Consistent

BY : RandomJaz
Category: +S through Z > South Park
Dragon prints: 7345
Disclaimer: I do not own South Park or any of it's characters, nor do I profit from this fanfiction.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey, again! So sorry for the wait, again! School is draining me. Its been about another month. To try and make up for it, I'm giving you both chapter 17 and 18.

My original plan was to start writing Chapter 19, and wait to post chapter 18 until it was almost done. (You know, as a back up in case I got delayed or bogged down.) But, I seriously feel bad because the feedback has been spectacular and that should be rewarded. I don't want you guys to think I take it for granted, because I don't.

Shout out to my faithful Archive of our Own site readers! Thank you, thank you for the feedback 😊

l Hope to hear from you guys, again! You've all been so patient! Happy reading!

Xxxxx

My mom didn't cook much. But, when she did, she always served me before bothering to tell Dad there was food ready. If she told him.

We could be halfway through our meal before he even realized. That was Mom's way of telling him to go fuck himself. Dad wasn't home, tonight.

"Pete. The chicken's ready." Mom knocked on my bedroom door on her way downstairs. "Come eat."

The oven timer was going off and she was heading down to turn it off. Warm roasted chicken billowed through the house, coming in through under my door. There was food, and Dad wasn't around. Downstairs became profoundly more appealing.

"That cooking channel sucked me in this week." Mom carved the roast, placing a chunk of chicken breast on a plate for me. "Putting lemons inside the bird is supposed to help keep it moist. Wanted to try it out."

She was scooping mashed potatoes and peas next it when I walked in. The tacky wall clock with a cat's face ticked, the tail darting left and right along with its big round eyes.

"Do you still like your gravy right on top of the potatoes and meat?" She asked, ladle in hand and ready to pour.

I nodded and went up to the counter where she set my fixed plate down to start making her own. Swinging the fridge door open, I took out two cans of Sprite and brought them to the table. I put one in Mom's spot, next to her utensils.

Silverware clicked in comfortable silence during the rare cooked meal. Roasted chicken sure beat some snack from the pantry. Or, something microwavable. As a kid, Mom had to fight with me to eat my peas. Now, they spilled over in to my potatoes and I forked them in to my mouth without complaint.

The recycling bin needed to be emptied. Good thing that pick-up was in the morning. Shiny, glass beer bottles were piled to the edges, one falling out and hitting the ground. Mom flinched at the sound of glass breaking.

"I'll sweep that up later. Don't walk over there." She told me as I had nothing but socks on my feet.

"I won't..."

"That bum has no consideration. If he's going to fill the bin to the brim, the least he can do is bring it out to the curb."

"Mhm."

I moved a chunk of chicken around my plate, wiping up some gravy-soaked potatoes. I was listening, not that my detached presence reflected that.

The chicken tastes good. Moist, how Mom said.

"Pete?"

"Yeah, Mom?"

"How are you?"

"...How am I?"

Mom's green eyes met mine for a second. I happened to look up when grabbing my drink. Having a staring contest with the wall clock instead, I took a sip.

"I'm fine." How many times have I said that in my lifetime?

"Is school okay?"

"My grades are good."

This wasn't much to go on. It was good, but vague. Mom's attempt to interact with me didn't lose steam. Talking was easier without the chance that some scowling, disheveled shell of a man would come around the corner and light her up like a fuse. Then, Kaboom.

"You've always been smart. You get that from me."

"Obviously didn't get it from Dad..."

"You didn't get much from him. That man is useless."

Another bottle tipped out of the overflowing recycling bin. Mom sprinkled some salt over her food, exasperated.

"I should feed him the shards." She threatened, although it sounded bored and empty. "If he's hungry when he gets back, he can help himself to them."

"..."

"The chicken's not very big but take what you want. Makes no difference to me if he comes back and eats, or not."

Small talk with Mom evolved in to more complaints of Dad. I tuned out. This was nothing I hadn't heard before.

"Pete." Looks like mom asked me a question that I didn't respond to. "Did you hear me?"

