It was common knowledge with the young and the restless in South Park that parties and Kyle Broflovski were just two things that shouldn't be mixed, like tequila and whiskey, or ammonia and bleach.

Though wild and crazy teen parties were scarce in a hum drum town like South Park, those that did have the audacity to spring up and attempt to rattle the slumbering mountain town inevitably did not include the likes of Kyle, and he was fine with that. He had more to worry about in his life than being "cool" enough to invite to rambunctious house parties, like whether or not his next report card would meet his mother's stringent standards. When it came to his school clique of choice, he was a thoroughbred nerd, (he was well aware of it, too) and he was used to the idea that he was simply not "cool" enough to participate in some things. He didn't especially want to be either, not after seeing his friends Stan and Kenny return from these events stumbling and puking and looking the very antithesis of "cool," and especially not after the single party he had ever attended had ruined much of his teenage life as a result.

Nothing changed much even after he shed the sleepy spell of South Park and migrated to Denver to pursue higher education. Beyond the reach of his iron-fisted mother, Kyle nevertheless continued to drown himself in his studies and deftly avoid fraternities and keg parties. He had big plans when he entered university; he wanted to be a psychiatrist, which wasn't as glamorous as the surgeon or defense attorney his parents had wanted to be, but was still sufficiently respectable enough that they had no complaints. Even so, this path required discipline, dedication, and as little distraction as possible, and of course that meant that Kyle once again found himself either passing or being passed over on invitations to parties.

Around him there eventually grew an entire sport dedicated to his well renown status of being the ultimate homebody nerd. The pool got as high as $700 to the lucky guy who could convince Kyle Broflovski to attend a "party," the definition of which being clearly defined in writing and with plenty of clarification. For the entirety of his undergraduate years, the pool remained unclaimed.

Oblivious to his reputation and the game surrounding his quiet persona, Kyle remained diligently uncool in every way, and eventually attained his associate's degree. He was looking forward to another few long years of school until he got his master's, (at least, at first; he intended to work up to his doctorate eventually) but after receiving a milestone like his first college degree, Kyle decided to lay off the steam for a hot minute and enjoy some time off. The holidays were at hand, and Kyle made the long drive from Denver to celebrate Hanukkah with his family.

When he arrived, he found the town was pleasantly empty. Without even a community college anywhere within forty miles, most of the young adults of Kyle's generation had migrated to the outside world. Some came back for the holidays and some simply never left, but either way, things were nice and quiet, and he was just fine with that.

Unbeknownst to him, the old McCormick house was due for demolition that following week after his arrival. All of the McCormicks had abandoned ship, (Kenny was couch hopping with those who had made the frugal but costly decision to forgo college, and the rest of his family had dispersed in one direction or another) and the place was a dilapidated decomposing heap of shit just across the old train tracks on the far east of town. There was graffiti and vandalism galore on that house, and the city had finally had enough of the eyesore plaguing its otherwise "upstanding" township.

Of course, to anyone with half a brain in their head, (or perhaps a lack thereof) this made the McCormick house the perfect (if not the only) spot to host a holiday reunion party. With so few options for house parties on such short notice, why waste a perfectly good, if slightly decaying, empty old house?

Kenny himself took on the responsibility of clearing out the place and making it presentable. A generator was obtained and some lights were strung up and some heaters scattered around, and there was even a decent assortment of just barely edible food and questionable but drinkable liquor readily available. Maybe it wouldn't be glamorous, but then house parties in South Park were never glamorous, and as long as there was some way to get good and drunk, no one ever really cared.

Now, Kenny had never hosted a party before, but he quickly realized that the usual crowd was not going to be there to fluff the numbers of an already scarce guest list. Token was across the country in some hoity-toity Ivy League university, Stan was in New Zealand touring with Lorde for her holiday extravaganza, and most other people had had the good sense to simply not return to South Park during their coveted winter break.

With the pickings so slim and the list so short, Kenny reached out and invited anyone he could think of that still remained in South Park and was roughly around their age group, including his good old friend Kyle.

It was the first night of Hanukkah, about a week or so before Christmas. Kenny had obviously forgotten this, because the first call began chiming in the middle of the blessing, and the second call came immediately after it had finished. Kyle got an earful from his mother about this, even when he assured her as he stepped away that it was some professor of his, likely calling about a dire matter regarding some essay he had turned in the previous week.

When he stepped outside and finally answered the phone, he answered sharply. "You better have a damn good reason for calling me right in the middle of the Shehecheyanu."

Kenny was silent for a moment before saying in a slightly nonplussed tone, "Gesundheit?"

"The blessing, asshole. It's the first night of Hanukkah tonight."

"Oh, shit dude, I'm sorry!" To his credit, Kenny sounded genuinely and profusely apologetic. "I didn't even look at the calender or anything, jeeze, I'm an idiot. Sorry."

"You are an idiot," Kyle confirmed, but with no malice. His anger already abated, he just wrapped his free arm around himself and shivered into his old, ratty jacket; he had a feeling his mother would be giving him a sweater as his first gift that night, and for the first time in his life, he would actually really appreciate it. College made you appreciate the simple things like that.

A moment or two passed and Kenny didn't seem to know whether it was safe to talk yet, and so to ease the tension, Kyle asked in a much more genial tone, "So what's up? Didn't know you were even still in town."

"You'd know if you bothered to hit up your old best friends once in a while," Kenny chided.

Kyle repressed a snort. "We've barely spoken since middle school," he replied dryly. Which was harsh, but true; their gang had fallen apart for various reasons, and at least one of those reasons was entirely Kyle's fault. He preferred not to think about it, but it was an annoyingly overt fact of his life.

"Middle school, high school, it's really all practically the same, isn't it?"

"Not exactly."

"I mean, hey, that's no reason to be weird around friends! We're all still pals, right?"

Kenny's airy chatter was beginning to peeve Kyle, and so, bluntly, he informed him, "I don't have any money to lend you."

"Ouch, jeeze, okay, stereotype much? I'm not trying to bum anything off of you. I was going to try to be friendly and extend an invitation, but if you're gonna be a giant douche about it, it's cool. If anyone asks, I'll cover for you."

Kyle uneasily felt like maybe he ought to leave it at that; it was cold and it was the first night of Hanukkah and he had barely talked to Kenny in half a decade, but something tempted him to ask, "What are you talking about?"

"My old house is being torn down," Kenny informed him. "You know, the one across the train tracks?"

"The one your dad built himself and is somehow still standing despite every law of physics in existence? Yeah, I'm familiar."

"Well, that ol' baby's gonna be saying sayonara soon."

Not really certain whether this was intended to be sad, momentous, happy, or some weird mixture of the three, Kyle hesitantly said, "Congratulations."

Kenny continued, "I figured since we were all here in town you know, we could have like a bit of a reunion, you know, like a get together to send the old girl off. What do you think?"

"And you're inviting me?" Kyle asked, unable to hide the incredulous tone in his voice.

