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Welcome to the Christmas Parade

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Chilly puffs of cold air surround the two as they walk through the city, dark and empty skies hanging melancholically overhead. The only thing keeping them warm in the freezing cold is their bodies huddled close together, and even then it’s difficult. Despite the dark skies and chilly air, bright lights are all around them, weaved around trees and shown as overhead decorations in an attempt to show off displays of unnecessary yet enjoyed color. Said colors bounced off of every reflective surface they could, making it hard to find a spot that wasn’t influenced by the various hues.

Sounds follow them as the two walk in the complete opposite of silence, from the cars rumbling beside them to the sound of their own breathing, to the sound of the wind lightly blowing in their ears, but most importantly, or perhaps most noticeably, the voices of each other talking.

“It’s like, so cold out here…” Saihara says idly, a puff of white mist appearing for seconds before evaporating into nothing in front of his mouth. Ouma tries not to shake too much at the frigid cold, but alas, his constitution modifier was of no help. He could feel himself shuddering beside the taller boy, unable to feel much of the other’s body heat due to the thick jackets they’d worn.

“Y-eah…” Ouma tries to say more, but is unable to as a gust of winter wind greets the two and he hugs himself tightly, goosebumps appearing beneath his clothing. Saihara offers a concerned glance, but doesn’t say anything, simply inching a little closer. Ouma forces out a breath, wanting to change the topic. He looked at the sparkling lights and had an idea.

“Okay so like, completely unrelated but, imagine all the lights on like, the trees and stuff to be just a bunch of those worms on strings.”

Saihara laughs at the silly concept, a small smile appearing on his lips at the thought. Ouma can’t help but smile as well as Saihara begins to add on. “They’re uh, hibernating or something.”

Ouma erupts into stupid, childishly happy giggles as a grin appears on his face, ready to continue the thought. “They’re like bears, they just eat a bunch of crap before they fall asleep and then they get all glowy.”

“Bears get all glowy now? Okay.” Ouma can’t really see Saihara’s expression since he’s trying to watch the sidewalk, but he can easily picture a bit of a raised brow with a smug look on Saihara’s face.

“Yes. Absolutely. Definitely.

“I think what you’re looking for is ‘Yes, definitely, absolutely.’” Ouma turns to Saihara with a finger raised to his lips, a wide smile on his face as he shushes the other. Saihara offers a small smile in response.

Their attention is brought elsewhere when they notice more and more people slowly appearing along the sidewalks. Many had big smiles on their faces, and were shifting awkwardly in place as if they were waiting for something. It got to the point where the sidewalks where overcrowded, the most of them watching the streets for something as the others hugged the building walls, walking through.

“Wonder what’s going on,” Ouma thinks aloud, a light beeping pattern in his heart alerting him. He feels Saihara lightly shrug beside him, taking Ouma’s gloved hand in his own as they get closer to the crowds. “Maybe there’s a festival?”

“Oh yeah! That would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Saihara said. Ouma smiles a little, proud even though it wasn’t a very strong reason to be. Saihara smiled at him and Ouma’s own smile grew bigger.

Saihara went up and asked someone, and found that they were right, to an extent. A parade was going on and apparently the floats hadn’t come by yet, hence the amount of people. Said floats would be leading to a small assortment of vendors later.

“Do you want to stay and watch?” Saihara asked.

“Sure,” the words slipped out of Ouma’s mouth without giving much thought to it. Saihara gave him a glance as Ouma began to think on what he’d just agreed too.

He could feel anxiety tightening inside his chest, and the eyes of many peering into his soul. His heart went from beeping to screaming in a matter of moments, leaving echoes of shaky anxiety behind. His breathing began to gradually quicken into hyperventilating, gaze flickering to the many bodies of flesh around him.

So.

Many.

People.

As Saihara confidently weaves through the crowds, Ouma realized he regretted what he had said earlier.

