A/N: Why, how now! Forsooth! What is this? A chapter done before the weekend? Can I believest mine eyes?

Actually, this chapter was propelled on by the fact that I just performed my Shakespeare-themed one-act play, which provided minor amounts of inspiration for this fic in the first place. A lot of scenes here were inspired by rehearsals. The stage kissing scene wasn't, however. Luckily, the boy I had to kiss on stage was a perfect gentleman. Not like our Riku. :3. Of course, I'm kidding. We all know Riku is the epitome of gentlemanliness.

Rambling aside, here are the thanks: Wiggy, Rapid Motion, annalise, xXxSilverMoonxXx, wolf2q, Cadaverrific, animebecca, SuicuneLover12, XFamousXLastXWordsX, XloneXwriter, loki lee, FinalFallenFantasy, Aindel S. Druida, j u li eT l o v e you, terra hotaru, Mitsuru Aki, Capeircorn, Bursting Bubbles, nakceb, Michele-bell, SarahXxUnlovedxX, and SendMeAGiftBasketOrElse, who caught my 100th review! Thanks so much to everyone who helped me reach 100 in the first place! You guys all rock.

Enjoy the chapter! I've been looking forward to writing this one for a long time. Almost as long as I've been looking forward to the next one. This one is long, but like Aindelsaid, act four of R and J never seems to end. Hopefully, this will be a whole lot more fun-filled.

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Act 4, Scenes 1-3: My Sin Again

---

The next day's rehearsal went relatively smoothly. Relatively, of course, meant that Hayner only knocked down one of the spray-painted Styrofoam pillars, Axel only made improper overtures to Kairi in the middle of a scene twice, and Roxas only accidentally ground Riku's toes under his shoe once. Other than that, it was pretty obvious that a lot of the actual acting was coming together. Pence had his Nurse walk down, Olette had no problem being tearfully angry when Roxas refused to marry Paris, and Riku could touch Roxas without either of them feeling particularly homicidal. All in all, it wasn't such a bad half-run.

Of course, what followed would be worse.

"Alright, guys," Kairi said, stopping them right after the balcony scene. "It's 5:30. You're all free to go. Selphie will send you the notes tonight, so check your email. Roxas, Riku—"

"Yeah, yeah," Roxas muttered irritably. "We know."

Riku shot him a smug glance. "Nervous?"

"Not nervous," he replied. "More rightfully worried that I'm going to catch some bizarre, fatal, and horribly mutated form of cootie from you. But not nervous."

That earned him a laugh and a sardonic smile. "Do you know who you sounded just like right then?"

"You know what?" Roxas snapped. "I can guess." And he descended the ladder from the balcony, huffing, and went out into the empty auditorium to collect his things, wondering if he'd be able to get through this without punching Riku in the face. He didn't really need that face.

As he stuffed his well-highlighted, well-used script in his backpack—they'd been off-book since the middle of last week, but he always kept it close by just in case—he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. He turned around, looking up, expecting to see Axel, but had to direct his gaze a foot or so downward when he realized who it actually was.

"Take care," said Rainbow Girl, dressed today in an ensemble which looked like it might have leapt head-first out of the eighties. Roxas wondered dimly where anyone could actually purchase hot pink leggings in this day and age.

"Thanks," he replied. Despite her inherent stalkertude, there was something else very companionable about Rainbow Girl. Her bold clothes masked a reserved shyness, and Roxas had noticed that she always had a book somewhere around. Today's—Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead—was tucked under her shoulder. Their puzzling, one-sentence greetings had opened up a couple of times into actual conversation. He still didn't know her name. It seemed rude to ask. "I have stage kissing practice this afternoon."

Rainbow Girl offered him a sympathetic smile. "Good luck."

"I'll need it. I'll just set the bar low." He leaned on the armrest of the seat occupied by his backpack. "My goal today will be to not catch any diseases. We'll build up from there."

Wrinkling her nose rather cutely, Rainbow Girl said, "Brush your teeth when you get home."

"I will."

"Well, I just wanted to say that set dec's pretty much done, so I won't be at rehearsal all of the time," she said, sounding a bit disappointed. "But I am on makeup, so I'll be there all of Hell Week. Maybe I'll see you around in the hallway?"

"Yeah, that would be nice," said Roxas, who was surprised to find out that he meant it. "See you."

She nodded, then scampered off, hoisting a pink and purple messenger bag up on her shoulder and sprinting out the door. Roxas watched her go, feeling a little less dark and gloomy.

"So that's your stalker?" Axel asked from behind him. "Cute. Blinding, but cute. Sort of the type who would smile all innocently and pull a knife so she could force you into the closet and subject you to all of her perverted—"

Roxas sighed. "I think you're mixing her up with you."

"Maybe." Axel squeezed Roxas' shoulder. "Good luck with lover boy, Blondie. I have to go to work. Call you later."

"'Kay. Have fun."

And he, too, was gone. Roxas watched that red, spiky-haired head disappear through one of the auditorium's many doorways with a rush of affection. Behind him, Hayner coughed. "So, uh, what was that about?"

Oh. Crap. It was then Roxas realized that he wasn't supposed to know Axel. "Homework help," he said. "That guy, Axel, can't do math for the life of him. He calls me whenever he has questions. Which is a lot."

"Okay…" Hayner didn't seem convinced, though. "Hey, you have to stay late today, right? Should we start walking home without you?"

Roxas nodded. "That might be a good idea. Kairi'll probably keep us awhile."

"Of course." Grinning, Hayner added, "And if Riku tries anything funny with you, knee him in the balls."

"Oh, don't worry," Roxas said in a low voice. "I've got it covered."

