Chapter Two Keeping Secrets
Hell's Pass Hospital situated far from South Park and nestled back in the mountains had never appeared more cold and uninviting to Kyle. The walls white and glaring closed in on all sides. The doctors and nurses scurrying about the long, empty hallways appeared like ants bustling to and from their work caring little about the short redheaded teen who sat curled in upon himself alone in a stiff plastic chair.
Sitting outside Eric Cartman's hospital room, Kyle stared down at his homework journal. The pages wrinkled and bent as they dried from the snow. Not remembering when he had dropped the book, an officer on the scene had retrieved the item and returned it to the redhead.
Out at Stark's Pond the ambulance had arrived almost the moment Kyle had shut off his cell phone. The boy had crawled back up the snowy bank and huddled next to Cartman's unconscious form. Kyle was glad that the waiting had been brief. The minute the police and medics appeared at the pond, chaos reigned. A team immediately shuffled out onto the ice to find Kenny, Cartman had been loaded on to a stretcher and Kyle ushered quietly into the back of a police car.
His mind was never allowed to slow; the police questioned Kyle who recounted the crazy night's events through stammers and quick intakes of breath. He told the police how Cartman had attacked him, drunk, and how the heavier boy had fallen through the ice. Conveniently Kyle left out the parts where he had forced the larger boy back out onto the ice. He also neglected to relate that he might have stood and watched Eric drown had not Kenny leapt into the icy waters to save him.
Now alone in the hospital's hallway, Kyle's mind stirred the night's events before his eyes. Cartman had been drunk, he'd attacked him. Although it was not new that Cartman's hatred for the Jew often spilled over to violence, Kyle could not recall a time he'd seen the overweight teen in such a distraught moment. Cartman's actions were crazy and sporadic, not the usual calculating spite Kyle had become accustomed. Then again Cartman had been drinking and that probably had clouded his judgment and released his hatred from its inhibitions.
But worst still, Kyle thought, a tear leaking out onto the journal's crinkling page, Kenny was dead. Although the police had forced Kyle to remain in the vehicle, they could not shield completely from the redhead the black body bag being hauled away. One female officer followed slowly behind the body holding Mysterion's purple cape folded in her arms.
Kyle sniffed thinking back to the woman holding the cape. She'd clamped it to her body tightly, almost lovingly as if she understood the fabric's importance to the dead boy. Kyle knew she was just a random cop in a swarm of thousands, but the gentle gesture she'd shown Kenny had touched him. He found himself, now, writing down the scene in his green journal. He found himself recalling the entire night, marking the page with its sad, confusing tale. Not sure if he'd find the strength to share his words with anyone else, Kyle finished his last paragraph with a simple 'Goodbye, Kenny.'
Sniffing harder and rubbing a hand over his eyes, Kyle placed the journal back inside his backpack. The doctors had released him already. The redhead only suffered from a cut on his left shoulder from where Cartman had struck him. Having informed his family of the incident, the doctors insisted Kyle return home. Not wanting to face his mother's rollercoaster of emotions just yet, Kyle found himself waiting outside Cartman's room, thinking. Kyle wanted to say something to his enemy or friend or whatever he considered Eric Cartman. Not sure if he could form any semblance of an apology, Kyle still could not allow himself to leave the hospital until he'd spoken with the other boy.
The redhead glanced up. Stan was racing towards him. Instinctively Kyle bolted from his seat and threw himself into the other teen's waiting arms. The two boys stood embracing, the seconds ticking away. Kyle's vision swam with tears, his broken glasses fogging up.
Stan pulled back first, running his hand through the other boy's hair and tracing his fingers down Kyle's cheek.
"Dude, are you alright? What the fuck happened?" Stan murmured once again closing his arms around the other teen.
"Kenny's dead and Cartman's
he's in there," Kyle whispered gesturing with his arm towards the closed door.
Stan made to move towards the hospital room. Kyle clung to the taller boy's hand. Just as Stan stretched forward, the door opened and Mrs. Cartman backed out of the room, her back to the hallway.
"I'll get you some water, dear," the woman was saying as she turned around.
Stan dropped Kyle's hand as the woman faced them.
"Oh, hello, boys," Mrs. Cartman said quietly. Her eyes, bloodshot and tired, gazed from Stan to Kyle. Smiling, the woman stepped forward and wrapped her arms about Kyle.
"Thank you," she whispered. Kyle felt his stomach churn in embarrassment. Pulling away from the boy, Mrs. Cartman said, "You helped save him."
Ducking his head, Kyle tried to hide his eyes from Cartman's mother. Was she really thanking him for rescuing her son? Kyle felt his inside squirm harder. How would she have acted had she known Kyle had pushed Cartman out onto the ice?
