-Good morning, uncle- Valentine greeted his relative while walking into the dining hall.
-Good morning- the man replied with a slight smile. He was already sitting by the big table and signing some letters, leaving the food brought by a servant untouched. -Have you slept well?- the question was of a polite nature, dictated by etiquette and not by interest.
-Yes, thank you.- Valentine replied in that same manner. He sat down on the opposite side of the table. The only thing that disrupted the relaxed silence in the room was the scratching of a feather and the rustling paper. A moment passed and Prince Escalus looked up at his nephew, but without genuine presence, thinking of a word to write. They were looking into each others' eyes meaninglessly. Valentine remained still, not wanting to interrupt his thoughts. Finally, a spark lit in the gaze of the older who returned to his previous activity with vigour. A few words and the letter was finished. The Prince took all sheets together, evened them out by controllably dropping the stack on the table and put it away. He then smiled at his nephew, signalling the end of his activity and giving him silent permission to move and talk.
-Did you receive a reply from Genua?- Valentine asked while pouring water into a glass.
-Not yet. I was just writing some orders- he replied and Valentine nodded.
-What about that prostitution problem?- the young one asked.
-I was thinking... maybe a working tax raise?- Prince Escalus replied after a sigh. Valentine thought for a moment.
-That could work- he admitted. The topic was closed and the silence returned, both of them eating.
-Oh, what about your brother?- Valentine's uncle remembered and a cloud of worries lay on his brow.
-It's... he quarreled with the Capulet again- the calm atmosphere from before vanished.
-Why didn't you tell me?-
-It happened yesterday when you were welcoming the merchants from Venice.-
-I see. I'll have to have a talk with him. Do you know where he is now?-
-Sleeping, I suppose- he replied.
-Could you send him to me after breakfast?- the Prince asked and his nephew nodded.
-It's hard to believe that he's the older one- the man added, shaking his head. -I wish he were a bit more like you-. His nephew smiled at the hidden compliment.
-I'll have to go now. There's still much work left- the Prince raised himself from the chair and Valentine did too, showing his respect. -Until later- the man said and walked out of the hall, leaving his nephew alone.
Sitting at the table, Valentine was lost in thought. It was a good thing that his uncle kept his temper upon hearing the news. Lucky for Mercutio, that meant. It was a strange thing, their relation. Even though Mercutio was actually the older silbling, Valentine had always been more grown-up. In addiction to his natural character, his good relationship with their uncle and his education in law provided domination over his older brother, at least when it came to formal situations. At the end of the day, Mercutio was the older one though, and Valentine had naturally little authority in everyday life. He wondered if he could even get him to seek their uncle.
-I won't know if i don't try- he murmured and got up. While making his way to Mercutio's chambers, he contemplated the method of forcing him to obey the order of the Prince. Finally there, he took a deep breath and knocked on the door. No reply.
-I'm coming in!- he informed loudly and pressed down the doorhandle. Light flooded into the room and exposed a sight that he had not expected at all.
In his brother's bed, there were lying two, not one, people. The other one he recognized as that Montague boy whom Mercutio was friends with. Both were shirtless and sleeping. Benvolio, or as his name was, was lying on his back on the side of the bed that was nearer to the entrance. Mercutio was resting his head on the Montague's chest, hugged into him. Around them the sheets were curled and messy.
Valentine was still gathering his thoughts, when Mercutio started to move, forecasting waking up. The black-haired raised up with his eyes still closed, pushing himself off the bed with his elbows and remained in a half-lying position facing the intruder.
-What do you want?- Mercutio's voice wasn't more than a whisper. With one hand he brushed back his hair that had become even curlier than normally and with the other one he rubbed his eyes.
-I... uh...- Valentine didn't know what to say, or even think, about this situation.
Mercutio's annoyance grew with every silent secound of waiting until he took his hand away from his eyes abruptly and looked at his younger brother with a raised brow and a gaze that demanded an explanation for the interrupting of his sleep. Suddenly he was wide awake. He stood up from the bed, wrapped himself loosely into one of the covers and walked quietly towards his brother, meeting him in the doorframe.
-Don't wake him up as well- he whispered.
