Hey, I'm back. Miss me? Sorry, the muse decided not to speak to me for a while. I will try to keep her pleased until I get this sucker done. This one is a little longer to make up for the wait. I have another chapter already written, so I'll try to get that one out to you tomorrow. Until then, enjoy.

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The East High theater was the inner sanctum. At least, that was how Sharpay viewed it. It was her shrine of choice, one of the only places she felt truly real. Here she reined supreme. Ok, no so much anymore, but it was still her place.

The smell of the grease paint, the roar of the crowd. It was all she ever wanted. The stage was her calling.

I would surprise people to find out she had no interest in movies or television. They had their merits, of course, but they could not give her what she wanted. What she craved. She wanted to sing, to dance, for a short while to become someone else, transport the audience to another place, to hear their applause and know they appreciated the gift she had given them. Broadway was where she wanted to go. Or maybe London and the West End theater district.

She know it wouldn't be easy, but she was determined, she would work hard for it.

Her love for performing was the main reason she had tried to sabotage Troy and Gabriella's tryouts. She just couldn't stand the thought of having the one thing she was truly good at, the one thing she wanted, taken away from her.

That was the past though, and the past didn't matter now.

Now was 'Romeo and Juliet'. Now was Jason Cross.

She felt a thrill rush through her at the thought of him. He would be here soon. He was coming after basketball practice to meet her. They had a lot of work ahead of them. She was going to turn Jason Cross into Romeo if it was the last thing she ever did.

"Romeo, Romeo." She recited as she walked across the stage, lost in the words of the Bard. "Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father, and refuse they name. Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Capulet."

"That's not our scene."

Sharpay whipped around to see Jason standing by the stage, script in hand, a smile on his handsome face.

He really was so incredibly good looking. It wasn't like she had never noticed that before. She was of the female persuasion, and he was most defiantly male. But now there was something more. Those eyes, those deep, expressive, hazel eyes. They looked into her, past all the drama queen facade to see the real girl underneath. What did he see? Did he like it?

"I know." She said, "I was just fooling around."

He hopped up on the stage. He was so tall. Not the tallest player on the basketball team, but his height worked well with the rest of him. And the rest of him...that was pretty good too.

Geez, stop ogling him! You're supposed to be angry with him. You weak, stupid fool.

Sure, her mind kept telling her these things, but every other part of her wanted to be closer to him. He was like a magnetic force, drawing her closer and closer till soon she would be stuck to him.

Stuck to him. Ooooh, she like that thought.

"You're pretty good." He was saying. "Have you done this play before?"

"No." She snapped herself out of her very unlady like thought. Good God, what was wrong with her? "Me and Ryan used to play around with it. Just for fun."

"Shakespeare, fun? You do know how this thing ends, don't you?"

"Yeah. But its all so...romantic." She shrugged.

"I've never really considered suicide romantic, but ok, whatever you say."

"It's not about them killing themselves." she said a little defensively. "It's about two people so in love that they can't live without each other. It's about the stupidity of two families hating each other for reasons that are never explained being brought together through a senseless tragedy. If they didn't die, the war between their families would never end."

"You do know a lot about this. Ok, I'll rely on you. Tell me, why are these two so attracted to each other? I mean, they've never seen each other before, and then in one night they're supposed to fall in love? This Romeo guy, just a few pages before he's whining about a girl named Rosiline, and BOOM! He sees Juliet and that's it? No more Rosiline? It doesn't make sense."

"Don't you believe in love at first sight?"

He looked at her, his hazel eyes so sad. "It only really happens in fairy tales."

She wanted to cry. Fairy tales. Like the one they had been lost in a week ago, dressed as story book characters, dancing as though they where in a dream. Was it really all just a dream? Had she fantisized the whole thing?

No! No, she didn't believe that. If his actions over the last week where any indication, he didn't either.

"Well, think of this as a fairy tale then. Just minus the fairy godmother and magic."

