“You know what might be fun tonight?”
Benvolio sits down on a nearby stone block, putting his chin in his hands. “See, Mercutio, this is why people say you start things.”
Mercutio laughs before taking another drink. “Me? Start things? How could you accuse me of—”
Benvolio punches him in the arm lightly. “Well, what do you call this morning?”
“I believe that is what is known here in Verona as ‘that bastard Tybalt’s fault’.”
Benvolio hopes what he’s thinking doesn’t show on his face—the brawl that morning was the first time he saw Tybalt in over a week, and it was with difficulty that he resisted the urge to run to him immediately. Once the fight actually started they were able to get their hands on each other a little, but it wasn’t the same at all as clinging to him alone in the woods, under the moonlight.
The last time they met, Tybalt didn’t give any indication anything was wrong, and they even discussed arrangements for their next tryst, but after that he vanished from the streets almost completely for several days. Before the fight this morning, Benvolio was beginning to worry the Capulets suspected something and sent Tybalt away to avoid a scandal. He couldn’t bring himself to believe Tybalt would just forget him so quickly, not after the promise he made.
And judging by the way Tybalt handled him during the fight, Benvolio thinks, absently trailing a finger down one of the chains on the collar, not only has Tybalt not forgotten, but he is feeling the separation just as keenly.
Benvolio waves as Romeo joins the group of young Montagues gathered in the ancient amphitheatre. “There you are, Romeo, your mother’s been looking all over for you.” Technically, Benvolio was tasked with tracking him down, but after a while fruitlessly wandering the edge of the woods with no sign of the Montague heir (or, more importantly, of Tybalt), he gave up and headed directly to where he knew Romeo was sure to turn up eventually.
“Ugh, again?” Romeo makes a face.
“I’ll drink to that,” Mercutio says, raising the wine bottle. “Say, you know what might be fun tonight?” he repeats a little louder, since his last attempt went nowhere.
“Again, this is why people say you start things,” Benvolio says as Mercutio passes the bottle to him. He can’t really bring himself to be angry; there’s no hope of changing Mercutio, and when he’s around things are never dull, at least.
“I cannot believe the way unfounded rumors spread in this town, anyway, I hear the Capulets are having a big masquerade party that’s just begging to be crashed.”
Benvolio blinks, pausing with the wine bottle halfway to his mouth. “The Capulets?” He tries not to sound too eager.
“Yeah! If we wear masks there’s no way anybody can get us in trouble for it, so it’s the perfect chance to fuck with Tybalt, you know?”
Benvolio half-chokes on a mouthful of wine, coughing. “Sounds like a fun evening,” he says once he can breathe again, ducking into his jacket a little to hide the sudden flush on his cheeks.
“I don’t know…” Romeo leans back against one of the few intact sections of railing. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Don’t be boring!” Mercutio says. “What, do you want to sit at home all night and listen to your mother read her book of hours?”
“Well, no, but…”
“Then what are you being such a baby about?”
“Hey!” Romeo protests.
Benvolio holds the bottle out of Romeo’s reach as he grabs for it. “I’m sure it will be fine, Romeo,” he says. “What could go so wrong?”
“You see?” Mercutio beams. “I’ll find us some masks.”
“Oh shit, that’s my cousin!”
Benvolio stumbles as Mercutio ducks behind him, nearly creating an avalanche of white-clad dancers. “Watch out!” he warns, pushing Mercutio off the dance floor. “Masks, remember? It’s not like he’s going to recognize you.”
Once Mercutio is occupied with sneaking up on Paris, Benvolio slips away and blends in with the crowd of dancers, pursuing a familiar head of curls. Romeo has already struck out on his own as well, preferring to keep to the edge of the party rather than rush the dance floor, so as long as he’s careful Benvolio knows he won’t have to worry about being caught, at least not by any of the Montague intruders.
He catches up to Tybalt as he steps out of the ballroom onto a shadowed portico hung with white lily garlands.
“Found y—oh my god, it’s me!” Benvolio yelps as his attempt to playfully tackle Tybalt ends with him pinned roughly against the wall, Tybalt’s blade coming for his throat.
