"Ugh, she makes me so mad!" Sharpay cried to Ryan venting her feelings about Gabriella in the private closet they shared. It was between classes, and his sister was angry. Ryan knew what that meant, but this didn't alleviate the tension. He waited for her to proceed onto the next stage.

She did so, drawing near to Ryan, grabbing his cheeks and forcing her mouth onto his. She thrust her tongue in and obediently Ryan responded similarly. He rolled his tongue in her mouth; he was an excellent kisser and Sharpay always wanted to make out when she was angry. They had been sneaking around like this for years, even when she had a boyfriend, like Zeke now. Ryan didn't question why she didn't do this with them. Although he didn't like to admit it, even to himself, he found it strangely erotic.

He broke away from her mouth and began kissing her neck. This was again expected of him, as it gave her a chance to vent while still being sensually stimulated. One hand was on her back and the other was running through her hair, soft and silky.

"…it was bad enough when they stole our parts in the musical, and then upstaged our talent show, hard as I tried to stop that…" she went on. Ryan now stopped kissing her neck and spun her around, massaging her shoulders. This was the point in the ritual where he responded.

"Don't you think that what you did was at least a bit wrong? And they still gave you a fair chance."

"They have to be so noble," she said with contempt. "I hate that attitude."

"Yes, I know."
Ryan knew all too well. It was her opinion that acting like a goody-two-shoes and rubbing it in your face was about the worst thing someone could do. To be a better person so that you could be proud of your humility was not humble at all. This was worse because most people thought that they were more humble.

"Do you really like Zeke?" Ryan asked, changing the subject.

"Meh," Sharpay said non-committed, shrugging her shoulders still being massaged, bared during the height of passion by removal of the thin overshirt that had covered her strapless blouse.

Ryan squashed the feelings of jealousy he held for Zeke. He couldn't reveal, even to her and especially not to himself that he wanted an actual relationship with Sharpay. While it was true that he got the brunt of her angry sexual passion, he feared that he had actual feelings for her, much deeper than the lusty eroticism he felt when they made out in the closet or fooled around when they were home alone. Sharpay had made it clear that their 'arrangement' was OK as long as it was purely physical, but this frustrated Ryan.

"He's OK," she said after this brief pause, which felt like an eternity to Ryan.

"Do you love him?" Another pause. It didn't seem likely that Sharpay loved anyone but herself; even sororal or filial affection she exhibited was forced, just an act, much like their shows. It was hard to tell who the real Sharpay was. Ryan did, and he felt privileged to do so. The honest Sharpay was wise, in a Hobbsian sense. She knew that everyone was going to look out for themselves, and there was nothing wrong with that. To her, the definition of love was to extend self-preservation to someone else. In her case, theater was how she survived. Ryan was incidental, he rode along. But despite popular opinion, she would not get rid of him even if she could play both Romeo and Juliet. She needed the support, undying loyalty, backup talent and someone to feel superior to. Since this required Ryan's preservation, this was love. Zeke didn't have that.

"No," she admitted. Ryan sighed relief. He was glad that they made up, even though Ryan had been pretty mad at her last summer, for all her manipulations. She had explained why she'd had to do that, and Ryan had believed her. Perhaps she was manipulating him, but he loved her too much to care. It was complicated and he couldn't blame himself. He still wasn't aware of all she had done last summer, though she had seemed to make up with Gabby, Troy and the rest, and though she dated Zeke, he felt it was all false. Her relationship with Zeke in particular – this seemed to be random! If she didn't love him, then who did she love?

She moaned slightly, Ryan's fingers still working on her back and shoulders. It reminded him of one time when their comforting each other had gone a bit further than normal. He grinned to himself about the memory.

"Besides, I love Troy," she said, suddenly. Ryan's heart sunk. He knew this, of course, but he always hoped she would get over him. Troy was a simpleton, and arrogant, snobby and disdainful. Why did she love him? The 'bitch', as Sharpay called Gabriella, was perfect for Troy. They were both snobbish in their humility, flaunting their modesty. And they acted 'sweet'. Ryan was used to Sharpay's falsehoods and he spotted Gabriella's a mile away. It still seemed to be a fact that everyone was looking out for themselves.

