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New York Makes You Gay

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Cory wonders how it is that everyone he knows is gay.

Or, well. Not everyone, exactly. Not his parents, of course, or Mr. Feeny, or his boss Renee, or that guy Pete who always chats with him when they're both in line to pick up their morning lattes.

Shawn says that Pete is actually gay, and is in fact flirting rather than chatting. But then again, Shawn also says that he, as in Shawn, is not gay, indicating that Shawn is lacking in either gaydar or self-awareness. Maybe both.

Anyway. Corey's come up with several theories, but none of them really hold up to serious scrutiny.

"New York makes you gay," was his first theory, but Shawn laughed that off, saying, "I loved you way before we came to New York, Cor."

His second theory was, "Pittsburgh makes you gay." But that wasn't quite right, either, because of the aforementioned straight people he knew back in Pittsburgh.

Shawn came up with the third theory. "Maybe...maybe its just that we all love each other so much. Like, so much that gender doesn't matter. And maybe that's why we've all hooked up with each other at one point or another. Cause we're all so close, you know? That nothing else matters."

Corey thought about starting a fight, because Shawn was so invested in the idea of himself as a straight guy who just so happened to be in love with his male best friend that it walked a fine line between irritating and endearing. But that day Shawn's hair was tousled because they hadn't left the bed yet, and his eyes were soft, and it was more endearing than anything else, really.

So instead he just tilted his head and asked, "You're not gonna go after Eric next, are you?" and Shawn hit him with a pillow.

* * *

It was actually Topanga and Angela who got together first, which even Topanga and Angela think is weird. "Not weird that we got together," Angela always says, stroking a lock of Topanga's hair behind her ear, "just weird that we figured this out before you and Shawn did."

Corey and Shawn always point out that they had years of denial and repression behind them that Angela and Topanga didn't, but even they have to admit that they were just a little bit slow.

Angela came to visit them in New York three months after Corey and Topanga's divorce was finalized. Jack and Rachel were back from the Peace Corps, and since it was the first time they'd all been together in years, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a party.

Which in hindsight was really a bad idea, because even though Corey and Topanga were okay about the divorce, and even went out for drinks together every Friday night, everybody else was clearly Not Okay with it. Even Shawn, or maybe especially Shawn. Which made sense-Corey and Topanga had been a constant in his life, in everyone's life, for so long that them not being together must have made the whole world seem out of whack.

But everyone kept walking on eggshells around them, or subtly hinting that maybe taking a break was good for a relationship, and Shawn kept staring back and forth at Corey and Topanga with sad, confused eyes until Corey wanted to cry, because if Shawn didn't get it, then really, who would? And Topanga drank whiskey sours till she couldn't stand up straight, then dragged Angela into her bedroom to talk.

Or, not talk, as they found out later.

Angela had apparently discovered bisexuality in Europe, and Topanga, it turned out, had discovered it at fourteen with her best friend Trina. Corey really, really wished that she'd said something about it when they were together. Of course, she hadn't even had sex with him until they were married, so her doing anything with a girl beyond friendly hugging during those years probably would have been out of the question. But still. It would've been a nice thought to have in his head during those 'no sex til marriage' years.

Angela and Topanga aren't exactly a couple or anything. Angela travels a lot, and Topanga decided to give up the concept of monogamy when she gave up Corey, but Angela always has a place to stay when she comes to New York, and Topanga always kicks out whoever's in her bed at the time to make room for her. Whatever they have, it works.

* * *

Topanga still refers to their relationship as "the time I went crazy for ten years" or "the decade that conformity ate my brain." Which is a little harsh, Corey thinks, but he can't entirely disagree with either term. Besides, Corey calls it "the time I got so freaked out about being in love with my best friend who was constantly making out with girls that I freaked out and married my other best friend (who also apparently made out with girls)". But that term is kind of long, long enough that Shawn jokes about making a pretentious poem title of it, and Topanga would hit him if she knew about it, so he mostly only calls it that in his own head.

It was Topanga who finally called it off, which wasn't really surprising. She was always the smart one, and Corey was always the one who'd cling until he was shaken off forcibly.

They went to couple's therapy for five months, but it was Topanga, after days of paging through her old Psychology and Women's Studies textbooks, who'd finally found the words to explain what had happened with them. Words like "conformity" and "parental expectations" and "compulsory heterosexuality".

He hadn't really understood what any of that meant at the time, or how it applied to them. He just knew things hadn't worked between them for a long time.

Topanga came to New York and discovered the bohemians and neo-hippies, people who were just like she would have been if her parent's instability hadn't frightened her into changing herself. She stopped straightening her hair and shaving her legs, and started smoking pot on the weekends. She quit working at the prestigious law firm that hired her and started working for a pro bono firm.