"Sure!" said Kenny, as chipper as could be, no hesitation whatsoever.


"Well, you know, you used to come over and play all the time at my place-"

Kyle interjected, "My mother forced me to go there in hopes of contracting chicken pox."

"Oh, come on, dude. Don't be a stick in the mud. When's the last time you even went to a party? Was that last time the last time?"

Kyle did not answer. Kenny took this as some sort of concession.

"You gotta stop obsessing with the past, man. Come on, all our old buddies are gonna be there, or anyone who's still around anyway."

"Our old gang?" Kyle asked, hesitantly.

Warily, Kenny began correcting himself. "Uh, well, Stan's in New Zealand and Cartman's in...uh, New York...? I don't know, he's off fucking shit up somewhere, Cartman style. But a bunch of other people are gonna be there, like Bebe and all them."

"'All them,' huh?"

Kenny was starting to sound peeved himself. "Ain't you the least bit curious what everyone's up to after all this time?"

"We only graduated high school like, a little over two years ago," Kyle reminded him.

"Yeah, but you wouldn't believe what people get up to in two years. There's some messy shit and tales to tell, don't even get me started -"

Kyle was about to inform him that he didn't exactly care, but he heard his mother angrily calling for him and advising him that Hanukkah was family time and that she was losing her patience. At that point he just wanted to get Kenny off the phone, whatever that took.

"Look, when is all this?" Kyle interrupted him.

"Um, like, next week. Christmas night or something."

"You people don't have like, I don't know, Christmassy things to do?"

"All of that junk is on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. By evening, the 25th is a major snoozefest and everyone's looking for some action."

Kyle heard his mother's stern warning from inside again, and he just spat out, "Alright, okay, I'll go."

"25th, after sundown," Kenny reminded him quickly.

"Sure, sure. See you then."

Kyle hung up and thought nothing more of it as he hastily scurried back inside; his mother's wrath had a habit of erasing everything else from his mind until he had calmed the storm. Maybe later he would regret it, but at the moment, his only regret was having kept his mother waiting for so long.

Besides, he felt like Kenny would have told him if Wendy was going to be there. He hadn't spoken to Kenny in a long time and they had never really been close friends to begin with, but he was pretty sure that Kenny wasn't that much of a dick. Pretty sure, anyway.

Kenny, on the other line, was stunned dumb. He remained on the line for so long after Kyle hung up that his phone eventually hung up for him, and even then it was another few seconds before he let it drop from his ear.

"Well?" said Bebe. One of those few choice souls remaining in South Park, (though not for long, she claimed; she was just waiting for her "big break," whatever that meant) she was assisting Kenny with some of the cleaning up around the place.

"He agreed," Kenny informed her slowly. Bebe made an indignant noise in her throat.

"I told you he would. Poor guy. The only reason he never showed up anywhere before was because you guys never invited him."

"He never wanted to go," Kenny insisted. "Not after the last time."

"That was forever ago! Are you all really still holding onto a grudge about that?"

"I'm not, but some people are," Kenny muttered. He still held his phone out in his hand, still scarcely believing it. He was starting to get excited. "Bebe, this is monumental. Kyle is coming to a party. Do you think we can get him drunk? What would he even be like drunk? Would he fight? Cry? Make an ass of himself?" Kenny had a look on his face that suggested he had won some sort of lottery, but Bebe was unimpressed.

"What's monumental is the mold you've let accumulate on the walls," she snipped back.

"I don't live her anymore," he reminded her, and he gestured around him. The walls were barren and the only furniture that was left was a dining room table and the odd mismatched chair here and there. It looked like no one had lived in it for some time, and they hadn't.

She just shook her head and threw him a rag soaked in something that reeked of chemicals; his nose wrinkled up as soon as he caught it. "Help me scrub some of this off. Sweet Jesus, I can't believe you're actually hosting a party here..."

"You got any better ideas?" Kenny retorted. "Maybe your parents would love to have us over-"

"Not after the flaming Dr. Pepper incident," she replied grimly.

"Kenny did warn you that the flames would get pretty big," interjected someone from the kitchen. By their bored and slightly disinterested tone, it was obvious that they had already expressed this sentiment repeatedly and were accustomed to being ignored.

"You didn't have to light a whole bottle on fire," Bebe snapped towards the voice.

From the kitchen, Craig emerged, his jacket sleeves rolled up to his elbows and something unnaturally black and grimy all over his hands. He was vainly attempting to wipe this mysterious blackness off with a rag, hardly paying any attention to the other two. He said, shortly, "You told me you wanted to see flames. I gave you flames. This is not my fault."

Bebe just threw her hands up in the air and made a loud noise of disgust. She decided her time was better spent scrubbing mold; at least it was more reasonable than the two boys.

"Who's coming, now?" Craig asked, absently moving on to Kenny while he continued attacking his hands with the rag, to no avail.

"Kyle," Kenny informed him proudly. "I had to finagle it and really twist his arm a bit --"

"He hardly put up a fight," Bebe shot over her shoulder.

"-- well, it wasn't exactly a cake walk," Kenny finished in a mumble. "But anyway, he's coming."

Craig's eyebrows cocked up and locked there. He frowned thoughtfully at Kenny for a moment, and then turned to Bebe, though she couldn't see him. "He's telling the truth?"

"As far as I know," she answered, still more focused on scrubbing the walls into submission than dealing with those two.

Kenny just grinned at Craig and held up his free hand, and he rubbed his index and thumb together nice and slow. Craig got the gist, and with a sigh, he reached into his pocket and recovered his wallet, (trying to touch as little of it as possible with the black grime still on his fingers) and he fished out a twenty. He threw it unceremoniously at Kenny, who had to dive to catch it.

"Why do I get roped up into stupid bets with you over useless shit?" Craig grumbled as he put his wallet away again.

"Because you hate being wrong," Kenny answered cheerfully. He pulled the twenty at both ends and spread it out for both of them to see, and he made a show of deeply inhaling over it as though savoring some delectable aroma.

"Hmph," grunted Craig. He promptly segued into his next question. "Are we done yet? It's already dark and I can barely see anything.

Bebe responded wryly. "We need to get this all done, and we all work daytime schedules. You do the math."

"Why bother even cleaning up the place? It's going to be demolished, and no one cares if it's a little dirty."

"It's filthy," she replied, as though perhaps he were missing this point somehow and the presence of it eliminated all debate. "We can't host a party in this. Are you kidding me?"

Craig just sighed in response, and he let the rag fall limply to his side as he sulked back into the kitchen. His hands looked no cleaner than when he had emerged, and his mood showed no improvement either.

Kenny finally got up off his ass and put his phone away in his back pocket, and he balled up the chemical soaked rag Bebe had thrown him. Unlike his sour-tempered friends, he was whistling and determined to remain in a cheery mood as he worked. He had convinced Kyle Broflovski to attend a party; that was some true monumental shit, whether Bebe thought so or not. He looked forward to fucking with him, playfully of course.

