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There’s a virus going around town. A fucking sex virus, and the first time Stan hears about it he’s lounging on Kenny’s couch next to Kyle, watching Kenny sitting cross-legged on the floor, struggling one-handedly with the tab on a can of beer, scanning a leaflet with the other. They’re sending them through postboxes now, apparently since some poor moron somewhere in Park County ended up in a coma last week by ignoring his symptoms and going on a fapping spree.

“Says here you can actually pass out from it, like five hours after the worst symptoms start to show…” Kenny tilts his head, “okay, so the only way to cure it is you gotta get laid.”

Stan frowns. “What?”

Kenny clears his throat, “I quote,‘sexual climax via ministrations performed by another person. Masturbation will relieve symptoms temporarily, but please be cautioned that they are likely to worsen upon return.'" He sits up properly and his beer almost falls over. He steadies it with a hand, “Dude, what the fuck? That sounds like a curse.”

No shit. “How are they treating this?” Stan asks, mind skipping ahead. Even if it’s been years since anything so whack happened, this shit doesn’t surprise in South Park - best to let the aliens, or Satan, or the Japanese, or whoever the fuck it might be, have their fun without question. It’ll pass in a week or two.

Kyle has his phone out already, scrolling rapidly. Stan steals a chicken nugget out of the box in his lap. “So this happened recently in a couple of towns already… once in New York in the 80s, shit...” Stan watches his brows furrow. “Apparently there’s systems where if you go to a hospital they’ve hired people for that purpose… but most of these comments are just saying to buddy up.”

Stan leans over his shoulder to look at the screen. It’s some kind of forum thread. Most of the comments sound like apocalypse contingency plans: tell this person, go straight to here, don’t go there, make sure you don’t run into that person. Several people - girls, he assumes - are talking about being wary of guys trying to cajole or guilt trip them into something. One person right at the top of the thread with a ton of upvotes is describing symptoms in detail, and how to recognise them - you get hungry, then thirsty, then horny. Generally irritable. Once you start getting a fever, you better get fucking. A whole bunch of people are joking that they’ll finally get laid from this. Someone’s linked a news article - a guy in Toronto went to jail after filming his girlfriend while she had the virus. Another article - a legal case dismissed because they couldn’t define rape under these terms yet. Jesus.

“Holy shit,” he says, “You guys got a plan?” It sounds ridiculous all dressed up in jargon in the leaflet, but seeing people’s actual experiences worries him a little. “This sounds horrible.” 

“I know,” Kenny exclaims, “Did I tell you guys a girl I work with caught it? She told me it’s like - like your mind is there, but you can’t control what’s happening, what your body wants. What you say or do… she said it’s like watching yourself crash a car.”

“What did she do?”

“She went to her friend, man. She wasn’t gonna go get clinically masturbated by some rando.” He sighs, sounds apologetic, “… she told me she never had sex before that.”

It keeps getting worse. “What would you do?” Stan asks.

Kenny’s answer is ready, but he doesn’t elaborate on it. “I’ve got people. And if they’re busy, I don’t mind going to get, uh, professional help.”

Stan catches Kyle’s eye suddenly - he looks wary, more than a little uncomfortable. Stan knows what must be going on in his head - Kyle’s not the kind of person who would ever have meaningless sex if he could help it. He’s never shared much with Stan about what he thought of this stuff, but lately, since coming out to him, he’s made enough derisive comments about “gay culture” or whatever that pretty much sum up his feelings on it.

Stan doesn’t think it’s so bad. Clearly, the terrifying part would be to find a girl who would be willing to make a pact with him - he’s obviously not gonna ask anyone with a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and that rules out pretty much most of the girls he knows. Even so, he wouldn’t mind going to get help. He sees the ‘What happens after?’ heading over Kenny’s scruff of hair, ugly font inside a thought bubble. Something about counselling and something else about God. Typical.

“I have no idea, dude.” Kyle says.

Kenny snorts from below. “Better get on Grindr quick, buddy.”

Stan watches Kyle smirk, but his eyes are somewhere else completely, staring blankly into his empty box of nuggets. He says to Stan suddenly, “You?”

Stan shrugs automatically. Kyle’s eyes are alert, and Stan finds he has to look away. He chalks it down to being caught thinking about his best friend’s sex life.

“I think I’d just go get a hospital hand job,” he says finally.

Kenny shakes his head, “You guys are fucking terrible at this.”

***

They leave Kenny’s place around nine since he has an early shift the next morning.

“Do you wanna grab dinner?” Kyle asks, as they pass the main street.

“Dude, didn’t you just have those chicken nuggets?” Stan says. He was planning to go home, or back to Kyle’s place. They would just talk or play video games or watch dumb videos or something. Stan savours the nights when they do just that, lame as it is. It’s weird seeing Kyle just once a week or so, when he’s in South Park on weekends between class.

They have some vague plans to converge, somewhere, but Stan has a job here, he’s not gonna risk it - he’ll give it at least a few more months of savings before he moves out himself.

Kyle says, “I know but I’m still hungry.” He’s already making the turn before Stan can object, and they pull up into one of the dime a dozen fast food joints lined up outside the mall.

