This fic was so much fun to write, though starting it about halfway through the month that I had maybe wasn't the best idea... however, my betas really helped me pull through! Thank you so much to vvaka for proofing this for me, and tegeirian and charlie for making sure everybody was ic. Also, of course, to my artist Arvy: when I received your art I honestly got super excited. It's so pretty and perfect!
Finally, I hope you enjoy this fic. It's the longest thing I've ever written, and I really tried my best to make sure it was good enough for SPRMB.
"Tell me something interesting."
His interruption to the topic is expected, so Wendy simply looks up from the book, letting out a contemplative sigh as she studies the floral pattern on the ceiling of Kyle's living room.
"Hm." He's leafing through the notes in his hand again. "Well, see, back in World War Two, a girl developed leukemia because of exposure to radiation. She thought that, inspired by an old Japanese legend, if she folded one thousand paper cranes she would get a wish from God." The room is quiet for a few moments, excluding Kyle's shaking breaths and the pages from Wendy's book rustling in the draft seeping in from underneath the front door.
"Then what?" he asks, cheek pressed to her thigh.
"She became too weak to fold any more than 664, and died." she replies, curling her hand around his arm.
"Huh. That's not what I heard."
The first day back after the summer is a rush, as per usual, with freshmen bouncing around with their new timetables and seniors hulking around their cars in the parking lot. Kyle and Wendy walk into the hall together, her flats click-clacking on the tiles. It's beginning to get chilly again, so the blast of warm air that hits the pair when they turn the corner into the cafeteria is expected. One of the reasons South Park High had no money to spare on their students is probably because they waste half of it keeping the place at 80 degree plus temperatures year round.
"Hey, Wendy!" Curvaceous, loud and depute head of the drama club, Bebe Stevens is an icon to the junior year. Curls bounce around her shoulders as she gives a wave to her friend, tipping her head at the two empty seats opposite her. "Come sit with us!"
A couple of heads turn at the greeting, but then fade back into the background as Wendy and Kyle weave their way around tables to sit with the blonde. There's a girl next to her tapping away on her smartphone sitting next to her, but apart from that the rest of the table is chattering away in quiet conversation.
"So, how was sum-mer?" she drawls, smirking at us as she twirls the straw around in her can. "Get up to anything interesting?" Wendy laughs, and the girl who Kyle distantly recognizes as Red looks up from her phone with a similar smile on her face.
"Hey, come on, Wendy!" Red teases, tipping her head to him. "I mean, you were with him a lot, huh?" Bebe elbows her, though there's a tinkly laugh parrying her action.
Kyle holds up his hands in mock defense. "No, this isn't what you think." The two girls in front of him dissolve into giggles, and Wendy spares him a sympathetic glance, fingertips grazing over the top of his hand before returning her attention to her friends.
"Forget me, what about you? Didn't you have someone you were hanging out with in June?" Bebe rolls her eyes and brings the palm of her hand up to her mouth.
"Ugh, Craig? No way. He's such a bore, you know? That was all drama club work, and he spent half of it slacking off with Clyde, anyway. Talking of Clyde, you know what everyone's been saying?"
Wendy shakes her head, and Bebe and Red trade sly glances. "Well, a lot of people think that he... uh, plays for the same team. I mean, I don't want to offend, but he's gone out with like, half of the girls in this year! People aren't suddenly gay, right? Isn't it kinda weird to suddenly want to bang your best friend?"
Kyle sucks in a breath as Red mimes playful shock, before she grabs onto Bebe's arm and the two girls laugh in tandem, oblivious to their visitors. Wendy glances uneasily from the pair back to him, and he shakes his head. She tips her own toward the door, and ultimately our double Government class. He tips his chin almost imperceptibly, but their companions recover from their laughter and turn back to us.
The silence, at first, is dreadful; then Bebe, realising she's done something to upset her visitors, visibly calms herself.
"Sorry, I got a bit ahead of myself there. So? What do you think?"
Wendy opens her mouth to speak, but he gets there first.
"It's not cool to say that. It's not like he... chose what feelings he ended up having. I mean, why do you care so much about it? It's none of your business."
Bebe's cheeks puff up in what would be anger in someone else, but she just looks kind of defeated. Red, however, looks offput by his harsh tone, and almost looks like she's going to defend her friend.
So he decides to keep going.
"If he fell in love with Craig, as you seem to be implying, then what of it? Maybe it's because they're best friends, you know? Maybe he just felt that he could trust him and that he'd look out for him, because that friendship is an important part in any real relationship. If he is gay, or bisexual, or pansexual or whatever, then god, don't gossip about it!"
That's when he realises he's standing up.
The cafeteria is silent and Wendy is gripping on to his arm and everyone is looking at him funny and oh god he just wants it to stop. Eyes widening, he spares a final glance toward Bebe, who's just kind of staring at him.
