at least? But then again, maybe Stan should have known better, even if it was Wendy, a girl who he had once placed above everyone else in town. Maybe she really was no better. But Stan couldn't blame her, could he? This was South Park.
Still, if that was the goodbye he could expect from his girlfriend—the girlfriend he was apparently supposed to have been in love with for years now—he couldn't imagine how much worse everyone else would possibly be. Wendy was the first goodbye on a long list of people he had made to say goodbye to and he didn't think he could bring himself to experience this constant stream of condescension, of misunderstanding, of sheer indifference over and over again.
He thought back on Kyle at his locker, uncaring, unmoved. Stuck on his own useless agenda about useless shit that didn't really matter. Never clearing his vision to notice anything, notice Stan.
Stan felt his heart beat in his ears, closed his eyes, and tried—really tried—to remember the last time he truly remembered feeling like he and his best friend were on the same page.
But all he felt, really, was the feeling of being lost in translation.
...That was it. He was done. If no one could understand him, there would be no more room for goodbyes.
"Would you like a snack, Wendy?"
"Oh, no thank you Mrs. Cartman." Wendy politely declined as she made her way for the stairs. "I'm just here to see Eric." It honestly was such a shame that a woman as lovely as Liane Cartman had to get stuck with the very ungrateful scum of the earth as her offspring.
Once Wendy made it all the way up the stairs and took that first step onto the second floor, things didn't seem right. It was quiet, eerily so. It wasn't what she was expecting out of Cartman at all. She walked to his bedroom door and pressed her ear up against it. She could pick up what she thought sounded like muffled bits of conversation. Probably plotting with a so-called 'associate' of his over the phone. Well, not while Wendy Testaburger was around.
"You can keep your voice as low as you want, I can still hear you!" She called through the door and just like that, the muffling immediately stopped. She rolled her eyes, in disbelief. "Wow, are you really trying to pretend you're not there now?" When she got no answer back, she let out a sigh. "Alright, so maybe I jumped to conclusions too easily yesterday afternoon. Why don't I just come in there and we can talk about this calmly, like adults. We are going to be seeing a lot of each other at Yale next year, so we may as well start learning to deal with each other now."
Not one peep.
"ERIC THEODORE CARTMAN, IF YOU DON'T OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW, I'LL HAVE TO BUST IT OPEN MY—"
The door slowly swung open with a long, ominous creak.
"—self...Right! Well, don't think you can avoid talking about that little incident yesterday because—Oh, now what's this?" She walked into a room of complete darkness. Funny, she didn't remember shutting the door behind her when she came in, "Aren't we a little old for hide and seek?"
"I love hide and seek!"
"Who's there?!" Wendy jumped a little at the sudden noise. She gave the room a quick turnaround, seeing no one else in there with her.
Wendy gasped, trying to grope blindly along the walls for a light switch, while searching for this strange voice. "Where...Where are you?"
"Here. Behind you."
Wendy immediately turned around and took a couple steps back, even raising her fists—just in case. She peered out into the space in front of her and made out the blocked out form of the back of large armchair.
"You found me!"
The more this voice spoke, the more and more familiar it was beginning to sound. Yes, that high, scratchy falsetto meant to pass off as dainty. She remembered it now, though it had been years since she had heard it last.
"Polly...Prissypants?" Wendy asked into the darkness, uncertainly.
"It was so lonely in there. And dark..." she said, avoiding Wendy's question. Still, she kept talking to Wendy as if she were an old friend of hers. One that she had desperately wanted—needed—to talk to.
"The locker. It was so stuffy and cramped in there. He had so much garbage in it. He liked to put leftovers and snacks in there too...I'm so glad he finally let me out of there..."
"...The locker?" Wendy's eyes widened in realization. A doll? Was this the thing Eric was so desperate to sneak away in his backpack yesterday? So desperate that he threw the light system out of wack? But what for? So no one would make fun of him for still playing with dolls as a senior in high school? She wasn't aware he had started that old habit up again. She, along with everyone else, was under the impression that Eric 'killed' all his dolls back in the fourth grade.
"Um..." the doll started again.
Wendy's head shot back up in direction towards it, or, towards the back of the chair it sat in actually. She stepped deeper into the darkness, hoping to face the doll herself in the chair. If she could hear it speak, she knew that Eric was somewhere in the room too.
"Have you seen my mommy?"
"Your...mommy?" Before Wendy could appropriately process the question, the lights snapped on.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN MY ROOM, HO. GET THE FUCK OUT."
And just like that, Eric stood before her. She wasn't quite sure which direction he had come from, but it didn't really seem to matter. Eric was looking at her, a crazed look in his eye. That desperate, animalistic glint she had noted the day before had become more feral in the sterile light of his room. The sudden appearance of his hulking figure, hunched over, face contorted into a demented scowl, had sent her flight instincts into overdrive. Without really thinking, Wendy bolted out of the room, down the stairs, past Liane Cartman and her tray of snickerdoodles, and out of the house.
Gasping and panting on the sidewalk in front of the Cartman residence, Wendy took a moment before craning her neck up towards Cartman's bedroom window. That was utterly bizarre. Bizarre for even Eric Cartman. This wasn't at all like his usual fare, a harebrained get-rich-quick scheme. No. There was something bigger happening here. Eric Cartman had a secret—something huge judging from how desperately he tried to protect it---and Wendy Testaburger was going to get to the bottom of it.
"Well, I know you're not gonna try that shit again with Wendy because God fuckin' knows that you've tried it with Wendy, like, a million times now and every goodbye you've had with her is pretty much just as meaningless as the last. Though I think we can both agree that very last one was a doozy. Pretty much a fail on your part, huh?"
Stan says nothing, and continues to shove whatever into his suitcase. He hates that Kenny is right. Again.
"Like it had to have been pretty bad if it turned you off from all goodbyes ever."
Like some asshole, know-it-all guardian angel.
"You were gonna kill yourself today without having really given a single person a real goodbye. You left everyone with half-assed see ya's and so long's. You didn't even make a note. So I wonder then, who is that one person, that one...super person who has suddenly made you reconsider, Marsh?"
An asshole know-it guardian angel that sticks his nose in business that he had no idea about.
The question hangs there before Stan answers, "I haven't reconsidered yet. I said maybe."
"Alright. We're gonna play it that way? Hypothetically then. Who is it?"
"I—it's---" Stan hesitates. "It's someone, alright?" Stan can't deal with this right now. "Yes, I know one person who deserves a goodbye—a real goodbye---from me. But—but like I said—"
"—'Maybe," Kenny completes darkly, staring him down.
He lets that sit there before continuing, never breaking eye contact.
"Well then, Stan, you've decided to maybe grace one, special human being with your super awesome, super heart wrenching, emotional, tear-filled, gay as fuck goodbye--maybe. Lots of conviction on display, there, man. I'm happy for you, really. " Kenny punctuates this statement by intensifying his gaze to a glare that says he's anything but.
"Hey!" Suddenly Stan shoots up again and he's on his feet, and god he can feel the tears beginning to sting at the corners of his eyes but he doesn't care, "You're the one who told me not to waste my chance! You know what? You're only acting like it's this big, easy thing to do—to say goodbye—because you're so fucking desperate to get your own but don't take it out on me. I know you're bitter about how you never got to—trust me, you've made it very clear—and I'm sorry, but there's no reason to be a fucking asshole about it!"
"Well it takes one to know one..." Kenny mutters bitingly. "You know what though, you're right Stan. I am bitter, but you know who should be bitter about not getting the chance to say good bye—" Stan winces, because he does know. "--Because bless her heart, I know she isn't—but she has every fucking right to be! At least I had millions of opportunities to do it; I just didn't take it in the end 'cause it wasn't worth it. She only had one chance. One! And you fucking stole it from her!"
Any evidence of Stan's momentary display of boldness disappears and he slips back into silence, back onto his covers. Why defend yourself against something that you know is true?
"I still can't find her, you know?" Kenny says, quietly. The one thing he's said all day that hasn't been laced with venom. Kenny tended to get that way about anything regarding his sister.
Stan's eyes widen, taken aback, unsure how to respond. "Still? It's been at least a year..."
APRIL, ONE YEAR AGO.
Kenny hurled the deep purple cape onto his bedroom floor, along with everything else that represented the alternate persona he abandoned three months ago. He emptied that drawer of everything. The tights ripped to shreds. The garment that bore the green M across its chest crumpled up into a little ball, along with the black mask he used to hide his face. The bright green question mark that served as his insignia thrown mercilessly across the room and into the wall, before it fell into a pathetic little heap amongst the trash on the floor.
He should have been there for her. He was her big brother. Her superhero. Her guardian angel. No matter which persona he took on, it would never change the one fact that made all of his other vices utterly insignificant in comparison: Kenny had failed her.
It should have been him that night. He would have gotten hit, died, everything would have reset, and no one would remember a goddamn thing—like always. It would be another tally mark on the massive count of the times that this happened to him, but he'd do it infinitely if it meant she could live.
The past three months were hell. Absolute hell. No, maybe that wasn't the correct term. Kenny had been to Hell more than enough times in his short life. Hell was like fucking Disney World compared to what he had been through. He turned seventeen this past March, but refused to celebrate his birthday. How could he possibly be happy, when there was an empty chair that wasn't his at their meager dining table. His parents got him nothing this year, as it was expected, but he felt a particularly bitter sting in his chest when he woke up that morning, not finding a hand-drawn card at his bedside.
What hurt even more was that his family, and even the whole town didn't seem to care, maybe even notice, that she was gone. There was a funeral, sure, but after that, it was like it never even happened, just like every time he died. His friends tried to help him, had told him that they were there for him. But that was a short-lived offer. Kenny knew he couldn't expect the fatass to show much concern for very long (he only went to the funeral for the free food) and Kyle quickly got swallowed up by the pressures and craziness that was junior year.
Stan still cared though, and for that Kenny was at least a little grateful. Not surprisingly though, the town's authorities did nothing in response to the accident. No charges were made, no juvenile criminal activity recorded, not even a simple warning was issued, and it pissed Kenny the fuck off that the son of a bitch who murdered his sister was let go and allowed to continue on with his life as if taking hers was okay. But the bastard was probably just as miserable as he had been the past few months. At least, he seemed to be, judging from the few random times Kenny chose to actually go to class, let alone school.
