"I need some air," Kyle Broflovski had said.

And in a sense, he did. Because the atmosphere inside was colder than it was outside; and that was sure saying something.

He couldn't lie. It was nice to see old friends. It was nice to feel like they were young again and they could fall back to how it was in high school; laugh and joke around until their sides hurt. Say all the right things to each others' faces, then turn around and laugh at what they've done and where they're going as soon as the conversation is over.

But there were some good reasons they were celebrating tonight.

For starters, it was Christmas Eve. And another, they were losing a lot of people in seven days. A week and four of them would be across the world.

Four people from Kyle's childhood, out of the country, being heroes, saving lives.

And here he was accepted to law school just as they predicted.

And seeing old friends opened new wounds. Seeing new people with them opened old scars. It was hard, hard to say goodbye, harder to open new doors.

He left and never looked back. He left them all and tried to make a name for himself, away from here. Because unlike most of them he didn't want to be stuck here. Or so he thought.

It turns out other people had the same idea in mind, and were getting as far away from here as they could. Good for them. Good for all of them.

And suddenly he didn't feel like what he was doing made a difference. Going into law, not even environmental law which would do some sort of good. Just business law.

Unlike Stan Marsh and Wendy Testaburger, who were going off into the Peace Corps with their education and communications degrees. They were going together, to some South American town where they'd probably do at least a little bit of good.

And Eric Cartman was going to Japan to intern, with potential for a full-time position, for a business in Tokyo. Who would have thought that he would actually become someone? Kyle hated to admit it but he was happy for him. He just hoped he wouldn't turn out to be one of the corporate rats; but it seemed inevitable.

And then there was Kenny McCormick who was about to go into his third tour of duty; this time in Kandahar. He hadn't even been around much their senior year of high school come to think about it. He had gone to basic during the summer and worked at the base during the rest of the year.

They were doing things, all of them were.

They were getting out of here.

And most likely Kyle would end up back in South Park working with his father and taking over the firm. As much as he didn't want that, he had already fallen in the footsteps; there was no way out of this.

So, being in there, seeing his friends and unfamiliar faces of their loved ones laughing and talking about the good old times and how far they had come since then was a bit too much. Because in the past four years he hadn't changed at all.

And suddenly that was extremely terrifying.

Four of his best friends from the age of three were leaving the country. For at least two years. They would be even more different then, coming back from their experiences. And he'd be the same. Suburbanite lawyer in the making.

It was difficult for him to face.

Knowing that his best friends were leaving made it apparent to him that he had to say goodbye to a lot of things. Not just four people who had always been there for him since he could ever remember, despite their distance, but so much more. To what they had growing up, to what they lost, and to what they'll never have again.

He should have been inside spending as much time as he could with the people he grew up with. After all, there were people here he hadn't seen since graduation. They had all been drinking and laughing, dancing, talking, catching up with one another. Gossiping. It happened all the time in small towns and South Park was no different; sometimes people know more about you than you do.

But truth be told it was Christmas Eve, a time he had always felt like an outcast. Now he was an atheist so it didn't really matter, but growing up in a Jewish family this time of year made him feel confused and uncomfortable. And the Stevens' house (go figure, that's where all the parties had been in high school too) was decorated with Christmas decorations, a large tree, twinkling lights, a nativity set, mistletoe, wreaths, and Santas and snowmen everywhere.

Jewish or atheist Christmas had no meaning in his life. So he didn't feel in the spirit of things like everyone else inside. Somewhere the music changed from the music they grew up with to traditional Christmas songs with everyone singing along and laughing and just having a good time.

And as he sat outside he wondered why he was even here in the first place. After all, there were faces he didn't recognize, and faces he hadn't ever planned on seeing again. Faces he wasn't sure he wanted to see.

Because sometimes friendships fade, sometimes the closest bond you ever had stretches far too thin; and the friend you thought you would always have by your side vanishes from your life altogether. And neither he or Stan alone were at fault. The blame was on both of them; Kyle just couldn't stand to see him with her. Not after everything that happened.

And everything was fine, Stan had said. Everything between them was just fine, water under the bridge, stupid decisions made by eighteen year old boys with a too close relationship and a lot of curiosity. Except to Kyle it was a lot more than curiosity.

