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Better Out Than In

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"Read my lips: I am not going to the same-sex marriage rally in City Hall!"

"Aw, Alex, why not?" Harper whined.

Alex glanced around the substation, made a shushing gesture, and gave Harper that look. The look that she knew that Harper would always back down to.

"Because," she hissed. "You know that no one knows that I—" she dropped her voice to a whisper, "that I like girls!"

"Oh please Alex," said Harper, rolling her eyes. "They know you're a wizard, so you think they'll care if you—mmph!"

Alex slapped a hand over her girlfriend's mouth and looked around. People were staring at them.

"I'm a wizard with computers!" Alex offered to them lamely. "Really geeky stuff, you know? I don't like people knowing. Embarrassing and all that."

"I liked computers!" perked up a pimply, glasses-wearing man from the back of the restaurant.

Alex shot him a disgusted look, and then dragged Harper away.

Once they were in the kitchen, she let her go. Harper continued her monologue.

"I mean, like, why would your parents care?" she said. "Unless they're homophobic," Harper added, looking at Alex seriously.

Alex sighed. "It's not that. Well, I don't know if they're homophobic or not (though I think our uncle might be gay), but Dad wants me to get married and have children to pass down the magic..."

"Then use a sperm bank," said Harper.

Alex crinkled her nose. "What, is that a place where people can buy sperm? No thanks, I don't want any."

"No, that's not what it—" Harper broke off. Then she looked Alex dead in the eye.

"You said you wanted our relationship to be serious, right?"

Alex shrugged. "More serious than my old ones, yeah."

"And marriage is a pretty serious thing," continued Harper. Then, giggling, she said, "Well, it's not like we're going to get married any time soon or anything. But we should at least fight for our rights, so in the future we can!"

"I could marry a guy," Alex pointed out.

"Well you could, but you might not if you were still with me." Harper pointed to herself.

Alex still wasn't convinced. "And what if my parents—"

"And not everyone there is gay, you know," said Harper. "There'll be plenty of straight people who want equal rights, too! And you're half-straight, anyways."

"Half-straight?" Alex raised her eyebrows.

"Oh, you know, with the whole guy-liking thing." Harper waved her hand.

Alex hid a smile from Harper. As bisexual as she was, she still liked Harper more than any other guy or girl.

"So like I was saying," said Harper impatiently. "That's why I think you should come."

"Fine," said Alex, rolling her eyes though secretly she did want to spend a little more time with her. She lightly took her hand. "City Hall, right?"

"Yup," said Harper, blushing.

They made their way out of the restaurant while Alex's dad managed the customers (there weren't too many) and Justin helped him. Both Max and their mom were out shopping for groceries, so Alex was able to leave the substation unbothered. Smiling, she adjusted her grip around Harper's and noted that Harper blushed again.

They hadn't been going out for very long—three weeks, in fact, before Harper had heard about the gay marriage rally in the middle of the city. She had bothered Alex quite a bit about it, insisting that it was their duty because they were going out anyways, so they should care.

The jump in their relationship from best friends to dating-girlfriends actually wasn't much of a jump at all—more like a step forward. Alex had known that Harper was lesbian since forever, and when she had started getting more than friendly feelings for her best friends—and not just because she was her best friend, but the being a girl part too—Alex realized that she had some interest in the female gender as well. She hadn't convinced that she liked Harper first, of course; but when Harper told her that she liked her, it had been a pleasant surprised. Alex had lightly kissed Harper on the lips and told her that she liked her too, and then one thing led to another and they ended up like this.

Of course, Alex had never expressed her revelations to her family—mostly because of the whole having children thing—and she intended to keep their relationship a secret, at least for now. Luckily, they were still seen as best friends, so they could go out on dates to the mall and have dinner together, and look nothing more than friends. And, well, they snuck kisses and flirty squeezes now and then, but only when no one was looking.

But they were going to City Hall now, and even though this was far from a date, everyone was still looking. Everyone would see them here, together. Alex felt a jolt of fear and the slight thrill of it all as Harper guided them through the streets.

Crowds covered the road, holding up signs and picket fences that said, "GOD LOVES US ALL EQUALLY—THAT INCLUDES FAGS!" and "I DIDN'T VOTE ON YOUR MARRIAGE!" Overwhelmed, Alex gazed at them all.

"Amazing, isn't it?" said Harper's voice by her ear.

Alex turned to her and beamed. "This is awesome. I've never seen anything like it!" She glanced down at Harper's empty hands. "Should we hold something up too?"

"I was thinking you could use some magic to help us," said Harper slyly.

This was another thing, among many others, of why Alex liked Harper so much (of course, though, there were a lot of things she disliked—like that ridiculous watermelon-patterned dress. But it came with Harper, and Alex was used to it. Still hated the dress, though.) Since they had started dating, somehow Harper just understood her more—her way of thinking, manner of living. Her use of magic.