He smiled. "The nurse is kind of like a fairy godmother, isn't she? Trying to help them?"

"Yeah," Sharpay considered. "I guess she is."

"But there's no wicked witch or evil wizard."

"No, but you could consider the hate between their families to be its own evil."

"So there you go. I guess you can make this into a fairy tale, if you tried."

"Jason. Where exactly is this conversation going?"

"Nowhere. I just...want to understand where they're coming from is all."

"You don't have to do that. Understand them, I mean. Acting is all about pretending. Make believe. Being another person for just a while."

"Is that why you like it so much?" he asked.

"Of course no. Why would I want to be someone else?" Oh, that was so a lie. She yearned to be someone else all the time. Except for now. Right now she just wanted to be Sharpay. With Jason.

Huh...when exactly had they moved so close to each other? That was interesting.

"I get the feeling, Sharpay Evans, that you're always acting. Aren't you?"

My god, he really could see right through her, couldn't he? She wouldn't give in though. She wouldn't!

"And I get the feeling, Jason Cross, that we need to get to work. Why don't you start with these lines here?" She pointed to the line of the script she wanted him to read.

She watched his eyes move over the words, remembering the way they had moved over her with the same level of concentration. A sudden shot of heat through her veins had her stepping away from him.

"Juliet is across the room." Yeah, that's good, move across the stage. As far away from him as she could get. "Romeo sees her. She's dancing with Paris. He's enchanted by her beauty." She began to move in a medieval style dance. "Go on, start."

She heard Jason take a deep breath.

"O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night, like a rich jewel in a Ethrop's ear- Beauty to rich for use, for earth too dear!...Sharpay, this is too long. He didn't say this all in the movie I saw."

She stopped her dance. "We can't edit Shakespeare, no matter what anyone else does. We're going to do this right, Jason. Now read!"

She thought she heard him mutter something like 'so gonna kill Ryan', then "So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows...what does that even mean?"

"Beats me. Doesn't really matter. Just read it."

"The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand. And, touching hers, made blessed my rude hand. Did my heart love till now? Forswear it sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night...well, that part I get at least."

"Why?" She asked. "What makes that part so much clearer then the rest of it?"

"I know how he feels." Jason answered. To her surprise, she found they had moved closer again. She didn't even remember walking toward him. Or did he walk to her? Did it matter?

"How does he feel?"

"Dumbstruck. He thought he knew what real beauty was, but he'd never seen anything like her before."

She nodded. "That's it. You're getting it."

He smiled, and she wanted to move those last few steps, be in his arms again. She couldn't forget how it felt, to dance in the circle of his arms.

Real...home...safe...Jason.

A whisper light touch on her hand told her that Jason had taken it within his own. Sparks shot up her arm.

"If I profane with my unworthiest hand. This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this. My lips, two blushing pilgrims ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss."

The pause was long. Sharpay's breaths where deep. She was unable to look away from their hands joined together.

"Sharpay?"

"Huh?"

"Don't you have a line?" There was a hint of amusement in his voice. She looked up to see those hazel eyes sparkling. Oh my.

"Line?"

"Juliet's line." His hand left hers to trail a finger up her arm. She shivered.

"What are you doing?"

"Flirting."

"You're supposed to be Romeo. You're not supposed to be flirting."

"I disagree." He whispered. His face was closer now. She could feel the warmth of his breath against her skin. She swallowed hard.

"He's trying to seduce the prettiest girl in the room. If that's not a call for flirting, I don't know what is."

"You're supposed to be nervous. I mean Romeo. He's supposed to be nervous."

"I'm that too."

If they where any closer they would be one person. Jason's hand was on her shoulder now, his fingers gently caressing her skin there, doing dangerous things to her concentration.

"You still haven't said your lines." He said.

Lines? What lines?

Oh! Oh, yeah. Those. What where they again?