He had accepted long ago that he and Stan were just... Stan and Kyle. He had accepted the result of a chaotic mix up of emotions and did I feel too much? He never really thought about them. And when he talked to Stan, which wasn't as often as everyone believed, no thoughts of what could be ever filled his head.

Except at two in the morning when he listens to that stupid CD Stan made him in their senior year. Or when his feet are too cold and he can't sleep. Those stupid songs that he shouldn't have even cared about, but they were Stan's, and the CD was cute.

He thought about him when the songs they listened to as teenagers played on the radio, which wasn't often at all anymore. And he'd pull over on the side of the freeway and listen, and remember, and wish those days never ended.

Nostalgia was the chill in his body. Longing was his insomnia.

Kyle shook his head and ran a hand through his still poofy and unmanageable hair. He stared at the empty streets, into the windows of the other houses with parties going on. People were happy there, too. People were happy everywhere. So what was wrong with him?

Couldn't he at least be happy for them?

He could at least do something for himself. To truly move on.

Leave South Park; for good. Go to New York, or Dallas, somewhere. Anywhere but Colorado.

Forget this life, put it all behind him; just as everyone else had.

Grow up.

Kyle stared up at the sky, watched the snow dance from the dark oblivion above, an insulated, looming cloud above as the snow fell in silence; making this a true white Christmas that everyone cherished. Good for them.

The redhead pulled off his gloves and pulled out his phone, and tapped the contacts button. He scrolled down, staring at all of the names of people he never called; but made him feel important no less because they were another number. Another name in the list.

He stared down at the name and the photo of the contact he had scrolled to.

Stan Marsh.

It was a photo of them in high school.

God damn; he was stuck in the past. It was almost pathetic. Almost.

But a little sad too.

And he didn't want to be pathetic and sad; he wanted to be happy just like everyone else. He wanted that moment of 'fuck everything that happened; I'm a different person. I've changed.'

If that meant saying goodbye to Stan, then so be it. They hadn't spoken in six months anyway. Stan had already had his goodbye.

But Kyle had been too afraid to say it; goodbye is permanent. Goodbye is farewell, not see you later. Goodbye is closing a door.

Yet he was ready for that door to be slammed and run for the hills; run for his life. His new life, and his new self. He wanted it; he wanted to be done. He was tired of tear-stained sheets at four in the morning. And even more tired of cold feet.

His thumb hovered over the delete button. His eyes burned. He rubbed them with his free hand, which stung from being exposed to the cold.

Goodbye, Stan.

"You know, Jesus supposedly wasn't even born in December. He was born in September."

God fucking damn it.

Kyle slowly lifted his head and looked up at none other than Stan Marsh, who smiled a little down at him. He looked a little buzzed.

"Hot chocolate?" He asked; Kyle shook his head.

"Diabetic, remember?" he replied, "and I thought it was June."

Stan scoffed and shrugged his shoulders, then handed Kyle the white coffee mug. There was a cow on it. Probably the only non-Christmas cup there was to offer. He smiled a little.

"Who fucking knows dude, it's all a bunch of crap anyway, trying to make it seem like we're celebrating Jesus when in fact it's just Saturnalia." Kyle raised an eyebrow yet said nothing. "And it's sugar free, I'm not a dick."

"Thanks," he mumbled, putting his phone in his pocket quickly and wrapped his hands around the hot mug. "Since when do you care so much about Pagan holidays?"

"It's not so much just Pagan holidays, it's all concepts of spirituality and religion. We are so blind to categorize sects because of differences. Of course there are regional differences and belief systems, and you're never going to hear a Catholic agree with a lick of Hinduism. But we all believe in one supreme being, we all believe the same basic principles... why argue over the minor differences?"

"Because those minor differences make religion," he paused, "I like your way of thinking though, Mr. Lennon."

"I think it'd be more Mr. Harrison. You're the Lennon of the group."

"Cartman is so Ringo." Stan barked with laughter and sat next to him on the stoop.

Both of them stared out at the lonesome street ahead of them. They fell into silence; not quite uncomfortable, but definitely tense. This was their first conversation in six months and it was meaningless.