People were watching him, his anxiety convinced. Judging everything he did. Hating him for every small thing- how he was practically smothering Saihara, to his ugly dry skin that he couldn’t take care of no matter how hard he tried, to his messy hair that hated to stay down, to his nose that likes to run extra in the cold weather, to the fact that the large coat Saihara made him wear made him look a little too chubby for comfort, and he already was without the extra materials.
Saturn's ring began to circulate pulses of pain around his head, as if trying to make it worse. He subconsciously gripped Saihara’s hand a little bit tighter, attempting to lessen the pain.

Saihara stopped, noticing Ouma’s distress. Staring somewhat intensely, deep in thought, a small hmm noise to be heard as Saihara searched for ideas. Easing up his gaze, he then proceeded to drag Ouma to a less populated part of the crowd, not far off from where they’d been when they originally found the parade. Saihara let go of the other’s hand as they stopped once again, Ouma immediately wrapping his arms around himself.

“It’s going to be a bit before the float’s get here, are you okay my dude?” Ouma let out a soft snort at the last phrase, never quite used to the way Saihara liked to word things. Not that he worded it badly, Ouma liked it if anything.

“Um. I dunno. There’s a lotta people…” He didn’t meet Saihara’s gaze, opting to look at the cement beneath them. He got the usual grey and, when there was a crack, slightly darker grey. Truly magical.

“Hey like if it’s too much, we can go,” Saihara offered. Ouma sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm himself and think.

I don’t like the sheer amount of people here but it could be a bit of fun, and it seemed like Saihara wanted to stay, but it’s also freezing cold and I’d kinda of give anything to be at home right now.

“Do you want to stay?” Ouma unintentionally deflected. Saihara frowned.

“I mean it seems like it could be pretty cool, but if you’re stressed out then I’d rather you be okay.”

And I’d feel bad for making you miss out on something fun!

“Uh...We can stay...?”

“Are you sure? Don’t want you being...un-gucci.” Ouma laughed brightly at that.

“I’ll be fine.” In all honesty, Ouma wasn’t sure if that was true. But he’d rather be a little miserable and let Saihara have fun. Besides, you never know what might happen, and Ouma knew from experience that it was easy to make something into a good experience for himself, at the very least.

“Alright, cool.” Saihara nodded absently. Ouma relaxed at the compromise, shifting his arms around a bit in search of a comfortable position, before finally leaving it at where they’d been before. “Still cold?”

Ouma looked over at the other boy. “Hm? Oh, yeah…” Saihara shifted closer, to the point where they were basically hugging without actually having their arms around each other. Ouma let out a sigh of relief, watching as the gas that escape his lips wasn’t nearly as big of an amount as earlier. He could feel the warmth radiating off of Saihara, if only very slightly.

They simply stayed like that for a bit, Ouma worrying how it would come out if he even tried to talk to Saihara when they were this close together. Neither seemed to mind, at least.
That was, before Saihara turned to the side, slightly breaking the closeness to look at something. “Looks like the floats are here.”

In the very front was a car, probably to lead the way, christmas lights wrapped around it as if trapped in a net or a spider web. They had also bothered to put a little Christmas hat on the top. Ouma giggled at that.

Behind that was the Santa float, or one of multiple Ouma assumed. The main flooring and sides were white, although it had streaks of gold ribbon to cover up the bottom. There was a small sleigh in the middle facing towards the car, behind it a chimney with papers made to look like bricks on it. ‘Santa’ was in the chimney, waving at everyone, especially the children. Ouma shrunk into himself a little when the person playing Santa looked at him.
To not think about it, Ouma spoke to Saihara.

“Remember when you said ‘Morgan Freeman is above god, therefore he is Santa?’”

Saihara laughed, a smile on his face. “You’re never letting go of that, are you?”

“Nope, never. Sorry,” Ouma said with a stupid grin. Saihara rolled his eyes and looked over at the incoming float. “It’s been put into the VIP memories folder.”

