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midnight kisses

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When Cory Matthews is 2 years old, his New Year’s Eve kiss is his mother. He’s sleeping soundly when midnight rolls around, Amy rocking him while they quietly watch the ball drop. Alan leans over and kisses her, and then she bends down and plants a gentle kiss on Cory’s forehead, Alan stroking his son’s hair.

When Cory Matthews is 5 years old, his New Year’s Eve kiss is Topanga. His parents are on the back porch with Jedidiah and Rhiannon, throwing a party. He and Topanga are both supposed to be upstairs asleep, but they snuck down to watch Dick Clark and Eric wasn’t going to snitch. Really, it’s all Eric’s fault. He’s the one who tells Cory “it’s bad luck if you don’t kiss somebody at midnight.”

When the countdown starts, Topanga grabs Cory’s hand across the couch cushions, a grin lighting up her face. Together they whisper the countdown, giggling and blushing in anticipation. When the ball drops and the fireworks go off outside, Cory leans in and kisses Topanga, a quick kiss on the lips. Eric watches the whole thing unfold, unaware of how big a moment this will someday be.

For Cory’s 6th New Year’s Eve, he almost doesn’t get a kiss. In an unfortunate turn of events, Eric has convinced him girls are gross. That’s why he invited Shawn over, so Shawn could be his midnight kiss. He just...may have forgotten to tell Shawn that.

Amy is the one to save the day - or night, as it were. She came downstairs to check on them around 11:30, halfway sure they’d have fallen asleep on the couch. Instead she found the remnants of a Nerf war - the couch cushions strewn about the living room as shields, darts everywhere, and the two boys at the table, making a mess of the snacks.

“Boys, don’t forget to clean up your mess. Cory,” she said, pointing at the boy in question, “come here.” She beckoned with her finger, and he pushed up from the table and ran over.

“Yeah, mom?”

“Did you want me to come back down and be your midnight kiss?” she asked quietly. She wished Eric had never put the idea in his head, but Cory had spent half of Christmas break pestering his older brother about what happened if you didn’t kiss someone at midnight, and the consequences had grown more and more ridiculous each time.

“What? No!” he sputtered, blushing. “Mom, that’s why I invited Shawn over.”

Amy had to do a double-take at that, blinking rapidly as she glanced between her son and his friend on the couch. Last she knew, her son was throwing dirt at Topanga to pretend he wasn’t in love with her. Had Cory developed a crush on Shawn in that time instead? She wasn’t prepared to handle this.

“Did you talk to Shawn about that?” Cory fiddled with his glasses, shifting from foot to foot, and Amy gave him a stern look. He shook his head. “Cory…” she sighed. “You need to ask Shawn if he’s okay with that. You can’t just go kissing him at midnight.” Cory nodded, running back over to sit next to Shawn, and Amy grabbed a bottle of champagne from the kitchen before heading back upstairs.

“Hey Shawn?”

“Yeah, Cor?” Shawn spoke with a mouth full of chips, and Cory understood what his mom meant about having manners like you were raised in a barn. He grinned.

“You know how you’re supposed to kiss somebody at midnight?” Shawn nodded. “Well can I kiss you at midnight?”

Shawn wrinkles his nose at that, giving Cory a strange look. “Cory, boys don’t kiss other boys.” There’s anger in his tone when he says it, and Cory doesn’t understand.

“Says who?”

“Says everybody. It’s just wrong.” Shawn has his arms crossed now, and Cory doesn’t like it.

“But Shawn!” Cory says, and it’s not an argument, it’s just a whine. But Shawn uncrosses his arms, slouching back down to eat chips. “It’s bad luck if you don’t kiss somebody at midnight! I don’t want a year of bad luck!”

“It’s not bad luck, Eric just told you that to mess with you.”

Cory shakes his head. “But all the people on tv kiss! It’s supposed to bring you good stuff in the new year, and Shawn, I want you to have good stuff!” Shawn sighs at that, and it’s meant to say that fine, he agrees, but Cory keeps going. “Besides, what if I don’t kiss somebody at midnight and I die? Then it’s all your fault, Shawn!”

Shawn grinned at that, chuckling at his goofy friend. “You’re a weirdo, you know that, Cory?”

Cory shoved him at that, and Shawn shoved back, and then they were rolling on the floor wrestling, Nerf darts crushed underneath them. The tv called their attention back a few minutes later, the countdown ringing out. Cory looked at Shawn as they sat up.

“Whatever, I guess I don’t want you to die or anything. You can kiss me. Just don’t tell anybody about it.” Cory nodded, though he wasn’t sure why he needed to keep it a secret.

The countdown reaches zero and the confetti poppers go off on-screen. Cory leans over and pecks Shawn on the lips, over before Shawn can even blink. Cory grins. “See! Now we don’t have to worry about bad luck. Not for a whole nother year, anyway.” He puts his hand up for a high-five, and Shawn smacks his hand before reaching for more chips, not sure how he ended up with such a weird best friend.

At 15, Cory gets his first real midnight kiss. He’s trapped on a Subway car, throwing a party for a bunch of strangers, and he’s spent half the night miserable. But Shawn is there, dancing with a set of twins, and Topanga is kissing him like he hopes she’ll be doing for the rest of their lives. It’s not the New Year’s Eve he had planned, but looking around, he wouldn’t trade this for anything.

At 18, Cory is in college, and he rings in the New Year at a party at the student union. Topanga is his fiance, and the ring on his finger means he was right; she’ll be his New Year’s kiss for the rest of his life. He couldn’t be happier.

...Except Angela is here, and she’s dancing with one of her friends from the Black Student Union, and Shawn looks miserable. He’s sitting on the couch alone, and Cory wants to be dancing with his fiance at midnight, he does, but he can’t leave his best friend looking like that. He takes Topanga by the hand and they go sit down on either side of Shawn.