The clueless look on my face answered her second question.

"I asked if you want to come with me to your aunt's house tomorrow." She reiterated, thinking I heard her the first time and was playing dumb. "She's baking cookies with the kids."

"I'm not much of a baker."

"It would be good for you to get out of that room for the holiday."

"I'm going to a friends' house for a Christmas Eve party tomorrow… I won't be in my room all day."

Another bite of chicken went in my mouth. I couldn't taste it, this time. Can't we eat in silence? We don't talk much in this house...why start now?

"Are you sure you're alright?" Mom's new interest in my life persisted. "You're quiet."

"That's new?"

"Something seems different about you, lately. I can't put my finger on it…"

The cat clock's eyes darted back and forth, apprehensive of the scene before it. I swallowed, my choker moving slightly above my Adam's apple. Mom looked ready to try her hand at another question.

"Your friend's party." Mom started. "Which friend would this be?"

My mom didn't ask me much about my friends. She didn't like Michael or Henrietta. Their personalities seeped from their pores like raunchy body odor. They both hated parents, no matter what. They hated everyone that wasn't us.

Georgie was so quiet the times Mom had seen him that she didn't mind him. Stan...he puzzled her. She couldn't connect the dots as to why he would associate with a social outcast, such as myself. He was getting something out of it, that's why.

"It's Mike, Mom. His family really likes Christmas; they throw a Christmas Eve party every year."

"...who's Mike?" she asked, only having a list of four names that she recognized which Mike was not on.

"He was over on Thanksgiving...you let him in, remember?"

Struck with recollection, Mom nodded with understanding.

"Tall one with the long green hair?"

"That's him."

"He's polite. I like him...That other goth boy you hang out with gives me the willies. I'd hate to run in to him in a back alley."

Mike's not goth. But, it sounded better than saying "Vampire", so I didn't correct her. Mom would think he's crazy even though Mike wasn't delusional enough to think he was actually a vampire.

No shocker that she liked Mike over Michael. Mike was a parent's dream child. Sure, he wore black and make up, but that was all superficial. Inside, he was a gem. It was easy to look past the way he dressed when he charmed you.

"My other friends aren't ever going to be like Mike. I'm not going to hold my breath. You shouldn't either..."

"Pete, why do you hang out with those scary kids? They aren't very...er...pleasant."

This was the question that nagged my mother since fourth grade. Her shy red-haired little boy left for school one morning, and came back a different person. It went on from there.

Black hair dye, black clothes. Angry music...angry child. She never could figure it out. She didn't pay enough attention.

"They're not so bad..."

They were there for me when she wasn't.

Getting up for more potatoes, Mom stepped around the mess of glass scattered on the kitchen tile. Shards and jagged pieces all around the recycling bin.

"God, it reeks of cheap beer over here..." Mom scrunched her nose in disgust. "He drinks it like it's water...Tch. His liver and kidneys will give out, eventually. Cross your fingers."

While she was up, she narrowed her eyes at the set of housekeys still hanging on the hook. Damn, I thought the beer bottles pissed her off...

"If that waste of space comes home at all tonight, don't let him in." Mom instructed me to ignore the doorbell if it rang. "Idiot's so excited to see his little girlfriend, he forgets his damn keys."

"And if he spams the doorbell like an asshole? You know, like last time."

"I'll deal with it. Don't let him in."

Dad better hope his side piece planned to keep him, or he'd be checking in for the night up at the motel. Christmas Eve was drawing nearer with every minute that ticked by. Midnight was maybe six hours away.

Mom fumed the rest of the meal. From over her shoulder, I kept watch on the recycling bin. There was one other bottle that could tip over. If you blew on it, that would be another heap of glass on the floor.

Mom's foot tapped agitatedly under the table. It was like she knew that bottle was taunting her.

Xxxxxx

Mike's family threw a Christmas Eve party for not only family, but neighborhood friends. Their house was big enough to entertain tons of people. I bumped shoulders, sliding by trying to find a path to Mike. His last text said he was helping his mom set out refreshments and food.