Inside, Stan gets a burger and fries, the usual. Kyle orders that, plus a milkshake, more nuggets, and large fries instead of his usual regular.

Stan raises his eyebrows as Kyle puts down his tray opposite him. “Woah, dude…”

Kyle just gives him a brief shrug before settling down and digging into his burger. Stan watches him, amused. Neither of them eat as much crap as they used to as kids, but Stan thought he could win that contest between the two of them. Apparently not. He watches Kyle slurp the shake, get annoyed, and then actually remove the lid to take a swig of it.

“Are you okay?” Stan asks. That virus is just fresh in his mind, that’s all.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be -” Kyle looks up, suddenly seems to catch the look Stan’s conveying. His eyes widen. “No. No, I feel fine. It’s probably nothing. I’ve been writing this long ass report all day, it’s probably just all the brainwork.”

“Okay...”

“I said I’m fine, dude.” But he downs the whole milkshake at once, anyway. Stan brings up a list of symptoms on his phone, just to be safe. There’s a lot of them and he reads them carefully.

He could check insatiable hunger and insatiable thirst off, definitely. They’d be early symptoms. He keeps watching.

“Kyle,” he starts. “Do you-”

“I said I’m fucking fine. Jesus Christ, Stan.” A woman at the next table scowls in their direction. Irritable mood.

“I don’t know, dude,” he says, pointedly eyeing the mountain of food - already more than half finished. “I think we should get you home, just in case. Your parents aren’t in, right?”

He’s being straight up ignored. Kyle is picking off his fries, one by one. Stan slides his coke across the table to him and gently stops Kyle’s hand. “Dude- ”

Before he can blink, Kyle’s fingers are around his wrist in a vice grip.

That makes Kyle look up, finally, eyes wide. “Shit,” he says, and he lets go as suddenly. Stan’s skin smarts, and he sees an imprint where Kyle’s nails dug in.

“I need to go,” Kyle says, and he stands up and strides right out. Stan follows, brain on alert, barely catching the glass door as it swings in front of his face. Kyle’s making a beeline for his car, not paying him any attention.

Kyle.” Stan calls sternly after him. “Come on, dude, I’m not gonna let you drive like this. We don’t know what other symptoms you might get.”

Kyle turns around to wait, squeezing his eyes shut with a frown.

“How do you feel?”

“My head kinda hurts, actually. Fuck. I can’t believe this is happening.” He shifts uncomfortably.

Stan nods, “Let’s get you home first,” he says, reaching for the door on the driver’s side. He has to brush past Kyle to get it, and when they come into contact Kyle recoils away, almost jumps. He tries to ignore it and not make it any worse. “Get in,” he says. He’s thinking the steps through in his head. Get Kyle home, then worry about the rest.

Inside the car, Kyle is silent. Stan monitors him: he is breathing more ragged, and he’s finished the huge cup of coke already. Stan asks again.

Kyle almost groans his reply, “Bad… like my head is splitting. But if I focus on…,” He swallows and catches Stan’s eye warily. Stan understands. “...if I focus on that, it’s- I can bear it, and I wanna - I have so much energy.

“What are you gonna do?” Stan asks. Kyle looks suddenly, really alarmed. He looks completely lost. “Fuck, I can’t believe this. Shit.”

“Kyle. Focus. Do you wanna go to the hospital?”

Kyle doesn’t reply. Beads of sweat are starting to show on his temples. Stan realises with a start how fast he’s progressing. He keeps retreating too, so by the time Stan pulls up to the driveway Kyle is squashing himself against the window, as far from him as possible. He rubs his hands over his face with a groan. “I’ll just...go in, and take care of it…”

Stan cannot watch him beat around the bush at a time like this. “It’s gonna get worse if you just go in there and jerk off.”

Kyle’s nodding, eyes closed. He doesn’t seem as ready to bite as before. All his energy seems to be focused on - well, on suppressing his energy.

“You have to go.” He says. “I can’t - it’s hurting me.” He puts his hands over his face and mumbles, “You’re right here...I can smell you.”

Kyle’s words are starting to slur. Stan pointedly ignores that comment and goes through the list in his head. He’s probably got another couple of hours or so.

Kyle shakes his head with another groan, “I don’t want…I just need to…I can’t go to the hospital, Stan. But you have to leave now. I’ll be fine.”

That makes no fucking sense - he definitely won’t. He’s not going to have any more rational thoughts at this point. Stan fights the urge to panic, for Kyle’s sake. Think.

Kyle’s life is literally in his hands right now.

Okay, no hospital. Stan gets it. It’s embarrassing, and it’s worse for Kyle, surely - how likely is it he’ll get a guy and not a girl, here in this town especially? Do they even care about these things? And isn’t it worse, getting a guy that’s probably not into it at all? That’s another thing Stan’s reading at the diner told him - it’s not sperm bank shit. You need someone to channel the energy, actually placate the patient with sex. He wracks his brain, and each notion is worse than the previous. There’s doubtless shady offerings going up on the Internet. There could be people here, that they know, who would help.

“I can’t....” Kyle moans again, and Stan could bleed in sympathy, though he doesn’t know the rest of that sentence. Kyle’s pride is easily worse than his own regarding this stuff. It’s more than that, though.

