Stan has American History first period, when he's still so tired he can barely keep his eyes open. He usually sleeps through this class, since the teacher has them watch videos at least twice a week. On the last Monday of his senior year at Evergreen High School, he's particularly exhausted because he was up until one thirty the night before playing Guild Wars 2 with Kyle. He drops down at his desk in the back of the room, and he's just about to put his head down when almost out of nowhere, there's someone standing in front of him. When he raises his head, he sees it's Emily, one of the girls on the cheerleading squad.

"Hey, can I ask you something after class?" she asks.

"Yeah, sure," he says.

Smiling, she flips around to head back to her desk in the front row. She's one of the smarter kids in their senior class, so he's wondering what she could possibly want to know from him. She probably just wants to borrow his notes or something. Offering her his ratty notebook full of chicken scratch will be a little painful.

The teacher starts up The Patriot again. Stan doesn't even bother trying to keep his eyes open – the room is too nice and dark. The horrible alarm-like bell jolts him awake at the end of class, and he sees he's drooled all over his notebook. Blinking away the spots in his eyes, he rubs it off with the sleeve of his sweatshirt until it looks acceptable enough to hand over to Emily. She's waiting for him outside the door, and only then he realizes it was pretty weird she wanted to wait until after class to ask for his notes. And hold on – it's doubly weird she'd even want them, because they're not really doing anything in school anymore. Friday's the last day.

"What's up?" he says, doing his best to pep up his voice as they walk down the hall.

"Well, um," she says, pushing her hair back behind her ear, "I was wondering if you had a date for prom?"

It dawns on him she's asking him to go with her. He starts getting nervous. "Uh, no, I don't."

"So, would you want to go with me?"

"Yeah!" he says, maybe a little too excitedly. "I mean, of course, I would love to."

"Phew!" Her whole body seems to relax. "Here, let me give you my number so we can talk details and shit." He notices her purple nails when she slips him a neat scrap of paper which she must have written up earlier. They've stopped in front of Stan's math class now, so he says he'll text her sometime today, then offers a small wave as he enters the room.

This week, they're just doing Sudoku for bonus points in Alegbra II, which he's taking for the second time because he failed it last year. Stan did pass it this time around, but he's absolutely terrible at Sudoku, so the nice sophomore kid he sits next to has been letting him copy. After he turns in the puzzle, he whips out his iPod and plays some Stones, thinking about how utterly relieved he is that he has a date to prom now. He was planning on going, but he procrastinated asking the couple girls in he had in mind until they all got dates. The guys on the team have been bugging him to bring his "secret South Park girlfriend." They've always refused to believe he would drive all the way there every weekend just to see his dad.

Emily wasn't one of the girls he was considering, but only because he doesn't know her that well. They've talked a little at parties, but that's about it. She's definitely hot: long chestnut hair, biggish boobs, and a cute face. Plus, she's always pretty upbeat and laughs a lot, but not in that fake way some girls do. He also likes that she has a potty mouth almost as bad as Kyle's.

For the rest of the school day, he's in a great mood, and that evening, when his mom comes home from work, she's similarly psyched to hear the news.

"Are you excited? Oh, we have to get you a tux! Isn't prom next weekend?" she asks as she's reheating the lasagna from yesterday.

"Yeah, it's the fifteenth."

"Who's the girl, by the way? Is she cute?" she says in a suggestive way that makes his skin crawl.

"This girl named Emily in my history class. And uh, I guess." He lines the silverware up next to their plates. Setting the table is a lot easier when it's just two people.

She comes over to the table and squeezes him into hug. She's been really huggy lately. "You're going to have so much fun!"

While they eat, she asks a ton of questions, and Stan realizes this is going to be a lot of work: he has to get a ticket, go shopping for a tux, remember to tell Dan to add two more people to the dinner reservations, and buy some flower bracelet thing for Emily. He wonders if has to pay for her ticket and dinner, but he figures he's probably supposed to. At least they're skipping out on a limo so they can spend that money on booze for the after party, though.

After dinner, Stan watches the news with his mom for a little bit before he gets bored and goes to take a shower. As he's toweling his hair dry, he realizes he forgot to text Emily so she'd at least have his number. Back in his room, he throws on some pajama bottoms and a clean T-shirt, then grabs his phone and flops onto his bed. There's a new text from Kyle asking if he wants to play World of Warcraft instead of GW2 tonight. Stan feels bad, but he's freshly exhausted from the shower, too sleepy for MMORPGs. Before he replies, he fishes out Emily's number from the back pocket of his jeans lying in a pile on the floor and adds her to his contact list. He shoots her a quick message saying "Hey, this is Stan," and hopes she doesn't want to have some long text conversation, because he's decided he's going to call Kyle now.