"How is Cartman?" Stan asked from behind Kyle. Mrs. Cartman let go of the redhead and wiped at her eyes.
"Oh, my little Eric is a strong boy. He'll be better in no time. The doctor says he's lucky that he was pulled out so quickly. He should be going home tomorrow."
"That's good," Stan said.
Mrs. Cartman nodded still sniffing. Kyle shuffled his feet until he was standing behind Stan who blocked him from the mother's sight. For some reason Kyle didn't want Liane to see him. Some small part of him believed she'd see it in his eyes, the shame and guilt chipping away at his conscious.
"Um, have either of you seen the doctor? I need to talk to him," Mrs. Cartman explained.
"I think I passed him as I walked in, Mrs. Cartman," Stan offered taking the woman's arm and pointing down the hall. When the two disappeared around the corner, Kyle turned towards Cartman's hospital room.
Mrs. Cartman had left it ajar.
Peering inside the room, the redhead hesitated wondering if he should announce his presence first or just walk in. Pushing the door open a little wider, he allowed a larger sliver of light to fall across a hospital bed sitting in the corner of the room. Tiny electric lights flickered from machines and the only window had its blinds pulled shut, blocking out the streetlamps from the parking lot. A digital clock on the bedside table read 11:50 p.m.
Kyle stepped inside, closing the door behind him. The instant it shut he regretted it. The room was too dark.
Kyle froze. The bed in the corner stirred as Cartman propped himself up on his elbows. He scanned the room with blood shot eyes. When his gaze rested on Kyle, the larger boy forced himself up into a sitting position. He smirked.
"Hello, Kahl," Cartman whispered. "Come to finish me off?"
Kyle swallowed. He knew.
Raising his head high and not taking his eyes away from Cartman's, Kyle stepped cautiously up to the hospital bed. He studied the other boy lying back on the numerous pillows; propped against the headboard. Beside him on the bedside table was a stack of papers with different paragraphs written out on the sheets. Under those was Cartman's red Psych journal.
"H-how are you?" Kyle managed to ask.
"Still alive," Cartman said. He narrowed his eyes, the sides of his mouth twitching. "Unlike Kenny."
Cartman leaned back. He folded his thick arms over his chest and eyed the redhead carefully.
"As crazy as that poor bastard was I've got to give him some respect. He had the balls to jump in." Cartman's mouth formed into an ugly leer. "You just stood there."
Kyle felt his throat tighten with fear. "Cartman, I'm sorry. You were out of control. I only "
"Watched me drown."
Silence filled the room as the two enemies stared at one another. Kyle's face had grown pale and sweat dripped down his temple. Cartman continued to smirk at the redhead.
"You're a pretty sneaky little Jew, Kahl," Cartman whispered. "You thought you could get away with killing me, huh?"
Startled by the accusation, Kyle closed his eyes. "You were drunk, fatass," Kyle said through gritted teeth. "You attacked me first! I wasn't trying to kill you!"
Cartman lunged forward and grabbed the front of Kyle's sweater pulling the smaller boy forward.
"You know what it felt like, Kahl?" Cartman's leer widened, mimicking a sick jack-o-lantern grin. Kyle tried to shove himself away from the other teen. Shaking the redhead slightly, Eric continued slowly, "Seeing you standing safely on the solid ice as I kicked and swam and tried to get out. I thought surely the Jew isn't that much of a bastard to let me die like this." Cartman paused. Kyle could still smell the slight alcohol stench mingling with the other boy's breath.
Kyle twisted out of Cartman's grasp, falling to the floor. Eric glared down at him.
"What do you want me to do, then?" Kyle all but shouted. He rose to his feet. "Goddammit Cartman, I was scared too! Hell, I wasn't in my right mind either. I didn't mean to hesitate, but after the shit you put me through I highly doubt anyone would blame me!"
Cartman narrowed his eyes as Kyle continued to rant.
"In fact," Kyle said his voice sounding more confident and softer. "I bet no one would have missed you."
Cartman laughed his eyes not matching the mirth; Kyle took step back in confusion.
"The first step's admitting you've got a problem, Jew." The overweight boy lay back on his pillows closing his eyes.
"Let's not fight right now, fatass," Kyle said quietly, falling into a chair near the bed. He found his legs no longer had the strength to hold him up. "Kenny's dead," the redhead whispered. "I don't think he'd like it if we were fighting after what he just did."
"That poor piece of crap could care less. He knows we fight like this all the goddamn time," Cartman scoffed.
Kyle eyes watered. If they hadn't been fighting would Kenny still be here?
"Are you fucking crying, Jew?" Cartman accused. Kyle shot out of his chair.