It’s his dignity, his privacy. He knows Kyle. He can’t bear the thought - how he’ll feel when he wakes up tomorrow having had some senseless sexual encounter, probably with some random dude - or worse, someone he knows.

There’s the obvious option: Stan’s already here. He could…?

He doesn’t count, really. He’s sure he’s seen Kyle through worse.

“I could help?”

What?” Kyle snaps. He looks at Stan from between his fingers, which are pressed hard against his forehead, to ward off another wave of pain, no doubt. His shoulders are shaking a bit. Fever.  

Stan repeats himself. He knows it’s a long shot, and part of him feels ungrounded, suddenly, like he should really consult with himself a little better, before offering something like that, but they’re running out of time fast judging by Kyle’s symptoms.

“Listen,” he goes to touch Kyle’s arm instinctively.

Kyle jerks away, “Don’t.” His eyes are sharp, dark with the kind of expression that Stan could never have imagined on him. God. Well, he can’t back out now that he’s offered. Kyle needs him.

Stan backs away with his hands up. He takes a deep breath.

“Listen,” he says slowly, eyeing Kyle’s hands, fisted in his lap now. He’s going to leave marks in his palms. How bad does this get? “I know you don’t want to have sex with a random person.”

Kyle nods tightly, glaring at the dashboard. “Yeah, but… Are you sure?” He sounds hurt, weirdly.

“Yeah. It’s okay.” Stan tells Kyle and himself. He adds, feeling a bit stupid, “Are you?”

“I don’t want to hurt anyone.” I don’t want to get hurt.

“No, dude. Of course. You won’t hurt me.” He adds, hesitantly, “You’ll be safe, too. No one else has to see you this way.”

Kyle looks up at this. His brows are furrowed in the kind of distress that makes Stan want to hug him. He looks stiff and resigned, whether to the realisation that he’ll have to let someone help, or the realisation that it’s going to be Stan - Stan finds he doesn’t really want to know. He can’t keep up with this - the constant, volatile flux of Kyle’s mental state, the toll it must be taking on him. They need to solve this as soon as possible.

It helps to frame it like that - it’s about keeping Kyle safe, from himself, from the virus, whatever shit he might have to do if Stan wasn’t here. Surely this is the right option here?

He doesn’t know why he feels like he’s taking advantage of Kyle.

But no one - especially not Kyle - should have to to have sex like this. This isn’t what sex is.

Kyle jerks his head towards the dashboard. Housekeys. “Can you get out of the car first? I can… I can feel your presence now.” he says quietly.

Jesus Christ. “Your room?” Stan asks. He doesn’t know how much time they have.

Kyle nods stiffly. He’s making himself small, making himself move as little as possible. “I’ll drink some water and then I’ll come.”

 


Kyle comes in and stops short by his bed, the furthest corner of the room from where Stan is sitting in his desk chair. He closes the door behind him and swallows.

“Okay... uh, we need to do it now,” he says.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Just get me off.” He’s looking at Stan’s feet, fingers still curled into fists. He’s fighting himself to get the words out. “Look, uh, I’m trying really hard to control it now,” he says.

No shit.

He continues, “But when we- when we’re close, I don’t know if-  if I try something, or ask for something you don’t wanna do, just ignore me okay? Just- you jerk me off, that’s all we need. Don’t listen to me.”

God. Fuck. It’s finally starting to sink in. He hears Kyle take a deep breath across the room, but, again, it doesn’t help his predicament - he’s breathing in short, shallow huffs and every so often his whole body distorts with shivers. Stan’s pretty sure he’s still the stronger one between them, but God knows if he could match Kyle’s belligerence.

Kyle’s eyes are screwed shut, face pointed to the ceiling as Stan shucks off his shoes and his sweater. Kyle follows suit, twisting out of his jacket. He blinks, but his eyes don’t stop looking glazed. He doesn’t look like himself. And the way he’s looking at Stan feels like something - wrong, something Stan shouldn’t be privy to, shouldn’t be present for.

Kyle shivers off another wave of feverishness. Stan doesn’t want to wait any longer to get this over with. He says, “Okay, I’ll use my judgement.”

Kyle nods absently like he’s not even paying attention. The instant that Stan stands up, Kyle’s eyes are alert, following him like he’s prey.  

“Come closer,” he says carefully, squaring himself up and gesturing to the space on the bed next to him.

Stan doesn’t get to take two steps forward when Kyle meets him, his hands closing around Stan’s face. Stan almost recoils from the sensation - Kyle is hot, like a furnace. His lips are, too, when they kiss him, fervent and demanding. Stan tries to get his bearings, but honestly - this is so far from what he thought he’d be doing with his Saturday evening, so fucking far from anything he could imagine Kyle doing. He needs a moment, but he doesn’t get one. Kyle’s whole body trembles slightly, and pressed up close, Stan can’t ignore what he was politely declining to draw attention to moments ago. Kyle’s dick is hard against him, pressed hot against his thigh, and holy fuck, they’re really going to do this.

Kyle grips the back of his head, fingers digging hard enough to hurt, moaning into his mouth. He bites down, and Stan bites back to retaliate. His mouth comes away tasting like copper, and he gasps at the sting.