"Mikey! Your friend is here." She saw me, mid pour of a drink.

She had green and red plastic cups arranged on a counter, filling them with cranberry juice. A bunch of cups with orange juice were already poured. One was in Mike's hand.

"There's food everywhere, enjoy." Mike's Mom gave my cheek a pat, hands manicured and nimble like her son's. "Don't be shy."

She left to bring a tray with plates of crackers, cheese, and deli meats to the living room. Like Thanksgiving, Mike was dressed nicely, but toned down. Green dress shirt and black pants. Bare-faced with black-lined eyes I could get lost in.

"Your house is a beehive." I crossed my arms, side stepping away from someone trying to get past me from behind. "How do you stand this?"

"Crack a smile, Pete. It's Christmas."

Eager beaver. We still had a day.

"Not Christmas yet, Mike."

"Will you smile for me, anyways?"

"No."

"Pretty please, baby bat?"

"I already got you your Christmas present. Don't push it."

"Smile~"

I stared at him evenly before taking a cup of cranberry juice. Whispering in my ear as I took a sip, Mike's voice dropped.

"Should I take you downstairs and make you smile?"

"MIKE." I sputtered on my drink.

Mike's mom came back with an empty tray. Mike leaned away, blinking as innocently as ever upon her return. Day and night. Mike morphed back in to his goody-goody persona.

"Mikey, I'm not sure which of my friends are bringing their children. Be nice if you see them, they go to your school."

"You have my word."

"You're my good boy."

Mike got a kiss on the head before his mother went on her way to fulfill her duties as the party hostess. She had tables and counters with food everywhere, and she went around to refill them all. Half of throwing a party this size was refilling bowls and cups.

Why? Why do it? Where's the fun in that? It's work.

"Good boy?" I waited until she was out of range to shed some truth on the matter. "Ignorance is bliss."

"I'm a good boy…when I want to be."

"Which isn't as often as one would think. I learned that fast."

"Don't pretend you don't love it."

Changing the topic, I asked Mike whose parents his mom was friends with, to get an idea of who might show up. He let me redirect the conversation being there were so many people around that did not need to hear the sensitive and intimate details of our relationship. No one was tuning in on what we were talking about, but we didn't need to test our luck.

"I don't know who's showing up." Mike said. "The only person I know she's friends with is Vlad's Mom."

"Your moms are friends?"

"For years. I'm not sure if she's coming, though. Vlad said something about his mom dragging him to some relative's house tonight."

Mike's relatives took their turns greeting him and talking to him as they arrived. I took a step away to be polite, doing my best to blend in with the wall. The sparkly red tinsel and I weren't vibing.

Wasn't getting along with the bowl of fragrant potpourri, either. Why are there pinecones in there? Smells like my grandpa. He was old. Like a tree.

"Hi!" Mike's mother gushed loudly and excited from the next room, I could just hardly hear her over the music and party. "So glad you could come!"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world!"

More people. Why would anyone willingly turn their home in to a community event? An overcrowded one. Wasn't this a fire hazard?

Nearby, Mike's elderly great uncle sat at the table waving for Mike to come over. This man was ancient. Mike got in close so he could hear what he was saying, hurrying to grab the man a drink. Poor guy was having trouble washing down his food.

Mike tended to him and made sure he was comfortable, holding a napkin under the elder's chin while he drank with an uneasy hand. He was such a people person. Nurturing, and all. While he was busy, his mom led her friend in.

"Let me get you some wine. I'll open up a new bottle." Finding a glass from the cabinet, Mike's mom poured out some red wine for the brunette woman with her.

All I saw was the back of her head from behind the people partially blocking the view. She had shortly cropped hair, was average height for a woman. Nothing stood out about her, but I stared.

Now that they were closer, I began noticing some familiar details. This woman looked, and sounded, familiar. I couldn't pin it...It was killing me.

"Where's your husband, Sharon? You didn't come here by yourself did you?"

"Randy's at his brother's house. You know how he is."

…this…is she…?

"And your son?"