"Hell no, fatass!"
The clock beside Cartman's bed struck midnight. Kyle stood facing Cartman, his anger waning. He returned to his seat and ran a hand through his curly hair.
"What was I saying?" Kyle whispered. A strange feeling had rushed over the boy. His thoughts had grown blank, the conversation he'd just been having with Cartman seemed to have swept completely out of his mind. Narrowing his eyes and rubbing his temple, he tried to remember what he and the fatass had just been arguing over. Cartman was implying that he'd let him nearly drown, but
"I guess you had some spine, Jew," Cartman was saying, scratching his chin. "But just cause you got cold feet and decided to pull my ass out of the water, doesn't mean I'll let you forget it."
Kyle glanced up.
"Or the police
The fat teenager smirked. "Oh, don't think I wouldn't press charges, Kahl."
Kyle put his face into his palm. "Shut up, Cartman, I feel like I'm forgetting something. Were we talking about Kenny?"
"Why the fuck would we be talking about Kenny?" Cartman asked, fluffing his pillows.
"I-I don't know," Kyle struggled. "I just thought of him real quick. I wonder if he got home okay. He kind of disappeared after he went back for his camera."
"What are you talking about, Jew?" the fat boy hissed.
Kyle snapped his eyes open. "Never mind!"
Cartman sniggered. "So back to you getting your ass sued by me
"Cartman!" Kyle was on his feet again.
The other teen leaned away from the angry redhead. "There is an alternative, Kahl."
Kyle sighed. "What?"
"Suck my balls."
"FUCK YOU!" Kyle turned and stormed toward the door.
"Wait, Kahl!" Cartman called. The redhead paused fingers curled about the door handle. Cartman continued, "Look, Jew, you can't deny what you did
Kyle still kept his eyes on the doorknob.
"And I'll press charges unless you make it up to me."
"I'm not sucking your balls, fatass," Kyle growled. Cartman sighed and put on a hurt expression.
"My dear Kahl, what I propose is not nearly enough to satisfy the pain and suffering you put me through, however, I feel it will suffice, but "
"JUST SPIT IT OUT GODDAMMIT!" Kyle roared turning to face the other teen.
"Be my slave for a whole year," Cartman finished.
"Fuck no, that's even worse!" Kyle ranted storming back over to the bed.
Cartman smirked. "I won't make you do anything
unethical, Kahl. I just ask that you run errands for me, perhaps clean my room every now and then and maybe let me copy your Calculus homework? After all the trauma you've put me through, it's not very much to ask."
Kyle closed his eyes trying to control his anger. Cartman's ultimatum did not sound good at all. But would he really try to press charges against Kyle? Was there a case? Kyle swallowed hard. He was guilty. He had forced Cartman onto the ice, and even though he might not have meant any ill will towards the other teen (although a part deep down inside Kyle knew that was a big damn lie) Kyle knew if Cartman chose to accuse him of something there was no force on Earth that would stop the fatass from making the redhead's life a living hell.
"You know, Kahl, my mother informed me that your mother knows about this whole incident," Cartman said. Kyle narrowed his eyes at the other boy, confused as to what he was implying.
"Yeah, she knows I was hanging out by Stark's Pond," Kyle ventured.
Cartman leaned further back in his pillows, clearly enjoying the other's uncertainty.
"I asked my mother to leave out telling her that you were the one who pushed me in, Kahl," Cartman explained. Kyle couldn't help the wave of relief the filled him at those words, but puzzlement soon grew to overtake it. The larger teen noticed. "I don't think your mother would like to hear that her oldest son was an attempted murderer
Kyle made a growl-like sound in the back of his throat at the accusation.
"But, Kahl, if you agree to be my slave for a year, she'll never know. I won't sic the police after you, and after the year is up, I'll wipe the memory from my mind. How's that sound?" Cartman grinned.
Kyle mulled the predicament over in his head. If Cartman pressed charges, he'd make sure to do everything to humiliate and torment the redhead. But if Sheila Broflovski found out the truth about the night's events, than Kyle knew for sure he'd be dead.
"If I agree to be your slave for a year
" Kyle began tentatively. Cartman beamed, sitting up in his bed, "You have to promise not to force me to suck your balls or make me do anything as you said 'unethical'. If my conscious can't be kept clean, I'm not doing anything for you."
Cartman held out his fat hand. Kyle sighed, understanding. He took the other teen's hand and shook it. Cartman's face radiated with joy. Kyle found his stomach turning over, as if he'd just sold his soul to the devil himself. Hell, even Satan was nicer than Cartman.
