The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas slip by slowly, barely different from any other week except for the way Lucy finds herself alone when she usually wouldn't be. It's not dramatic in a way she can be justifiably annoyed by; there are no bathrooms suddenly going silent as she enters, no hallways where an empty space appears around her, and there's always a seat for her near Vivi, Isaac, and Cherry - Lucas is spending most of his lunches with the jocks and cheerleaders, directing his smiles at a dark blonde girl - but people don't come up to her the same way anymore.
The other kids hanging out by the bleachers, the burnouts and less-political hippies, allow her to enter their groups but don't ask her to join them. Brad, a guy on the track team she's been casually flirting with for a month, has somehow become too busy to try to get a hand up her shirt. I'ts not quite exclusion but that doesn't stop her from feeling left out, and she slowly begins seeking Token and Clyde out in crowds, sometimes just for a quick smile or friendly wave but as Christmas draws close and her childhood friends let it be known that all of them except Rylee will be going away for the holidays, she stops to say hi, chat for a bit.
Craig and Tweek are there too, but Lucy hasn't seen the fluorescent lights reflect in their teeth and only occasionally tries to speak to them - Tweek is too nervous, Craig too unwilling to let her in, and she lets things be the way they are
for a while.
Cherry is rushed into her father's car at 4am the morning after her last day at school. She is delighted to be going to visit family in Ireland, breathing the salty air of the ocean and going shopping in Cork, practice her Gaelic on aunts and uncles and go to services in the church her father was baptised in - but as the car leaves her home town behind, she looks over her shoulder. There is home and, further away, South Park glitters brightly in the darkness.
Her stomach clenches ever so slightly, but she ignores it and takes out her phone and earbuds to listen to a lecture on astronomy during the two hour trip to Denver.
Later that morning, Vivi and her little brother fight each other over who gets to sit shotgun, carry-on luggage used as weapons, until their mother firmly grabs them by their shoulders, placing them both in the back and declares that if they want anything from the tax free stores at the airport, they're paying for it themselves unless they start behaving.
Of course, with the promise of enough candy to last them the entire flight to Europe, both Sykes children adopt angelic expressions and even make attempts to hold civil conversations.
Isaac wishes fervently that he'd be allowed to stay behind, but his parents have decided to go to Wyoming for Christmas and all their children have to come along. It is a tight fit, even with Abraham half-sittin in the boot with his head under a blanket to hide from potential cops, and having Methuselah drooling on either Isaac's or Debbie's arm isn't making anything better.
They stop at nearly every fast-food place too, Alora demanding chips or milkshakes or just little packets of salt and cups of ice.
Isaac tries to sleep, his temple resting against the cold window, wishing Christmas would be over so he can go back to school - at least the teachers pose some intellectual challenge, unlike his too many cousins who are only interested in making the family even larger. But he is cursed, it seems, with others' stupidity and he will have to endure the too many hours going to a different state just as he will have to endure too many church visits.
With any luck, there'll be a library in Greybull outfitted with both computers and an Internet connection, but he's not feeling particularly hopeful.
Both Lucas' parents work for a couple of days after school ends for the semester, and with nearly all his friends out of town and the house to himself during the day, Lucas asks his not-quite-girlfriend if she wants to come over.
Kim shows up wearing her cheerleading uniform, determined to lose her virginity wearing it, and Lucas takes it with his lips on hers, hands tangled in her hair. They spend the afternoon in his bed, finding little to talk about but they are young and beautiful and at the moment that is enough, even if they'll barely text during the holiday as they're both in different states with family and their relationship will never be more than a physical one - and only be in effect at parties, during parent-free evenings, once in the back of his father's car on a Sunday.
In South Park, Lucky is the sole inhabitant of an eerie white universe, silent except for the squidge of her boots on the snow. If it is just like this, with the edges of reality smudged by falling snow, she likes the town plenty - winking Christmas lights and flashes of bright green and red makes the otherwise strange place look like a perfect postcard, filled to the brim with holiday cheer.
Wrapping the scarf tighter over her mouth, she pushes through the drifts on the sidewalk towards the mall, alone only because she was convincing enough when saying she still had a couple of presents to buy. Perhaps, if the day continues like this, she'll actually be in a good enough mood to give her little brother something.
The days until Christmas Eve pass and the snow falls, burying each house in isolating white blankets. Even the McCormicks' house, with its single-glass windows and thin walls, is bearable to stay in as long as one only thinks of the temperature.
Karen is already asleep, her knees nearly touching her chin, and Kenny pushes a few stray strands of hair away from her cheek when he comes in to check on her. Long, thin fingers places a present on her pillow - a necklace, cheap and with sparkling stones made of glass but pretty enough to make her smile before she gets the necessary things she shouldn't have to wait until Christmas and birthdays to recieve, like clothes and socks and the laundry detergent that won't make her sensitive skin itch.
Kevin is God knows where - although God likely doesn't waste energy keeping track of a glue-sniffer who hasn't been home since his sixteenth birthday - and in the living room their parents are fighting again, drunk or high or both as Carol presses her husband's neck back, back, until the bones must strain and grind and whine under the unnatural pressure and Stuart lands sluggish punches on his wife's torso.
