And finally – bloody finally – we finish. I really, truly hope it was worth the wait. These last few scenes have been percolating in my head for almost a year, and I love them very much. Thank you all for being so loyal to me… I appreciate it so much.
And now – the end!
Romano dragged Antonio out of the cafeteria and into the hallway, before realizing that he didn't know where he was going.
"Where are we going?" asked Antonio thickly, sounding detached and unsure of himself. It actually kind of pissed Romano off, hearing that kind of insecurity in his voice. Romano certainly didn't know what he was doing – he depended on Antonio for that!
"Shut up and just follow me," Romano muttered, before catching himself. "I mean. Just. Just follow me, okay? Pl –" Romano took a deep breath. "Please."
The word shocked Antonio enough that Romano could drag him away in peace. Even when he was reasonably sure Antonio was following him, he kept a grip on the boy's arm. Hell if he was going to lose him now.
Finally Romano found himself inside the (mysteriously unlocked. Bastard Gilbert) auditorium. He dragged Antonio up onto the stage, planted his feet, and hugged him. Really tightly. Enough to hurt. But there was no way Romano was going to get any softer than that.
"You scared the crap out of me and there were a billion fucking kids watching so of course I freaked out and ran away, you idiot!" Romano yelled into Antonio's shoulder. The kid was stiff beneath him, obviously still in shock, but Romano just held him tighter, trying to get him to understand.
"Romano, I really… really don't get it…" Antonio said, sounding in pain. Romano hated it. "Why did you kiss me…?"
Romano pulled back and glared at him. "Why would anyone kiss you, lamebrain?" He was assured that there was only one answer.
But Antonio seemed to consider it seriously. "Well, Francis did it to comfort me –"
"No, he did it cuz he loves you and that's why I did it too!"
Romano blinked, caught himself, and smacked his hands over his mouth. Oh shit. Bad timing. Really fucking bad timing – worst timing in the world. He was trying to apologize and he wasn't even sure if it was going to work and here he was, opening himself like this in front of the one kid who really, really did not like him at the moment –
Romano nodded, not looking at Antonio's face. No use lying now. Look where that had gotten him.
"F-funny way of showing it." Antonio murmured.
Romano almost got angry, and shot his head up to berate Antonio for his casual handling of a very serious confession – but he stopped.
"Oh shit!" Romano said in a panic, launching himself at Antonio again, smoothing his thumbs across Antonio's cheeks, trying to stop the flow of tears. He made Antonio cry. Again. "Oh god, damn, shit, I didn't want this to happen! I wanted to make it up to you!" His big green eyes were dark and pretty with tears, shining brighter than Romano had ever seen them and it didn't matter because Antonio was –
Yeah. The confused idiot was smiling so hard his face might break, even as tears dripped in two straight lines down his cheekbones.
"Oh, querido, tell me again. Please. Please, tell me –"
"I love you, you sick, stupid bastard, and … and… just stop crying!" Romano said, sniffing. He wasn't crying – wasn't gonna, either. He was too strong for that. But maybe his vision was blurring, just a little, as Antonio scooped him up in his big, tan arms, and hugged him as tightly and painfully as Romano had done only minutes before.
And for that single moment, Romano knew deeper than anything that it would be okay. Really. They had a lot to talk about, and a couple of good, solid ground rules to set, but things were gonna be okay.
"I love you too, really I do," Antonio sniffed. It was kind of gross. Romano didn't care.
"I know…" he sighed. Because he did.
Romano let Antonio press his wet face into his neck and maybe even smiled a little bit. He was going to make it up to the idiot, good and proper, and now that they could be together again, he knew how he was going to do it, too.
"So," Feliciano said one morning at breakfast. "Nonno and I are coming to the show tonight."
"Shit bitch damn fuck no," groaned Romano.
It was four weeks after the debacle in the cafeteria. Antonio was now sitting at the breakfast table and discussing some Madrid-based indie band with Mr. Vargas. Suffice to say, things had gone well between him and Romano.
There had been a lot of crying (not Romano. Definitely not. Okay, maybe a little) and a lot of making out (most of that had been on Gilbert and Roderich's part. They owed Elizaveta for use of her surveillance video) but things had finally worked themselves out to an acceptable degree. Sort of. Maybe.
Francis had been insufferable for about three weeks – Antonio really hadn't understood that he meant his actions to be more than just friendly comfort, and so Francis had taken himself to sulking and making snarky comments in French and generally hating Romano's guts. But the happiness in Antonio's eyes now shut even him up, and Francis generally left them alone. Antonio looked hopeful, though, seeming to think their friendship would be saved. More power to him, Romano supposed.