Having gotten what he wanted, Cartman lay back upon his bed, looking exhausted. Kyle, searching his mind for something clever or spiteful to say, blurted out:
"You aren't off the hook yet, fatass." Cartman eyed the other boy through half-lidded eyes. He raised an eyebrow. Kyle continued, "I'm sure you're going to get into trouble about underage drinking
It was a feeble attempt, but Kyle was grasping at straws now. Cartman closed his eyes, his smile swimming back onto his round face.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Kahl," Cartman said. Kyle was about to retort, when the door opened. Mrs. Cartman and Stan walked in. Cartman opened his eyes, smiling at his mother. When he caught sight of Stan, a scowl flitted across his face.
"Knew if the Jew was here, the hippie wouldn't be far behind," he scoffed. Stan rolled his eyes and turned to Kyle.
"Dude, we need to get going. I told your parents I was coming here to pick you up. They'll wonder what's taking so long," Stan informed his friend. Kyle nodded and headed towards the door with the other.
"See you at school, Kahl," Cartman called as the redhead shut the door behind him.
The drive home with Stan was quiet. Neither boy could find the energy to talk. Kyle turned over his agreement with Cartman. He didn't like it, not at all. A whole year doing the fatass's chores would be next to torture, yet the alternative appeared far worse. Kyle knew Cartman would not hesitate in the slightest to get law enforcement involved and fuck over Kyle's life. Even if Kyle got out of the whole ordeal with the police, a criminal trial wouldn't exactly look pretty on a college resume. And if Kyle avoided all of that, Cartman would still tell his mother. And his mother was far scarier than any punishment the law could ever dish out.
Kyle sighed. The fatass had the upper hand.
"Dude, what's wrong?" Stan asked his eyes on the road.
"What he do now?" Kyle could detect a slight bit of worry in the other teen's voice.
"I've promised to be his slave for a year, if he promises not to press charges or tell my mother what really happened out on Stark's Pond," Kyle rushed out in one breath.
Stan slammed on the breaks. Kyle braced himself against the dashboard.
"What the fuck?" Stan turned completely around in his seat to face the other boy. "Why the hell would you agree to that?"
Kyle held up his hands defensively. "Stan, it's okay. I made him swear no weird shit. I'll probably end up doing his homework all year long. Maybe do some chores."
Stan pinched the bridge of his nose. "Kyle, when has Cartman ever, ever given you reason to trust him. You know damn well he'll find some kind of fucking loophole to get back at you! Hell, of all people you should know what kind of twisted asshole he can be."
"I know that!" Kyle snapped. "Do you think I like the idea of being his slave for a year? But there's no way in hell I'm getting my life fucked over for that fatass. I just want this whole incident to die and if it takes a fucking year of doing the fatass's laundry so be it!"
"Dude, but "
"I fucking watched him drown, okay?" Kyle roared at Stan. "I knocked him out onto that god damn pond in self defense. But
but I watched him drown. I don't know if I would have stood there all night..."
"But you did save him," Stan said in a small voice.
Kyle rubbed at his forehead. A car passed them, honking its horn. Stan pulled his dad's truck over to the curb when he realized they were still sitting in the middle of the road.
"I know I saved him," Kyle began quietly, his voice full of doubt. "But for some reason it doesn't feel like I did. One minute I was watching him struggle to the surface and the next I was pulling him up onto the snow."
"Well, maybe the stress of the situation caused you to have a lapse in memory. I've heard some people claim they couldn't remember doing stuff after something traumatic happened," Stan offered.
Kyle nodded, but still didn't feel convinced. The redhead narrowed his eyes, a slight blush crossing his cheeks.
"Stan, you know how I'm not exactly the tallest or biggest guy around," Kyle whispered. He paused glaring at his sneakers. Stan didn't comment. Despite having once been the same height in elementary school, Stan had shot up like a weed when puberty struck. Kyle had grown too, but his frame and stature were a bit on the slight side. He was shorter than his other three friends. Cartman would have made fun of him for this, but Kyle assumed the fatass knew making fun of someone else because of size would prove hypocritical and only lead to even more snide remarks on his own weight.
?" Stan waited.
"Dude, you know how fat Cartman is. Do you honestly think I could have pulled his huge ass out of the water all by myself?" Kyle asked.
Embarrassed, Stan confessed, "No. I did find it a bit farfetched, but I just thought maybe adrenaline kicked in for you or something. I've heard of people being able to move cars when that happens."
Kyle sat back staring out the window. Another group of cars sped past, their lights fading into the dark night. Had he really saved Cartman all by himself?
Stan spoke up, "Kyle, did you know what Mrs. Cartman told me?
Confused by the change in subject, Kyle turned his puzzled expression on the other boy.
