"You want us to do what?" Peter asked.
"I want us to go to Pride," Neal answered.
"Pride? As in Gay Pride? Us? You and me?"
"Yes, Gay Pride. Yes, us. Yes, you and me — and Elizabeth too, if she wants."
"But Neal, we're not gay," Peter pointed out.
Neal laughed. "No, but we are in a same-sex relationship, Peter. And besides, Pride is for everyone."
"But what if we see someone we know?" Peter worried.
Another laugh from Neal. "For one thing, Peter, about a million or more people go to Pride in New York every year. For another thing, if someone sees us, then that means — guess what — they're at Pride, too."
Peter thought about that for a minute and realized that Neal was correct. "Why do you want to go?" he asked.
"Because it's FUN!" Neal replied. "And because I want to show people that I am in a relationship with a great guy — and a great woman — and I'm happy and proud! I want to come out," he added. "I don't want to hide our relationship. I want to be able to be open about it, and Pride is the best place to do it."
Peter couldn't help but find Neal's enthusiasm infectious. The younger man was practically bouncing. But he was also saying that he wanted them to come out to about a million people. "I'll think about it," he finally said.
The next day at work....
:"Diana, could you come here a moment?" Peter asked. "Shut the door," he added when she came into his office.
"What's up, boss?" she asked.
"Um, I want to ask you something, but it's personal. You don't have to answer it if you don't want to. It's not work-related. But, er, do you and Christie go to Pride?"
The expression on Diana's face showed Peter that she had not been expecting this kind of question at all.
"Yeah, sure we do. We go every year. Why?"
Peter wondered if his face was turning red. "Well, er, Neal wants to go, and he wants me to go with him."
"Because it's outside the radius of his ankle bracelet? So do you want me to take him? I'd have to ask Christie, I guess, but...."
"No, that's not what I mean," Peter hastily replied. "I mean, he wants me to take him. He wants us to go together. He wants...." He hesitated. "He wants us to come out."
"You don't mean...." Diana stared at her boss. "You do mean. You and Neal are together?"
"Yeah. For a few months now."
"Pardon me for asking, but you're married. What about Elizabeth?"
"Oh, she's fine with the whole thing. We have an arrangement. She and Neal.... Well, they kinda share me, I guess."
"Okay, so what exactly does this have to do with me?" Diana wanted to know.
"Oh, you mean why I called you in here. Well, I just wanted you to know so that if you see me and Neal at Pride, you won't be surprised."
Diana laughed. "All right. I hope I do see you and Neal at Pride. Coming out would be good for you both."
"You think so?" Peter asked.
"Boss," Diana said, "being in the closet is not fun. I'm sure you're already aware of that. Hiding what you are. Hiding who you are. It's like you're ashamed. You have to worry about stupid things like what pronoun you use or whose picture you have on your desk. Someone asks you if you're married, and you want to say yes, but you can't because you don't want them to know that the person you're married to is the same gender as you. Or you wind up referring to your 'roommate' when you really mean your life partner.
"I chose to tell everyone that Christie is my girlfriend, not my roommate, because I'm not ashamed of her or the fact that I love her."
Peter liked the smile that came over Diana's face when she talked about her girlfriend. He wondered if she were even aware of it. "She makes you happy," he commented.
"Yeah, she does. Does Neal make you happy?"
Peter was the one with the smile this time. "Yes, very much."
He decided he would go to Pride.
Back at the Burke house....
"You sure you can't come, honey?" Peter asked his wife.
"What, with a sign that says 'I'm here with my husband and his boyfriend?'" she teased.
"No, it would have to say our boyfriend," he corrected her.
Elizabeth laughed. "I wish I could. I'd love to see all those pretty men and women at the parade. But I'm already committed to catering Pride parties that day and night. Duty calls."
Neal spent the night before the parade at the Burke house. Elizabeth provided the meal, and for dessert she served a rainbow-frosted cake.
"What's with the colourful cake?" Neal asked.
"Oh, I just read this news story about some guy who runs a bakery who refused to make rainbow cupcakes for a group of college students who asked for them for their school's diversity celebration," Elizabeth explained. "He said he was afraid it would harm his daughters. Like cake can turn someone gay. I can't exactly ship a bunch of cupcakes to Indiana, but I thought I'd make something for the two of you to mark your inaugural Pride parade tomorrow."