The next one was similar, with white flooring that extended to the sides. On the sides where the words “LET HIS WORD UNWRAP THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS” was written in both all caps and red ribbon. Or tape. Ouma had no idea. Hell, it could be fabric. Most noticeably, however, where boxes made to look like presents. Two red striped ones, two red ones, two lime green ones, and three gold ones, two of which shined somewhat annoyingly. Naturally, they were each topped with a bow, fitting the colors of the presents.

Behind that is what looks like a golf cart, with a wooden pole on the roof with a golden star on the top, made of what Ouma can only describe as shiny gold ribbon. There are much longer, white versions of the same material spreading around the cart, fashioned to look like a snow tree. It was possible to see the driver, who seemed to be staring straight ahead instead of looking at anyone in the crowd. It was a little discomforting, but Ouma smiled anyway, knowing if he were in that situation he would be doing the exact same thing.

Behind the cart was a gingerbread-themed float. It seemed to be decorated with wood planks, with white ribbon to mark frosting. Unlike the other floats, the sides went above what was already there, creating a wall of sorts, along with a makeshift roof. Fake candies decorated the sides and the roof, ranging from peppermint to lollipops to gumdrops. Quite the assortment.

Following that float was a smaller, yet still very decorated one. There were five christmas trees on it, each decorated in holy yellow lights. The float had a back with five stars of varying size reaching upwards, all of it covered in the same bright holy yellow color of lights. Even the sides, with the usual ribbons covering up the bottom of it, was covered in the lights. Something told Ouma it was some sort of religious thing.

Looking past the last float, he realized that there wasn’t any more floats, and a great number of the people who had been there at the start had mysteriously vanished. Ah, weren’t there going to be vendors at the end? People were probably following the floats now.

He noticed one of those vehicles made to look like a train but work kind of like a car was taking people to the supposed vendors, with a very long line of people waiting for their turn to ride. Ouma couldn’t help but also notice Saihara’s eyes light up as he noticed it.

“Dude, we should go over there! It’d be like the polar express!” Saihara glanced at Ouma, a smile on his face. Ouma mentally cringed at the idea of waiting in such a long line.

“Maybe, but the line seems really long, and I don’t really want to wait in line…” It struck Ouma at that moment that he’d already basically asked Saihara to do something for him by shifting to a less populated area earlier, so asking for more was greedy. He resisted the impulsive urge to scratch his arm as punishment, watching Saihara deflate slightly at his words. “Ah, but if you want to go…”

Saihara stared at the line for a few seconds before replying, “Nah, you do have a point. Let’s walk, then.” Ouma nodded in agreement, unsure of whether or not the other actually saw as they turned around to simply walk alongside the floats.

After a bit of following the crowds, they stumbled along a park where various tent shops had been set up for the time being. The items being sold ranged from drinks to clothes to souvenirs to decorations to snacks. So mostly food and christmas-y items. Ouma glanced at the seemingly fake mistletoe strung on strings above the tents.

“Want ta buy anything? I think we should get matching ugly sweaters…” Ouma giggled at Saihara’s idea, a small smile on Ouma’s face.

“I’d like that, it seems fun,” he said. Saihara smiled, taking his hand and leading them towards one of the tents, housing a variety of sweaters. After sifting through many sweaters, they eventually decided on a mainly black pair. The one Saihara claimed featured Santa wearing cool guy shades and saying “Where my HO’s at?!” while Ouma’s simply said “HO” on it. After a bit of debate on who was paying (Saihara did,) the two were childishly giggling as they left the shop with the sweaters.

“I’m never wearing this in public, I hope you know that,” Ouma said with a smile, kneading the fabric with his hands. It wasn’t the softest thing in the world, but not necessarily uncomfortable.

“Aww, but then people can’t get mad at us. There’s no point if isn’t offensive,” Saihara sarcastically joked. Ouma laughed nervously, a small sliver of his brain suddenly wondering if he had made a good choice. And also wondering why the vendor would sell this. Saihara either noticed or just happened to say the perfect thing, stating, “No worries though, you don’t have to wear it if you don’t want.”

