The rain picks up as soon as Cartman reaches the top of Phil Collin's Hill. Most of the kids in town don't visit the hill in the off-season; it's a place where he knows he'll be able to watch Stan without being interrupted.

Stan is just too predictable when he gets into one of his moods. Cartman has no trouble at all spotting him down at Starks Pond, where he is kicking rocks down by the water. He isn't surprised to see that the rain hasn't stopped Stan's sulking in the least; he's still lurking around with his hands stuffed in his pockets as the huge rain drops come pouring down over his hanging head. It is a posture so Stan that Cartman could probably identify him from a mile away; even from up here he looks so in thought that Cartman is sure he's writing faggy poems in his head.

And to think, Cartman had actually been prepared to check all of Stan's usual hiding spots for the stupid kid. He really would thank him, if it wouldn't look too suspicious.

Not that Cartman has any suspicious motives or anything. He is only looking for Stan so he can make fun of him for being such a pussy yesterday in school, when he let Kyle walk all over him during recess. They were having another one of their stupid fights because Stan's cynicism was getting the better of him recently. It wasn't uncommon lately; Kyle would drop him like it was hot until he got over it, upon which they'd act like nothing had happened, and everything would return to normal between the four of them. Quite frankly Cartman is sick of Kyle's attitude, and he is sick of Stan's attitude.

Mostly Kyle's.

So what if Stan is feeling a little extra dramatic as of late; Cartman didn't see why Kyle had to overreact to it like he always does. After all, Kyle is pretty much the leader of South Park's drama queen club, next to fucking Butters. Why shouldn't Stan be entitled to a little of it once in a while too?

It's usually Cartman's style to let their silly arguments run their course, but fall is already upon them and winter is fast approaching—and he needs to wrap this fight up before sledding season is here and they have to replace Kyle or Stan—or both of the boys—with someone else from their class.

As much as Cartman would like to kick Kyle to the curb, his mom bought the boys a new sled last year that is the fastest in town. They'd won every single one of their races last year, and Cartman has already begun plotting how they are going to make bank with that sled this year. And Stan—well, Stan has always been the best out of anyone at steering those things. They just couldn't run the risk of Craig and those guys stealing Stan for their team the first chance they got.

So it's up to Cartman to set things right between Stan and Kyle, even if it pains him to do something decent for the Jew.

He doesn't even get a chance to come up with a witty opening line before Stan notices him and throws out one of his own. "Go away," Stan yells at him, ever so eloquently. Oh yes, that boy is destined for greatness, mark Cartman's words. Of course, he wouldn't get very far if he didn't listen to Cartman's advice when he plotted out every minute detail of Stan's future. Because while some of the kids in class might call him neurotic or even a bad friend, Cartman considers himself neither of those things.

Everything had its place. And Stan's place was definitely not alone at Starks Pond in the rain—on a perfectly good Saturday afternoon, nonetheless.

"Now why would I want to do that," Cartman says slowly, approaching Stan with a pace that matches his leisurely tone. "I need something from you, Stan. I need something, and I'm not leaving until I get what I came for." Cartman's hands, which had been clasped behind his back, fell to his side before he offers one for Stan to take.

He doesn't, of course. Stan's eyes are narrowed into tight little slits as he watches Cartman approach slowly, bestowing upon him as much attention as a tiger stalking its prey. Cartman expected a similar reaction—really, he did. Whenever Stan would get into one of his moods he's a dozen times more observant for some ridiculous reason. Probably all the better to make snarky comments.

But not this time, oh no. Cartman had anticipated this angst-riddled, highly observant Stan when he made his plan to follow him out here. It was why he'd come right out and told Stan he was after something; more than anything, he wouldn't be expecting the truth from someone like Cartman.

"C'mon, now, Stan. Why don't you tell your good buddy here what's got your panties up in a bunch, hmm?" Cartman asks when Stan makes no move to respond to his first attempt at communication. He hasn't even made a move to turn away; just continues to stare in Cartman's general direction, like he was seeing something that wasn't really there.

Cartman doesn't let Stan's odd behavior get to him, though. He did the same thing yesterday when Kyle had finally gotten fed up with him and trashed him right there in front of everyone. Kenny had given him a look when he sniggered under his breath at the two of them; but really, how was he supposed to resist? Those two made it entirely too easy for him.

"I don't want to talk to you," Stan says with as much conviction as he can muster, which isn't very much at all in his current mood. But he does look royally pissed off. Cartman decides that his best plan of attack at this point would be to back off; if Stan isn't buying the whole ‘concerned friend' bit, he will have to try a different tactic.

"Alright, alright. I get it. You don't want to talk to me." Without waiting for a response, which he's sure he won't get anyway, Cartman turns and trudges down the worn path that winds its way around the pond.

Personally, Cartman isn't much for nature. Just sitting around outside... he doesn't get why Stan likes to come out here. It is too quiet. There is nothing but the sound of the rain hitting the water and the variety of odd sounds from the bugs and frogs lurking just out of sight.

It offered up too much space for the sound of Cartman's thoughts.