Wendy liked looking at snow, but she definitely didn't like being in it. Bundled up in a heavy coat, scarf, and gloves made of some sort of thrifty and probably organic material, she stood alone on the street corner directly outside the bus station, waiting diligently for her ride. She had been waiting for twenty minutes, (and Wendy was certainly keeping track; make no mistake) but in this sort of cold, she thought, it may as well have been an hour. Her fingers and toes were numb as could be, and she couldn't stop shivering. She could just barely see her breath in the darkness, but beyond that, nothing but buildings and snow-cast shadows. It was, unquestionably, a glorious return to her home town.

Wendy was one of those eager young birds who had made a point of leaving South Park as early as possible. After skipping a grade early on, she had fast tracked her way through her basic education as fast as a girl could in a little redneck town that didn't even offer a basic physics course in its high school curriculum.

It had been three long years since she'd left the town and never looked back, and she was pretty pleased with her progress so far. With regular grants from the government and a little know-how, she'd easily achieved her associate's and was studying sociology. She even had a decent enough job to be squirreling some money away now and then. In a second-rate California school, where the winter was little more than a good breeze now and then, she'd already forgotten the bitterness of the South Park winters. And like the snow, she didn't mind so much looking at South Park, but she definitely didn't like being in it.

Hands still quivering, she reached into her coat pocket and stiffly grabbed hold of her phone. It was an older model and she was due for an upgrade, but Wendy never cared much about those sort of things. It served its purpose well enough.

She located Bebe in her contacts, initiated the call, and shakily put the phone to her ear. Unfortunately, the effort was wasted. The phone only rang twice before she saw headlights sprinting down a side street a block over before they jumped onto the main street and headed right towards the bus station, and by association, Wendy.

Sighing, Wendy ended the call and dropped the phone back into her coat pocket. Her scarf had slipped down a little, and she pulled it back up over her frozen nose with one hand and reached down for her small luggage bag with the other. Her fingers could barely grasp the plastic grip, but once she got hold of it, she lifted it easily. There wasn't much inside; she didn't intend to stay cooped up in South Park for very long, not if it meant dealing with her parents for longer than the holidays necessitated.

The car, a sporty red Camaro, came to a screeching halt in front of her. Bebe promptly leaped from the car the moment it was in Park, and the apologies came pouring out before Wendy could so much as greet her. "Oh, Wendy I'm so sorry!" she gushed. "I can't even believe I lost track of time like that; I was cleaning up this bozo's house and I didn't even remember that you were getting in today and I was just so absorbed in cleaning and all of a sudden I looked up and it was already eight! I hope you weren't waiting for too long," she concluded sheepishly.

Despite herself and her shivering aggravation, Wendy simply replied, "Don't worry; I've handled cold before. And it wasn't really that long." Bebe was plainly remorseful, and she figured there was no sense in causing rifts with one of the few friends she had left in South Park. She even managed a little smile, though her face felt like it was carved in ice. She realized belatedly that Bebe couldn't even see her mouth, and her smile quickly fell again. It was too damn cold for this.

Bebe just nodded and exhaled a thin and annoyed sigh, likely more at herself than at Wendy. She got the feeling that Bebe was frustrated at something, and she also felt like it wasn't her. "That all you got?" she asked, gesturing at Wendy's small bag.

"Yup," she assured her. "You know me, travel light."

Bebe just gave a curt nod towards the car. "Then come on girlie; it's like hell froze over out here and I don't even know what you're wearing."

"Organic cotton."

"It looks like you pulled up some coat from Goodwill or something, Jesus."

"College students need to be frugal sometimes, you know."

"You're lecturing me about being frugal when you go out of your way to buy organic clothes."

During this friendly bickering, they both hurried back into the warm car and slammed the doors. Bebe hadn't even shut the engine off, so the air was blowing nice and hot when they settled in. She turned down her music, (some loud, plucky pop singer Wendy didn't recognize) and rubbed her hands together in front of her air vents.

"You couldn't have picked a worst night Wend!" Bebe said as she put the car in drive and started off. "I think this is the coldest we've had this winter so far. Hope it's not this fucking cold on Christmas."

"Me too," Wendy replied earnestly. "California doesn't get anywhere near this cold; you can still go to the beach back home."

"Has the west coast spoiled you?" Bebe tittered.

Already feeling warmer and as a result more good-natured, Wendy just chuckled and said, "Maybe." And wasn't that the truth; Wendy intended to spend as much time indoors as humanly possible for the next week. Still, she attempted to trudge on and be optimistic for Bebe's sake; Bebe never did appreciate her pessimism. "At least here on Christmas, you can just stay bundled up inside all day, drinking hot chocolate by the fire. It sounds lovely now that I haven't done it for a long time."

"Oh, jeeze Wendy, haven't I told you yet?" Bebe sounded surprised.


"There's a party on Christmas, you know, like Christmas night when there's nothing going on." Bebe was going nice and slow and paying more attention to the road than she normally would, what with Wendy in the car and all, but she didn't fail to catch the look that Wendy gave her for that comment. "What?" she added indignantly.

"Bebe, you're like one of the smartest people I know," she began, and Bebe sighed, loudly, obnoxiously, already well aware of where this was going. Wendy ignored her dramatic response and continued. "Why are you still rotting away in this damn town? Going to juvenile parties and, what, getting third rate acting gigs as Extra #8?"

"Acting is a slow process, Wendy," Bebe said, testily. "You need time, patience, and dedication to make it work. It's just like any other job."

"I just-" she began, but Bebe wasn't having it.

"You're in town for one week, Wendy," she said firmly. "Don't you spend it worrying about me and whether I'm 'wasting my brains' or whatever. I won't tolerate it."

Wendy just leaned back in her seat and sighed. Bebe hadn't yet turned down the heat, and it was still blasting directly into her face; soon she thought she might actually start sweating. She pulled the scarf down and let it hang around her neck, and she unbuttoned the top of her coat too to allow a little air flow. Thankfully the town was as small as ever, and they would probably be arriving at her parents' house within a few minutes.

Of course, after all that, Wendy simply wasn't one to let things go. But she opted to pursue it in a more tactful fashion. "Have you had any interesting roles lately?" she asked.

"Nothing in six months," Bebe lamented, and Wendy bit her tongue. "But I'm expecting a callback after the holidays!"

"Best of luck," Wendy replied, though even she was aware that she didn't sound terribly enthused.

"But anyway," Bebe said, waving the previous topic away flippantly, "like I said, there's this party on Christmas, and I've been working my tush off the past few days to get the place ready."

"Your parents are letting you have a party after the Flaming Dr. Pepper incident?"

"That was not my fault and you know it."

"I wasn't there, so I wouldn't," Wendy answered with a knowing smile.

Bebe just grumbled something indecipherable and continued, "Nah, it's at Kenny's old place. They really let it go to shit after they left, and it's getting torn down like, right after the holidays. So he's giving it a send-off party or something, you know, bidding adieu to all of those cherished memories."

