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Pride

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Bella basked in the warmth of the sun's rays, eyes closed and lean form stretched out contentedly on the soft grass. Even better, her fingers were tangled with Rosalie's, and she could hear and feel the vampire's slow, inexorable heartbeat. This was true bliss.

“What are you thinking about, dear one?” Rosalie's silken voice came softly, wrapping around Bella with it's familiar, comforting cadence.

“Mm...” the faoladh hummed, allowing herself to drift into a greater state of wakefulness and grasp the tendrils of her earlier thoughts. “Well...” she said, drawing the word out almost like a yawn.

Though her mate had many fine qualities, patience was not on of her strengths. “Well what?” Rosalie asked when it became clear that Bella was in no hurry to answer her. A low laugh escaped Bella's lips and she opened her eyes. Momentarily blinded by the brightness of the sun, she turned her head and found herself dazzled by the sheer luminescent brilliance of her mate. A happy sigh escaped her as she gazed at Rosalie's beautiful face, and she lifted her free hand to touch her cheek, marveling at the softness where her eyes told her there were diamonds.

“How about a kiss first?” Bella asked, pushing her bottom lip out in a slight pout that she knew the vampire could not resist. Rosalie rolled her eyes knowingly but leaned in and brought their lips together in a slow, unhurried kiss. The kind Bella liked best.

At last, they separated and Rosalie quirked an eyebrow. “You're insatiable, you know that?”

Bella smirked and hooked an arm around Rosalie's waist, pulling her close. “When it comes to you, Rose, I always will be.” The normally aloof Rosalie ducked her head into Bella's neck for a moment, as if hiding her pleasure at those words, but Bella could sense her mate's satisfaction for herself. After a time Rosalie adjusted against Bella and comfortably rested her head against her shoulder, pleased when the faoladh's arm tightened around her in return.

“Okay, now can you tell me what you were thinking about?”

Bella laughed again. “Fine, fine. I wasn't really meaning to keep it from you. I was just reading online that Port Angeles is having a Pride festival this weekend, and we should go. It is Pride month after all, and I would be very proud to attend with you.” Rosalie drummed her fingers on Bella's stomach, a sensation that was quite ticklish. Bella stifled a giggle. She could practically feel Rosalie's frown, and didn't want to get distracted.

“Explain to me...what is a “pride festival”? I think I have an idea of what you're talking about, but I think an explanation would help.” Rosalie didn't care to admit often when she didn't know something – she didn't care to be vulnerable to anyone for any reason – but Bella was different.

The faoladh, for her part, was trying to think of the best way to help Rosalie understand. How much did the vampire know already? She had been alive for nearly a century, so Bella was surprised her mate didn't know more about this. For now, she decided, the simplest answer was probably the best. Then they could narrow down what Rosalie really needed to know.

“Well, “Pride”,” she began, “is the term used to describe people of differing sexual orientation and identity, or gender identity-- or really anyone who identifies outside of society's normal definition of how one should live as an individual and who you should love-- who come together to celebrate these differences and the fact that they, and we, can live far more openly and safely than ever before. The festival is open to anyone, of course, so there will also be straight allies there who come to support friends, family, and the LGBTQ+ community.” Well, maybe there wasn't exactly an easy, simple definition after all. She had never tried to define it before.

Rosalie hummed in thought.

“There's more to it than that, but I think that's the best I can par it down,” Bella said. “Does that help?”

Rosalie was quiet for a while, mulling over what she knew and what Bella had said. She sat up so she could look at Bella more easily, and the faoladh sat up as well. “I guess...I don't know why we need to go? I am already proud to be your mate...why do we need this “Pride”?” She shook her head in confusion. “And why does anyone want to do this, put themselves out there like that? It's no one's business who anyone loves.”

Sensing Rosalie's inner turmoil, Bella took her hand again and ran a soothing thumb over the back of it. “We don't have to go Rose, I just thought we might. People want to celebrate and be proud because for so long, and for so many now, it wasn't safe to do so. People outside the heterosexual norm have been discriminated against and persecuted for...well, a really long time.” Bella shrugged. “People have lots of different reasons for wanting to go though.”

Her mate was frowning so hard that Bella thought there might be a crinkle forming on her forehead, thought that was of course, impossible.

“What do you mean, discriminated against? You mean people like us, you and me, two females, loving each other...” she shrugged uncomfortably. “Other people might have treated us badly?” Her expression suddenly grew dark and fierce. “Let them try,” she declared, “we have nothing to be ashamed of, and I will happily make anyone bleed who says otherwise...”

Bella gripped her hands tightly, “That, Rose, that feeling you have right now – maybe not the murdery part – but the rest, that is why people want to celebrate! Of course it's nothing to be ashamed of, our love. But not long ago, people might have tried to hunt us down and hurt us or found other ways to hurt us like denying us work, healthcare, or service.  Those things are still happening to people today, in fact.”

Rosalie let that sink in, feeling the weight of Bella's eyes on her but also the complete love and acceptance that now flowed so easily between them. It had not been an easy road for them, but at least they had never needed to worry about being accepted by others.

Now it was Bella's turn for a question, however. “Rosalie, you came from an even more difficult time for people like us. Don't you remember, from when you were human? Surely this isn't all a shock.”

Digging into her human memories was difficult at best, but Rosalie made an effort. Those days were mere hazy images now, muddy and indistinct. The only really clear memories were events that she had been involved in directly. While it had certainly occurred to her that falling in love with another female was unorthodox, so was the concept that she could ever love someone at all, and so she hadn't really given much thought to the fact that human Rosalie would probably never have considered Bella as a potential lover. Her vampiric instincts had so easily accepted Bella as “mate”, that the issue had never really come up.

Rosalie took a breath, and tried to explain. “I don't really remember much about social constructs during my human lifetime and to be honest, I spent many of my first few decades as a vampire totally self-absorbed.” She shrugged, “It's not so much a shock, as I never really gave the issue enough thought.”

Bella sat back and considered. “That would explain your need for clarification,” she mused. “Now there are Pride festivals all over the country.” She smiled. “I think it's great we've come so far. Same-sex marriage has only been legal a few years, but that was a major hurdle. And there have been laws developed to help protect people from being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. It isn't perfect, but it's getting better, and it's more important than ever for people to come together like this and remind the world that we will keep moving forward.”

She could feel the conviction behind her words, and suddenly found herself more amenable to the idea than she had been before. “I suppose we could go to this Pride,” Rosalie said finally, to Bella's excitement. She smiled at her mate's enthusiasm, “And I think we should invite our family to come too. It will be fun to go together.”

A grin stretched across Bella's face so wide she felt it might split her cheeks. “I think that sounds wonderful.” And it did, she could just imagine the Cullens, and Charlie, taking everything in with wide-eyed wonder.

“So,” Rosalie interrupted Bella's imagination for a moment, “What exactly does one wear to this Pride?”

Before Bella could reply, she felt her phone vibrating in her pocket. Frowning, Bella pulled it out and lifted an eyebrow at the Caller ID. Swiftly answering and putting the phone on speaker, she laughed as Alice's exuberant voice shouted out - “Did somebody say RAINBOWS???!”