He looked back into his open drawer. Only his .45 pistol remained. He reached into the drawer and held the gun in his hands. The thing was always reliable whenever he wanted to get out of a sticky situation, or for those moments when life just plain sucked and overdosing proved to be too much effort. And so he stood there, with the gun pressed to his temple, alone in his cold, dark room. Once again, his parents neglected to pay the electric and heat bills for the month. With two less mouths to feed, maybe things would get a little easier for the McCormicks. Despite the situation, Kenny somehow managed to find a way to crack a small hint of a smile.
He had made his decision. He didn't bother wasting time saying good bye. They'd forget within two days the most. It's not like anybody cared all the other times he died. No last day of reckless, carefree fun. No bucket list of places to visit. He didn't even take a last look around his room before making the final move. There wasn't even anything to look at anyway. He had stripped his room bare of all the posters on the wall in a fit of rage one day. But right when he was satisfied with his choice, right as he was applying pressure on the trigger, the thing that plagued him his entire life reared its ugly head to taunt him one last time.
'Only an immortal can kill another immortal'. Words that haunted him since childhood echoed in his mind. He'd died hundreds of times since hearing them, and he admitted that a good chunk of those deaths were from his own doing, but all were with the intention of coming back; a temporary, albeit painful, escape. His fingers tensed around the gun's handle, but he didn't lose his resolve.
"'Only an immortal can kill another immortal' huh?" But what if this immortal didn't want to come back? He smirked. He always had a thing for challenges, going so far as pressing the gun further against his head.
"I'm sorry Karen," he whispered conclusively, a single tear rolling down each cheek. Sorry for letting her down, for not protecting her. He couldn't even do her the common decency of finding her favorite doll. The thing had mysteriously vanished without a trace and couldn't be buried with her. And now he was giving up on her. He tried. For three months he tried. He really tried to live for her. She would have wanted him to. Hopefully, they'd see each other in hell.
He squeezed his eyes shut and pulled the trigger.
Kevin was the one who found him, hours later. His mother mourned him for the rest of the day, becoming even more distraught when she didn't give birth to a new Kenny later that evening. Eventually she concluded that this would just be another one of those times where he wouldn't come back for a few days, maybe weeks. Sometimes it took months before a new infant Kenny would be born.
She moved on. Just like the rest of the town. As always.
"Kyle, I think you need to have a talk with Stan."
Kyle didn't need to look up from his textbook on how to override school administration decisions (because yes he was still upset about the lights goddammit), or even adjust the movable neck of his mini clip-on book light (and this is why having lights matter!) to know that Wendy Testaburger was now hovering by his study table. Yes, his study table. For the past four years, the table had served as a desk, lunch table, dinner table, and even the occasional bed. The library may as well embellish it with a custom-made metal plaque bearing his name along with a short dedication, 'To Kyle Broflovski; the kid who actually left money in the print fee piggy bank next to the printer', which was most likely a pretty significant sum, considering all the papers and review sheets Kyle always printed out.
Of course, despite the hours upon hours, days upon days, all the tiring and hectic weeks, months, years that Kyle holed himself up in library; he still managed to come up short of valedictorian against Wendy (who claimed ownership of the table across on the other side of the room). That was Reason #2 on Kyle's list of reasons to hate Wendy Testaburger. And now she was here, telling him that he should go have a talk with her...boyfriend. She'd always pull this move whenever it looked like their relationship was going to hit yet another snag.
And that was Reason #1.
Kyle had had enough of these conversations with Wendy to know that this was the point when Wendy would give him her latest thesis for why she felt she had to breakup with Stan. These theses tended to have a million rationalities (none of which were actually rational) that more often than not tended to test Kyle's patience one way or another.
But come on. Her last thesis was centered on the argument that Stan wasn't serious enough to be the boyfriend of the future president of the United States and if she was going to be a state senator by the time she was thirty, she needed more of a JFK and less of a Schwarzenegger. (Upon further investigation, Kyle had found out she had just come from watching Legally Blonde off a Chic Flic Marathon on Oxygen with Bebe the night before. Kyle also found the Schwarzenegger comparison laughably off the mark.)
Nevertheless, every time Wendy came up to Kyle with another non-existent problem, he would do his job, quell her fears, pat her on the back and reassure her for the thousandth time that Stan loved her and they were perfect for each other but sure, he would talk to him for her so don't worry about it and blah blah blah. And every time Kyle went through this process, he would swallow hard and repeat to himself again and again, this is for Stan, she makes him happy, he deserves to be happy and blah blah blah la dee freakin' dah.
Granted, he had pointedly stayed away from the magical Disney couple that was what The Eavesdropper had dubbed Stendy, for...a while now, but Kyle was sure the process would be the same and he was actually almost dying to know what this ridiculous non-reason for the trouble in paradise was. He could use the laugh for sure.
"And why do I need to talk to Stan?" Kyle asked, not even looking up from his page.
"It's just...he's been really depressed again lately. You have noticed, haven't you?"
Kyle stiffened, but agreed with her anyway. Honestly, he wasn't participating in enough of Stan's life as of late to notice any of this reported depression. Stan acting like an asshole, jerkface being prone to yelling at certain innocent people for no apparent reason? Now that, Kyle could attest for.
Plus he was sure Wendy had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. She made him happy, didn't she? So the notion of Stan's depression rising up again was impossible. It was another thesis he was all set to prove wrong.
"I think something may really be up with him." Wendy continued.
"Nah. He's probably having one of his moods. He'll come back around eventually." He looked straight into his book, letting its words hold his focus. "He always does. He loves you."
Wendy blinked. "You didn't hear? Stan broke up with me. Kind of. He tried to at least. I don't know, it got fuzzy towards the end. But yes, Stan broke up with me."
The heavy textbook landed on the table with an echoing thud.
"Stan. Broke up. With you?" he said, clearly enunciating each word, half for his own self so that he made sure he was processing this correctly. He raised an eyebrow at Wendy skeptically, collecting himself after his momentary lapse. Stan breaking up with Wendy? That never happened. That wasn't how things worked here. Kyle immediately took out his mental encyclopedia of Why Stan Does Shit, and flipped directly onto the most often cited page: Because He's Drunk.
"You're sure he was conscious of what he was saying?" Kyle replied, calmly, "'Cause when he's wasted—"
"He was sober, trust me. Look, I know it sounds weird, but it happened."
"That doesn't make any sense. He loves you. He...loves you," Kyle repeated as though it was the be-all, end-all rebuttal that would forever disprove Wendy's thesis. Stan loves Wendy. Wendy makes him happier than any other person alive. End of story. Kyle couldn't understand why Wendy couldn't wrap her head around this very, very basic concept.
Wendy replied with a sort of half-scoff that almost turns into a snort and makes Kyle begin to heat up. She said, "You always say that. But, Kyle, it's not about me this time. I think he just needs to talk to someone right now. He's obviously very confused. You know, he never did give me an actual reason for breaking up. Personally, I think it's a textbook cry for attention. Attention that I, unfortunately, don't have time to give him right now."
"So that's why you need to have a talk with Stan."
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some business at the Cartman residence I need to take care of," Wendy finishes, with an air of conclusiveness.
Kyle sputtered, "What business? What does the fatass have to do with anything?!" Really, if Wendy thought that Stan needed attention that badly, then what the fuck was the fatass of all people doing that was more important?
Wendy raised a finger. "Ah ah. I'll take care of my psychologically distressed boy, and you..." She grinned, knowingly. "Take care of yours."
"And then she gave me this look, right? And she goes, 'Take care of yours," Kyle said in a falsetto that was for some reason also British, but Ike just figured he was going for snobby and gave him an A for effort. "Anyway, it's classic Wendy. She's just trying to shove her problems onto me so that when she comes to school the next day, her quarterback boyfriend will be all spotless and perfect for her and she doesn't have to deal with his shit and they can go back to being all in love and whatever. God, what a bitch!"
Truthfully, Ike didn't think that Wendy was that bad and he was sure that Kyle didn't really hate her either, but considering everything, he didn't exactly blame his brother for bitching about her so much. Kyle and Ike had once spent a whole afternoon in Kyle's room throwing darts at a printout of Wendy's default facebook picture, her graduation headshot, after she and Stan had gotten back together for the billion and a half'th time. (The half was an interesting story, best saved for another time.) Kyle wasn't a fantastic shooter, but Ike figured the action was enough for him to blow off some steam.
And here they were again in Kyle's room, and Ike wasn't exactly rushing to break out the darts.
"Okay, bro, don't revive kick the baby on me now," Ike replied after hearing Kyle's recount of his library conversation with Wendy, "but, I think Testaburger's right on this one. Stan, depressed? Come on. You know what you gotta do."
Ike stopped him before he could get his full Sheila triple-what on. "Bro, hear me out."
"No, dude! Wendy's obviously pulling that out of her ass. She probably watched, like, The Notebook or something and mistook Stan's dopey lovey dovey stare for something retarded. And you know, the only reason I deal with Wendy's shit is—"
"For Stan. I know. But, dude, look. You haven't talked to him for months. Like, I think it's been practically a year since I last saw him at our house." Ike paced towards the window and looked out towards the direction of Stan's house. "And let's face it. You've been being a total vag and avoiding him for no reason."
"It's not for no reason!" Kyle yelled, stomping over to Ike and looking him square in the eye. "And, like, whatever. He doesn't need me to take care of him when he's got Wendy to do it for him."
"Dude, you're his best friend."
"That doesn't mean shit, dude. Like, super best friends? Come on, what are we, five? That's, just totally fucking gay."
"Ha. That's funny coming from you."
"Shut the fuck up!" Kyle huffed, crossing his arms. "Look, I come to you to vent about Wendy and instead you're calling me a vag. Some brother."
"Hey. Wendy's a smart chick, and whatever it is you think about her, that doesn't have any bearing on what you think about Stan," Ike said. "And if Wendy thinks Stan is depressed right now, then—I'm just sayin'—that's not a report you take lightly, bro."
