"So what's the plan now?"

They were standing on the guard tower, the only place where they were allowed to hold weapons and one of the few places they could talk freely without being overheard. It was technically only Stan's shift, but he and Kyle sometimes kept each other company and no one really seemed to mind. Ike had only just joined them, sitting in the corner so he wouldn't be seen. He seemed to be under the impression that the Elders would become suspicious if too many people from their group congregated up in the guard tower. Stan could understand where he was coming from.

"Like you guys care," Ike said without looking up from his notepad.

"We care. We just don't think it's a good idea," Kyle replied as he aimed to take fire at a walker that just stumbled into the clearing.

Ike waited for him to take the shot before continuing, "So what makes you think I'd tell you what we're planning?"

"Because I'm your brother, and because I'm probably the only person who can talk some sense into you," Kyle said with a quick glare.

Ike rolled his eyes. "You're the one who needs some sense. The more I learn about this place, the more I agree with what Cartman wants to do. It's been three weeks now and they're still observing us."

"They just want to make sure we aren't crazy. Can you blame them for being paranoid? I mean, you are planning on taking them down."

Stan simply stood by and watched the exchange take place. He'd learned over the years that it was best to let Kyle do most of the talking, especially when Kyle felt cornered. If he said anything that could remotely be taken as defending Cartman's plan, he'd have to deal with sulking and resentful, passive aggressive comments for days. If he stepped up to defend their position against Cartman's plan, Kyle might think that he thought Kyle wasn't capable of standing up for his beliefs. And since he really couldn't seem to do anything right lately, he wasn't prepared to take the risk.

Kyle was always like that, though, ever since Stan could remember. He was so unpredictable, so unstable in his thoughts and moods, that it was impossible to tell what would set him off and when. It was one of the main reasons why a lot of their classmates didn't like Kyle. He could be hard to deal with sometimes, and Stan knew that better than anyone. But for some reason, he thought that volatile, back and forth nature was what made Kyle perfect. Stan's mood never seemed to change much, not since he was ten. It was Kyle's whirlwind of emotions that made his life interesting.

But something had shifted in Kyle since the apocalypse began. He was more resentful, less trusting of the people he should trust and too trusting of people he probably shouldn't, and he kept Stan at arm's length as often as he could.

They hadn't even had sex since before the camping trip. He'd barely been able to touch Kyle since before all this bullshit began, and it was driving him nuts in more ways than one. Kyle gave him blowjobs sometimes to make up for it, but he wouldn't allow any reciprocation.

It wasn't even just about sex, though. Emotionally, he simply wasn't there. The closest they'd come to addressing their relationship in weeks was when Kyle told him that he would kill himself if Stan died. It was somewhat unexpected, not to mention morbid, but Stan had always felt that way about Kyle so he couldn't really judge him. That night, Kyle let him get as far as unbuttoning his pants before pushing him away, saying it was too soon and he should be more respectful of Kenny's recent passing. How that related to their sex life, Stan didn't know.

And yet, he let Cartman kiss him. That was infuriating. Stan didn't really care how upset Kyle seemed to be about it, the point was that it happened in the first place. He knew Cartman was trying to move in on Kyle. He always fucking had been, it was so obvious now, looking back on it.

Stan's grip tightened on his rifle. If that bastard tried anything again, he'd-

"Right, Stan?" Kyle asked, his voice cutting into Stan's train of thought. He looked over and was met with a glare; Kyle knew he hadn't been listening to his tirade.

"Oh, yeah."

"Listen, my friend Sarah told me some fucked up shit today," Ike said, referring to a girl he'd been hanging out with. She was one of the original residents of Safe Haven Village, from before everything went down and the Mormons moved in. Cartman called her a dirty hippie. "She said that when Elder Hales and his people first came around, they acted like they wanted to live side by side with the people that were already living here."

Kyle bit his lip, looking like he didn't want to know what Ike had to say. Stan got the feeling their bubble was about to be burst, too.