"He's around somewhere. I told him there might be other kids but he went off moping. Poor thing, I swear something is off about him lately...he's usually the center of attention."

"Mikey has his friend over. He could hang out with them, it'll be good for him."

Like we were toddlers on a play date, these two women tittered with joy at their idea. We were all eighteen, for Christ sake!

"Stan!" Sharon summoned. "Oh, Stanley!"

In my mind's eye, I saw this woman sitting on the football field bleachers, clapping and smiling for the football captain. Shit, this was Stan's mother! Taking a step back to make a run for it, I bumped in to someone. Thank some higher power it was Mike.

"Mike-"

"I heard." He took my hand and walked me behind some more people, craning his neck to see if his mom had spotted him trying to make a sneaky escape. "Follow me."

We ducked in to a hallway just in time to miss the jock sulking in to see what his mother was hollering about. Dashing away with me in tow, Mike made a beeline for his bedroom and dragged me inside.

"If you want to hide from your mom, you may want to try somewhere less obvious." I stood at the top of the basement stairs, back to the door. "This is a horrible hiding place!"

"Did you want me to shove you in the living room closet?"

Mike locked the door, then took both my wrists to lead me down the stairs.

"Come on. She won't realize we're in here, for a while."

"When she does?"

"I'll handle it. She's going to look around the party first, get distracted by people, before she thinks to look for us down here."

Going to a holiday party was a favor I committed to for Mike. Sitting around alone at home is where I REALLY wanted to be now that my retard ex was under the same roof as me. Stan could ruin anything without trying.

"You really didn't know your mom is friends with Stan's?"

"I told you, I only know Vlad's mom." Mike offered me the television remote. "Why would I invite you over if I thought he'd be here?"

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'd rather be home than here right now."

There were no rules stating that I couldn't leave. Mike put the remote back on his bed, pouting. Oh, that face...don't make that face. I can't leave if he makes that face.

"Baby bat, you just got here."

"I know, but Stan-"

"Don't let him ruin your night. If you want to leave, I can't stop you...but, it would mean a lot to me if you stayed."

Mike invited me over to this party. It was unrelated, but I thought back on that birthday party I didn't go to around seven years back…I didn't want to make him relive that same disappointment. I had mistakes I needed to make up for.

xxxxxx

We couldn't hide forever. Mike's mom messaged him asking where he was, giving him no choice but to reappear. He went back upstairs to see what he could discreetly do to get out of having to entertain Stan.

Poe and Lenore's cage had been relocated to Mike's bedroom for the duration of the party to ensure their safety. They chirped as their caretaker ascended the stairs, clinging to the side of the cage closest to the steps. Time ticked by without Mike coming back.

Bored, and growing anxious with them, I put my finger between the bars of the cage to stroke at their feathers. Both birds bit at the bars of their cage, signaling they wanted to be let out. Their chirps got louder, and they quickly side-stepped left and right along their perch.

"I miss him, too. He's coming back."

Mike didn't answer my text, the first or the second. I crept up the stairs. With each step I paused, reconsidering what I was about to do. Now the birds were chirping at me.

Opening the door enough to look out, I checked to see if the coast was clear to come out without being seen. Being that Mike's bedroom was the basement, the door to it was just out of direct sight of the main floor, but I couldn't be too careful. During parties, people tend to wander and settle in to whatever hallway, nook or cranny they can find.

Peering around the corner, I checked for familiar faces. There were none. Using the crowd of bodies to my advantage, I looked around and laid low. When I recognized a face, it was the second most resented South Park jock on my current shit list.

Clyde Donovan arrived with his parents, disinterested. His dad ruffled his hair, giving him instruction to liven up some. When he found Stan, he'd feel better.

"There a reason you're sneaking around like that?" A voice came from behind me once I'd stationed myself behind another corner to plan my next move.

"JESUS-"

"Nah, try again."

I turned around to a pair of blue eyes. They weren't the ones I'd been hiding from. Vlad wasn't wearing his red contacts.