"There will be no kneeing anyone while I am in charge," Kairi cut in, walking up the aisle with Riku a few feet behind. Roxas wondered if he'd heard them. He didn't really care. He would have wanted it, actually. Riku needed to know that if his lips went anywhere they shouldn't

Roxas was apprehensive largely because, truthfully, he was the person who looked most like Sora in the entire school, and whenever Riku had dated previously, he'd chosen people who'd looked like Sora. More than anything, Roxas didn't want Riku forgetting who he was with, or who he wasn't with. He wanted Riku's hands to stay where they could see them and Riku's mouth not to venture anywhere it didn't have to. And if it took a little bit of physical force to enforce that rule, well, so be it.

But to appease Kairi, he hung his head and said, "Fine, fine."

Riku scowled, disbelieving. Kairi nodded. "Well, we're going to be heading outside. The janitors are evicting us. Don't worry," she added, noting the disbelieving stares of both boys. "I'll find somewhere private. Follow me."

They did. They trailed Kairi out of the auditorium, out of the main doors of the school, and around the back, fidgeting as she decided finally to take them out to a grassy patch by an asphalt lot near the other side of the building. Thank goodness it wasn't the smoker's corner—Axel and Demyx, official Delinquents that they were, might still be loitering there. Even so, it wouldn't have been considered private by anyone's stretch of the imagination, except for, perhaps, the fact that no one else was around.

"Alright," said Kairi, sitting down with her back against a tree and opening her director's notebook in her lap. "You guys both know what you're here for."

They nodded gravely. It felt more like a funeral than a rehearsal, except that most funerals had less making out involved. "So, what's the trick?" Roxas asked, a last ditch effort to get through the next half-hour without vomiting.

"What?"

"The trick," he repeated. "The way you make it look like you're kissing when your mouths are actually a respectably distance apart. That trick."

Kairi sighed. "The trick is to stand on your toes, lean up, and touch your lips together without giggling like three-year-olds. Honestly, Roxas, you know better than that."

"I know. It was worth a shot."

"But we're not going to be starting there," Kairi continued, as if he hadn't said anything at all. "Right now, I just want you two to hold hands—go on, do it, you need to get comfortable with each other—and look into each other's eyes and talk about your days. Go."

Riku glanced at Roxas. Roxas glanced at Riku. Then he sighed, and held out his hands for the other boy to take. "So," he said dully. "How was your day, dear?"

"Alright," Riku responded, not skipping a beat. "Went out to lunch with your brother and Kairi. Yours?"

"Fine." Roxas' day had been especially boring. He strove to find something to talk about. Then he wouldn't have to think about Riku's eyes and how intensely blue-green they were, and how Riku, curse him, had perfect skin, no zits to speak of. "Except I've been getting unusually good grades in Math lately. That's not really bad, but I think it's because Mr. Marluxia is perving on me. He seems like the type."

"Wouldn't surprise me," Riku replied. "We get stuck with the weirdest teachers. Dr. Vexen in AP Chem is definitely taking undue interest in me, and you know him."

"Creepy and old?"

"That's the one. He is always staring at my hair."

"Alright," Kairi interjected. "Now, on your own time, change it to a hug."

Roxas looked up at Riku one more time, as if to say "Make sure your hands stay where they won't cause any trouble," before moving forward, consciously wrapping his arms around Riku's back as he felt the senior move one around Roxas' shoulder and the other just above his waist. Both respectful, innofensive places which would not cause any backlash. "You have…unusual hair," Roxas said, emphasizing the word so that it almost came out like an insult. "Maybe he was distracted by that."

"He went on a tangent the other day about the ethics of human cloning, which had absolutely nothing to do with what we were studying, and he was staring at me the entire time. I felt like he wanted to clone me and keep the clone for his own personal amusement. Dirty pervert."

"You're just so attractive," Roxas said dryly. "No one can resist."

Riku smirked into his hair. Roxas thought that that bit of hair might never recover. "Do you know what Sora said?"

"What did Sora say?"

"Sora said that Vexen and Marluxia should just get together," Riku said, without a trace of irony. "He thinks it's the only way to stop them from paying too much attention to certain students."

Roxas snorted. "That brother of mine. He is so brilliant. Doesn't he realize that that would cause every single retina from here to Destiny Islands to explode?"

"Maybe not. But it seems like the only option at times."

"We could talk to the principal. Or you could cut your hair."

"No way," said Riku. "I like my hair."

"You look like a girl."

"Haven't you read any shōjo manga lately?" Riku asked. "Girls love guys who look like girls."

"I'd almost buy that logic," Roxas said, "if I thought you were at all interested in impressing girls. Wait, have you read any—"

"Great job," Kairi interjected, as if she didn't want to know the answer. "See, you two were almost friends! That's an incredible start."

Roxas pulled back and looked up at Riku, horrified. That—what had—that could have qualified as a friendly conversation! Roxas's standards were obviously slipping. "Don't expect it to happen again," he told Kairi, who ignored him. Riku glared at the back of Roxas' head. Roxas could feel it.

"What now?" asked the senior.

Kairi set her notebook down on the ground. "Well, since you both passed that test with flying colors, we can do one of two things. Either you recite some dialogue leading up to one of your kisses and then go for it, or you can just kiss without the play. Your choice."

Riku and Roxas exchanged a glance. That was not their kind of choice. "Err," said Riku, addressing Kairi. "Which do you prefer?"

"I like to put it in context. It's really up to you two, though."

"I think I'd rather get it over with quickly," Riku said. Roxas nodded his agreement.

"Well, then." Kairi leaned back against the tree. "Go for it."

Roxas turned back to face Riku, and when he looked up into the other boy's eyes the old enmity came rolling back in waves. Put his lips to Riku's? Over his dead body. Sure, they might have gotten along for two seconds over the common fluke of being liked by teachers, but certainly not enough getting along to justify spontaneous making out. Riku seemed less than thrilled at the idea himself.

