To Nhaingen:

Hello my dear!

I ought to tell you that when I received your image for this challenge, I sat and stared at it for about two hours with absolutely no credible idea coming anywhere near my empty little head!

So after dumbly staring at it until I nearly punched my computer screen, I finally just threw my hands up in the air and said, 'Tentacle rape!' and I rolled with it.

It probably didn"t help that I was going through a Stephen King phase at the time, so there we are.

If you were trying to make a reference to something with the costumes, I have to admit that it completely and utterly flew directly over my head, so I apologize if you were aiming for a parody of a show. My friends and I couldn"t recognize the costumes for the life of us, so again, I rolled with it.

Knowing the few things about you that I do know, I decided to be as bold as possible with this and I hope that the result isn"t too extreme or intense for your liking. While I'm sure it"s probably not exactly what you expected, I hope it"s still enjoyable.

Sweet Dreams~




This fanfic contains depictions of EXPLICITLY DISTURBING material. If you have a weak stomach or aren"t used to handling blood, dismemberment, and sexualized gore in general, it"s HIGHLY suggested that you do not read this story.


Stan swore loudly as he tripped on the jagged earth and fell face first in the dirt, skidding a few inches closer to the chasm. With cold sweat covering his face and arms, the dirt quickly smeared into clumps of mud on his skin and coated him from head to toe.

His knee had scraped on the way down, (why did he have to be wearing shorts NOW? On ALL days? Of ALL times?) and the cut was deep, dripping blood into the crumbling soil (it's alive though it's like it's like it likes it) as Stan struggled to get back to his feet.

Panting and trembling all over, his left leg dragging slightly while the gaping wound on his knee trickled blood, Stan managed to get himself upright in time to see the others already flying in.

'No,' he thought, and dread nearly stopped his heart cold. He lunged towards them, favoring his injured leg at first, and then slowly resuming an awkward, limping run. 'You can't!' he thought desperately, as though they might hear the words if he shouted them in his head loud enough.

The words couldn't escape the mind that thought them; his mouth felt glued shut, and the harder he tried to open it, the worse it seemed to stick.

But he couldn't accept that; he had to warn them; (it's not what you think it's alive it's out for blood) he had to get there in time to save them, even if it cost him his life in the process.

And so he ran, silent but for the frantic air escaping his nostrils and the slight thud his shoes made as they met the ground. He could see, so plainly, their colors in the air streaming towards the pit at an alarming rate, and yet Stan could not seem to gain any ground on them. His arms and legs pumped him closer and closer and yet he never seemed any nearer to warning his friends of the danger they were so carelessly diving into.

In the distance, an ear splitting sound nearly startled Stan into tripping again, but while he caught himself just in time and saved himself another painful fall, the sight beyond stunned him in place.

The school bus had been lifted clean into the air, as neatly as you pleased. The black tendrils that oozed from the pit were curling around the bus, almost daintily, like slim fingers plucking a piece of fruit. At first, they hovered in the air with the school bus, as though they meant it no harm; as though it had no (it's fucking alive though, they don't understand it's not normal it's fucking alive it's fucking HUNGRY) ill intentions at all.

Then, they squeezed.

The metal crunched in on itself with a perversely loud CRUNCH, and just like that, the bus had given in. So easily. Hundreds of pounds of metal had collapsed. Just like that. Like an over ripe banana simply squeezed in two.

And the tentacles continued to squeeze.

The air-splitting crunch of metal on metal pierced Stan's ears like a banshee cry, but that was not the only cry he heard. From inside the school bus itself, the windows were being forced open as some of the others trapped aboard began jumping out, only be haplessly fated to descend into the wriggling black chasm below.

Not everyone was lucky enough to escape, if you called escape lucky; the more the bus was crushed into itself, beginning to curl inwards from the pressure, the more the glass windows were stained with splattering red.

The screaming of crushing metal and the screaming of damned children falling into darkness suffocated the air like ominous thunder. The sky itself had begun to slowly shift from its hazy sunlit orange to an ominous vermillion backdrop, and the sun seemed to all but vanish.

They always had such lovely sunsets in Colorado. Orange. Orange and red. The state was well known for it.

And the screams. The fucking screams.

There was no hope for them. Stan was too late to save them.

But he wouldn't be too late to save his friends.

Stan took off again, straining to reach a dead sprint, faster than he'd ever run in his life. He HAD to get there in time; he HAD to. He was nearly there already; he was so close, so close (and the itsy bitsy spider just kept climbing back up the water spout didn't he?) he could almost see their faces.

But while the world around him seemed to continue in normal time, Stan felt like something was intentionally slowing him. His feet seemed to drag and the last couple of yards felt like miles and miles; it was almost like Stan were inside a bubble where time stopped for him, only for him, and distorted the world around him. He felt like he could run for eons and never reach the ravine from which the great black (monster is it a monster is it a demon is it from hell I don't fucking know what is it WHAT THE FUCK IS-) tentacles slithered and simmered in their slimy, abyssal pit. It was ethereal, almost like a dream.

He did, eventually, reach it, and time slowly caught up around him. But it wasn't for the better; the others were already there, and they about to (what the fuck is wrong with them can't they see it CAN'T THEY SEE THE FUCKING BLOOD?) resume their assault. Stan was too late.

Stan suddenly found his voice, and he wrenched a screech out from his throat as loud as he could: "STOP! STOOOOP!"

They were already in the middle of fighting it; Cartman was caught by one of them, and though it had already disoriented him enough to make him drop his wand directly into the pit, (the darkness swallowed it whole; there was no telling where something went if it went down there) he still seemed perfectly lucid and, in point of fact, pretty pissed off at it. He didn't even notice Stan; he was punching and clawing at the tentacle wrapped around his middle, hardly aware of how easily it could simply squeeze and (they have no chance no fucking chance they're going to die they're all gonna die) finish him.

"God damn it," Cartman snarled at the thick black limb holding him in the air. "Let go; let go already, asshole!"

"Stop squirming!" Kyle barked at him. His vibrant orange wings beat the air furiously as he worked to stay afloat, and beads of sweat trickled down his neck. The head band he wore to keep his disobedient jewfro in its place was starting to slip into his eyes, and he obliviously pushed it back up onto his forehead. He held his hands close together, allowing swirling energy to form in his palms, and the concentration was creasing into determined little wrinkles on his face. "Just give me a second." One eye was squinting while the other following the wriggling tentacle restraining Cartman; he was looking for a weak spot to shoot him down.

He had no idea, Stan realized not even an inkling of the danger they were in. That they were ALL in.

"KYLE!" Stan yelled, and as he ran towards him, his arm outstretched. Time seemed to slow again, and his arm seemed to stretch out far in front of him, unnaturally far, and yet it couldn't fucking reach him; like he was miles away when he was so fucking close.