Stan sighed. "I asked about Cartman drinking, you know being underage and if he'd get into trouble, right? Cause I knew that if he'd have to deal with that shit, he might not find the time to mess with you."
"Yeah, I thought the same thing, but when I mentioned it to him he just said he didn't know what I was talking about. He still reeked of the alcohol too. I don't know what the fuck he was thinking tonight. I know he does a lot of stupid shit, but I've always taken him for someone who'd want to keep his senses." When Stan raised an eyebrow, Kyle explained, "You know stay sober so he can calculate shit. He'd be the one to get someone else drunk to take advantage of them."
Stan nodded. "Sounds like something he'd do."
"So what did Mrs. Cartman say?" Kyle asked.
"She knows the liquor store owner. He's 'one of her customers,'" Stan said bringing his hands up to emphasize the quotations. Kyle groaned.
"So let me guess, Mommy made sure little Eric wouldn't get in trouble with the liquor store owner?"
"Sure looked like, especially 'cause he was in the lobby with flowers for her."
"That and Officer Barbrady was right behind him with a box of chocolates."
In normal circumstances both boys would have laughed at the evidence the scene provided, proving once again Cartman's mom was a big, dirty slut. But instead the two let silence grow around them as several more cars passed the truck.
Stan sighed again, pinching his nose. Kyle's anger flared to the surface. God damn Cartman; leave it to him to weasel his way out of something like this, and in the process succeed and making Kyle's life hell.
"Let's go home." Stan started the engine and the truck sputtered forward.
Sunday morning Kyle woke late. His mother rapped on his door at around noon, calling out for her eldest son to get up and do something productive. Kyle was grateful that she hadn't been too upset. True to his word, Cartman had not let his mother relay all the events of last night to Mrs. Broflovski. The stern looking woman had only scolded (for a good two hours the night before) her son for being out near the pond when the ice wasn't properly frozen over. But couldn't stay mad too long having been told Kyle had saved Cartman's life. However she still felt the need to harass her son as he shuffled about trying to wake up and get dressed. She nagged at him while he tried to comb his hair and brush his teeth in front of the bathroom mirror.
"You need to set a better example for your brother, Kyle," Sheila warned. Ike hearing himself being mentioned from down the hall slammed his door shut, fearing his mother might drag him into her rant.
"I know, Ma," Kyle said half annoyed. He squeezed his way under her arm and back into his room. His mother followed. "I didn't go out onto the ice," Kyle added. "That was Cartman."
"Well, I heard from his mother that you two were fighting. You didn't dare him to go out there did you?" she asked stepping in front of her son, and forcing him to look her in the eye.
Finding himself a bit intimidated by her stance, Kyle turned his face away. He suddenly found his dirty laundry crumpled in the corner of his room very fascinating.
"Aw, Ma, I wouldn't do that. I may hate Cartman, but I wouldn't do something stupid like that."
No, Kyle thought nastily his stomach flipping, I'll just stick to watching him drown.
"Well," Mrs. Broflovski's face lightened, "I guess you boys just need to be more careful next time. But I really don't want you going near the pond until it's completely frozen. You hear me?
Kyle sighed, glad his mother's temper had extinguished. "Yes, Ma." With a small smile the woman brought her son into a tight hug, ruffling his hair. Pulling him back at arm's length she said, "I know I get on you boys a lot, but I want you to know I have your best interests at heart."
Kyle nodded, not finding the courage to point out that sometimes his mother's interpretation of what was best for her sons leaded to wars against Canadians. But she continued to beam at Kyle, and the redhead found himself sheepishly grinning too.
Kyle stood with Stan outside the Bijou Theater at five that evening. Both boys stood with their backs to the street, turned in towards the building. The day proved colder than the one before, and a nasty wind swept through the streets rattling doors and tossing about scarves and hats. Huddling together for warmth, Stan and Kyle waited in line shuffling forward every few feet.
"I'm just glad she didn't flip her shit," Kyle was saying. Stan nodded.
"Has Cartman made you do anything yet?" the black-haired boy queried. Kyle shook his head. His teeth chattering, Stan continued, "I think you should really find a way to back out of this deal, dude."
"Don't think I won't," Kyle said.
A large shadow materialized over the two teens. Looking up Kyle saw Eric Cartman grinning down at them. He looked much better now than he had the night before. Although his eyes still looked blood-shot, Cartman had regained his old swagger. Without a word the overweight teen squeezed himself in between Stan and Kyle causing the black-haired boy to trip backwards into the wall.
"Hey, what's your problem, fatass," Stan half shouted, pushing himself off the wall. He tried to move around the larger boy, but Cartman blocked his way with his bulk.
Kyle sighed and stepped out of line to move next to Stan. Cartman caught hold of the redhead's jacket and forced him back.