"So we've got Tokyo, Kandahar, and Venezuela... what about you Kyle?" The raven asked beside him. Kyle stiffened and sipped the cocoa. It scalded his throat. Left him speechless.

"Law school." Stan chuckled and shook his head. "What's so funny?"

"It's just... you wanted to travel the world. You wanted to be an advocacy journalist. That was your dream. And you let it go."

"Yeah, because I was thinking practically, Stan. I'd rather live comfortably than barely make ends meet by taking freelance photos of... forget it," he grumbled. "We're not having this conversation again."

"Why not?"

"Because, it's pointless. I'm going to law school, you're in the Peace Corps. Congratulations, you're doing the world a whole lotta good." The look on Stan's face was that of hurt, and Kyle couldn't take back the words or the facetious tone behind it.

"At least I'm doing something besides letting people win lawsuits that let them be greedy and fat assholes who don't have to lift a finger to help the world. I'm not in it for money, I'm in it to help people. I haven't felt this good in years, Kyle, so don't demean my life because you're not happy with the way yours is going."

"Is that what you think I'm doing?!" Kyle snapped, standing up now. Stan looked up at him with sadness in his eyes and sighed.

"It is what you're doing. Business law, that's exactly what you're doing. When we were kids, I thought you'd be out there starting a revolution. I thought you'd-"

"We're not kids, Stan!" he finally raised his voice, "Stan, look at us. We're almost twenty-two years old, for fuck's sake. We're not kids running around with wooden swords fighting aliens and Barbara fucking Streisand."

Stan stood up now as well, looking ready to disappear into the mob of people they had graduated with, where they were having fun. Suddenly inside seemed a lot warmer. Kyle couldn't shake the chill.

"I guess we're not."

"We grew up, we're not super best friends, we're not super anything. We're just... we're adults. Doing what we have to do." Stan looked either ready to shout or ready to cry; it made Kyle extremely uncomfortable.

"You've really changed, Kyle," he finally mumbled, wrapping an arm around himself.

Kyle blinked in awe at his words and stood there, dumbfounded.

He wasn't the one to change. He hadn't been. Everyone else had moved on and had become better people and here he was... stagnant. He hadn't changed at all.

"You lack conviction, you used to be so... God, I wanted to be you so fucking bad. The way you'd stand up for yourself, for what was right. I tried. You think I was head over heels with going to Venezuela? Kyle, I about shit my pants. But... you know what I said?" He paused, staring hard at Kyle, waiting for a response.

Kyle couldn't speak. He was shaking, his heart racing and blood surging through his veins. Suddenly he was the one who changed, hadn't he? He lost himself. Lost his way. He became jaded.

"I said to myself Kyle would do this. Or, the Kyle I knew would. I don't think you would now. But hell... three years ago, yeah. You would."

The redhead's eyes stared at the ground, at the snow building up more and more with each passing second. What the hell was going on here? What the hell was he hearing?

Where had he gone?

"And I know the old Kyle wouldn't be sitting out here alone. He'd be in there with his friends."

"I'm not the one who changed, Stan, you did. You're still convinced that these fantastic adventures will make you happy and prove something about you. I don't even think you know who you are," Kyle quipped. Stan glared up at him with a fire in his eyes that Kyle had never seen.

"You may be right on that. But at least I'll be happy when I find out who I am. At least I haven't let myself go. Or my best friend, for that matter." His eyes were stern, calculating, waiting for Kyle to say something. To counter him.

"I let you go?" Kyle asked, blood boiling now, "l-look at you, Stan! You didn't even..." Kyle shook his head; he was not going into this. That was three years ago. That was silly high school mistakes.

"Didn't even what?" Stan pressed. Kyle wasn't quite sure if he was trying to challenge him or if he was generally curious.

"You..." he shook his head, "I can't do this Stan, I can't..."

"Because I wasn't the one who left. You got the hell out of dodge right after graduation, you know."

"Because you made up with her!" Kyle cried finally, "Because everything we talked about, everything that I thought we were didn't fucking matter and I couldn't be around to see it all fall apart! Kenny was gone, Cartman's fucking Cartman and you, you just-"

"Why haven't we talked about this?" Stan asked quietly, somberly, as he sat back down on the stoop. Kyle watched him, unsure of what to say. "Why have we wasted three years with awkward phone conversations and 'yeah we'll definitely meet up' while avoiding each other at all costs when we're home? We were best friends. You were..." he sighed heavily, "I wasn't making up with Wendy, Kyle. I was saying goodbye. Apparently you really haven't been paying attention, did you even talk to him when you got here?"