Kyle heard him; Stan saw him suddenly tense up and the energy ball slowly begin to dissipate in his hands. Kyle looked around for him, every head movement taking ages before it finally looked in the right direction. In slow motion, he blinked, and then, time spend up and caught up with reality, and Stan's seeking hand finally caught hold of him as Kyle blurted in surprise, "Stan?"

The focused energy ball had nearly vanished, and the angry creases on his face had lifted. Stan held on tight to Kyle, hugging his legs when he couldn't bring him down enough to his level to hug him properly.

"Kyle, please, you've got to leave," Stan was pleading frantically while he choked the life out of his legs in his death-grip hug. "Please; you don't understand, you don't know what you're doing-"

"Stan, get out of here," Kyle cut him off, sharply. He tried to kick his legs to shake Stan off of them, but he held fast. "I'm completely serious. We can't fucking do this right now."

"I'm not trying to do anything," Stan explained fervently. He looked from Kyle to Cartman, still mercifully spared (so far) from the instant death that awaited him, and then his gaze drifted to Kenny, who was waving his crescent moon staff and muttering an incantation under his breath; Stan didn't get to see how successful it was. "This isn't about us, alright? You're all going to get killed unless you back down now!"

"We know what we're doing!" Kyle snarled, and he tried again to shake Stan off of him; he held tight, even when he began violently flapping his wings, practically working up a small dust storm in the process of trying to get him off the ground.

"You don't understand," Stan coughed, his eyes squeezed shut but his grip no looser. "You haven't seen what I've seen; you don't KNOW-"

Kyle cut him off by suddenly dropping to the ground. Stan was still clutching his legs when he fell, and he wound up losing his balance. Kyle dropped neatly onto his feet; Stan was knocked off of his, and he fell heavily, scraping his hands on the rocks.

Kyle seethed, "I KNOW that if we DO end up getting killed, it WILL be your fault if you don't let us do our fucking jobs." His blood was boiling and Stan could practically see it beneath his skin.

He shouldn't have come. He shouldn't have come. He was going to get them all killed, just like Kyle said; Stan could feel it.

"I'm sorry," Stan said, flatly. He didn't even have the strength to lift himself off the ground; he just weakly held himself up by his arms, fallen flat on his butt with his legs just slightly pulled in. "I's only because I care about you," he admitted. He stared at the ground between his feet, not daring to meet the hate in Kyle's eyes.

"Thanks," he said dryly. "Thanks for waiting until NOW to figure that out."

Stan managed to bring himself to meet his eyes, and they both glared fiercely at each other; Kyle's eyes were hard, and Stan's were holding back tears.

How could Kyle be so blind?

He could he be so stubborn?

"'EY ASSHOLES!" For the moment, they forgot about each other. Both of them looked up and over; Cartman was still dangling in the air, only now the tentacle wrapped around his fat middle was holding him upside down, and all the blood was starting to rush to his head. It made him look even more pissed off than he was probably already. "YOU TWO CAN FUCK LATER; I KIND OF NEED SAVING NOW. ANY MINUTE NOW WOULD BE NI-" Cartman cut himself off with a shout of alarm. The tentacle had suddenly jerked upwards, stretching high towards the sky and far away from them. He was flailing high above them and screaming for someone to get him down.

Kenny was rapidly closing in on Stan and Kyle; his hair was windswept and sticking up in all directions, and his teal leotard was already spotted with blood. He spared a knowing, sympathetic glance towards Stan, but otherwise, he spoke directly and frankly to Kyle. "We're pretty much fucked," Kenny told him. "Dude, these things won't budge for nothing. They're completely resistant to magic and, well..." He nodded once up towards Cartman, who was still shouting with all his might for someone to get him down. Considering how high up he was, it was actually kind of impressive that they could hear him. "Fatass has lost his wand, so he's as good as useless."

"Yeah, I know," Kyle said grimly. "My energy bolts weren't really doing anything either."

"I think Stan's right," Kenny said slowly, wary of adding fuel to the fire. "We can't fight this. We should bail."

"But the others-" Kyle waited just long enough for them to all recall the effortless destruction of the school bus, where 'the others' had been hiding. Then, he changed direction. "Get Cartman down," he said decisively. "We get Cartman back and then we bail."

Kenny nodded, and then he amended the plan. "You go get Stan somewhere safe first."

Stan felt a tinge of resentment at this. He wasn't completely useless; maybe he couldn't fly around and shoot fireballs or whatever, but he could try to do SOMETHING. Fuck, why had he left that pistol in the nightstand?

"Stan's a big boy; he can take care of himself," Kyle said stiffly. Kenny opened his mouth to reprimand him, but Stan shook his head, and he wound up just staying quiet.

Stan just got back to his feet and brushed himself off; now his palms were just as bloody as his knee, and they stung bitterly from the dust and dirt creeping into the wounds. But he didn't complain; he had but one request before he left. "Please promise me you guys will make it back alright. Please."

Kyle nodded, but he didn't really, explicitly make the promise. He pushed his headband up again and shook off his wings, flapping them a few times to loosen them up, and he said, "We'll be fine."

Kenny was more receptive to Stan's request. He gave him a cocky grin and a thumb's up and a few deep laughs to emphasize that he wasn't worried at all. "Don't sweat it, dude," he assured him. "We'll get fatass back down here before you can-"

Kenny was gone. One second he was floating in the air right next to them, and the next thing they knew, he'd been snatched away. It happened all at once; they felt and heard the assailant whip through the air, but it had wrapped around Kenny with startling speed, and then it plucked him up into the sky effortlessly. Caught off guard, Kenny accidentally dropped his scepter, and it tumbled to the ground near Stan's feet.

And then, he was just gone.

"Shit," Kyle hissed under his breath. He remained on the ground, staring into the wriggling black void, and it finally hit him just how completely, utterly fucked he was. "Shit!" he swore again, more passionately this time.

Cartman had stopped screaming for someone to rescue him, and there was no sign of Kenny. The busload of children had gone quiet some time ago. It was unnervingly silent, aside from the unassuming slithering of the tentacles in the pit.

Cold dread was beginning to engulf Stan, and he realized that if they wanted any chance of getting out of there, alive, it had to be now.

"Kyle-" Stan began, but Kyle didn't let him finish; he already knew.

"No, Stan." He sounded a little less testy when he said it than before; a little less harsh. Reality had started to sink in. "We can't leave them; not if there's a chance that they're alive."

"There's not," said Stan promptly, but Kyle just shook his head.

"You can't know that."

"But I do!" Stan insisted. "I was trying to explain to you; that thing in there, it's not normal, it's something...else," he finished lamely.

"Well, thank you for that invaluable assessment, Stan," Kyle acknowledged sardonically. "But if I can still fight, I'm still fighting."

They both heard a sudden shout from up on high, and their heads snapped up while they searched the skies for a clue. It wasn't Cartman, (where exactly he was, Stan didn't know) but instead they had found Kenny, dangling precariously with a writhing black tentacle wrapped around his waist.