Locking Karen's door and pushing a chair under the handle so she'll have plenty of time to get away if their parents decide to get her involved, Kenny slips out her window and walks down the street.
He has no particular goal in mind, just wants away from the place he reluctantly calls home and the further he comes from the shacks on his side of the train tracks, the brighter the world becomes, lit up by a million little lights that line windows, roofs, trees, fences. One could almost believe in the Christmas spirit when South Park looks like this.
Kenny sighs, arms folded over his narrow chest, nose buried in the thinning fake fur of his hood. Everything is closed - he'd find a lonely young woman to share the cold night with otherwise - and even though there are probably places he could go he doesn't want to share his loneliness just yet. Kyle's and Stan's houses are too messy, too loud, and Cartman... well. Cartman might have mellowed down some, or maybe he's just found that teenagers don't get away with the shit kids do, or maybe he's just directing most of his energy towards keeping Lucky as unhappy as possible but he's still a vile bigot and it's better to be out in the cold.
The worst that can happen out here is death, and death in itself is no longer that big a deal. Sure, it hurts, but...
He falls backwards into a pile of snow, soft, cold and it cushions him better than his own bed. It's pleasant until it slowly starts to melt and cool off again, leaving his back wet and freezing cold and he wonders if he should care.
"Who would have thought you'd meet your Fate in a snow drift on Christmas Eve?" says a mirthful voice like crushed glass and golden honey.
"Wouldn't be the first time", he replies. "Not the same time you use that phrase either."
"Hm. Well, there are only so many words and only so many ways to die. You and I are bound to repeat ourselves a few times."
They lie quiet for a minute or an hour - time lacks meaning when your fingers and toes are too numb to move and fatigue seeps into your bones. Kenny almost forget about the being next to him until she speaks again.
"In your present, have you experienced every death?"
"If I had, wouldn't I be dead-dead?"
"I'd rather think you would be like us."
"A douchebag?" He presses the words out through stiff lips, closes his eyes against the dark night sky.
"Oh, you know what I mean." A pause. "I can make the pain go away, you know. All of it."
"I shape the world. I take all of creation and bend it to my will. I can do the same with you."
He laughs, as much as he has energy for. "Some things should never be bent. Dicks are at the top but... I think... that whatever you want to bend on me comes right after." Staying awake is so hard. The familliar call of the empty void beckons him, reaches for him. Has he been here for that long? Freezing is usually slower.
"Don't you trust me, Kenneth?" Fate whispers, her lips brushing his ear, her smile predatory in the corner of his eye.
Fate watches as life slips out of the young man's body, watches the shell of what was once mostly human vanish and leaving only an imprint in the snow drift. She stands up, brushing her white coat off, and walks away into oblivion, where Love waits.
"He doesn't freeze to death the way humans do", he remarks, looking off into the opposite direction.
"He is not human."
Standing next to him, Fate folds her arms and rests a perfectly curved cheek against his shoulder, sinks into all that is Love and Hate with the faintest of sighs. "Are you not bored of this game? It goes on forever. Can you not just be present for the important bits?"
"Ah, my dear, I find every second important. Every shaking breath is as sweet to me as every mundane moment of homework or sorting socks. The sock-sorting might actually be my very favourite thing."
"Why? I find it dreadfully dull."
"Because you are not watching the whole of it. See, as a human does something that requires little to no concentration, they allow their minds to wander and suddenly a thought might strike that makes their stomachs turn or makes their throat feel too narrow for air to pass through. They are caught so unaware by their own passions, and it is... exquisite."
"The payoff can hardly be that great. If it was, I would watch them as closely as you do."
"Oh, Fate, you always were more fond of dramatic, defining moments." Love tears his gaze away, smiles gently at the human-shaped creature next to him. "We will have those too."
Lucy squints at her phone, having taken it out from under the pillow to check the time and is surprised to see a Facebook notification from Clyde - they speak when they meet but so far she's only been friendly with Token on social media. She hasn't even added the other boys as friends yet; the bone-deep Fairplay fear still rests within her, after all.
As she begins to wake and the world becomes less blurred, Lucy can bear the light of the phone display enough to read the party invitation - for that is what Clyde has sent her - for New Year's Eve.
At his house.
In South Park.
She lies still for a moment, breaths deep and shaky because although she does not want to admit it - especially since she has instigated this - that town worries her. It is one thing to speak to the four boys she's started to get to know, one thing to have them here on her home turf and a different thing entirely to go there. But although she feels fear tingle in her lungs, she is also excited as she selects Attending on the event page and begins contemplating what to wear.
Sitting up and glancing at the closet door mirror, she frowns at the bleached bangs just touching her cheekbone. She hasn't bleached them in a long time, black roots nearly at eyebrow level. Perhaps it is time to dye the nearly-white, dry strands into her natural black and have one less thing to coordinate with her outfits. It might not be a significant change, but it is important enough to Lucy, and she's not even aware that the decision brings a smile to her face.