"It goes, 'Good pilgrim, you do ...'," Jason read from the script.

"I know! I know." It took every ounce of her strength to step away from him. "I know this play backwards and forwards. You don't have to give me cues."

"Sorry. You just seemed kind of lost there."

"Well, I'm not." She took a deep breath and began to recite. "Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much. Which mannerly devotion shows in this. For Saints have hand that pilgrims' hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss."

"Have not Saints lips, and holy palmers too?" Jason replied, his eyes on the pages in his hands.

"Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer."

"O then, dear Saint, let lips do what hands do! They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair."

They had moved close again. How did that keep happening without her realizing it? "Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake." She heard a tremble in her voice. Her head kept telling her to run, that this was too strong, too dangerous. But her body would not heed that advice. She couldn't move for anything at the moment.

"Then move not while my prayer's effect I take. Thus from my lips, by thine my sin is purged."

"Ok." She said, "That's good. Now..."

Whatever she was going to say next was wiped from her mind by the pressure of Jason's lips on her.

His soft mouth moved over hers, his arm went around her waist and pulled her against him. Her lips, of their own violation it seemed, responded.

Jason deepened the kiss. Slowly, slowly...until Sharpay's lips separated under the pressure, and she tasted him. Her hand clenched into his hair, not to tear him away, but to keep him right where he was.

She heard the pages of his script fall to the stage floor, scattering around them. She paid them no attention. All that mattered was her and Jason, their lips, their tongues, his arm around her waist, his hand moving over the bare skin at her back.

Touching, tasting, feeling.

Sensations she had never felt before shot through her body. For the first time in her life, Sharpay Evans was not in control of herself, and she liked it. She wanted to stay there, just like this. She wanted to feel Jason, know him. She wanted...Oh, dear god, she wanted him.

It was that realization that made her pull away. Jason's eyes where glazed, his breaths taken in long, deep gulps.

"Wow." He gasped out.

"What..." her voice came out in a squeak. She took a deep breath, swallowed, cleared her throat. "What was that?"

"Well, geez, if I have to explain it to you..." He gave a lazy smile, and reached for her again.

She moved away from him, immediently missing his warmth. "No, I mean, why did you do that?"

"It was in the script." he said, "It said, 'He kisses her'."

"Oh. Right."

"He kisses her again. She asks him too."

"Then from my lips the sin that they have took."

"That's the one. Sorry, can't say my next line. The script is kind of all over the place right now. Gonna be a bitch to get back in order. So, why don't we just skip that part and get right to the point."

"No." She ducked away from the hand reaching for her face. "It's not that easy, Jason. It can't be. I won't let it."

"Why?"

"Why?!" Do you remember what you did? Running away from me?"

"Yeah, I remember. I also remember trying to tell you how sorry I was, but you wouldn't listen. Man, you're stubborn. This last week has been killing me."

"Why didn't you stay?" She felt her eyes water, and spill over. She never cried...well, no often. She didn't want to appear weak. Only the strong survived in the world of theater. But being so close to Jason, his hazel eyes staring into her, took every defense from her. "I wanted you to stay."

"I'm stupid, and I'm sorry. Please Sharpay, give me another chance. I can't promise I won't hurt you again. There are some things beyond my control. But I'll do my best, and I won't run again. I want to give this, whatever this is, a shot."

The damn burst, and she broke. The tears came rushing out. "Jason." was all she said before she felt herself being enfolded in his arms.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." he murmured into her hair.

"I'm not saying I forgive you." she said. "Not yet."

"Fair enough."

"You need to do a lot of begging."

She felt his laughter in the way his body moved against her. "Like how?"

"Dinner. And a movie. Tonight. And nothing starring Bruce Willis or anything with explosions."

"Deal." He lifted her chin, and kissed her. Wet cheeks and all.

It was then that she knew. She, Sharpay Evans, loved Jason Cross. Not that she would tell him that.

Yet.