Wendy chortled. "I'll bet he can't wait to see it torn to pieces."

"He's told me more than once he plans to get a front row seat and play 'Taps' on air trumpet," she told her tiredly. "Boys," she huffed afterward.

"Naturally," Wendy agreed. "Are you two-"

Bebe cut her off with a swift and deadly, "Don't even ask."


Bebe pulled up on the side of the road outside Wendy's childhood home; one of the cars was snugly tucked away in the garage, but the other was occupying the driveway, and there was nowhere else for her to park.

"You'll have to walk through some snow," she said apologetically. "Sorry, girlie."

"It's fine." Wendy buttoned up her coat again and put an anticipatory hand on the passenger door handle, but Bebe stopped her before she could leave.

"So, are you coming?" she prompted.

"Coming to what?"

"The party," Bebe reiterated in an exasperated voice. "Sure there's gonna be some liquor and stuff and I know you aren't into that, but I'd still like for you to come just for company. You stopped hanging out with us before you left, and this might be the last time you can see everyone since you're all busy with college life."

"Everyone?" Wendy repeated.

"Not Stan," Bebe corrected quickly. "He's touring New Zealand with Lorde. But you never minded Kenny much, and Heidi and Annie will be there, and Jason too."

Wendy still looked unsure; she was biting her tongue and sort of glaring at the dashboard. "I'm only here for a week to spend time with my parents," she said. "I didn't really plan to do a lot of catching up. At most I figured maybe just you and I could hang out sometimes, go shopping, you know."

"Who says we can't do that? We can do that all week and then hang out at the party. You don't even have to hang out with everyone else; just say hi and do five minutes of life story with some people and then come hang out with me." Then, she added, as though she'd entirely forgotten, "Oh, and Kyle's going to be there."

Wendy looked up at her with nothing less than pure bewilderment. "Kyle?"

"Yup, he agreed to come."

"How on earth did you get Kyle agree to go to a party?" she demanded in astonishment.

Bebe just gave her a coy look and began twisting a lock of her tightly curled hair around her finger. "Hey, I guess even kosher boy likes to have fun sometimes. It wouldn't hurt you to take his lead," she suggested.

Wendy needed a good full minute of mulling it over to make her decision, and in the end, it was a good shiver brought on by a hard gust of wind that made the decision for her. "Alright," she agreed. "Only if you'll pick me up and promise to spend time with me, and only if you don't pressure me to drink."

"You bet, girlie!" Bebe said happily. She blew Wendy a kiss, but Wendy, nowhere near as bold, just waved. "I'll talk to you soon! Enjoy your parents' company," she joked.

"Joy," Wendy said dryly as she turned and headed up the driveway, already starting to regret her hasty decision. She almost always did when it came to people in South Park, especially when it came to Kyle.

The week passed slowly and uneventfully. The ramshackle McCormick place was done up with some lights and the main areas they planned to hold the party were actually almost clean, though the carpet, as decrepit as it was, remained stained in various patches with who even knew what.

Kyle had all but forgotten about the party by the time Christmas rolled around. Christmas was never exactly a momentous occasion, although in this circumstance, Hanukkah had ended on Christmas Eve, and so Kyle was at least aware of it. But he had plans of ordering Chinese food and sitting around watching horror movies in the living room while his mom yelled at him about not spilling any food on her new couch, and these plans were thoroughly dashed when, on Christmas night, Kyle's phone began to ring. All at once he remembered, and when he pulled out his phone and saw Kenny's name, front and center, he couldn't help but groan.

The odds of getting out of it were minimal, he decided. Besides, what was the worst that could happen? Stan wasn't going to be there, Wendy wasn't going to be there, and thank whatever god of your choice that Cartman wasn't going to be there. It would probably be fine; hell, might even be dull. South Park parties weren't really headline material.

"About time!" Kenny assaulted him as soon as he answered his phone. "Christ, what took you so long? You didn't forget, did you? It's almost sundown."

"No," Kyle lied. "I'm just still getting ready." He was already getting out of his house lounging clothes and into something more socially appropriate. He very nearly put on the new Hanukkah sweater his mother had given him, but at the last second he had a moment of clarity and opted out of it. He wasn't quite that socially oblivious. He chose a light green jacket instead, although he planned to grab a trenchcoat to throw on top of it before he left. It was actually a little warmer than it had been the week prior, but it was still plenty cold enough.

"Alright, well, I just wanted to make sure you were still coming."

"I am," Kyle assured him.

"Okay, well, cool. And by the way, just letting you know; I guess Bebe is bringing Wendy."

Kyle was in the middle of pulling on his sneakers, and he froze, one foot laced up and the other not even fully into the footwear. "Wendy's in town?" he asked slowly.

"Yeah, uh, I forgot to tell you. Bebe invited her like, the night after I talked to you. That's why I thought you'd ditched."

Kyle repressed a groan and let his shoe drop from his hand to the floor. He started to say, "Kenny-" but he couldn't even properly express himself over the phone.

"Look, I know things got a little awkward last time-"

"A little?" he repeated dryly.

"But that was like, high school bullshit man. We're adults now."

"Yeah, and we can't even legally drink."

"And I'm sure she's forgotten all about it," Kenny concluded sternly. "So you need to buck up and shut up, have a few beers, take a few shots, maybe chase some girls. There's at least a couple swinging by tonight who are worth your time. Have some fun for once, dude."

Kyle just tiredly rubbed his eyes and thought of all the ways he could easily just say, "No thank you; I won't be attending," but in the end, peer pressure won, and he just wound up grumbling, "I'm going to kill you one day, Kenny."

"Get in line," Kenny joked. He sounded a lot happier with this response than Kyle thought was necessary. "See you soon?"

"Will do."

Kenny was right, Kyle ultimately determined. It was old high school bullshit that didn't matter any more. He was an adult. There was no reason to be annoyed by this development and there was no reason not to enjoy this party as much as possible.

Bebe was actually early picking her up, although for once, Wendy would have preferred that she'd be late.

She didn't wear anything special; just a pink turtleneck and a red scarf that caused Bebe plenty of angst over color coordination, and her long thick coat that Bebe advised her to leave behind in the car once they pulled up the dirt road leading to the old McCormick place.

"Won't it be cold in there?" Wendy asked. "The house can't have electricity any more, and it's freezing outside.

"We planned for that!" Bebe informed her happily. "We spent all week getting this place ready. We've got a generator and a bunch of space heaters plugged up and blasting. Even without a coat you'll probably be too warm."

Wendy conceded and let her coat in the trunk, although she felt vulnerable without it. She walked just slightly behind Bebe up the dirt path that lead to the patio, and they could already hear and see a ruckus inside with the door propped open.

The lighting was mostly dictated by flashing Christmas lights strung along the walls, giving the effect of a sort of pseudo-cheapo rave. The music was loud and of the same sort of bubblegum pop Bebe listened to; she even giddily assured Wendy as they went in that she had personally set up the playlist, and Wendy merely smiled.