- Uncle wants to talk to you- Valentine finally found some words.
-Then why couldn't he have waited for me to wake up?-
-He's angry!- the whispering became sharp.
-You think you'll scare me with that?- Mercutio seemed unimpressed and discreetly started pushing his brother out of his room while maintaing eye contact and blindly searching the doorhandle.
-No, but I think that if you don't stop getting into fights it won't end well!- Valentine grabbed the hand reaching for the handle. Though the phrase he said was whispered, the tone was agressive enough to make one wake up. They both looked over towards the bed in which Benvolio started to wake up.
-Great! I told you to be quiet!- Mercutio was really angry now, still whispering though. He wrenched his arm out of Valentine's grip. -What, are you going to stand and stare? Could you at least have enough decency to let my friend get dressed?- he asked provocatively. With that he had won the battle.
-Yeah...uhh...sorry. I'll wait outdoors- Valentine turned around and stepped out of the door. Mercutio closed the entrance immediately. He turned around slowly, sighing.
-Your uncle didn't know about the fight?- Ben's voice was still soft from sleep.
-Nah. Until now, it seems.- Mercutio smiled a crooked smile. Both of them were talking quietly.
-That's bad. I'm so hungover- Ben said with a change of topic, massaging his temples. He got up very slowly and carefully. -Could you pass me my shirt?- he asked Mercutio. The small one picked up the scrunched up piece of clothing and handed it to his friend. He then threw the cover in which he was wrapped back on the bed and got dressed too. It was silent.
-I think we both drank too much last night- Ben said, remembering the things that had happened. Silence again.
-What do you mean?- Mercutio asked. Ben wondered if his friend pretended not to remember or if he really suffered from an alcohol black-out.
Valentine knocked on the door. -Are you ready?- his muffled voice reached the two friends.
-Almost!- Mercutio shouted which resulted in him and Benvolio grimacing out of pain.
-Listen, don't pretend you can't remember!- the blonde whispered frustrated, his eyes closed and his fingers pressed against his temples again.
-Remember what?- Mercutio threw back his hair nonchalantly. Benvolio was certain now that his friend was just acting.
-Don't you dare treat me like one of your pick-ups! I shouldn't even have let you start this silly game on me!- he was really angry now. Mercutio turned his head away from him. Benvolio reacted impulsively and grabbed the neck of his friend, pressing his thumbs on Mercutio's jawbones and turned him around, forcing him to make eye contact. His fingers cut into the flesh of the smaller and pressed against the dark bruises. Mercutio gasped.
-You're hurting me!- he cried out sharply and his eyes filled with tears- the unwilling response to the pain on his throat. Benvolio released him immediately, pulling his hands away as if he had been burned by the cool skin of his friend.
-I-I'm so sorry... I didn't mean to...- both looked at each other shocked, Mercutio blinking to get rid of the watery fog on his sight. In the next secound he burst into laughter.
-What...what's funny?- Benvolio didn't know what was happening. In moments like these he asked himself why he was even friends with the person standing before him.
-It was me who was hurt. Why are YOU frightened?-
-Because it was me who hurt YOU. I really did not intend that.-
-I'm fine. It was just temporary.- Mercutio brushed it off. -Oh, and if you were talking about us nearly screwing last night before...- he looked at Benvolio who blushed and stopped talking.
-We were drunk- Benvolio mumbled.
-Without doubt- a pause. -Did you enjoy it though?
Benvolio blushed even harder.
-I mean... it wasn't bad, bu-
-Good.- Mercutio interrupted him with a smirk. -Let's go now, or my dearest brother will rot waiting for us- that said, he walked up to the door, opened it and stepped on the hallway, closely followed by Benvolio.
-Finally- Valentine gave his older brother a reproachful look. He called a guard with a hand gesture. -Accompany our friend to the entrance- he ordered and nodded a short nod in Benvolio's direction.
-Do you know who "our friend" is?! Montague wouldn't like the way you treat his nephew- Mercutio protested. -I'll lead him out myself- without waiting for a reply, he grabbed Benvolio's sleeve and started walking away.
Valentine sighed. It was a sure thing that he would not return soon.