"This is why we're going to Pride tomorrow, Peter," Neal said. "So that people like that don't win."
Peter sipped his wine and looked at Elizabeth and Neal. He thanked whatever god was listening that he had these two people in his life.
The next day was the Pride parade. Elizabeth left early to work on her brunch, and Neal and Peter headed downtown to find a spot along the parade route. Peter was amazed at the colour and variety of all the floats, banners, decorations and costumes he saw both in the parade and on the sidelines – and, in some cases, by the lack of costumes.
As they stood watching, Peter felt Neal's hand slip into his. He and Neal didn't normally engage in public displays of affection, but he realized that if they were ever going to do so, this would be the time and place to do it. He held Neal's hand for awhile, then let go and slung his arm around Neal's shoulders, feeling a surge of affection for his partner as he was rewarded with a beaming smile.
He had to admit that he had an ulterior motive for holding on to Neal the way he did. He was feeling a bit possessive. He'd seen the way other men were looking at his partner. He knew that Neal was a very attractive man — attractive to both genders. But he also knew that that smile was for him alone, which eased his insecurity.
After the parade it was time for Pride Fest. This was a street fair featuring entertainment, vendors, and displays by various community organizations. There was even a group for gays and lesbians in law enforcement, which Neal pointed out to Peter, and a group for people in polyamorous relationships. "That would be you, me and Elizabeth," Neal said to Peter. Peter took flyers from both and shoved them in his pocket. He would look at them later, but right now he didn't want to think about anything but enjoying his time with Neal, holding his hand and being completely open about their relationship.
The Pride Fest was also where they finally ran into Diana, who was accompanied by an attractive African-American woman that Peter figured had to be Christie.
"Hey, Boss," Diana said. "Nice to see you. This is my partner, Christie. Christie, this is Agent Burke."
"Call me Peter, please. I'm off duty. This is Neal."
"So you're Neal Caffrey," Christie said, shaking hands. "You're the one who told your friend to break into our apartment."
Neal apologized profusely for encouraging Alex to break into Diana and Christie's apartment. Diana seemed more upset than Christie was. Christie seemed to find the whole situation amusing.
After the two couples went their separate ways, Christie turned to Diana. "So that's Neal Caffrey. You've told me he's a pain in the butt, but you never told me how handsome he is."
"Hey," said Diana, punching her partner in the shoulder. "You're taken. So is he."
Christie kissed Diana. "I know," she said. "But that doesn't mean I can't look. Just that you are the only one I touch."
After PrideFest wound down, Neal and Peter found a restaurant where they could have dinner. Peter noticed that their waiter seemed especially attentive; he kept finding excuses to drop by their table. Peter kept assuring him that yes, everything was fine; no, they didn't need anything. But it didn't seem to discourage the waiter's attention — which, Peter noticed, was directed exclusively towards Neal.
When the bill arrived, there was an extra slip of paper with it. Neal picked it up. "Oh, look. He gave me his phone number."
Peter rolled his eyes. Neal took out a pen and wrote something on the piece of paper, then stuck it back in with the bill.
"What did you write?" Peter asked.
"I wrote, 'Tough luck. I belong to the handsome man I'm dining with.'"
As they were leaving, Peter stopped Neal. "Wait a minute," he said. They waited until they'd caught the eye of their waiter. Then Peter took Neal in his arms and kissed him very thoroughly and very obviously. "Take that," Peter mouthed at the waiter as he and Neal left.
"Do you think he got the message?" Peter asked Neal as they headed for the fireworks display that would end Pride Week.
"I don't know if he did, but I sure did," was Neal's reply.
When they finally made it home that night, the house was dark. "El said she'd be out late tonight," Peter commented. "She'll be exhausted tomorrow."
"We'll have to do something special for her," Neal said as the two of them headed for what had become Neal's room. "We'll let her sleep late, and then — breakfast in bed?"
"I'm sure she'll love that," Peter answered.
Neal began to remove Peter's clothes. "Tonight, though, I have you all to myself." He grinned. "I keep remembering the way you kissed me in the restaurant."
"You mean like this?" Peter demonstrated. "Like you said, you belong to me, and I had to demonstrate that fact to the waiter."
Neal finished removing his own clothes and got into bed, pulling Peter down beside him. "How about you demonstrate some more?"