Tybalt’s eyes go wide under the mask, and he turns the blade at the last moment. Benvolio winces as he hears it plunge into the pillar next to his head. “Jesus, why would you do that?” Tybalt whispers angrily, leaning past Benvolio to glance back into the ballroom. “What are you doing here?”
It takes Benvolio a moment to catch his breath, even with the heavy, calming scent of the lilies.“Not much of a party person, are you?”
Slowly, some of the tightness leaves Tybalt’s shoulders, and he sighs a little. “Oh, I don’t know.” He pulls the knife out, then frowns slightly and tips Benvolio’s chin up with the hilt instead. “The worst part about it is now I have to keep you out of trouble for the rest of the night.”
“I can think of some ways you could do that,” Benvolio says hopefully.
“Can you, now...oh, I’ve got a better idea. Wait here,” Tybalt orders before slipping back inside.
Benvolio sighs in frustration at having to wait yet again, even though Tybalt is gone for barely a minute.
“Here,” Tybalt says, holding out a red mask with a frame of white feathers and tugging off the blue mask Mercutio shoved at him on the way to the party. “Now we can be seen together without me having to murder you.”
Benvolio ties the silk cords behind his head and holds out a hand, taking a deep breath. “Can I have this dance?”
Tybalt smiles one of the small, shy smiles he only allows Benvolio to see, and puts an arm around his waist to guide him back inside.
It’s a wonderful, magical feeling, being able to dance with Tybalt as if they’re ordinary people, as if the feud doesn’t exist at all, as if the world belongs to just the two of them.
As the song slows, Tybalt pulls Benvolio closer, resting his forehead on Benvolio’s hair. “I could get used to this,” he whispers, making Benvolio shiver.
“I wish we could…” Benvolio wraps his arms around Tybalt’s waist under the jacket, trying to forget again that the night will have to end eventually.
Tybalt raises his head, frowning a little, and Benvolio follows his gaze. “What’s wrong?”
“...What do you know about Paris?”
“Paris?” Mercutio’s cousin seems to be in the middle of an intense whispered discussion with Lord Capulet, who pushes him back towards the dance floor where he promptly trips over a foot Mercutio puts out. “I’ve only met him a couple times. Mercutio can’t stand him, but I thought he was nice enough...Very stupid, but friendly. Harmless, I guess.”
Tybalt growls. “‘Harmless’ isn’t going to be good enough.”
“Forget it,” Tybalt sighs, gesturing as if to brush away thoughts of the unpleasant topic. “Capulet business. Now,” he smirks and leans in close to purr in Benvolio’s ear, “I don’t think the dance floor is the right place for what I’d really like to do to you…”
Benvolio gasps, practically melting against Tybalt’s shoulder as he grabs his leather collar and pulls him out of the ballroom. Luckily, Tybalt finds a small, unused study before they have to wander through too many corridors, because Benvolio feels he’ll die if he has to wait any longer.
Finally, Tybalt pushes him down against the closed panels of a secretary desk, and Benvolio shivers in delight, digging a hand into Tybalt’s hair as Tybalt kisses his neck.
“Better than this morning?” Tybalt asks, running a hand down his hip.
“Much,” Benvolio gasps, pulling himself up a little to kiss Tybalt. Still, something seems to be missing. “No knives today?” Benvolio asks after they pause for breath, glancing down at the dagger still sitting in its sheath against Tybalt’s leg.
Tybalt frowns, some of the weight of the real world seeming to fall back on him as he draws the dagger and looks down at the blade. “I thought you might not be in the mood after I nearly stabbed you,” he says, with a short, strained laugh.
Benvolio tugs at the fringed front of Tybalt’s white jacket. “Do you think I’d be here if I wasn’t in love with the danger?”
They both freeze for a moment as the word slips out. Benvolio draws in a sharp breath, suddenly afraid he’s stepped over an unspoken line and shattered everything.
Tybalt takes a step back, running a hand through his curls.
“Sorry, I—” Benvolio begins, then stops as Tybalt leans over him, slowly trailing the flat of the knife down his cheek.
“Well,” Tybalt growls, “If you want me that much I should hate to disappoint...”