Even before they got back into online gaming as the school year trickled to an end, the evenings were Stan's Kyle time. Almost every night, they talk for at least a half hour, either via Skype or on the phone. Talking to Kyle provides a semblance of normalcy to his life in Evergreen, where things have always felt weird. He's popular, but doesn't have any close friends. None he actually tells shit to, anyway.

Kyle picks up on the second ring. "Hey," he says.

"Hey. I'm not really in the mood for games tonight. You just wanna talk instead?"

"Oh, okay. What's up?"

"Well, it looks like I'm going to prom now," Stan says.

"You asked someone?"

"Ha, no, actually, this girl asked me."

"So you're not coming next weekend?" Kyle asks. Stan figured that was coming. He isn't happy he won't get to see Kyle next weekend, but he shouldn't have to feel like an asshole for wanting to go to prom, either.

"Guess not, sorry. I could stay over on Friday and Saturday this weekend, if you want?"

Kyle sighs, and Stan can almost see him pressing his index and middle fingers to his temple, which has been his thing lately. "It's not a matter of my wanting it or not. Don't think you have to like, compensate for going to prom." Now Stan really feels like he has to.

"I could hang out with my dad for a while, then come over once he passes out," Stan offers.

With a lofty air, Kyle says, "If you want," which is annoying.

"I do! Okay, my dad's usually out by eleven, so I'll text you when I'm on my way."

"Alright. Yeah, that'd be fine," Kyle says, and there's a trace of guilt in his voice. Stan has to hold back a groan. Kyle is such a kid sometimes about getting his way.

Apparently done with the topic of prom, Kyle starts going on about how they should form an arena team in WoW, since he's developed this idea that PvE "just isn't as hardcore." He derails into GW2, bemoaning all the craft drops and ectos they have to farm to get their characters geared up. Stan thinks Kyle might be more into online gaming now than he was in elementary school, which is sort of sad, until he realizes it's probably because it's the only thing they can really share in their daily lives. Then it's so sad Stan wants a drink.

They talk for about an hour total, until Stan's so sleepy he's not really contributing to the conversation anymore. As he's trying to fall asleep, Stan remembers graduation is next week too. He's not graduating with Kyle, or Kenny, or Butters, or hell, even Cartman, like he always imagined he would.

The next day, when he calls his dad to tell him he's going to prom, Randy puts a stupid amount of money – four hundred fucking dollars – in his bank account, which is more than enough to pay for the tickets and dinner, and to buy a tux instead of renting one. Randy is still playing the "Which Parent Do You Like More?" game, five years after the divorce. Stan has stopped telling him he doesn't have to give him money or expensive gifts. He knows it makes Randy happy.

During lunch on Wednesday, the guys congratulate him on snagging Emily as a date. He doesn't bother telling them it was more the other way around.

"You gonna fuck her?" Dan asks enthusiastically, leaning over the table.

"Yeah," Stan says, although he probably won't.

"You gotta tell me how it is, man," he says, licking his lips.

Stan is disgusted, but he snickers anyway. He gets up to go buy an ice cream sandwich when Dan starts talking again about the time he had sex with Olivia Colburn, something Stan suspects might not have actually happened.

On Thursday in homeroom, they vote for prom king and prom queen. Apparently, someone nominated Stan and Emily. He puts a check next to Emily's name for queen, and picks his friend Jack for king, since he's not really interested in the title himself. After school, he and his mom go out to dinner, and then to the mall to buy a tux, which takes a whole hour and a half. Later that night, he and Kyle do some battlegrounds on WoW to grind honor. Kyle gets more into it than usual, grunting and panting like a madman over Skype while they slaughter Horde scum in Alterac Valley. Stan has a hard time falling asleep that night, wound up from the game and unable to get Kyle's frenzied growls out of his head.

Friday is unofficially designated Senior Skip Day, but he goes to school anyway, if only because there are pepperoni rolls for lunch. He has everything for the weekend packed up in his car, and as soon as school's over, he's heading straight to South Park. The drive there is a little over an hour on Rt. 285, and it's boring as usual. He arrives at his old house around four thirty, parking on the street rather than in the driveway so his dad can park in the garage when he gets home in a half hour.

He dumps his duffel bag by the front door and watches something about polar bears until his dad comes home, when they order a pizza and crack open their first beers of the night. At eleven thirty, Randy passes out on the couch while they're watching TV. Stan grabs a blanket from the hall closet and tosses it over him, then heads to the kitchen to clean up real quick before he goes over to Kyle's. Stan is definitely drunk: he has to retype the text to Kyle saying he's on his way three times.