Kyle flapped his wings one more time, and then, as he readied himself to leap into the air, he said over his shoulder, "Just get out of here." The sharp tone in his voice had dulled and instead he sounded anxious for Stan, almost worried. As he spoke his next few words, some of the last Stan would ever hear him speak, his voice cracked, and it was clear to Stan, at least then, that Kyle did not hate him. "I'm not afraid to die to do the right thing, but I wouldn't be able to handle it if you died. Stan, please be careful."

Stan was about to promise that he would get out of there; he was in the process of shifting his weight to spin around at that very moment. Stan knew he had no chance in this battle; it had been a rash and slightly foolish decision to come in the first place. He'd done what he could.

But then he saw it coming for Kyle. Something big, something black, something slimy. And Kyle had no idea.

He had seconds to react; maybe less. His instinctual response was to bend down and grab the crescent scepter lying at his feet, and then lunge.

The huge black limb was soaring through the air like a whip, aiming directly at Kyle, whose focus was still on Stan. Stan pushed through him and tried to stab into the oncoming attacker, but the scepter simply bounced off, ineffectively.

Instead of damaging it, all Stan managed to do was get in between it and Kyle, and so it took him instead.

There was about a two second time lapse between the tentacle instantly wrapping around him before Stan was snatched away, and all they managed to do in their last goodbye was to look at each other. Just look. Just try to cram a lifetime's worth of words into a facial expression.

Stan hoped he remembered what he'd say before, even if he'd dismissed it with snark at the time. 'It's because I care about you.'

Then he, too, was gone.

Stan expected to be flung upwards, but instead, he began to descend, rapidly and jerkily and so haphazardly that he wondered if the thing might not be intentionally trying to disorient him. Regardless, he would probably be suffering whiplash at some point, if he was still alive later to feel it.

The pit was a lot deeper than Stan anticipated, but not so deep that he couldn't still see the sky still thick and red above them. The air was suffocating with the reek of stale blood and death.

Stan's eyes were adjusting unusually quickly to the darkness, but once they did, he wished they hadn't. He had come upon Kenny, who was still struggling mid-air with the tentacles, and he was clearly, blatantly losing.

The tentacles slowly wrapped around his neck and begun to squeeze, and all Kenny could get out was a last gasp of precious air. His face was starting to go red as it squeezed harder, but it wasn't trying to choke him; not quite yet.

From all angles, the black tentacles began to assault his body, slyly twisting and slipping inside his costume, almost gently at first. Then they began ripping it to shreds and then peeling the dangling remains away impatiently, leaving only a few tattered leggings clinging to his calves.

Kenny tried to flail his arms and pull the offending limbs away, but they only held him tighter, and then they figured out they could render him completely motionless by pinning his arms to his sides.

Though the tendrils were blacker than black, they left a trail of blood wherever they touched skin, and soon Kenny was painted in it from head to toe, his blond hair even mussed with a reddish tinge.

From beneath dark red smears, his face was steadily turning blue.

The rest happened so fast that Stan hardly had time to take in what he was seeing. Those wrapped around Kenny's neck suddenly loosened, and Kenny had long enough to take in a greedy, gasping breath. And then, with his mouth opened wide, one of the tentacles took the opportunity to lunge directly into his waiting throat.

Kenny's cheeks were mottled blue and purple as he choked on it and sputtered and shook his head frantically, desperate for air, but his gagged cries were practically inaudible.

Then, from below, one of the tentacles forcibly slid between his tightly clenched buttocks. As though anticipating the resistance, the thicker ones began to wrap around his legs to prevent him from kicking, but it wasn't until the tip of one of the slimy tendrils began poking at his puckered sphincter that he lost it.

Kenny began twisting his whole body, violently, in every direction, and he fought to bellow in protest. His struggles were in vain. The tentacles squirmed and poked and prodded until one of them got the tip in, and then it rammed inside, and it kept going.

Stan knew that it was ripping through him; he could practically see it. It met more resistance, very early, but it didn't care; it pushed on through, and it kept going, and going. Kenny was twisting his body at an extremely unnatural angle, his eyes practically bulging out of his head with the need to scream in agony as the thing kept pushing its way through and thoughtlessly ripped through vital organs. Then, the tentacle in his mouth finally pulled away, and allowed him the grace of one, piercing scream.

The tentacle that had penetrated him from below came out above, from his mouth. His whole body suddenly slumped, and his head hung motionless. Half-lidded, his eyes stared blankly at Stan, so expressive of his horror and shame, even in death.

Stan couldn't bear to look at Kenny anymore; even though he was dead, even though the thing had withdrawn back inside his mouth, it continued to move in and out with a slick, wet sound. The tentacles continued to hold his body taut while they violated him, even though he no longer resisted. His head bounced limply, and his stomach bulged as he was thoroughly invaded until they pushed all the way through again. Blood and black poured out of his mouth.

Stan looked away.

Then, he realized that he and Kenny weren't alone. Cartman had been merely feet away, all this time, and he hadn't said a word. He was softly weeping, but Stan had been too traumatized by Kenny's brutal end to even care.

Cartman wasn't dead, not yet, but he probably wished he were.

Cartman's costume had been ripped off more cleanly than Kenny's had; all that remained were the white thigh-high boots, and they were splashed and stained with blood so thick that the white could only peek shyly through. Almost nothing else remained, aside from a few determined flower petals still clinging desperately to a few locks of hair.

The tendrils were wrapping around him in abundance. The fat hung off of his body in overlapping rolls, and his arms were locked above his head so that he was suspended in mid air. From below, several smaller ones all raped his body at once, mercilessly, and he released a loud cry every time they assaulted him.

But that was not the worst of it.

Stan made the mistake of looking at Cartman's face, and his stomach turned cartwheels.

His eyes had been gouged out. As far as Stan saw, there was no eyeball remaining at all; just gaping, empty red holes crying blood down his face.

Stan shut his own eyes tight as his head turned and he projectile vomited into the writhing pit below. And then he started whimpering. Then he started mewling. Then he started screaming.

Instantly, he regressed back to childhood, and he began to cry for anyone that had ever played an major role in his life. His dad. His mom. His sister. His grandpa. His uncle.


He bawled and screamed and begged for someone, anyone to save him, even if there was no one there.

Kenny was dead. Cartman was as good as dead. And he had no idea if Kyle could, or would, do anything to save him.

The tentacles were moving in again, and they began to do the same to him as they had to Kenny; they slipped underneath his clothes, ripping them apart and leaving him nude and covered in some sort of stinking slime that reminded Stan way too much of blood.

They couldn't ALL be COVERED in blood, right? Not ALL of them? Surely not all of the shining wet liquid these things were oozing with was blood?

One of them was uncoiling next to his mouth, and its tip was softly caressing his cheek. He was clenching his teeth and lips shut, as hard as he could, even though he knew that it was futile to put up any resistance. In the words of one late Kenny McCormick, they were fucked.