“We already paid for it, I might as well wear it,” Ouma pointed out. “But probably not to something super public.”

“Fair enough,” Saihara said with a nod. “Oh hey! Do you want to get hot chocolate? It’d help warm us up.”

“Oh yeah of course! I love hot chocolate…” Ouma smiled at the thought of the best drink ever, fishing through his coat pocket for his wallet. Saihara, however, beat him to the punch. Kind of. That phrase doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you were describing a different action beforehand...

“Alright, I can pay,” Saihara said. Ouma gave Saihara a somewhat questioning glance.

“Are you sure? You paid for the sweaters, the least I can do is pay for the drinks…” Ouma said.

“Yeah, I’m sure! You didn’t want to be here in the first place, so like, I shouldn’t make you pay for stuff,” Saihara explained. Ouma cringed, a pang of guilt in his chest at the words.

“Ah,” Ouma paused, thinking of how to word his thoughts. “I, uh...don’t regret coming. I guess. If that’s a good way to word that…”
Saihara thought for a bit. “That’s valid but it’s not changing my mind,” he said, reading the board for the prices.

“Ah, okay then…” Ouma said. Saihara walked over to the next place in line, marking a spot for them. Ouma blinked, looking over at Saihara. “But, are you, like, really sure.”

Saihara turned to him with an upbeat smile. “Yeah, of course! You can stop worrying about it.”

Ouma blinked, not entirely used to hearing Saihara’s attempts at comfort. “I...ok, but you’re really-“

“Yes. It’s just drinks.”

“But you paid for the sweaters.”

“Hey, why are you arguing with me?” He didn’t say it with any sort of malice in his voice, it was more like a genuine question, but Ouma glanced down anyway, unease filling him up like a car filling up on gasoline.

“Uh. Sorry.” Ouma startled as a gloved finger touched his nose, that of which quickly retracted at Ouma’s reaction. Saihara just offered a smile.

“It’s ok, I want to do this.” Ouma sucked in breath, calming his beating heart and looking at Saihara with a content, if a bit mischievous, smile.

“Stop being great, it’s unfair,” Ouma said playfully. Saihara giggled, the tension beginning to slip away. For a second, they just sat there smiling at each other. It was nice.

They got to the cashier and Saihara ordered their drinks with ease. How the taller boy could just do that, Ouma could never fully understand. How he could just talk to strangers as if he had known them since childhood. Ouma smiled brightly at his beloved, only forcing it down a bit when Saihara glanced at him. It didn’t feel safe to let the other know how horribly smitten he was sometimes. It was cheesy and weird.

They wandered over to the counter where you’re supposed to pick up your drinks, waiting patiently for them to come.

“Uh, sorry. For needing so much reassuring today,” Ouma said, before laughing at himself. “That’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?”

“Well...I’m fine with it mah dude. It’s less fun if you’re not having fun.” That phrase again. He was making things less fun for Saihara, constantly, wasn’t he? Ouma frowned at the ground in thought.

Thinking like that just makes it worse, his brain reminded him. Ouma shook his head and put on a smile, but that lingering sense of guilt didn’t leave. He opened his fist and closed it a couple of times, trying to keep the action out of Saihara’s sight.

Someone called out their name, and he left to grab the drinks, quickly returning and handing one to Ouma. Ouma’s smile became a little more genuine as he took a sip, his mouth filling mostly with the whip cream on top instead of the actual hot chocolate, but he didn’t care. He felt the warmth of the drink starting to overpower the shreds of guilt. A big smile spread across his face, Ouma looked at Saihara.

It was a little surprising. Saihara’s gaze was actually...soft, for a change, and he was smiling. Ouma awkwardly, yet happily grinned at him. At the action, he realized what he was doing and Saihara’s usual tense gaze returned, but Ouma didn’t have it in him to care, taking another sip of the hot chocolate.

“Thanks,” Ouma said. “For the hot chocolate. And also the sweater.”

Saihara chuckled, grinning at Ouma. “Yeah, of course.”