Part of that hope came from a blushing, stumbling love confession from none other than Matthew Williams. Romano had almost forgotten him and his own love issues, with all the drama in the drama club – but it looked like the kid had been talking about Francis all along. Romano hoped it would work out – if only to get that groping pervert away from his man forever.
And y-yeah. Maybe Antonio was his man. Maybe they were sort of kind of holding hands under the table maybe even right now. That was just about as far as Romano could let it go. He wasn't kidding about the PDA thing being a serious problem for him. It made him flinch even when Antonio kissed him goodbye in the halls. He had no idea what he was thinking about the display in the cafeteria. But that had been a desperate measure.
But a relationship was about give and take, right? And Antonio had been really patient about everything but Romano knew he was the kind who'd shout it from the rooftops if he had a chance.
So today, one month after everything had calmed the hell down and closing night for Romeo and Juliet, Romano was going to do something really stupid and Antonio was going to appreciate it and maybe this will make up for "the incident" for good.
He really didn't want Feliciano there to witness it, though. Because it was gonna be really damn embarrassing.
"You really shouldn't come," Romano pressed.
"You're not even in the show!" protested Feliciano, pouting. "We are coming to see Antonio!"
"Aww, that's so sweet, Feli!" Antonio cooed. "I'd love for you two to be there."
Mr. Vargas – in white boxers trimmed with fucking feathers, what the fuck? – clapped Antonio on the shoulder. "Wouldn't miss it for the world, Romeo," he boomed. "You're just like a grandson to me, you know; we'd love to see you."
The grin on Antonio's face made all of Romano's protests die a horrible, whining death in his throat. Well shit.
Romano resigned himself to the fact that what he was doing was embarrassing enough already; really, his family being there could not make it any worse.
"You really shouldn't be back here," Francis said for the billionth time. He sounded resigned, as he should be. Romano was gonna sit his ass down in the green room and not leave, just like he had every night of the show. Romano fixed the blonde with a withering gaze, daring him to argue. Francis just sighed and slumped away. That was fine. He could get his new boyfriend to straighten out his PMS – Mattie was actually pretty good for him, in the anti-drama-queen respect.
Antonio waved at him as he left, then went back to fidgeting with his tights. At which Romano was definitely not staring.
"Just- just stop picking at them, dammit, they're fine, you're fine, everything is fine!"
Romano was so nervous himself that his voice was all tight and squeaky and definitely not calming. He took a breath, cleared his throat, and then stalked over to Antonio. There were a few other actors in the room, but they ignored the two as much as possible, tucked into corners and twittering with closing-night jitters.
Romano plopped his arms on Antonio's shoulders very firmly, trying to convince himself that no one was watching him.
"You. Have been doing fine for the past six shows. This will not be any different, you hear me?" Romano growled, turning pink and pretending he wasn't. He was really, really close to Antonio's face.
"No buts!" Romano growled. "If… if you do well tonight – and you're going to do well, dammit – I have… I'm going to… gah. Well. I have a surprise. Dammit."
"Aww, Romano, you're all red like a –"
"-say it and I stab you with your own dagger."
Antonio smiled dreamily. He put his hands on top of Romano's, on his shoulders. "Ah, thank you, my love," he whispered very quietly. Romano theorized he did this for the express purpose of making him even more red and hot under the collar. "I'm feeling much better. The only thing that would make me feel better is – can I have a kiss?" he asked seriously, eyes flicking around to the rest of the room.
Always so in tune to Romano's insecurities. Damn, the perfect, sweet, caring bastard –
Instead of answering, Romano pitched forward, and kissed Antonio very quickly on the lips, and pulled back with a jerk just as Elizaveta's voice came on over the PA.
"Five minutes to curtain – places everyone!" she chirped.
Antonio never lost his dreamy smile. It kind of fit Romeo, too. He stood up, grabbed Romano's hand, and placed his lips gently to the back of it. "I must bid you ciao," Antonio said with a wink, and with that, he and his brightly-colored tights were gone.
Romano blinked and willed himself to turn back to a normal color. He had to find Michelle and do a great helluva deal of convincing before she had to get on stage. It was time to put his plan for tonight in motion.
"… you're kidding me," Michelle said bluntly when Romano found her in the girl's dressing room. All the actresses had squealed good-naturedly when he entered, but no one was really undressed and he was pretty charming, if he did say so himself. He had pulled Michelle off into a corner and proposed his plan.