And Corey...Corey spent a lot of time with Shawn. He doesn't know when Topanga stopped trying to be his best friend, stopped trying to insert herself into the place in his life that Shawn had always filled, but eventually she'd just look up from her textbook and say, "Have fun, sweetie," when he and Shawn walked out the door.

They went to bars and plays and poetry readings, and when strangers started calling Shawn his boyfriend, Corey stopped bothering to correct them. It took awhile to realize that Shawn had started to fill the place that Topanga had always filled, constant partner and fixer of all his problems, because he just didn't notice. He'd stopped missing her when she wasn't there.

And then there was counseling, and Topanga paging through her textbooks, and finally, there was the night when Topanga sent him off to Shawn's apartment with a bag of his stuff, saying, "Come get the rest of it when you're ready. I love you, babe."

He'd flinched, but only because it was Shawn who always called him babe.

Then they were divorced, and Corey was sleeping on Shawn's couch until the night Shawn kissed him. After that, they slept together in Shawn's bed, and it was as though they had never slept apart.

* * *

The night Shawn first kissed him was the night of their first argument about Topanga and Angela. Or rather, about Shawn and Angela, and Topanga and Corey.

That was the thing about weird inter-group coupling and re-coupling. It led to complications, and fights that consisted of nothing but, "You're still in love with her," and "No, you're still in love with her."

Now, the fights are mostly from Shawn's side, and they usually have to do with the fact that Corey and Topanga apparently still act like they're married. It isn't something he notices himself, but he and Topanga were together for most of his life, so it makes sense that they still slip into old patterns. Just like when he and Topanga were married, he would slip into old patterns with Shawn and act like Shawn was the only person in the world, but it turned out that wasn't a good comparison to make, since it made Shawn throw a bottle of wine at his head.

That first night, they had fought about Angela. Or, Shawn had fought, and Corey did his best to be cajoling and sympathetic and, in hindsight, a total oblivious asshole.

"Look, its okay. Its okay, Shawn," he'd said. "You can tell me. I'm your best friend. I know...I know you're still in love with her."

And Shawn's face had twisted, and he'd tried to leave the room, and finally Corey just backed him into a wall, and stroked his shoulders. Shawn tensed every time Corey touched him, and Corey got more hurt and sad and confused, and finally just said, "I don't...what's wrong, Shawn?"

"I haven't been in love with her for a long time, Corey." And then Shawn kissed him, and he got it.

Later, they'd been lying in bed together, hot skin and sweat and sheets tangled around them, tying them together, Corey had hit Shawn lightly on the chest. "You jerk. Why didn't you tell me that we're in love?"

Shawn had smirked. "I though you knew, babe. It's only been our entire lives, after all."

Corey had sighed, and buried his face in a pillow. "You're the brains of this operation, Shawnie. I mean, jeez. Topanga had to propose to me, and that didn't tell you something about my lack of smarts in the romance area?"

Three years later, a mention of Topanga in bed would lead to an instantaneous fight. But that night, it was all new and fresh and nothing hurt at all.

* * *

Jack and Eric got together last. By that time, no one was really surprised anymore. They just showed up at Corey and Shawn's place one Friday night holding hands and looking sheepish, and it made as much sense as anything else so Corey just shrugged and passed them a beer. And ignored them when Eric whined, "We have to share a beer just because we're fucking?"

Everyone expected Rachel to be kind of upset about it, even though she and Jack had been over for years at that point, but she just laughed until beer came out of her nose. "Now I finally know what part I play in the group," she crowed. "I'm the token straight friend!"

The rest of the gang has been trying to push pretty girls in her direction to get her to take back that comment, but so far it hasn't worked.

Corey always through that his parents would be upset the first Christmas they all showed up together as couples, but really, they were just upset that they hadn't been told earlier.

"After all, Shawn and Jack have always been family," Mom said, passing Jack a glass of eggnog.

Dad just narrowed his eyes and said, "You don't have any sisters Morgan's age, though...right?"

"Not Morgan's age, no," Shawn said, head on Corey's shoulder.

"Hmm. I've always had a thing for older women," Morgan mused. "Kidding, Dad! Kidding." And thank God, because Dad had almost choked on a cranberry.

And then Eric set the tree on fire, so that line of conversation was thankfully derailed. Because, see, he could handle finding out he was gay for his best friend at twenty five years old. He could handle his older brother dating his boyfriend's older brother. He could even handle his ex-wife dating his boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. But his little sister wasn't having sex with anyone. Ever.