Yamasugata-senpai clapped her hands briskly. "All right, everyone! This is the first run-through without scripts, so you can call for a line of you need it, but try to keep the momentum of the scene going."
Takuto slumped down on the stool that was currently being a 'roof railing'. His cheeks felt hot, and he was pretty sure he was blushing. "Do we really have to do this?"
Standing beside him on the raised 'stage', Sugata turned his palms up helplessly, mouth quirked. "The majority of the club voted to include the scene."
"Maybe we could vote again..." Takuto looked over at Wako, currently playing audience, but she just gave him a cheerful, encouraging thumbs up. There was no hope of reprieve there. He sighed.
"It isn't that bad," Sugata told him, clearly amused. "At least you don't have to play the bad guy."
Takuto grinned up at him. "You're too good at it, is the problem." And then he nearly bit his tongue as Sugata's eyes darkened for a moment. None of them liked remembering that they'd believed, even for a handful of minutes, that Sugata had really chosen Samekh's power over Wako's safety. "Sugata..."
Sugata straightened. "It's fine. Ready to run through this?"
Takuto hesitated, wanting to reassure his friend, but one thing he had learned was that Sugata just closed up if you pressed him. So he nodded instead. "Sure!"
Sugata stepped back to the other side of the stage and Yamasugata-senpai folded the master script open to the Scene Of Doom, pencil poised. "Okay, take it from F's entry."
Sugata closed his eyes and breathed out slowly. When he got to the bottom of the breath, his eyes snapped open, suddenly sharp and sardonic as he stepped through a currently imaginary doorway onto the imaginary roof this scene called for. An equally imaginary cloak was nearly visible, falling from shoulders that suddenly looked straighter and broader. Takuto had to shake himself out of his fascination to lean against his stool as though it were a rail; no matter how many times he saw Sugata enter a character, it never stopped being amazing.
"I thought I might find you here," Sugata said, low but carrying, and that was another really cool trick, and Takuto had a line didn't he? Right.
Takuto lifted his chin and tried to think like a prophesied savior with a mystical world destroyer for a best friend... stalker... thing. "We need to settle this. And I don't want anyone else involved."
Sugata's smile was really kind of alarming, and Takuto had no trouble pressing back against the stool/railing as he paced closer. "The whole world is involved already."
"They shouldn't be!" Takuto pushed himself off the stool in a rush of conviction. Now his character was starting to come together. This was familiar enough, the knowledge of power and the need to use it well, use it to protect.
And then he squeaked as Sugata took one more long stride and pressed him back against the wall. That was okay, it was totally in character for K to be a little freaked out. There was one swift flash of wry sympathy in Sugata's eyes before he blinked and was back in character. Takuto swallowed, eyes widening as Sugata's fingers caught his chin and lifted it.
"We are the future of the world." Sugata's words filled the space, low and intimate. "What do you wish to make of it?" His thumb stroked over Takuto's lips slowly and Takuto felt his whole face flush hot.
"I... um... The... The world..." Takuto's hands scrabbled at the wall behind him as Sugata leaned closer. "Help...?" he finished, strangled.
The corners of Sugata's mouth quivered as he looked at Takuto. One breath, and then two, and he finally lost it, dissolving into helpless laughter.
"Takuto-sama!" Yamasugata-senpai scolded. "If you forget your part, the word is 'line', not 'help'!"
Sugata buried his head in his arm, leaning against the wall, shoulders shaking with stifled laughter. Takuto cleared his throat. "Line?" he asked, meekly. He was probably as red as his hair, he reflected ruefully.
"'The world will make itself; we have no right to interfere.'" Yamasugata-senpai read from the script, and gave Sugata a stern look. "Botchan!"
"Sorry, sorry." Sugata straightened up, wiping his eyes. He looked down at Takuto, slumped against the wall in embarrassment, and smiled the way he did when Takuto and Wako argued over breakfast in the mornings. Takuto smiled up at him, lopsided, and shrugged. He knew his classmates all thought it was funny how flustered he got over romantic stuff, even after a year of regularly being teased by Watanabe Kanako. Sugata shook his head and murmured, "Takuto," amused and affectionate.
And, as easily as he smiled, he tipped Takuto's chin up and leaned in and kissed him.
Takuto was aware of someone squeaking, but he didn't think it was him this time. Because this wasn't alarming; this was just... Sugata. Gentle and friendly and a little amused with him. When Sugata drew back, Takuto closed a hand on his arm and looked back at him, steady and smiling; he'd never thought to do it this way, but he figured he'd just managed to reassure Sugata after all.
The both jumped a little when Yamasugata-senpai slapped her script into her palm. "That was nice, but not quite the feel we need for this scene. Try it again from the top."
Takuto thought about Sugata leaning over him again with that predatory, in-character look in his eyes, and turned around to bang his head against the wall a few times with a faint moan. Why had he thought it was a good idea to stay in the drama club for a second year? There was a laugh running under Sugata's voice again as he suggested, "Why don't we let this scene go for today? We can try it again tomorrow, when everyone is a little calmer."