Kyle immediately texts him back saying he unlocked the back door. Stan tiptoes past his dad in the living room to grab his duffel bag, then goes out through the kitchen door. He cuts through his neighbor's yards, eyes fixed on the yellow glow emanating from Kyle's bedroom window, the only light still on at the Broflovski house.

As Stan creeps through the darkness of Kyle's house, he tells himself to remember the fourth stair creaks, but he ends up stepping on it anyway, wincing when it screeches. He slips into Kyle's room, where he's sprawled out over his bed, his laptop over his chest. Drunkenly, Stan thinks he looks perfect like this: barefoot, shirt collar messed up, his eyes sleepy behind wire rimmed glasses.

"Hey, sorry I'm late," Stan says. "My dad only fell asleep just now."

"It's fine," Kyle says, moving his laptop aside and sitting up.

"So, what's up? You tired?" Stan asks, dropping his bag on the floor and plopping down on the air mattress already set up for him next to Kyle's bed.

Kyle takes off his glasses, rubbing his eye with his palm. "Sort of," he says.

They talk for a couple hours anyway, mostly about how weird it is they're going to be college students in the fall. Although Kyle doesn't say anything about it, Stan is pretty sure he knows he's drunk, especially when he starts rambling about how happy he is that they're going to be going school together again. Kyle doesn't bring up prom, so Stan doesn't either.

They get ready for bed at two thirty. When Kyle comes back from changing into his pajamas in the bathroom, Stan is already under the covers of the air mattress, feeling like he might fall asleep any minute. To get to his bed, Kyle steps onto the mattress, over Stan's legs, making it shift slightly with his weight. They say goodnight, and Kyle shuts off the lamp on the nightstand.

It still doesn't feel right to Stan, not sharing a bed with Kyle. After Stan moved, their sleepovers continued at his house as usual, until Randy got a girlfriend and started saying shit like, "Why does Kyle always have to come here? Don't you think you should get to spend the night at his house once in a while?" Stan knew exactly why he was asking this, and it was revolting, but once Randy started practically begging, he gave in. The girlfriend didn't last, but sleepovers moved to Kyle's house permanently.

Stan remembers how he thought the air mattress was a joke until Kyle had said, "Look, I know, but listen – Ike is always coming in my room, and that fucker never knocks. And we can't lock the door either, because then he'll tell my mom, and she'll be all nosy about it, and I don't know how many times I could convince her it was just an accident." Stan forced himself to say it was fine, commenting they'd have more space this way, but he was miserable that night, disturbed by how far away Kyle's breathing sounded.

"Hey," Stan whispers, checking to see if Kyle's still awake.

"Yeah?" Kyle murmurs.

"Remember when we used to sleep in the same bed?"

Kyle snorts. "Well, yeah. It was only four years ago."

"Do you ever miss it?" Stan asks, mostly because he's drunk.

"Why, do you?"

"I don't know," Stan says, even though he does miss it. He misses it a lot.

Stan waits for Kyle to say something else, but he doesn't. He curls up on the far side of the mattress, pressing his forehead to the metal frame of Kyle's bed, falling asleep like that.

It's a perfect 83 degrees on Saturday, the first really warm day of the year, so they spend the afternoon dicking around Stark's Pond. They pick up City Wok for dinner and watch bad horror movies all night. When they go downstairs for breakfast late Sunday morning, there's an old kid's recorder toy sitting on the kitchen table.

"Hey, I remember this," Stan says, picking it up. When they were really young, he and Kyle used to play with this thing a lot, recording different sound clips from the TV and radio.

"Oh, wow," Kyle says, touching one of the brightly colored buttons. "My mom must have found it in the basement. She's been cleaning out all the junk down there lately."

Stan loosens the microphone from its holder on the side. "I wonder if it still works."

"Doubt it," Kyle replies, getting up and going over to the cupboard to get the cereal.

"We should try it."

"It has to at least need new batteries."

After breakfast, they dig up some fresh batteries, then go back up to Kyle's room to see if the tape recorder still works.

"Do you think it's actually recording?" Stan says when Kyle presses the red button.

"I dunno, let's see." Kyle pushes the stop button and rewinds it, then hits play. Clear as day, the recorder relays what they just said. "Wow, I wasn't expecting that. We should record something for real."

"Like what?"

"Maybe a song," Kyle says, grabbing his laptop from his bed.