He smirked at his own joke. I wanted to shove him. He scared the crap out of me! Guy was one to talk about sneaking around.

"When did you get here? Mike said your Mom dragged you to a relative's house."

"I remember asking you a question, first." He raised both his eyebrows at me, playful and inquisitive.

"If you must know, I'm looking for Mike. But, there's someone here that I don't want to see me."

"That would be...?"

"Don't worry about it."

The only person in range that Vlad could presume I was avoiding was Clyde.

"Is it Clyde?" He guessed. "That guy's not going to bother you here. His parents are around."

"I'd prefer he not see me, either. But, no. It isn't Clyde." I looked behind Vlad. "Have you seen Mike?"

"I just got here."

As a fairly decent-sized dude, Vlad proved useful as a wall. He was around Stan and Clyde's size, I could see that now that I was up close to him and really taking a moment to notice.

"Favors aren't my thing, but could you cover me while I check the other side of the house?"

"Be easier if you told me who it is that we're trying to avoid on the way there." Vlad pressed.

"Fine. I'm hiding from the other dumb sack of jock. Stan's around here somewhere and I really need to stay out of sight. Don't ask me why, I'm not telling you."

Satisfied enough with my coerced confession, Vlad nodded his head to one side.

"Let's go."

Behind him, I stayed close on the patrol for Mike. Preoccupied in the search, I ignored how strange I looked using Vlad as a guide dog. Mike's mom was crushing down plastic cups in the garbage, tying off the bag when we navigated back to the kitchen. Her husband was nearby, ready to take the bag outside. Their recycling bin was filled with empty juice bottles, not beer bottles.

Where the fuck is Mike?

I felt someone grab my ass. I darted away, reflexively latching myself to Vlad as if he would protect me from the exact person we were looking for.

"Don't do that!"

"I'm not allowed to touch your butt?"

"Don't sneak up on me!"

I need to get Mike a bell, or something.

"I did it to him, too." Vlad he confessed. "Snuck up on him, just to clarify."

"Where have you been? I was in your room waiting."

Mike waved a hand dismissively, like it wasn't a problem.

"It wasn't my intention to keep you waiting, I was on my way back. Mom pawned Stan off on me, and I sent him on his way after a conversation of sorts. I hear the Donovans arrived. He'll be fine."

"Conversation?"

"He wanted to know where my precious baby bat was, but sadly for him I'm not one to tell where I hide my valuables."

Stan made a poor attempt to interrogate Mike, it sounded like.

"He doesn't know you're here, I told him that the friend Mom mentioned I had over was Vlad...not a total lie, it appears." Mike flicked Vlad's ear. "Nice of you to show up."

Mike didn't concern himself with the issue any further. Instead, he got an amused, almost shit-eating grin to him.

"...what?" I asked, suspiciously.

"For one, you're still holding on to Vlad." Mike then pointed up. "Two."

Dangling above us from a low-hanging arched doorway was a mistletoe.

I hate Christmas. Paint me green, shrink my heart down three sizes, and call me the Grinch. I'll take the tree and make a run for it. Cram it as far up my ass that I can, and put an end to this jolly peppermint-scented holiday.

"Absolutely not." I pulled my hands off of Vlad faster than a kid who touched a hot stove. "No."

"C'mon..." Mike teased. "Where's your Christmas spirit?"

"Up my ass, and around the corner."

"Should I draw Vlad a map, or?"

I walked away.

"He wishes."

xxxxx

Everyone who would be attending arrived. Problem now was that when going back to our hiding place in Mike's room, we weren't alone.

"Got a 'get out of jail free' card?" Mike asked Vlad.

"I went and paid my respects to my grandparents. Mom was cool with it when I told her I was going to dip and head here."

"She's never had a problem with you coming here. No reason for her to start now."

Mike had a drawing pad and pen in hand, sketching from his side of the bed. Vlad sat on the floor by Mike, playing on the game system, elbow propped up on the mattress by his hip.

They were almost touching. I kept to myself, getting trapped in an intrusive thought. Mike's bed, the sheets I was sitting on…they….they'd been a lot closer.