"On our graduation day, Wendy came out to me as transgender. Remember, back in elementary school? Well, it was kind of the real deal. And Wendyl and I were able to be assigned to the same area in Venezuela. We're not together, he was hugging me because I said I was proud of him and would support him. And then you were gone.

"Kyle, I was going to ask you to be my boyfriend. But you left, and left me that note and I figured that was that. We were just this... friends with benefits fling that didn't matter at all. I just wanted you to be happy. Now I don't even know who you are."

"I'm still me, Stan..."

He couldn't breathe. How could he be so dense to not realize one of their best friends from school is transitioning? That would have been something Kyle from three years ago would be avidly supporting and helping in whatever way he could. Now, he'd like to say the same. Except school and exams were more important. They were more important than anything else in his world.

So important he had been blind to everything and everyone around him. Everyone changed, but he wasn't sure how. He had changed too; and that was something he wasn't even aware of. That terrified him more than anything.

And here Stan was telling him they could have been together. That he spent the past three years with cold feet and staring at his clock with stupid songs stuck in his head for no good reason. That they could have spent that together. If he hadn't run. If he hadn't pushed away.

Everything would have been so much different. He would be.

"Kyle, these past three years I've been trying to figure out a way to talk to you but you've never seemed to want to. It's been hell. I've been in hell. You've always been my best friend, and you're the reason I'm seeing the world. Because I figured that's what you would have told me to do. For the first time in three years I'm happy with my life and what I'm doing, and I want that for you too. I don't know how you'll do that, I don't know what you need. But you deserve it. You're not happy, and you should be. I don't want to lose you but I feel like I already have."

Kyle's eyes burned; he was angry and hurt, upset and confused. Mostly with himself; a little with Stan if he had to be honest. And it was weird seeing him like this; like he had his whole life together. Usually Kyle was the one trying to pick up the pieces of Stan losing his way. But now he was so sure of himself.

And Kyle felt like he was the one all jumbled up.

"You've really changed," Kyle mumbled. Stan smiled a little, then shrugged.

"I've had a lot of time to think, dude," there it was, that's what was missing, "but you said it: We grew up. We're not those kids anymore, reckless and careless. We're not kids anymore. I knew what I didn't want to be and went the opposite way. I think so far I've done alright."

Kyle nodded; he had to agree with that. For the first time Stan seemed truly confident with himself. It was nice to see.

"And you... you haven't lost me, you know. I still get those stupid songs you wrote stuck in my head. I listen to that CD sometimes." Stan laughed a little, and Kyle wrapped his arms around himself as he stood up. "And I think the only person who may have lost me is... well, me."

Stan put an arm around Kyle and gave a small smile.

"Well, you'll find yourself again. I'll help you."

"You're going to Venezuela and will barely be able to speak to anyone outside of your community. The last thing you're going to be worried about is me figuring out the quarter-life crisis."

"It's not like I'm not going to have internet or anything, dude. Besides, we have a lot of catching up to do, and if you haven't figured yourself out in two years then... well, I'll be home then. And I can help if you want."

"Yeah, that would be nice." Stan hummed a little, then put his other arm around him. Kyle hugged him back, and clutched his shirt. "I'm sorry... about all the miscommunication. All this craziness."

"That's us, though, isn't it?" They both laughed a little, and the raven rubbed his back before pulling away. "I'm sorry too for... for running, for saying goodbye. And everything." Stan raised an eyebrow and walked up the stairs, opening the front door.

"You didn't say goodbye, it was only temporary," he replied, then held out his hand. Cheeks heating, Kyle clasped their fingers together and smiled down at his dear friend. "And we're far from goodbye, Kyle. In fact, this is like... a new hello. So, hello."

Kyle laughed and shook his head, squeezing Stan's hand as they joined the mix of music, friends, and laughter.

"Hello," he whispered, and wore a quiet smile as Stan squeezed back.




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