Several minutes later, Tybalt pulls away reluctantly from a last kiss. “I should get back,” he says. “We certainly don’t want my uncle to come looking for me.”
Benvolio sighs but nods agreement as he buttons his doublet. “Need to make sure Mercutio doesn’t decide to start poking around…”
Tybalt freezes with his hand on the latch. “Mercutio is here?”
Benvolio groans inwardly. He was so happy in his fantasy world that he completely forgot Tybalt is still mortal enemies with all his friends. “Listen, it’s not—” Tybalt is already out the door and storming down the hallway, and Benvolio hurries to catch up. “We’re not trying to make trouble, he’s just bored, you shouldn’t over—” As usual when Mercutio is concerned, Tybalt shows no inclination to listen to excuses. “Hey!” Benvolio protests as Tybalt pushes him aside and starts shoving his way across the dance floor.
Benvolio glimpses Mercutio and Romeo on the other side of the room and hurries towards them, keeping close to the walls where there are fewer people. If he’s lucky, he might be able to get there before Tybalt and get them out before things can blow up…
He isn’t lucky.
Benvolio arrives just in time to see Tybalt pull Romeo’s mask off. Mercutio puts himself between Romeo and Tybalt, shouting insults. Seeing Tybalt’s hand move towards his knife, Benvolio runs forward to pull Mercutio away.
“...stupid party sucked anyway!” Mercutio shouts as Benvolio drags him towards the door.
“Not going to start anything, you said…Romeo! What are you doing? Let’s go!” Benvolio calls as Romeo lingers for a moment, gazing across the room. As he looks back at him, Benvolio makes eye contact with Tybalt, who only glares as he sheathes the knife.
If Mercutio just ruined my love life, I think I might kill him, Benvolio tells himself.
They run headlong into the night, not stopping until they reach the plaza in neutral territory. At some point Mercutio starts laughing, and by the time they arrive panting in the plaza Benvolio is also laughing giddily at the rush.
“Never…” Benvolio leans over, putting his hands on his knees as he tries to catch his breath. “Never letting you talk me into something again, I swear…”
“Just wait until next time, you’ll change your mind,” Mercutio laughs, splashing water on his face from the fountain. Benvolio sits on the edge of the fountain to follow suit, and Mercutio freezes, staring at his reflection. “Where did you get that?”
“Get wha…” Benvolio looks down at his reflection and curses silently as he slowly removes the red mask Tybalt gave him. “I...right. Where did I get...this. I, uh, I stole it from one of the Capulet servants?”
It feels like a ridiculously obvious story, but Mercutio seems delighted. “I never thought you had it in you!” he exclaims, slapping Benvolio’s shoulder with a wet hand. “You really need to get out more, see how much fun we had? Now if we could just get some drinks, that would be the perfect end...shit, where’s Romeo?”
Benvolio looks around. “I thought he was right behind me! Oh God, his mother will kill me…”
“I’ll go find him.” Mercutio starts to stand up.
“You will not,” Benvolio says firmly, pushing Mercutio in the direction of the Prince’s palace. “We really don’t need you causing any more trouble tonight. I’ll go find him, and you will go home.”
Mercutio rolls his eyes. “Fine…”
Ten minutes later, Benvolio creeps slowly around the wall of the Capulet estate, looking for any sign of Romeo. The Montague heir never did have much of a sense of direction, and Benvolio hopes all that happened was a missed turning in the dark. But depending on how many Capulets recognized Romeo before they fled, things could be much worse.
Someone grabs his arm and pulls him into the darkness behind a tree sitting by the manor wall. Benvolio starts to struggle, then relaxes as he distinguishes the familiar grip. “Tyba—!” He breaks off as Tybalt grabs his collar and pulls him up for a kiss.
“Back for more already?” Even in the dark, Benvolio can hear Tybalt’s smirk.
Benvolio heartily wishes that’s what he was there for. “No, I...I just dropped something on the way out,” he says. If Tybalt hasn’t noticed anything amiss, Romeo must be somewhere else, he thinks with relief. Best not to give Tybalt any ideas. “I shouldn’t stay.”