Stan thought it was a shame that he hadn't lived to see the humor in such a literal statement. And then he just started laughing. He howled. He bellowed. He half screamed and half laughed until he thought he might pass out, and then when he realized too late that he'd been stripped naked, and he realized too late that something had slipped in between his ass cheeks and was loosely rubbing his asshole, he vaguely slipped out of consciousness.

But only for a minute. Something was happening; someone else screamed: "STAN!"

Stan weakly opened his eyes in time to see a blazing blue energy bolt zip by his face; the contact was so near that his face felt the burn as it whizzed by, and he felt like his cheek was on fire. He yelled and struggled weakly against his binds, but it was all but useless. He was completely, utterly restrained.

The tentacles surrounding him, though, the ones not occupied with holding him down, they were suddenly distracted with something.

Something yelled again: "LEAVE HIM THE FUCK ALONE." Another electric blue burst of energy came from somewhere in the distance, and it made direct contact with one of the larger tentacles that had been caressing him. Stan was not burned this time, though he felt the heat as it propelled by, and with how cold and damp the chasm was, he imagined that the things inside must not like it very much.

They started wriggling quickly now, agitated, and Stan finally saw him. In the shadows it was hard to see, but Kyle was there, flapping his wings desperately to stay aloft in dead air.

He'd come down into the pit. Kyle had gone into the pit to save him.

"Stan, hang on!" he cried, and as he flew nearer, moving with despairing slowness, he began to charge another ball between his hands. "I'm going to get you out; I'm going to get you-!"

And then Kyle was getting nothing. One of the tendrils shot out from the darkness and wrapped around his waist, and it pulled him into the wriggling black shadows.

Stan screamed, "NO!" but nothing seemed to hear him. For a few moments, he couldn't even see Kyle. "NO! NO!! LET HIM GO! LET HIM GO!!" Stan was suddenly fighting as violently as Kenny had for freedom from his restraints, but it was no use. They had stopped assaulting him, for now, but they would still hold him immobile. They would still force him to watch Kyle being raped as suddenly and as horribly as the others.

He saw Kyle fighting his way through the tendrils like an explorer fighting through rampant jungle vines, but he was making less and less progress until he was eventually held down altogether. His wings flapped uselessly behind him while he struggled, but then, one of the tendrils shot out and grabbed it.

It twisted, and even from a short distance, Stan felt his stomach lurch as the bone suddenly snapped with a sickening CRACK, and Kyle screamed in agony. It kept twisting the wing, slithering down to the base and the very tip and twisting and jerking it, and then it took hold of the other one and mimicked the action. SNAP, SNAP, SNAP; an inch was spared, and soon his beautiful wings were pierced with tiny white daggers.

Kyle continued to screech in anguish; the tentacles seemed too busy to gag him as they had done Kenny, and this was possibly worse than anything Stan had had to endure so far. His screams. His aching, sorrowful screams. Stan tried to block it out, somehow; he tried to close his eyes and shake his head and then he started screaming himself, desperate to keep his wretched cries at bay. But nothing would restrain him, and Kyle continued to scream.

They began to caress his body and unclothe him the same way they had for Stan and Kenny. They slipped into spots where the spandex was loose and then they simply tore it off his body. The red shreds of his costume began to drift away into the darkness, and soon Kyle was left nude and bloodied, just like the rest of them.

But it was so much worse to see it happen to Kyle; oh God, it was so much worse.

The tendrils were slithering all over his body, almost curiously, and everywhere they touched, they began to curl. His legs, his arms, his torso; everything was eventually tightly wrapped, and then they began to squeeze.

Then they went lower.

"Oh god," Kyle was sobbing. They weren't giving him any warning; suddenly his buttocks was spread apart, suddenly the tip of something was twisting itself inside. "Stop it, STOP IT, for the love of GOD-!"

Stan couldn't watch; he couldn't watch. He couldn't stand to see it.

He watched.

He knew it had slid inside by the thunderous shout that seemed to resonate in the darkness; these things were not gentle, and they were not sympathetic. It must have been hard; for these things, as big as they were, to simply tear their way inside of him without any preparation, without proper lubricant...

The only grace Kyle was given was that the slick black limb penetrating him did not try to go too far. It stopped, and then withdrew, and then entered him again, all in uneven, jerky motions.

At least Kenny had gone in dignified silence. Kyle was left to scream.

Stan was shutting his eyes again, but the torture continued behind his eyelids, in his mind. He saw Kyle's face twisted in anguish as the pain stabbed into him again and again. He saw the blood trickling down his legs as he was fucked by bloody tentacles way too fast and way too hard.

Kyle was screaming incoherently now. There was no deciphering his torment; he cried and shrieked and yowled and simply moaned.

Finally, they gave Kyle a brief reprieve. He looked up, sobs racking his shoulders, and through the darkness, Stan met his eyes.

'I'm sorry,' he thought. There was no way Kyle could possibly hear, but seeing his face, looking at his tortured expression...'I caused all of this. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.'

Stan felt something crawling up his back, and he instinctively felt the urge to swat at it, but he couldn't free his hand. Something stung into his neck, and Stan flinched. It burned; it felt like it trailed down his neck and straight through to the rest of him, where everything tingled unpleasantly.

In the distance, Kyle released another ear-splitting shriek as he was violated again, and it made Stan's head pound. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to shake his head to clear it, but Kyle's screams infested his brain.

Then, he felt the first tentacle enter him.

Stan's eyes snapped open and he lurched up from the bed with vomit dangerously high in his throat and his heart not far behind. He felt it practically beating in his esophagus, pounding against his chest with such force that it was almost painful.

His abrupt shift in position was enough to wake the man beside him, and while he stared into the darkness, choking back the bile that coated his throat and made his eyes water, Kyle sleepily rolled over to face him, tired eyes gazing unfocused at his face.

"Nightmare?" he asked groggily.

Stan still could not speak. He tried; he tried to swallow the nauseous frog in his throat and gulp a cool breath of air in an attempt to still his racing heart. But he seemed trapped in the dream, his consciousness returned to the living but his mind still hopelessly being dragged inside a chasm writing with the squirming black limbs of some otherworldly entity.

Kyle seemed to come to his senses and realize that something was wrong. He pushed his upper body up and began shaking Stan's shoulder, and, he said his name, again and again; at first, sternly, and then, worriedly. "Stan? Stan? Stan?"

Stan felt the tight grip and he heard the gentle words calling him back, but it felt far away; it felt less real than the dream, still somehow materializing before him in the real world. That gentle, far-off reality with Kyle could not exist; the only reality was the cold, dead touch of (it's like blood I can see it I can smell it it's covering me in blood) wet tendrils caressing his cheek. Then, they slid down further, and they grasped his throat.