Kyle pulls away suddenly, as violent as he came. Instantly, he looks a thousand times smaller, eyes bewildered. “Sorry - shit - I’m sorry,” he chokes, even as he’s still gripping Stan’s face with that hand, dragging burning skin along his face and cupping his jaw.  Stan nods his acknowledgement, licking the taste off his lips.

It’s good. It’s a good thing. If Kyle can be so - violent, it means that he’s not getting weaker yet. It’s not as bad, not as late as it could be.

Kyle is back in his neck, nuzzling. The crude heat of his body, practically rutting against Stan now, is too foreign - too stark for him to comprehend against the distraught voice of his best friend. It’s not going to work like this. Kyle can’t be feeling sorry whenever he’s conscious.

“I need you so fucking much,” he says into Stan’s neck, and his voice is completely wrecked, like an apology.

Stan pulls their faces back together and kisses him. His arms curl around Kyle’s waist, squeezing, trying to offer comfort. I know. It’s okay. It’ll pass.

But what he says is, “Yeah? Show me.”

Kyles body wracks with a shiver, and he presses his fingers into Stan’s jaw again, pulling him forcefully into another kiss. He smells so familiar, but the change in him is palpable - more tangible the closer they get, and the longer they stay close. When he moves, it’s jerky, like static, as if a part of him is pulling back and only managing to catapult that mindless drive by doing so. Stan instinctively runs his hands down Kyle’s arms, trying to soothe, mediate some of the harsh energy that’s clearly tearing away his senses. Kyle pushes him away to wrestle off his own shirt and Stan does the same. Then he goes for Stan’s throat, kissing sloppily down to his clavicle. Fuck.

He won’t lie. It feels good. Kyle only pauses when another throb of pain hits him - and why the fuck is he still trying to resist? - but when Stan moans for him it only takes a split second for him to get back on track. He fumbles with his belt and yanks his zipper down, and Stan only grabs his ass and pulls him in closer.

Kyle is a really good kisser. It’s fucking surreal to think that - but he is. A gut feeling, an instinctive knowledge of his friend tells Stan it’s Kyle and not the virus. He’s brimming with passion; urgent - and Stan is too. Well. Thinking about that now is going to do him no good. But the more decisive he is, the more Kyle is too - so that helps.

Stan pulls them onto the bed so they’re lying down somewhat. Kyle leans over him promptly, an arm pushing down on Stan’s chest. He moans with a heaving shudder and nuzzles into Stan’s neck even more. He breathes, agonised, “God, I wanna fuck you.”

Stan is wide awake. His brain jolts at those words (and, uh, his cock), and it forces him to consider their position. He needs to get Kyle off immediately. Before Stan ends up in a compromising way himself. Kyle can’t consent right now, he reminds himself. They have to stick to the plan.

Why the fuck is he seriously considering that anyway?

Stan kisses him, hard, hands deliberately tilting Kyle’s face to him, trying to keep his attention on that.

He seems sated for a moment. Stan takes the opportunity to shove him into the bed, straddling him. Kyle’s thrashing up but Stan keeps his legs locked firmly. Kyle grunts and just sticks to pulling Stan down by his neck. He really is scorching, radiating heat, now that Stan can feel his naked chest under his hands, heart pounding erratically.

Kyle works off the brief moment where Stan is focused on the kiss, grinding his cock up against Stan’s - because Stan is so hard - and pushing him off roughly in the same movement. They end up in stalemate, side to side. Stan just focuses on Kyle’s cock now (Jesus) and on getting his pants out of the way.

Don’t,” Stan warns, as Kyle brazenly tries to get a hand in, and he pulls Kyle’s hands away, pressing his own naked palm against the length of his cock. The thin layer of Kyle’s underwear is slick with precome.

Stan has to moan at the sheer heat of it, the evidence in his hand. His best friend in the whole world, the fucking sight of him so unravelled over this - over him.

It doesn’t matter right now that it’s not real. Not when it feels like this. Stan peels away the fabric and Kyle melts in his hand. He tries to kiss Stan between his moans, tries to squirm, wrench him off, pull him back in. When Kyle throws his head back with a grunt, Stan kisses his neck, drags his teeth on the first signs of stubble, relishing the warmth. It earns him wet, jerky thrusts into his fist. Kyle doesn’t acquiesce easily, though, not that he expected it. He runs a thumb along Stan’s jaw, watching him with hungry, quick eyes.

Stan opens for another lavish kiss into Kyle’s bruising neck, but he doesn’t get the chance - the back of his neck grows pointlessly hot when the length of Kyle’s thumb presses down firm against his tongue. The sight seems to aggravate Kyle even more. He grabs roughly onto Stan’s chin; squeezes his pelvis to make use of his free hand, fingers clawing at the waist of his jeans.

“Suck,” he says - and Stan, compulsively, does, staring down Kyle’s own fevered gaze.

That’s enough for Kyle, apparently, because he rolls his hips back in with a heaving shudder, the fast, slippery sounds of Stan’s hand around his cock speeding up, giving way to breathless groans. Stan touches him like he would touch himself (like he needs to right now), until Kyle doesn’t let him anymore.

Kyle slumps back into the bed. “Ugh,” he says, blinking.

