Title: Natural Progression

Fandom: Boy Meets World (believe me, I'm as surprised as you are)

Pairing: Cory/Shawn (believe me, I'm as surprised as you are)

Disclaimer: Not mine. 

Summary: It's as easy as one, two, three.

Notes: Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are.

1. Ten-Years-Old

            Everything is very simple when you're ten-years-old.  For Cory Matthews, it was like heaven—worries of junior high school were far away, even though it loomed on the horizon.  Worries of school were even farther, because the summer stretched out before him, infinite as the sky.  Cory didn't need the future or the past at ten-years-old, everything was perfect, just him and Shawn and the fireflies and the sky.  No need for anything else.

            "Do you ever think about growing up?" asked Cory, lying on his back in the grass of his backyard, with the stars and fireflies indistinguishable.

            "I think about my voice getting deeper," replied Shawn, as if that was all that mattered.  "But not really, no."

            "Neither do I.  I like this just fine."

            "Yeah," said Shawn, turning to look at him.  "You're not going to go away, right?" he asked, and it was the youngest Cory could remember Shawn sounding, like a little child afraid of the dark.

            "No.  Are you?"

            "Am I what?" asked Shawn, apparently really not knowing.

            "Going to go away?"

            "Of course not.  I'm not the one who leaves.  I'm the one who's left."

            "I'm not the one who leaves either."

            "Good."

2. Nine Things I Should Have Realized

            Shawn and Cory were always just that, Shawn and Cory.  Cory couldn't remember a time when he had been just Cory, all alone.  He thought Shawn couldn't either, thought that the years of being inseparable best friends had erased the past, when Shawn hadn't had anyone at all.  And Cory used to forget that Shawn was once all alone and terrified that no one would ever want him.

            When they had sleepovers sometimes, Shawn would shake in the night, and Cory would climb into his sleeping bag to keep him still.  They were little, and Cory never thought about it, and in the day, Shawn didn't talk about it.

            "We're getting too big for this," said Shawn, one day when they were fifteen, putting his hand out to stop Cory, who is climbing into the sleeping bag.

            "Yeah," said Cory, "we are.  Here, we can zip the two sleeping bags together, and then we'll both fit."

            Shawn considered for a minute, "Yeah, that should work."

            The unzipped the bags and put them together, a strange clashing of red and green plaid and shiny blue that they will not talk about in the morning.

            There are some things that are so natural, you never question them, even as you get older.  For Cory, everything is like that, everything is so easy.  He forgot that Shawn is not him, no matter how close they are and how they never part.

3. Eight Days

            When Cory and Topanga were broken up, Shawn and he went away for eight days, to get away from it all, because Shawn knew Cory better than anyone and knew he needed to get away.

            "I don't understand it, Shawn."

            "Neither do I," Shawn replied.  "You two were perfect."

            "We are perfect.  I don't see how she doesn't understand that.  I love her.  I don't feel anything for anyone else.  And she doesn't understand."

            "You two are so perfect it makes me wonder sometimes," Shawn said, looking at nothing.

            "About what?  And right now, we're far from perfect."

            "I wonder about Angela and I… if you two aren't perfect, what chance do we have?"

            "If you love her…"

            "Love isn't enough, Cory!  Not always.  I loved my mother, but that couldn't make her stay.  And I don't even know if I'm in love.  And you do."

            "You don't know if you're in love with her?  I mean, doesn't it feel different than kissing other people?"

            "I don't know, Cory!  I haven't kissed anyone but her in too long!"

            "Oh," said Cory, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.  "That's easy."

            He kissed him.

4. Seven Things I Should Have Told You

            When he was in eleventh grade, Cory dressed Shawn up like a girl.  For an article.  He remembered acutely jealousy and anger when another boy had asked Shawn out.

            Cory always thought he would be the only boy who ever asked Shawn out.  Not that he ever had, just that if one was going to, it would be him, because who else could it be?

