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Pride

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Brendon doesn’t necessarily tell the truth of why he’s staying after school.

When his parents ask, he tells them he’s just going to be in the library, and even gets elaborate and gives them a whole story about some Psychology assignment that doesn’t really exist because it’s a whole lot easier to lie then to admit why he’s really there.

And, yeah, technically he will be in the library, but the whole assignment on Sigmund Freud isn’t really why he’s there. When he walks in, eyes nervously darting in every direction, he wonders if maybe this was a bad idea. There’s a few tables all pushed together and a group of nearly fifteen kids sitting around them.

It’s technically the third meeting of the year (one a month), but Brendon couldn’t pluck up the courage to go to the last two meetings. He feels oddly out of place, like they can all tell he’s new. He takes a seat next to a girl reading a book. Her hair is cut like a boy’s, and there is a girl with long hair sitting next to her with her hand on the short-haired girl’s thigh. Brendon swallows and thinks, they’re lesbians, what were you expecting, you idiot?

Brendon thinks it’s fair that he didn’t want to tell his parents that he was going to a gay-straight alliance meeting after school. It’s been a thing at his school for years, and when Brendon was a freshman, and still trying to fruitlessly convince himself he was into girls, he thinks it would have been nice to go to. His brother still went to the school then, though, and the thought of him just thinking Brendon was going to the meeting was terrifying. Now, two years later, his brother is graduated and Brendon is finally here and definitely not desperately wanting to be into girls.

His parents are religious. Sure, they are pretty open and not as traditional as most Mormons, but Brendon knows that once their son is gay it won’t be the same. Brendon figures he’s doing his parents a favor by not telling them where he’s going after school.

The group is quiet for another couple minutes, ones where Brendon is shifting awkwardly in his chair and glancing down to his blank phone every two seconds, until the teacher who runs the meetings, Mr. Richards, speaks up, “How’s it going, guys?”

Everyone mumbles something, some louder than others, but it’s not like he’s really looking for one answer.

“Cool, cool,” Mr. Richards says. “Well, another month has passed, and I see some new faces here, so how about we go around the circle and say you’re name and…”

“Favorite movie!” a girl shouts out.

“Sounds good. I’ll start. I’m Mr. Richards and my favorite movie is Casablanca.”

He looks to the boy on his right. Brendon tries to remember everyone’s names, but he starts to forget by the third person because it’s nearly his turn and he has no idea what to say. Right when he’s about to start talking, a boy rushes into the library. Brendon realizes he’s seen him before, his hair styled perfectly, and his v-necks always just a little too low. So, okay, Brendon has maybe thought once or twice that the guy was hot.

“I’m sorry I’m late!”

“It’s okay, we’re just going through our names and favorite movie. How about you go?”

The guy stops and stands instead of sitting and goes, “Okay, I’m Ryan, and my favorite movie is Brokeback Mountain.”

Brendon represses a smile and looks around to see everyone is rolling their eyes.

“I mean, the sex scene was completely unrealistic, but I think—“

“Calm down, Ryan, how about you sit,” Mr. Richard interrupts, pointing to the empty seat to Brendon’s left, and then motions to Brendon to say his name.

“Um,” he starts, throat feeling dry. “My name is Brendon. And, Fight Club, I guess.”

“Sweet!” Ryan exclaims. He holds out his hand for Brendon to high five, and when Brendon does he hopes Ryan can’t tell how sweaty his hand is. “That movie is so good. Like, the homoerotic tension is so crazy in it and—“

Ryan,” Mr. Richards warns again.

He frowns and mutters, “You know it’s true.”

They continue around the circle until everyone has said their names and then they end up discussing some lesbian movie that Brendon’s obviously never seen (but he decides he needs to watch it because it sounds interesting) for the rest of the meeting. It’s only when Mr. Richards checks his phone and realizes it’s four, that he goes, “I guess that’ll be all for today. Next month, though, we have to get some work done because we have the gay pride week coming up.”