"You're weird, Kyle. I like that," she says, quietly, but to him there's something like malice in her eyes, and that's when he looks up.
A flash of blue meets his eyes from across the cafeteria.
"Kyle, we have to go," Wendy hisses, and that's when he knows she's seen him too, slumped against the wall with Kenny holding his hand, bag slung over his shoulder and fringe in his eyes.
He can't speak. He can't say anything because Stan notices him watching and there's such an obvious fear in his eyes that Kyle's heart sinks even further. The object of his gaze swallows drily and drops Kenny's hand, who doesn't offer protest. "Kyle, please, just let it go-" Wendy urges, again, but Kyle's legs are already moving, striding over to ask exactly what the fuck Stan thinks he's doing, touching Kenny like that again-
The grip around his arm is tighter now, so he stops moving and looks back. Wendy is clutching him so tightly that the skin around her fingertips is red and smarting.
"He isn't worth it."
Stan's gone, now, disappeared without a trace with his companion probably by his side: or, judging from what he'd just witnessed, a little closer than that. The cafeteria is slipping back into uneasy conversation, and the only thing different is that now Kyle is shaking and he feels like he's going to throw up.
"Want to go?"
Wendy doesn't need a reply to her question, so they turn as one and leave the way they came in, nothing different but the inquisitive gaze Bebe is sporting as she follows their movement through the double doors.
"Over-reacted, huh?" Red says absent-mindedly, taking a bite of her toast.
"Yeah. They're kind of a weird couple, right? But I get it. They seem to have some shared hatred of Stan."
Red nods, tapping at her phone with her spare hand.
"I thought Kyle used to be his best friend, though?" Bebe chuckles, though it's a lot more composed now that Wendy and Kyle have left.
"God, that's old stuff. Freshman year. Kyle used to be in my free period, same with Stan; they avoided each other like the plague. It's sad, huh.
"The fact that such good friends can just fall apart like that."
It's five minutes into the new year, and Stan has him curled around his little finger.
Bored with his dad's lackluster attempts at entertaining a house of grouchy families, Stan and Kyle sneaked up to the older boy's bedroom, collapsing into the blue checkered bed sheets with something just short of unadulterated glee. They're lying there, now, listening to the cacophony downstairs.
"You're still making those?" Kyle asks, half on and half off the bed, so his knuckles just graze the carpet. Stan, all awkward and bony in his fourteen-going-on-fifteen body, tilts his head back so it's resting against the wall. A pile of carefully folded paper cranes lie in the dim light of Stan's bedside lamp.
"'Yeah. I'm on about two hundred now, I think. The rest are in my closet. It's kind of nice, having something to do when I'm stressed."
Their arms brush on top of the duvet, and the back of Kyle's neck prickles. "It's going to be ages before I get to a thousand."
"Government?" Kyle probes, after they turn right, right, left through the maze of corridors. This part of the building is swarmed with freshmen trying to locate their first class of the year, and he's grateful that nobody from junior has even bothered to move away from the cafeteria.
"Yeah. We have most of our classes together today." He's not surprised that Wendy knows. Being the older sister figure, as he's grown to know her by for the last few months, Wendy had probably checked their timetables together when they'd arrived last week.
Finding the room, they lean against the lockers next to it while they wait for class to start.
Most of the day slips away with no other events, apart from the growing anxiety in his stomach. Then, last class of the day, Kyle finds himself alone outside Classic Lit, Wendy twenty metres down the corridor in Study Hall.
"Oh, if it isn't the fag," he hears behind him, and turns around to see none other than Eric Cartman, all sneers and greasy hair.
"Oh, fuck off." Kyle shoots back, squirming instinctively as his oppressor steps closer to him. The asshole just wants to aggravate him. "Don't call me that."
"What, a fag?" The sharp edge to his voice sends a bolt of heat up Kyle's spine. "It's okay, Kahl. It's fine to be gay. It just isn't as fine when everyone hears about it, so I'd keep that little mouth of yours shut."
Cartman leers at him as he passes, and Kyle almost gags at the scent of badly masked sweat. He's almost round the corner at the end of the hall when Kyle opens his mouth.
"How did you even know I was here, anyway?"
"Oh, Kahl," Cartman replies, not even bothering to make eye contact. "All self absorbed pricks take Classic Lit."
And just like that, he's gone.
The bell sounds for final period, and Kyle slips into the crowd entering the classroom, finding a double, empty desk in the middle of the class. There's a couple of faces he recognises; Token and Craig by the window, Annie near the front; but the rest of the class he can't put a name to. The teacher steps in and starts going through material to cover over the term in monotone. Kyle can already sense this is going to be one of his worse classes.
That's before the door cracks open, of course.
"Sorry I'm late. I got caught up at the end of another class." Stan Marsh, still with his stupid acoustic over one shoulder, hands a slip to Mrs Boring and scans the room. Kyle sees the exact moment Stan notices he's there; sees the way Stan's shoulders tense along with the flash of recognition in his eyes.