"Can you not watch?" Roxas asked.

"People will be watching, you know," Kairi said. "But sure, I can move off for a second. When I come back, though, you two better be glued together at the lips."

And with that, she picked up her bag and walked a little farther away. As soon as she was gone, Riku grew a lot tenser. But of course. He'd only been going along with this so she would give Sora a good report, tell him that Riku was a good boy. Roxas felt sick.

"I can't believe this," Riku said quietly, clenching his teeth into what the audience might only mistake for a smile if they were half-blind. "I am going to kill that girl, best friend or not."

Pushing all dignity to the side, Roxas threw his arms around Riku's neck. Jesus, he was tall. Pushing up on his toes, Roxas hissed, "If it makes you feel any better, close your eyes and think of Sora."

The hands which had just found their place on Roxas' waist froze. He really should learn to think before speaking. No one else was around. It would be incredibly easy to get himself killed right then. Not that he couldn't take Riku on, of course, but he'd rather keep his arms intact. "What did you say?" the older boy spat.

"You heard me." Roxas "tched" in disgust. "You're thinking of him now, aren't you?"

A fiery look sprang into Riku's eyes. "And you're telling me that you're not thinking of anyone else?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Goddamn little liar, aren't you?"

Roxas removed his arms from Riku's neck and pushed at his shoulders. "I'm leaving. I'm serious. Kairi will have to fucking deal with the fact that—"

For the second time in two days, he was cut off by someone else's mouth. Unlike that other time, however, there were no tingles, and Riku only kept his mouth there for half a second before pulling away. Roxas curse himself because he did think of Axel, but only for comparison purposes. Like that there were no tingles. Or much of anything, really. No overwhelming nausea, either. The brief moment of contact barely counted as a kiss. Certainly not either something either of them had to get worked up about. Riku's lips just felt like a pair of lips near his mouth that he hadn't wanted to be there.

And then Roxas realized.

Goddammit.

He'd wanted Axel's lips to be there, hadn't he?

It was this revelation more than anything else that made him dizzy when Riku straightened up, his grip on Roxas' waist loosening slightly. Roxas glared at him. "The hell was that?"

"A kiss," Riku replied, unruffled. "You should know, I'm sure you've been having enough experience with them for the past month or so to last you a lifetime. After all, Axel's not exactly discreet about keeping his hands to himself. I can only assume that—"

"Axel and I," Roxas growled, suddenly very defensive, "are not dating."

Riku rewarded him with an incredulous snort. "Sure. That's exactly what it looked like yesterday. And your face just now seemed to say otherwise."

"You're a bastard," Roxas replied. "Tell me you weren't thinking of Sora."

"You're insane." A pause. "Sora might kiss back."

Roxas shrugged. "Would he? With you? I don't know about that. Maybe you should ask his girlfriend. You know, Kairi? She's right over there. I'm sure she has a lot more experience with kissing him than you ever will."

Riku blinked, hurt, then looked confused. "Wait. Is that why you hate me? Because of Sora?"

"Yes!" Roxas cried in exasperation. "Well, mostly because you're also a total douchebag, but yes. I know better than anyone that you want to take my brother and pound him into the nearest horizontal surface, and under my watch that's never going to—"

He was, predictably, cut off again, but this time Riku was gentle. The older boy closed his eyes, brought up a hand to run through Roxas' hair, and his lips moved softly against Roxas' stone-still, incredulous ones. He was being strikingly inoffensive, and even nice, and Roxas wanted to kill him for it. No tongue, thankfully, but the kiss was still lasting way too long, and yet Roxas was too surprised by the tenderness to struggle. He was relieved, however, when Riku pulled away, but he didn't go far enough, and Roxas could still feel Riku's breath on his lips when the other boy spoke.

"That," he said, "is how I would kiss Sora." Then he released Roxas and called over his shoulder, "We're done, Kai. We did it. I'm going home," before walking away.

Roxas touched a finger to his lips before forgetting about believing him at all. He decided, instead, to believe that all he'd learned was that Riku was, indeed, capable of molestation, and left it at that.

Anything else would be too weird entirely.

---

Roxas entered the auditorium the next day to the strangest of sights.

Riku, apparently cured of early-onset emo, was already onstage, his hair tied back, sparring with Sora with what appeared to be a giant key. Sora, too, bore a giant key, identical to Riku's in all respects except his was gold and silver while Riku's was entirely black, and was parrying and retaliating with greath enthusiasm. The entire exchange all looked very seamless because they'd both received a minute degree of stage combat training for the play, something of which Roxas was greatly envious as he watched them strike and block back and forth.

"Alright," said Axel, who seemed to often show up behind Roxas without warning. "Tell me that's not symbolic of something. Go ahead, say it."

Roxas elbowed him in the gut, then looked back at the stage just as Sora and Riku crossed keys, forming a pose which might be considered epic if and only if they were characters in a video game. "It's not swordfighting. I mean, it's not as if keys are some sort of great phallic symbol."

Axel ruffled his hair. "You're so cute when you're naïve. Don't you know that keys, by nature, are meant to be put inside—"

Realizing his mistake the moment before Axel said anything, Roxas said, "Yes, yes, I get it now. Thanks for the clarification."

"Anytime. So, everything went okay yesterday?"

Roxas raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean by 'okay?'"

"You know." Axel shrugged. "Everyone lived, nothing got bitten, no tongues ended up in places they shouldn't be, mouths or otherwise…"

"Oh, yes," Roxas said dryly. "We had so much fun at rehearsal that I went home with him and had wild sex of all varieties until morning. I didn't get any of my homework done."

"See, I know you're lying," Axel replied, poking his arm. "You always get your homework done."