The girl – usually caught hanging around Francis; maybe that was why she seemed to be impervious to his manly wiles – had her ubiquitous pig-tails down for once, and pinned under a medieval veil. She still had her stuffed fish plushie under one arm, but that was not going on stage with her, express order of Elizaveta herself.
"No, I'm not kidding," Romano said shortly, trying to rein in his desperation and annoyance. "Please, 'Chelles," he said with a roguish wink. "It'll mean a lot to me."
Michelle raised an eyebrow. "What makes you think I want to give up my best monologue –"
"Please!" Romano said, interjecting. He could hear the lines being said onstage, over the PA. He needed her to agree before she went on. "I'll do… fuck, anything, really, promise."
Michelle raised an eyebrow.
"Anything?" she pressed.
Romano swallowed and nodded. Well, hell, he'd gotten this far.
"Yeah," he muttered. Damn his weakness for pretty girls.
Romano blinked, a grin creeping back on his face. "Well, if you insist –"
A vein in Romano's forehead twitched. If she thought she was going to spend an entire evening with his fucking boyfriend, holding hands and making gooey-eyes and –
Then Romano caught himself. Because, if he knew one thing about Antonio, he was oblivious enough to – hopefully – not even notice her intentions.
And anyhow, he really didn't have a choice. Hopefully Antonio was obliviously monogamous as he seemed.
"… Fine…" he muttered, a litany of his best curses replaying silently in the back of his head.
Michelle, however, looked cheerful. "Aw, don't be so down! I only want to show him off and make the guy I like jealous. He's Cuban and runs real hot-blooded, you know," she said with a wink. "Got to go, now, but I'll see you right back here in Act Five, got it?"
Romano just scowled, and she tripped out, looking happy as a clam.
God dammit, Antonio better appreciate what he was doing.
He decided to look around for a wig.
Antonio was enjoying himself immensely, even as he was supposed to be sobering up. He'd just killed off Paris – and Gilbert had gone down with a laugh and a rude gesture that Antonio had hoped no one noticed – and raced into the mausoleum. It was going so well! No one had fumbled lines, and Antonio had even saved a few asses by palming a fake dagger to one of the Capulets during a fight scene when they forgot their own.
He saw Feliciano and Mr. Vargas in the audience. Feliciano was bawling. It was kind of adorable.
And he had Romano waiting for him backstage, with a surprise! Oh, but that was exciting.
Antonio went happily through his lines, trying to school his features into the proper tragedy as he saw Michelle lying dead with a veil over her face.
"Thus with a kiss I die!" he said, a little too cheerfully, pulling up Michelle's veil.
He almost spit out the water he'd just taken as poison.
That was not Michelle. Antonio blinked, just staring. There, eyes closed and brows furrowed in anger, was Romano?
"Psst. Idiot. Kiss me and die." Romano whispered. Surprised, Antonio did as he was told, wretching dramatically before falling on his side. He could hear Feliciano's sobbing renew.
"Wh- what -?" Antonio whispered. Romano ignored him, shoving him to the side and sitting up.
"O comfortable friar! Where is my lord?" he grumbled. Ivan, a Friar scarier than any man of God had a right to be, leered at Romano. Romano glared right back, daring him to challenge the change in actors. Even if he shook a little while doing it.
And lo and behold, he played along, and soon Romano had a dagger in his chest and was sprawled very comfortably across Antonio's stomach as the play finished up. His wig had stayed on pretty well and his dress only bunched up a little. Even if there was a buzz from the audience when people realized this was not the girl who had begun as Juliet.
"And now, no one can say that I didn't stake my claim in public, got it?" Romano whispered into Antonio's neck, where he might have purposefully landed.
"You did this for me?" Antonio whispered back in disbelief as Lady Montague cried over his tomb.
"Well, you like that sort of thing, right?" Romano asked bluntly. "Now everyone in the damn drama club, and the audience too, knows that you're mine. I even cross dressed for you. Beat that."
He felt Antonio laughing quietly beneath him.
"It's an odd way to go about it, tomatito, but it's just as adorable as you are," he cooed happily.
Fuck yeah, it was weird, but at least Antonio was smiling.
"… For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo," Francis finished with a flourish.
As Romano stood for curtain call, Michelle on one side in street clothes and looking smug, and Antonio on the other and gripping tightly to Romano's hand, he couldn't help but think that Shakespeare got it so wrong.
And then Antonio dipped him into a kiss and he stopped thinking at all.