Brendon forces himself to try to talk to Ryan because he seems like someone he would be friends with, but when he turns over, he realizes Ryan is already leaving, bumping shoulders with a short boy, and Brendon thinks, oh.

***

Brendon spends the next month thinking about the meeting and making awkward eye contact in the hallway with anyone who was at the meeting, including Ryan. Brendon tries his best to shrug it off, but he keeps wondering about Ryan and that guy. Are they in a relationship?

By the time the next meeting came around, Brendon is half-tempted to just not go back, but he just pushes through his worries and goes to the library. He tells himself that the first meeting wasn’t even that bad, no one had even asked him why exactly he was there or if he was gay. Ryan hasn’t technically come out to the school, but he figures if he’s showing up to the meetings that it’s pretty obvious. It’s not like everyone at the GSA meeting is gay, obviously, but a majority of them seem LGBTQ friendly.

This time, there are more kids than before, and they once again they go around and say their names. Ryan sits next to Brendon again, but he doesn’t talk to him. They spend the meeting going over the gay pride week event. When they ask for volunteers for some of the stuff, Brendon (who normally doesn’t do anything school related) shrugs and raises his hand.

After the meeting, when Brendon’s about to leave, Ryan catches up with him. “Hey wait up, Brendon!” He stops walking, turning to the boy. He gives Brendon a look and then goes, “So, are you an ally…or?”

Brendon nearly chokes on the spit in his mouth, but he manages to get out, “No, I’m gay.”

Oh,” Ryan says, a smile blooming on his face. “I would have never guessed. I swear, you don’t give off any gay vibes at all.”

Brendon tries not to cringe.

Ryan bursts out into laughter. “No, it’s cool. Don’t worry about it. Here, let me help you out.” He takes off his backpack and unties a rainbow string bracelet from one of the zippers. Brendon lets him grab his wrist and tie on the bracelet with a double knot. “There, now you’re totally popping up on my gaydar.”

“Thanks,” Brendon laughs, fingering the bracelet carefully.

“No problem, man. I got, like, a million of them at home,” he says. “Hey, do you wanna go get shakes with a few of my friends?”

Brendon is scared to say yes at first, like maybe he’s being inducted into some gay club, but then he realizes that he would kind of like that.

***

Their table at Steak and Shake is loud.

Brendon watches as adults move away from them, looking annoyed, and usually he would mind that he’s bothering these people, but he’s happy to be part of it. There are four of them eating their meals, and Brendon already feels like he vaguely fits into this group, like he could just sneak in and they wouldn’t notice.

“Mr. Richards doesn’t get it,” Ryan yells at the table. “I swear to god, I was right about that Fight Club thing, wasn’t I, Brendon?”

Everyone looks at Brendon, and he nearly drops the bag of fries he’s holding. “I mean, kind of,” he shrugs.

Ryan looks personally offended by this. “Kind of? Are you joking?”

“They had to make them look like maybe it was a little gay,” Brendon says quietly, not as boisterous with his opinions like Ryan. “It further tricked the audience to believe that Tyler wasn’t real.”

“Sorry, Ryan, it was just a plot devise,” Spencer says, patting Ryan on the shoulder.

Ryan shrugs him off and goes, “Whatever,” before leaving the table to go to the counter, Pete following him.

Brendon watches as they do the weird shoulder thing again, and he tries to fight off the unwanted jealousy. He turns to Spencer and asks, “Are Ryan and Pete a couple?”

“No,” Spencer shakes his head, sighing a little. “Pete isn’t even gay. Ryan wishes he was, but he’s not. He sometimes messes around with Ryan, though, and I try to tell him all the time, ‘don’t get attached’ but what does he do? He always fucking gets attached.”

“Oh,” Brendon says, looking at the two again. He can kind of see it, the way that Ryan’s hand seems more sure as they try to pull around Pete’s waist, and the way that Pete pushes away.

Spencer smirks. “Don’t worry, I think he likes you.”

“No, no, that wasn’t why I asked. I didn’t—“

“Pete’s just fun. Ryan wants something serious. And someone who’s actually gay.”