"Wow. You saw right through me." Roxas sighed. "It went…fine. I mean, I got kind of angry at him, but we kissed without dying. I'm just afraid that Kairi's going to make us do it again, in front of you guys."

"Wait, hold up. Why did you get angry? Did he tongue you?"

"Well, I just…he said some…stuff," Roxas finished lamely, just as Riku let out a cry of victory and Sora yelped, forcing both Axel and Roxas' attentions back to the stage.

"Hey, hey! You two!" Kairi yelled, running toward Sora and Riku at full speed, flinging her backpack into one of the seats on her way down. "No misuse of props!"

Roxas had the feeling, however, that that wasn't what she was upset about. Whatever had occurred during the Sora-Riku fight had left Sora lying on his back on the ground, propped up on his elbows, with Riku on his knees above him, pointing the black key at his neck. Both of them were grinning, and Sora, clearly unaware of the vulnerability of his position, turned his head to look at Kairi and said, "Come on, Kai. We didn't break anything. We just wanted to try out the giant keys."

"What show are they from, anyway?" Riku asked, in an attempt to distract her. He set his key down on the floor so he would look more innocent. "You don't just find giant keys lying around every day."

"Props sent us back to look for extra swords," Sora piped up. "We found these and decided they'd be cooler."

Kairi sighed, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "They're from an old production of Alice in Wonderland. Put them back, please. We're going to pick up our run at act two, scene three." She turned around. "Roxas, can I talk to you for a second?"

Roxas nodded, and Riku helped Sora to his feet, not guilty at all about roughhousing with old props. He saw Sora smile at Riku, saw Riku, flushed but happy, punch him lightly on the shoulder before running off to return the keys. Sighing, Roxas shook his head and went down to talk to Kairi. "What is it?"

"I want you to wear the dress today," she said.

He blinked. "What was that? Because I could have sworn that I just heard you say 'I want you to wear the dress today.'"

"Roxas, you're going to have to get used to moving around in a dress if you're going to look at all comfortable in one onstage."

"Everyone seems to think I regularly wear dresses and prance around in them in my spare time," Roxas muttered. "How do you know I wouldn't already be comfortable?"

"Pence is wearing his today," Kairi pressed. "You won't be alone."

"Pence's part is different." He paused, then asked, "I'm going to have to kiss Riku today, too, aren't I?"

"Just for the cast."

"We have a big cast, Kai."

Kairi sighed again. She'd been doing it a lot lately. Roxas thought that she looked tired. This director business was hard work, apparently. "Look, Roxas, if you're going to quit, do it now. We're two-and-a-half weeks away from opening. I can train Naminé—"

"Don't be like that, Kairi," Roxas said. "I wouldn't have signed on for this at all if a part of me didn't secretly want to do it, would I?" He sighed, too. "Not the dress thing, and not kissing Riku. I like acting, and Juliet is a sap but I like the part, too. I told you that once I committed, I was going to go through with it, and here I am, going through with it."

Kairi's expression brightened. "Well, that's—"

"But that doesn't mean I'm going to pretend to be happy about the dress. Or about Riku," Roxas continued. "That alright with you?"

"As long as you keep acting," Kairi said, "and you don't spread the negative feelings to the rest of the cast, then yeah, that's fine with me. I can't make you be happy. But I can make you get your ass into the dressing room and into that costume. Go."

The instant she said it, she looked shocked. Kairi hardly ever used profanity. Ever. Roxas raised an eyebrow, both quizzical and approving. "See? You're getting tougher," he said. "And you've stopped trying to make everybody happy. Oh, and just so you know, I don't think it's going to work out between Riku and me."

"I figured." Kairi drew a long breath and plastered her usual smile back on her face, the fatigue still evident. "Well, go get changed. We're probably going to start the run in a minute."

Roxas nodded, then started down the aisle. A part of him was proud that Kairi was turning into more of a hard-ass. She'd shown potential for it, of course, when Axel was antagonizing her, all the way back in auditions, but now, as she lost sleep and the show gained momentum, that side was appearing more and more often. It was this thought which comforted him when he went into the dressing room and changed into the blue dress the girls had bought for him before Homecoming.

When he emerged, the run of the show had already started. Riku was onstage, talking with Naminé, who, in her red sweater and white peasant skirt, didn't look very friarly at all. She acted the part well, though, and soon Riku was off, comforted by the news that he would soon marry his fair Juliet. Blech.

The next scene, the encounter in the street between Mercutio, Benvolio, Romeo, and, eventually, the Nurse, was one of Roxas' favorites to watch, because it had so much of that banter which Shakespeare did so well. Of course, some of the quips would have admittedly been funnier in Shakespeare's time, but the way Axel's Mercutio verbally sparred with Riku's Romeo would was amusing regardless of what they were saying. Riku, especially, looked happy today, probably because he got to clown around with Sora pre-rehearsal, and as much as Roxas hated to admit it, the emotion he wore was appropriate. Romeo was supposed to be overjoyed at the prospect of marrying Juliet, and, today, Riku shared the emotion. It showed. He and Axel played off of each other today in ways they never had before. Axel, of course, was always brilliant with those jokes, and they left poor Sora eating their proverbial dust with all of the silly puns they bounced back and forth.

Then Pence entered in what appeared to be some sort of floral-print mumu, and the entire scene went straight to hell.

Riku and Axel eventually recovered the use of their lungs, and the show went on. All of the cast and crew waiting in the wings, however, spent a good two or three minutes laughing at the combined effect of the dress, the falsetto, and Hayner trailing behind Pence with a fan.