Kyle couldn't even look at his brother anymore. What a fucking traitor. Spewing shit. Ike hadn't a clue what he was saying. Kyle broke their eye contact and settled his vision on the first thing it landed on.
There sitting on the edge of the windowsill, unlit, but still shining gold catching the last rays of the sun as it set for the evening, were his bar mitzvah candlesticks. Set perfectly solid. Reliable. Sturdy. Like the hands that had given them to him when they were thirteen years old.
When he had given them to him, Stan had said that it was because everyone needed a little light in their lives. Even he had turned bright red at how absolutely gay that sounded, but he remained resolute, smiling down at Kyle and the candles that he just unwrapped.
"I can come over later, and we can light 'em if you want. They're supposed to be, like, really pretty or something," he had said. "And, man or not now, I don't trust you not to set your house on fire, dude."
Kyle had laughed at this, dying, hoping at the time that Stan couldn't see the blood that was very obviously rushing up to his face and to the tips of his ears. He had given Stan a playful punch in the arm and said, "Dude, I've totally lit candles before! I lit, like, five today!"
"Whatever you say, dude." Stan had replied, and Kyle remembered Stan's strong hands wrap around him in a way that was okay because it just was and Kyle knew that he never wanted them to leave.
And those hands, those strong, strong hands were so unlike the hands that were shaking with ever-so slight tremors as they cleared out a locker five years later; as they declared the memories inside useless and dumped them to the ground.
Somehow, without Kyle's notice, the hands that were once strong and sturdy things that would offer to light any candle for him had become broken, fallen into disrepair.
Kyle gripped the candlesticks in his own two hands and resolved to light them the next day with Stan. It would be Friday. They could do it after dinner. It would all be okay.
"—Kenny? Kenny, you okay man?"
Kenny comes out of his daze as the fuzzy sound of Stan's voice pulls him back into reality. "...hmm? Oh...oh, sorry...I was...Weird moment there, sorry..."
Stan says nothing and silently regrets bringing up the painful topic. In that brief moment, the Kenny he sees before him is not the same Kenny that had been following him for the past year. The cold, bitter, and harsh edge had melted away. This also isn't the Kenny that Stan had known growing up; the one that was bold, uninhibited, daring, and brimming with enough confidence to charge head first into whatever obstacles or challenges were thrown at him. This Kenny is unguarded, vulnerable, hurting; certainly a side of him that Stan, and most likely many others, had never gotten the chance to see.
"Hey, I'm sorry...okay?" Stan rises from his bed and kneels down in front of his friend, hoping that his eyes would convey the sincerity of his words. With those quiet words, Stan apologizes twice. Once for making Kenny revisit what was, without question, his most tragic death, and twice, for being the cause of that final death, despite having already apologized for that an innumerable amount of times. To this day, Stan is still apologizing to Kenny. The latter had never responded to any of those efforts, which left Stan wondering if he was forgiven or not. He couldn't blame him if he wasn't. The damage done that fateful night was an irreparable blow that no amount of "I'm sorry's" could ever possibly make up for.
"But you get it, don't you? What it's like to lose someone really important?"
"...Yeah. I do..." Kenny averts his gaze away and curls into himself, bringing his knees against his chest and resting his arms on them. He puts his hood up, closing himself off.
Stan curses inwardly for perhaps going too far with making his point. For the next few minutes, a tense span of silence passes between the two. They've been having a lot of those all day it seems. Surprisingly, Kenny is the one to break it.
"So," he starts, his guarded edge already building back up. "What about Kyle?"
Stan's brow furrows and he freezes up. "...what?" Stan had somehow hoped Kenny would just drop it, leave it be.
"So, what about Kyle? You were obviously referring to him earlier. How do you go about saying goodbye to him? You're leaving forever apparently so how're you gonna pull off bidding adieu to your super best butt buddy?"
"I don't...I don't...want...to..." he says in lieu of nothing better. What can he even say? What is there to say?
"Are you telling me," Kenny continues, "that not only did you skip your goodbye with Kyle the first time—you were legit planning to kill yourself without saying goodbye to him—but you're also considering repeating the same mistake now?"
The question sits in the air, looming like a shadow, before Stan answers quietly, "He wouldn't have cared."
"He wouldn't have! You know I tried to." Stan stands up immediately, "I was going to tell him goodbye at my locker. On Tuesday. But he wouldn't listen and he kept going on and on about nothing. He's...he's SO—" Stan tries to search for words that describe exactly what Kyle is, but doesn't actually know what he's trying to say. He's lost his train of thought. He sinks back down into his bed, resigned, and places a pillow over his head. He can't think about this right now.
Kenny cuts in. "And how exactly were you planning to complete that sentence, Stan?"
He's met with silence. Stan lies unnaturally still underneath his pillow but Kenny swears he can hear his heart thumping like a hammer against his chest.
"You wanna know what I think?"
Stan doesn't. Kenny senses this, but goes on anyway. He has to hear this from someone. "You try to say goodbye to Kyle once and fine, maybe it doesn't go right the first time. But you're really gonna lie there and bitch about how it's Kyle's fault you're too much of a pussy to admit to yourself why you can't say a proper goodbye to him?"
Like everything else he's been saying all day, Stan feels a ring of truth to Kenny's words, though he's not sure why. He can't answer this one with a simple yes it's true or no it's not.
"I think you're afraid to finish that sentence. And I think you're afraid that once you say goodbye to your little super best friend, you're going to have to fucking force yourself to fill in the blank; stop me if I'm wrong."
Stan can't tell if he's wrong. So he says nothing.
"If someone's that important to you, Marsh, you make sure they know it."
Stan winces and he forces himself to think of something else, anything else that's not Kyle and he feels something boiling inside him and it's like all of a sudden he just wants to tear something apart, break something, and scream his head off until there's nothing of his voice left. Because maybe then, he wouldn't have to bring himself to answer that question. Because, maybe then, he wouldn't have to fill in the blank or complete the sentence. For a second, he thinks that he hates Kenny for forcing him to answer these questions. For making him think about the unthinkable.
For another second he thinks that he hates Kyle and because if it weren't for Kyle he could just make a fucking clean break and get the hell out of South Park for good. Because despite the fact that Kyle is an idiot and a huge asshole, Stan has to admit to himself how easily he considers Kyle the most important person in his life. He could let go of Wendy and he did, easily, perhaps a little too easily. Leaving Kyle, on the other hand, was an option he never wanted to consider—or rather, one he avoided thinking too much about. In the end, Stan had chosen his best friend over his girlfriend. Stan isn't quite sure of what that meant—no, that was a lie. He is pretty sure—very sure –he has an idea of what that meant. It was an odd yet strangely familiar feeling; a feeling he is hesitant to name, though it was always there, dully prodding his thoughts. And he fucking hates it that the stupid fucking car crash was the thing that finally forced these thoughts to the forefront. And he hates that Kyle is just one more walking reminder of everything he lost that night.
Because something in Stan changed the night of the accident and now he sees South Park for what it really is; a sad, sad mountain town with the strange ability to get over anything at a rapid pace; no matter how minor or serious the situation was. Once everything seemed to be taken care of, everyone would move onto the next thing as if it all never happened. It scared Stan when he realized that his entire life, he lived not giving a shit about anything; and that it took the murder of an innocent teenage girl and the death of one of his closest friends, to finally get him to wake up. And it really scared Stan even more that Kyle—Kyle who always believed in the logical and rational—couldn't see the irrationality of it all.
No, Kyle was fast asleep with no sign of ever waking up.
Stan thinks of how Kyle is a fucking paradox. He thinks of how annoying Kyle can be when he thinks he's right, crossing his arms and scowling up at everyone. How intimidating he can be in spite of his small stature, his red hair springing about as he jabbers on and on with increasing volume and pitch at every turn. How passionate he becomes when he fights for a cause, no matter how arbitrary it may seem to everyone else, eyes blazing so bright he might cause a fire with a mere glance. How much Stan misses him now, and how Stan can't even imagine how much that feeling would amplify once he leaves behind any trace of South Park for good.
And before he knows it, Stan can feel the tears stinging at the corners of his eyes and the tremors beginning to wrack his body and somewhere in the middle of this Kyle's name escapes his throat in a barely audible, yet embarrassingly pathetic half-whisper. Kenny lets out an obnoxious scoff, smirking in an unbe-fucking-lieably maddening way.
But Stan says nothing. He just lets the tears flow, burning his cheeks, leaving tear tracks in their wake. He looks back at his desk where the razor lay. It glints at him eerily, ravenous for his blood. Kenny is right, once again. Had Stan gone through with the suicide, he and Kyle's confrontation at the lockers would have been their last exchange. The last words they would have ever spoken to one another. Stan shakes his head vigorously, choking back a sob. He has to make things right.
If he really has to part ways with his super best friend, the last thing he wants is for them to walk away from each other like this, with so many words unsaid.
She was nothing like his dear late Polly Prissypants, no. Polly was far more superior in the looks category. This one was a ratty little thing with knots in her fading pink yarn hair. Her one-eyed stare was a little garish, but somehow, gave her some sort of weird charm. She wasn't nearly as much of a conversationalist as Polly was though. But she would do...for once belonging to a poor, waste of space, welfare brat.
Cartman glanced over at Wendy, sitting across the room. She had burst into his house, early in the morning, right before school, demanding answers and at that point, Cartman knew he couldn't do it anymore. The jig was up so to speak.
See, at first it started with words. Words echoing from behind his locker door. Random little words the doll would say, whenever Cartman would open his locker. And soon words began to string into sentences and sentences began to grow into paragraphs and paragraphs began to form full-fledged confessions in the middle of the school day that could no longer by stifled by his fist in his mouth or by the muffling effect of a scarf, or by distracting himself with as many extracurriculars and homework assignments and student council duties as possible. No, try as he might, Cartman couldn't take it anymore.
He had considered just never going back to his locker. Just taking all his stuff and lugging it around in his backpack instead. But he realized it wouldn't work. He couldn't leave the doll unsupervised. Couldn't simply dispose of it. What if someone else found it? What if someone else heard? What if she told everyone everything? Then where would he be? No. That doll couldn't be let out of his sight. Everyone would know.