Inside was a line of mismatched tables standing side by side, (some taller than others) bearing food and drink, and mostly various half-empty bottles of liquor (likely swiped from the stores of parents) and the occasional two liter of soda.

Of course, Wendy didn't drink liquor or soda, but she wasn't about to complain about this to Bebe. The moment she'd entered the house she'd become the life of the party, (as far as she was concerned) and she was practically glowing as she dove in and out of a dozen conversations at once and seemed to be almost dancing light as air simply by walking. So Wendy just contentedly followed her around and smiled and laid low, and she didn't even get a glimpse of Kyle.

On one hand she sort of wanted to talk to him; they had never really found any closure for what had happened before, and she wondered if it bothered him still as much as it bothered her. She never liked leaving things unfinished like that; it just wasn't in her. But she was also afraid of what he would say, and she worried that maybe some things were just better left unsaid.

Kyle didn't see Wendy there at all, although to be fair he wasn't looking very hard. Compared to some house parties he'd heard tales of, this one was actually very small, only two dozen people or so. But Wendy seemed content to avoid him, and he was content to do the same.

He couldn't find anything to drink that wasn't horrible. The liquor stash was of the lowest possible quality, and probably not a single bottle there worth more than fourteen dollars, although Kenny tried to push a number of things on him. He took one shot of some sort of foul smelling gin and sampled a beer or two, but it didn't take long for him to figure out that getting drunk was just not on his agenda tonight.

Unfortunately, Kenny was very insistent about him at least attempting to get drunk. According to Kenny, this seemed to be a prerequisite for partying and he was missing out if he didn't at least try, although again, to be fair, there wasn't much else to do. So Kyle poured some Coke in a Solo cup and claimed it was a rum and Coke, and Kenny left him alone.

He and Kenny caught up for a bit, which was nice, although Kenny didn't have much to report. South Park was still the same dreary pit of despair it had always been, and their old friends had moved on to bigger and better things.

"And when do you plan to move on?" Kyle bluntly asked Kenny when he had gone a full ten minutes without talking about himself once.

"I will," he assured him with a little wink and a nod into the crowd. It wasn't very crowded, but Kyle could only just barely see his target: Bebe, her curly blonde mane of hair a spotlight in the crowd.

"You're still after her?"

"Nope, already got her."

"Really," Kyle said without much exhilaration. Relationship drama was something he had left behind in high school, so he merely said, "Congrats." He hoped Kenny wouldn't elaborate on the inevitable romance novella agony it had taken to achieve this status, but he went onto something worse instead.

"Yup. We're going into porn together," he announced proudly. Kyle suspiciously glared at him in response, but the Cheshire smirk didn't fade.

"Porn?" Kyle repeatedly dubiously. "I thought Bebe was an actress?"

"Yes," Kenny confirmed. "And we're going to do porn together. Porn needs actors, don't it?"

"Since when would Bebe agreed to be in a porno with you?"

"Oh, well, she don't really like telling people about it..." Kenny suddenly went very pale and he cleared his throat several times. "Actually, you know, I probably shouldn't have told you that."

Kyle scoffed, "You're a piece of work; I swear."

"Hey, don't tell anyone okay? Like, you know, she'll be all mad at me."

"I wonder why," Kyle said sarcastically.

"It's this damn motor oil man," he exclaimed, holding up the mysterious contents of his own Solo cup. "Sometimes you say dumb stuff when you're drunk, you know?" He just smiled innocently at Kyle, but Kyle didn't buy it one bit, and he simply shook his head.

"I was wrong; I ain't gonna kill you one day: Bebe is."

"Well, like I said: get in line." Kenny awkwardly scratched the back of his head and then glanced around for a quick change of topic. "Hey, you wanna go play some beer pong? I'm pretty sure there's a table set up in the kitchen."

Kyle just sighed and polished off his Coke. He was at a party, he decided; he may as well at least try to play along. He'd never played beer pong before.

Wendy actually had a better time than she'd been anticipating, or at least she did for the first ten minutes or so. Everyone was very polite at first, although she couldn't remember talking to most of them since middle school. They all asked her thoughtful questions about what she was doing and she asked them in return and pretended to be interested in their tales of slugging along in fast food and other menial jobs. Onesies and twosies had kids on the way, and at least one had one already. Having children at twenty years old in this day and age! She almost couldn't believe it, but then again this was South Park.

It was after the initial excitement that Wendy found herself growing weary of the whole practice as the minutes dragged on and on, up came an hour and then time kept going. She floated from conversations and skirted along anyone "dancing" and observed people playing drinking games, but she could never find anything that she really enjoyed doing. The social aspect of partying seemed to be all about how drunk everyone could get so they could pretend they were having fun. From an outsider's perspective, it was very dull watching people stumble around, talk loudly, and then laugh at themselves over their drunkenness. Even Bebe wound up slipping away to do "just a few shots," she said, although Wendy suspected by the way that the rest of the party goers were sucking down liquor that taking even a few shots wouldn't take that long.

Not to mention that, while Wendy at first thought she was being paranoid, she became very certain that there were people talking about her behind her back. She would pass someone by and smile at them, and they would smile back, but then the faint sound of giggles and whispers would trail along after her, and it began to make her uneasy. She knew she was unpopular among this crowd, and she was starting to think that, even for Bebe's sake, there was no sense in her staying.

As Bebe had promised, the place was actually a little too warm for Wendy's liking, and it was also a little rank. The place seemed clean enough, but there was some unpleasant stench seeping through from somewhere in the house, and when combined with the various odors of the party goers, Wendy began to find it impossible to breathe after a while.

In search of fresh air, she headed for the front door, still propped open to let in the cool air. As she got closer, she realized that there was someone sitting at the stoop, and as she drew even closer, she recognized him by his hair alone, curly and red as ever. Kyle was there, quietly steaming to himself in the cold. Go figure.

Kyle was muttering under his breath and rubbing his eyes tiredly with one hand, and with the other he was busy soaking up some liquid on his pants with a rag. He didn't seem drunk or anything; he wasn't swaying or rocking, and when his hand fell from his face to his side again, he didn't move thickly or clumsily. He also didn't seem to even notice her standing a few feet away, not with the music and the buzzing white noise of the crowd to mask her approach.

She hesitated at the threshold, uncertain whether to say anything or even acknowledge him, but she was ultimately spared the impossible decision. Kyle suddenly sensed that someone was behind him, and he abruptly looked up and fearfully glanced over his shoulder.

"Oh, Christ, Wendy!" he exclaimed when he saw her. "I thought you were Kenny for a second."

"Nope, just me," she replied.

"Fuck..." Kyle just expelled a relieved sigh and then scratched and shook his head. She took this as some sort of permission to get closer.

"Kenny getting on your case tonight?" she asked.

"Tell me about it," he said wearily. "He's been trying to get me drunk on everything from Schnapps to Vodka to Rum to...I don't know, I think it was fucking moonshine. It had a goddamn peach just floating in this jar like some kind of alien fetus in a test tube. It was fucking grody, dude."

