"Was it weird playing Robin? Now that you know
him, I mean, and with him being there."
Neil glanced over at his friend briefly, eyes darting back to the icy path before him. Snow on Midsummer's Eve; the City never failed to surprise him. He considered the question for a moment, shrugging.
"Not really? I didn't really think about it, during."
Within the confines of the stage, the span of the play, reality had suspended itself for Neil. That was part of the appeal acting held; one ceased to be oneself for a time, immersed in the role, willingly accepting the fiction. Living someone else's life, in part. It wasn't that Neil hated his own reality-- far from it, especially now (bittersweet though that admission was.) But he liked the adventure, the chance to lose himself, to be someone impossible and amazing in ways he could never be on his own.
"For me... Robin wasn't Robin, when he was on stage," Neil added thoughtfully. The Puck had been Bottom-- an excellent, if ironic, performance-- and the fiction had been at the forefront of Neil's mind, allowing him to ignore the reality of the situation.
were," Todd added with a nod, his breath steaming in the frigid air.
"Mnn." No cloud of fog accompanied the actor's words; a quiet reminder that he was no longer quite among the living, animate and lively as he seemed. They strolled along in companionable quiet for a while, considering the evening. Happy overall; the tragedy following the last performance of Midsummer
, on a similarly snowy evening not long ago (for them, at least; ages ago, by some standards,) not forgotten, but certainly lessened by the pleasant glow of tonight's unmitigated success. Even the troubles of the curse were forgotten, their fathers' images having disappeared some time ago, when midnight struck.
"I'm not sure you quite
captured him," Todd said suddenly, a calculated air of haughtiness in his voice, grin belying the apparent seriousness of the comment. Neil gasped, feigning indignation.
"What do you mean by that
?" He could guess the gist of this joke, though. Neil sidled a little closer to his friend, a lascivious smirk curving the corners of his lips upwards. He winked, doing a credible impression of Robin's appraising, inviting glance, raising a hand to adjust the crown of branches he wore. A single pale rose sat jovially upon it, bright against his dark hair. Considering the centuries of practice he hadn't
had, Neil did a decent job of it, mimicking the Puck's ever-inviting attitude.
Todd laughed delightedly. "Absolutely nothing!" he assured Neil, waving off the comment.
"I should hope so." Ever one to play to the audience, Neil slipped an arm playfully around Todd's waist, hand coming to rest on the other boy's side, moving close enough that their hips bumped together lightly. It was oddly comfortable, and something in Neil thrilled at the contact-- though for a moment he was uncertain what it was that appealed to him. The act, or the reality.
Todd's cheeks were pink, he noticed. Was that merely the cold? Had he been that flushed before? He was still smiling, though there was a note of shyness to it now, and he seemed a little stiff. Uncertain, but-- not displeased? Neil thought, perhaps, he'd taken the act too far. He slowed his steps, his friend coming to a halt alongside him, and turned inward a little to face him.
Neil hadn't moved his hand, and they stood together, bodies separated by only the barest of margins. Another few flowers were tucked into the lapel of Todd's coat, and the night smelled of ice and roses. Neil hesitated, not quite sure why he'd paused, what had happened.
Todd reached up, fingers brushing against Neil's face as he pushed the crown back a little, dispelling the shadows that had fallen across the young actor's expression. Pushing aside the costume, and with it the act. The pretense. Neil's hand had drifted to the small of Todd's back when the other boy had shifted; he didn't remove it, and after an achingly long moment, Neil placed his free hand uncertainly on Todd's hip, eyes intent on the other boy's face, trying to gauge his reaction. He was himself; only Neil, no grand and ancient trickster-- but for a moment he felt like more, unnatural and mercurial, standing beneath the snow-softened streetlamps. He licked his lips nervously. Todd let his hand fall, coming to rest lightly on Neil's chest.
Neil glanced down at the fingers curled lightly into his scarf, then back to meet that clear blue gaze, shyly cast through a fringe of golden lashes.
He leaned forward, hands slipping together so his fingertips touched behind Todd's back, and kissed the other boy. His dearest friend, the only reminder of home he had. Todd shivered a little-- no fault of the cold, Neil was certain-- but did not pull away, his lips parting hesitantly as he returned the kiss, hand snaking back up to brush Neil's throat, to rest on his shoulder. They pressed against one another, heedless of the cold, the fact that they stood in plain sight of anyone who cared to look, a kind of subdued desperation drawing them together.
They pulled apart after a time, mutually embarrassed and uncertain of what to say. But pleased; wholly pleased, in spite of a lingering guilt about what they'd just done. Suddenly shy, Neil took a step back, chill air rushing between them-- though he didn't break contact entirely. After a moment's deliberation, he let his hands fall from Todd's sides, instead twining his fingers with the other boy's.
Neil smiled nervously, nodding his head in the direction of their building, an unspoken question. Todd nodded, shifting a little closer so they stood shoulder to shoulder, hands clasped.
They walked home through the midsummer snow.