"'Ey, Jew, I want to see the movie with you and the hippie," Cartman drawled. Kyle yanked himself free of the other's grip.
"Okay. You do that." Kyle made another attempt to get near Stan, but once again Cartman dragged him backwards. This time the larger boy threw an arm around Kyle's shoulders, squeezing him in an almost headlock.
"I don't think you understand, Kahl. I want to see this movie with you. Therefore you got to buy me a ticket," Cartman explained. Kyle wiggled himself free.
"Fuck off," growled the redhead.
"Now, now, Kahl, that's not very nice. You promised you'd be my slave. So I want you to buy me a movie ticket," Cartman laughed. Kyle sighed, pulling out his wallet. He searched through the bills and was relieved that he had just enough to pay for two.
"Fine, fatass!" Kyle snapped.
When they reached the ticket booth, Kyle marched forward and bought two tickets. He turned on the spot and thrust the extra one at Cartman and then stalked off into the building, waiting for Stan. The black-haired teen purchased his ticket quickly not wishing to leave his best friend alone with his enemy for too long.
Inside, Cartman once again grabbed the back of Kyle's jacket, this time nearly pulling the boy off his feet, and turned him in the direction of the concession stand. He half-marched, half-pulled Kyle to the glass counter and shoved the smaller boy forward.
"I want an extra large popcorn, a jumbo soda, and three packs of that candy." He jabbed his fat finger at each item in question. Kyle gaped at the other boy.
"Dude, I don't have any more money," Kyle explained. "I bought your damn ticket and that's all you get."
Cartman shook his head. "As my slave, Kahl, I order you to buy me snacks. Or would you like me to call your mother and tell her you don't like keeping up your end of bargains?"
Stan appeared at Kyle's elbow. "I'll buy the snacks, dude."
Kyle smiled weakly at his friend. Cartman scowled and stomped off towards the theater entrance.
Kyle sighed watching Stan purchase the popcorn and candy. "Thanks, dude," Kyle whispered feebly. Stan shrugged his shoulders not looking at the other.
"It doesn't matter," Stan said his eyes still facing forward.
"I guess I didn't register the fact that the fatass would make me buy him shit," Kyle explained his voice irritated. Stan nodded still not looking at the other. When he'd made all his purchases he moved towards the theater, Kyle followed behind.
Cartman had already entered the dark, cramped theater. He waited just outside the exit for the other two boys. He once more pulled at Kyle's jacket and steered him towards the seats in the very back.
"Let go, fatass, I can walk by myself," Kyle growled. Cartman thrust the other boy forward, and the redhead tripped up the stairs. Stan continued to follow behind.
Up in the seats, the three boys saw Kenny sitting with his legs propped up against the back of another seat. His orange hood was pulled down over his face and his head bobbed up and down. When Kyle approached his friend, he saw that Kenny was fast asleep, his light snores muffled by the loud previews scrolling across the movie screen.
For a brief moment, Kyle felt a wave of relief wash over him. Why he couldn't explain. Seeing Kenny safe and sound in the theater had made Kyle suddenly very aware of last night's events. Kenny had disappeared on him, minutes before Cartman's drunken appearance. Had Kenny been at his bike the whole time? Had he left the pond? Why would he leave Kyle behind? Had something distracted him? Wouldn't he have come forward to help the redhead when Cartman began to drown? He was Mysterion after all. Where did he go?
Sitting down next to the sleeping boy, Kyle cleared his throat. Kenny jerked awake and stared bleary eyed at the newcomers.
"Sup, dudes," he said yawning. When he spotted Cartman standing behind Kyle his eyes widened. He eyed the large boy who'd turned around to argue with Stan, snatching a bag of candies from the black-haired boy's hand.
"Dude, where did you go last night?" Kyle asked sitting beside the blond. Kenny glanced sideways at Kyle and sighed.
"I don't know
"Did you leave the pond? Didn't you see anything that happened last night?" Kyle pressed.
Kenny kept his gaze to the front. He shrugged his shoulders his lips forming a tight line.
Kyle knitted his brows together, feeling his anger rising, but he couldn't explain why. Kenny continued to stare at the screen, watching the next preview. Kyle gazed for several minutes at the blond examining the light flash across the boy's eyes from the movie projection.
"MOVE, FATASS!" Stan nearly shouted. Kyle twisted in his seat to see Cartman settling down beside him. Stan stood over them, his eyes narrowed.
"I don't see your name on it, Stan," Cartman grinned. He leaned back in the seat and threw his legs up onto the chair in front of him, blocking Stan from moving any further.
"I want to sit by Kyle," Stan said. "I always sit by Kyle."