He spoke easily and casually to her, and she also sighed in relief. Hopefully, any old awkwardness would be in the past. "Man, guess I'm just lucky that people are avoiding me at this point," Wendy joked. She came up next to him as she said this, and she gestured downward. "You mind if I sit with you?"

"Why should I?" he returned, though he had good reason to mind, and then, on top of that, "And why would people be avoiding you?"

"Oh, you know." She avoided the question by making some show of sitting down and getting comfortable, and she wrapped up this elaborate exposition with, "I never was very popular around here anyway."

"More popular than I was," he reasoned.

Grimly, she corrected him: "Only if you mean the bad kind of popular."

There was some sort of drinking contest going on inside, or at least they presumed there was judging by the shouting and the yelling and the ever-growing chanting of the word "drink." Neither of them so much as glanced over at it; they were both very plainly trying to pretend that the party didn't exist, music and shouting and all.

"Things going alright for you then?" she asked when he didn't make any attempt to rekindle the conversation. She hoped to lead it in a more positive direction, even if all that meant was meaningless chit-chat.

"Yeah, I guess," he said. "Can't complain."

"Same," she replied easily.

"You still in California?"

"Yeah, going to school in SoCal."

"I'm up in Denver. Got my associate's a bit ago."

"Oh, congratulations!" she said sincerely. She was beginning to realize that this was more of an achievement than one would think, especially after being in South Park for a week. "I got mine last year, but I'm still studying."

"Yeah, and I'm not even close to done yet either. I'm going for a PhD and that's gonna take a good long time."

"I hear you; I'd like one myself. What were you into again...?"


"No kidding!" she exclaimed happily. It figured that Kyle would go for a like-minded study. "I'm in sociology."

Kyle grinned and rolled his eyes. "God, if I had a dollar for every time I had to explain the difference to someone, my school would be paid up by now."

"Oh, I know; you'd think it shouldn't be so difficult to understand since their root words are completely different, right?"

"Well, sometimes people are kinda dumb."

There was a loud CRASH from inside and a loud chorus of booing that followed it, and they could only imagine that someone had broken a bottle of liquor. They both glanced up momentarily and then turned away again, disinterested. They both started figuring that maybe it was wise for them to just tune out to the party in general.

Wendy realized belatedly that Kyle was still vainly wiping away at his pants with his cloth, and she felt bad for not bothering to acknowledge it before. "So, um, did you spill something?" she asked, pointing at his thigh.

"Ugh, no..." he grumbled. Dejected, he threw the cloth to his side and pulled the material taut, looking it over in the darkness. "Kenny dragged me off to play beer pong and then somehow wound up knocking over a bunch of beer on me."

"Oh." Wendy was still thinking of something else to say that would amount to more than a bland and practically meaningless "I'm sorry," but Kyle beat her to it.

"Fucking stupid shithead is already smashed and is going to be making a complete ass of himself tonight. I don't know why I bothered coming."

"You and me both," she confided in him. "Bebe dragged me along, promised she'd hang out with me all night and then went to do a few shots. Never came back."

"Those two are fucking," Kyle commented carelessly. Wendy waited for him to finish, assuming that he meant to use "fucking" as an adjective and he would follow up with some kind of actual description, but when he never added anything, she finally got it.

"Oh!" she laughed. "Oh, Christ, that's what you meant."

"Yeah, well, that's what he implied anyway."

"I sorta figured that. She doesn't really talk about him though; I guess whatever they got going on it's complicated. As usual," she finished with a little air of exasperation, and she gave Kyle a look, as if saying, 'Can you believe some people?' though to herself she was thinking, 'Oh, the hypocrisy!'

"It's complicated, alright," he agreed. He seemed a little secretive all of a sudden, and Wendy wasn't really sure what to do about this. She didn't know if he was uncomfortable just because of the subject or uncomfortable because of her, or worse, a combination of the two.

She dared to ask one of the more personal, invasive questions, just to test him out, just to see what was going on in his world. She decided there was no harm in reaching out at this point; they'd already gotten as far as they were going to get in idle chit-chat. "Are you seeing anyone?"

"Nope," he answered promptly. He almost didn't ask, but after a few tense, silent moments, he returned the favor. "You?"

"Not recently. I sorta messed around with a guy last year, but I found out he was just one of those guys who tries to 'convert' feminists into liking guys. Because, you know, all feminists are inherently lesbians," she joked, but Kyle only cracked a small smile.

"I just never really wanted to date," Kyle said with a shrug. "Dating's never really been my thing; I'm just not good at it."

"Well, you never tried," Wendy reminded him. To press this, she made a point of putting her hand on his thigh, but it was still wet with beer, (and cold, too) and she quickly pulled away again. Outwardly, Kyle didn't seem to react to this.

"Yeah, Kenny seemed to think the same thing," Kyle said. "He told me there'd be loads of girls here for me to make a move on, like that was my top priority in like, any universe. Christ," Kyle mumbled. He rubbed his eyes and then ran his fingers through his hair, at least as far as he could before the thick curls stopped him cold. "I haven't even been to a party since-" Kyle paused awkwardly and risked a sideways glance at Wendy before continuing, vaguely. "-well, you know, and somehow I wound up in this shit hole. Talk about poor timing."

Wendy, tired of the runaround, finally decided to approach the subject bluntly. What else was there to do? Kyle was still stuck on it; that much was obvious. Clearing the air seemed to be the only logical thing left to do given the situation. "I was drunk," she told him outright. "I'd just broken up with Stan. It wasn't your fault."

Kyle seemed a little astonished that she would even broach the subject, let alone just throw it all out into the open. Half laughing, half panicked, he said, "Woah, woah, okay, wow. Where'd that come from?"

"Don't be dense, Kyle. I know you're smarter than that. We're both thinking it."

"I know," he said defensively. "I'm just not like, mad at you or anything, so-"

"You seemed pretty mad at the time," Wendy pointed out. "You stopped talking to your friends because of me."

"I stopped talking to my friends because they were a bunch of assholes," Kyle replied snidely.

Wendy opened her mouth, but there was a sudden bright light from behind them, and once again, despite their better judgment, they both looked over their shoulders to observe. The Christmas lights had been done away with and someone had (apparently) found an obnoxiously bright and obnoxiously yellow light to fill up the room instead. It was momentarily blinding, but when they could see properly again, they turned right back around again. Someone had moved one of the tables to the center of the room, (Kenny, it looked like) and was using it as a sort of dancing platform, or perhaps some sort of pedestal. He was shouting something trying to drag other people on top of it with him, but Kyle and Wendy had no interest, and thus paid them no mind.

"Why didn't you just talk to me?" she asked. She tried to sound patient and understanding instead of allowing that residual bitterness to shine through, but Kyle refused to look at her or even tilt his head in her direction, and she keenly felt, all of a sudden, like he was still uncomfortable around her. As a result, she lost her nerve, and she self-consciously looked away from him and focused more on the snow piled up beside the stoop. "I mean, I know it was probably really upsetting to you, but you could have at least talked to me about it. I didn't have anyone to talk to."