And even then, it was Axel who made the scene. The way he could steal the scene from Pence wearing a dress was incredible, but his taunts and teases were so true to character and true to life that he was all too fun to watch. When he exited, Roxas almost regretted it. Not that Pence in a dress conversing with Riku wasn't fun to watch too, just that—

"'Saucy merchant' is an appropriate description of Axel, huh?" said Naminé, approaching to peek out at the scene from behind midcurtain. "They're doing so well today."

"Yeah."

Naminé coughed. "You're on in a minute, you know."

"I know."

A pause. Then his sister jabbed him in the ribs. "That means stop staring."

Roxas jumped. "I wasn't staring," he rushed, thinking that he might have said it a little too quickly to be believed. "I just got caught up in the scene. They are, um, doing really well."

"Yeah," Naminé agreed. "You better get ready for your entrance, though."

He nodded and went off downstage, mentally cursing himself. When he entered for the next scene, pacing back and forth, wondering when the Nurse would arrive, he only heard a couple of people snicker at the dress, and mentally accredited it to the fact that he didn't have proper heels to wear with it, and was still in his sneakers. He did his best not to worry about it, and paid more attention to getting used to the awkwardly free feeling of the smooth fabric freely flowing around his legs. A dress seemed infinitely more vulnerable than pants. It was also colder, and several times while badgering the Nurse to tell him about what the heck was going on with Romeo already Roxas had to suppress a shiver. He made it through the scene without tripping or fainting from embarrassment, however, and considered that a small victory.

When he ran offstage back into the wings as an adrenaline-bolstered Juliet thrilled to be marrying her Romeo, he thought that that might have actually been one of the best runs of that scene that they'd done so far. Kairi would be pleased. Roxas was pleased. He was so pleased, in fact, that he didn't notice the wayward hand straying in his direction until that hand found the back of his dress somewhere below what Roxas would consider appropriate touching range, and squeezed.

Roxas yelped and, in an instinctive act of self-defense, ground his heel down on Axel's toes. "Dickhead!" he whispered fiercely. "What the hell—"

"You were looking particularly molestable today," Axel said innocently. "That dress is very flattering. Did I do something wrong?"

About to respond, Roxas heard Naminé's voice waft across the stage, and paused. "I have to go on in a second," he growled. "But when I get back, I'm killing you."

"I look forward to dying," Axel replied with a wink. "Get out there."

Roxas' glare broke into a smile, and he trotted out onstage again, assuming Juliet's posture. After he greeted Friar Lawrence he was supposed to have eyes only for Romeo, as per Kairi's instructions. So he kept his eyes glued to Riku's, and Riku, still looking happy and almost as if he wasn't entirely focused on the scene at hand, followed suit. After Riku finished the line about "joy" and "blazon" and "sweetening happiness" and the like, Roxas took his hands. Riku's hands were warm.

It wasn't hard to keep that bubbling hatred at bay, Roxas discovered, if he thought of Axel's stupid grin, and he did as he said his next lines. He wasn't going to think about what that meant until later. For now, it was helping him cope with his scenes.

"…you shall not stay alone 'till holy church incorporate two in one," Naminé finished, at her most friarly, glancing between Riku and Roxas. They were supposed to kiss now, out of relief or something that they were about to be married. Roxas didn't know if they would be able to. After all, what had happened last time was the stage kissing equivalent of hate sex. This was supposed to be tender and sweet and bearable, wasn't it?

He hesitated. Riku took the lead, bending down almost awkwardly until Roxas stood up to meet him, ignoring the revulsion welling up in his stomach. He braced himself, and closed his eyes…Riku's arms were around him, and then…

Contact. Fine. Roxas counted to two, and began to pull away, but Riku was still holding him. And then he felt something vaguely moist against his lips which definitely should not have been there.

Hell no.

Roxas kicked Riku in the shin, putting a well-deserved excess of force behind it, and the older boy released him, started. For a moment, Roxas saw in Riku's eyes that the older boy hadn't known who he was kissing, but Roxas couldn't bring himself to care.

"Roxas!" Kairi exclaimed.

"That kick was in the script, I swear!" Roxas shot back. "Kairi, he—"

"I'm sorry," said Riku dully, staring, almost as if he were unable to believe that he had just tongued his best friend's brother.

"Doesn't cut it," Roxas spat.

"Exit the stage," Kairi commanded. "Act three, scene one. Go."

Roxas made a disgusted noise, then followed Riku and Naminé off upstage right. As soon as they were out of sight of the house, Roxas grabbed Riku's shoulder and said, "You—"

"Have to be onstage in a minute." Riku pushed him off. "I can't waste time talking to you."

"I'm going to—"

"Do your worst," Riku snarled. Then, he disappeared around a corner and was gone, leaving Roxas staring dumbly after him, shaking with rage and righteous indignation.

Axel found him like that after act three, scene one had ended. "And I am slaineth," he said, draping an arm around Roxas' shoulder. "Kairi's called a break. You can kill me now, or make me die, or whatever." Roxas didn't respond. Axel frowned. "Roxas?"

"I don't have time to kill you," Roxas said very slowly. "Is Riku offstage yet?"

Glancing over his shoulder, Axel said, "He should be."

"Good." Roxas started off. "Excuse me. That guy has an appointment with death."

"Woah, wait." Axel caught his wrist. Roxas squirmed, trying to get out of it. No one was going to stop him from this. He needed something painful. He needed one of those key-things. Having a key stabbed right through Riku's goddamn heart would hurt him enough so that Roxas would be satisfied. "What'd he do this time? Did you catch him feeling up Sora in the costumes closet or something?"

"Axel, he tongued me."

Axel froze. His grip on Roxas' wrist became leaden. "No."

"Yes. And I am going to make him pay for it. With his life. Let go."

"No. Just wait." Axel didn't let go. "Listen. I'm not too happy about this either, but, Roxas, don't you think he's hating himself right now more than you could ever hate him?"

