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lay this fire to rest

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I mean, have you ever thought of me in a way other than just a friend?.

Never.

Tell the truth.

One time.


::


He can rationalize the first time it happens. And anyway, he’s Cory Matthews, rationalizing things is practically his unique selling proposition.

So, she’s in a towel. And he’s pretty sure the statistics will tell you that when a man hugs a woman in a towel, it isn’t exactly because he wants to establish the poster children of a whole new era of How To Do Platonic Right. He’s read the literature. Or, at least he’s observed Shawn, which amounts to the same thing; because anyone who knows anything knows that Shawn’s practically the Bible in these affairs.

He keeps his hand on her back though. Doesn’t allow them to slip lower. And for anyone keeping count, that totally counts okay.

He doesn’t hug her because she’s in a towel. He hugs her because she’s a friend. See, in that ‘man hugs a woman in a towel scenario’, it’s obvious that substituting her name and his name makes the exception that proves the rule.

(And Toganga’s name somewhere in between, because this equation doesn’t exist without her. She’s the factorial. Or the binomial. Or some complicated mathematical system that makes sense of the whole thing without the addition of Angela’s shower-wet hair and taut skin. He's occasionally glanced at the math book through the years, he knows what he's talking about, okay.)


::


(That night is not the first time he dreams about her.

It's the first time she’s in a towel in his dream though. )


::


The thing about college is; it’s college. So while he’s reading up on Freud and the unconscious or the subconscious or whatever the hell it is that the guy’s always on about, it’s like an epiphany.

It’s about sex.

Topanga wants to wait, and he’s frustrated, so he’s fixating. That’s an appropriately Freudian and nicely psychoanalytical term right there. It probably has something to do with not being appropriately gratified during his psychosexual development. Or maybe his mother just didn’t love him enough. (If he’s going Freud, he’s goingFreud.)

Angela’s is the most skin he’s seen from a girl who wasn’t directly related to him (there was that time when he had sex on his mind and his mother in the bathroom during the Prom Night From Hell, but that just strengthens the fixation theory. Really, he’s being a model student here), so it isn’t exactly odd that he’d think more about it. Or think about it all the time, because, like he said, college.

Cor, you’re turning into a real boy, is what Shawn would say, because in between the poetry that he can't understand, still exists the boy who used to watch cartoons under the same blanket. And Shawn would probably slap him on the back. If this fixation wasn’t with his ex whom he’s still completely in love with, that is.

Which means there are more layers to his own subconscious than even Freud would be able to unravel.

Or maybe he’s just a really terrible person all round.


::


(The second time, the towel is the same shade of blue.

Except when it falls and absorbs the water on the bathroom floor. Then it’s darker.)


::


Angela jumps into bed with him easily now, when he’s reading or when she’s missing Shawn and he isn’t around and she can lie next to his roommate and pretend she’s actually in the bed across the room. And he’s pretty sure he should be pretending something too, involving an engagement ring and his beautiful fiancée, but his entire nervous system is concentrated on her thumb running slow, forgetful circles on his skin.

Which is ironic and something else that he doesn’t quite have a word for right now, but Feeny will probably give him one tomorrow in the Literature seminar, while describing some seminal work of middle-English poetry.

(That’s his life now; made up of words from seminal works from middle-English poetry where each time this scenario replays, the white noise gets harder to translate into a language that makes sense.)

She rests her head against his shoulder, slipping comfortably down the pillow. “What are you thinking?”

(You don’t even know me. she’d said once, with a semi-exasperated look on her face like she couldn’t understand this need to be something definable, when they’d never been anything in particular except the lovers of their best friends.

I’ve dreamt about you. he hadn’t said. I dream about you, he hadn’t said.)

He flips a page, “nothing.”


::


I mean, have you ever thought of me in a way other than just a friend?.

Never.

Tell the truth.

One time.

See, here’s the thing: he lied.