Brendon smiles down into this meal before peaking up one last time to watch Ryan walking back triumphantly with another milkshake.

***

Brendon ends up sitting at Ryan’s lunch table every day after that. He fits in well, and no one really seems to mind that he’s there. Ryan always makes sure to save him a seat right next to him and they always manage to share their lunches most days, ignoring the pointed looks that everyone gives them.

 

It’s nice, and that’s all Brendon can really think about the subject. It’s not like he’s expecting some kind of a relationship from Ryan. He seems to still be into Pete, even if Pete’s sexuality seems glaringly in the way. But Brendon’s not observing Ryan or anything.

A few days before the pride week, Ryan and Brendon work together on different things, like finding a different inspirational quote for the announcements each or day or by making a poster together. It takes a few days for Brendon to realize it’s the quickest he’s ever grown close to someone, that they somehow just clicked, something that rarely happens to Brendon.

Today, Ryan and Brendon were put on the task force to find famous people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual (or at least said to be) so they can make posters to hang around school during pride week.

 “People thought Julius Caesar was gay,” Ryan excitedly tells Brendon.

 “Ryan, are you even looking at legit sites?” Brendon scoffs.

“Oh my god, Bren, listen to this, ‘Caesar was said to be ‘every women’s husband, every man’s wife.’”

They burst out in laughter, disturbing everyone else working in the library as Ryan says it again, making them laugh harder.

“I’ll write it down,” Brendon gets out once he’s finished laughing.

They work in silence for a few minutes longer but then Ryan goes, “Do you have your outfit planned for Monday?”

He frowns. “Why would I plan my outfit?”

“Oh my god,” Ryan sighs, rolling his eyes. “Are you even gay? It’s the specific pride day so you have to wear all rainbow.”

“It doesn’t really matter,” Brendon mutters.

Ryan makes an annoyed noise. “Yes it does. There’s really not that many of us at this school, well, that we know of, and don’t you have a little pride for who you are?”

Brendon realizes Ryan is serious. “I do. It’s just, I don’t understand why wearing colorful clothes shows pride.”

There are a few moments of long silence, and then Ryan gets up and leaves the room angrily without even logging off his computer. Brendon spends the rest of day feeling kind of guilty for voicing his opinions. Before last hour he finally breaks and texts Ryan i’m sorry and then i don’t own any rainbow stuff.

He waits patiently, completely ignoring whatever the teacher is writing on the whiteboard. Finally, he gets a text that just says meet me outside after school.

***

They end up walking to Ryan’s house that’s about five minutes from the school. He leads Brendon straight to his room, not even bothering to slip off his shoes. Ryan wordlessly drags him to the closet and pulls out a plastic container full of rainbow stuff.

“It’s not that weird,” Ryan says when he sees Brendon’s face. He’s smiling, though, obviously having forgiven Brendon. “Do you mind wearing a skirt?”

He doesn’t want to piss Ryan off again, so he ends up choking out, “I, well, you know—“

“I’m joking.” Ryan laughs and smiles up at Brendon before throwing him a shirt and another piece of cloth. “Try it on.”

Brendon awkwardly shrugs off his own shirt and quickly pus on what Ryan gave him, trying not to feel too scrutinized as Ryan watches it all. The shirt is tight on him and the material is a soft blue color and has the words “Legalize Gay” on it. Upon further inspection, the other piece of cloth is a tie with multi-colored stripes.

“I don’t know how,” Brendon mutters embarrassingly, the tie around his neck just hanging off his neck awkwardly. “My mom usually does it for me.”

Ryan gets up and starts to tug on the tie. “I didn’t mean to get angry earlier,” he says all of a sudden. “It’s just…pride days are important to me. When I came out, people treated me like shit, and I didn’t understand why. I wanted so badly to be different. It’s just one day I realized I was who I was and I couldn’t change it. And now, I’m happy that I have pride for it because I’d rather be proud than be fucking miserable like I was.”

Brendon swallows thickly as Ryan finishes up, his fingers tightening the tie until it sits snug against Brendon’s neck. “I’m sorry,” he mutters.

