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On Friday, while packing up for the day, Tim says, “So, I’ll see you at Pride this weekend?”. Martin doesn’t actually reply that no, he wasn’t planning to, not really, because at the moment he is a tad busy wanting to kill him and then, in very quick succession, to die. Between that and the sheer shell-shock, it doesn’t occur to him that Tim wasn’t speaking at him directly and outing him in front of all of their colleagues until someone else responds.

That someone being Jon doesn’t help his general processing of the situation.

So what does happen is that, while Martin is having a silent meltdown, Jon says, very naturally, “Oh, when are you going?”, to which Tim admits sheepishly, “Ah, you know, I usually do the full weekend, hahah, might be a bit of a mess when I come in on Monday,” and Jon rolls his eyes but then Jon says, “I was thinking of perhaps going on Saturday afternoon, to avoid exactly that.”

And then Sasha chimes in: “Saturday works for me,” casually, “shall we meet up?”

“Sure. Oxford Circus would be most convenient for all of us, I think?” continues Jon, without apparently needing to think about it. “After lunch?”

And Martin’s cheeks are burning, even though none of them is looking at him, but he manages to unseal his gnashed teeth, and his mouth is dry when he opens it and there’s a thick knot in his throat — but he gulps, hard, and swallows it down, and stammers out: “Y-yeah, that’s good. For me. Too.”

“Great!” Tim is beaming. “Text me when you head out, I’ll be with a bunch of friends but I’ll try to keep an eye on my phone.”

“Sure,” Sasha drawls, rolling her eyes, but she’s smiling.

“Well then, see you all tomorrow,” Jon says with not so much as a blink, a blush or a stutter, and he heads out.

Tim lazily waves him goodbye, and the second the door has fallen shut, crows out an elated: “Hell yeah, knew it! Bi, right?”

“Oh I don’t know,” Sasha says with a moue, “he strikes me as a-spec? Or perhaps non-binary?”

“Big. Bi,” Tim insists.

“Projecting again, Tim.”

“Look who’s talking! None of that’s mutually exclusive, anyway!”

“I suppose not,” she concedes good-naturedly. “Not that it’s any of our business, Tim.”

“It’s relevant to some of us, Sasha,” Tim retorts, sticking out his tongue at her, so in the end Martin is right back to the murderous and suicidal urges until that Saturday afternoon.

 

 

 

At two o’clock in the afternoon that Saturday, Martin is standing by one of the exits of the underground station, clutching his phone and desperately trying to meld into the stone wall in order to avoid getting crushed. Oxford Circus is always crowded, of course, but even by the usual standard, there’s so many people.

There’s so many people.

In rainbow, in glitter, in drag, in leather, in immaculate three-piece suits or in casual clothes but wearing bright make-up or flags as capes. There’s a few people in kilts, one man dressed as a literal fairy complete with fake unicorn ride. So many people, there, existing, loudly, with signs or chants or screaming or kissing, just right there in the middle of the street — two teenage girls in anime cosplay are making out by the doors of the H&M. A person in a moustache and sequinned dress walks by past Martin with a sign saying My gender is fuck you, followed by a pair of large hairy men in bondage gear holding hands.

Martin is doing none of that, not even wearing anything particular, not that he has anything, though he supposes he could have made a sign easily enough, but he can’t think of anything witty and bold to say. Still, even though he’s out of the way enough that no one looks at him, just being here is, you know, a statement already, even though allies are a theoretical possibility anyone is going to assume, and he focuses on breathing, breathing, breathing, and checking his phone. Finally Sasha texts back (‘lol oh no i’m on the other side of the street… see you in 20 min rip’) and he strains to look over the rolling and shifting tide of the parade, searching for her familiar face peeking up from the multi-coloured heads and brandished cardboard.

He’s scanning the crowd for her usually calm expression and austere academia-appropriate outfits, so even when she texts him ‘i see you!!’, he doesn’t notice her until she’s basically right on him because she is wearing half a dozen different palettes of colours in hair ribbons, makeup, pins, badges, stockings, bright from head to toe.

“Hey there!” she says, grabbing his arm so they aren’t separated, and her grin is brilliant too.

 

 

 

Wading through the crowd to rejoin with Jon takes a good ten more minutes. He is easier to spot, as he is wearing a barely more casual version of his usual work clothes; exactly no flag colours, which is — understandable, it’s not like Martin is either, but frustrating, and not helping Martin’s anxiety. (Horrible-things aside, they show the parade on the news, right? His mum hates the telly these days but, but —) But Jon is there, quiet and sullen in the way he always is in big crowds but looking perfectly at ease otherwise, and he compliments Sasha on her pins and badges and make-up and nail polish and hair clips in colours of so many flags, some of them Martin doesn’t even know of.

Martin fidgets with his phone, mumbles, “I’m trying to get hold of Tim,” for an excuse.

Jon looks at him, nothing insistent, just a glance, but Martin is uncomfortable anyway. “First Pride, huh?” he says, which, great, so not only is Martin (obviously) not passing, but he’s also easily identifiable as a first-timer.

And then Tim descends on them, his hair dyed a gradient of pink to blue, three different phone numbers scrawled on his arms, wearing a crop top and clearly at least half-way to drunk already. He laughs louder than the music as he tries to untangle his numerous capes and shawls from each other to wrap the biggest of the rainbow flags over the lot of them.

Martin freaks out a little, despite the being here already anyway you idiot do you think you’re subtle, but Jon doesn’t protest. He holds a corner of it, to hold it in place, and moves closer to Martin in the middle so they can all fit under it, and when Sasha curls her arm around Martin’s waist so they can walk at a pace more easily, Jon does the same.

And Martin fits, under that flag, amongst all of them, between Sasha’s multi-coloured face and Jon’s blank but comfortable expression.

 

 

 

Sasha googles the flags on her phone for Martin later, explains the lesbian flag situation and smiles happily while he reads through the article for aromanticism as they walk, and sends him the links to half a dozen specific wikis without making him feel stupid over how easy they are to find, and gives him one of her trans pins, and Jon doesn’t say anything but reaches out when they pass a basket of freebie bi flag temporary tattoos and grabs a handful of them to share and nods when Martin says “Ah, no, thanks,” and only just makes a face when Tim whoops in triumphant delight, and Martin gets a feeling that there’s more than that, more that he’s not talking about whether or not they share it, but that’s fine, they share being here and also water bottles because Martin didn't think to bring any, and when they get tired of all walking under the one flag Jon wordlessly helps tie it around Martin’s shoulders, and.

And it’s cool, for a first Pride. It’s pretty cool.