Stan spares Kyle’s loose body a glance and turns onto his back. He tastes the sting on his lips, hoards the jarring evidence of Kyle’s release on his body, and jerks himself off with the same come-slicked hand. When he turns back, Kyle is already falling asleep. Stan distantly recalls what’s supposed to happen now: he’ll rest while his body recovers, and probably wake up a little disoriented.

Stan closes his eyes and takes a breath. Crisis averted. Kyle’s body is still so hot, and as Stan cleans them up, he makes a mental note to check that. Kyle makes a soft noise, half-asleep, and curls onto his side. Stan fights the bizarre urge to gather him up in his arms, the equally strong urge to flee, and ends up settling halfway - he gets out of bed, and decides to kill time on Kyle’s desk. He has to be there to make sure Kyle’s back to normal when he wakes up.

 

Kyle wakes up a couple of hours later just as Stan is thinking about leaving. He’s tired to the bone, too. He wants to sleep and shut off his brain.

“Stan,” Kyle says, rubbing his head.

Stan turns to him. “Are you okay? Is it gone?”

Kyle nods and rubs sleep out of his eyes. He says, “You’re still here.”

Shouldn’t he be? Stan asks, “How’re you feeling?”

“Tired.”

“You’re okay, though, right?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Thank God. Stan feels relief wash right over him. The growing unease he felt the last couple of hours eases. It doesn’t matter how weird he feels - it worked. “You’ll be okay, then? I gotta go home and sleep.”

“Of course, dude,” Kyle says awkwardly. He pulls the covers right over himself. “Thanks.”

Stan gets home and goes straight to his room. Laying in bed, he tries not to think about how his clothes and his hands smell like Kyle.  

***

When Stan wakes up the next morning, it can hardly be called morning anymore, but he feels like he hasn’t slept ten minutes. His mind goes straight to Kyle. So. They had sex. It wasn’t really sex, but still - he was there with Kyle. They kissed and they touched and he made Kyle come.

Shit. He doesn’t know how to process that.

It shouldn’t be a big deal because it was about the virus except - except that Stan cannot lie to himself.

He was so fucking into it. He thinks about the things he said - the things Kyle said, and how alive they made him feel. He wasn’t the one with the fucking virus.

He can recall it vividly. It doesn’t help that his body remembers: his lips are bruised, his neck, even on his hip. He smells like sex and Kyle, neither of which should be that strange, except in combination.

He wonders how Kyle feels. Does he even remember much? Stan didn’t want to bombard him with questions right after he woke up - and honestly, he felt way too awkward to even broach it - but in hindsight it feels like a mistake. He has no idea what Kyle remembers, let alone what he thought of it. He was probably just relieved to come out of it alive.

But it can’t have been just the virus. Stan felt it. He knows what chemistry is supposed to feel like, and that was it. But does Kyle know that? Or in that state, was Stan just the first best option for him?

Why does he even care? It’s not like they’re gonna fuck again just to check. It’s too weird to think of Kyle like that. Not just because he’s a guy (Stan doesn’t want to touch that train of thought with a ten foot pole - not until he’s got something substantial in his stomach, at least), but he’s Stan’s best friend.

He can’t stop his mind unravelling over this.

It ends up being a week until he next sees Kyle. It wouldn’t be the worst gap they’ve had between seeing each other these days, if not for the fact that Stan doesn’t text, or call, or send him stupid memes in the meantime. Kyle doesn’t reach out to him either, which makes him feel slightly better about his own awkwardness, yet impossibly worse.

But it’s hard to sustain. He misses Kyle. He knows they’re going to have to talk at some point. He doesn’t even know how to approach Kyle about this, so he texts him for coffee. Daytime, in public. The furthest environment he can think of from that.

Kyle meets him outside Tweek Bros on a Friday afternoon. Stan’s strangely relieved to find that he can read discomfort all over Kyle - from his weak smile to the stiff way he holds himself in the line in front of Stan. It makes him hopeful that he’s not the only one having a minor crisis. Stan’s gut tells him to buy drinks separately, but he realises at the last minute how much weirder it would be to stray from their usual routine, and orders over Kyle’s shoulder.  

God. There’s no fucking guidebook on how to talk to your best friend after one senseless fuck (if it can even be called that) messes up your confidence in everything you thought you felt about them.

Stan starts, “I think - we should talk about last weekend.” Kyle’s downcast little nod tells him they’re on the same page. Stan asks, feeling a wary kind of hope crest in his chest for no reason, “Do you remember it?”

Kyle’s eyes are carefully focused on him. Stan feels like he’s being read.

He’d jump if Kyle did. He’s not sure for what, exactly, but there’s new territory - new conversation, at least - and Stan doesn’t think he’s scared of it.

But Kyle takes a long time to reply, or maybe that’s in his head. He says finally into his mug, “Yeah - it’s in flashes. But I’m pretty sure I remember the whole thing.” His voice is mechanical, practised. He isn’t looking anywhere near Stan, his body poised stiffly. Stan’s stomach sinks.

“We don’t have to talk, I mean,” he says quickly, and adds even quicker, “Just - It was weird for me too. But it’s done, it worked.” Kyle looks up at him now. “I know it feels kind of strange now, but I miss hanging out with you, dude.”

Kyle shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I know I’ve been weird, too.”