The echoey strumming of a guitar sounds from the speakers, then a woman's clear, slow singing. It's a really girly song, and Stan is surprised that Kyle's music tastes, odd as they are, include something with such gushy lyrics. Stan looks at him incredulously, like, "What's up with this song?" but Kyle just shrugs. When the song ends, Kyle pushes the stop button on the recorder, and Stan notices his hand is shaking.

Sunday evenings are always somber, knowing their weekend has come to an end. On the way to Bennigan's for dinner, neither of them talks much.

"Still can't believe Wendy beat me to valedictorian," Kyle murmurs from behind the menu.

"Yeah," Stan says, scanning the restaurant for their waitress.

"Well, whatever. I don't care anymore," Kyle says. Stan knows this is a lie.

"I'm just happy I passed Algebra II this time."

Kyle drops the menu, his expression very grave. Just as he opens his mouth to say something, the waitress comes back to take their order.

Stan drops Kyle off afterward, then starts the long drive back to Evergreen, feeling sort of incomplete, even more so when he remembers he won't be coming back next weekend.

There's graduation practice the next afternoon, then the real thing on Tuesday, which goes smoothly, except some kid passes out from heat stroke. The rest of the week, Stan just hangs around the apartment and spends way too much time online, mostly playing MMORPGs. Saturday arrives quickly, and Stan wakes up early feeling energized. He leaves to go to the florist to pick up the corsage for Emily at three thirty, and he's supposed to be at Jack's house at four to take pictures, which will probably not be so fun, but they're going to the restaurant right after that.

It's hot again, although not as hot as it was on graduation, so it's not too bad being in a tux outside in Jack's front yard. All of the girls in their group look great, but Stan thinks Emily looks the best, in a sleek cerulean dress that makes her look like a mermaid. Fortunately, the pictures don't take too long.

At the restaurant, which is moderately fancy but dated, Stan keeps it simple with chicken parmesan. Emily orders veal, and he almost wants to tell her about the time he and his friends in South Park rescued a whole bunch of baby cows, but he doesn't want to make her feel bad about her dinner selection, so he keeps his mouth shut. All of them are too loud, laughing about all the crazy shit they've done these past four years, so Stan leaves a really good tip, even though the food was already expensive.

In the car on the way to the hotel, it's just him and Emily, and he's on edge without all their friends to make conversation easy. Stan flips the A/C on because he can see she must be hot – a drop of sweat is gliding down into her cleavage. He rips his gaze forward, embarrassed, hoping she didn't notice, but she giggles a little. He talks about the weather, which is pathetic, but whatever.

The prom itself is in the main ballroom of the hotel, which is way fancier than the restaurant, with a glass chandelier hanging overhead that's adorned with shiny metallic streamers. Stan isn't a dancing kind of guy, but he dances anyway, because Emily wants to.

At ten thirty, a half hour before prom ends, most of the dancing has winded down and their group is chilling at a table talking about how cool the after party is going to be. Then, there's a horrible screeching sound as someone messes with the mic. A girl in a puffy pink dress says they're about to announce prom king and queen.

She tears open an envelope in her hand, pulling out a slip of red paper. "As president of student council, I'm pleased to announce that this year's Evergreen High School's prom king and queen are," she pauses and looks up, "Stan Marsh and Emily Ashwall!"

Everyone's suddenly cheering and the guys at the table are patting Stan on the back, hooting wildly. Slowly, he gets up, following Emily as she bounces to the stage, where the other members of the student council appear carrying sparkly crowns on tacky little pillows. Stan can't help but let a smile spread across his face as he bows his head to be crowned prom king. They throw a gaudy pink sash on him too, and he's half laughing at that point, in awe that everyone at this school seems to love him.

Emily grabs the mic and launches into a teary-eyed speech they didn't ask her to make, thanking their whole senior class repeatedly for the great honor of the prom queen title, going on and on about how she'd been dreaming of this day for years. She finishes with one last thank-you, and then, unexpectedly, she passes the mic to Stan, who has no clue what to say, so he just utters, "Uh. Thanks, guys," which elicits a great response of yelping and booming laughter.

On the way back to the car, Stan feels weird in an awesome way: although he's completely sober, his head feels floaty on top, and his body's worn from all the dancing, but he's wide awake, an excitement shooting through his skull that's dying to get out. It will, at the after party, where things will probably get pretty crazy.

Stan is so ready to get to Dan's house he has to keep reminding himself to not go over the speed limit. He doesn't want Emily to think he's a reckless driver, either.

"Hey, wait," Emily says, putting her hand on the dashboard. "I know a shortcut. Take a left here."