"Sit next to Broflovski, in the middle. I'm Mrs Beecher, and I will be teaching your Classic Literature class for the rest of the semester."
For a few seconds, it looks like Stan is going to back out of the room, back to the corridor with Kenny holding his hand, but he just stiffens.
Kyle doesn't want him anywhere near him, and he doesn't realise he's digging his fingers into the desk until Stan has finally slouched down the aisle and pulled out the chair next to him, kicking his bag under the table. There's whispers all around them, and Stan edges as far as possible away from his companion, regarding him like cornered prey.
Somehow, they make it through half of the class without any more incidents, even though Kyle can't concentrate at all on the subject matter with the way Stan is sitting, cocooned in a dark blue sweater with his gaze flickering nervously from the board to him, board to him. It puts him on edge.
"Can you all please turn to the first page in your shared texts, please?"
He groans inwardly. With anyone else this would be fine, but shared texts include being closer than half a metre away, and Stan is never going to move anywhere near him. So Kyle takes the book and opens it himself, turning away from the taller boy. It'll be fine if the teacher doesn't notice, which he doubts she will-
"Does the definition of 'shared' fail to reach you, Broflovski?"
He lets out an exasperated sigh. "No, ma'am."
"Apply it to your work, then." She glares pointedly at him, hand on hip, and he starts to reply before Annie cuts him off.
"Can I swap seats with Stan, ma'am?" she queries, an edge of concern to her tone. A few giggles erupt around her, not helped by the little smile on Mrs Beecher's face.
"No. I understand you may want to, well, share your time with Broflovski here, but they need to work out any of their kinks alone." She nods to the book Kyle's holding, and Stan finally moves, pulling his seat a little closer than before. The giggles fade and class continues on.
Half an hour later and the bell rings, prompting Stan to jump up, grab his stuff, and almost sprint out the door, while other students prepare to go home. Kyle is one of the last out, just to be careful, and when he sees Wendy waiting outside the door for him he almost falls into her arms with relief.
"Hey, Wendy." She looks up with a hum of surprise, then smiles, black locks playing against her cheek as she nods in greeting.
"Hi, Kyle. How was was Classic?"
"Shit, until Stan showed up." Wendy lets out a groan as they begin toward the exit and the public bus ride home. Her hand curls around the strap of her backpack as they step into the rain.
"This day just gets better and better, huh?" Wendy says, as they look up into the sky, rain pattering onto their cheeks. "What a place to live in."
"Guess we'll have to make a run for it," Kyle replies, and they do, shoes slapping on damp concrete. It takes them less than a minute to reach the shelter, but by that time they're soaked, along with the rest of the kids waiting for the bus.
"I didn't think he took Classic Literature. He wasn't in it last year." Wendy looks up to meet his eyes, then shrugs.
"I heard about it in my free period with Bebe. Supposedly Kenny told him to take it or something. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that he went along with it."
Kyle cocks his head, confused. "How come?"
The bus rumbles up to the kerb and they step on, finding a couple of spare seats at the back. Most of the kids on the bus aren't in their year, so they continue their conversation.
"He was never really one to follow his own path, you know? Back when we dated in middle, he'd always follow on what I was doing. I didn't have a problem with that, not until the end, but he was so easy to... to roughly put, manipulate, I guess. To a point."
She shrugs, and twiddles her fingers together. "Kenny probably has a reason for it, like as per usual. And Stan was always the type for that kind of class, whether he was pushed to attend or not."
Kyle nods, and turns to the window, not really taking in the pitter patter of the rain against the windows.
"It kind of hurt, you know? How he looked like he was scared of me."
Wendy looks down at the ground, her flats pressed up against his sneakers, and gently, gently presses the palm of her hand flat to his arm.
"Yeah," she whispers. "I know."
The start of summer is approaching and there's spring flowers in her hair, the day that he breaks up with her. They're at the smoothie shop in town, and she asks for vanilla and he asks for the same.
"God, do you ever make your own choices?" she asks him, and it's meant to be a joke but she can see the way his face falls a little. It makes her feel bad, so she leans over and pecks him on the cheek. "Sorry, Stan."
Said boy gives her a weak smile, pays, and accompanies her out of the store and down the street. The sun peeks through the clouds, and it looks like the weather will be getting better, soon.
His house is warm, and Sharon greets her with a smile when she walks in. They curl up on the sofa, hand in hand, somewhat awkwardly. His cheeks are tinged with green where hers are tinged with pink, so she laughs and pulls her hand away.
"Wendy, can I ask you something?" Of course, their first date in months will be ruined by something small like this. She can't help her slump; after weeks of him pulling out on her, he was about to try and pull the same trick.
"Okay," she answers, begrudgingly.