Stan nods, looks at him earnestly over the rim of his mug, and when Kyle catches his eye, something in his expression softens instantly. Stan tries to wash away the dawning feeling that he can’t read Kyle at all right now - this wasn't the case before, surely?

Kyle continues, “I just - honestly, I felt guilty that you had to do it. Just because I didn’t want anyone else to see me-”

Stan cuts him off. “Come on. That’s not your fault.” His heart beats faster as he gets the next words out, “You know it doesn’t change anything for me, dude. You’re still my best friend.”

“Yeah, me too.’ Kyle laughs a little in relief. Stan must really be going crazy, because it sounds cold to him. An imitation.

“Good.” Stan smiles.

Kyle looks at him, and then he does too, reluctant and goofy, and Stan quietly indulges in it, because this is the Kyle he’s familiar with. That’s not an expression he could ever associate with their frantic encounter that night.

If that thought makes him feel disappointed for a single, strange moment, he doesn’t dwell on why.

 

Stan really starts to worry after they’re sort of back to normal. Because his worst fears become true: for him, it doesn’t go back to normal. More and more, there’s news reports (and hearsay) and Stan takes refuge in the fact that he’s probably not the only one feeling seriously fucked by this virus.

He’s been on a sliding slope all week. When they hung out after the coffee, and he couldn't stop looking at Kyle’s hands as they scribbled notes late into the evening. Nursing a beer on the couch, he just watched Kyle, sprawled out on the carpet after the conversation died out,  and he didn’t realise how weird that was until he was walking home, snapped out of that strange trance. Or that very night, pressing the now-familiar hollow in his neck where a bruise bloomed just days ago courtesy of his best friend, and wondering what it would be like. Would Kyle really be so - uh, pragmatic, if he wasn’t under the influence of the virus? What would he be like with a boyfriend?

Kyle doesn’t talk about his love life, he never really has. Stan usually knows vaguely what’s going on - latest was that he had a brief thing with a dude in his sophomore year of college, but it didn’t come to anything. Stan gets the material realities, the things that Kyle drops casually enough that Stan assumes it’s all good, all the time. But he doesn’t know what goes on in Kyle’s head beyond abstractions and hypothetical situations. Kyle doesn’t tell him about crushes, or point out random hot guys, or any of the things Stan does with relative ease. It’s a glaring gap in a knowledge that otherwise feels more complete to Stan than his own life’s does.

“I was thinking,” he says one evening, as they’re sitting on Kyle’s porch after a night out. Stan has been designated driver because Kyle’s celebrating finishing a huge workload, and they’ve dropped the others off. Kyle is half-asleep on his shoulder, and he makes a non-committal kind of go on with his head.

“I was thinking about this when you got sick,” Stan starts, and tries hard not to feel like he’s taking advantage of Kyle’s state (hah). “I was trying to think through the options, right, and I realised I don’t really know anything about you and - you know, what kinda guys you like,” he gestures vaguely, “Anything on that front.”

Kyle tenses for a brief moment. He sighs, “I don’t know, dude. Not really much happening on that front.”

“Really?” Stan asks. “ Not even some random crush?” He teases, “Or a hookup? I don’t believe you.”

Kyle huffs loudly. “I don’t do random sex.”

“I know,” Stan says sympathetically. He feels small. “I’m sorry you had to.”

Kyle pats his shoulder awkwardly, “You’re not random.” It’s surprisingly sweet, for him, and Stan tries to keep his heart steady.

“But I wish we hadn’t,” Kyle says seriously. Stan knows it’s not something he would say sober, considering that it was the most realistic option they had, and that makes it hurt more.

“Why?” he ventures.

Kyle shrugs. “It makes me feel a lot guiltier than before. I didn’t need that.”

Stan’s breath hitches. He feels like they’re completely missing each other, and he can’t figure out why. “Before what?

Kyle shrugs and stands up in one stark movement, promptly steadying himself on Stan’s shoulder. He clears his throat, “I don’t know dude. I have a fucking headache.”

Stan decides to drop it. Kyle is always a cryptic drunk, and he suddenly doesn’t have the energy for it. He makes sure Kyle gets inside, and he goes home.

The next day, they’re thankfully, frustratingly, back to normal. He wonders, again, what Kyle would be like with someone - someone really not random? Someone he loved, maybe as much as he loves Stan? He doesn’t want to use himself as some kind of benchmark, but it’s not like Kyle is giving him anything to work with here.

There is such a thing as too comfortable, and Kyle is gay, anyway. There’s no novelty in it for him. That’s what Stan’s still thinking about, alarmingly, when he has Kyle’s head shoved in a pillow (naturally grappling to the death for the remote). Kyle screeches and laughs and pinches his wrist mercilessly until he lets go, and all Stan can think is, how can his stupid brain make this weird?

He’s distracted enough not to notice until Kyle has his hands around his throat. Stan gasps in surprise and stupidly, brings his hands over Kyle’s own. He meets Kyle’s eyes on instinct, and Kyle lets go instantly, mumbles something about “more snacks” and flees to the kitchen.