"Well, he ain't your slave, is he, Stan? So, I get to sit next to him."
Kyle opened his mouth to argue, but Kenny tapped him on the shoulder.
"Slave?" the blond asked.
"It's a long story, dude," Kyle sighed. Kenny raised an eyebrow. The redhead waved his hand dismissively.
Stan finally sat down, but every few minutes he'd lean forward trying to get a glimpse of Kyle. Cartman now distracted by the opening credits, stuffed handfuls of popcorn into his mouth. Kenny blinked sleepily staring at each one of his friend's in turn. Kyle sat with his chin propped in his hand, not really seeing the movie. He really hated Cartman at that moment, but a part of him was slightly relieved at how trivial the fatass's tasks were proving to be so far. True, Stan had taken the brunt of Cartman's first request with the snacks, but Kyle hoped buying Eric food and movie tickets proved to be an example of what the rest of the year would be like.
I can get through this, Kyle told himself.
As the movie reached its more loud and climatic scenes, Kenny leaned over his armrest and whispered into Kyle's ear.
"Why are you Cartman's slave?"
Kyle shook his head. "It's no big deal. Last night shit went down and now I owe Cartman."
Kenny's eyes widened for a second. "It's about him falling into the lake, right?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Is it cause you pushed him in?"
Kyle turned his head to retaliate, but paused when Kenny's words sunk in.
"Y-yeah." He turned his body in his seat to face the blond. "Where the hell did you go last night?"
Kenny examined Kyle's face before answering.
"You wouldn't believe me."
His anger flicking awake again, Kyle moved away from Kenny.
"'Ey, Jew." Cartman reached over and thumped Kyle in the back of the head and stuck his extra large empty soda cup in front of the smaller boy's face. "Get your scrawny ass up and get me a refill."
"Get it yourself, fatass," Kyle snapped back. Cartman grinned, pulling out his cell phone.
"I've got your mother on speed dial."
"You do not, Cartman," Stan said from the other side of the overweight teen.
Eric plucked his sleek phone out of his pocket and pressed the screen. It rang three times and then clicked as someone answered on the other line.
"Hello?" Kyle's eyes widened. He recognized his little brother's voice.
From in front of the four, several patrons turned around and shushed them.
Growling to himself Kyle snatched the plastic cup from Cartman and shuffled past the fat boy. When he passed in front of Stan he caught the black-haired boy's eye. Shaking his head Kyle raised his arms pathetically as if saying sorry. Stan simply glared at the movie screen in response.
Out at the snack stand, Kyle thrust the cup at the attendant and waited while the soda was refilled. A tap on his shoulder caused the redhead to spin around. Kenny stood behind him.
"Why did you agree to be his slave?" the orange-hooded teen asked. Kyle huffed.
"You know my mom, Kenny," Kyle mumbled turning back to the concession attendant. "She'll kill me if she heard what I did."
"What did you do?" Kenny asked. Something in his voice caused Kyle to look up. Kenny frowned, his gaze on his worn out brown boots.
Kyle shook his head and grabbed the refilled cup from the attendant. He stalked away, towards the theater entrance. Kenny sprinted to his side.
"Do you remember anything about last night?" Kenny asked this time, taking hold of Kyle's shoulder.
Shaking off the other boy, Kyle said yes. When pushed further, Kyle related last night's horrible adventure. He recalled Cartman's drunken attack and his own retaliation to the fatass' violent ramblings.
"And well I sort of just pulled him out," Kyle whispered watching a couple pass by and enter the neighboring theater. Kenny cocked his head to the side.
"You pulled him out all by yourself? You didn't have any help?" Kenny pressed his voice rising slightly. He looked flushed in the face with his fist slightly raised in anticipation.
Kyle shook his head, feeling a slip of anger. "Well you bailed on me, dude."
Kenny dropped his hands. "What?"
"I waited for you and you never came back. Not cool, man."
Kenny closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. Rubbing his hands over his face he nodded.
"You're right. It wasn't cool." He turned on his heel and stomped back into the theater leaving Kyle standing watching the double doors swing shut.
For the rest of the movie Kenny didn't talk. He zipped up his small orange coat and pulled his hood close around his face. Only his eyes shown, half-lidded out from under the fraying brown edges of the hood. Kyle sat his legs and arms crossed his body slouched low in the seat. Cartman continued to stuff his face while Stan strained his neck peeking over the overweight teen's large bulk.
When the movie ended, Kenny slipped out of sight, disappearing into the crowd. Kyle tried to leave with Stan, but once more Cartman grabbed the shorter boy by the back of the coat and dragged him off in the opposite direction.