“I can’t either—my uncle’s furious,” Tybalt says quickly, his hands trailing slowly down Benvolio’s sleeves to tighten around his wrists. “I’ll find you tomorrow night, and we won’t get interrupted this time.” He pulls Benvolio in for another kiss, then bounds up to grab a low branch of the tree and vanishes over the wall.
“What’s the matter with you? You’ve barely been paying attention to anything today. You’re not even laughing at my jokes.” Mercutio tears a chunk off the bun he’s eating and throws it into the square, watching the birds flock down on it.
“And heaven forbid you’re ever deprived of attention,” Benvolio laughs, pushing off the warm wall a little and leaning an arm on Mercutio’s shoulder. “I’m just tired from yesterday. Remember yesterday? You starting things? Nearly getting killed by the Capulets?”
Mercutio scoffs around a mouthful. “You enjoyed it, don’t lie to me...I wonder what that Capulet servant wanted with Romeo.”
“Probably a message complaining to his parents, so once again you’ve made my aunt furious with me. I hope you’re happy.”
“Delighted,” Mercutio retorts. “Are you sure you won’t let me have that mask? I want to hang it up as a trophy.”
“For the seventeenth time, I’m keeping it.” The mask is currently under his pillow, back in his room in the Montague mansion. Benvolio almost wanted to cry with happiness, when he realized he had something in Capulet colors he could actually keep for his own without arousing suspicions if it was discovered. Mercutio has been after him all day to let him have it, but he’s determined not to be worn down.
Church bells start to ring and Benvolio looks up in surprise. The sun is already dipping far further than he noticed, lighting the square in warm gold and amber. “Evening confessions,” he says, jabbing Mercutio playfully in the side. “You’ve got quite a few things to confess, after last night.”
Mercutio laughs and throws the remaining half of the bun into the flock of birds, causing an instant riot. “I’ll spare Friar Lawrence the particulars, I think. And you?”
“I should get back,” Benvolio says. “If I don’t let Lady Montague get started on her lecture early there won’t be any time for me to sleep once she’s through.”
“You really should think about letting me—”
“For God’s sake, Mercutio, you are not pranking my aunt. Look, I’ll see you in the morning, alright?”
“Fine,” Mercutio sighs. The birds are gone now apart from a few stragglers picking up the last crumbs. He creeps forward a few paces then runs through the square, waving back at Benvolio through the frightened pigeons.
Benvolio leaves the square, but he isn’t about to head home just yet. Tybalt promised to find him, but after no sign of him all day Benvolio is starting to worry. Tybalt wasn’t one to make promises lightly and then forget—perhaps Lord Capulet proved harder to escape today than he expected. He tries to tell himself it’s nothing more than that.
For the next quarter hour, Benvolio cautiously makes his way around the few streets’ worth of truly neutral territory in the town; he isn’t completely certain Mercutio actually went home, so it would be hard to explain what was going on if he ran into him again.
Soon the light is nearly gone, and he’s about to give up and go home when someone wraps an arm around his waist and pulls him into the dark shadow of a stable. “There you are,” Benvolio says.
“You know, sometimes I begin to think you’re getting used to this,” Tybalt laughs, pushing him against the wall.
Benvolio can barely make out his shape in the dark, but he can feel his warmth pressing against him. “Me? Never,” he replies breathily as Tybalt puts the point of the knife under his chin to tip his face up.
Tybalt kisses him deeply as Benvolio buries his hand in his thick curls, then pulls back a fraction so he can speak, still with his forehead resting against Benvolio’s. “The stables are closed, but I know how to get in,” he says. Benvolio shivers a little as he feels the words resonating. “We’ll have the whole night to ourselves.”
“A hayloft. How romantic.” Tybalt slips his fingers under Benvolio’s leather collar and tugs at it a little. “Yes, yes, I am swept away by your ardor, my dear Adonis,” Benvolio laughs, stretching up to kiss him. “Now let’s get on with it before anyone hears us talking.”
The morning sun wakes Benvolio, bright rays intruding through a crack in the hayloft wall and shattering their brief refuge. “Oh, God,” he gasps, shaking Tybalt's bare shoulder.
Tybalt sits up slowly, yawning and stretching before combing some hay out of his hair. “Was it that good?”