“Cory, I’m fine. You guys should go dance,” Shawn argues, before they’ve even had a chance to speak.

Topanga replies immediately, “Not a chance,” while tossing an arm around his shoulders. Cory follows suit, squeezing Topanga’s hand and shooting her a grin behind Shawn’s head as he does.

“I saw that, Cory,” Shawn teases.

“Whaaaat?” Cory grimaces. “I love her! We love you! Who needs Angela!” Topanga smacks his arm at that, and Shawn chuckles.

“I don’t know, Cor. What about that midnight kiss? Aren’t you worried I’ll die without one?” He wiggles his eyebrows at that, and Cory blushes. He remembers being six years old and kissing Shawn, and he remembers Shawn swearing him to secrecy. He’s never even told Topanga. He never saw any reason to, until Shawn wiggled his eyebrows like that and Cory suddenly wanted to kiss him again.

Thankfully, Topanga spoke up before something embarrassing came out of Cory’s mouth. “Cory’s right,” Shawn and Cory both turned to look at her in surprise. “Who needs Angela? We’ll be your midnight kiss.” Cory hopes the party is loud enough to cover the sound of his gulp.

“Now Topanga, what will people say?” Shawn puts on a scandalized accent, putting his hand to his chest in horror, a grin on his face. Topanga lightly smacks his chest, laughing at him.

“Oh, come on. I meant on your cheeks. It’s not like we don’t do it all the time.” Cory tried not to feel disappointed at that. He shouldn’t want to kiss anyone on New Year’s but Topanga. He shouldn’t want to kiss anyone but Topanga, ever.

The crowd around them starts chanting down until midnight, and Topanga and Cory cuddle up on both sides of Shawn, holding hands across his lap. When the crowd swells into “Happy New Year!”, they both lean in, sandwiching him between them with kisses on his cheeks. Without thinking about it, they both pull back and whisper, “Happy New Year, Shawn,” and “Happy New Year, Shawnie,” in his ears. It’s a New Year’s Eve Shawn will always remember, but he’s forgotten Angela’s even there.

Cory rings in his 20th New Year’s Eve in New York City, and it’s a year of new traditions and new beginnings. Shawn has been living with Topanga and him for months, and it’s easy, simple. The three of them fit together naturally, flowing in and out of the apartment on schedules that never line up but always overlap. They go home for Christmas, but Cory insists they make it back for New Year’s, to see the ball drop in Time Square. “It’s our first year here, we have to go.”

So December 31st finds them freezing in Time Square, bundled up in winter coats and scarves and mittens. Cory and Topanga are hand-in-hand, taking in the crowds and the lights, while Shawn’s hands are wrapped around his camera, documenting the night. He’s shooting the crowd and the performances, but his camera roll has more of Cory and Topanga than any of the celebrities.

When the crowd begins the countdown, hundreds of people chanting in unison, Cory and Topanga join in, eyes trained on the crystal ball hanging in the air. Shawn, meanwhile, crouches down behind them, peering through his camera, lining up the framing. As the ball drops, he catches a series of perfect shots - Cory and Topanga kissing, fireworks going off behind them, creating the most beautiful lighting.

It takes a moment before they break apart and notice him, grinning up at them like he belongs in this with them. Topanga leans in close and whispers something in Cory’s ear, and he perks up like it’s their wedding night all over again. She turns to Shawn with a devilish look, and he brings the camera up to capture a look like that directed at him. But before he’s able to, Cory has snatched the camera from his hands, swinging the strap off of his neck.

“You need a midnight kiss, Shawn, and you can’t get one from behind the camera.” Cory’s voice is very clearly trying for nonchalant but landing somewhere in the outfield.

“Cory, I’m not just gonna pull some stranger into a -” Realization dawns on Shawn then, Topanga’s face inches from his as he finishes - “kiss.”

He swallows but doesn’t pull back. Topanga meets his eyes, looking for approval. She can read the trepidation in Shawn’s eyes, but also the raw desire. She grabs him by the collar and pulls him into a searing kiss, her other hand coming to rest by his hip. Cory does his best to snap pictures, distracted by the emotions thrumming through his body - the feeling he’d long mistaken for jealousy, but he’d discovered was a desire for them both. He and Topanga had discussed this moment, but he never could have prepared for how overwhelming it would feel.

Topanga pulls back and Shawn is left speechless, mouth gaping and eyes wide. Topanga wears a gleeful victory smile, taking the camera from her husband. “Is two midnight kisses extra luck?” she teases, knowing Cory will be just as speechless. “Better go find out.” She pushes Cory towards Shawn, and he stumbles into him.

Shawn catches him, one hand on his shoulder and one on his side. Cory meets his eyes, a nervous grin, and Shawn takes his chance and pulls Cory in for a kiss. Cory’s hand goes up to feel the hair at the nape of Shawn’s neck, and he wishes Shawn still had his long locks for him to run his fingers through. It’s strange, feeling the facial hair in the kiss, but it’s distinctly Shawn, and Cory loves the feeling.

The photo Shawn took winds up on the mantle, the perfect image for the world to see of the happy couple. But Cory and Topanga each frame their own pictures, placing them on the dresser in Shawn’s abandoned bedroom, a reminder of a moment that had been years in the making.

When Cory Matthews is 24, his New Year’s Eve kiss is his daughter. She’s sleeping soundly when midnight rolls around, settled against Topanga’s chest. Cory kisses his wife, kisses Shawn, plants a gentle kiss on Riley’s forehead. Shawn softly strokes her hair, snug against Cory’s side, and he has no idea how a lucky kiss could bring him a year of more love than he has right now.