In Stan's mind, all he could imagine was the school bus; hovering in the air, perched on top of dainty black fingers, suddenly crushed flat in seconds. These same black fingers clutched his neck with the tender caress of a lover, wrapping around and around his throat while the blood coursed down his chest and bloomed into a wet, crimson blossom on his shirt. And still Stan was paralyzed, helpless to stop it, even as the fingers began to squeeze, and breathing became impossible.

It was dark. Everything was dark.

Then, suddenly, Stan felt something hard collide with his face.

And then again.

And then again.

He saw blood red stars drifting by and vanishing in the night.

Then he felt something grab his shirt by the chest and pull, hard, as though forcibly yanking him from the depths of some great body of water in which he'd been drowning. Stan was nearly lifted from the bed (was he still on the bed?) from the sheer strength with which he was grabbed, and then he was set back down, only to be pulled forward again. It was kind of like something was shaking him, but it felt so slow.

"STAN," he heard something say, and the voice was urgent and demanding, and it grew louder and louder and more persistent the less he reacted to it. "STAN. Wake up." Something was breaking through in the darkness. Another set of fingers, human, not black tendrils of death, was gripping his shirt. "Wake up RIGHT NOW. WAKE THE FUCK UP."

Kyle's face brought through the vision that had engulfed him, one of blood and darkness and bottomless chasms, and Stan finally awoke with a shuddering gasp, as though he'd been on the verge of death. The air rattled around in his lungs unsurely, wondering if it was supposed to be there, and, slowly, the bedroom came back into focus.

Stan realized that Kyle was straddling him on top of his bare legs, holding fistfuls of his shirt as hard as he could in quivering hands. He looked furious and terrified and relieved and bewildered all at once; his teeth were clenched in the rage he used to sustain himself while tears shimmered in his eyes, too wary to fall outright but almost too heavy to restrain.

"Stan?" he asked in a weak, shaky voice. "Are you okay? Are you back?"

Stan's response was to throw Kyle off of him onto the other side of the bed, (ignoring his explicit cry of protest) and then fling his own upper body off on the other side. He clawed his way to the desk where a tiny trash can stood vigilant, ready to receive candy wrappers and tissues and other small, insignificant bits of waste.

Stan grabbed it and held onto it for dear life as the bile hibernating in his throat finally awoke with an inspired vengeance, and it erupted from his mouth in a torrential burst of vomit. His whole body shook with the force with which he expelled the sickness that had been rotting in his stomach.

After the first wave had subsided, he held himself up on his hands and knees, and he hung his head into the little trash can. He felt his stomach groaning and twisting in on itself; it was only a matter of time before he would have to hurl again, and he did, choking and sputtering on his own sick and spitting out the remnants coating his mouth and the back of his throat.

Stan felt something softly touch his back and begin to stroke up and down, soothingly. He could hardly manage to look over his shoulder, but when he did, Kyle was there. He was crouching next to him, one hand still softly moving up and down his back while the other held a waiting glass of water. Stan was too weak and nauseated to reach for it; he simply hung his head again, spitting miserably into the can and trying to shake away the rolling nausea in his stomach.

"Are you done?" Kyle eventually asked.

Stan just weakly nodded.

Kyle held the glass to his lips and tilted it just enough for him to take a few sips of cool water. Not too much, otherwise he'd probably resume puking his guts out. Stan was always like that.

When he stopped sipping, he tried to lift himself up, but he fell right back down to his knees, and the scrape on his leg stung bitterly. His arms were shaking as they just barely held him inches away from the can oozing the foul stench of vomit.

"Hang on," Kyle said. He easily stood up and then grabbed the can from right under Stan's nose, and then he brought it to the bathroom. Stan heard him dumping its insides and then flushing the toilet, and then he heard the bath water running for a few short seconds before shutting off again.

Before he knew it, Kyle was right beside him again, and this time he put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Come on," he said tenderly, and almost without thinking, Stan obeyed. He used Kyle as leverage to get to his feet, and then he took baby steps back to the bed, whereupon he collapsed, face first.

Stan exhaled a pained sigh into the pillow and he wrapped an arm around his face, hiding himself from view.

Kyle wasted no time in joining him on the bed and crawling up beside him, and, his tone still unnervingly patient but unexpectedly sharp, he ordered, "Spill it."

Dimly, Stan said, "Huh?"

"What the hell kind of nightmare was that?" Kyle demanded. "I've never seen you so fucked up over a dream."

"Oh. Well, it was..." Stan could hardly remember at this point. It had been horrible and sickening and morbidly disastrous and possibly the most disturbing thing he had ever thought, but it was a blur now; a distant and unpleasant memory that he was keenly aware he did not want to relive, even if he could. "It was a fucking doozy, let me tell you," he finally said, in the end not actually telling him anything, at all.

Kyle made a soft "Hmmph!" noise and snuggled up next to him, and the warmth instantly made Stan realize (as if for the first time) that Kyle was THERE; he was THERE with him. Kyle was THERE and he was ALIVE.

Stan rolled onto his side and wrapped his arms around him and pulled him against his body as hard as he could. With Kyle still taken off guard and slow on the draw, Stan assaulted his lips and kissed him fervently and desperately as though he'd never had him before and he might never have him again. He held the back of his head to keep him close as he devoured his lips; the kiss was beyond lust or desire, it was just flat out NEED.

The whole time, Kyle pushed against him, weakly reciprocating but still trying to get away, and when he finally escaped with a gasp, he wiped his mouth off on his hand with a mildly disgusted look on his face.

"You taste like puke," he complained, and Stan just grinned stupidly at him until Kyle could help but grin stupidly back, and then he added, affectionately, "You're insufferable."

"I'm just so happy you're here," Stan said dreamily.

"Where else would I be?" Kyle replied. "Christ, that must have been a shitty dream..."

Now that Stan didn't seem like he was going to continue eating his face, Kyle snuggled against him again, and in a mess of limbs they curled around each other, face to face.

It was bliss; it was perfection; it was paradise. Stan was finally letting go of the dream and beginning to allow the sweet serenity to take him. He breathed long and slow, allowing his senses to take account of the room until he felt secure again; like this was right.

It was pitch black, still the middle of the night, and silent as death; not too unusual in their remote little mountain town. There was enough moonlight creeping through the window to see Kyle's tired face, but that was all.

The room smelled clean and domestic, free of the rancid stench of decay and the metallic reek of blood. Instead, the air was fragrant with the lingering smoky aroma of the candles they had lit before making slow love in their firelight earlier that night, and he could still smell the enthralling combination of sex and sweat on warm, supple skin. Kyle's embrace was warm and loving and all he really needed.

"So you're not gonna tell me, or...?" Kyle prompted again, sounding slightly impatient this time. He wasn't going to let it go; not by a long shot.

"Nah. It's not important." Well, maybe not ALL of what he really needed. Stan pressed his lips against Kyle's again, coyly nibbling them and flicking them with his tongue. "What IS important is whether or not you'll let me make love to you until I forget about it."

Kyle scoffed and pushed his face away. "I'm too sore for another romp, thanks," he said.

