A/N: Sorry I've been gone for so long, darlings! (It's been ages now, hasn't it?) I decided I was going to start this story over again, and I will eventually, but I figured 'oh, what the hell, I have so many chapters written already" so here's a quick one.

~getonwiththestoryalready~

Chapter 6: Pride Parade Palooza

I've started eating lunch with Brett every day. We go to Mario's and take the pizza back to the field behind school. We sit on the bleachers, where it's quiet, and talk, and eat, and Brett has a smoke.

It surprised me the first time Brett lit a cigarette in my presence. He just took a packet out of nowhere, from a pocket or something, and I watched his hands as he lit it. The rings on his fingers glinted, and his motions were smooth, like he'd done it a thousand times. I shouldn't find that sexy, but I do.

He glanced at me and smirked, but he looked suddenly worried. "Do you have a problem?"

I just shook my head. I don't have a problem with it, really, and I wasn't going to give him the speech about poisoning his lungs—he's heard it all before, no doubt. Besides, I want him to keep smiling at me.

Every time he smiles at me, my stomach flips.

~xoxo~

I'm at my locker, taking out my books for the morning classes, when Alex appears in yet another baggy sweatshirt. (It seems to be all he owns.) He slumps silently against the closed locker next to mine and closes his eyes.

"Tired?" I ask, biting back a laugh.

Alex groans. After a moment, he opens his eyes again and fixes me with a piercing brown gaze. "Let's skip." He says.

I gape at him. I've never skipped before, here or when I lived in London. I don't even know how one goes about it. I think it's illegal, actually, but I've never found out. "Won't we get caught?" I hiss, glancing around to make sure no one heard him.

He shrugs. "I do it all the time. Just pretend you were never here in the first place." He suddenly looks at me pleadingly. "Please? I just... I want to get out of here, and I don't want to go alone."

I sense there's more to the story than that, but I don't pry; I'm not his mum. If he doesn't want to tell me, that's his business (for now, at least, because I'm determined to find out eventually). But I can at least be there for him, right? Otherwise, this budding friendship is rendered a bit moot. I sigh, and put my books back into my locker.

"How do we get out?" I ask, and he grins.

~xoxo~

Alex and I get past the hall monitor surprisingly unscathed ("The trick is to look like you know where you're going," Alex whispers to me as we turn a corner) and walk to his car in the car park. It looks used, like it wasn't always his, but at least he has one. (That's a hint, by the way, since I don't have a car, hence Kendra driving me everywhere and being pissy about it.)

I get in the passenger's seat and toss my bag in the back. I glance at Alex as he starts the car, but he's looking straight ahead at the road. Neither of us speaks until we're far away from school, when I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding, and take my hand off my seatbelt.

"So where are we going, anyway?" I ask.

Alex shrugs. "I just thought we'd, you know, drive around downtown, get some lunch later."

Lunch. My heart seizes—I'd totally forgotten about Brett. I hope he won't be mad. "Yeah, okay, sounds good." I say, trying to play it off like it's no big deal, congratulating myself on my steady voice.

Alex is having none of it. "Worried about your boy toy?"

"Don't call him that!" I blush. "He's just a friend."

This only gets me a snort. "Puh-lease. 'Just a friend' wouldn't make you blush like that."

I shush him, looking away so he can't see how red my face is. He shuts up for a little while, and soon we pull into a car park. We pick a place for lunch, and then sit in a concrete circle that has this lovely fountain in the middle.

As we're eating, Alex asks a question I hadn't been expecting at all.

"So, hey, do you, uh... there's this, like, Gay Pride Paradething that happens in this circle every year, and I was wondering, since you're, like, new here, if that might be something you'd want to... I mean. Do you want to come with me?" He blushes and ducks his head and looks at his sandwich instead of me.

For a moment I wonder if he's not just asking me platonically, but that's a silly thing to think, because he's quite obviously into girls, and he's just shy about asking something so personal. But I smile and say yes, because it sounds kind of fun.