The Halloween dance shot up in my mind's eye, as vivid and detailed as the day I was there. Mike pressing his ass in to Vlad…rolling his hips, and parting his lips with hands all over his body.

They were in sync. They didn't grind to a rhythm; they were their own rhythm. What were they like without clothes separating them?

Did they miss each other? I bet they do...

"Pete, are you warm?"

"Warm?"

"You look warm."

Like laid the back of his hand on my cheek.

"If the heat is too high, I can adjust it down for you." His cold hand felt nice on my apparently flush, warm cheek.

"I wouldn't mind, thanks…"

Mike went and lowered the setting on the space heater to accommodate what he suspected was the source of my influx of color and heat.

"Baby bat, you're silly. Say something next time."

"I didn't want to be a bother. It wasn't a big deal."

Curiously, Vlad turned his head to look at me.

"I didn't think it was that bad down here. Maybe you're wearing too much." Vlad's bare blue eyes met mine. "Strip down."

I almost took that the wrong way before realizing I never took off my sweater. It wasn't a heavy sweater, but it was enough to prove unhelpful. Get your head out of the gutter, Pete.

"Vlad's right. Take that off if you're warm." Mike noticed what I was wearing.

Taking the hem of my gray sweater, he started pulling it up. I lifted my arms to make it easier rather than put up a fuss. My shirt rode up some on my stomach.

He touched the hot skin, his cold hand again soothing it. Mike's cold hands all over me would feel great right now if we had the privacy.

"Your cold hands aren't horrible, this time." I told Mike, enjoying as his hand slid up the back of my shirt now, testing another area of skin.

"Well, your skins so hot. Have you been burning up like that this whole time? Do you need a drink?"

My empty cup could use a refill. Mike picked it up and shook it back and forth a little.

"Another juice?" He offered. "I'll run up and grab it."

Oh, goody. I get to keep Vlad company. In Mike's room.

"Vlad. Juice?"

"Orange, if you have it."

"Always do. You know that."

To lessen the chance that Vlad expected me to talk, I turned my back slightly to him, hanging my legs over my side of the bed. I rested my weight back against Mike's pillows, putting all my effort in to being interested in my phone.

My mom posted a picture with her sister. So far, my grandma and two of Mom's coworkers liked it.

Vlad's eyes were on the back of my head. I didn't hear him clicking any control buttons, so he wasn't looking at the screen how he should be.

Stop looking at me.

"This is multiplayer, if you're interested." he asked in a friendly, but weary way.

"I'm not in the mood to play, sorry."

"...Offer's out there if you change your mind."

He had as much of a right to Mike's time as I did, but him being here insulted me in a petty, jealous way. Mike wanted me here so badly that I stayed, for him. Sharing wasn't part of the deal.

I couldn't up and go because it would be obvious why I left now. Stan wasn't the issue, anymore. I didn't want to leave them alone together...but, I didn't want to be here.

"Here you are, my lovelies."

Mike brought us our drinks, going to the bird cage instead of returning to bed. He opened the big contraption up, beckoning Poe and Lenore to him. The pair of green-cheeked conures chirped and chattered, responsive to their beloved caretaker.

"My babies~" Mike puckered his lips at them, both birds perched on his forearm. "Pretty birds. Come here."

Back in his spot, Mike sat with his knees propped up some. One bird sat on each knee while he flipped to a clean page to draw them. They sat in place long enough for Mike to start simple sketches. One bird veered off.

"Where are you going?" Mike asked it.

Next thing I know, there's a gust of air and something lands on my head. Whichever bird this was, it was leaning down and rubbing its beak at my hairline.

"...are you lost?" I confronted the creature with its feet on my scalp.

Putting my hand up for it to hop on to, I brought it down to my face level. It quirked its head at me, ruffling up its feathers.

"Mike's right there." I admonished it. "Go back to him."

The charm dangling on my choker must've looked like a bird toy because this conure started pecking and nibbling at it.

