I wasn't planning on writing more West Side Story fanfic, but if people actually like and read my slash, then I'll write more…

Disclaimer: West Side Story belongs to Ernest Lehman, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and many, many other people. This non-profit, non-copyright infringing fanfiction belongs to me under international copyright laws and taking it is plagiarism. Don't steal and don't sue. Thank you *Phantomness bows*

Title: A Shifting Balance

Author: Shadow/Phantomness

Pairing: Riff/Ice

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Takes place pre-movie.

Warnings: Slash, implied sex

It doesn't happen all at once. One day Tony's there and the next he's gone, and now Riff is leader and he's not quite sure what to do. Now he has to pick someone to be his lieutenant, to help him along, and he doesn't know whom to choose. But someone has to keep Action in line, and as Ice grabs the boy and pins him to a wall so he doesn't start beating on Krupke, his decision is made.

It may not be the best decision, but it's the one that makes sense now, and he catches the boy's eye, a barely perceptible nod is his answer.

Action grumbles, but Ice makes sure he's calm before he releases him.

Maybe this will work out, Riff thinks.

It's difficult – he's always been lieutenant, relied on Tony to decide the details, to lead the way and set the procedure, that he's unsure and honestly terrified the first night. But Tony's studying in his room with books of all things, and he knows with one glance that there is no way he can talk to him, not after this.

It almost feels like betrayal.

Why? Why now? It's like Tony consciously made the choice to walk away and leave the Jets, and Riff isn't sure how to deal with it, so he climbs back down the fire escape and heads off to find Ice. He's not sure why, he thought maybe they could talk things over and straighten the mess out before tomorrow, because even though the Emeralds are gone a new gang might be back any minute, and the sore losers might still stick around and try to jump him.

He's seen it happen before.

He finds Ice at home, and the boy only raises his eyebrows slightly before he invites him in. They sit at the table, not quite sure what to say – Ice is staring at him expressionlessly and Riff suddenly feels very self-conscious. Everything he had planned just flies out of his mind, and he swallows, nervously.

"Why did you choose me?" Ice asks.

"I don't know." Riff answers, which is as honest as he's going to be.

Blue-gray eyes meet his, contemplative, before his new lieutenant half-smiles. "I'm honored."

And Riff feels that there is something that is going unsaid but he has no clue as to what, so he takes another gulp of his Coke and doesn't pry more.

Afterwards, everything falls into place so cleanly it surprises him. Ice is brilliant, a perfect choice, and it's like having support, Riff realizes, knowing that there's someone watching his back, two steps behind and ready to protect him. It's a funny feeling, because he shouldn't need it, but he actually likes it.

Maybe that's how they end up together. There's nothing romantic about it, and it's dark and he can feel Ice underneath him, and they're both breathing too hard and this shouldn't be happening but he kisses back, and somewhere in the tangle of limbs and flying clothing it's not bad at all. It's tight and hot and wrong, but at this point they're beyond caring, and afterwards, it's not like anything changes anyway, so it's all right, right?

End Fic

Completed 5/27/07

… You know, now I kind of feel sorry for their girlfriends, but who knows, they might be femmeslashing somewhere together *waggles eyebrows*. Yeah.