Ari and Ethan defiantly sat somewhat close with each other before their English class started. Ethan tried playing mostly oblivious to it while he knew Ari was carefully scoping out their classmates as they talked. They had been doing it since their teacher had tried talking to them about it.

She had yet to say anything again, but Ethan could sometimes tell by the little jumps that she gave that she was waiting for a huge blow up to happen at any minute because of it. Otherwise, whoever was so bothered by it had yet to say anything to them or to her again.

Ethan really didn't care at this point—he was mostly stunned by that. They were coming up on graduation and with each passing day it was more and more like high school didn't matter anymore.

College would be huge and new and probably scary as fuck, but it would be far enough away for them to do whatever and for no one to care. Jace had already put in his warning about some of the religious fanatics that went around campus and that it was best to just keep walking. Ethan wasn't sure how he would deal with that yet.

He and Ari had submitted their housing applications though, both listing each other as roommates. It wasn't like the housing people would know that they were dating—they would just think they were best friends or something. Oh, how wrong they would be.

Ethan always chuckled to himself at the thought and wondered what would happen if he playfully suggested how they only needed one bed or something to make it really obvious.

The rest of the day between classes had been settled into routine, which Ethan was slightly bored and content with. He liked the comfort of knowing he would see everyone at lunch and so on, but at this point, he wanted a little more of a challenge—that wasn't involving him getting into a fight.

Trevor had left him alone for the most part now, aside from the not so subtle glares and things under his breath. He was never as obvious or direct as he had been since Ethan got into a fight with him.

The school GSA had approached him though, trying to get him and Ari to join. Ethan agreed to unofficially be a member but never actually showed up. He didn't need to be in a club to state that he was gay or anything—and aside from a few little speed bumps, he didn't need the support. He would leave that open for the people that really needed it.

Ari was mostly on the same page; he let word get out that he was a part of it so that maybe more people would be okay with going, and he went every once and a while to have some record of attendance.

Lunch was always fun though, as in the final days of the semesters for seniors, giant butcher paper numbers were hung up around the commons. The underclassmen all fled at the end of the lunch period as the seniors would swarm the area and throw a rowdy mob for a few short minutes as another number got pulled down. The seniors got out a week earlier than the underclassmen, so it was all the better to brag about.

On the last day the principal tried to give a speech about how they shouldn't litter the school commons and so on, saying that they would all be a part of clean up if they did it. Of course no one listened, and as the one fell to the floor—covered in the signatures of all the seniors—everyone threw papers and let the silly string go.

The principal hobbled his way through and picked up pieces of trash during the midst of it, grumbling all the way along.

Ari pulled Ethan in close for a kiss then, earning even louder cheering out of Landon and Bret from around them. They all made a break from the school before the principal could make true on his promise of making them all stay and clean up.

There was word on a number of parties being held, and Ethan drifted through some of them with Ari before they decided to call it a night. They ended up at Ethan's house and fell asleep in front of the TV.

The week before graduation felt strange—Ethan kept feeling like he was missing school and that he'd forgotten something, but he hadn't. It was all the better when he would see the underclassmen walking home from the bus during that week, too.

He only had to go back once to pick up his cap and gown, and then sit through a practice graduation in the gym. He didn't think it was all that important, but there was something about people staying in rows and so on.

The day of their actual graduation was on a Friday, and there wasn't a cloud in sight. Ethan almost tripped over the hem of his graduation gown, but managed to stop himself. The teacher in charge of his line made sure they were all in place before going down the amphitheater stairs and into their seats, by alphabetical order. That meant Ari was nowhere in sight, and Brent was a few rows ahead, but not within talking distance.

The graduating class got the middle seats, while parents and families were seated on either side and behind them. The sun was killer for it being early in the morning; not in terms of heat, but at being in the perfect place in the sky to be in everyone's eyes for the next three hours.

Ethan wasn't sure how it lasted that long until he looked at the pamphlet; there were a number of speeches from teachers and students, with breaks with music played by student bands. The principal started the first speech, but by the third speech an hour later, Ethan had drifted asleep in his seat.

He managed to wake up by one of the final rounds of applause for one of the concluding speeches, just in time for the first row of students to start walking the stage and receive their diplomas. He watched the seats empty from there until his row was reached. They stood in a back hall and posed for a quick picture with a mock diploma before gracing the stage.

Ethan's name was called, so he took his diploma and shook his principal's hand, with another pause for pictures. He was filed off stage then and back to his original seat with the rest of the line. When the final person went through, the principal gave another short word before music blared and everyone got to throw their hats up.

Then it was a mad scramble for everyone trying to pick it back up; Ethan had marked his name on the inside, and someone managed to hand it back to him. He picked up a tassel and put it back on the hat before tracking down people next—Brent would be the closest, and then Ari. Then he would have to find his mom and dad.

Ari ended up finding him first, and rolled his eyes at the prospect of finding Brent. "He'll be fine," he said. "Now, I think my mom sat next to yours, so we just have to find one to find the both of them."

It was a crowded mess to try and find their families in the midst of other students and parents. Ari had a firm grip on Ethan's hand as they trudged up the stairs and pushed their way through people who decided that it was a great place to stop and talk.

Ari finally spotted his mom and dragged Ethan in that direction. Ari got pulled into a hug from both of his parents, while Ethan gave June a wary smile. She just nodded and pointed out the man a few seats back from her, watching them closely.

Ethan grabbed the back of Ari's crimson graduation robe, getting the other teen's attention. He followed Ethan's eyes up a few steps before getting the hint. He broke away from his parents and followed Ethan up the benches.

"Hey," Ethan croaked awkwardly, wishing that the stupid robes had actual pockets to put his hands into.

"Hi," his dad scuffed awkwardly, shooting a glance between Ethan and Ari. "You must be Ari, right?" he asked, putting out a hand to shake.

"Yes," Ari answered sternly while putting all of his might into the grip of the handshake.

"This is my fiancé, Terry," he introduced quickly, gesturing to a short haired woman at his side. "Terry, this is my son Ethan and his boyfriend Ari."

"Nice to meet you," she smiled hopefully, giving both of them handshakes as well. "Robert's been telling me a lot about you two these past few months."

Ethan shrugged and forced an embarrassed smile. He still wasn't sure how to go about this, and it didn't look like anyone else did either.

"I was thinking, maybe after a stop at home, we could go and get some food?" Robert suggest after a long pause. "And maybe in a day or two we could all go visit the campus. I'd like to see where you're going while I'm in town."

Ari didn't hold in his groan. "We can't let my brother know we're going."

"He's not that bad," Ethan elbowed him firmly. He wouldn't protest that Ari had automatically included himself into their campus trip.

"He's my brother, I have to complain," Ari said matter-of-fact.

Ethan just rolled his eyes as June and Ari's parents joined up with them again.

"Food sounds good though," Ethan remembered to answer, earning an excited smile out of Robert and Terry.

Ari grabbed his hand and they all climbed away from graduation and into the summer.

~The End

Sequel to follow: Vices and Virtues

With the start of college, Brent finds himself a fish out of water for the first time in his life. Ari's older brother Jace ends up trying to take Brent under his wing. Brent just doesn't know how to handle Jace's care-free attitude, or the very obvious advances he keeps trying to make—or is he just being Jace?