~xoxo~

"Ethan! Alex is here!" Kendra yells, slamming the door. I clump down the stairs in my gray Oxford sweatshirt.

Alex stands in the doorway. "Ah, no, wait!" I shriek and grab one of my jackets from the banister. I close my eyes and toss it to him. "Put it on put it on put it on! I don't want to see your shirt yet. I want to be surprised!" I whine.

Alex rolls his eyes and puts on the jacket. "You're so gay." He mutters.

"Aw, thank you!" I flutter my eyelashes at him. "I'm a six on the Kinsey scale."

Alex snorts and leans against the doorway as I tie my trainers. "The Kinsey scale only goes up to five."

"Exactly."

Kendra looks back and forth between us. "You guys are ridiculous. Just go to the damn parade already."

~xoxo~

The Pride Parade is at the same plaza where Al and I had lunch the day we skipped school. We park the car – I say 'we' even though Alex did all the work with the shifting gears and such-like, since my poor lowly soul and I don't have our license yet – and head to the center of the plaza.

It's as we're standing around in the sun that I say, "Alright, jackets off! It's time to see what we're wearing." I pull of my sweatshirt and Al hands my jacket back to me.

Alex is wearing a shirt designed in such a way that your eyes are drawn directly to the words. It's impossible to ignore. 'I'm a Y chromosome in an X chromosome body. This is me! Let me be!'

I stare at it appreciatively for a moment before asking, "You designed this?"

Alex nods sheepishly. "The last part isn't mine. It's the, uh, the chant. We shout it at this sort of stuff... you'll see." His eyes drift to my shirt emblazoned with the words Likes Boys. "Kurt Hummel fan, huh?"

I grin back at him. "Yeah, well, my Homophobes United shirt was in the wash."

He laughs as we walk towards the crowd already gathering. "Snarky today, aren't we?"

"Is that the royal 'we' I detect, Al? Are you the Queen of England now?" As soon as I say it, I regret it. King. I should have said king.

But Alex doesn't seem to take offense. Instead, he gives me a cheeky grin. "That depends. Do you want to be my court jester? You already have the look down."

I smile back, relieved, and bow. "Jester Ethan at your service!"

Alex rolls his eyes and pulls me up. "Stop being a ditz. People are staring."

"We want them to stare, don't we?" I throw my arms in the air and shout, "Hey everybody, look at me! I'm Ethan O'Brien! I'm the gayest boy you'll ever meet!" I point at Al. Everyone's looking at us now. "This is Alex! He's my best friend!"

Alex waves shyly and tries to hide behind his short brown hair. The protestors around us are laughing or whooping or giving me high-fives, getting in the spirit. I'm getting in the spirit.

Someone else is hogging the attention now—a dark-haired Asian girl in too short shorts waves a rainbow-stripped flag in the air and calls out through a bullhorn. She stands on the fountain in the middle of the square. "People! This is it! Welcome to the LGBTQA Pride Parade! Damn, that acronym gets longer every year!" She laughs and the crowd laughs with her. "We're going to go ahead and start now. Get your stuff and follow Zach, at the front there!"

Zach, strangely normal-looking for such a scene as this, waves his own rainbow flag and smiles.

The pretty Asian girl keeps shouting in her bullhorn. "We'll walk from C Street up to 3rd North. Please stay together! However, you can exit the crowd at any point if you like. The important thing is, have fun, and feel the love! Mission Pride is go, go, go!"

As the cries of "This is me! Let me be!" go up and the crowds start to move out for the walk, I start to really feel it: I'm fucking proud to be who I am. And as I look around, I realize I'm not the only one.

For once, I don't feel so alone.

~getonwiththestoryalready~

A/N: I love their banter, it gives me a warm fluffy feeling. Or maybe that's the cat on my lap.

*The Kinsey scale is a scale from one to five. One is all heterosexual activity, and five is all homosexual activity. It goes from there in varying degrees. You can go look it up for yourself.