Stan doesn’t stop himself that night, because the memory is fresh again, because they touched in almost exactly the same way as then, and this time Stan has been overthinking it too much to even care anymore. He cups his cock and thinks about the way Kyle’s hands felt on him and the way he kissed, although it’s hazy, and lets the sheer strangeness of it spur him on just as much as anything else.

He thinks wryly about how much worse he’d be making it right now, if he had the virus. He wonders if he could go to Kyle in that case - it’s only fair, in an odd way.

***

Stan doesn’t get to ponder any more on his contingency plan, because he wakes up in the middle of the night with an ear-splitting headache. The whole room sways and crashes right into his brow when he tries to sit up. He reaches for his phone, and almost jerks back as the screen lights up. He lets his eyes adjust, excruciatingly. 3.34AM.

His throat is completely scorched. He downs what’s in the water bottle next to him in two gulps, finds a half-drunk can of soda and finishes that off too. He picks up his phone and it almost slips right through his sweaty grip. There’s a throbbing ache between his legs, and he shoves off the covers to cool it off. It’s past pleasure into pain, and even the weight of the blanket is messing with him, pleading him to just touch.

Fuck, it would be so easy to... to just feel better, even for just a second.

He has to call twice before a groggy voice picks up.

“Kyle, I think I’m sick.”

“Are you sure?”

“I just woke up and, uh… I’m hard. But I feel really bad, dude. ”

“Do you have a thermometer?” Stan hears something thumping, winces at a loud clacking noise. Kyle must be getting out of bed.

“No.”

“Feel irritable?”

Stan has to calm himself, really concentrate, to be able to hear what Kyle’s asking him. “No. I just - I feel weak, dude. Shaky. I can’t focus.”

Kyle inhales sharply. “You’re alone?... Good. I’ll be right there. Drink some water… Keep it together, I’ll be there soon.”

Stan hangs up and takes deep breaths, willing his body to obey. No. Not even one press over his pants, not when he already feels like he’s dying. He’ll brush his teeth, keep his hands busy.

 

“What shall I do?” Stan asks bluntly, the moment he lets Kyle in through the front door. Fuck - it hits him immediately. Kyle smells like Kyle - just more. Stan wants to disappear into him, and the urge is so strong that he has to make himself walk away, to sit down, on the couch far away from him in order to stop keeling over.

“Can you do it?” he mumbles into his hands, because Kyle is taking too long to reply.

Apparently he does have a quick answer for this. “I can’t, dude. We’ve gotta find someone else.”

Jeez. Stan doesn’t think it was that bad the first time. But then again, he was actually in control of his body. He doesn’t, in his right mind, want to have sex with Kyle right now. But it’s hard to argue with the pulsing ache in his pants, in his temple, basically coursing through his whole fucking body at this point. Jesus, he can’t believe how bad this actually feels. Surely it wasn’t like this for Kyle? But he can pinpoint when Kyle first started showing symptoms; he doesn't know how long he himself has been festering in his sleep.

“Why can’t you do it?” Stan breathes.

“I don’t want to. It’s not right - I’d feel guilty.”

God. This shit again? It doesn’t even make sense, if he’s not the one in need of a life-saving fuck here. Stan doesn’t know how long he has, and the thought of going into a clinic at ass o’clock in the morning and undressing now, like this - it makes him cold. “What? Why the hell would you - I’m asking you. Just do it, Kyle.”

“No.” Kyle says weakly.

Why?” Stan demands, because fuck it - he feels like crap, and he needs to come, and he wants to be safe, and he wants clarity, and he wants to be in control of his body and he’s losing it all so fast. Can’t Kyle see the state he’s in? It’s not like Kyle owes him anything, but he thought they had an understanding, and it hurts now, finding out now that maybe they don’t. That Kyle wouldn’t budge for him in a situation like this one, like Stan would - did - for him. It stings.

Stan digs the heels of his palms into his eyes. “Tell me,” he says. He can’t keep the anger out of his voice.

Kyle looks like he’s going to hit something, or cry. “Because,” he spits, “it makes me feel like total shit that the only time I get to be with you like this is to cure ourselves from a fucking sex virus.”

Stan blinks slowly. Is he saying what Stan thinks - He can’t figure it out, his brain is whirring too much and not enough. Does Kyle want- ?

But Kyle keeps talking, and his voice is shaking. He tries to mediate himself, “And that’s - that’s not your fault, you just need to - you need to find someone else, dude. Please. I’ll help you. I’ll call the hospital.”

The words are starting to blur together, distort into mumbles as unclear as Stan’s vision right now. He doesn’t have time. He blurts the only thing that’s been in his head since he woke up in a sweat. “I want it to be you.”

“Stan…” Kyle is pleading.

“Please, Kyle,” he says. “I need you now.

“Fine.” The look Kyle gives him is betrayed. It makes his breath hitch, but there’s no time now - he’ll worry about Kyle later.

Kyle is glaring at him; he looks angry again. But he uses that - he comes and closes his hands around Stan’s face, kissing him hard. He pushes them right into the couch - and fuck, it was Kyle, last time, and not the virus - because he’s kissing the same way that Stan’s been remembering for two weeks, the same urgency and the same passion. Stan revels in the warmth of his body, presses back into him to avoid the rough texture of the cushions under his back, how they sting his fevered flesh. He wraps an arm around Kyle’s waist possessively. He wants to curl into Kyle’s body, take all of Kyle’s heat for himself, to nurse his own shivering skin.