"Okay, sweet." Stan flicks the turn signal on. Following her directions, they go down streets he's never used before, ending up on the road he thought only led to the library. Emily tells him to just keep going straight ahead.

"Uh. This is the library," Stan says when they reach the parking lot.

Emily peers up at the dark building. "Oh, I know." Turning to him, she cusps his shoulder and says, "Do you want to go in the back seat?"

Stan has to take a second to process that, and when it hits him Emily wants to mess around, he gets a little panicky, but he does want to at least kiss her, maybe even make out, so he says yes. He parks the car right where it is, and Emily gets out, going around to climb into the back seat. Stan does the same, and before he even has the chance to sit down, Emily is coming right at him, snaking her hand around his neck. He swallows hard, telling himself to keep his cool.

Without warning, she presses her lips against his, and okay, wow, that was quick. She unwinds her arm from his neck and places both her hands on his knees, diving forward, her tongue already whirling in his mouth. He has to concentrate on getting enough air in through his nose more than anything, and oh, God, what if she wants to have actual sex, right here in the backseat of his car? Desperately needing to breathe, he moves back, pressing his back to the door, and sucks in a huge breath.

"What's wrong?" she asks.

"Nothing," he says, trying to laugh.

She goes back to attacking his mouth, and Stan tells himself he should be thrilled this hot, assertive girl is totally into him and that he should just go with it, even though he would have preferred for this to start out quietly and escalate in intensity rather than jumping right into it. Her hands start travelling up his legs, and then they're getting too high, too close, and Jesus Christ, this is going too fast, this doesn't feel how it should.

Putting his hands on her shoulders, he pushes her away as gently as possible. "What – what are you doing?" he asks.

"What do you mean?" Her tone is incredulous, like she thinks Stan is joking. "Don't you wanna do it?"

"Uh, well, maybe not right now, but – "

"Fuck, I knew it," she mutters, edging away. "I knew you had a girlfriend in South Park."

"What? I don't. I really don't."

"Ha. Right," she shoots back.

"I don't!"

"Fine. So what's the problem, then?"

"I – I don't know," he admits lamely, looking away from her.

She's quiet for a moment. "Are you gay or something?" she asks, her voice bitter, venom-laced.

He stares at the shadowy outline of her body, wanting to smack her. "Maybe I'm just not attracted to you."

"Hah! No kidding, I don't have a dick."

Stan's had enough of this shit. He promptly gets out of the car and climbs into the driver seat. "Get out," he tells her.

"What? No."

"Get out," he repeats, struggling to keep his voice calm.

"No! Fuck you! Take me home at least, you fucking asshole!" she shouts.

The whole way to Emily's house, Stan has a death grip on the steering wheel. As soon as they're there, she immediately gets out, slams the door behind her, and goes around the front of the car. Stan's about to pull away when she gets right up in his window and growls, "Fuck you, Marsh." Stan zooms away as soon as she turns around and runs to her house.

He's halfway home already, but Stan doesn't want to be in Evergreen at all anymore; he's so disgusted with this town, with these people who don't even know who he is, who are only interested in what he can give them. He wants to go to his real home, to South Park, where he doesn't have to maintain this cheap, superficial version of himself, where he has friends like Kyle. He pulls into somebody's driveway to back up so he can turn around and head back to the place where he belongs.

Just turning onto Rt. 285 is so relieving that the tension wracking his joints begins to evaporate. He takes a few more deep breaths until his breathing has steadied, then calls Kyle.

Every ring makes Stan's chest feel like it's getting emptier, and by the fifth ring, his breathing has picked up again and his lower jaw is trembling, too. He legitimately prays to God, pleading that Kyle didn't decide to go to bed early for once.

Right before the last ring, Stan hears the tiny clicking sound of Kyle picking up, and he's so thankful he could cry.

"Stan?" Kyle says. His voice sounds scratchy, worn.

"Kyle, Kyle – shit, were you sleeping?"

"No. Wait, aren't you at prom?"

"Not anymore. We were on the way to the after party and, ah, something happened."

"What? What happened? Jesus, are you okay?" Kyle asks tensely.

"Yeah, I'm fine, I swear. Just – can I come over tonight?"

"Stan, what happened?"

"I don't even know where to start," Stan moans. "Can I tell you when I get there? Please, Kyle?"

He sighs. "Alright, alright. You sure you're okay though?" Warily, he adds, "And you're sober, right?"

"Yes, completely," Stan murmurs, refusing to allow that tick him off. "I'll be there in like an hour, okay?"

"Okay. The back door'll be open."

"Alright. I'm sorry about this, I really am, but I just need to get out of here tonight."

"It's fine, Stan, really."