Wako and Sugatame both made disappointed sounds and Takuto whimpered. He was going to die of embarrassment before they even got to dress rehearsal.
"I think there's only one thing to do," Sugata said, as he and Takuto and Wako walked home. "We're going to have to practice."
"Practice?" Wako and Takuto squeaked together, and Sugata very clearly choked back a laugh.
"If we run through it without the actual lines, without trying to be very in character," he pointed out, once he'd gotten himself back under control, "Takuto will have a chance to get used to the idea."
Takuto took a deep breath. These were his high school years, and he was going to make the most of them! That included clubs and dares and doing crazy things. Surely this wouldn't be any more crazy than driving Tauburn, right?
"Okay," he agreed, sturdily. "We'll practice." His resolution wilted a little in face of Wako's pink cheeks and rather starry eyes. "Without an audience?"
Wako pouted at them, but Takuto was pretty sure it was just for show. "Oh all right, fine. I won't come by until breakfast." As they approached her turn-off, though, she grinned. "Since I can't watch, though..." She spun around in front of them and leaned up to kiss first Sugata and then Takuto, soft but not quick, on the lips. "There!" She ran down the path to her shrine, laughing.
Takuto stared after her, still feeling the pressure of her hands on his shoulders, and touched his fingertips to his mouth. The kisses they'd tried before now had been a lot shyer than that. Maybe Wako wanted... He didn't move until Sugata cleared his throat.
"Well." Sugata, when Takuto looked, was a little pink himself. "Let's see if there's a room we can lock Tiger and Jaguar out of, yes?"
Recalled to the practical, Takuto grinned. "And maybe one without windows, either."
It could be worse. At least he was still boarding with Sugata; they could be trying to find practice space in the dorm instead. He followed Sugata down the road, shuddering at the mental image of Shinada-senpai walking in on them, and fervently counting his blessings.
"All right, F crosses slowly to K with slightly menacing banter, and pins K against the wall." Sugata suited action to words, crossing the lamp-lit library, and Takuto could feel himself turning red again.
"Are we sure the door's locked?" he asked, craning his head to see around the bookcase beside him.
"Very sure." Sugata smiled. "I don't really think I want those two taking pictures of this for the family album."
Takuto took a deep breath. "Okay. So. F pins K against the wall. And, um." He swallowed as Sugata's hand came up to catch his chin. "Yeah, that."
"By the way, did I hear you and Kate trading weekend shifts, in class today?" Sugata asked quite casually. Takuto blinked at him.
"Oh. Yeah, she said she wanted Saturday off, so I said I'd switch shifts with her. I guess she wants to go shoppi—mph!" He caught at Sugata's shoulders, startled by the sudden kiss. When Sugata let him go and gave him a mischievous smile, he had to laugh. "I don't think that's quite the feel Yamasugata-senpai wants for the scene either."
"No, but you didn't panic," Sugata pointed out. "Again?"
Takuto leaned back against the wall, starting to relax. This was a challenge; he knew what to do with that. "Yeah, again."
Sugata crossed the room again, and while Takuto still felt a tingle of nervous heat when Sugata braced an arm on the wall over his head, he didn't freeze. Not even when Sugata ran a thumb over his mouth. "Okay, K's line about how the world will make itself," he said, only a little husky.
Sugata nodded and gave F's next line, though without any particular expression. "We are the world's hands for its making. Someone must choose." He leaned in and kissed Takuto, light and gentle but taking his time. "What is your wish?"
Takuto, distracted by a tickle of thought at the back of his head, frowned. "Um. It's... It's... oh hell."
Sugata chuckled. "Jaguar would remind you to say 'line'. 'I choose to keep trying.'"
"Right." Takuto frowned some more. There was something... "Tauburn?" he murmured.
Sugata stiffened, pushing away from the wall to stand straight and poised. "Takuto? What is it?"
Takuto waved his hands hastily. "No, no, it's nothing. It's just... a thought. I wondered if..." He frowned some more; there weren't even words to the hint of an idea. Just a feeling. Finally he looked up, decided. "Sugata, kiss me in character."
Sugata's brows quirked. "You're sure?" At Takuto's firm nod, he shrugged and took a step back, looking down. When he looked up, he had F's knowing smile on his face, and F's sure confidence as he stepped forward again and caught Takuto's wrist to press him back against the wall. "Someone must choose," he said, voice deep and quiet, and lifted Takuto's chin to take his mouth.
A quick shiver of heat and alarm poured down Takuto's spine, and this time he listened to it. There were other feelings in it. Desire. Sorrow. Yearning. Anger. They sent him pressing back against Sugata's mouth, free hand winding into Sugata's shirt.
"What is your wish?" Sugata asked softly, coaxing and taunting.
"All," Takuto whispered, ignoring the script to put words to the faint echo of feelings in his chest. He stared at Sugata barely seeing him. "I will save all of them. Even you!"