"Upsetting?" he repeated. "Wendy, that was like, my first serious kiss. That was like my first time making out with someone. That was like my first time, like, you know-" Awkwardly he groped around for the words he knew he needed to use, and he couldn't help but get a little red as he spoke them. "-like, feeling a girl's tits, you know. It wasn't upsetting; it was fantastic."

"If it was so great, why were you mad at me?" she asked sardonically.

"God damn it," Kyle swore. He was plainly frustrated not being able to articulate what he wanted to say, and his cheeks remained stained red as he spoke. "I wasn't mad, I was just really, you know, sort of confused I guess. You'd just broken up with Stan, but for some reason I kept thinking to myself, 'You just betrayed your best friend's trust; you just totally fucked up your friendship forever by making out with your best friend's girl. You fucked up.' I just felt really guilty, that's all. I felt like I'd just done something totally unacceptable and I guess I couldn't face up to it. But it wasn't your fault."

"Well, considering I'd been drinking at the time and I wasn't quite myself, I think it was sort of more my fault."

"I didn't stop you," Kyle demurred, but Wendy just firmly shook her head and refused to accept this.

"Not saying no is not an excuse. I shouldn't have come onto you so suddenly like that. It was wrong of me and I'm sorry for that."

"Well, it made me pretty happy at the time," he admitted. "It's not like I'm the sort of guy who gets a lot of girls, you know."

There was a loud THUD behind them and they both startled. Given the spontaneous jumping and dancing up on the table, they guessed that someone had fallen, and these suspicions were confirmed a moment later when a boisterous "I'M OKAY!" sounded off from somewhere inside. They didn't recognize the voice, and they didn't want to.

"But I also didn't – and don't – belong to Stan," Wendy continued. "When we broke up, we were done. There was no secret hidden tape around me cordoning me off from the rest of the world."

"Well, yeah, but it's like, you know, kind of not cool to just make out with your best friend's ex right in front of them. Especially like, you know, as heavy as we were doing it. In public. Oh, Christ," he groaned, and he slapped his palm over his face in shame. "What was I thinking? Do you know Kenny criticized my kissing technique for months after that? Months."

Wendy put her hand over her mouth to hide her grin, and she nodded understandingly. Of course, girls got called sluts for making out with boys, and boys were merely encouraged to make out better. Such was the reality of the firmly established little gender roles in a small conservative town like that. Kyle probably didn't even know what sort of abuse she endured after that event, and she wondered if they were at the point where she should even tell him.

No, she decided. Later. Now was about making things better. "I don't think Stan was mad at you," she assured him. She again tried to touch him for the sake of comfort, and this time she pat his arm, and he seemed alright with that.

"He stopped talking to me like, immediately afterward. I thought he hated me. I thought you hated me for letting you do it."

"I didn't hate you, and I don't think Stan did either. I think he was more mad at himself than at either of us. Stan had a lot going on at the time; you know that."

Kyle just sighed and nodded. "Yeah. To be honest, our friendship was kinda going downhill before I kissed you. I guess it was just the icing on the cake. And then when everyone else started going away, I know, I didn't really mind. I never really liked hanging out with the other guys, you know," he chortled.

She chuckled along with him. "For what it's worth, your kissing technique was fine." She expected him to be embarrassed by this, but actually he smirked at her.


"Just 'fine,'" she repeated firmly. "You still could have used a lot of work."

"Yeah?" he said. She almost wanted him to make some quip about having gotten better and then just dive down and kiss her. She'd kind of wanted that for a long time, ever since she'd been the one to initiate those many years ago. But he didn't, and that was probably for the best. They'd rushed into it last time; maybe it was better to take things slow this time. "Well, I'll keep it in mind," he added.

The background noise was growing steadily louder, but they had mastered the art of ignoring everything beyond the stoop, and they didn't notice anything, not even the slightly smoky smell suddenly surfing along the breeze. Instead they only felt its chill, and they both realized that they were poorly equipped for sitting outside in the snow and catching up like they were.

"We should probably find somewhere else to chat," Kyle offered. "You know, my fingers are pretty damn frozen at this point."

"So's your legs, I'll bet," she said, pointing at the wet splotch still on his pants."

"Jesus, you have no idea." Wendy's hand was still on his arm, and he almost made as if he were to put his hand on top of it, but he chickened out at the last second, and he wound up stuffing it in his jacket pocket instead. "Fucking cold," he mumbled.

"Yeah," she agreed. She didn't know what else to say; she waited for him to suggest what they should do, whether they should go back inside with the rest of the party or perhaps go somewhere more private, and she wondered if perhaps he wasn't offering because he wasn't comfortable being alone with her. She wasn't really sure how much progress they'd made at this point, or whether Kyle had even forgiven her.

This, at least, she did finally get some clarification on. "I'm really sorry," he confessed. "I know I pushed you away after it happened and I shouldn't have done that. All I was thinking about was myself."

"Yup, you were a pretty selfish son of a bitch," she confirmed.

"Well, jeeze, you didn't have to say it like that."

"Well, you were. One minute you were grabbing my tits and the next you were shouting at me to get off of you. It was pretty rude."

"I'm said I was sorry!" He seemed about ready to go off on another tangent, but then he stopped and sniffed the air suspiciously. He furrowed his eyebrows and glanced around uncertainly. "Do you smell smoke?"

"Smoke?" she repeated, and she took a whiff of the air along with him. "No, why?"

"No reason, I just thought I smelled it for a second..."

They both stopped and breathed the chill air for a few moments, but they were on the verge of something too important to be interrupted by something as insignificant as an unusual smell, and like the party, they both opted to ignore it.

Wendy spoke first. "I don't want you to feel guilty for letting me kiss you, because you were doing nothing wrong. Alright?"

"Alright," Kyle agreed, though he didn't sound very firm about it.

"But I guess what I'm wondering is, what now?"

"It's been like, five years," Kyle mused. "That was so long ago, but it seems so trivial now that everything has changed. I don't know if it's 'cause we're older or if things have just changed since we were kids."

"Yeah, like, my tits are a lot bigger now," Wendy told him in perfect deadpan, and Kyle nearly choked trying to repress his laugh. She just smiled at him; he seemed so much more open now, and not quite so closed off, and she liked this change. She felt like it had been a while since anyone had been open with her. "In all seriousness, all that's changed is that we don't have to be fretting over what other people think. All of these stupid people don't matter now. Growing up is like the collapse of civilization as we knew it. There's no stupid rules about dating ex-girlfriends in the real world. In fact, there's even this mutinous concept where people can just, you know, date people they like. If you, you know, theoretically of course, if you were still interested in me," she concluded a little sheepishly.

"You live in California," he pointed out.