That doll, that blasted doll had seen everything and she was never going to let him live it down.
And now the floodgates were open and if the ho wanted answers, she was certainly going to get them...
JANUARY, LAST YEAR
Kenny McCormick's locker was like any average sixteen year old boy's locker--messy, unorganized, littered with the small one dollar milk cartons he'd get at lunch every day, decorated with magazine cutouts of scantily clad and unclothed women. Although, rather than textbooks, he had packets of photocopied pages (courtesy of Kyle) and old secondhands (from Stan, technically Shelley). Other than that, pretty typical. Except for that one thing.
Cartman raised an eyebrow at her. Sitting right out in the open, perched on top of a pile of neglected homework sheets and old quizzes.
"HA! You actually still play with dolls, Kenny?! How old are we, five?!" Cartman's boisterous laughter rang through the hall. It was loud enough to hear, not that people really cared to pay attention to another one of the fatass' antics. "What's the mattew?" he taunted in a high, cartoonish voice. "Too attached to your widdle dolly so you had to bring her to schoooo?"
Kenny sharply turned his head towards him and glared. "Hey! Knock it off will you?! It was a gift."
Cartman snorted. "From who? Was it Butters? Only he would be faggy enough to do something as gay as--"
"It's from my sister, okay? She gave it to me as a present after I passed my SAT." Kenny looked on at the doll with fondness and straightened the little gold crown on its head. "It's a good luck charm."
Cartman's eyes watched attentively as Kenny's hand switched out his books, delicately moving around the doll, making sure not to knock her over, being careful so that she wouldn't fall out.
"Yeah, well, a bro having a doll in his locker is still pretty gay," he replied, not taking his gaze off the doll for a second.
"Tch. Says you. At least I don't talk to mine."
"She's no Clyde Frog or anything. Right well, I'd love to stay and chat some more, but I've got a study date with Red. Trigonometry. I'd be tangent to her hypotenuse any day... Well, see ya fatass!" And so he shut his locker door and left.
Oh, had he struck a nerve in Eric that day.
'At least I don't talk to mine.'
'She's no Clyde Frog..'
He could still hear those words buzzing around his head even now, a little over a year later. To this day they still riled him up, probably not with as much ferocity as when they were first uttered though.
Back then, Cartman had thought of his retaliating plan by the time lunch came around that day. It was way too easy, especially after Kenny had left such perfect bait for him to use. It was almost a sin how convenient it was.
First, he excused himself out of a study hall to retrieve the Pink Princess from her crudely decorated quarters. Obtaining her from Kenny's locker was simple enough. Leave it to Kenny to miraculously get the lock with a combination that consisted of three 69s. Once he had her, he quickly stuffed her into his bag so no one would see. He knew Kenny seldom checked his locker again after lunch, so he wouldn't even notice that she was gone.
Then, he produced the note.
'I've got your doll. If you ever wanna see her again, come to the corner of Davids and Huntington at 9 o'clock tonight. If you don't show, I'll assume you don't care what happens to her...'
He had actually had some fun with that part. It was an 'Inspirational Friday' aka: 'Do whatever the fuck you want as long as it's vaguely artsy' day during art class that day and Cartman spent the whole period, clipping letters out of old magazines and fashioning his message into a classic ransom note.
He remembered smiling to himself in accomplishment after rereading the letter before folding it up into an envelope and handing it to Butters, who he had instructed to pass over to some eighth grader chick in the middle school across the street. She was told to drop the envelope into Karen McCormick's locker.
When he and the guys would hang out and drive around later on that night, he'd tell Stan to drive through the Red Light District. He'd tell him to slow down as they approached the corner of Davids and Huntington, where an old bakery used to be. He'd tell Kenny to look out the window.
And there she'd be.
Little Karen McCormick, in her modest, olive green dress and dark leggings and plain face, standing on the very same corner where all the gaudily and outrageously dressed hookers made their business.
"And then she'd be all 'Eeeee!'" Cartman broke out into a scratchy falsetto. "'I'm so lost and confused!'" He picked up the Pink Princess and moved her around, as if she were the one speaking. "'Gee! I hope I get my doll back like that mysterious letter said! Oh! Why hello there Mr. Middle Aged Married Businessman! Oh! What's this? You're giving me money?! Wow! Now I can use this to help my poor-ass family get even more drugs and booze! What's that? You say you'll give me more if I help you...hide the bone? Well I don't really know why we'd have to go to a hotel for that, but okay!'"
Oh, how he would have laughed and laughed. It would have been hilarious to see the look on that bastard Kenny's face when he saw his precious little sister hanging around the whores and being solicited by creepy businessmen.
It was perfect.
But that asshole Stan had to fuck it all up.
"Hey! What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" Kyle ran up ahead, wedging himself between Stan and the car door.
Stan gives him a quizzical look. "I'm gonna drive, duh dude."
"You can't drive!"
"Why not? I drive us around all the time."
"Let me drive tonight." Kyle insisted.
"I can do it Kyle."
"You're drunk!" Kyle yelled. Onlookers in the arcade parking lot stared for a few seconds, but continued on their merry way and let this group of teenagers be.
Stan rolled his eyes. "I'm not drunk. Now move."
"Yes you are!" Kyle remained where he was. "Dammit, I knew I should have kept a closer eye on you when I saw that bar next to the arcade...How many have you had?"
"Just a couple. It's no big deal dude..." to which Kyle answered with a disbelieving look.
"Hey, time's a-wastin'!" Cartman called out suddenly. He fidgeted around, anxiously checking his watch every few seconds. "Got places to go, places to be...at certain times..."
"He's right. We'll only be out for another hour or two." Stan put a reassuring hand on Kyle's shoulder. "It'll be okay." He spoke in a hushed tone, hoping to ease his best friend's worries. "I'll be really careful, alright?"
Kyle said nothing at first. He looked up at his other two friends for a solution. Cartman was busy, checking his watch again. Kenny had taken out a porno magazine he swiped from the nearby newsstand earlier. With no help from them, Kyle turned back to Stan. His cheeks were flushed. He was definitely drunk. Not quite wasted drunk off his ass yet--thank God for that--but tipsy enough to not be trusted behind the wheel. Once again, he told him that everything would be okay. Kyle glanced at the hand on his shoulder, at the blue eyes looking into him in earnest. 'Trust me' they said.
Kyle took in those eyes and suddenly softened. He let out a sigh and stepped aside. "Alright..."
"God, finally." Cartman said, getting into the back seat. Kenny followed soon after.
Stan smiled. "See? Nothing to worry about." He gave Kyle's shoulder another reassuring pat before climbing into the driver's seat.
Kyle tried his best to ignore Stan stumbling into his seat or how long it took for him to put the keys into the ignition.
That drive was mostly a blur to Stan. He remembered shapes, he remembered colors. Distorted and fuzzy figures that vaguely resembled buildings and people faded past the windows as their little blue car zipped around haphazardly through the streets.
He also remembered the echo of Kyle's voice, shouting at him to ease up on the gas pedal. Stan took a second to look over at his best friend, gripping the sides of his seat. He was staring at him, his eyes full of worry. Not surprisingly, Kyle had been right, as per usual. Of course he was. Kyle believed in logic and Stan was thinking anything but logically right now.
"Stan! Stan! Slow down here!" What? Was that Cartman? Where were they right now anyway? From the looks of the glaring colors of neon signs, it looked like they were downtown in the Red Light District. How the fuck did they wind up all the way here?
"Right here, Stan! Right here!" Cartman was practically hanging out the window, pointing at whatever the hell it was he was so excited about. Whatever the fuck it was, Stan really wished the fatass would be quieter about it. Stan pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut for a second. When he opened them, it was like things slowed down, as if underwater. The road and buildings in front of him formed into some amorphous haze. The sounds of car horns blaring, music blasting from nightclubs, and Cartman's obnoxious laughing swirled around into a muddled medley of noise drowning out his thoughts, his senses.
"HERE! Davids and Huntington!" Cartman's voice cried.
"The old bakery? What the fuck are we doing here?" That was Kenny's.
"Funny you should ask, poor boy...Come on! Look out the window! You've gotta check this out!"
Stan could no longer think. Suddenly, all the street signs were written in an alien language. He felt that familiar lurching feeling in the pit of his stomach; reminiscent of how he'd react around Wendy back in the early stages of their relationship. He broke out into a sweat as his shaky hands struggled to keep hold of the wheel.
"STOP THE CAR HERE DUDE!" Cartman exploded in a fit of laughter.
"WHAT THE FUCK--" Kenny started.
"STOP THE CAR OVER HERE STAN!"
Stan felt a light touch on his arm and looked up to see Kyle. "Dude, are you okay?"
Kyle's quiet question was the last thing Stan heard before the ear-piercing scream shattered his daze.
Once the car was still, all four had immediately scrambled out of the wreckage. Stan leaned on Kyle for support, still having trouble standing straight. But he was definitely awake now.
"Cartman, hold him back!" Kyle yelled.
Within seconds, Cartman's massive, strong arms held Kenny's scrawny body in a vice grip. But that didn't mean the captive didn't struggle to break loose.
"Let go of me fatass!" Kenny thrashed and kicked the air wildly, even threatening to chew Eric's arms off. He probably would have done it too. The boy was livid enough. "THAT FUCKING BASTARD NEEDS TO PAY FOR WHAT HE FUCKING DID!" It was chilling, seeing him that angry, especially when he was usually so carefree. His eyes were on fire, blazing with rage, glaring daggers--jagged daggers--right into Stan.
Stan winced, but took it all anyway. The damage was gruesome. The car was totaled. And the little girl...the poor little girl. She got the full-on impact by the front of the car; her skinny little body crushed against the brick.
He dared to take a hesitant step forward. "K...Kenny. Kenny, I'm sorry..."
"Sorry?! You're sorry?! My sister is--" He paused, reluctant to finish. "GODDAMMIT" he choked out. A few tears fell from his eyes as his squirming subsided a little.
Seeing Kenny's tears was enough to make Stan's eyes well up as well. Thinking back on it, he didn't think he ever saw Kenny cry. Legitimately anyway. Like the rest of them, Kenny seemed to know how to turn on the waterworks whenever a stubborn adult needed some convincing. "Kenny, I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry..."