Alex took her wand out of her sleeve and charmed two large signs to appear. "There," she said, satisfied, handing the one that said "LOVE DESERVES EQUAL RIGHTS" to Harper. "This should work."

"They're perfect!" Harper exclaimed, taking it and raising it up above her head. "Equal rights!" she started shouting, along with the crowd. "We want equal rights!"

"Yeah!" Alex yelled as well, picking her own sign up.

She looked around. So many people around them—big and small, young and old, male and female, different races as far as she could see-were with them. Holding signs. Chanting. Fighting for what was theirs, or their friends' or their families' or just people, strangers they happened to care about. Alex didn’t know how many people were here—a lot or a littler, considering proportions—but there was a huge number of people and Alex was grinning as she rallied with everyone else.

Adrenaline rushed through her. It was a bit fun, doing this. Just wanting, demanding—something that Alex had always done and been good at, but not in a situation like this, with hundreds of other people. She had never really thought about marriage before—just thought that it'd happen sometime. She never thought that she'd have to fight for a possible future marriage that she could have.

She looked to the side, where Harper was. Harper was shouting, "Give us the right! Give us the right!" As she shouted, she caught Alex's eye and grinned.

Alex couldn't help grinning back. This was almost like magic.

Apparently though, they were still somewhere near the back of the crowd. Because as Alex continued lifting her sign up and down and chanted with the crowd, she suddenly heard a voice behind them said,

"Alex?"

Alex and Harper swiveled around.

Her mother was standing there.

So was Max, looking eager. "Hey, what's this?" he asked his mom. "A riot? Ooh, I love a good riot!"

"It's okay, Mrs. Russo, I can explain," said Harper quickly.

"If we're doing a riot, we'll need Justin and Dad!" continued Max. "Dad's really good at fighting, and Justin's funny when he's angry!"

And to Alex's horror, he waved his wand he seemed to have conjured up out of nowhere, and Justin and her dad, both in aprons, appeared right in the spot before them.

"Theresa!" said their dad as soon as he spotted their mom. "Where are we?"

"What are we doing here?" added Justin, frowning.

Before her mom could answer, however, Max pointed and said enthusiastically, "Alex's part of a riot!"

Alex's dad and Justin spun around to see Harper and Alex.

Alex smiled weakly and waved with her free hand. "Hi guys."

"Alex?" said her dad disbelievingly. "What are you..." He looked down to the sign in her hands. "What are you doing here?"

"Look, Mr. and Mrs. Russo, I can explain—"

"No," said Alex suddenly, cutting Harper off. Harper glanced at her, worried.

"It's okay," she assured Harper, and then took a deep breath and stepped forward to face her parents.

"I'm tired of hiding," she declared. "Not that I was really hiding before until three weeks ago but—I'm tired of hiding anyways!" She waved her hand for dramatic flourish.

Her family stared at her.

Alex stopped in front of them and sighed.

"I'm here for a reason you've probably already figured out," she said to them. "I'm not gay, but—I do like girls."

An awkward silence fell. Alex felt Harper touch her elbow.

"Are you sure, honey?" her mom asked her carefully.

Alex nodded.

"Hey, I like girls too," Max whispered to Justin. "Do you think I should tell them too?"

Justin looked at Max. Then he sighed.

"But... how do you know?" their dad asked her. He looked incredibly doubtful. "I mean, it's not like you've ever dated girls before—"

"I have," Alex interrupted. She walked back and held Harper's hand.

Her mom audibly gasped. Her dad looked stricken.

Justin sighed again and put his head in his hands. "Guys, I saw that coming," he said. "Why else would they be here together?"

"As friends?" Max suggested, completely oblivious.

"You are hopeless," Justin said to Max.

"Well," said their mom, clearing her throat. "This certainly has been... a shock for us. But we still love you, babe, no matter what. Right Jerry?" She nudged her husband.

"Er, right," he said, still staring at Alex's and Harper's clasped hands. "At least she won't get pregnant," he muttered to himself.

"We'll be back at the restaurant," said her mom, guiding her dad away. "We'll... talk about this later?"

Alex swallowed, but kept her chin up and nodded. "Yeah."

Her mom paused for a moment. Then she smiled at Alex, before walking away with her dad.

Alex looked to Justin. "Are you going to come up with names to call me now?"

"Nah, the world's already doing that," said Justin, patting her on the shoulder. Then he looked completely bewildered. "I can't believe you're scoring more girls than me!"

"I always beat you in everything," said Alex smugly.

Max was peering at the signs still in Alex's and Harper's hands. "What's a... 'lesbian'?"

Justin sighed and took Max by his ear and started dragging him away. Max cried out in pain as they left.

Alex turned to Harper and smiled.

"That didn't turn out as bad as I thought it would," she said.

Harper smiled back. "It always does."

They looked down at their signs, and then back to each other.

"Wanna go out on a real date now?" Alex suggested.

"Definitely." Harper beamed.

They dropped their signs and walked back down in streets, hand-in-hand. The air around them swirled with the magic of love.