"I don't really know how to say this, but..." He fishes in his pocket and pulls out piece of paper covered in writing. She's excited for a moment in the possibility that it's something he's written for her, then realises the writing is too loopy and cursive to be anything near Stan's chicken scratch. "Kyle gave me this a while ago, and I freaked out, and I was hoping you'd know what to do about it."
He offers her the note and she takes it, scanning it over once, twice, three times before looking back up.
"By freaking out, you mean?" she queries, and he tilts his head like he hasn't understood the question.
"I... I told him I couldn't deal with it. I yelled at him and told him to get out, and he started crying but I-I didn't know what to do." His eyes are rimmed with red, she realises, and his hands are curled into fists. "Just... I care about him, but I can't do that for him. I could never do that." He looks up and he's begging, pleading, but she frowns.
"You're saying he opened himself up to you and you just yelled at him? That's horrible." He makes a choked noise, and she draws back, dropping the note from where it has crumpled in her hand.
"You don't get it, Wendy! I can't just tell him it's okay when it isn't, can I?"
She shakes her head. "You could have at least tried."
"I don't ever want to lie to him."
He sounds defeated, and she almost regrets lashing out at him, but there's a hint of something in his puppy-like gaze that makes her wary. It may not be malicious, but even the gentle hint of something other than his feelings about Kyle is enough to put her on edge.
He looks a lot sadder than usual.
"Hey, can you just go? I don't... I don't think we can do this anymore."
She gets up and strides past him, ignoring the question from Sharon as she runs down the steps, heels of her boots click-clacking on the stone. It's unspoken, but she knows now that he doesn't want her back again, so she turns down the road with determination.
The start of summer is approaching and there's spring flowers in her hair, the day she finds Kyle Broflovski crying in his backyard.
Kyle's house is always pretty quiet on a weekday, with Ike at after school clubs and his dad working at the office down in Denver. The only one that's ever really there is Sheila, but she's out visiting family some 150 kilometres down the interstate. The house is totally silent apart from the jingling of the key in the lock.
"Home sweet home," he says sarcastically, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "Want anything?" He doesn't wait for her reply and pours them both a glass of that shitty sugar-free coke. It's the only type they have in the house, to allow for his diabetes.
"He just has to turn up in the worst places." Wendy says as they traipse up the stairs and into his bedroom, where he falls back into the duvet.
"Yeah. God, if I'm stuck with him there for the rest of the semester, I don't know what I'm going to do."
There's stuff all over Kyle's walls. His mom tells him to take it down pretty much every time she walks into the room, but he refuses to remove it. There's something comforting about the mess of photocopied pages and old photographs that take up the space. His favourite pages of books (and his least favourites) are all pinned to the wall, quotes highlighted in green and blue. He can't remember when he started doing it, though he can distantly recall the page of Shakespeare he put up on New Years Eve, before everything fucked up with Stan.
The memory dries his throat.
"You've got that Geography packet, right?" Wendy asks, bringing him out of his reverie. She's swivelling around in Kyle's desk chair now, feet only just touching the floor.
"Fuck, I don't know."
She laughs, and whips two of the offending item out of her bag, holding them up to the light above her. "I thought you'd forget it." The girl taps the side of her nose and smirks. "I know you more than you think, Broflovski."
Kyle, now sat up, begins to laugh uncontrollably, and is rewarded with a Geography packet to the face.
A few hours later and the two of them have burnt through the remainder of work for the week. There's a muted, constant hum through the wall as Ike speeds through yet another videogame, and the lights are flickering on in the street outside.
"I should probably go," Wendy mumbles, but makes no move to leave their little mountain of duvet that they've been leaning against for the past half hour. The movie playing on Kyle's computer is too bad to bother remembering the name, but there's something calming about hanging out with Wendy after a bad day. The movie drags on through bad story, plotholes and an unsatisfactory ending before the credits roll, and by that time the moon is up and Kyle's clock is flashing 8:16PM.
Wendy pushes herself off the bed and slings on her backpack, stretching her arms up into the air. There's a little crack as she bends her wrist to the side.
"See you tomorrow," Kyle yawns, and she turns back to smile at him, her bag slipping off her shoulder just enough to knock off the cardboard box on his bedside table.
"Oh, Kyle, I'm sorry," she says, bending down to pick it up. Kyle breathes in sharply when she pulls the box away and envelopes are strewn all over the floor.
"Oh, god, I didn't realise those were your... notes."
Wendy seems at a loss as to what to do, but eventually starts to gather them up into her arms, before dropping most of them back into the box, tensing up when Kyle reaches over to hold onto her arm. She looks up at him, and her face falls even more when she sees the tears dotting the corner of his eyes.
Departure forgotten, she crawls back onto the bed with the rest of the envelopes in her hand, which end up strewn over Kyle's chest when she curls up against him. "I'm sorry," she whispers again when he begins to sob, drawing his arm over his face.