“We've been gone all night.”
“Yes, that was the idea…”
“All night.” Benvolio looks around for his coat and finds it draped half over the edge of the loft. Anyone in the stable could have seen it. “What if someone came in to feed the horses? What if Mercutio came looking for me?”
“Don’t worry,” Tybalt says as he pulls on his shirt. “All your friends are still sleeping off the hangovers they got at the party.”
“I know!” Benvolio snaps, then sighs. “Damn it, I just…how much longer can we do this?”
Benvolio has been plagued by nightmares ever since he and Tybalt began their affair in earnest—more than once a week he wakes shaking after dreams of them being discovered and dragged apart.
It varies, depending on the night, whether it’s their own house that kills them for their treason, or the other, for stealing one of their own. That they die never changes.
Tonight was no different, and Benvolio puts his face in his hands briefly, trying to erase the picture of Tybalt’s empty eyes and the blood pouring from his throat as another Capulet kicked his body roughly. When Tybalt puts an arm around his waist Benvolio fights his grip, still caught by the memory of the other Montagues dragging him away from Tybalt’s corpse to face the same end.
“It’s fine, it’s me,” Tybalt says, pinning his arms gently. Benvolio struggles for a moment, then relaxes as Tybalt grabs the collar, pulling it up enough to kiss underneath it. How strange, Benvolio thinks, that he finds it so reassuring to be trapped by one of his enemies this way. “What’s wrong? Are you not happy?”
“I...I am, but..”
“Then let’s be happy,” Tybalt says, starting to push him down into the hay again.
Benvolio shoves his hand away from the collar and rolls out from underneath him. “You said you would kill me one day!”
Tybalt looks at Benvolio as if he just struck him. “I know I said that, but I wouldn’t—”
“You wouldn’t want to, I know, but I don’t see how we’re going to survive this, Tybalt—” Benvolio breaks off with a gasp as Tybalt’s eyes go wide.
Despite all the stolen hours they’ve spent together, all the sweet and filthy things they’ve whispered, they’ve never used each other’s names. Somehow, that seemed like the one step too far, the one thing that would make it completely real.
But now that the name is out, Benvolio wants nothing more than to say it again, and keep saying it forever. “Tybalt…” he whispers again.
Tybalt cups his face gently and kisses the name out of his mouth.
Benvolio grabs on to him as if he’ll vanish now that everything is laid bare. “Tybalt, I—”
“I know, Benvolio,” Tybalt says. “Let’s go home. I’ll find you again tonight, if I can.”
Benvolio still can’t believe it’s only been a few hours since that blissful morning. Still in a daze of joy from waking up together with Tybalt—from calling him by his name, as if they were real lovers and not in constant danger from every one of their friends and relatives—he didn’t notice the strange tense mood Mercutio was in by the time he found him and Romeo early that afternoon.
Then Tybalt entered and everything exploded.
Benvolio doesn’t know what Tybalt wants with Romeo—he’s barely even seemed to notice him before. Whatever’s going on, however, he’s sure it’s Mercutio’s fault.
Once we sort this all out I’m going to kill him, Benvolio thinks, watching Mercutio shout taunts at Tybalt from just out of knife range. After pushing Romeo towards the edge of the square, he runs to drag Mercutio away.
“What are you trying to do?” Benvolio shouts, grabbing Mercutio around the waist and pulling him a few paces back. “This isn’t going to—ow!”
Mercutio lashes out wildly, and Benvolio stumbles, landing almost at Tybalt’s feet.
Gazing up at him, Benvolio realizes that over the last few months he’s forgotten, almost, how dangerous Tybalt can really be. But he’s too caught up in the almost transcendent beauty he can see in Tybalt’s furious expression to be truly afraid.
He scrambles up, wincing as he feels a painful scrape from the cobblestones, but before he can back away Tybalt grabs his hair, pulling him close.
“Stay out of this,” Tybalt whispers, his breath brushing the places on Benvolio’s neck he had kissed so fiercely that morning. “I won’t hurt you, but—”
Benvolio feigns elbowing him in the side, but from Tybalt’s sharp hiss he can tell he hit harder than he intended. “Won’t hurt me? Tybalt, they’re my friends—”
Tybalt growls in frustration before Benvolio can finish, shoving him away towards the other Montagues. Romeo catches him, then runs after Mercutio, trying to grab his knife arm.