"For a while they did, and it was their idea to build the wall for security. But right when they gained everyone's trust, right after Elder Hales was declared the leader of the group, things changed," Ike said, expression serious. "There were more people here before, Kyle, and they drove them out,"


"They didn't fit into Elder Hales' vision for the new world order or something. Him and his creepy lackeys sent them packing once the wall was up. Either they spoke out against his leadership, or they were simply not the kind of people he wanted around. Atheists, mostly, and the black family that lived here. Sarah's best friend was one of them."

"I don't believe it, they-"

"Kyle, face the facts. You don't know anything about those guys! Just because they seem nice doesn't mean they are. Cartman can seem nice too, when he wants something. Is he really nice? No."

Stan saw Kyle's cheeks redden. Maybe it was dawning on him that Cartman was only pretending to give a shit in order to get into his pants. Of course Kyle bought into that crap, he always fell for it when Cartman put real effort into his schemes. Well, Stan wasn't going to stand idly by anymore. He'd always been the one to pull Kyle back whenever Cartman sucked him in, he wasn't going to stop now.

"So why are you supporting his plot, then?" he asked Ike. "He's only trying to become president of the town, he doesn't actually care about anyone else."

"Kevin and I aren't planning on giving him total authority once this all goes down, because you're right, he'd probably be just as bad as Hales," Ike answered, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "We know what we're doing, don't worry. But Hales needs to go, regardless of what Cartman's motives are. Kevin's worried they'll kick him out soon because of his ethnicity. And what if they found out we're Jewish?"

Kyle and Stan exchanged glances.

"I don't understand... everyone we've met has seemed so genuine."

"As far as Sarah knows, most of the people in town aren't aware of what Hales' plans are. They were told at a town meeting that the people they kicked out simply decided to leave, or were attacked during the wall construction, or got sick and died 'mysteriously', like Kenny." Ike closed his notepad and set it aside. "The people who came here with him all believed that bullshit, but they aren't involved in it. Sarah's people didn't believe a word of it. They've been waiting for a group like ours to come in and band together with them."

Stan shook his head. "This is so fucked. I don't get it, the Mormons I met when we were kids weren't like this. My friend Gary was one of the most open minded people I knew and his family was really nice."

"Like I said, it's just Hales and those three guys that showed us around and always seem to be lurking, even now after being here for weeks," Ike said, standing up. "You guys really should rethink this. Our lives will be better, and we'll be safer, if we can get rid of the current 'administration', so to speak." He began to climb down the ladder. "See you at dinner."

Kyle had watch duty that night, and Stan decided not to join him. Instead, he stayed up talking to Kevin about the plan. Apparently, it was supposed to go into action within the next week or two. Cartman had been spending a lot of time sucking up to Elder Hales, and all Kevin had to do was sneak into the weaponry shed when Cartman gave him the go-ahead. Then they'd storm their homes in the dead of night and take them out when they least expected it. It sounded relatively simple, but they were waiting for the right moment.

Stan didn't see the harm in it, if these guys were really as bad as Ike said they were. Bebe had been convinced of it, too, so the only person standing in their way was Kyle.

But Kyle wanted so badly for things to work out, and he didn't want anyone else to die. He was willing to put all of his faith in people he didn't even know if it meant keeping everyone alive and safe, even though it was a stupid thing to do. Kyle had always been too trusting.

Stan was in bed looking at pictures when Kyle came back from his shift. "Hey," he said, glancing up. He almost wanted to hide the photographs under his pillow, but Kyle had already noticed them.

"What are you doing?" Kyle asked as he climbed into the bed they'd made by pushing two cots together. He smelled good, and Stan thought he must have showered just before his shift.

"I kind of went through your bag, sorry. I wanted to see if you brought any books to read, and I found this one," he said, holding up The Great Gatsby. "These fell out, so I never got around to reading. Are you pissed?"

Kyle shrugged. "I guess not." He moved closer, settling down against Stan's chest to see which picture he was holding. "I always liked that one."

