Disclaimer: I do not own Speed Racer, and I don't profit financially from writing this story. Darius Evans is mine, though. Please ask me if you wish to use him.

Author's Note: Never been to New York for the Fourth of July. I like to think that there's a parade if there isn't one. Also, this is late. Like nearly two months late. But I want it up so I can get the follow-ups to this posted.
Warnings: male/male relationship. Don't like, don't bother to read it. You have been warned.

The streets of New York were busy, busier than usual. People filled the sidewalks, nearly all of them wearing the colors of red, white, and blue. Some of the attire was simple – tank tops or t-shirts of all hues sporting the American flag on the front completed with shorts or pants. Some people had painted their faces with flags and stars, plastic beads draped around their necks and headbands with metallic stars bouncing on their heads. Others were more elaborate than that – baseball caps and fishing hats with mini American flags sticking up in the air. Little children hopped about, asking their parents and other caregivers for flags to wave and when the parade would start.

Speed smiled as he took in the sights, smells, and sounds of the bustling city. He and his lover/life partner, Darius Evans, had flown to New York City two days before, to celebrate the Fourth of July. It was one thing they'd both wanted to do – spend the day in Central Park and see the fireworks over the Statue of Liberty at least once in their lives. After that, they planned to rent a car and drive to Philadelphia for a few days, soak up the scenery and some history before returning to Michigan. They had some time off from racing, and they were taking full advantage of the reprieve. They didn't get such moments often, not with their hectic traveling schedules.

It was hard to not look around Times Square, the ideal place to watch the Fourth of July parade. No matter where his gaze landed, Speed saw something related to the holiday. Virtual American flags flashed bright, or at least as bright as possible, given that the sun was out and baking everyone under its warmth and light. It wasn't even noon yet. Next to him, Darius chuckled. He also reached over and grasped Speed by the hand.

"It's like watching your little brother in a candy store," he commented, leaning close so Speed could hear him.

"And like you don't feel the same way?" Speed shot back, grinning.

To that, Darius didn't reply. In the distance, the sound of a marching band could be heard. Around them, people cheered. Apparently, the parade had started, and everyone craned their necks to get a better view.

The parade itself was nothing short of spectacular. Speed always watched the parades in New York on TV, but the cameras didn't do the excitement, the vivacity of the floats, the liveliness of the marching bands, the overall feel of it, any justice. The joy and pride of being an American filled the faces of the spectators, the same emotions that filled him by just being there, was unlike anything Speed had ever experienced. It felt more thrilling than winning a race, and that was saying something because Speed loved to win. The floats, the music, all were beyond spectacular: they were breathtaking.

After the parade ended, he and Darius wandered the streets of New York. For lunch, they found a diner packed with people and ordered their food for take-out. Eventually, they wandered into Central Park, food, a blanket, and some beverages in hand.

Like the diner, Central Park overflowed with people. Smoke from grills drifted along at a lazy pace, and Speed inhaled of the delicious aromas of beef and chicken, smiling goofily as he did. He wondered what his and Darius's parents were doing, if they were cooking outside as well. A slight nudge from Darius had Speed glancing at him, and he couldn't help laughing. He felt good.

It wasn't just happiness that filled Speed. It was pride. He felt proud, proud to be an American and to be the son of an Army veteran. Pops had served in the military, and his father instilled a sense of pride in him and his brothers. Speed had learned from his father that freedom wasn't free, that it was paid for in the blood of others, and it heartened him to see others celebrating the day with almost the same kind of pride he felt as well.

He and Darius found a place under a tall tree, and there they rested. They shared their lunches – a bacon cheeseburger loaded with everything and fires, and spaghetti with meatballs and a generous slice of garlic bread – as they lay in the shade. Since they knew they weren't returning to their hotel right away, they'd both brought backpacks filled with beverages, snacks, and a couple of books. Their plan was to enjoy the scenery and each other's company while they waited for the fireworks to begin.

When they'd finished their meals and disposed of the containers, Speed curled up next to Darius. For a while, they spoke in hushed tones and watched as parents and children played. The joy from earlier remained with Speed, and he felt content with where he was and who was with him. Eventually, Darius read to him from a mutual favorite book. Somewhere in the distance, a band played. They listened to the best of their abilities, but, after a while, Speed stopped listening. His eyes felt heavy, drowsiness clouded his mind, and Darius's fingers were like the gentlest of feathers on his cheeks and forehead.

At some point, Darius nudged him, and he saw that the sun had started to disappear into the west. People were lighting sparklers, morning glories, firecrackers, and other fireworks he couldn't readily identify in his sleep-induced haze. He glanced at his life partner as he sat up.

"How long . . ."

"Not as long as you might think," Darius replied. Speed scrubbed at his eyes. "You drifted more than you actually slept."

"But you didn't stop me," Speed pointed out, a little cross that Darius hadn't disturbed him.

"Nope." The other man grinned impishly.

"Why didn't you . . .?"

"Why do you think?"

For a moment, Speed stared at his boyfriend. His eyes widened a little. In his lover's eyes, he saw a hunger that he felt. If they weren't in a public space with young children running around, they would be tearing at each other's clothing, their lips locked together in a passionate struggle for dominance. Darius would win – he often did – but then Speed wouldn't mind, either. When he saw that look in his partner's eyes, he understood why Darius had let him nap. His cheeks burned from a combination of lust and embarrassment.

"Shame on you," Speed mumbled.

"That'll be for later," Darius replied, smirking. His arms reached out, ensnaring Speed by his waist and pulling him close.

Speed couldn't help but squirm. When Darius looked at him like that, he couldn't, or wouldn't, keep his hands from wandering underneath clothing. The thought of a little sexual action in public thrilled and scared Speed at the same time. Darius knew how to be discreet when it came to a little voyeurism. Even the police patrolling the park would be hard-pressed to tell what Darius was up to in the darkness. Fortunately (or unfortunately – Speed wasn't sure which was stronger – his relief or his disappointment), Darius kept his hands resting against his waist, and they curled together. It wasn't exactly cool in the park to be cuddling, but neither of them was going to complain. It was more for the contact than anything else. Slowly, darkness blanketed much of the park with only the street lights for illumination.

At ten thirty, the fireworks began. With his lover's arms wrapped around him, Speed felt as each flare, each golden shower burst in the sky above them, his heart keeping in rhythm with the display. It felt . . . perfect to be held by the one he loved, and they sat under a blanket of stars and watched the night sky light up in brilliance, color, and pride.

The night screeched to an abrupt halt when the ground shook and an explosion sent dirt and people flying everywhere . . .

Now for the fun part. You, the reader, gets to decide what happens next. The follow-up stories for this piece are:

In the Land of the Zombies (with FAKE - look for it in the crossover section; look for Amazing Fourth, Story 1, in the FAKE section)
Signs of Life (to be posted soon)

Hope you've enjoyed this little piece!