"Oh, so you're taking his side?"

"Someone has to." He put a hand on Roxas' shoulder to turn him around and look into his eyes. "Give him another chance, Roxas. He had Sora on the brain. He wasn't thinking about you."

"He should have been. He needs to remember that I'm me and Sora is Sora and that we are not interchangeable." Roxas glared. "Why are you helping him?"

"Because," said Axel, staring back into Roxas' eyes intensely with his clear green ones. From the sheer force of his gaze, Roxas felt the oddest, stupidest urge to blush. He looked away.

"Fine," he muttered. "But if his tongue gets near my mouth one more time…"

Axel did something even more unexpected. He hugged Roxas, who wrapped his arms around Axel in an automatic response. "Thanks. I promise, I'll drop something on his head later. But for now, no homicide?"

"No homicide," Roxas agreed reluctantly. "You're crushing my ribs."

"Hmm," said Axel. "A little longer."

"Roxas?" called Kairi from the stage. "I'm not going to find Riku's body in a dumpster, am I?"

"It's alright," Axel called back, releasing Roxas. "I have tamedeth the savage beasteth. Conflict resolved."

"Conflict not resolved," said Kairi, walking back into the wings. "Riku ran off somewhere. We can't find him. If he's not here ten minutes from now, I—agh. What happened, Roxas?"

Roxas threw up his hands in self-defense. "I didn't do anything! He was the one who made out with me. I just threatened him. I didn't expect him to leave."

"Well, he's gone," Kairi said, looking worried. "If he's not back soon, we're going to have to call off the run for today."

"I can be Romeo," Axel suggested. He was ignored.

"Is Sora calling him?" Roxas asked. "He always picks up when Sora calls."

Kairi sighed in exasperation. "He isn't now. I'm just afraid he's going to drive off a cliff or something. Shoot. He's really—he was so embarrassed, Roxas. I don't know what I can say to get that across."

Roxas shrugged. "Whatever. We should just find him."

"I know. If we don't—"

"I can be Romeo," Axel said again, this time a little louder. "I know his lines and all. I'll be your temp until you can find lover boy."

Both Roxas and Kairi stared at him in disbelief. Kairi was the first one to speak. "You know his…what?"

"His lines." Axel shrugged, too, but his was nonchalant. "Got 'em memorized. It wasn't hard. I watch his scenes."

"But…you…" Kairi pressed a hand to her forehead. "Fine. You can stand in for Riku. I'll send Selphie after him, and Sora will keep calling. Roxas, you're on in five for three, two."

Roxas nodded, glancing at Axel, who looked smug. Almost victorious.

If Riku's body were found in a dumpster, it definitely wouldn't be Roxas' fault.

---

Twenty minutes later, he and Axel were standing on the balcony, saying their fond farewells. To Roxas' chagrin, he hadn't been allowed to change out of his dress. Axel didn't seem to mind that at all, however. He was taking his stint as Romeo with the utmost seriousness. Well, as serious as Axel could be. His vocal inflection was all wrong—when he spoke, it sounded like he was making fun of Romeo's lines rather than saying them seriously. But his physicality was right, which would be expected. Axel threw himself bodily into Mercutio; why should Romeo be any different?

This scene, act three, scene five, was the "morning after" scene. It was the last time Romeo and Juliet saw each other, well, alive. And while Axel's voice didn't really reflect that sort of tenderness, he was having a great time holding onto Roxas like nobody's business. The blocking for this scene was a bit touchy-feely anyway, as per Kairi's direction, but Axel was wrapped around Roxas from behind so tightly that Roxas wasn't ever sure how he was going to get himself free.

Roxas didn't mind.

"Wilt thou be gone?" he asked, leaning back, pressing his cheek to Axel's shirt, closing his eyes. He was supposed to be lovestruck, sad, sleepy. It was a lot easier to be that way with Axel than with Riku. "It is not yet near day. It was the nightingale, and not the lark, which pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear; nightly she sings on yon pomegranate tree: believe me, love, it was the nightingale."

"It was the lark, the herald of the morn, no nightingale." Axel set his chin on top of Roxas' head and pointed. "Look, love, what envious streaks do lace the severing clouds in yonder east…"

They continued on like that, Roxas pleading with Axel not to go, Axel resorting to logic, then sarcasm, to get his point across, and Roxas finally conceding. A part of him felt that this was deeply ironic, although he wasn't sure how. By the time Pence entered in his floral-print mumu, the scene was going extremely well. So well, in fact, that Roxas forgot that Pence would be entering at all, and fairly jumped when he did.

"Your lady mother is coming to your chamber," Pence said in that earnest falsetto. "The day is broke, be wary, look about."

"Then, window, let day in, and let life out," Roxas said regretfully. This had been fun. He was confused, then, as there was no window in sight, and decided it must be metaphorical.

"Farewell, farewell," said Axel with more than the appropriate amount of flourish. "One kiss, and I'll descend."

"You don't have to—" Kairi began from the audience, but it was already too late.

Axel dipped Roxas very, very low, and kissed Roxas full on the mouth. Roxas was too in character to protest. At least, that was what he told himself as he wound his arms around Axel's neck and kissed him back.

"Cut," Kairi called. They didn't listen, because they didn't hear. One of Axel's hands was resting on Roxas' bare back and kept pushing him upwards into the kiss. Not as if Roxas was trying to get away. This was Juliet kissing Romeo, after all. He was so stuck in his character, in fact, that he didn't kick Axel on the shin when Axel's tongue ran over his bottom lip. Hell, he closed his eyes, made a little sound of encouragement, and enjoyed it. In character.

"I said cut!" Kairi yelled.