It was a picture he'd taken shortly after their relationship started. Stan didn't remember exactly when, but it was early on, before he got back together with Wendy. Kyle was in his lap, holding the camera out and smiling wide. Stan had his face buried in Kyle's neck, arms locked tight around him. He'd been staring at this picture for a good ten minutes already; it was like looking into an alternate universe where things were the way they should be.

"You look so happy," he said quietly.

"I was," Kyle answered sadly, and reached for another one. This picture was taken by someone else; they were twelve and not paying any attention to the camera. "I already loved you in this one. Can you tell?"

"I can't believe I couldn't see it back then."

"You always had other stuff going on. And I didn't want you to know, anyway."

"Do you still love me?" he asked before he could stop himself. Kyle gave him a strange look.

"Of course I do. Stan, if this is about Cartman, I already-"

"It's not. It's about you and me. You seem different, like you'd never be able to look this happy with me now," he said, holding up the first photograph. "I get that everything's gone to shit, but... I'm kind of tired of being alone, dude."

"You aren't alone, I'm right here."

"No, you're not. You're a million miles away. And you won't let me touch you."

Kyle shifted away, looking absurdly offended by the prospect of Stan wanting anything physical. "Ugh, Stan, is this about sex?"

"You're damn right it's about sex! But it's also about you pushing me away every chance you get! If you hate me that much, or can't trust me still, for whatever reason, just tell me, okay? Wendy's dead for Christ's sake, what more do you want?"

Kyle gasped and shoved him. "I never wanted her to die, asshole! How dare you?"

"I know!" Stan said, backtracking as heat rose in his cheeks. That was definitely the wrong thing to say. "I know that, sorry. But I really do think you still hate me. And all I want to do is get us back and make up for my mistakes, but I guess if I'm not doing a good enough job for you... there's always Cartman."

"So this is about Cartman."

"It's not about Cartman! Just listen to me, okay?" Stan snapped, growing irritated. "It's the end of the fucking world, Kyle, we should be spending this time fucking and pouring our hearts out to each other and making sure we know where we stand! I told you not to shut me out and you've done exactly that. If there's something you're not telling me-"

"It's not - I know, okay? I know that's how it should be, but I can't do it. Every time I close my eyes I see blood and the faces of people we've lost, and all the people we've killed to get here. They were people, even if they aren't now. We're only here now because we've become animals. Murderers. I can't get the stench of blood off of me, no matter how much I try," Kyle said, and Stan sort of regretted opening this door. He could hear it in Kyle's voice, the self hatred he'd been bottling up. He felt selfish now, for thinking it was all about him. "Even though this place has real showers, I still feel disgusting."

"You smell nice. And you look perfect," Stan said, trying to get him to smile. "And those showers are really shitty. Water pressure's awful."

"Don't. I'm being serious," Kyle said firmly. "I haven't exactly been in the mood to let you even see me, let alone put your hands on me. And why should we be arrogant enough to think we deserve love after everything we've done? Our mistakes and oversights have cost people their lives and you have the audacity to think we should just forget about it? It seems disrespectful to the dead to even think about sex."

"I'm definitely not saying we should forget about anything, but dude... you can't mourn forever, Kyle. You might as well be dead too if you give up everything that's good about living."

"I know that, but I can't shake this feeling that letting you back in will just be... I don't know, rubbing our relationship in the faces of our dead friends, and all the people who won't get to experience it now."

Stan pushed the book and the photos aside and reached for Kyle, pulling him in as close as he would allow. "Listen. You aren't a bad person. I know you have the tendency to torture yourself with the responsibility of everything that happens to us, but the world isn't on your shoulders. It never has been. You're not a murderer, none of us are. We're just survivors."

He reached up and ran his hand through Kyle's hair. "And for the record, you're a lot cleaner than the rest of us are. Your hair's holding up really well, and I'm pretty sure you're the only one who still shaves every day. Kevin says even Bebe stopped doing that. I got the impression that he's really into it, too."