"YOU'RE A FUCKING BASTARD, STAN MARSH!"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..." That was all Stan ever said, as Kenny continued to curse at him. Both boys kept at it until their throats ran dry from the yelling--and crying.
Apparently, a small crowd had gathered, but kept what was considered a safe distance from the four boys. Someone also must have called the ambulance, as none of the boys did; Kyle doing his best to calm his best friend down, and Cartman too busy preventing Kenny from ripping Stan's head off.
In minutes, the ambulance and police arrived on the scene.
The all too familiar gray building loomed up in front of him; its lit windows glowering at him like the eyes of a monster. How many times had he died in that dismal place? Far too many times than he could count. Karen didn't deserve to die—period. Certainly not in such a violent way. But even if it was her time tonight...then not here, God anywhere but here. Not in a place this lonely and depressing. Kenny couldn't think of a more inappropriate place for his baby sister's life to end.
He was born Roman Catholic, but was not particularly religious. Even still, he prayed to God, Jesus, Buddha, any of those otherworldly beings up there, hell, Satan even—ruler of the fiery underworld aside, he was a pretty good guy—and he hoped to God that the staff at Hell's Pass wouldn't treat his sister like they treated him sometimes whenever he was rushed through those emergency room doors. It made his head spin; trying to count the amount of times he had been carelessly left to die, with no effort made on their part to save him. Other times, they'd try too hard, to a fault. Baked potato heart anyone? Honestly, what kind of medical "professional" does that?
Fortunately, it looked like the doctors and nurses were actually doing their jobs correctly tonight. Karen was whisked immediately into the ER. As the older brother, Kenny was allowed to follow her inside, but he refused. He couldn't do it. He couldn't see her, lying motionless on that cold table. The doctors prodding her and poking her with their instruments under those hot, florescent lights like those frogs they had to dissect in science class.
Instead, he waited outside in the guest area with the others. He sat there, hunched over with his hood up, hiding his face like he used to when he was little, obscuring it even more with his hands. Kyle had kept Stan a good ways away from him on the other side of the room, though Kenny was currently too racked with worry to beat the shit out of him now. Even the fatass was being a respectful human being for once and didn't utter one poor-related joke in his direction. Strangely, the guy seemed to be just as restless as he was for some reason...
Stan was a mess. Kenny would feel almost sorry for him, if he wasn't so furious with him. Still, despite Stan being the one who hit her, Kenny still couldn't help but blame himself for what happened. Why hadn't he been there for her? Some superhero he was. He was supposed to be her guardian angel.
He thought back to the agonizing drive over to the hospital. He rode in the ambulance with her; the others following in Officer Barbrady's patrol car. He held her hand the whole way. It was slight, but he swore he could feel her tiny fingers give his hand a weak squeeze and that gave him a small glimmer of hope...
The doctor entered the waiting room.
It was literally like the air got knocked right out of his lungs. He had gone through enough moments of grand pianos, buses, and even buildings hurling into his body to know exactly what that felt like. But this moment was far worse than all of those combined. The doctor led the way to the emergency room, but Kenny ran ahead, the way to that wretched room having taken permanent residence in his memory. He took one look at the girl and shut down. The corpse on the table was not his sister. It was a body, lifeless, under the guise of his sister. As far as he was concerned, Karen McCormick was no longer here.
He must have fallen down, because all of a sudden, he was sitting on the floor and the nurses were asking him if he was okay. He gave them no answer. He cinched up his hood, cutting himself off from everything; hiding his weakness, his failure.
Sometime in the chaos, his parents came rushing into the hall. That entrance was one that would be plastered in his mind forever—because he had heard enough of them before. He heard his mother, shrieking, sobbing, crying out; asking for her baby. What happened to her baby? Where was her baby?
'Not in heaven, that's for sure...'
That was the answer every time and Kenny was thankful that she never knew. Because how painful would it be for a mother...to know that your children would never go to heaven?
"Oh my God..." Stan held his tongue. There was more to this that he felt compelled to say, prompted by the doctor's grim announcement of Karen McCormick's death. Stan knew what words were supposed to follow, though he dreaded the idea of saying them. But they were itching to get out, as if by instinct.
"I..." he began.
Kyle turned towards him. "Stan?"
"You what, Stan?"
"I killed Karen!" Stan choked. There, now it was all out: 'Oh my God. I killed Karen.'
"Oh my God I...I killed Karen!" Stan sobbed, burying his face into his hands.
The news had most definitely rattled Kyle too, but clearly, not to this extent. He reached out a cautious hand to Stan's quivering shoulder. "Stan—"
"Kyle, I..." Stan trailed off into a silent cry, his shoulders shaking.
Before Kyle could utter a word, he was yanked into an embrace. Stan threw his arms around him, burying his face into his shoulder. Kyle gasped, taken aback for a second at the force of the hug. Stan practically clung onto him--tightly, as if he was afraid Kyle would just float away and disappear the second he let go.
"I...I fucking killed someone, dude!" Stan muffled into Kyle's jacket. "Shit—I..." he choked.
"It...It's—It's over! School, my life—fuck, everything! I...I fucking murdered someone! What—what do I tell my parents? What do I do Kyle?" Stan was barely able to get his words out through his labored sobs. Kyle was suddenly thankful they were in a hospital; almost worried that Stan would break out into a surprise asthma attack, he was breathing so hard.
"Stan. Stan, look at me. Look at me and listen, alright?" Kyle cupped Stan's chin and tilted his head up so their eyes met. Kyle gasped quietly and knew that this was a sight he'd never be able to forget no matter how hard he'd try. He forced himself to look into those sad eyes; those blue, blue eyes that he was so fond of. Hell, he knew it was far more than just simple fondness, but now was not the time to get stupidly lost in them. Through the floods of tears, Kyle saw an overwhelming guilt, panic, fear. Stan was frightened. His whole body was trembling, so much that it seemed like he'd break into pieces if Kyle ever loosened his hold on him. It was not something Kyle was used to. Stanley Marsh, his best friend since they were in diapers; steadfast and solid, always the calm one, who had, more often than not, brought Kyle back to his senses whenever he got too carried away—the perfect match to balance out his own volatile nature, had been broken down. When Kyle was in trouble, Stan was always the first to step up and save his ass, even going so far as literally saving his life on multiple occasions. Now it was time to return the favor, even if all he could do was just hold him and comfort him. In all honesty, he wasn't really sure what would become of Stan after this night, but he didn't have the heart to voice that to him.
"You're gonna be okay, Stan, alright?" Kyle told him quietly, rubbing his back gently as he held him. The words became a sort of mantra for the rest of the night; 'You're gonna be okay'.
'Fuck.' Suddenly the hospital's walls felt like they were closing in. He gripped the straps of his backpack, becoming far more cautious of its contents. Kenny's parents burst into the room in a panicked frenzy and through the sheen of sweat on his face, Cartman cracked a subtle grin. Excellent, the perfect distraction.
As the McCormicks were hurried into the emergency room by a nurse, Cartman took his chance and discreetly slipped away.
He told himself he wasn't running away. No of course not. In fact, yes, he was the victim here wasn't he? Wasn't this just natural selection? Nature's way of saying that the poor didn't deserve to live since they weren't really living anyway? Yes. That was it. There was nothing wrong. No harm done. No one could pin the blame on him. Hah! Listen to those rednecks screaming about their baby! Serves them right. If they had just decided to not be poor maybe they wouldn't be finding themselves in this sticky situation.
And look at it this way. Less poptarts to buy right? Right. So really, he had done the McCormicks a favor hadn't he? If anything they should be buying him a fucking gold medal, right? Now maybe with one less brat, they could use their money and invest it in the stock market or something. Maybe this was the first step to becoming a respectable family. Yes. That was it. And when they became a respectable family they could thank him by giving him ten million dollars, all in singles thank you very much. Yeah. That made absolute sense. Right?
And besides! He couldn't be traced back to the crime! He wore gloves when he made the ransom note. The Jew was way too distracted by Stan's drinking to notice anything off about Cartman that night. And who would believe Stan when he was drunk off his ass? Yes! It was perfect. It was a shame because Cartman liked Stan, really. He was a nice guy. But that's what happens when you're nice. You always end up taking the fall for the smart ones. And he would never know! He'd spend the rest of his life thinking the whole thing was his fault, and Cartman wasn't about to correct that notion. After all, wasn't the whole thing Stan's fault anyway? It wasn't like Cartman had planned for Karen to get hit. So really, he was blameless.
Completely and utterly blameless.
That's what he told himself the day it happened and that's what he firmly believed.
And he could have and would have went on believing it...if it weren't for that blasted doll.
Staring at him.
Speaking to him.
"O-o-oh God..." Wendy exhaled in a shaky breath. She took a short moment to get herself together, and then she looked up at Cartman, sitting across from her. The boy had the most eerily nonchalant face she had ever laid eyes upon. Talk about inappropriate for the situation. Wendy had basically just sat through and listened to a crime confession. A very detailed crime confession. And yet, there was the perpetrator and mastermind, right in front of her, slouched in a cushy armchair, reaching into a giant bag of Cheesy Poofs. He looked...somehow more relaxed. Downright smug even. As though he had just taken a massive dump that he was holding in for so long that it was just plain satisfying to finally get it all out. It was disgusting.
Because he knew what she knew. Who could she tell? Who would believe her? Even if legal action were taken, the substantial evidence would pile up against Stan and Eric could smooth talk his way out of anything.
Wendy felt as though she might vomit. The corners of the room seemed to be turning in towards the center. Was she seeing straight? "E-Eric," she practically retched, "What have you done?"
Cartman shrugged. "Hey, you wanted answers, bitch? You got 'em. Now get the fuck out of my room." And with that, he casually reached for the TV remote on a nearby table.
"How can you possibly be this—Do you not realize just how wrong and completely and utterly fucked up—I don't—" She rubbed at her temples, absolutely unsettled. Her eyes darted about the room, trying to find something to focus on so she could calm down. As luck would have it, the one item her eyes landed on only sent her vertigo into overdrive. And suddenly the walls were spinning and every thing was pointed towards the doll. It was all the doll.