"Kyle," Stan whinged, drawling out the last syllable pleadingly.



"Not happening, stud. If you're feeling good enough to fuck though, I guess you must feel good enough to let me sleep. Good night." And he rolled over. Stan couldn't help but feel like he did so with a smug little grin.

Stan relentlessly nibbled his neck and blew into his ears and ran the tips of his fingers down his stomach, just barely touching him; just barely teasing him. It took some time and some patience, but eventually Kyle came back around. Instead of falling in by his side, Kyle rolled on top of him, straddling him with both legs firmly planted on either side of him. He hung over his face, delivering fleeting kisses until he told him his one condition: "Only if I ride you."

"Deal," Stan agreed at once.

Stan awoke from a short, fitful sleep not very long after. Something was pounding in his head, and he held his temple gently to try to steady his thoughts.

Kyle did not wake this time; he was thoroughly knocked out on the other side of the bed, lightly snoring. Blissfully unaware of Stan's inexplicable woes.

Stan's eyes burned and his eyelids were so, so heavy; he thought he couldn't have possibly been asleep for very long, certainly not more than half an hour or so; maybe less.

They'd fallen asleep again after sex, right?

Had they had sex?

Stan wiggled unsurely in the bed; it was still kind of damp, presumably from sweat, and there was lubricant innocuously lying on the nightstand. So yes, it certainly stood to reason that they'd had sex.

Why couldn't he remember?

Stan stumbled out of the bed as his vision started to fade, and he somehow managed to walk himself into the bathroom. He clung onto the counter in front of the mirror for dear life, but what he saw staring back at him, it wasn't right. It wasn't his reflection he saw, but Kyle's.

Kyle was fast asleep in the bed just a few feet away. Wasn't he?

Stan tried to turn around to double check, just to be sure, but he couldn't. He seemed frozen, somehow, standing in front of the mirror, staring into it. Then, after he blinked a few times, finally shedding the sleep, he realized it was because he was restrained by something.

He was cold and wet, and there was a sound hiding in the shadows that chilled him to his bones. A slithering sound.

Stan was starting to go blind in the darkness, but he could see shadows of things, suggestions of things; just no definition. He couldn't really tell if anything around him was really, truly there.

However, he saw enough to see that the body hanging so near to him was Kyle.

He saw how Kyle's bound by something black and shining, like silk spun from midnight. He was suspended from some hidden support, (there was no telling if they were even right side up or upside down at this point; in either direction, there was only darkness) and his extremities were completely buried in layers and layers of darkness woven tight to bind him in place. His arms were stretched far apart, pulled taut, and even though his feet and calves were devoured by coiling shadows, Stan could still see his legs.

They were both broken, nearly snapped neatly in two. They jutted out at sickeningly wrong angles while splintered bone broke through the skin like shrapnel. Kyle had been stripped nude, (was Stan nude too? He couldn't tell) and the vibrant orange wings had been ripped clean from his shoulders. His curly red hair was limp and stiff with crusted blood, and it traveled down his body in rusted red rivulets until they reached his groin. His genitals were gone; only a stump cascading thick, dark blood down his thighs remained left behind.

But the worst

(oh sweet Jesus)

the worst part was his stomach

(what the everloving fuck what did it do)

where directly in the middle of his torso

(Jesus FUCKING Christ oh god oh shit)

a dripping cavern had been dug through the flesh, and its insides were utterly barren.

Stomach, intestines, liver, kidney; all gone. Something had torn a hole in his torso and then gutted what it found unnecessary; the only things visible in the hole were slivers of a ribcage that had all but shattered, and, Stan realized with horror virulently infecting every nerve and neuron, a squirming pile of the black tendrils that had made a bed in the bottom of his excavated stomach. He could hear the wet noises of it squirming in its grotesque nest.

And Stan couldn't even cry; he couldn't even move. He could only gape in silent horror at the desecrated corpse of his best friend.

[Oh, he's awake.]

Stan's eyes flitted in every direction he could, but nothing seemed to be there; just blackness, just unseen limbs crawling through the darkness.

[Just put him down again.]

Stan couldn't even tell if there was really a voice, or if it was in his head. It felt like there was something there, some sort of sentience or consciousness hovering over his shoulder almost, but as far as he could tell, he was alone.

Alone with Kyle, anyway.

Fuck, this could be the last time; it could be the last chance he would ever have to say it. He hadn't even said it as they'd made love in the dream he'd had, (had it been a dream? It must have been a dream. He was still in the pit. He'd never left. Kyle was hanging bloody before him, not snuggled up in a warm bed. It must have been a dream) after they finished making love. It'd been his first, and he hadn't said it; he hadn't said what he'd wanted to say his whole life.

"Kyle," he croaked through a throat ravaged by screaming. "Kyle, I love you."

As expected, the hanging body before him merely swayed slightly. He didn't respond.

Paralyzed from the neck down, Stan couldn't even tell what condition his own body was in. But he could feel when something cold began crawling up his shoulders and halted at the base of his neck.

He felt a sharp, stinging pain, and it was almost enough to wake the rest of him up.

Stan hissed in pain and tried to wrench his neck away from it, but it was no use. Something hot and prickly was dripping down his neck, and he felt it slowly begin to course inside his blood stream. All he could manage to do was cry out a weak, guttural plea:


[It's alright, don't fight it. It's easier to just slip away.]

How could you fight against something you couldn't see?

How could you fight against something that rendered you completely immobile?

How could you fight against something that eviscerated your best friend and hung him to dry in front of you?

His thoughts were already going hazy and his head went so heavy he could no longer move it; he could hardly even move his eyes.

Again a full-body slave to whatever held him captive, petrified, Stan was forced to relinquish consciousness with his eyes aimed squarely at Kyle; forced to drink in the look on his face, blood running thickly down his cheeks from unfocused eyes that were milky white, the pupils all but disintegrated.

And then, they rolled towards him.

Unseeing, the white eyes shifted in his direction and seemed to focus on him. And Stan saw the lips that were splattered with blood curl into a rueful smile.

"Sweet dreams," he said, and his croaking whisper sent a violent shudder down his spine that he couldn't help but notice didn't quite reach his legs.

Then, Stan closed his eyes.

The imprint of that bloody smile was seared into the darkness behind his eyelids, and he could not escape it even asleep, or dead, or whatever it was he was right now. The pale eyes reflected him in them, and he watched as the blood poured over his own torpid body like rain down a statue.

"Stan, wake up; god damn it, don't do this to me again-!"

And from across him, Kyle's defiled corpse (or was it a corpse? Wasn't he still alive? Or were they both dead?) mocked him with his coy little smile, and then his lips parted. The tendrils began to write from between his twisted red lips, slowly; he opened his mouth wider and they began seeping out, insubstantial at first, like smoke, and then they-


-they grew larger and larger, and Kyle's smile finally faded and his head hung low.