"Okay, I'll see you soon then."

"Drive safe," Kyle says. It's a plea, not a warning.

"I will," Stan vows.

Even though this night has been so draining, Stan's mind is still buzzing, set on the single goal of getting to South Park. The car is stuffy, and he's overheating, hot and uncomfortable in this stupid tux. He tears the bow tie off, flinging it into the backseat, then struggles to undo some of his shirt buttons, sighing with relief with how good it feels to not have his neck so constricted anymore. He tries to turn on the air, but the stupid knob is sticking again. Irrationally upset by this, he smacks the control board with the back of his hand, not with a lot of force, but enough to feel it when his knuckles make contact with the array of plastic knobs and buttons.

There's a soft click, and then there's music ringing through the speakers. Ugh, he didn't mean to turn on the radio, he needs the quiet. He's about to shut it off when he sees the number on the LCD screen isn't a radio station, it's actually displaying two much smaller numbers – 01 and 0:04, the latter of which then changes to 0:05, and wait, this isn't the radio, it's the tape player. But that doesn't make sense; there's no tape in there. Utterly perplexed, he stares at the road, slowly recognizing that this singer's crystal-like voice is familiar to him.

And then it dawns on him – this is the song Kyle played when they were messing with that recorder last weekend. This has to be that same tape. Kyle must have stuck it in his cassette player at some point, probably when they went to Bennigan's on Sunday. But why? Stan has his iPod hooked up to an adapter so he can play it in the car when he doesn't feel like listening to the radio. As he's still trying to figure this out, one line from the song suddenly sticks out to him, clear as day: "I want to tell you how much I love you."

Stan hits the rewind button; he needs to actually pay attention to the words this time. The lyrics float effortlessly amidst the melodic strums of the guitar, and they're simple, to the point, but there's a compressed intensity to every line that makes the song heavy. It's a confession. A confession from Kyle. There's no other reason he would have snuck this tape into his car if he wasn't trying to tell him that he loved him. And how pathetic was it that Stan hadn't been able to piece this together when they made the recording?

He plays the song about thirty times, rewinding the tape as soon as it's over. Each time he hears the line "I want to tell you how much I love you," he's more overwhelmed, wishing he could teleport to South Park right now so he could tell Kyle how much he loves him, too. He'll be there soon though; he's almost to Jefferson, and after that it's only about twenty minutes to South Park.

Stan doesn't notice when the song finishes for the umpteenth time and progresses into quiet static. Another sound comes in through the speakers, but it's not a song, it's voices. Little kids' voices. They're so quiet that it's impossible to make out what they're saying, so Stan turns the volume up, listening carefully.

"Just say something." There's an inflection in this speech that's extremely familiar, and Stan knows instantly it's a much younger Kyle speaking.

"Like what?" And wow, this has to be his own voice, even though it's completely unrecognizable.

"I don't know," little Kyle says.

"Then you say something," little Stan says.

"Ok, fine. Well, today, we went to Office Depot to get school supplies since we're starting first grade next year."

"It's so stupid that list said ‘no rubber cement allowed.'"

"I know! God," little Kyle grumbles, and it seems he's about to go on about this, when, abruptly, the Terrance & Phillip opening theme plays. Stan has to shut off the tape player then, because the animated music is too jarring after something as precious as a conversation between him and Kyle when they were six years old.

Something wet drips down his neck, and only then does he realize he's been crying. He feels completely inundated, like a glass full of water, the excess spilling over the brim, and every thought, every feeling whirling through him being pools into the understanding that he's in love with Kyle. He can't hold all this in, simply doesn't have the capacity to; he needs to let it out, has to tell him.

Coming up at the base of the mountains is his hometown, its lights twinkling a bright white in the darkness, like they're welcoming him home. He's not getting closer fast enough, and it feels like it takes an eternity to finally be driving down the main street. Stan weaves through the roads leading to his neighborhood, and as soon as he parks in front of Kyle's house, he all but scrambles out of his car.

Stan struggles more than usual to be quiet as he creeps through the back door, feeling like he's bumping into everything. By the time he makes it up the steps, he can feel the blood thudding in his skull. Slowly, he twists the knob to Kyle's door open.

Kyle's lying on his bed, the faint white glow from his laptop screen illuminating his face, his eyes half lidded. He puts the laptop on his nightstand, getting up immediately to rush over to Stan. "What happened?" he asks, his voice a harsh whisper.

"Wait, um. I need to tell you something first."

"What?" Kyle says even more anxiously.