            He remembered thinking not for the first time that Shawn was more attractive than Topanga, but also thinking that, for the first time it was okay.  He remembered carrying Shawn's books and giggling like a school girl, even though Shawn was supposed to be the girl, because this was something he understood.  Cory understood girls and boys, not boys and boys and sleeping bags that clashed and time longer than forever.  But he couldn't explain that to himself.  He didn't understand.  He just stared at Shawn and felt his tongue struggle for words that he didn't know existed.

5. Six Years

            Shawn and Cory had an anniversary, because Shawn remembered the day they met.  They were having a sleepover the night it came.

            "Twelve-oh-one," commented Shawn.  "Six years."


            "Six years?" asked Cory.

            "It was," said Shawn, because it was night and Shawn was never as together at night, "the best day of my life.  When I met you."

            Cory thought of days for only a second before responding, truthfully, "Mine too."

6. Five Minutes

            Cory kissed Shawn and Shawn wrapped his arms around Cory's neck and for the first time in his life, Cory realized Shawn knew more than he did.  Shawn understood more than he did.  Shawn was certainly a better kisser than he was, too.

            "That was different than kissing Angela," said Cory, slightly breathless, "wasn't it?"

            "Yeah," Shawn replied, "it was." 

            Shawn kissed Cory.

            It wasn't like anything else at all. 

7. Four People

            In all Cory's visions of the future, there were four people: Cory himself, Shawn, Cory's wife, and Shawn's wife.  And they would all be together because it was inconceivable that Shawn and Cory should be apart, and inconceivable that husbands and wives should be apart.  Eventually it became Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Angela, but the core was always Cory and Shawn, the two of them, not the others.  They were something he always assumed would be there, only because he and Shawn were.  Bonuses.

            Cory's future had four people in it, but only two of them mattered.

8. Three Strokes

            Cory's family was not homophobic.  They were accepting of everything.  But they loved Topanga, and he didn't know what they'd do if he told them he didn't want Topanga, he wanted Shawn.  He didn't know what he'd do if he told himself he didn't want Topanga, he wanted Shawn.

            Topanga wasn't homophobic, but she loved him.  He'd made promises to her, kissed her and told her he loved her.  And he did love her.  But he loved Shawn too, and he could imagine spending his life without one of them.  It wasn't her.  It had never been her.

            Then there was Shawn, who loved girls and Angela, who was not homophobic but also seemed to know that the world was.  Who seemed hesitant.  Cory didn't realize he was the one who was hesitant, not Shawn, and that he had finished his own prison.

9. Two Kings

            Cory was the one who didn't know anything.  Cory was the one who didn't understand.  Shawn knew things, knew what it meant to be too big and knew what it meant when they'd kissed that one time, nothing like kissing girls, which was all about what Cory understood.  Girls were too easy for Shawn.  Girls Shawn had in scores, girls and Angela and nothing he could explain.  Girls left him.  Cory should have realized it would be easier for Shawn to accept love from someone who wasn't a girl, because always the women in his life had gone away, while Cory was there.

            Cory, who had promised he would never leave, who couldn't have broken his promise if he'd wanted to, because he didn't want to be alone anymore than Shawn did.

            At some point, very long ago, alone and without Shawn had become synonymous, because for short periods of time, he didn't notice, but as weeks went by, it was like he was dying.

            Cory was the king of his own little world, and Topanga the queen, and Shawn was another king, ruling Cory's world as much as Cory did.  Topanga and Angela were logical progressions.

            Shawn was the natural one.

10. One Thing

            Only one thing made Cory marry Topanga instead of Shawn.  Not that he thought he would break Topanga's heart, because he knew she was too strong to be broken.  Not that he thought he'd lose her, because, as much as it pained him, he could bear to lose her, though he thought he couldn't.  If Shawn was there, he could do without her.  He liked having both better, but if he had to chose, it was Shawn.  Always Shawn.

            It wasn't that he loved her better, because he didn't think he did.  He loved them the same amount, but in different ways. Or maybe he loved Shawn more.