He doesn't reply, just shudders and gasps in a pitiful little breath. A little hum of sympathy escapes her and she wraps her hand around his arm.
One of the notes has slipped out of its envelope, and lies on the pillow next to Kyle's head, curled at the edges. He can't read it, and he doesn't want to read it, so he just closes his eyes and lies there, sadness eating at his stomach like a parasite. He hates how easily stupid little things like the notes he wrote when he was thirteen can make him cry, he hates feeling like he can't move on anymore. He doesn't think he'll ever be able to.
Instead of getting up and moving on, they lie there together while Kyle sobs into his sleeve, tears pinching his eyelids together. The warmth of Wendy should comfort him, but he can't think of anything but how long it took him to write those notes, how much time he spent preparing for everything just for it to all crash down onto his shoulders. Now Stan hates him and is probably kissing Kenny right now. He probably hasn't thought a single positive thing about Kyle for two years, which just makes him cry even more.
Wendy leaves him eventually, but promises to call before she goes to sleep, just to check on him. He's grateful that she cares so much about him, because if she didn't he really would be alone.
"You'll be okay, Kyle. You're a good person," she says as she stands in the doorway, silhouetted in the glow from the light out in the hall. Wendy smiles at him, all soft edges and smiles, like usual. "See you tomorrow, right?"
"Right." His voice is all shaky, but he manages a thankful smile even though his cheeks are still damp. Wendy nods, and pulls the door to, footsteps echoing down the stairs.
Thank god for Wendy Testaburger.
Five rounds in and Kyle's fingers are aching, regretting extensively his choice of letting his best friend boot up their childhood favourite fighting game. Once again, 'PLAYER 1 WINS' flashes up on the screen in a brash, pixellated font, and the taller of the two snorts in triumph as Kyle, thoroughly beaten, collapses against the pillow they're sharing. The noise from the New Years party downstairs has faded as the night wears on, drowned out by the tinny 8-bit music playing from the speakers.
'This isn't fair,' Kyle grumbles, propping himself up on his elbow to glare up at his opponent, whose face is lit only by the saturated colours of the TV flashing in front of him.
'Tough love, dude.' Stan looks down at him, then offers a gap-toothed grin. "You'd fucking smash me at anything else. I think it's pretty fair." The redhead laughs.
There's something so alluring about him when he's all wrapped up in the nervous, shaky glee of victory. Kyle can't speak for a moment, caught up in the way Stan is looking at him with some strange, unreadable emotion in his eyes.
"You okay?" Stan asks, after Kyle doesn't speak for a few moments. He's biting the edge of his lip. Kyle nods, and draws himself up so their faces are level once more.
"Hey," he says, quietly. "I can tell you anything, right?"
Stan nods, head tilted in question.
It's in his pocket, he's sure of it. Kyle rummages through the spare change and lint and closes shaking fingers around the piece of paper. It's been folded over six or seven times, and when one of said folds springs open in the palm of his hand he has to stifle a nervous laugh. Stan raises an eyebrow.
"I've been writing this for, uh, a while now. And I know it's written weird, and it isn't as well written as your stupid, poetic shit-" The other boy cuts him off with a snort, taking the note from Kyle's open hand. His stomach flutters with giddy excitement when Stan's hand brushes against his own.
"Dude, spare me the speech."
Stan unfolds the paper with nimble fingers, and begins to scan the lines, furrowing his brows.
"Fuck, it's stupid. I'm sorry." Stan hums his disagreement, though he's beginning to look more and more uncomfortable. There's a distant crash from downstairs and a couple of loud hollers, and the clock on Stan's wall ticks by 2AM.
"You know I can't... do this, right?" Stan whispers quietly, seconds later, and Kyle's heart drops.
"What do you mean?"
"I can't deal with something like this." Stan is beginning to shake, and when Kyle reaches out to touch his arm he jerks away like he's been burnt. Kyle can't help the sharp breath he takes in. "I can't, I'd just fuck it up. I can't fuck stuff up between us and doing something like that would." His voice cracks in the middle of the sentence, and that's when there's hot tears blurring the edges of Kyle's vision. Stan's eyes widen, instinctively reaching over to comfort him but pulling it back almost as soon as he begun to move.
"Stan, I thought-"
Stan covers his ears with his hands, and Kyle bites back his words.
"Fuck, Kyle. Can you just leave? I don't want to, okay? I don't deserve you."
"I thought you said I could tell you anything."
His companion stares at him. "Go away," he mutters, raw emotion clouding his tone.
"I can't just leave-"
"Kyle, just fuck off!" Stan yells, pressing his hands onto his ears. Kyle backs away, something just short of anger coiling in his stomach. "Just get the fuck out of my life if this is all you want!"