Sugata pulled back again, frowning. "Takuto?"
"I think it really is Tauburn," Takuto said softly, closing his eyes for a moment. "When you're in character, and we do this scene... it makes me remember things. Things he felt." He opened his eyes and looked steadily at Sugata. "About Samekh."
For a moment he wasn't sure Sugata was breathing, he was so still. But finally, he shook himself and crossed his arms, eyes dark. "Tauburn wanted to save Samekh?"
Takuto pressed a hand to his chest. "My enemy," he said softly. "My king. My friend. That's what it feels like."
After a moment, Sugata snorted. "The two of you are a matched pair, all right." He pulled a chair out from under the room's desk and slung a leg over it, arms folded across the back. "Will this help with the scene, though? If you use Tauburn's memories, that will make it more real to you, I think."
Takuto's mouth quirked wryly and he perched on the wheeled stairs against the nearest bookcases. "Isn't that what we want? I mean, real without me flailing and forgetting my lines?"
Sugata looked up at him, thoughtful. "Is that what you want?"
A real kiss, Takuto thought he meant, and his cheeks went a little hot again. "When you kissed me during rehearsal today," he said quietly, "that was real; real for us."
Sugata's eyes softened with surprise. "Takuto."
Takuto smiled, running a hand through his hair. "We agreed, didn't we? That Wako didn't have to choose. And neither do we. So." He took a breath and hopped off the stairs and came to lean over Sugata. He brushed his fingers over Sugata's cheek to steady both of them, and kissed him, soft and warm. "That's real," he said, standing up. "Right? The scene. F. Whatever memories fit with that. Those are acting."
Sugata was staring up at him, looking thoroughly startled. "Takuto." After a long moment, he smiled, slow and hesitant. "Yes. That was real," he agreed quietly.
"So we know the difference," Takuto said, more confident now. "Let's do the scene one more time. I think I've got it, now!"
Sugata laughed softly. "I wouldn't be at all surprised."
One week from dress rehearsal, the play was going much better. At least Takuto thought so.
Sugata stalked across the drama club's rehearsal space, gaze fixed heavy and dark on Takuto. "The world is already involved."
Takuto raised his chin and clenched his fists, even backed up against the 'rail' as he was. "They shouldn't be!" His breath caught as Sugata closed the last stride and pinned him against the wall, and he let the faint impressions of Tauburn's memories brace his shoulders stiffly. This was the one he was devoted to. This was the one he must, at all costs, defeat. The tension of the two pulled his brows tight as he looked up at Sugata.
"We are the future of the world," Sugata told him, low and intent as if he hadn't even heard, catching Takuto's chin. "What do you wish to make of it?"
"The world will make itself," Takuto answered, husky with the pull of Sugata's presence so close but half pleading for Sugata to hear him across the distance that separated them. "We have no right to interfere!"
Sugata's thumb stroked over his lips, coaxing them apart, and Takuto swallowed hard. "We are the world's hands for its making. Someone must choose." He smiled, as if he knew perfectly well how torn Takuto was, and leaned in to kiss him. Slowly. There were whistles from the audience. "What is your wish?" he asked against Takuto's mouth.
Takuto closed his hands tight on Sugata's shoulders, shutting his eyes for a long moment. When he spoke, his voice was soft and sure. "If I have to choose, I choose you." He opened his eyes and smiled, wryly, at the flash of Sugata's own startlement through his character. "The world will take care of itself. What we can save is right in front of us, right now. That's what's important." He pushed Sugata back and straightened, matching his own determination with the echo of Tauburn's. "The thing I choose to save... is you."
Yamasugata-senpai threw up her hands, sending her pencil flying to clatter against the wall. "Takuto-sama! That's the third time we've rehearsed this scene, and you've answered a different way every single time!" She glared over her glasses at him. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were just trying to get more kisses."
Wako and Sugatame both turned pink and clung together in their folding chairs, squeaking.
Takuto looked over Sugata's shoulder apologetically. "It's just... a moment that needs to speak from the heart. Don't you think?"
"All the lines have fitted in," Sugata added, looking around. "Can't we just pencil that in as an ad lib? It seems to be working."
Yamasugata-senpai sighed and went to fetch her pencil. "All right, but you'd better not freeze during the performance, Takuto-sama!"
Takuto nodded firmly, confident. "I won't."
"All right." She scribbled in the master script with an air of finality. "Let's go on to the fight scene, then. And this time, be sure you don't break anything, you two! This isn't the dojo!"
Sugatame fetched out the prop swords and Wako ran to her entrance mark, so that she, as the spirit of F's sister, could narrate the ending. Takuto took a few breaths, preparing for the fight scene. Staged or not, Sugata never went easy on him when they had swords in their hands. That was okay, though. He figured three not-real kisses made pretty good compensation. He caught Sugata's eye and shared a grin.
Maybe he could get a real one later. Maybe this time, Wako would be there to share it.