Polly Prissypants, or rather, the Pink Princess, as Eric had constantly referred to her (though, since her original owner was now deceased, who knows what her name really was...), so starkly cheerful-looking with her permanent smile in comparison to the dark, twisted environment she had been thrust into. How could your eye not be drawn to her?
"The doll..." Wendy gasped. "That's what started the whole thing in the first place..."
"What?" Cartman looked up from his bag. "I thought I told you to fucking leave, bitch! What are you still doing here?"
"Give me the doll, Eric." Wendy asked, as calmly as she could muster, holding out her palm.
"What?!" Eric immediately dropped his beloved snack and reached an arm out in front of the Pink Princess. "No way! What the hell for? Get the fuck out of my room or I'm gonna call the fucking cops!"
"Give me the doll, Eric." Wendy asked again, with a firmer edge. "She was never even yours to begin with! This is"—she tried to collect herself, think reasonably—"disrespectful to the soul of the original owner!"
"She was in my possession after both people in custody of her died. So she's mine now, nyah!"
"GIVE ME THE DOLL, CARTMAN!" Wendy dove forward to make a grab for it, only for Cartman to finally lumber up and snatch it away. With a growl, Wendy went for it again and again, only to be thwarted each time.
"Forget about it, ho! You're not gonna get it now. You think I'm gonna let it out of my sight? You think I'm gonna let her retell her little story?" Cartman straightened up to his full six foot five, and tauntingly held the doll up above his head, a crazed look in his eye and distinct twitch at the corner of his smile. "NOT GONNA HAPPEN, BITCH!"
"Huh. Well, if that's how you wanna play..." She reached back to tie her long hair back into a low ponytail, rolled up her sleeves, and raised her fists. She thought about warning him, but she reconsidered. This asshole had run out of warnings a long time ago. Before he even understood what was going on, before he even got a glimpse of the unicorn tank top under her loosening blouse, Wendy backed up and slammed her entire body, elbow first, into his gut.
Wendy heard the bone crack before she even felt it. Her left arm was absolutely shot and she cradled it with her right, trying to hold back the tears of pain. God her parents were going to kill her and now she'd definitely have to wear a cast on graduation, but there were more pressing matters to attend to. Cartman was knocked backwards into a shelf of video games and DVDs and his body hit the floor with an ominous thud that was followed by several lighter thuds as he was showered by the weight of his own possessions. The Pink Princess lay loosely in his hand.
Cartman was down, and it was mostly by the surprise of her attack than anything else, but he was on the floor wheezing and gasping for breath. The wind had been knocked out of him and Wendy had literally taken his breath away. Through the pile of comedies, violent video games and porn movies, Cartman lay inert. He was staring up at her again with that animalistic, primal fear. He was scared. Paralyzed with terror as Wendy approached him again until she stood directly above his face, into his eye line. His eyes were wet and shining and they were pleading, beseeching one thing:
Please don't tell on me.
And Wendy didn't know whether to feel disgusted or sorry, so she settled on an unsavory mixture of both. Wendy was not so sure why she was crying though. Why suddenly thick sobs began to wrack her lithe frame. She had no idea what the fuck just happened here. The flashing lights of the school felt like child's play at this point. She was confused and sickened and the room was still tilting, but she felt it imperative that the doll stays out of Eric Cartman's grasp forever.
Panting, she let go of her broken arm and reached for the doll, brushing her fingers against Eric's hand before grabbing the doll's arm.
As she turned to leave, Wendy choked out a hoarse, "See you at Yale" before shutting off the light switch.
"What the fuck is that?" Kyle asks, eyeing the shabby pink...thing Wendy holds in her hand. Her other arm lies limply at her side and it looks like she ran all the way to school, down the hallway and straight to Kyle's locker without stopping once. She's a mess, a far cry from her poised student body president and valedictorian image, and she's sweating and panting and she's clearly trying so hard to say something, but Kyle's not sure that Wendy even knows what it is. "And, is your arm broken? Holy shit, dude!"
As if to complete this chaotic portrait, the lights in the hall continue to flicker with its dim glow.
"Look." Wendy starts finally. She's shaken, clearly. Whatever caused it must have been pretty disturbing; as he doesn't remember the last time he's ever seen Wendy Testaburger this rattled. "My arm's not important right now. This—There's...There's something very wrong with this thing and it's really fucking with Eric—"
"Cartman? He had that thing? I thought he was done with the whole doll thing."
"Yeah—well—" Wendy manages to get out between breaths and despite how winded she is, she's talking a mile a minute. Kyle takes a closer look at Wendy and realizes her eyes are red and puffy. "—as evidenced by the—creepy, little thing in my hands, clearly he's not! And this one is making him very. mentally. disturbed. Well—I suppose one could argue that he—was always mentally disturbed—"
Kyle stands there, silently agreeing to that bit about the fatass, but also utterly astonished by what he's hearing. Had the world gone backwards? He and Stan aren't speaking and Wendy Testaburger is actually showing concern for Eric Cartman? Kyle can't recall the last time Wendy spoke to him without it being in reference to either schoolwork or Stan.
"--He mentioned this really fucked up story with...with all of you guys and some car crash—"
Kyle freezes. "A...car crash?"
"Yeah, I don't know! It's weird because you'd think I would remember something like that!...but never mind that now! Here! Take this thing!" Wendy shoves the doll into a very perplexed Kyle's arms. "Just take it! I---I can't look at it anymore---it just---it makes me sick!"
Kyle only has to take one look at Wendy to know that this isn't just an expression. She's pale and clammy and she's eyeing the doll as though it had emerged from, like, the depths of hell themselves or something.
"What am I supposed to do with this?"
"Eric said something about getting it from Kenny's locker." Kyle very visibly flinches in response to this and the thing is promptly dropped to the floor like an old, greasy banana peel—with bugs crawling all over it. Wendy continues, and her words are frantic, erratic, as if she's grasping at straws and trying to make them work and fit together. "I guess you could give it back to the McCormick family—whatever you do with it, I don't care. Just make sure it never makes its way into Eric Cartman's hands again!"
"Sure, sure, Wendy." And Kyle rubs her back because he feels like that's the sort of thing you're supposed to do in this situation, but he's really not sure what this situation is exactly or what's going on. "I'll make sure the fatass never comes so much as within fifty feet of it."
Wendy's body relaxes a bit at his words, and she wraps her good arm around Kyle in an awkward, but rather genuine half-hug. "Thank you," she whispers and she turns on her heel to leave.
As she takes a few strides away, she passes by Stan's locker, door hanging wide open to reveal its vacancy, and she suddenly stops short.
Eyes wide, her head snaps back and she asks in as even a way as she can muster, "Kyle...have you spoken to Stan yet?"
"Oh, no, actually, I was about to go look for him when you came in. I have to say something to him so I'm—" Kyle begins, leaning down to retrieve the fallen doll off the floor by the tips of his forefinger and thumb and stuff it in his backpack. Wendy grabs him by the shoulder and pulls him back up inches to her face.
"You haven't spoken to him yet?! Kyle!" Wendy all but hisses. Her eyes are wide with fear and it looks like the tears are about to well up again. Kyle really hates being out of the loop and he senses something big has just gone down.
"What?! I didn't get the chance to yesterday!" Kyle says, pushing her off of him, "It's fine, I'll handle it!"
"Kyle, God you don't understand! I told you he's been really depressed! But—it's even worse. Do you know what he said to me on Tuesday? When he tried to break up with me? I thought he was talking about college but now...Oh god." And she looks like she's going to retch again. She wants to kick herself for not noticing. For being the worst girlfriend ever.
"'Now'...? 'Now' what?" Kyle replies impatiently.
"He said" Wendy takes a deep breath and recites carefully. "'I'm...going to go away and...I can't bring you with me to where I'm going...'"
The lights black out and in the darkness, the gravity of the statement hits Kyle like a ton of bricks.
Fuck. Oh fuck! FUCK! And he thinks back to his own last meeting with Stan and he remembers. He remembers Stan trying to tell him something, but god he's not even sure of the exact words because he wasn't fucking paying attention and UGH why wasn't he fucking paying attention. God, he messed up, didn't he?
He replays the scene in his mind and he knows that there were probably a thousand and one clues that should have tipped him off.
And he vaguely remembers getting a bad feeling at the time, but shaking it off in favor of the lights.
Some fucking replaceable, dime a dozen lights.
And Kyle knows, guiltily knows, that if he had just stayed with Stan—
When the lights come back on, Kyle's eye line settles directly on Stan's locker before him. There it is, wide open, wiped completely clean of its contents, its secrets, its hidden treasures, its memories...Empty. Like it never once belonged to a person named Stan Marsh.
From the looks of that locker, it was like a person named Stan Marsh never even existed.
And so, for the first time in days, Kyle did not give two shits about the faltering lights. Ignoring all necessary darkness safety protocols, he bolts for the door.
Everything has gone quiet in Stan Marsh's room as he sits on his bed, wallowing in his self-pity, while thinking up the script for what is surely to be his dramatic Oscar-worthy good-bye and confession of undying love and devotion to his super best friend.
"Looks like thinkin' time's over." Kenny announces, watching out the window as the swanky green hybrid car screeches up in front of the Marsh house.
"What?!" Stan rushes to his window. The head of red hair is unmistakable. "Shit." He glances at the clock. It's only a little after ten o'clock in the morning. He thought he'd have more time for this, though he still can't help but notice the fluttery feeling that builds up in his stomach when he realizes that Kyle—who didn't even consider taking part in Senior Skip Day--skipped the rest of the school day for him. "Fuck—Kenny, what do I do?!"
Kenny shoots him an incredulous look. "Um. Talk to him? Isn't that what you spent the whole morning bitching about?"
"But I thought I'd have more time to think about this! I didn't know he'd fucking skip school to see me!"
"You'll be fine! But hey, since when does anyone but Kyle's opinion matter to you anyway?"
Stan turns his head toward Kenny to counter, but sees him already in the midst of disappearing; his body going transparent until he's nothing. Both boys could hear the footsteps coming up the stairs, approaching quickly.