"I – I know you put that tape in my car, I know you were trying to tell me before. I didn't realize it. I'm so sorry," he moans, knees dropping to the floor. "I love you too. I love you so, so much." The tears start then.

Kyle crouches down, putting his hand on Stan's shoulder. "Stan –"

"And I lied last weekend," Stan sobs. "I do miss sleeping in the same bed with you."

"Oh, Stan," Kyle says softly. "Come on, let's get in bed."

"But what if –"

"It's fine, I promise," Kyle says, leaning his whole body over Stan to lock the door behind him. Kyle tugs Stan's arm, pulling him up, and leads him to the bed. He climbs in, moving to the far left side, leaving space for Stan.

Stan falls onto the bed, scooting right up behind Kyle. Sighing, he laces his arms around him, pressing his face to Kyle's neck, inhaling the scent of him, so relieved it's still the same.

"So what was the thing that happened?" Kyle asks, toying with Stan's fingers.

"Oh, God. My prom date like, forced herself on me. I mean, nothing actually happened, but it was fucked up. She was so – aggressive."

"Jesus Christ," Kyle exclaims, twisting his head back. "What did she – do?"

"Just, ugh, she had her hands all over me, shoving her tongue down my throat and shit. It felt so – wrong."

"Who was this girl?" Kyle demands, his body tensing.

"Just this stupid girl from my school," Stan explains. "Don't worry about it. I don't have to see any of those assholes ever again." This seems to placate Kyle somewhat, and he lowers back down, huffing as he situates himself in Stan's arms. It reminds Stan of the way Sparky used to curl up in his bed before going to sleep, squirming into a neat little ball. Stan understands he should probably not reveal this comparison to Kyle, though.

"Also," Stan says, "she asked me if I was gay."

Cautiously, Kyle asks, "Are you?"

"Um, probably, yeah." Even though he knows the answer, Stan asks, "Are you?"

"Of course I am, Jesus, Stan," he says, an underlay of wryness in his voice. Stan squeezes him a little tighter, trying to be discrete about rearranging his legs so his erection won't make contact with Kyle's ass, slight as the chance may be with the comforter between them. His dick throbs when he considers the prospect Kyle might be hard, too.

The sash is making a terrible crinkling noise between them, and it's not only unnerving within the soft warmth of Kyle's bed, but it doesn't belong there, doesn't have the right to be separating them. Neither does Kyle's comforter, for that matter, and Stan's not sure why he isn't under the blankets, too.

"I need to get out of these clothes," Stan says.

"Oh, um. Good idea," Kyle replies. Stan hesitates for a moment before rolling out of bed, knowing if he doesn't close the laptop, its light will very clearly allow Kyle to see his boner. Ashamedly, he shuts the lid, sending the room into complete darkness. When Stan unwinds his arms from around him, Kyle rolls over to face him. Stan tears the sash off, then tugs off his jacket, proceeding to unbutton the shirt. He can feel Kyle's eyes on him as he delicately unzips his fly and pulls his pants down. Kicking them off completely, leaving just his undershirt and boxers, he climbs back into bed, shivering a little as he crawls under the covers. Stan pulls the comforter over their heads, creating a small, secret haven for just the two of them. He presses their foreheads together, and God, he's missed this so much, being this close to Kyle, sharing this perfect physical equilibrium.

"Every time I listened to that stupid song I'd think about you," Kyle murmurs. "I don't know what made me play it that day, Jesus Christ. I really regretted it afterward. I was so mad at you, too, because you didn't get it, and it was really embarrassing, fuck. I think that's why I put it in your tape player, because I wanted to make myself miserable, thinking this gay as hell pseudo-confession would just sit there unnoticed forever, right in front of you."

"I'm sorry," Stan says.

"Dude, don't – don't say that. Don't be sorry," Kyle says, resting his hand on Stan's cheek. "I knew it was dumb for me to do that shit. I was just – bitter about the prom thing."

"I wish I hadn't even gone."

"I can't believe I cried over it now."

"You did?" Stan asks, a horrible, shredded-up feeling ripping through him.

Kyle shifts his body forward a bit, their knees bumping up against each other's. "Yeah, but I'm okay. I am now, anyway," he says, and Stan can tell from his voice that he's smiling.

Stan grazes the tip of his nose over Kyle's cheek, his mouth hovering someplace that might be very near Kyle's. Kyle moves his head a little to the right, and then their mouths are so close they're breathing the same air. Stan isn't sure whether it's him or Kyle who bridges the space between their lips, pressing them together; maybe they both do. Kissing Kyle is so much better than any girl Stan's ever kissed. It doesn't even make sense to compare them when it feels so overwhelmingly right and good and even normal winding his tongue around Kyle's, tasting a hint of the toothpaste he uses.