“No, it’s okay. Now, you know why.”

Brendon still feels immensely guilty, but when Ryan pulls out a rainbow flag that’s just a little shorter than he is, draping it on Brendon’s shoulder like a cape, he feels a little better.

“Usually I wear it,” Ryan tells him. “I want you to this year, though.”

“You sure?”

Ryan smiles and nods.

***

On Monday, Brendon gets dressed feeling a little silly in his Legalize Gay shirt, but there is something about wearing it around in his room that makes him always want to wear the shirt. He has to cover it up with a hoodie before going into the kitchen to see his parents, but he still has this small thing that’s his own. Something that he can be proud of.

Ryan is outside his house when he finally leaves. Ever since Brendon had realized how close their houses were it only made sense for them to walk to school together. When Brendon sees him he gives Ryan a big smile. Ryan only covers his mouth a fist and coughs out, “Closet case.”

“Fuck off,” Brendon replies easily.

“I’m just kidding,” Ryan smiles. “Please take all the time you need, little gay boy.”

Brendon rolls his eyes as he grabs for his bag and hands it to Ryan. He takes it wordlessly and watches as Brendon strips off his hoodie and takes the bag back. Putting away his hoodie and grabbing out the tie and flag, he gets ready.

“How do I look?” he asks after he’s pinned the flag together with the flaps on either shoulder.

Ryan looks over to him, goofy smile still on his face. “Lookin’ good.”

At school, most people just ignore his flamboyant outfit, but nearly all of the teachers comment on it, looking thoroughly amused that quiet Brendon is actually doing spirit week. In third period a group of girls ask if he’s gay, and technically he could just say no and that he’s just a great ally, but he figures that’s pointless. Plus, finally telling people he is gay actually feels pretty good.

When lunch comes around they have different games set up in the cafeteria and Ryan and Brendon go around to each one, winning little prizes and giving them each other.

“Dude, look,” Ryan exclaims, knocking his elbow into Brendon. “It’s a stamp!”

He proceeds to stamp Brendon’s arm with music notes, and Brendon just laughs. They look through all their little toys and carefully divide them up to who wants what more. By the time lunch ends, Brendon’s disappointed he has to go to a few more classes without Ryan.

In last hour he gets a text from Ryan that reads meet me outside later, and when the bell rings he rushes to go meet Ryan by the doors. Sure enough he’s there, leaning against the brick wall looking into the parking lot.

“Hey,” Brendon greets him, a little nervous.

Ryan smiles at him and then looks to the ground. “I want you to keep the stuff I let you borrow.”

“You sure?” Brendon looks down to the shirt and the flag and tie and wonders how Ryan could just give up his stuff, stuff that’s obviously important to him, like that.

“I want for you to have some of your own clothes for next year,” Ryan shrugs. “Plus, you look really good in the flag.”

Brendon blushes, fidgeting with his fingers. He’s entirely too nervous for this conversation. “If you really want me to.”

Ryan finally looks to his face. He seems nervous as he bites on his lip and look at Brendon again. “Yeah, I just—“

He doesn’t even finish his sentence when he leans forward and pulls Brendon into a kiss. He’s completely caught off guard, and he’s not sure how exactly this kind of stuff works, but he goes with it and just kisses back because that’s obviously what he wants to do.

It only takes a few moments for Ryan to pull away looking horrified. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I didn’t. I mean.”

He looks completely flustered, like what he just did was completely wrong. Brendon’s confused for a moment because he wanted that, he liked that, and yet Ryan still looks like he regrets it.

“Ryan,” he says quietly. He can’t think of anything else to say, though, so he just leans forward and kisses Ryan because it only seems fair to. His lips feel nice and when his hand easily settles on his shoulder, things seem to blur into a saccharine dream. Brendon really never wants to pull away but he finally manages to, just so he can breathe.

“This is okay then?” Ryan clarifies, looking equally as happy as Brendon feels on the inside.

Brendon nods and grabs for Ryan’s hand.

Yes. It’s definitely okay.