"I'm out, man. Good luck, lover boy." And with those parting words, Kenny was gone.
Kyle bursts into his best friend's room, exhausted, but relieved for a moment to see Stan alive and... not exactly well, but still, alive, breathing—and rather finely dressed, he might add... But that brief euphoria is then cut short when Kyle sees the suitcases strewn about the disheveled room. And swiftly Kyle changes gears, and the terror he felt as he broke several traffic laws to get here transforms into something that feels more like anger when he sees Stan, packing so impassively, not looking up even though Kyle knows he heard him come in.
"Please tell me," Kyle begins, his voice starting to shake, "you're either going on vacation with your family this summer, or you're packing early for college."
Stan just flashes him this quick look but it's all he needs to do. And all of a sudden Kyle can't breathe and he feels like his chest is bursting and nothing else is making a sound.
He tries to keep his voice steady, but he's unable to strip the furious panic out completely. He can rationalize Stan out of this; he knows he can. This is stupid. Why can't Stan see this is stupid?
"Okay. Fine. Why?" Kyle says plainly. It's more of a demand than a question.
Stan looks away, out his window as he replies, "South Park is shit, Kyle. I'm done."
The weight of his statement hangs between them before Kyle sputters, "You can't just leave. Are you serious, dude?" and he's doing that thing where he gesticulates because he thinks it makes his point look somehow more valid. It doesn't. "Graduation is in two days!"
In response, Stan wordlessly continues to gather his things, unceremoniously flinging open his drawers and stuffing their contents into his suitcase without even looking through any of it first. The image of Stan's haphazard packing pretty much mirroring his careless locker cleaning from the other day. Stan knows he's stalling. Knows he has to say something. But he can't bring himself to meet Kyle's eye.
"So this is what it was about, you cleaning your locker out on Tuesday. Stan, why didn't you tell me you were planning to leave then?"
Stan rolls his eyes. "Oh, gee, I don't know Kyle. I would have, I really would have, but I think you were too busy going on about a few twinkling lights to care about my trivial little problems."
"The lights are important!" Kyle insists but he's not sure why he says this because he knows Stan is one hundred percent right. But it just comes out of his mouth, a muscle reaction to fighting for the lights all week. He continues in spite of himself, "My brother's still gonna be there for like two weeks after we leave. He can't take his finals with the lights flickering on and off like that!"
"God, there's so many more important issues and you—Dude!" Stan whips around to face Kyle, forcefully tossing a crumpled up t-shirt into the suitcase lying open on his bed. Stan doesn't know why he's talking about this either when he knows he has so much more to say to Kyle right now. But he can't let this slide. "The environment is going to shit. The government is full of nothing but giant douches and turd sandwiches, and—" A slight hesitation. "—and there are people out there getting away with crimes who don't get punished for them—There's so many more important issues and you choose to focus on the lights of the school? Look, no offense to you or Ike or anything, but I highly doubt that a few days studying in darkness is gonna kill him. If the pioneers could do it in fucking 1864, Ike could do it too."
"What the fuck is wrong with you Stan?!" Kyle yells back because he's angry that Stan only looks at him to yell at him. And he's sure this is doing nothing to help his case, but he can't help it. "You've been acting like a total asshole for no reason!"
"Oh, I've been acting like the asshole?! I'm not the one whose priorities are in the wrong place!"
"You have no right to talk about my priori—"
"God, Kyle! Don't you fucking get it?!"
"No! That's the fucking point! You're not explaining anything. All you've done so far is bitch and moan about everything like you want everyone to feel sorry for you and you don't even explain yourself!" Kyle shouts, and moves forward and shoves Stan back a few steps. "What the fuck are you even talking about?!"
He doesn't know if it's Kyle's touch on his skin or the fact that someone's finally asked him what's wrong but something in Stan snaps. He feels like he's had an entire clusterfuck spectrum of emotions, building inside all year—the anger, the depression, confusion, and frustration, and like a bombshell, he explodes:
"OH MY GOD! I KILLED KENNY!"
And then, right on cue, comes the usual follow-up response.
"You bastard." Kyle says, blankly.
"Yes," Stan lets out in a wistful sigh. In spite of the morbid topic, Stan couldn't help but crack a smile. Maybe he really had gone crazy. But it was the truth. He is a bastard. "I am a bastard. I suck. I killed Kenny! I'm the worst f-f-friend ever!"
"Dude!" Kyle exclaims in disbelief. "Is that it?! You had me all worried for nothing!" Kyle doesn't really know what to say about this turn of events and he's looking at Stan in that way. That way that Stan hates. That pitying stare that people give crazy hobos off the street. And Stan hates it and hates it even more that it's Kyle of all people who's looking at him that way.
"Nothing?!" Stan lashes out, the eerie grin vanishing from his face. "Dude! I killed Kenny!"
Kyle shrugs and he feels like maybe he should care because this is something that Stan cares so vehemently about but all Kyle can think about is how stupid Stan is being right now. "So? He'll come back eventually."
"It's been a year." Stan says.
"He's been gone that long before."
"...You really think this is a fucking joke, don't you. You think I'm a fucking joke."
"No. But I think you're being ridiculous if you really want me to be honest."
"I'm being ridiculous?!"
"You're packing your bags over Kenny! You're being melodramatic! Are you gonna do that every time he dies?!"
"But what about Karen?!"
Kyle opens his mouth to say something, but promptly closes it. He had...actually almost forgotten.
A long, stifling silence ensues and no one wants to meet anyone's eye.
Neither of them says anything for a while. And then:
"So, what?" Kyle says. "Do you want to get thrown in jail now or something?"
"No, not really," Stan says and outpours everything he's been dying to say to anybody but Kenny and god it feels so fucking good, "but I'd do a trial, community service—God anything for what I did. I fucking killed someone, dude! An innocent girl is dead because of me! And Kenny! Our friend is dead because of me!"
"Kenny killed himself, Stan!" Kyle argues because he really wishes Stan would come to his senses and let it go. "You heard him those last few months...He was fucking crazy! He kept going on about how his sister wasn't Mormon! And besides, why should you get punished for murder? Plenty of people in South Park have gotten away with it before. Fuck, the fatass killed his own father and cooked him into chili and he's been walking around free as a bird for years!"
Stan is beside himself. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Is he actually comparing him to fucking Eric Cartman? "Oh my God, Kyle—really?! Do you honestly not care that two people—two kids—are dead?!"
"That's just the way this town works, dude. Yeah, it sucks. But it's always been that way."
"And that makes sense to you?! Kyle..." There is a notable tremble in Stan's voice. He looks at Kyle, pleadingly. "I've lived that way for all my life. I don't wanna do it anymore...I'm tired of not giving a shit anymore! This town is fucked up, Kyle!" Letting out a frustrated growl, Stan crosses his room and grabs the beer bottle off his desk, taking a large swig from it before slamming it back down on the table.
Kyle cringes at the sight. He always hated it when Stan drank, and not just because Stan devolved into a loud, obnoxious idiot when he was drunk. Stan's alcoholism started when he was ten, and he hadn't been able to shake the habit ever since. He really needed his super best friend then and Kyle blew him off. Despite the fact that Stan had always been there for him, even going so far as to save his life for what felt like a hundred times already, Kyle had abandoned him.
But, UGH, This wasn't supposed to fucking happen! Hadn't Kyle been a good friend? Hadn't he backed off when it was clear that Stan had preferred Wendy's company to his? Hadn't he already known, already admitted to himself that Wendy was automatically the better choice because Wendy was just fucking smarter and knew not to abandon Stan when he really needed someone?
And now, despite Kyle's efforts to control it, it seemed to him that history had decided to repeat itself.
"Stan, look, I know this is hard..." Kyle says, trying to calm down, trying to make this right.
"Really?" Stan scoffs and ungraciously wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "What exactly do you know?"
"I know that you're hurting. I am too, dude." He wasn't going to let his best friend down again. Kyle reaches out to touch Stan's arm. Stan flinches away. Kyle goes pale. That hurt.
"Stan, I'm your best friend. I'm here for you! Talk to me!"
"Really, Kyle. Really?" Stan folds his arms, closing himself off. He recoils, keeping Kyle at a short distance away. "You cared for one. day. For one day you cared that Kenny and Karen were dead, and after that it's like you don't even give a damn about them at all! Why now? You only start to care now? Where were you last year Kyle?!"
Those words sting. Of course Kyle cared. He knows he messed up, but he'd never consciously ignore Stan if he needed help...if he'd only actually tell him he did. "Stan, please—" Kyle appeals. "Don't leave! If you're still upset over the accident, there're doctors we could call for you. They can fix things! We can get back to normal--!"
"I DON'T WANT THINGS TO GO BACK TO NORMAL!"
Kyle goes quiet then, momentarily stunned into silence.
"What's considered 'normal' here is fucked up! Nobody gives a shit about anything! You say you hurt like me, dude? Tch. You say that you know, but you don't."
Kyle's heart sinks. "Is that how you really feel, Stan?" He chokes out. "Do you really think that I don't care?!" Hot tears began to stream down his cheeks, despite his best efforts to hold them back. Kyle hated to cry in front of people, but this was just too much.
Kyle takes Stan's silence as his answer.
"Wow. Maybe you don't know who I am as well as you think you do. So much for super best friends! It's not like I ran out in the middle of the school day 'cause I thought you were gonna fucking kill yourself or anything!"
That strikes a chord and Stan's hand absentmindedly goes to his neck. "Gee, thanks so much for your concern, Kyle." He blinks back the annoying, stinging feeling at the corners of his eyes. "It's nice to know that you care now, hours after I was gonna fucking do it!"
For a second, Kyle is frozen; his heart skips a beat. "...What?"
"Yeah! See for yourself!" Stan shouts, gesturing grandly towards his desk. "The razor's still there from this morning!"
Kyle remains speechless as he stares, wide-eyed at the glinting blade on the table.
"See, that's exactly what I mean when I say nobody gives a shit around here! Nobody fucking knew! Nobody! If—" His voice tightens. "—If...something didn't happen this morning, you would have totally come over to a fucking body!"