"You guys like jewelry, huh? I said go back over there." I pulled he bird far back enough that it couldn't reach the charm anymore, putting my arm towards Mike. "Go."

Instead of following directions, the other bird fluttered over to be with its companion, leaning in towards my choker to gnaw at the air.

"Okay, no. That's not- ugh. Mike?"

"They like you." Mike left Poe and Lenore perched on me, returning to his sketching.

"They like my choker."

"They're harmless, Pete."

"What am I supposed to do with them?"

Leading by example, Mike used two curled fingers to pat their feathered bellies and wings.

"Show them some love. They want to love you."

xxxxx

The party slowed down around ten it's dense population beginning to thin out over the hour. Many had early mornings ahead of them with kids. Kids who would be up bright and early as soon as the sun rose, tearing in to whatever "Santa" brought them.

"Mikey. Be my angel and help me." Mike's mom knocked on the basement door to call down and tell Mike she would need him to come up and help her clean up now that most of the party guests were gone.

"I'm going to step out for some air." I followed Mike upstairs.

Vlad chose to volunteer his assistance to avoid sitting around by himself. Those who remained from the party were mostly sitting around talking and sobering up to drive home. There hadn't been enough alcohol going around for anyone to get flat out wasted, but there'd been wine.

Everyone drank like civilized, well-adjusted responsible adults. You know, moderately.

On the street, cars were lined up. On the front steps to the house, I saw people driving away. Inside Mike's home was warm, so the cold air was nice for a few minutes. Once I cooled off, the Winter's cold bite sunk its teeth in to me harder with the passing minutes. Spring needs to hurry up and get here.

"Enough of this." I decided, diaphragm beginning to quiver. "Fucking South Park Winter."

More people left, coming out the front door. I slid to one side of the steeps so they could get by without having to go around me.

"Get in to a fight with your boyfriend?"

"Why? You interested, Jock strap?"

Clyde scoffed, going past me.

"I ain't interested in you." He said loud enough for those in ear shot to hear.

"Lucky me."

"Happy Holidays, Homo."

Getting in to his dad's car to warm it up, Clyde turned on the engine. His parents came out and I went back inside as the last person was coming out, pondering if it was too early to ask Mike for a ride home. Party was technically over.

"I had a great time. I should have skipped that last glass of wine, I cut it close."

"Sharon, you're welcome to stay in one of our guest rooms if you're not fit to drive."

"Oh, my Stanley can drive me home when he gets back from the bathroom."

Stan's mother was on the couch, tipsy and jolly from her social drinks. I heard a creak come from above me and to the right. At the top of the staircase, was Stan coming back from the bathroom. Mike appeared in the kitchen doorway straight ahead, waving me over.

"Pete, Sweetheart. What were you doing outside?" Mike's mom questioned. "You weren't locked out, were you?"

"I wasn't locked out, I wanted some air." I answered, walking towards Mike without turning my head to acknowledge Stan's presence coming down the steps. "I was warm down in Mike's room."

"Good to know that space heater works. Money well spent."

Stan didn't say anything, but he caught on to Mike's lie earlier on in the night. I was there. I'd been there the whole entire time. Literally right under his nose, under the floorboards like the Tell-Tale Heart.

The two women talking animatedly to one another didn't witness the flicker of anger that passed through Stan, or the cool, unscathed look Mike shot back in return. Fire and ice.

"Pete, you look so tired...you should go lie down in my bed while we clean up here." he touched my outer arm. "Go make yourself comfortable."

"Once I lie down, I'll fall asleep." I told him, earnestly.

"Nothing you haven't done before, you sleep over all the time."

Mike's mom was welcoming to his friends. She let her son bring whomever he wanted home, so long as they were behaved and considerate. Christmas wasn't an exception.

"If your friend is sleepy go get him some pajamas, Mikey. We'll bring him home, tomorrow. His family can have him back after breakfast."

I didn't stay the night with Mike's family. I played it like I was, waiting for Stan to take his mother home before requesting a ride. It'd give the dummy something to think about.

Xxxxxx



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