She turned around. "Thanks Ry, I feel better now." She hugged him; it was not a hug appropriate for a brother, but much more sexually charged. She put her overshirt on, and left the closet, carefully checking that the hall was clear. Ryan was to count to 120 and then follow suit. They couldn't have anyone finding them out, after all. He had trouble concentrating on the counting, however, as he had too much on his mind.

His feelings for his sister were very confused. He loved her sexually. But that was more or less being fulfilled. It would probably be better, of course, if she loved him sexually, rather than just using him. But he also shared her best moments and comforted her during her worst. What more could he ask for? Well, love would be nice. Sharpay loved - or pretended to - Ryan only as much as necessary. Ryan loved her deeply, beyond the bonds of fraternal or even sexual affection. Again, he couldn't explain this. He wanted a relationship, one that was reciprocated. She didn't love him as much as she used him: Professionally, academically, and even sexually.

It had certainly been long enough by now, so Ryan came out of the closet and went to class. It was amazing that all that had taken place in the mere 10 minutes they were allotted. History was difficult to pay attention to, until something caught his mind.

"…said that Cleopatra married her brother, a not all that uncommon practice in those times…"

Ryan sighed inwardly. He would love to father his sister's children, they would be so beautiful. He shuddered slightly, beginning to scare even himself, and turned back to focusing on history.

"Yes!" Sharpay cried, reading the play's assignments. Ryan smiled as he came down the hall toward her after class. It was fortunately a play rather than a musical, and Troy and Gabriella couldn't act as well as the Evans twins, apparently only sing.

"We got the leads, Shar?" Ryan said. Sharpay spun around and inhaled sharply, surprised. She had an apologetic look in her eyes, and Ryan read the assignments. Troy and her had gotten the male and female leads. Ryan was cast as the lead villain. He wondered if these were her machinations. Her gaze indicated that it probably was. She seemed to be suggesting she'd make it up to him.

Still, playing the villain could be fun. He rarely got the chance to play a character opposed to Sharpay. Perhaps he could use some of his pent up frustration, especially against Troy, who was playing Sharpay's husband. Ryan would have to see Kelsi and Tom for a script; it was an original piece written by Tom with score by Kelsi. Not much was being revealed about it, even to the people playing in it. The only parts of a script given to the actors were scenes they were in, and even those hadn't been released yet. What was more was that they were expected not to share it with anyone. It was a bizarre experiment, and rumors said that Tom was working on a way to hide twists that occur in scenes that the actors were in. Tom's reasoning was that acting surprised would be easier if the actor was actually surprised. So during free period, Ryan timidly opened the door to the auditorium, from which piano and soft singing emanated. Judging by the quality of the playing, he could tell Tom was at the piano. The voice was feminine, probably Kelsi's.

"Working on something for the play?" Ryan asked after his eyes adjusted and he confirmed that he was correct. Kelsi lied on the piano and Tom played. They stopped when they saw him, and Tom smiled.

"Not right now," he admitted, coming over to Ryan and giving him a big hug. "But I'm glad you're here. I'm quite excited that you're playing Malvolio. It's a fun character."

Ryan was pleased by this. Despite the rest of everyone in the world, it seemed, Tom genuinely liked Ryan. Of course, Tom genuinely seemed to like everyone, he was just that kind of person.

"I've got a great idea," he went on. "For entire scenes that are improvised! I'm not going to put any major characters in them, not yet anyway, but it could be fun!"

Cast

The Warlord Benvolio – Troy Bolton

Bonita, his wife – Sharpay Evans

The Warlord Malvolio – Ryan Evans

Larissa, the Seeress – Gabriella Montez

Roberto, B.'s 1st Lt. – R. Crantz

Gregorio, B.'s 2nd Lt. – G. Stern

"The trick to improv. is writing a complex character and then letting the actors get into that character. Then you lay out a basic scene and let them at it. Of course, Malvolio doesn't have any improv. scenes, he's got enough to worry about."

"You know he just took random bits of Shakespeare and mashed them together," Kelsi said chidingly.

"I did not," Tom disagreed. Conspiratally, in an aside to Ryan, he said "Actually, I took all bits of Shakespeare and mashed them together."

Ryan smiled at this as Kelsi came over. "I'm going to take five, hun," she said to Tom, giving him a quick kiss.

"So, you and Kelsi, eh?" Ryan said when she'd left.

"Yeah, her thing with the basketball player didn't work out, but she's happy to be dating a literature club member."

