Series Title: Transformation
Summary: "The curtains close on a kiss/God knows", but where do they go from here? E/J slash.
Series/Sequel: 1/4. This mini-series follows on from "Zero Zero" – you probably don't need to read that first, but it'll fill in the blanks.
Warnings: Slash. Boys kissing other boys (and then some…)
Rating: Can it be M just for suggestions? Eh, probably best to aim high rather than low.
Archiving: Just ask.
Disclaimer: Disney owns these characters. I don't. I also just paid college tuition fees, so I have about €20 to my name right now, which means you can sue all you want.
A/N: Say, anyone remember at the end of "Zero Zero" when I said I was already working on this and it would probably be up soon? Well, that was a lie. A great big massive lie with feckin bells hangin' off it. In my defence, in the mean time I've sat the most important exams of my life, spent a summer working, spent September buying shiny new things with my summer money and gotten into college (pimp) and also written a Firefly fic and plotted a Buffy fic while working through the block on this one (/pimp), so don't be too mad. Plus, I had it written and beta-ed almost a month ago, then my computer went and crapped out on me before I could actually post it. So really, you should be blaming Microsoft. Actually, that holds true in general. Also, a shiny nickel for the first person to recognise the chapter titles.
Thanks to Wicked Wonder for the beta (on her shiny new computer! With fancy MS Word editing stuff!), and for general awesomeness. If you haven't read her 'Food' series...why are you still here? Go read it!
Chapter 1: Love Steals Us From Loneliness
I woke up to screeching. I was up and out of bed purely on instinct before I realized that it was just my roommate, Rachel, in the middle of a laughing fit. As I began to wake up properly, I took in the room around me and noticed that Eric was already gone.
-Figures. Odds are he's the reason behind the screeches-
I staggered towards the bedroom door, remembering to pull on pants and a shirt first, and down into the kitchen/living room/dining room of the apartment. The first thing I saw was Rachel, clutching the island in the middle of the kitchen and shaking so hard with laughter that it's a wonder she didn't fall over. The second thing was Eric, a cereal bowl upended on his head, his shirt sodden with milk and Cheerios tangled in his long hair. It's a little bit scary that this didn't seem particularly odd to me any more.
"Do I want to know?"
He considered it for a few seconds. "…Probably not."
"'Kay." I learned a long time ago that it's sometimes better not to ask. I sat down opposite him and poured out some cereal for myself. Still trying to salvage a little dignity from the situation, he calmly lifted the bowl from his head and set it on the table without a word. Rachel had run out of breath to screech and was now just shaking, slowly turning purple all the while. Shooting a dirty look her way, my boyfriend headed for the shower.
It still feels a little weird saying that. Boyfriend. It's been a little over a month since we first kissed, since we (or at least I) realized how we felt about each other, and yet it doesn't quite roll off the tongue yet. I guess I just need a little more time or something.
"Man, I'm really gonna miss living with you two," said Rachel, who had recovered enough to breathe and was pouring herself some fruit juice. She had moved back into the apartment about a week after she left; Angela and Topanga had finally gotten tired of the extra guest on their dorm room floor. Rachel had made it clear straight away that it was a temporary arrangement, giving us a little speech that she had clearly been thinking about for a while.
"It's not that I don't love you both, and it's not that I have a problem with your relationship. It's just that…I think it's time I move on. To an apartment with other girls because, let's face it, me living with men leads to disaster. I moved in with my last boyfriend, he turned into a jerk. I moved in with you two, you ended up dating each other. So I'm thinking female roommates are the way to go."
Of course, we tried to convince her to stay. Rachel was like a sister to us, not to mention a major factor in the two of us getting together, since she was the one who made me realize how I felt (albeit by writing it on an anvil and dropping it on me, but sometimes you need a shove in the right direction), and neither of us wanted her to leave. I threw out an obligatory "You know you don't have to go", but as usual she just raised her eyebrows at me and went back to her juice. Rachel is stubborn like that; once she got it into her head that she was going to move out, there was no changing her mind.
The shower was still running in the background, and I couldn't stop my mind from wandering. Eric naked. Eric naked and soapy. I wonder if Rachel would notice if –
"Don't even think about it."
OK, go for the innocent approach. There's no way she knows – I'm not that obvious. "Think about what?"
"You're wondering if I'd notice if you followed Eric in there." Damn. She's good. "Look, you know I don't have the slightest problem with you two acting couple-y. Hell, I think it's kinda hot," she added with a grin. "And if I happen to occasionally hear stuff late at night that I really, really shouldn't hear? I can deal. But you two doing it in the tub where I'll be having my morning bath in about 20 minutes? No way."
I guess that's fair. I mean, this is her apartment too, and we – wait, what? "What stuff late at night?"