More Montagues and Capulets are in the square now, so Benvolio can’t see the scuffle clearly, but a few moments later Romeo pulls Mercutio free of the press.
Thank God, Benvolio thinks as he runs to join them. “What were you thinking? You can’t just—”
He sees the blood just before Mercutio crumples to his knees.
“Mercutio?” Romeo gasps.
The world narrows to just the three of them as Mercutio’s knife falls to the pavement.
Benvolio kneels to catch Mercutio, leaning him against his chest as Romeo tries to stop the bleeding with his scarf.
“‘M fine,” Mercutio says between labored breaths. “It’s just...just a scratch...Fuck, my uncle’s going to be pissed about paying for the funeral…”
“Don’t talk,” Benvolio says, running his hand through Mercutio’s hair the way he would when they were younger, when Mercutio would sneak out of the palace every time he got ill and make Benvolio look after him instead of the Prince’s distant servants. Even so many years later, Mercutio still feels small in his arms.
“There’s not going to be a funeral,” Romeo says desperately. His hands are covered in blood now, and there are tear-streaked smears of it on his face.
“You would say that.” Mercutio laughs, then coughs, blood trickling from his mouth. “Hope none of you had...plans…” He pushes free of Benvolio’s hold for a moment, staggering up as Benvolio and Romeo try to grab him. “Fuck this—Both your houses can go to hell for all I care!” he shouts thickly around the blood that falls to the pavement.
“Mercutio, please—” Benvolio feels like he’s choking as well. It all barely feels real—this couldn’t be happening, not now. But it is happening, and Mercutio is dying, clutching tight to Benvolio’s hand as he lowers him to the ground again.
“I...Romeo...Benvolio…” Mercutio’s breaths are getting shallower now and he’s clearly struggling to get the words out, his eyes flickering between their faces without focus. “You know I lo…”
Benvolio can feel Mercutio’s breathing stop with one last sigh, incongruously gentle for someone who faced life so defiantly.
“Mercutio?” Romeo shakes his shoulder. “Mercutio, no, you can’t…”
“He’s gone, Romeo,” Benvolio says, pressing Mercutio’s still-warm hand against his cheek.
“No…no, this isn’t—”
Benvolio sees Romeo’s gaze catch on the glint of Mercutio’s knife, lying on the cobblestones next to his bloodstained boots. “Romeo, no,” he says as Romeo picks it up, putting every ounce of familial authority he has into his voice, but he knows, somehow, that this time Romeo isn’t going to listen to him.
He can’t bear to watch both his best friends die at his lover’s hands.
“Romeo!” Benvolio lowers Mercutio’s body to the ground as gently as he can and starts to rise, but Mercutio’s hand is still death-tight around his, holding him back as Tybalt turns on Romeo. “Tybalt, no!”
Tybalt whips around to face him, his eyes wide with concern. Satisfied of Benvolio’s safety, he makes a minute nod just as Romeo drives the knife into his side.
Even from across the square Benvolio can hear the wet choking sound as the breath leaves Tybalt’s lungs.
Romeo stands there shaking, even after Tybalt slumps away from the blade to the ground, then flings the bloody knife away and runs from the square.
The other Capulets just stare from the edge of the square in frozen shock, though Tybalt is still breathing, rough heaving gasps as blood bubbles from his mouth. His boots scrape on the bloody cobblestones as he tries uselessly to rise.
Benvolio runs to him and kneels by his side—he doesn’t care who knows, not now.
Tybalt looks up at him for a moment, his eyes wide.
“It’s me.” Benvolio tries to smile down at him comfortingly, though it’s obvious that nothing can be done.
Tybalt smiles back at him briefly between choked gasps for breath, then reaches up.
Bloodstained fingers trace along Benvolio’s collar until they fall away as the light leaves Tybalt’s eyes.
Benvolio might have knelt by Tybalt’s body for minutes, or hours. The next thing he realizes is happening is the Prince sweeping into the square, demanding to know who is responsible.