            He was aware that boys did not marry other boys.  He was aware that two kings were not as normal as a king and a queen.  He was aware that most places, he couldn't marry Shawn.  He was aware he'd been married to Topanga forever.  He was also aware that he was more than married to Shawn.  Whatever they were to each other, there wasn't a legal term for it yet.

            He wasn't afraid Shawn would say no.  He wasn't afraid that he'd be rejected by his family.  Once he hadn't considered any of these things, hadn't even thought boys could do anything, hadn't thought there was anything more than best friends for boys, but he knew better now, as Shawn always had.  He knew, like Shawn had, that they were not normal best friends, that it physically pained them to be apart.  He wasn't afraid of Shawn.  He wasn't afraid of his family.  It wasn't that he was afraid of anything.

            He just knew they couldn't get married in this state, so he didn't ask.

11. Absolute Zero

            "Cory?"

            "Yes?"

            "What are we?"

            "What do you mean?"

            It is midnight, and they are slightly tipsy, walking from a bar to somewhere they can't see. Shawn was almost falling over, and Cory has his arm around him now, for support and for a feeling he's been missing for two years.

            "I mean, to each other."

            "We're best friends," Cory says, without hesitation.  

            "Best friends don't kiss."

            "We don't kiss very often."

            "Yeah, I've been meaning to talk to you about that."

            "You want us to kiss more?"

            "You don't?"

            "I do."

            "So what are we?"

            "I don't think there's a word for us yet."

            "We're too drunk to be this deep," Shawn comments.  Cory smiles.

            "I am not drunk.  And I'm not deep."

            "I love you."

            "I know.  I love you, too."

            "You love Topanga."

            "In a different way."

            "You're married to Topanga.  You two are perfect together."

            "I know we are."

            "And I'm a screw-up."

            "I know you are."

            "And I love Angela."

            "I know you do."

            "So…"

            "So?"

            "You were supposed to leave me.  No one's supposed to keep their promises.  You were supposed to go away.  But you didn't.  You never did."

            Cory kisses him, one of those kisses that makes kissing Topanga pale, one of those kisses he doesn't understand and can't deal with.  One of those kisses he only has with Shawn.

            "I'm not the one who leaves."

            "I thought you were going to, with Topanga."

            "I wouldn't leave you, not even with Topanga.  I'd leave her."

            Shawn looks at him, not understanding.  Then he smiles easily, a Shawn smile, one of those best friend scheming smiles.  Cory feels like he might fall over because of alcohol and conversations they should have had years ago.  But he doesn't. 

            "There isn't a word for us yet," says Cory.

            "Yes, there is," says Shawn.  "Soul mates."

            Cory likes the sound of that.  Two kings.  Soul mates.

End.

Story notes:

The nine things Cory should have realized are:
Shawn remembers being alone.

Shawn is afraid of being alone.

It is weird to climb into your friend's sleeping bag past a certain age.

Shawn doesn't talk about his problems.

Shawn knows they're too big for this.

The two of them clash.

The two of them are natural together.

They're one but

They're not the same.

The seven things Cory should have told Shawn are:

He was jealous.

He was angry.

He wanted to be the only boy who asks Shawn out.

He always thought Shawn was attractive.

He didn't understand boys and boys.

He didn't understand the two of them.

He loved Shawn.

Five minutes refers to the total amount of time Cory and Shawn kissed for, not all of which is actually covered in the story.

In Japanese characters, a box is made of three strokes.  The three strokes boxing in Cory are his family, Topanga, and himself.

Absolute Zero is named because there is nothing keeping them apart, unlike in the other sections.

Author notes:

It would not surprise me if my continuity is off, or if some of my facts are.  For example, I am aware that Cory loves Topanga, and I believe goes off with her at the end of the show.  I am pretty sure Cory had some sort of promise to Shawn to the effect of never leaving him, but I can't be certain.  It has been a long time since I've seen most of the show, and I'm not even sure I've seen the entire show.  I read episode summaries of the whole series, but they weren't complete.  In any case, I know the show's Cory would not have chosen Shawn over Topanga, should he have had to choose, but sometimes I think he should have.  Hence this.