"Maybe I will," Kyle says, coolly, barely keeping his voice calm. "If you don't care about me then maybe I will."
He turns away, and kicks open the door, ten steps down the hall before he hears anything more from Stan.
"I can't afford to fall in love with you." It's so poetic and it's so fucking stupid that he runs, taking the stairs two at a time.
"I'm going home!" he screeches at his dad as he passes by, flying out of the door into the snow beyond, tears coming even quicker now that he's alone.
He can't stop replaying Stan's words in his head.
Wendy doesn't like Kenny Mccormick at the best of times. He's always been too loud and perverted, and honestly kind of a douchebag whenever she's been granted with his presence. However, she didn't realise how perceptive he is.
Mondays and Fridays find her stuck in free period, listening to the constant chatter of Kenny, Craig and Clyde in the background. It's just like last year, except this time Kyle isn't around and Craig and Clyde keep holding hands when they think nobody is looking.
A fortnight and a bit after the start of term, Wendy is packing up her stuff when the blond comes up behind her and taps her not-too-lightly on the shoulder.
"Hey, Testaburger," he says, leering, way too close for comfort.
"Yes?" she replies, tart. He yawns, dramatically, exaggerating his slump.
"No need to be sassy. I just want to talk." Final bell begins to ring in the hallway, and the rest of the students pile out of the doorway, buzzing at the prospect of the weekend.
"See you, Kenny!" Clyde calls, and waves with his free hand. Kenny acknowledges him with his own, then turns back to Wendy, running his fingers through his hair. Now that his friends are gone, he looks stressed.
"Here's the deal. I gotta pick up Stan and drive him home, so I'll make this quick." The silence in the classroom is deafening now. Wendy finishes putting her stuff back in her bag and slings it over her shoulder, before giving Kenny her full attention.
"Alright. What do you want?"
He sighs, hoisting himself onto the desk next to her. "Stan told me why you two broke up in freshman year. I don't want to cause trouble or anything, but I don't think you really get why he did what he did."
Wendy opens her mouth to protest, but then takes the smart move and keeps it shut. Kenny looks really out of place in his grubby parka, framed by the fluorescent lights of the room. Wendy knows his family hasn't done well lately, but sometimes she can't find it in her to feel really sorry for the guy, after how rude he can be. She'd like to, but when you find it easy to hold grudges, it's pretty hard to break out of them.
"Stan hasn't.... been perfectly well for a long time," Kenny continues, looking down at his feet. "It's not really obvious, but when you care a lot about someone, you notice stuff about them. Stuff that seems off." Wendy coughs, and her companion looks up.
"I cared about him back then, too," she says, quietly, though it's more of a confirmation to herself then to him. "I didn't think there was anything wrong with him."
Kenny shakes his head and laughs, almost like he's mocking her. "No, no you didn't. I mean when it's somebody you love. In love with. Stan talked about it all the time, about everything that happened. It's not that he didn't love Kyle, it's just that he knew it would never go well if they did something like that. He was protecting himself."
He's right, even though Wendy hates to admit it. Kenny begins to twiddle his thumbs together, sliding off the desk.
"I have to go." His voice is high and awkward as he pushes open the door to the classroom, but Wendy speaks before he leaves.
"Why do you love him?"
"I don't know. What's the point in loving someone if they'll never love you back?" He turns back and smiles at her. "Just lay off him a little, okay? You shouldn't take Kyle's side just because Stan did what he did. It's not like Kyle hasn't been a jerk to him before." He closes the door behind him, leaving Wendy alone in the room, frozen. She frowns and walks out the other way, toward the bus stop. Kenny and Stan hasn't been new for a long, long time, but she never thought it actually meant anything to either of them.
Lying awake for hours has never really appealed to her, but that's what she does for most of the night.
He always liked to think of himself as a superhero. Karen had cottoned onto the fact that he was her mysterious 'guardian angel' in his freshman year, but still fondly called him by his superhero name whenever the subject was brought up.
That's why, when Stan and Kyle have what Cartman liked to refer to as their 'dramatic, chick-flick' breakup, he decides to don his superhero personality once more.
Maybe that would make something of his life.
One year later, they're making out in the back of his dad's truck, his hands up Stan's shirt, playing ever so slowly up his chest. This is the furthest they've ever gone, and there's a heavy heat beginning to coil in the depths of his body. "Kenny," Stan murmurs, right into his ear.
"Stan, I- can I tell you something?" he half-breathes, half-moans, and Stan nods, twisting his hands into Kenny's hair.
"I love you."
Stan stiffens up, shakes his head, and Kenny's face falls. He draws his hands away from Stan, who bites his lip.
"Yeah," he says, awkwardly. "I know."
Maybe Kenny can save other people, but he never seems to be able to save himself.