All Benvolio can think is that he can’t lose the one person he has left. “Sire, I...I killed—”
“It was me,” Romeo says.
Two days later, Benvolio is on the road to Mantua. It still hasn’t quite sunk in, just how quickly his world ended.
It was only once Romeo was gone, banished, that Benvolio finally understood what happened. Part of him wishes he could have stopped him from doing something so foolish—a secret marriage with the heir of the rival House? Only Romeo would think of something like that.
Part of him, a part he hates, is jealous that Romeo managed to do something Benvolio and Tybalt could never have even considered.
There’s no point in resentment now. The calamities only continue to happen, as if Mercutio really had cursed the two Houses.
Yesterday, when Benvolio crept to the Capulet estate and climbed the wall, hoping to get a glimpse of Tybalt’s wake, he heard horrified screams from the tower above Tybalt’s room: despairing after the loss of her cousin and her secret husband in one blow, Juliet had poisoned herself.
All Benvolio can do is convey the news, and watch the last light of hope leave Romeo’s eyes.
“You...you loved him, too,” Romeo says. “Tybalt.” Benvolio studies his face, wondering when his innocent baby cousin turned into this weary, despairing man. “You understand.”
“I...yes,” Benvolio whispers. It’s a relief, somehow, to have someone else know what he went through, what he is still going through even after it all fell apart.
Benvolio knows he should have something comforting to say, but there’s nothing left, all of it spilled onto the hot pavement with Tybalt’s blood. “I’m sorry,” he says, squeezing Romeo’s hands.
“I know.” Romeo pulls free of Benvolio’s hold and puts his arms around Benvolio’s neck. “Farewell, cousin.”
Benvolio turns away numbly, to go back to Verona and the end of the world. “Safe travels,” he says.
The next day, he looks down at two more corpses.
Life goes on, somehow.
Benvolio leans against Tybalt’s sun-warmed headstone, watching the sun sink behind the mountains in a glory of red and gold. It feels almost as if Tybalt is there with him in those hues.
“I hope you’re waiting for me,” Benvolio says, stroking a hand over the soft grass as he takes a sip of wine. Though Romeo and Juliet lie in a grand mausoleum a short distance away, Tybalt’s funeral was something of an afterthought. But thanks to this neglect, Benvolio is at least able to visit him in peace. “I might be a while.”
Benvolio visits the graveyard regularly. Indeed, after splitting his leisure time between Mercutio’s resting place in the palace crypt, Romeo and Juliet’s mausoleum, and Tybalt’s grave, he finds he spends more of his time speaking to the dead than the living.
At first, he wanted nothing more than to follow after them.
Once the funerals were over, he took Mercutio’s knife and went to Tybalt’s grave, planning to make an end of it and release himself from this earthly purgatory.
Just after he settled the point under his collar, he suddenly realized what exactly he was doing.
Though suicide was a mortal sin, at least Juliet and Romeo were united in it. But Tybalt had died at the hands of another. If Benvolio killed himself, all he would do would be to send himself from an earthly life without Tybalt to an eternal life without him, trapped in Hell’s wood of suicides.
At first, Benvolio was furious at being condemned to live, but gradually he found his peace in it.
The truce between the two families is still uneasy, full of distrust, blame, and resentment. Someone has to be there to remind them what could happen if they let things go so far again.
Still, he hasn’t felt quite right existing since everything happened. Everyone else was eventually able to smile again, as if nothing had ever happened, but Benvolio never feels relaxed except in his friends’ tombs, or with his lover in the quiet graveyard.
His daily vigil done, Benvolio stands and stretches with a sigh.
Tybalt’s headstone is ornamented by an incongruously peaceful angel, kneeling in earnest prayer. His aunt may have asked for it to be modeled after him, for it shares Tybalt’s curls, but nothing else about it reflects him as he was in life. He would have laughed looking at it, Benvolio is sure.
Benvolio slowly pours the rest of the wine over the grass. Then he unhooks the clasp of his leather collar and drapes it across the angel’s hands, staring at the low golden gleam of sunset lighting up the silver chains.
“Keep that for me until I get there, will you?”