Axel was the one to break away. Roxas wasn't quite sure where he was anymore. When he came to, however, he realized that there were a bunch of people staring at him, and that he'd been making out with Axel in front of all of them.

Huh. How 'bout that.

Standing up and straightening his dress, he wiped his mouth on the back of his wrist. There was wet there. He wasn't sure whose it was. He supposed he should have been grossed out. He was a little grossed out. He was more annoyed, though, at the fact that he wasn't as annoyed as he should have been. And now he wasn't making sense.

"You know that no-tongue rule?" he said to Axel, attempting to reflect the exasperation he should have felt in his voice. "Yeah, that applies to you, too."

"Oh, shut up," said Axel grinning. He'd been sweating a little under the stage lights, and he mopped off his forehead with the sleeve of his coat. "You were enjoying it."

"Was not."

"Guys," Kairi cut in, sounding as annoyed as Roxas should have felt. "This is not working. We are stopping the show until someone finds Riku. I just sent Sora to go look for him up on that hill by the train station. Roxas, get changed and follow him."

Roxas blinked. "Why…?"

"Because," said Kairi, which meant "I don't want my best friend molesting my boyfriend and only you can stop it." "Do it."

Nodding, Roxas climbed down from the balcony. Axel followed, and just before Roxas disappeared into the dressing room to change, he heard the redhead whisper, "Continue that later?"

"Thanks but no," Roxas replied without even thinking, even though his lips still tingled a little from all of the kissing. "Friends with benefits. Don't want to go there."

"You want benefits? I could throw in some health insurance," Axel pressed. "Dental."

"Axel…"

Axel sighed. Roxas felt a little guilty. He felt more than a little guilty, actually. But there were some things he wasn't ready to admit yet. Not to himself. Not to anyone. "It wouldn't have to be friends with benefits," he said. "I was thinking something a little more dignified, something like—"

"After the play," Roxas cut in softly. "Alright?"

"Alright," Axel said, sounding a little disappointed. "I'm holding you to that, though."

Roxas nodded, not daring to turn around, and opened the dressing room door. Hayner was already in there, his arms crossed, looking confused and angry and waiting to ambush him.

"Dude," he said. "The hell was that?"

"I don't even know," Roxas said. "I just want to get changed and get out of here."

And that he did. Five minutes later, he was running towards the train station.

Roxas wasn't sure what he expected to find up on that hill. Probably Riku coercing Sora into some sort of graphic sexual act by making him feel all guilty with those sad eyes and that emo boy hair. Sora would not be pleased. Roxas would not be pleased. And Kairi would be especially not pleased when Roxas tossed Riku off a cliff. She'd have to do a drastically rapid recast. Axel was a terrible Romeo, but he did know all of the lines. It could work.

When he got there, of course, he found no such scene. Sora and Riku were sitting quietly, cross-legged, by the railing, looking down at the train tracks. The sky was beginning to get a little pinkish around the edges, and all in all it was a very pleasant, innocent scene of friendship if one could forget for a moment that Riku was most likely a rapist in the making and Sora was way too innocent to be left alone with him. Roxas kept his distance, however, and hid behind the wall, listening.

"Can't you tell me what's wrong?" Sora was asking. "I want to help you. I don't like seeing you like this."

"I can't," Riku said, so softly that Roxas had to strain to hear him. "I'm sorry."

Sora leaned his head on Riku's shoulder and sighed. "I just want to help," he said. "I just want to help you. I'm your best friend, Riku. Can't I do that?"

Riku was quiet for a long time. The snide part of Roxas' brain half-expected him to say something like "You can help me…sexually" and then tackle Sora to the ground. Luckily, the snide part of his brain was usually wrong. Also, Riku wasn't Axel. Axel would do that. Riku thought he was more subtle than that.

When Riku finally did speak, he said, "I kissed Roxas." He paused. "Like, really kissed him. It was why he was so angry at me when we got offstage."

"Oh," said Sora, taking it all in very slowly. "Like…with tongue?"

"Yeah."

"Oh." Sora seemed just a bit weirded out by this, but not enough to remove his head from Riku's shoulder. He thought for a minute or two, then said, "So do you like, like him, then? It's alright if you do. I mean, I could talk to him for you."

Riku shook his head. "I don't like him like that, Sora," he said. "I just got carried away. I didn't mean to kiss him. Not like this." He sighed. "And now I don't know if…if I can do this. I mean, Roxas may kill me, which would put a damper on things, but even if he doesn't…I don't know if I can keep this up."

"But we can't do this without you!" Sora insisted. "Riku, you were the best Romeo who auditioned. You're the best Romeo that I've ever seen, actually. And I know Kairi and everyone would be disappointed if you didn't do it. Even Roxas. He'd never admit that, though." He shifted, just a little. "I can tell him it was all a mistake. He'd listen to me."

"Thanks," said Riku dryly. He didn't believe Sora. Roxas didn't believe Sora either, though, so it was alright.

"Do you like Roxas, though?" Sora asked quietly. "I mean, I just…I could understand why that would make it hard for you."

"I don't like Roxas," Riku replied. "I definitely, definitely do not like Roxas, Sora. You would be the first person I would tell if I did."

"Oh. Then…what is bothering you?"

Riku ran a hand through his hair and sighed his emo, lover-boy Romeo sigh. "It's complicated. It's a lot of things, really. I'll get over it."

"Alright. You sure?"

"Yeah," said Riku softly. "Sure."

Sora, and Roxas, for that matter, sensed that this was not the case. But Sora shouldered on bravely. "Well, just know that you can always talk to me. I'm always here if you need me."

"Thanks," said Riku. "I—God, Sora."