And suddenly Kyle's fist slams into Stan's cheek and it's hard enough to actually send his larger, football-toned build reeling back a few steps
"You presumptuous asshole!" Kyle chokes out, and he's breathing heavy, tears still flowing hot. "How could you fucking assume that I wouldn't care?! Thanks for letting me know you lump me together with all those other supposedly 'uncaring' bastards! Yeah okay, so you tried to say goodbye or whatever on Tuesday, but what about before that you dick?! You didn't even try talking with someone, did you?!"
Stan stands there, temporarily stunned; putting a hand to his now slowly swelling bruised cheek. After getting his bearings, he gives Kyle a hard shove back in response, muttering, "You didn't even care enough to help Kenny before he shot himself..."
"AND DID YOU?!" Kyle shouts; his voice cracking, shoving Stan back. Beer bottles on the desk rattle and topple over when Stan knocks into it. "What makes you think you're any better, Stan?!"
Stan can't think of anything to say—because Kyle is right, as per usual. Stan is no better than those uncaring bastards—in fact, he was far worse than any of them. None of them were the reason that sparked Kenny's decision to end it all.
So instead of saying anything, he pushes Kyle again, this time with enough force to send his best friend to the floor. Stan winces, hit with a slight twinge of regret as soon as Kyle hits the ground. Once again, he fell victim to another stupid impulse...but did he really? After all, Kyle was the one who hit him first. Either way, this good bye was proving to be the very opposite of what Stan was hoping for.
Kyle's backpack unzips when he falls, most of its contents spilling out. Loose papers fall out of folders and pens scatter out on the floor. Notebooks and planners lie open. Every line is filled with neat, organized writing--so typically Kyle.
What tumbles out of the bag last was not so typically Kyle...
"What the fuck is that?" Stan exclaims, pointing at the worn-down pink object on the floor.
"A doll, duh!" Kyle snaps after propping himself back up, hand to his shoulder. "What the fuck do you think it looks like?"
"I can see it's a doll, why the fuck do you have it?"
"Wendy gave it to me earlier. She said the fatass got it out of Kenny's locker or some shit—"
Kenny could have been nice, could have disappeared, evaporated completely from the room, wandered off unnoticed to who knows where, like say, Bebe Stevens' house, but it's still early and she's still at school. Or even better, Liane Cartman's house—Hey! Mrs. Cartman is a total MILF okay?! For a total pushover of a parent, she's still pretty smokin' and she didn't get her title as the town whore for nothing. Yup, Kenny could have been totally nice and given his two buddies privacy for their climactic fight, but he would have been a total dumbass if he were to miss out on this.
At some point though, their fight seemed to be stretching kind of long, and Kenny tuned out somewhere in the middle. He wishes that they'd just get over themselves and fuck each other already. To be honest, he has no idea what they were really arguing about now, but their yelling seems to have quieted down a little for some reason. He sadly tears his eyes away from the hot chick in her exercise gear outside walking her yorkie-poo or whatever crazy-ass mutant hybrid dogs are in nowadays, and looks back at his friends to see what's up.
What he sees would have literally stopped his heart had it still been beating.
"Oh my God..." Kenny breathes out, his shocked figure suddenly appearing by the window.
"What the fuck!" Stan cries. "I thought you left!"
"KENNY?!" Kyle rubs his eyes, making sure that what he's seeing is real. "Are you back?!"
"He's not!" Stan snaps. "Dude! What the fuck! Have you been listening the entire time?!"
Kenny doesn't reply, as if he didn't hear the question at all. In fact, it is almost as if Kenny is suddenly the only one in the room. He moves forward, slowly approaching the poor pink doll, lying neglected on the floor. He kneels down and picks it up. He turns it around and a tear falls when he sees that one-eyed smile that he hasn't seen in what feels like forever. 'Found you...' He looks at her with fondness, adjusting the little gold crown on her head. Kenny sighs contentedly, and it's as if a weight's been lifted. He pulls her in close and holds her for a while before he slowly fades out of sight.
For a while, no one says a word.
"You—you saw him too right?" Stan asks, his voice tight with a hint of desperation.
"Um, yeah...That was Kenny right?"
The tears come gushing out at the answer. Finally. Some proof that he hadn't gone crazy; something tangible to provide reason behind Stan's behavior for the past year. He buries his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking from silent sobs. Stan answers Kyle with a nod, his voice overpowered by gasping breaths.
"Stan..." Whatever anger he may have felt for Stan earlier has now dulled down, sent into the background and replaced with alarmed concern. Warily, Kyle brings up the question, "Stan...have you been seeing Kenny this entire time?"
The tears come on stronger and he chokes on a harsh intake of air. He nods wordlessly again, without looking up. He falls heavily to his knees on the floor, unable to support himself anymore.
"Stan!" Kyle quickly follows suit and kneels down next to him. He stares on, listening to Stan cry, momentarily at a loss of what to do. Eventually, Kyle takes a chance and carefully wraps his arms around Stan, suddenly brought back to that fateful night last year, when he held Stan in the hospital. He leans in and whispers that night's mantra into Stan's ear. "You're gonna be okay, Stan..."
Stan is stiff, shaking with nervousness at first, but slowly sighs into the embrace after hearing those words, as if finally releasing a breath he'd been holding in for the past year. Stan hesitantly hugs Kyle back. He leans closer against Kyle, closing his eyes, taking in his scent, listening to his heartbeat; reacquainting himself with the best friend he almost lost. He sighs again, his body growing heavy in Kyle's arms, allowing himself to relax. This is the most composed Stan has been in a year.
Kyle decides to be brave and plant a soft kiss on Stan's forehead and is relieved when he doesn't freak out. Stan's cheeks tinge with a light pink and he smiles; not one of those broadly, beaming smiles, but it was still the most palpable display of happiness he had shown in well over a year. He and Kyle stay curled against each other for a while and soon, Stan's body is calm, no longer jolting from hiccupping sobs.
"Come with me, dude." Kyle brings up after a moment of silence. Stan looks up at him with a questioning look, so Kyle continues. "Come with me to college. I've got some choices lined up on the East Coast. We'll go mad far away from here."
Slowly, Stan nods to agree. After all, this was his plan in the first place, though, knowing he'd have his best friend—maybe more than—by his side made it all the more better, less scary.
SEPTEMBER, NEW YORK.
"So I spoke with the landlord," Kyle begins, entering the darkened living room. His feet paw around the floor gently to guide him back to the sofa, where Stan waits patiently for his return. "It turns out the storm cut everyone's electricity. He says the power should be back on by tomorrow though."
"Thrilling." Stan answers deadpan, before pinching the bridge of his nose. "I still can't believe we forgot to stock up on fucking flashlights."
"Did you learn nothing from that...memorable field trip to Pioneer Village? Tonight would just be another night to them. If they could last years without electricity, I'm sure we could last a few hours. I've found our solution."
"And what's that?" Stan asks, grinning. He'd been doing that quite a bit lately, much to Kyle's relief.
Kyle beams and holds up two objects, one in each hand. "You remember these?"
Stan leans forward, squinting, using the remaining bits of sunset streaming through the windows to discern what the objects were. He catches a gleam of gold and he smiles. "You brought those with you?"
"Of course! They're too special to leave behind...even if they are meant for a girl..." he adds in, flashing that dorky half-grin of his that Stan likes so much.
Stan flushes. "I didn't know, okay?!"
"Relax dude." Kyle laughs, setting the candlesticks down on the coffee table in front of them. "It was still a cute gesture..." He strikes a match and lights them both, basking the room in a warm, orangey glow. "There we go. 'Everyone could use more light in their lives, right?'" he added, nudging Stan.
Stan lets out a short laugh—a real one—and shakes his head, in disbelief over how fucking corny his twelve year old self sounded. He remembers, though, when he got Kyle those candlesticks and how proud of himself he felt chancing upon that find. A special gift for Kyle, his best friend; the person who mattered most—and who continues to matter most—in his life. Kyle, the one person Stan held above all the rest.
So almost without thinking, he wraps his arms around Kyle's waist, leans forward and tentatively presses his lips to Kyle's. Kyle freezes up at first, but quickly melts into the kiss and returns it. Their first kiss is short and chaste. They pull away for a second and look at each other, apprehension lingering in their eyes, but it fades away because they know this is right. Kyle reaches up, linking his arms around Stan's neck, and pulls them closer together, going in for another, braver kiss.
After finally parting, the two remain as they are for a while, sitting close and holding each other, foreheads touching.
"Hey." Kyle says after a span of silence.
"Are you sure you're feeling alright?"
Stan looks back at Kyle thoughtfully and smiles before leaning forward and leaving a soft kiss on Kyle's cheek. "I'm gonna be okay."
"They got their happy ending, huh Kenny?" Karen McCormick grips her brother's hand tightly; the other, clutching her dolly to her chest. They sit together on the balcony railing, looking on at the happy couple inside.
Kenny sighs, tightening his hold on Karen's hand. "Yup, guess they did..." He looks over at Stan, a smiling Stan, and Kenny manages to break out into a grin too. 'Tch. Of course, the asshole.' All American good looks. Football star. Mr. Perfect. Happily in love with his best friend. Of course he'd get his happy ending.
Somehow, despite everything that happened within the past almost two years, Kenny is honestly happy for him. Kenny would have had to be pretty damn heartless if he said he didn't feel some sympathy for the Marsh boy. How many times had he wandered into his room in the middle of the night to find the guy cry himself to sleep? Or see him go through random fits of rage and frustration over the fact that no one else gave a shit?—the very images mirroring himself during his last three months alive.
Maybe it was good that it was Stan who remembered, that he was the only one in South Park who could see him—'cause Stan was someone who actually cared. Stan could have easily ignored him; behavior that Kenny had grown accustomed to with every death. Stan could have blown him off as another "South Park thing". He was certain someone like the fatass would have. But Stan didn't and all in all, Kenny was certainly grateful for the company. He may have been an asshole, but if there really was anything Stan Marsh was, it was a friend. And Kenny McCormick was glad to have had him as one. Perhaps he shouldn't have left without a word. Maybe he should have said a thank you at least. He looks on at Stan, contentedly resting his head on Kyle's shoulder.
'Next time.' Kenny grins.