Kyle jerks his hips forward slightly, and their cocks brush up against each other so delicately that Stan gasps, breaking the kiss. Panting over Kyle's mouth, their lips brushing up against each other's, Stan breathes, "I'm so hard," as if Kyle doesn't know this already.

"Let me try something," Kyle says.

"Yeah, ‘kay," Stan responds, his mind cloudy with arousal. He shudders when Kyle places his hand around the waistband of his boxers, tugging gently, asking for permission to remove them. Stan holds his cock up so he can drag them down, straining to not grip himself more deliberately and start stroking. Mournfully, he lets go, and takes his undershirt off too. Kyle moves to drag down his own pajamas then, and Stan tries to grasp enough scattered cognizance to affirm that this is actually happening, that he's in Kyle's bed, naked, his balls about to burst, and Kyle is disrobing right in front of him, working on tugging his pajama pants off. Kyle tosses them somewhere in the room. Sinking back down to the bed, Kyle draws their bodies together, lining their cocks up, and Stan is blown away by the great symmetry of the intent yet eloquent maneuver, feeling like he's slipped somewhere between the lines of time and space, falling into a hidden place where only he and Kyle exist.

Gripping their cocks, Kyle offers one tentative stroke before Stan dives his hand down, his fingers moving over Kyle's knuckles, desperate to touch the damp heat radiating from the friction. Kyle throws his head back and sighs, loosening his grip almost instantly, his hand falling away, like he was waiting for the moment Stan would take over. Stan squeezes Kyle's hardness to his own, jerking them in unison, further coating their dicks with pre-come, and Kyle moans, pressing his mouth, wet and trembling, just below Stan's collarbone. Kyle's vocalizations have devolved from astute groans to near whimpers, and the beginning of Stan's name is stirring under his tongue, like a secret message, sending tiny vibrations straight to Stan's heart. Stan is struggling so hard not to come, doesn't want this dizzying escalation to ever end, but he can't suppress his inevitable orgasm much longer. Kyle's palm skirts over his nipple, and suddenly Stan's coming, shuddering wildly as he rides it out, pumping warm ejaculate over his fingers. Stan winds his other arm around Kyle's neck, splaying his fingers up in his hair as he presses their foreheads together. His left hand is still gripped around their cocks, continuing to jerk them at the same pace, and he whispers, "You wanna come? C'mon, Kyle, come for me. You can do it." Kyle makes a soft, almost heartbreaking little noise, and then he's coming, panting harshly as he spills over Stan's hand.

They lie motionless for a few moments, trying to catch their breath as gravity pulls them gently from the cosmos back to earth. Stan is exhausted, doesn't even have the energy let go of their sticky cocks softening in his grip, or maybe he just doesn't want to. He's sure he could fall asleep right there, and he closes his eyes, already drifting off, when Kyle sits up, his dick flopping from Stan's hand. Kyle is tugging on his elbow, saying they have to sneak down to the basement to shower or "at least wipe off all this come."

"Carry me," Stan moans, his wrist dropping limply into what is most certainly a giant puddle of come. "Ugh, okay, okay." Snickering, Kyle pulls him up, and Stan staggers out of bed, hanging onto Kyle for support. He stands, sort of, and laces his arms around Kyle, hugging him tightly, breathing him in. The musky combination of sex and sweat adds something colorful, vivacious to his skin.

"You smell good," Stan says.

"I'm sure I like smell come," Kyle says. He untangles himself from Stan's arms to go to his closet, retrieving his robe, and an old one that used to belong to his dad, which Stan uses when he's here.

"Well, I'm into it," Stan says, accepting the robe. Even though it's too dark to see, he knows the exact expression Kyle is making: half amused, half incredulous, some vague concern tossed in there.

"Christ, Stan," Kyle mutters. He puts his arm around Stan's shoulders, moving his hand up to run his fingers through Stan's hair. "I'm getting a shower anyway, though."

When Stan wakes up the next morning, his face pressed to Kyle's back, he thinks he must still be dreaming until he remembers everything that happened yesterday: the mad dash home, the tape, curling up under the blankets with Kyle for the first time in years, the way Kyle had whined his name when he came the second time in the shower, in Stan's mouth. The comfort of waking up next to Kyle is exactly how Stan remembers it from middle school, though since they've grown so much since then, they're more squished together in Kyle's twin sized bed, their legs tangled up, Stan's arm draped over Kyle's chest, but Stan definitely likes it better this way.




If you enjoyed this story, remember to check out the original artwork that inspired it!