The last was almost a sob—but Riku would never actually cry—and Sora heard it too, and leaned forward to wrap his arms around Riku, who squeezed him back. Roxas couldn't miss the way that Riku buried his face in Sora's neck, as if by touching Sora he could absorb all of Sora's purity and innocence and happy-go-lucky attitude and everything about Sora that made him so good. As if touching Sora were the only thing that mattered, actually. He clung to Sora so tightly that Roxas thought for sure that Sora would notice.

Sora didn't notice, of course. He released Riku and began to pull out of the hug, smiling a bit as if that had helped, or made part of it better, or something, when he caught Riku's eyes.

And then he noticed something, and paused.

Roxas didn't know exactly what Sora saw in Riku's eyes, because he wasn't standing closer and he wasn't Sora. But he imagined that it had to be some flavor of desperation, and sadness, and need and maybe—maybe—a little bit of love. Whatever it was, it had transfixed Sora, and he hovered there, inches from Riku's face, captivated, his lips half-parted. Riku saw this, and it gave him a little bit of hope, and he leaned in, bringing up a hand to brush Sora's face, or hold him in place—

Sora jerked backwards, just by an inch, and he did gasp, then, so loudly that Roxas heard it from his hiding place, and Riku froze, caught like a deer in the headlights. And Roxas saw in Riku's face in that one moment that he was achingly, desperately afraid of losing Sora, and that losing Sora would mean losing everything to him.

And Roxas pitied him.

"I have to go," Sora whispered, not moving. "Riku, I have to go."

"Alright," Riku said, not much louder, equally frozen.

"But…you'll be okay." Sora didn't sound as convinced anymore. "Right?"

Riku nodded. "Yeah."

"Good." And, compelled by some foreign, not-so-teenage instinct, Sora leaned back in and kissed Riku on the cheek. He stayed there for awhile, and when he pulled back Riku looked at him, that same long, desperate look. Sora closed his eyes and reached forward tentatively to run a hand though Riku's hair, which was, as Roxas knew from experience, softer than it looked. Then, without any hesitation at all, he leaned forward once again and, for the briefest of instants, pressed his lips to Riku's before looking down and to the side, as if to say "I can't believe I just did that. I can't believe I just did that."

Riku hugged Sora once again, and turned his head to kiss the place where Sora's neck met his shoulders. Sora buried his face in Riku's shirt out of shame or something else, and Roxas got the sense that he shouldn't be here anymore. "You're alright," Riku was saying softly. "You're alright."

Sora pushed him off. "I have to go," he said again, and he stood up and ran back down the path, so quickly that he didn't even see Roxas hiding behind the wall, watching. And then he was out of sight with Riku staring forlornly after him.

Roxas almost thought he recognized the look in Riku's eyes, but before he could really place it, the older boy turned his head back to stare at the tracks far below. After a minute or two, Roxas decided that he'd had enough alone time and approached without a word, sitting down softly next to Riku. Riku didn't look at him.

"So I think I get it now," Roxas said.

"Get what?" He said it like he didn't expect very much.

"You…Sora. You really, I mean…do you love him?"

Instead of responding, Riku was very quiet. Roxas figured that that was pretty much the only answer that he could expect, so he said, "And you always have. I guess…I was wrong."

Riku snorted. "Did you think I was after him for sex?"

"Well, sort of," Roxas admitted. "Yes. I just, I mean, I'm the older brother. By like two minutes, but still. I just wanted to protect him."

"I know," said Riku. "I never could hate you."

"Yeah, well." Roxas shrugged. "If it's any consolation, while we're sharing the deepest secrets of our hearts, I…may not be straight."

"May not be?" Riku repeated incredulously. "Are you realizing this now? Have you ever been straight?" He ran a hand through his hair. "Seriously, Roxas, the only person you were ever fooling was you."

"I think I know that." Roxas sighed. "So, what do we do?"

"We who?"

"Me and you."

Riku looked at him. "There's nothing wrong with being gay, Roxas. You don't seem to have any problems there."

"I guess…" Roxas shook his head. "The problem with me is admitting it. I mean, I can't even tell Axel, and it's something I think he'd like to know. I don't even want to know why I'm telling you. I just think that it would raise too many questions, and I don't want any crises until after the play. So I've been holding off."

"Seems fair," said Riku. "You should tell Axel."

"Probably. I don't know if I can."

Riku said nothing, and they sat in silence for a couple of minutes. A train rumbled by below the hill. Roxas watched it disappear into the horizon. The sun was beginning to set, painting the sky in bright pinks and golds.

"I wonder if Sora will ever speak to me again," Riku said, at last.

"He will," Roxas insisted. "He's Sora."

"I know." Riku looked at his hands, miserable. "After that…do you think he likes me? I don't know if I can tell anymore."

Roxas thought. "Well, he kissed you."

"He was being nice."

"Sora doesn't just kiss people to be nice." He paused and decided to try to be encouraging. "But, hey. I'll talk to him for you. We'll get things worked out. And I'll tell Kai you were feeling sick and decided to head home."

"Thanks." Riku sounded almost suspicious that Roxas was being so understanding. "So, are we friends or something?"

"As long as you don't stick your tongue in my mouth again," Roxas said, holding out his hand. "Deal?"

Riku shook on it. "Deal. I'm really sorry about that."

"It's no problem," Roxas replied, and he was surprised to find that he wasn't actually angry about it anymore. "I'm going to go back to school now. You'll be alright?"

"No," said Riku. "But I'll live."

Roxas nodded, stood, and headed back, wondering how it all would end.

---

A/N: So, there was a fair amount of kissing in that chapter. But it was fun. :3 I feel bad for Riku. I once had the exact same conversation with a friend of mine, from his perspective. I was waiting forever for Roxas to come around.

Hmm, and go read my beta's oneshot! It's the first story in my favorites. :]

And now I must go to bed, so I look forward to hearing from you lovely people soon!