Fall fades into winter, with little change apart from the slush beginning to fall as snow. The same calls for Monday and Friday's Classic Literature classes; Stan, despondent as ever, continues to avoid Kyle's side of the desk like the plague. No class is really complete without an offhand comment from Mrs Beecher about their lack of teamwork in lessons, though she never makes a move to separate them.
("She always acts like there's some ulterior motive to it," Kyle tells Wendy one night, when they're watching a rerun of a crappy quiz show. "As if there's a method to her madness."
Wendy yawns, and redirects her gaze from the flashing lights of the display to stare almost lazily at him. "Probably something idiotic." )
Then, ten days into November, Stan starts talking to him.
It's the smallest little thing, at first. Kyle swears he would have missed it if it wasn't for Stan looking even more tense than usual, constantly pulling up and down the sleeves of his sweater.
"Can I borrow a pencil?"
He ignores it in shock, then continues to ignore it, turning the other cheek. Why would Stan even want a pencil from someone he'd been so antagonistically avoiding for the past two years? His skin crawls, but he can't help the little twinge of pleasant surprise in his stomach.
Kyle sees Stan turn away out of the corner of his eye, and groans at how immediately the anxiety leaps on him. Beside them is yet another nameless student, though he's distantly recognizable as a member of the football squad. Stan is obviously bargaining with him, with his weird hand gestures and nods of the head, but when he turns back his efforts weren't beneficial because now there's a HB lying on his desk.
"Kyle?" Stan says, almost too quietly for him to hear.
He buries his head in his arms instead of responding.
Their conversations continue over those last periods, each one becoming more daring. Next Monday, Stan borrows both a rubber and a pencil in the same lesson. On Friday, Kyle asks him about something in the text. Each time he leaves class, he feels a bubbling in his throat, just like freshman year all over again.
Then he remembers that Kenny drives Stan home, and they fizz out.
On the first day of December, Wendy and Kyle end up in Tweek Bro's, sipping on peppermint lattes and surveying the menu for something that isn't 'homegrown and organic.' They end up ordering a fair trade chocolate muffin and share it overlooking the stores on the other side of the road.
"Why do you think he's talking to me again?" Kyle mutters, breaking the silence. She bites the inside of her cheek, turning her cup so that the handle faces the window.
"Maybe Kenny told him to," she says, light heartedly, but Kyle frowns at her.
"Ok, ok. Maybe he wants to reconcile with you, or something." Kyle laughs, harsh and loud, and a couple of other costumers turn to look.
"I'd doubt that. He hates me." He stares down into his latte as if it can tell him the answer, whilst Wendy redirects her gaze to the street outside. Nobody is around, which doesn't surprise her. There's never anybody around in South Park.
Snow has begun to fall by the time she turns back to him, turning her spoon round and round in her cup.
"I don't think he hates you. I don't think he ever did."
She taps on the Broflovskis' door once, then twice, and when it opens she demands to see him. Said events lead to her marching outside into the garden, sighting the familiar puff of red hair behind a bush, then walking over and bending down beside him.
"Kyle," she murmurs, when she realizes he's buried his face in his hands. "It's okay." Kyle shakes, both his body and his head, so she wraps him in her arms.
"I fucked up, Wendy. I fucked up and now he hates me." She coos, letting him cry into his shoulder.
"No, no, you didn't. He doesn't hate you. I don't think he ever could. He always talked about you, you know. Until recently." The flowers in her hair have fallen out by now, but she doesn't mourn their passing, just continues to whisper reassurance into Kyle's ear. "It'll be fine, see?"
She doesn't leave, even when Kyle stops sobbing.
"I can stay, if you want." Kyle nods, and so she does.
Kyle Broflovski doesn't get a lot of phone calls.
It's two days after the New Year when his smartphone goes off, and he rolls over and picks it up without checking the caller ID.
"Yeah?" he says in greeting, all groggy from just waking up. There's quiet music in the background of the call, paired with distant shouting.
"Kyle, you busy?" Kyle almost hangs up immediately when he hears Kenny's voice on the other end of the line. Kenny hasn't talked to him for years, and he doesn't exactly want to talk to his ex- best friend's boyfriend. But there's something about the defeated tone in his voice that keeps him on long enough for Kenny to speak up again.
"Look, I know you don't really like Stan anymore, but can you go see him? It's not anything serious, but he just wants to talk to you about something. I don't know what, but you blocked his number so he can't call you."
Kyle hangs up. He gets up, out of bed, and pulls on a random assortment of clothes from his drawer. The cold wind bites at his cheeks as he begins the ten minute walk to Stan's house, collar upturned against the weather. He's dreading walking into his house after this and seeing Stan alone for the first time in two years. But, coupled with that, there's nervous excitement too.
The driveway is empty when he arrives. He clatters up the stairs, but hesitates at the door, two seconds away from knocking. He breathes in, any positive emotions he had dissipating with his confidence. Slowly, he realizes that he shouldn't have come.