Kyle laughed, though Stan could tell he was trying not to. He smiled, knowing he'd finally found a way through the wall Kyle built around himself.

"Do you honestly think Kenny would want us to become celibate in his memory?"

"I guess not."

"If you aren't attracted to me because I have facial hair now and I've gotten used to not bathing every day, then that's one thing. But don't torture both of us because you're afraid people will think you've forgotten our friends and family."

"I like your beard!" Kyle shot back, as though he was horrified Stan could think his appearance was at fault here.


"You could stand to take a shower, though."

"Yeah, probably."

Kyle sighed. "I do miss you."

"Bebe and Kevin have the right idea. People, survivors like us, need to just... find someone they'd lose an arm for and spend every waking moment with them, because they could go at any moment," Stan said, cupping Kyle's face with his hands. "You said a couple weeks ago that you wouldn't want to live without me. We've been living without each other. I'd rather get eaten alive than spend another day feeling like you're always just out of reach."

"Wow, really poetic," Kyle said sarcastically, though he was still smiling. "Well... everyone's asleep."

Stan's face lit up. He knew what that meant. "Really?"

Kyle nodded, and Stan kissed him hard, putting all of his desperation into it. Humming in approval, Kyle threaded his fingers into Stan's hair and arched against him.

"I'll warn you, though... it's been months," Stan said when he broke the kiss to pull his shirt off. "I'm not gonna last long."

Kyle laughed and tugged his own shirt over his head. "How are we even going to do this? You know I hate using spit."

"I brought lube. I mean, when we went to our houses for necessary supplies, it seemed like an obvious choice at the time." He kissed Kyle again, pushing him back onto the bed.

Even just rocking against him with their pants still on was enough to make Stan completely hard. Blowjobs were all well and good, but they couldn't replace the real thing. Just the idea of getting actual sex for the first time in ages was pushing him close to the edge.

"I need you naked. Now," he demanded, rolling off of Kyle to go retrieve the lube from his backpack. When he turned back around, Kyle was completely bare and touching himself. Stan grinned.

"I love it when you take control," the redhead whispered as Stan crawled over him and met his lips with another searing kiss.

Stan kicked his own pants off and tossed them on the floor indiscriminately before squirting a fairly liberal amount of lube onto his fingers. For one fleeting moment, he was afraid Kyle would back out, but he didn't, and the moment the tip of Stan's index finger circled his entrance, he was completely gone. And just like that, things were back to normal, at least in their own private world.

This was the Kyle he remembered, the one who arched at the slightest touch and gripped onto Stan like he needed to be anchored down. He pushed one finger in, and then another, reveling in the familiar tightness as his partner gasped and bucked his hips.

"Shh," he mumbled against Kyle's neck. "Can't be too loud, baby, these walls aren't that thick."

"I haven't even-" Kyle began, but was cut off by a moan erupting from the back of his throat. He flushed and put his hand over his mouth, and Stan laughed, having anticipated this problem just in time.

He added another finger and began moving his hand, thrusting in time with the bucking of Kyle's hips. There was nothing more enjoyable than watching Kyle squirm, needy and desperate, and for the time being, Stan decided to push the zombie apocalypse to the back of his mind. Right now, they were back in his bedroom. None of this had ever happened. The world was normal, they were in a far more comfortable bed, and Kyle was the only thing that mattered in the entire universe.

"Stan," Kyle gasped, clearly putting an enormous amount of effort into keeping his voice down. "Please."

"Please what?" he asked silkily, though his dick was leaking and he needed it too.

"Fuck me, please, please fuck me," Kyle pleaded breathlessly. "Now!"

"Now who's in control?" Stan joked as he removed his fingers and began to run his hand along his length. He was painfully hard, even without proper foreplay, and he had to hold himself back from thrusting the moment he was done positioning himself.