Stan hoped he was dead. He hoped to God they were both dead, but if not both of them, at least Kyle. Please, God, at least let Kyle be dead.

Stan dared to open his eyes. He was still paralyzed from head to foot, and his whole body felt stiff and heavy like solid stone, but he was in bed now, (how can I be in bed, I was just in the bathroom- no, I was just in the pit, no...where was I...?) soaked with freezing cold sweat. He shook profusely, either from chill or from terror or from both, and most significantly, (how had it taken him so long to realize?) Kyle was straddling him again.

And more importantly, (how could it even be possible?) he was whole; he was perfectly fine.

"Stan, what the fuck is going on?" Kyle demanded, and though he sounded strong and in control of himself, he looked exactly the opposite. He was a mess. "Was it a bad dream again?"

"A bad dream...?" Stan murmured, still not quite there, still with his foot stuck in the door to the nightmare plane. "No, no it wasn't a dream; you're dead. Please God I hope you're dead..."

Kyle swallow a choked sob and put a hand on Stan's forehead, testing for a fever, like it was the only sensible thing to do at this point; like he didn't know what else to do. In the murky yellow glow of the bedside lamp, (when had Kyle turned the light on? Had the light always been on?) his face was deathly pallid, and his eyes were wide and wet and (his dead white eyes reflected a mutilated body bathed in blood and it was me damn it it was me) green so very green and alive not dead not dead at all.

Stan couldn't yet move his body, but he managed to weakly raise a hand and lead it to Kyle's stomach. At first he just laid it flat against him, and then he rubbed, offering no explanation.

Kyle was still nude (Stan remember vaguely undressing him after the first nightmare; how long ago had that been?) and it was plain to see that this Kyle was untouched by his gruesome night visions. His belly was soft and exuding warmth and slightly flabby and so very, very real.

Kyle put his hand over Stan's uncertainly. His worrisome expression had not abated in the slightest. "Stan, do you need me to take you to a hospital?" he asked, using up his last reserves of calmness, and then he began blubbering rapidly. "I don't know if these are night terrors or hallucinations, but you're scaring me okay, like you just disappear to another world and, and, it's kind of like seizures or something, I don't know. But I don't think I can handle this, I can't handle seeing you like this anymore, dude it's scaring the shit out of me it scares me-" Tears had finally broken free and begun seeping thickly and slowly from his eyes. He stubbornly wiped them away with his arm and sniffled, and then he tried to continue, but the words swelled and stuck in his throat and a fresh stream of tears leaked down his cheek again. When he couldn't get the words out in anything resembling his normal voice, he whined instead, and he began to weakly pound Stan's chest with a clenched fist, softly beating on him while he cried. "Please just wake up, please tell me you're okay and wake up..."

It was then that Stan did finally wake up, (it might have been the tears dripping on his stomach or the weak punches to his chest, or he had finally awoken from his languid daze on his own, or perhaps it was some combination of the three) and he grabbed Kyle's wrist with his hand, and he stilled him.

"Kyle, just calm down, alright?" he said soothingly. He felt remarkably calm talking to his dead boyfriend, except he wasn't dead; he was clearly alive and well and right there in front of him, on TOP of him for God's sake. He could feel his weight pressing him down into the bed. "Calm down. I'm okay. I promise I'm okay."

"You were so far gone, Stan," Kyle sobbed, and he leaned down and hugged him tight, continuing to quietly cry into the nook between his neck and shoulder. "Oh God, Stan, I didn't know if you would ever come back. Your eyes fucking rolled back in your head-"

"Just stop worrying about it, okay? It's over and I'm awake now."

(worry about yourself, Kyle baby; you're the one who don't know he's already dead)

Stan shook his head. He didn't know why he thought that; Kyle wasn't dead. He was right there in front of him (gutted and hanging to dry like a pig or like a fly spun up in the itsy bitsy spider's itsy bitsy web) and he was fine.

Perfectly fine.

"I can't just stop worrying about it, asshole!" Kyle was dangerously close to becoming hysterical, and it stung Stan hard as he realized just how upset Kyle was. "You said you fucking hoped to God I was dead!"

"I had a really fucked up dream, that's all. I don't want you to die, I just didn't want you to suffer anymore in the dream. It was really, really bad, dude. Trust me; you would have been better off dead where you were."

Kyle sniffled one last time and then withdrew his face from Stan's shoulder. His tears had dissipated, and when he next spoke, the whimper had also evaporated in favor of his familiar, invigorating anger. "What the fuck were you dreaming about?" Kyle demanded.

Stan couldn't remember. He honestly could not. He could sense the knowledge was there, somewhere, just hiding in the shadows, but he didn't dare search for it. Instead, he just shook his head.

It was this utter lack of response that incensed Kyle like nothing else. "Bullshit," he accused hotly. "You had the same fucked up dream twice in one night and now you're trying to tell me you just forgot?"

"I did forget," Stan asserted, testily.

Kyle scoffed, "Yeah, you just forgot a dream that made you fucking puke when you woke up. You just forgot a dream that was apparently so bad, you wished I was dead."

Stan tried to sit up to confront him properly, but a sharp, sudden pain in neck forced his head heavily back down to the pillow. His hand shot up to sooth his neck while he grimaced.

Kyle instantly dropped all malice and began fretting over him again. "Are you okay? What happened?"

"It's nothing," Stan mumbled while he held his neck. He suddenly felt dizzy and it was difficult to see. He spat, bitterly, "Fuckin' whiplash..."

"I'm driving you to Hell's Pass." Kyle's words were brusque and clipped. He was the very embodiment of decision; his uncertainty and tears had been a lifetime ago as far as he was concerned.

"Come on, Kyle, over whiplash? They'll give me a handful of Motrin and tell me to stop being a pussy."

"No, it's not just because of whiplash. It's because you're fucking hallucinating and - and you're thinking about killing me or something."

"I never said that," Stan corrected impatiently. Was Kyle intentionally being thick-headed right now? Because it was starting to piss him off. "I had a dream so terrible that you would have been better off dead. There's a difference. You don't even WANT to know what the fuck happened."

"Yeah? Well, what if the next time you have a fit or whatever, you go for the gun in the nightstand and decide to blow my brains out?"

Kyle had hardly finished talking when Stan nearly shouted his reply: "Can you PLEASE stop bringing up the gun?!"

"I hate guns, you KNOW I hate guns, and you decided to just bring one home one day and say it's for protection. For no fucking reason. Is that not a little fucking weird to you?"

"And, what, now you think I'm crazy and I'm going to kill you? Because I managed to get a gun for cheap off of Uncle Jimbo in order TO PROTECT YOU? What the fuck kind of logic is that?"

Kyle deflated a bit; he seemed slightly ashamed of himself for suggesting what he'd said. "I didn't say that you were or that you would, just that...I mean, if you're hallucinating-"

"I'm not fucking hallucinating, I had a bad dream. People have bad dreams. It doesn't mean that I'm about to die. Or that anyone else is either," he added angrily.

