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October 19

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He scans the popcorn ceiling, looking for hidden pictures, and points up at a prominent cluster. “That one, right there. It’s a Pacman ghost. See it?”

“-ks ma ik ts t’m.”

Kyle rolls his head to the right and glares at Kenny. “Take that goddamn cigarette out of your mouth so I can understand you.”

Kenny grips the cigarette between two fingers, taking a sharp drag, then lifts it up, away from his lips, and twirls it over his face. “I said,” he starts, blowing smoke into Kyle’s scrunched face, “that it looks more like tits to me.”

“Everything looks like tits to you.”

“Doesn’t mean it doesn’t – ow, shit!” Kenny shoots upright, scrubbing his eye with the heel of his hand. “Stupid thing dropped ash in my eye!”

“Serves you right,” Kyle says, and he lifts his head to fold his arms underneath. “You shouldn’t hold a burning cigarette over your face.”

“Thanks for the tip, Mr. Genius.”

“Welcome.”

Kyle knows when Kenny lays back down again by the wisps of smoke curling upwards, slinking at the edge of his vision, milky against the dappled ceiling. He inhales carefully through his mouth, trying to smell the tobacco as little as possible, and when his breath shoots back out, the trails of smoke twist and dance for him. He smiles.

“So,” Kenny enunciates carefully around his cigarette, “why couldn’t Stan hang out tonight?”

Kyle freezes for a second. “What are you talking about?” he asks, but as he says it, he knows the pause confirmed Kenny’s assumption.

“C’mon, don’t bullshit me.”

“He promised his girlfriend he’d take her to the movies tonight.”

The water-warped floorboards creak as Kenny rolls over to rest his hands on either side of Kyle’s head and hover his face upside-down above his. “Stan has a girlfriend again?”

Kyle plucks the cigarette out of Kenny’s mouth.

“Hey!”

“I’m doing you a favor. And yes, he has a girlfriend again. Kia. Again.”

Kenny’s eyes flick to Kyle’s hand and he says in a bored monotone, “Are you going to take a drag or not? I want that back.”

With a broad grin, Kyle snuffs out the cigarette on the damp carpet. Kenny winces.

“You bastard, that was my last one.”

“Your lungs love me for it.”

“My lungs will reset the next time I die.”

Kyle shoves Kenny back to the side and closes his eyes. There’s a rustling, a couple quick taps, and then the ratcheting click of flint. He sighs. “You lied.”

Kenny sucks in loudly, and when he responds, his voice is thick with smoke. “You pretended Stan wasn’t your first choice tonight.”

“Damn.” Kyle shifts, knotting his fingers over his chest. He hears Kenny moving again, denim scraping along the rough carpet. Then he’s lifted up roughly by the neck, and before he can react, his hat is gone and his head thunks down painfully against the floor. He scrambles up and over onto his hands and knees. “What the fuck, Kenny?!”

Kenny tips his chin up and calmly crowns himself with the fuzzy gray hat.

“It looks horrible on you.”

“Second lie of the night for you, Kyle.”

“Bastard.”

“Tell me, Kyle,” Kenny says smoothly as he stretches his legs out in front of him, “what’s it feel like to be the baby of the group?”

“I’m not a baby, you jerk, and give me my hat back!”

Kenny just smiles smugly, lips a neat arc broken only by the smoldering cigarette popping out between them, and for the first time in his life, Kyle wishes he were talking to Cartman. At least he’d get pissed off and give him an opening to steal the hat back. A low chuckle rumbles out of Kenny, and he says, “You’re the only one who still wears his hat, you’re the only one who still hasn’t had a girlfriend, and you’re the only one who’s still seventeen. Baby.”

Growling in the back of his throat, Kyle lunges at Kenny, snatching at the hat, and they both end up sprawled across the floor. “Ha!” He sits up, twisting his hat back over his curly hair, and points one finger between Kenny’s eyes. “It’s a different hat, I don’t feel like selling my soul to some girl, and I’ll be eighteen in three weeks.”

They stay still, motionless except for the rise and fall of their chests and the wave of Kenny’s lips as he calmly works his cigarette. Gradually, Kyle’s arm slumps down to rest at his side and his face releases the scrunched up eyes and manic grin. He watches the tip of Kenny’s cigarette glow and fade like a beacon. Kenny finally breaks the spell, propping himself up on his elbows and levelly meeting Kyle’s eyes. “Are you going to follow Chef’s advice?”

“... What?”

“You know.”

“No, Kenny, I don’t. Chef gave us a lot of advice.”

Kenny’s fingers pinch the cigarette as he draws a long breath. He turns his head away. “You’re not going to be seventeen for much longer.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. That one.”

“I already did.”

The cigarette falls unnoticed from his slack lips. Kenny turns wide eyes to Kyle. “You’ve never had a girlfriend.”

“You don’t have to date a girl to sleep with one,” Kyle hisses. “You should know that better than anyone.”

“Well, I do, but... you don’t seem...” Kenny ruffles up the blond hair matted against his neck. “Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“When?”

“Stan’s birthday party.” Kenny can’t help the choked laugh he lets out. “I know,” Kyle says with an emotionless smile.

“Who?”

Heaving a resigned sigh, Kyle flops onto his back, his arms falling out to either side. “You remember Porsche?”

“Raisins girl, black hair, cute smile, perky tits?” Kenny cups the loose fabric over his chest and raises his eyebrows. Kyle throws one hand over his eyes.

“That’s the one.”

Kenny whistles long and low. “Good job.”

“Thanks.”

“I can’t believe you got laid at that party. It sucked so hard! Did Stan himself even get any?”

“Yes,” Kyle says, and Kenny rolls and bellycrawls over to him.

“He tell you about it?” Kyle gives him a tired glare. “Okay, of course he did.”

“We are best friends, you know.”

In one swift movement, Kenny flips himself back over and sets his head on Kyle’s chest. He tips it from side to side, frowning slightly. “You’re really bony.”

“You chose to lay on me, dude. Not my choice.”

“Who’d Stan sleep with?”

Kyle’s muscles tighten up under him. He pushes his head down hard, earning a yelp and a shove from his pillow. Kenny pokes him in the side, refusing to move, and asks again, “Who’d he sleep with?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why?”

“Because he told me not to.”

“He specifically said, ‘Do not tell Kenny, my best friend after you’?”

Kyle covers his face with both hands. In a muffled voice through the filter of his tense fingers, he says, “You can’t tell anyone I told you this, not even Stan.”

“Got it.”

“And you have to let me tell the whole story.”

“The whole story?”

“Yes,” Kyle sighs as his interlaced fingers slide up to cloak his eyes. “It’s too weird without the backstory.”

Kenny sucks his cheeks in and fishes around in his jeans pocket for another cigarette. “Go ahead.”

“Fine.”