Kyle groaned, though this one was out of frustration. "I'm sorry, I get bossy when I'm desperate, you know that, just - please," he said, grabbing Stan by the shoulders and pulling him down. Their mouths met and Kyle opened up for him, biting his bottom lip and putting everything he was feeling into the kiss.

As Stan began to push in, Kyle moaned again, and he was glad his mouth was there to muffle the sound. He wasn't sure if it was just his imagination or if he hadn't been properly prepared in their rush, but Kyle felt tighter than he remembered. Stan broke the kiss to focus on what he was doing, not wanting to move too fast or hurt him. Kyle's fingers dug into his skin, and Stan watched his expression carefully as he eased into him.

"I love you," he whispered when he was all the way in, head dropping so their foreheads touched. He stayed still a moment, breath mingling with Kyle's as he ran one hand through soft curls.

Kyle pulled him closer. "Love you, too," he said, hips moving slowly, seductively, clearly wanting more than he was getting. But Stan wanted this to last, couldn't bring himself to fuck Kyle hard, not tonight. It had been too long, he wanted to savor it.

He began to move, slowly at first and picking up speed only when he was encouraged by the frequency of Kyle's gasps. "Fuck, I missed this, missed how you feel around my cock," he muttered, not caring enough to be embarrassed about his dirty talk. Kyle knew he was bad at it, but somehow still loved hearing it anyway.

Humming in agreement, Kyle lifted his hips to give Stan a better angle. "You know, we'd be in college now, if none of this happened."

"Yeah?" Stan asked, barely listening, distracted by how good each thrust felt.

"Yeah, the leaves are changing. It's fall. And you would've had to go months without me anyway," Kyle said, the words tumbling from his mouth gracelessly, followed by breathless laughter.

"I guess I'm kind of glad this happened, then," Stan said, though he hoped Kyle could tell he was joking. "Two months was hard enough."

"Don't - ah! - say things like that!"

"Then let's stop talking," Stan said, covering Kyle's mouth with his own. The last thing he wanted to do was get Kyle's guilt going again, and more than that, he didn't want to stay on the subject of college. It was something Kyle had so been looking forward to but would never be able to experience now.

He quickened his pace, knowing if he just hit the right spot all thoughts, good or bad, would be driven from Kyle's mind. It didn't take long, since he knew Kyle's body like the back of his hand, and he loved it when Kyle had to bite down on his own hand to keep from screaming. He'd intended to go slow and draw things out, he really did, but once Kyle started begging incoherently and began to touch himself, he couldn't hold on any longer.

Then again, he'd never been able to last very long once Kyle let go of any self control. It was always a perfect reminder that he was, always had been, the only one to see him this way. It was him from the very beginning, and it would be him at the very end. Cartman may have stolen a kiss, but Kyle was his, and their love was a beautiful secret that no one else could ever hope to understand.

And he came, thinking about that, about how nothing could take this away from him, not even death. Kyle followed shortly after, as he always did when Stan's seed was hot inside him, and they collapsed together, sweating and panting.

"Stan, fuck," Kyle gasped as he pulled out, laughing deliriously. "I - I'm so sorry, I don't know what I was thinking holding out for so long."

"We've all done crazy things since this mess started," Stan joked, trailing kisses along Kyle's collarbone.

They lay together, alternating between mumbled words of affection and jokes about how it was a good thing the cots were stronger than they looked. Stan was indescribably happy they'd found a place where they could do this without being in immediate danger. Safe Haven Village may be a fucked up town, but at least it provided some semblance of comfort. Still, he wrapped his arms around Kyle protectively, knowing that they'd never again be entirely safe.

"Was I too loud?" Kyle asked after a minute of silence.

Stan laughed and kissed his hair. "Baby, you did a great job."

Kyle smacked his chest. "Ass."

"I mean it!" Stan replied, laughing still. "As much as I love making you scream, now's not the time. And you were very quiet. Even quieter than you were that time I fucked you in the bathroom at school."

They fell asleep in the midst of whispers and laughter, feeling confident that things were going to turn around for them. And in the week that followed, they spent every moment they could alone together to make up for all the time they felt they'd lost.