The door swings open before he has time to back away.
The first thing he notices about Stan is the dark bags under his eyes, and the second thing is that he's holding a crumpled piece of paper in his fist.
"Kyle." Oh, fuck.
Stan smiles weakly at him, the skin at the corner of his eyes crinkling. "Look, dude. I have to talk to you. Come in?"
It's unsettling how, moments later, Stan stands in the middle of the living room like he's the stranger. Even though they've been talking again for these last few weeks, it's so awkward that Kyle almost turns and runs. The boy who used to be his best friend is all tense, and there's still that horrible, doubting look in his eyes.
"Why are you so scared of me?" Kyle blurts out, then looks away at the carpet when Stan's smile falters. "Sorry, I didn't-"
"No, it's okay. I know you don't understand, not really."
Kyle can't argue with that.
Stan falls back onto the sofa and pats the cushion beside him. Kyle follows without any more prompting, and collapses beside him. The taller rests his head in his hands.
"Do you remember my tenth birthday?"
Of course he remembers. Who wouldn't remember their best friend thinking everything was shit and getting totally drunk off his ass to try and deal with it?
"Of course I do, dude," he murmurs, and Stan seems to deflate.
"Well, you abandoned me after that and well, I don't know, that was such a jerky thing to do. You're an asshole, Kyle, and I don't know what anybody sees in you." He laughs, dragging his hands through his hair. "It fucked me up, okay? And after you know, this-" he shows Kyle the paper he's crumpled up in his hand, "-I didn't know what to do. Because you just walked out on me when I was freaking out, and that- that isn't what friends do." Stan is crying, now, shuddering out little sobs and gasps. "I know I told you to, but I didn't think you'd fucking tear yourself out of my life!" Stan looks up, cheeks red and nose running, so Kyle does the bravest thing he's ever done in his life.
He opens his arms wide.
Stan collapses into him, pressing his face into his shoulder and shaking as Kyle holds him closer. He just keeps muttering Kyle's name over and over again, voice cracking at every syllable, the top of his head brushing Kyle's chin.
"I'm sorry," Kyle whispers, rubbing Stan's back with his hand. "God, I'm so fucking sorry." Stan wails into the fabric of his jacket, still shuddering.
"I never got over that when I was younger, okay? I just panicked when you gave me this and I couldn't be strong about it because if I let myself fall in love with you then you left I wouldn't be able to deal. But I fell in love with you anyway and I don't know what to do!"
The sobbing begins to ease, after what seems like hours. Stan straightens up and draws his sleeve over his face. Kyle sighs, and the noise prompts the older boy to gaze at him, more heart-wrenchingly sad than scared.
"I know I can't excuse myself for what I did. Shit, I'm sorry." He's tearing up, so he breathes in and out to stop himself from crying.
"No, no, you can't. But you can try again, if you want," Stan says, drawing his knees up to his chest. "Just, don't hate Ken, okay? He was just trying his best. I hate to say it, but he was my rebound, I guess. I feel like shit for everything he went through because of me."
"Did you ever finish your paper cranes?" Kyle asks, quietly, and Stan shakes his head.
"This was going to be my final one," he replies, nodding toward the note Kyle had written him so long ago. "I didn't think I deserved to fold it."
Kyle shakes his head. "Yeah, you do. You deserve to be happy, and folding those cranes always seemed to make you feel better." Stan stares at him for a few moments, then begins to fold the square with deft fingers.
The crane is perfect, and Kyle feels envious of how well practiced Stan has become of them. Said boy holds up the little paper bird to the sky and whispers something under his breath.
"Do you want me to stay?"
Stan swallows, drily, curls his fingers around Kyle's wrist like he's his lifeboat.
The muffled sound of the wind through the windows sounds like thousands of little paper cranes floating on the breeze.
Stan Marsh is depressed, and has been for a long time. They sat outside his house on the day he was put onto antidepressants, just the two of them, Stan with his head on Kyle's shoulder and a bottle in his hand.
"People say these don't even work." Stan quotes, rattling the pills in their container. Kyle's heart sinks. They start high school soon, and the leaves are only just beginning to fall. "I don't know, though, until I try."
"Stan, dude. What's that thing about that girl?"
The boy perks up visibly, and Kyle smiles at him.
"There was a girl in WWII who got diagnosed with leukemia, right? From the radiation of the bombs. So, she was in hospital, and there was an old legend in Japan that if you folded one thousand paper cranes you'd be granted a wish from God. So, she made a thousand of them, and even when her wish didn't come true, she kept going."
"I think that's cool, though."
Stan tips his head, black hair brushing his cheeks. "Yeah?"
"She kept going even though there wasn't really a point. She continued to believe in herself, even though there wasn't a goal, anymore."
He smiles a little.
"Maybe I should make some paper cranes."
If you enjoyed this story, remember to check out the original artwork that inspired it!