"You're only saying that because you don't like hospitals and you don't want to go," Kyle accused him hastily. "Like a goddamned child."

Stan practically did a double take. "WHAT?" He was utterly confused by the change of topic. For a few long seconds, all he could do was just gape at him and wonder how his boyfriend could be so unreasonably stubborn. "I don't want to go to a hospital because there's nothing wrong with me," he said, slowly and purposely. "And if we're making accusations, you're the one acting like your goddamn mother right now, getting all overbearing and paranoid because of something stupid."

Stan could see his expression shift drastically, in less than a second; it was like he'd punched him.

"Low blow," Kyle muttered. Perhaps it was, but it had worked; he seemed a lot less determined to drive to Hell's Pass now.

Instead, all he did was sit off the edge of the bed, staring dispiritedly at the floor. "Fuckin' a, dude, I'm only so upset because I care about you, alright? I'm not trying to say you're crazy or -" He wound up not really elaborating what he wasn't trying to do; he just quietly shook his head instead.

Stan finally managed to pull himself up. He scooted to the edge of the mattress until he sat alongside Kyle, and then he wrapped an arm around him, hugging him close. Kyle fell into his embrace immediately, and he leaned his head against his chest.

"I'm sorry," Kyle mumbled.

"I know; me too."

"You're right, it was really fucked up for me to say shit like that."

"Yeah, but I understand. You're just scared. You say stupid shit when you're scared."

Kyle made an indignant noise and shook his head, but he didn't rebuke this. He only made a request in response. "Please tell me that you're okay."

"I'm okay."

"Like, tell me and MEAN it." Kyle had lifted his head from his chest to stare directly at him, and he used a hand to guide Stan's face towards him. He wanted to be looked right in the air, and sworn to. "Really, really tell me. Are you okay?"

Stan was about to chuckle at him and say again, that, of course; he was fine. Kyle was just being silly.

Instead, he choked up when he saw Kyle's gaze.

The eyes.

There was no life in them again. The bloody reek was crawling inside his nostrils again; the scarlet red of his hair seemed to be dripping away from the strands. And Kyle's hand on his cheek, it was cold; it was so cold.

Around him, for just an instant, it felt like reality flickered. The dusty yellow light and the warm bedroom seemed less 'there;' more like indistinct fragments connecting something much bigger together. And Kyle's corpse swayed in the distance, smiling, mocking him for believing the illusion.

"Stan?" Kyle asked, and Stan blinked.

His eyes were alive again.

His curls didn't drip blood.

His skin was warm.

Stan put his hand over Kyle's, which was still on his cheek, and he pulled it down to his mouth. He brushed the top of his hand with his lips, and then he kissed his soft skin, long and hard.

"I'm not okay," Stan said, sincerely. "But, I will be."

That was good enough for Kyle.

Good enough, that was; he was still worried. Stan could see it all over his face, with the little wrinkles and creases that formed when he was concentrating.

But he accepted it.

"Can you do something for me too?" Stan asked.

Kyle frowned slightly, and the little wrinkles deepened. "What?"

"Can you just tell me you love me?"

The little frown became a little smirk, and Kyle just sighed, patiently. "You're always asking me to tell you. Like you forgot. Like you've never heard it before."

"Please," Stan insisted, almost pleadingly.

Kyle leaned in and planted a quick kiss on the corner of his mouth. He humored him. "I love you," he said simply.

Stan suddenly embraced him again, and he felt his skin so warm and tender beneath his cheek and smelled the sweat and slightly musky scent of sex that he didn't quite remember and he just lost himself in him.

"I really should remind you that I love you more often." Kyle sounded vaguely amused, but Stan didn't care; all he needed to do was hold him and feel him and know that he was there. "It makes you all goofy and cuddly and affectionate and disgustingly cute."

"It's just because I love you too," Stan said, and then he said it again, each time more passionately than the last. "I love you, I love you, I LOVE you."

Kyle was hugging him in return and stroking his back soothingly. He didn't seem surprised by the outburst; rather it seemed to happen often enough that it was to be expected. "I love you too, but, can we please maybe go back to bed?" Kyle finally said in response to all of this. "I'm really, really fucking tired now."


"And try not to have any more homicidal night terrors? I will literally pick you up and drag you to Hell's Pass myself if you wake up screaming again."

"It won't happen," Stan promised.

Once again, they settled in bed together. It took a long time for Kyle to fall asleep and for all those worrying creases in his face to smooth out. Stan watched him go from internally fretting to worry to concern to contentment, and eventually, sleep.

Stan laid with him the whole time, and he held him close, not daring to let go. He held him deep into the night. He held him until he breathed so softly and so slightly that Stan could hear his heart beat.

He loved him; he loved him so much that he thought he might burst.

Later that night, Stan strangled Kyle to death.

It was mercy that gave him the strength to do it; not rage.

Tears streamed down his face as he gripped his slender neck, tight, with both hands, and he squeezed until his fingers ached. He squeezed until his hands were white with the strain. He squeezed until dawn finally broke, and he saw that this Kyle's eyes had the same dead glaze as his counterpart.

Then, he laid with him while he was still warm, just to prolong the illusion a little longer.

(it was merciful)

Long after Kyle was cold and stiff, and long after the sun had risen, Stan crawled out of the bed. He dug through their nightstand until he found the handgun.

It was a 9mm. A Browning pistol. It was small and comfortable in his hand.

The magazine was loaded with only three rounds, and if Stan had not been careless the last time he'd handled it, there would not be a round in the chamber.

Stan returned to the bathroom, and he stared at himself in the mirror. Bags were painted in thick smears under his eyes. The burn on his cheek was stinging painfully, and it glowed pink on his face in the fluorescent light over the mirror.

Other than that, his face was cold and gray.

He looked dead. He knew personally. He'd just spent hours lying with a dead person.

Stan fell to his knees and crawled into the corner, right in between the shower and the hamper they used for wet towels. He curled up against the wall, pulling his knees to his chest and holding the Browning with both hands shaking violently.

If this was a dream, and in reality he was just a little fly caught up within a web, then it wouldn't matter if he killed himself. The parasitic entity holding him hostage in that world would just put him to sleep again.

If this was reality, and the other world was a dream, then it didn't fucking matter if he stayed here anymore. Kyle was dead. There was nothing worth staying for.

And if all of it was a dream, and none of it was real, then if he killed himself, wouldn't he just wake up? For real this time?

(you never die in dreams)

You never die in dreams.

Stan raised the Browning to his temple. He didn't cock the bolt, and he wasn't sure if there was even a round in there. He couldn't remember if he'd cleared the weapon before putting it away.

He wondered if that was because he'd never touched the gun until today.

It was a gamble.

If he was awake, he died. If he was dreaming, he'd wake up. If he didn't die, who knows.

Maybe he would just go back to sleep again.

Stan took a deep breath. He braced himself. He pulled the trigger.




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