"Let me go, fatass!" Kyle growled, squirming in the larger teen's grip. Stan marched up behind the two.
"I want some dinner, Jew," Cartman laughed, letting go of Kyle and watching him stumble to the ground. "You got to buy me something to eat."
Shaking his fists and gritting his teeth, Kyle let out a sound somewhere between a low growl and high-pitched hiss. He kicked out at the pile of snow, scattering tiny bits of ice.
"Easy now, Kahl, don't bust a blood vessel."
"I hate you so much, Cartman."
"Yeah, whatever, you still got to do what I say."
Stan put an arm around Kyle's shoulders pulling the redhead back from Cartman.
"Dude, you got your movie and snacks. Kyle doesn't have any more money tonight."
For a few minutes, Cartman stared at Stan's arm draped around Kyle. Slowly his eyes traveled from one friend to the other. Eric smiled.
"Alright, Marsh, I'll leave the Jew alone for tonight. It's a school night after all," Cartman chuckled turning his back to the other two.
Blinking stupidly, Stan grunted out a 'sure' surprised he'd gotten Cartman to behave on the first try. Kyle narrowed his brows not trusting the quick change of heart.
"You mean it, fatass?" Kyle asked. "You aren't going to call me at like three in the morning to make you breakfast or some bullshit like that?"
Cartman laughed. "Of course not, Kahl. I wouldn't do that to you."
"I don't believe you."
"No you're not, fatass," Stan quipped. "There's always a catch with you."
Cartman smiled at Stan. "I wouldn't want to disturb dear Kahl's good night's sleep," Eric said, "
"What you're going to try calling me to buy you breakfast too?" Stan scoffed.
Cartman started walking away from them. "No, I just know how you two like to sleep over at each other's houses."
Stan's arm left Kyle's shoulder so fast it almost hurt. Kyle felt the sudden whip of cold rush across the back of his neck and snake about his shoulder blades. Stan stuffed his hands into his pockets and backed up a few feet down the sidewalk, distancing himself from the redhead. Cartman didn't turn around, but continued marching off through the slushy snow.
"He knows," Stan murmured. Kyle glared at him.
"He knows nothing. He's a dumbass." But Kyle could hear his own words tremble out of his mouth. "W-we have s-sleepovers all the time. Ever since we were kids. Stan."
Stan continued to stare at Cartman's retreating figure. He didn't speak. Kyle tugged on his best friend's arm, but Stan only stiffened. Kyle bristled when the other boy shook him off when he too tried to place his own friendly arm about the other teen's shoulders.
"Stop it, Kyle," Stan rushed, casting his eyes at the nearest building scanning for people watching. No one was out.
"Fuck you, Stan," Kyle snapped. He shoved Stan hard as he walked past, kicking up snow and mush. "See you at school."
"Dude, it's fucking freezing. Let me drive you home," Stan offered apparently regaining his senses.
Stan continued to follow behind Kyle.
"Don't be a douche, dude. Let me drive you."
"What's your problem, asshole?" Stan growled, grabbing hold of Kyle and spinning him around. The redhead glared at him.
"Dude, I don't need this shit right now," Kyle hissed. "Cartman is just trying to fuck with our heads. He's got nothing on us. Nothing!"
"You don't know that
"Goddammit, Stan!" Kyle roared pushing the other as hard as he could manage. Stan staggered slightly but remained standing. Stan towered over Kyle, and the black-haired teen would have found the little shoving attempt cute, if Kyle's glare hadn't appeared so scarred.
"What?" Stan said raising his arms. "What!"
"I don't need Cartman blackmailing me with any more fuel. We should
." Kyle bit his lip.
Stan took a step closer. Kyle turned his face away, not making eye contact with the other boy.
"We should what, Kyle?" Stan urged.
Kyle sighed. "Dude, it's been a year. People are bound to start finding out sooner or later."
"Dude, we can't not tell people. I mean one day we'll need guests for our wedding."
Stan blinked several times.
Kyle blushed and started coughing into his hand. He bent over slightly, keeping his face obscured. When he straightened up he leaned back and then rushed forward, digging his fist into the taller boy's stomach. Stan doubled over gasping.
"It was a figure of speech, asshat," Kyle fumed, his face still on fire. "Now take me home, douchebag!"
Stan continued to heave for breath as he dug his keys out of his back pocket and the two walked towards the movie theater parking lot.
Managing to stand back up straight, Stan eyed Kyle warily; afraid the other boy would hit him again. Kyle hopped into the passenger's side of the truck and stared ahead unblinking. Stan climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine, rubbing at his stomach.
"You know I love you, right dude?"
Kyle blinked several times, not looking at Stan.
"I love you too, jerk. Now, just take me home."