"So? It's only like an eight hour drive and, well, there's Skype, and maybe we'd be better off avoiding the physical parts for now." As soon as she finished speaking, she lifted her head and sniffed the air, and she added, curiously, "You know, now that you mention it, I do smell smoke."

"I can't anymore; I lost it."


Kyle just scratched his head awkwardly and his hand eventually fell to him scratching his neck. He seemed to be contemplating it carefully. "Maybe I'm not quite getting it, but you make it seem like you just, like, want us to jump into a long distance relationship or something. Like right away."

"What I'm saying is that I still have an annoyingly persistent crush on you, and if you're done pussyfooting around me because I used to be Stan's girl, then I wouldn't mind seeing if it worked out."

Kyle found this amusing, and he managed a single airy, "Heh" in response to this. "You know, when Stan was dating you, I totally thought you were like, the most amazing girl. I thought he was super lucky."

"You couldn't have told me that five years ago?" she asked wryly.

"I didn't need to," Kyle countered smugly. "You were jumping on me without me having to say a word."

"Oh, aren't you just mister prince charming?"

They both waited for Kyle to formulate his reply, but then they both became aware of some very loud noises going on behind them, and though they'd were both fairly certain that it was none of their business, they both still turned craned their necks and opted to look back into the party.

Kyle and Wendy had almost no time to react. They'd been drowning out the shrieking and screaming and shouting and assuming it was just part of whatever usual ruckus the party had led to, but the first loud CRACK startled them both, and by the time they both realized that there was something going on, the stampede had started, and they were directly in its path.

"Get out of the way, move, get away!" everyone seemed to be yelling, and it wasn't hard to see why. The walls of the house were collapsing on one side. It appeared that one inner wall had been compromised somehow, and apparently that one single wall was key in maintaining the rest of the house. It was starting to cave in rapidly, and Kyle and Wendy could already feel some of the dust from the debris sprinkling down onto their heads before it even completed its fall.

They followed suit with everyone else and leaped up from their stoop, just barely escaping the melee in time. On instinct, Kyle grabbed Wendy's hand on the way up, and they both sprinted off to the other side of the dirt road where everyone else began to gather and watch in a sort of morbid fascination at the unexpected collapse of the house.

Or, rather, half of the house. The roof caved in on one side and took care of the rest of the walls that were standing, but somehow the other half of the house remained totally unperturbed by this drastic change. The walls were still creaking into their new positions and the puffs of dust and asbestos and snow were still clouding into the air.

It was plain to see in the darkness that something was burning brightly inside, barely an ember beneath all the rubble, and odds were it was the source of the collapse. But what, why, or how was completely beyond the two of them.

The flames were already dying with the strong gusts beating at it on top of all the dust and debris piling on top of it. Someone yelled out asking if anyone had been trapped inside, and someone else yelled back that they'd been the last, and there'd been no one behind them. Most people were murmuring solemnly over the sudden and unprompted demolition, but one person remained ecstatic over the sight.

"Whew boy!" Kenny exclaimed with a fist pump so enthusiastic he jumped with it nearly a foot into the air. "Did you see that?! I knew that thing was a piece of shit, but it came down right quick! Did you guys see-"

"Yes, we did," Bebe snapped from somewhere in the crowd. "That wasn't you, right? You didn't do that, did you?"

"Me?" Kenny asked in such confounded innocence that it could only have been feigned. "'course not! Why would you even say that?"

"Half of your house just burned down! I saw you playing with your lighter earlier-"

"Babe, I'm so drunk I can't even light my lighter," he chuckled. To prove this point, Kenny revealed a cheap Bic lighter from his pocket and fruitlessly attempted to flick it; on the few occasions his thumb actually functioned enough to hit the spark wheel, it barely even made a flame, certainly not one strong enough to cause an outright collapse of even something as dilapidated as the McCormick place. "Maybe the generator sparked up and set somethin' off, I dunno. But it weren't me."

Temporarily placated, Bebe just released a loud, indignant, "Hmph!" and quickly began rounding up everyone who hadn't already high-tailed it out of there for fear of imminent police intervention. She insisted that those who were drunk (which was nigh everyone) didn't drive, and that they call a Handicar if possible. She didn't seem to notice Kenny drunkenly snickering and patting Craig on the back, or Craig's retaliating smack and hissed request to shut the fuck up.

Wendy and Kyle remained a little off to the side, still observing the fallen house with some disbelief and puzzlement. They could hardly believe that it had taken mere seconds, barely a minute to bring down half the house, but as Kenny had reminded them, it was a piece of shit.

"Some end to a party, huh?" Wendy commented wryly.

"I guess if you want to go out in style," Kyle responded, and they both just nodded at the wreckage.

"I guess it's only a shame that it was such a shit send-off party."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Kyle said slowly; mostly, he was looking at Kenny as he said this. "I think some people got a kick out of it."

No one really paid them any mind as they stepped away from the crowd. They weren't drunkenly yelling or bothering anyone else, so they wound up, once again, largely forgotten by everyone. Even Bebe had her hands full trying to round up the last set of keys just in case some asshole decided to go his own way, (she seemed to be one of the only few who cared) and she seemed far too occupied to worry about Wendy. But that was fine; Kyle was still tightly gripping her hand, and she was far too occupied with this to really worry about Bebe.

With half the house in a collapsed and smoking heap and most of the party either gone or on the verge of skedaddling, Kyle turned to Wendy and asked, pointedly, "Do you have a ride?"

"Well..." As she trailed off, Wendy glanced over to Bebe and noted that she had moved on from trying to responsibly move the crowd along to arguing with Kenny in hushed but angry whispers. Wendy decided she wanted no part of that, (regardless whether her coat was still in the trunk or not) and she returned to Kyle. "I guess I don't," she concluded.

"Would you like to ride with me? I can drop you off at your house, or your parents' house I guess or whatever, or we could, like, go get a coffee at Denny's or something. If you want," he added quickly. "Like, I'm sure you probably just want to go home after all this mess, but if you wanted-"

"I think I'd like some coffee very much," she answered before he could progress to rambling. She smiled reassuringly at him. "But whatever we do, can we hurry? I'm freezing my ass off out here, you know."

"Sure," he said, too pleased to elaborate any further. He was enjoying the fact that she was holding his hand too much; he was dumbly grinning wide as a mile and flushed pink with contentment. But his smile faded for a moment as a thought occurred to him, and he asked Wendy, "Do you think we should offer to give people a ride though?"

Wendy looked around at the crowd that was still drunk and disheveled and full of people she didn't like and didn't want to associate with, but ultimately, she said, "If you think that's what we should do."

Kyle chewed it over for a moment, seriously contemplating, before dismissively saying, "Nah."

"Fuck 'em?"

"Fuck 'em."

"Amen," Wendy exclaimed, and they both grinned at each other.

They both considered saying goodbye to their respective hosts, but with them still in a hissy little argument, they ultimately decided to slip away without any fanfare. They doubted that their sneaking off together would result in worse rumors than the fact that the old McCormick place had been a victim of arson, but even if it did, they didn't care.




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