Stan was just beginning to feel like Kyle had finally forgiven him for Wendy, had finally come to terms with their new way of life, when they were approached by Elder Hales.

He brought them to his own living quarters and only addressed them once they were seated inside. "You two ought to have been more careful."

"What?" Stan asked, confused.

"A couple of my followers have come to me with concerns regarding your recent behavior. It appears they've seen you engage in... homosexual affection. And of course I was informed at once."

"And by that you mean, you've been having your 'friends' John and Jeremy spy on us," Kyle said loudly, standing up. Nothing had even happened yet and he was already bristling, but for once Stan didn't think he was going to make things worse. He had a gut feeling that things were already as bad as they were going to get.

"However it came to my attention, I will say this. I will not tolerate lewd behavior in my compound," Elder Hales said, fingers steepled in front of his lips as though he was thinking about what to do with them. "Homosexuality is a sin, and if this was truly God's doing, as I believe it was, it's a wonder you've managed to survive this long. He surely didn't have that in his plan for the future of mankind."

"What are you saying?" Stan said, taking Kyle's hand to stop him from lunging at the older man.

"I think you know," Elder Hales said as he stood up to face the window, the sun lighting up his silver hair. "Safe Haven Village's purpose is to rebuild humanity. You can't very well help with increasing the population, now, can you? And I can't have your lifestyle choices influencing the children here."

"You're kicking us out?" Kyle asked, slumping back in his chair as though he couldn't believe it. Stan could, though. He remembered what Ike said about the other people Hales had 'cleansed' from the village.

"In a sense. But we're kind, Godly people, so we won't put you out without any hope of making it on your own. You will, of course, have your weapons returned to you and we will give you some food and water before we send you on your way."

"So that if we all die out there our blood won't be on your hands?" Stan snapped, feeling like strangling Elder Hales himself. He probably would have done it, too, if he didn't know his three minions were lurking just outside the door.

Elder Hales just smiled. "Your friends will be staying here. They have done nothing wrong."

"They won't stay once we tell them about this!"

"I'm sorry, you must have misunderstood. You'll be escorted off the premises now. It will be easier on everyone if you aren't given the chance to say your good-byes. They will be safe here."

Kyle shook his head, dismayed. "No, you need to let us talk to them. My brother-"

"Will be well taken care of," Elder Hales cut in. "They will be told you opted to leave of your own free will."

"They won't believe that."

"Even so, you will be gone, anyway. Now, I believe it is dinner time and everyone will be in the community center. My friends outside will escort you out. I wish you luck on your journeys," Elder Hales said, with a smile that suggested otherwise. "And please keep in mind that if you remain in the vicinity of Safe Haven, you will be shot. So I suggest traveling."

He waved Jeremy and John in, and although they both put up a fight, they still ended up in the tunnel, blindfolded, gagged, and herded out of the village like prisoners. Timothy was close behind with their belongings and weapons.

Outside, they were forced to walk a few more yards before they heard their bags drop down beside them. The ropes on their wrists were cut, and that was as far as the men went before turning back. Stan knew what Kyle was thinking, because he was definitely thinking the same thing - that they should grab their weapons and haul after them, kill the bastards, and join Cartman's mutiny.

But by the time they removed the blindfolds and gags, grabbed their guns, and turned around, all three of them were gone and the trap door was closed. Still, Kyle ran to it and tried to yank it open. Stan joined him, but it was no use. It was locked from the inside.

"Elder Hales must have been a carpenter before all this or something," Stan muttered as he stood and dusted himself off. "That shit is sturdy."

"Fuck!!" Kyle shouted angrily, kicking at the dirt. "Now what are we going to do?"

Stan didn't know what to say, so he simply stepped forward and pulled Kyle into his arms.

Their only option was to go back to camping in the woods, at least for a while. They'd have to wait until Cartman went through with his plan, whenever that may be, and hope that it went successfully.

All they had to do until then was survive.