Maybe Stan has no other choice but to come out here when he gets sad. Maybe his mom won't bake him cookies. Maybe his dad.... No, it has to have been that sister of his. If he were Stan that bitch would be long gone by now, that was for sure.

Either way, Cartman has always pegged Stan as the sort of kid who wanted to talk about his issues, the same as Butters. Kyle and Kenny, on the other hand, didn't like to talk when they were upset about something. Thank God. He didn't think he could handle comforting Kenny—let alone Kyle. Not that he was comforting Stan by being here or anything.

Just thinking about it sends a shiver of hate down his spine, and he kicks a rock in frustration. The pebble goes sailing through the air, landing with a splash in the shallow water of the pond. He kicks another, a bigger one, and the splash is even more satisfying as the rock breaks the water's surface.

"What do you think you're doing?" Stan asks from behind him. Cartman doesn't jump from the sudden noise—really, he doesn't. But he does offer Stan a little smile for his troubles. Sure Stan was still glowering at him, but he'd followed Cartman down here, sought him out even in his current mood, which is exactly what Cartman was hoping for.

"Oh... nothing." He sighs, letting his friendly smile drop into something laced with a little more sadness; something Stan could relate to. "It's just... with you and Kyle fighting, I feel like I don't have anyone to hang out with."

Stan isn't fazed by Cartman's little act.

"What about Kenny?" He asks in that same snarky tone he's had all day. It takes every ounce of Cartman's willpower not to grab Stan by the collar of his jacket and shove him to the ground. But no, this requires a bit more tact than that.

He sighs before responding, "Kenny's no fun. Not as much fun as you and Kyle," Cartman feels his stomach twisting, and he hopes that beef stew his mom made for breakfast isn't about to make a reappearance. Stan makes a noise of understanding, but is otherwise silent. Cartman is sure he's got him; that in less than an hour he'll be back at home finishing his plans for the sledding season and all will be right in his world once again.

And then Stan speaks. "Well go find Kyle, then."

He can't help it; Cartman shoots Stan a furious glance before shouting out a curse and kicking a spray of rocks out into the pond. It wasn't like he was going to keep all the money for himself if his plan worked. Stan and Kyle would get their fair share too. Not Kenny, though. He didn't trust Kenny not to blow their hard earned money on something stupid like his family.

"Cartman, knock it off!" He's not really sure what he's done to throw Stan into a tizzy fit, but when Stan shoves him Cartman has to shove him back. He manages to keep his balance, but Stan falls backwards, catching himself on his gloved hands.

"Why should I?" Cartman stands over Stan as he brushes the mud off of his jacket. "It's not like you care about anything but you, so stop kidding yourself."

Stan looks hurt, "That's not true—there're animals in there that you could be hurting with those rocks—"

"Animals," Cartman repeats incredulously. "You care more about animals then you do about your best friends." He leaves no room for Stan to interpret that as a question before he scoffs and turns toward the pond.

He's glad he remembered his rain boots as he wades into the water and spots what he's looking for: a frog, huge and green and hiding amongst the weeds where it thinks it won't be found. He grabs it in one meaty fist, holding the squirming thing up for Stan to see.

"You think animals like this," the frog lets out a croak when Cartman drops it on the muddy ground and tries to make a quick escape, but Cartman gets to it before it can by nearly crushing it under one of his boots, "are more important than your friends' feelings."

"I didn't—I never said that!" Stan falls to his knees and is getting ready to reach for the frog, knowing he's risking a bruise on his hand from those big black boots of Cartman's for doing so.

"Oh, but you did," This is Cartman's favorite part of the act; the part where he can bring as much dramatic flair into his performance as possible without tipping the scales of knowledge in Stan's favor. "And to prove to you just how wrong you really are, Stan, I'm going to do to this frog what you've done to Kyle and Kenny and me."

He can't stop the grin from transforming his face into something more twisted than he'd originally planned, but with his back turned to Stan he figures it doesn't matter anyway. As long as he doesn't miss this chance, this window of opportunity to win Stan back.

He raises the multi-colored umbrella in one hand; silently thanking his mom for forcing him to take when he left the house. If he'd known it would come in handy he wouldn't have put up such a terrible fight.

Right when he's about to swing, Stan speaks up. "Wait—Cartman, I—"

"You what?" He swings around, letting the frog beneath his foot hop away to the safety of the weeds. He ignores the pang of disappointment at the fact that he no longer gets to smack the thing, and instead turns all that dissatisfaction onto Stan. "Just wanted to remind me that all of the times when I've been here for you, all the good times we've spent together, none of those are more important to you than the frogs at Starks Pond?"

Stan opens his mouth to respond, but he can't find the words. He certainly makes a sorry picture sitting there on his knees in the rain, mud spattering his jeans and jacket, with that distraught expression on his dirty face.

Cartman has won.

"You do matter," He says it quietly at first, and over the rain Cartman isn't entirely sure he didn't imagine it. "You all do, and I never thought I'd be saying this, but I'm sorry for being such an asshole to you."

Cartman doesn't say anything right away, just holds out a hand to help Stan off the ground, where he's been two times more than necessary in a single afternoon.

"My mom's making cookies, if you want to come over."

It's the first time Stan smiles all week.




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