She smiled her evillest smile, and on a 6'7 red-headed Amazon, that's pretty darn evil. "Do you really want me to answer that question?"
I considered this for a moment while making a mental note to soundproof every inch of the apartment. "Rach? How about we never, ever talk about this again?"
"I'll let it drop for now," she agreed, letting out a happy sigh. "It's so much fun to mess with your head. Really sets me up for the day." Finished with her fruit juice, she started cleaning up the Cheerios and milk that had missed Eric. I moved to help her, but she waved me away.
"It was my fault anyway. I might as well clean it up."
By the time she was done, Eric was coming down the stairs, entirely free of breakfast foods. Draping an arm lazily over my shoulder, he bent down and kissed me lightly on the lips.
As he slid onto the seat next to me, Rachel took one look at him and started sniggering again. With his most mock-serious expression, he stage-whispered to me:
"Don't ever take your eyes off her, man. She's the devil."
"Yes. Yes she is." Neither of us wwas quite joking. I love Rachel and all, but she has a dark side not to be messed with. For now, she just smiled, enjoying her little reign of terror. Then something seemed to strike her, and she sat back down with a more serious expression.
"Tonight's the night, isn't it? Are you still going to go through with it?"
We glanced at each other to make sure, and then I nodded for both of us. Sometimes you don't need words.
"Yeah, we're sure. It's been too long already. They should know."
Because this was, so far, the biggest hitch in our relationship, and possibly the reason why I was finding it so hard to think of Eric as my boyfriend. Aside from Rachel, none of our friends knew a thing. And I know it sounds a little weird, keeping something so huge from them for so long, but there was never a right time. First Shawn was off on that stupid road trip, then there was Joshua's premature birth, then Cory and Topanga went into overdrive with the wedding plans – there just hadn't been a good moment to sit them all down and take them through it.
"So run me through the plan again. You've told them…what, movie night?"
"Exactly. Something to give us all a chance to hang out, which we haven't done nearly enough of lately."
"And are you gonna tell everyone at once or what?"
"No, we've got it all worked out," Eric chipped in. From the look on Rachel's face, this didn't fill her with confidence, and I couldn't blame her – Eric's plans tend to fit into the "hare-brained scheme" category. It had taken me a week to bargain him down from his original idea, which involved a sky-writer and pretending to burn the building to the ground (don't ask), to the current one, which was a lot simpler.
"We're going to split them up, make it more personal, try and ease the shock value. Shawn's getting here a little early – I told him I needed to talk to him, brother-to-brother."
"We're thinking he'll take it easy enough. I mean, of everything he's gone through over the past few months, this is hardly going to register on the radar." As Eric said this, his hand tightened on my shoulder and I gave a slight rub of his leg to let him know that I appreciated the gesture of support. The last few months hadn't been easy on me either.
"Then when the other three get here, he talks to Angela while we take Cory and Topanga." We had known from the start that separating the two of them would be next to impossible.
"Ok then," said Rachel. "And while all this is going on, I'm…" she trailed off, leaving us to fill in the blank.
"Staying out of the way," Eric offered. She shot him a look, and he stuck out his tongue in return. Normally I'd have joined in by flicking cereal at her or whatever, but I was way too nervous about this already. Thank god I had class all day, or I'd have sat around the apartment driving myself nuts – this way, I could spend the day napping and come home refreshed. By the time I stopped dwelling in my own head and tuned back in to the conversation, Eric was explaining Rachel's role to her.
"…with the dips and run interference if we need it."
"OK, translate into something less sports-related."
"If things are going badly, you swoop in and get people out of the way. Offer to, I dunno, show them the laundry room or something."
"The laundry room? Eric, that's the dumbest idea I've ever heard, and I've lived with you for 6 months now."
"Oh c'mon, that's just not true. I've had way dumber ideas than that. I mean, I used to want to date you."
"I've gotta go shower or I'll be late for class," I said, standing abruptly and cutting off the argument that, judging from the near-fury on Rachel's face, was about 10 seconds away. As I began to walk away, Eric caught my hand and pulled me down for a brief kiss.
"I'll be gone by the time you're out, so I'm saying goodbye now," he offered by way of explanation – this was one of the few days when our schedule was different, and his classes started…actually, about 5 minutes ago – and added in a low voice, "Love ya."
"Love ya too," I murmured back, appreciating the gesture – we're not exactly a mushy, Harlequin couple with breathtaking declarations of love on an hourly basis, so when we say it, it means something. Right now, I knew he was telling me that we'd be there for each other tonight, and support each other no matter what, and that meant a lot to me. Knowing that I have Eric, that I'll always have him…it makes things easier.
As I closed the door behind myself into the bathroom, the last snatches of Rachel and Eric's conversation drifted up after me.
"Don't even think about it. My god, all men are just…nngh!"