Kyle drags him by the hand upstairs. Stan pushes him into the bed the second they enter his room, and his body follows of its own volition, tied to Kyle’s presence. Kyle stops him with a hand.

“Touch my cock,” Stan growls, because he swears to God he’s going to pass out any minute.

“Wait,” Kyle says, sharp enough that Stan is forced to listen. He blinks again, no less aggravated than he was before kissing Stan. He looks like he’s working something out in his head. Stan claws at his waist and wishes he would hurry the fuck up.

“Lie down, take off your pants,” he instructs, finally. Stan shoves them off in one go, and Kyle has him down in the next, straddling him. Stan’s not gonna fight him for it - he’s losing coordination in his movements, at this point he just needs anything on his cock. He grinds up into Kyle, relishing the contact. He’s about to ask for more, when Kyle climbs off him and kneels between his legs, bending down and taking Stan’s cock in his mouth in one measured movement.

Stan almost chokes, almost comes right then. Kyle’s mouth is on his dick, and it feels like pure bliss. His toes curl at the sheer heat - at the same time, it seems to cool the fire in his whole body. Fuck. It’s a good strategy.  He groans loudly and lets the sensation wash over him. Kyle is - not taking it easy, to say the least, getting straight to business and sucking him down with purpose.

Literally. If Stan wasn’t in a fevered-virus-addled-haze right now, the thought might almost disappoint him. But he looks down, over Kyle’s arm that’s firmly holding his pelvis in place, and catches a glimpse of his closed eyes, his concentrated brows. Kyle looks almost gentle, normal. Almost like this is right, like he’s doing a job that should only be his in the first place. Stan rolls his hips involuntarily, and Kyle only sucks him in more, finally letting Stan fuck into him shallowly. Stan doesn’t take long to come in his mouth, shamelessly loud. It’s exhilarating.

Just as quickly a wave of cold washes over him. Stan trembles and groans - because he can’t fucking stand it, the sensations are relentless and overwhelming, ever since he woke up. He wipes away the fresh sweat from his forehead and leans up on his elbows, to see Kyle wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, breathing harshly. He’s halfway off the bed. Stan grabs his wrist and tugs it with what feels like the last of his energy.

He’s freezing. They left it so late. He doesn’t feel well enough to be left alone. He says, “I need water.”

Kyle takes the bottle off the nightstand, takes a swig himself before handing it over to Stan. Even though Stan swears it must be close to lukewarm by now, it feels cold enough to sting going down, but he can’t stop drinking, tipping the bottle completely. When he puts it down, Kyle is sitting close to him, pulling the covers over his waist and petting the sweaty hair away from his forehead. His hands are cool and tender. Stan screws his eyes shut. He wants it all to be over.

“It’s okay,” Kyle says gently, “You’re gonna be okay. You just have to sleep it off now.”

Stan groans and hits the pillow, but he has no trouble tugging Kyle down with him. “I don’t wanna be alone,” he says, and it’s that simple.

The conversation before, the rollercoaster of emotions that Stan’s brain has provided this week - hell, even what they did just now - it’s all the last thing on his mind. It’s all trivial. He knows he got close to something really bad today. Right now, he needs sleep. He needs the warmth of his bed, the knowledge that it’ll be okay, and Kyle to tether him to it.

 

Stan wakes up to the afternoon sunlight streaming low through the window. He sighs in relief - no mind-numbing headache, body ache, sex drive, and it doesn’t hurt his eyes. He sits up. Kyle was here when he fell asleep, but he’s not here now. The smell of him on Stan’s body - and the shoes in the corner of the room - tell him he hasn’t gone far, though. Good. He showers and lets the water wash away the residual feeling of sickness. He thinks about what he’s going to say. Apologize, definitely. And the scary part - get Kyle’s thoughts on the matter. Ask him for clarity, and ask for something more. Stan doesn’t have everything sorted out in his head, but he doesn’t need to, because he knows the most important part. Just to be with Kyle. Find out what they both really want. And maybe just being with him will clear up the rest.

He doesn’t say what he plans to, in the end. Kyle is sitting at the kitchen counter when he goes downstairs, and he looks up at Stan with an expression both wary and relieved. When Stan goes to him, he finds that the only thing he really wants to do is gather Kyle in his arms and kiss him. Kyle takes his face in his hands and kisses him back. It’s slower, and they’re careful with each other. It’s so much simpler than anything Stan’s mind has been occupied with.

“Is this okay?” Stan asks quietly against his lips, because it doesn’t hurt to be sure. Kyle only makes a soft noise of approval against him.

Stan can feel his heart beating fast, though. “Do you remember it?” Kyle breathes.

“I remember what you said.”  

“And?” Kyle asks, but he’s already giving in, cupping the back of Stan’s head. It feels so real and so good. Stan laughs off the thrill. He’s feeling brave.

“And I think I’ll go ahead and show you what it’s like without the virus,” he says, half-joking. “But you might have to take me out for that.”

Okay, that’s kind of dumb. It’s really dumb. He catches his weird giddy hope, ready to stuff it down - except Kyle just grins the brightest grin, and kisses him again.