He had been selected from literature club to write the next play. The faculty was already regretting it, but Tom kept waving the "It's art" flag to pass it. Kelsi must have found him romantic, because looking over Tom he was no prize. Overweight, with a broad nose and unkempt hair. Of course, Kelsi wasn't the prettiest girl either. They must truly like each other. How lovely must reciprocated love be.

"But Ryan, my man, I look forward to rehearsing you. You'll make an excellent Malvolio." He shuffled some papers around on the piano. "It's not a musical, but there is a score. Some of Kelsi's best work, or so I've been told." He chuckled.

"Cool," Ryan said. "When do we start?"

"Tomorrow, here, after school. 3 o'clock sharp," Tom patted Ryan on the shoulder and left the room. Ryan sighed, and after a moment also left.

He had to be home to prepare for the diner with Sharpay and Zeke, and though he wasn't looking forward to it, he knew that it was important to Sharpay and that was a good enough reason for him. He put on his best pink button shirt and a black tie. He completed the outfit with black pants and a black newsboy hat. Of course, he had been told to wear pink and black because it would compliment Sharpay's dress, which he hadn't yet seen. He looked over himself in the mirror, thinking that this would suffice. Despite what one might expect, his room was not pink. The walls were a dull off-white and navy carpeting lied beneath his feet. There was oak trim along the ceiling and most of his furniture was mahogany. His sheets were plain and a simple white. He looked at his bed, remembering something that had almost happened there, then shook the thought out of his head. Now was not the time.

"Sharpay," he called, wandering over toward her room. She opened her door and Ryan walked in. To contrast, her room was filled with pink. The walls were a light pink, the furniture was pink and white, her sheets were pink and frilly. But what Ryan noticed, since he was used to the room, was her dress. It was pink, rather short, and backless. A halter-like strap cam around her neck. There was probably a good word for it, but Ryan couldn't think of it at the moment. She had her hair up, held in place with a rhinestone-covered headband, large hooped earrings, and black, strappy heels. Ryan was awestruck by her radiance, but her daren't show this. A lot of what people took for a lack of intellect was really a loss of focus when Sharpay was beautiful. And she was always beautiful.

"Good," she said, scrutinizing him like a drill sergeant. "You followed my directions."

"You look amazing," he said once he recovered. This was expected of him in this situation, but he would be glad to tell her any time. He rarely got the chance, as Sharpay would probably disapprove of his attachment to her. Again, she required a purely physical relationship from him. Any hint that he wanted more than that, or the geminal relationship they already had, and she may dump the arrangement altogether.

"I know, I always do," she snapped. He would have to agree. Despite her tone, she smiled and kissed Ryan on the cheek. He shuddered and closed his eyes, slightly aroused and trying to suppress it. "Zeke will be here any minute."

A knot formed in Ryan's stomach. In a way, Zeke was his competition, even though Sharpay had admitted to not loving him. Their relationship didn't make sense; they hardly even had any history. Nevertheless, Sharpay would be giving her attention to Zeke all evening, even if it was a façade. His anxiety tightened as the doorbell rang.

"Zeke!" Sharpay cried, answering the door. Out of politeness, Ryan went to the front hall, but opted to turn his head as they kissed hello. It was a short one, and he turned and quietly shook Zeke's hand, trying not to betray his ill feelings toward him. Zeke winked inexplicably.

They soon sat down to dinner. "How goes the basketball and baking?" Ryan asked Zeke politely.

Act I, Scene 1

Malvolio, by his tent, a dwindling campfire at his feet

Malvolio: I, the great warlord Malvolio, have gathered my troops to march against my wretched twin brother, the warlord Benvolio. He is the mayor of a great city-state. Well, I can use this to my advantage! My troops are but a day outside of his city on a forced march. We can't be seen from here and will only approach under cover of night. We will lay siege to his city, and whether he stays in or sallies forth, he cannot win. Scout!

Enter Scout

Mal: What news have you?

Scout: The way is clear, but hellish. We will remain unseen until we are in position.

Mal: At which point it will be too late. If he has advance warning, it would be disastrous to my plan, but as long as this goes well, his city will fall. Excellent work, you are dismissed.

Exit Scout

Mal: My brother is wretched, vile, and stole from me the one woman I love. I vow to get her back and to run my sword through his heart, before the week is through!

Exit Malvolio

"Pretty well, thanks," Zeke said. "How goes the theater?"