Yup, I've finally written some Shakespeare slash. My life is now complete. Now I just need to write some Benvolio/Tybalt or some Hamlet/Horatio...

This could be any time before the actual play takes place, maybe a year or so. In any case, I don't think it's the same summer.

Concrit is excellent. Even flaming is okay, as long as you don't do it because it's slash. Shakespeare wrote love sonnets to a boy, okay?

Disclaimer: These guys belong to Shakespeare, who is awesome. I hope I've at least come close to doing him justice.

They lounged against the wall, careless and lazy. They weren't sure who owned the wall, nor who lived in the house it encircled. These things mattered not to them; if anyone confronted them for loitering, Mercutio would talk circles around them.

Benvolio was reading, a small leather-bound volume he had been carrying with him for a week now. This was unusual. Mercutio knew Benvolio usually finished his books in four days or so, perhaps a few hours extra on the afternoon of the fifth day. This one must be particularly difficult.

Mercutio's finger traced letters in the dust on the ground. M, E, R, C, U, T, I, O. He could read and write Italian, but the books Benvolio read were in English, French, Latin. He wished now he had paid more attention to his schooling; he looked at Benvolio's furrowed brow and raptly focused eyes and wanted to know what he knew.

Benvolio chewed his lip. His eyes were brown, like... Mercutio could compare them to a thousand things, but he did not want to. Under his own name, Mercutio traced more letters in the dust. B, E, N, V, O, L, I, O.

He hesitated a moment, then smoothed out the new letters with his foot. Better Benvolio didn't see.

They had come to a point where they almost never went a day without seeing each other. Sometimes they spoke; sometimes they felt no need, even Mercutio, who lived to hear his own voice twist words to his whims. When they were silent for too long, Mercutio talked to the air, to remind himself that yes, he was still alive, and he and Benvolio had not slipped into their own world, leaving all else behind.

It was warm that day. Summer was not far off. Mercutio brushed hair out of his eyes and said, Soon we shall come to that time when men are fools.

Benvolio looked up, startled, and blinked. What's that? said Mercutio, turns men of sensibility, men of honor - here he made a dramatic gesture with his dusty hands - men who pride themselves on their composure, into buffoons of the highest degree, whether it be the heat of a lady's skin or the heat of a city street. Put that to any test thou wishest; it shall come to proof each time.Thou dost mean to say, then, said Benvolio with a half-smile, that it shall soon be summer.Perhaps, perhaps, said Mercutio, overly mysterious.

Then what of thyself? Benvolio gestured to Mercutio with his book.

Mercutio snatched it. I, good Benvolio - the name on his tongue, he said it as often as he could - am a fool in any weather. Thou shouldst know this.

Benvolio gave him a rare grin, his reward for stealing the book, and tried to grab it back. His teeth were a shock of white amidst sun-browned skin. Mercutio held it out of his reach for just as long as the jest would hold, then agreeably handed it over.

Then they were silent again.

Benvolio was quiet. Under that quiet, there were a million words milling around, waiting to be said. Mercutio sometimes tried to read them through Benvolio's eyes. It was no use. But the few words Benvolio occasionally uttered held all the meaning of the probably-thousands Mercutio threw around every day, and Mercutio knew it.

Being near Benvolio, one tended to feel an odd calm, a calm that was even odder for Mercutio, used to flashing from wild entertainer of the multitudes to enraged flinger of fierce, desperate words to a mixture of the two. It was pleasant. He felt almost balanced. But only almost.

Because being near Benvolio, Mercutio also felt something else. Every motion, the way his bony-knuckled hands grasped his latest book, every flick of the brown eyes, the way the curly hair fell tousled on his forehead, stirred a nameless something inside Mercutio. But he was used to it by now; he could keep quiet, if about these things only.

It would eventually fade, as it had with Romeo. Romeo had been like a tempest, constantly soaring high into ecstasy and then crashing down again into melancholy. It had been all Mercutio could do to keep up with him. When he had finally detached his emotions from Romeo's it had been a relief. Now they were only friends, in name and actuality, and Mercutio was better for it. He had never told Romeo, and it had been agony, but now it was over.

But now it had started again with Benvolio. Where Romeo had been a tempest, Benvolio was a calm, balmy sea drawing Mercutio ever closer to home.

Mercutio knew what he felt for Benvolio, as he had known since he was young that he felt things of the sort for no lady. He knew also that it was his and his alone, to be shared with no one, not even Benvolio - especially not Benvolio.

Mercutio was crazy. Everyone in Verona knew him, and they all agreed on that one point.

Benvolio didn't mind, though. He took advantage of his friend's long tirades to watch the glint of the sun in his eyes and marvel at the way his hands wrapped themselves around his words.

But Benvolio also saw him alone, when didn't feel he had to entertain anyone. That he didn't feel he had to entertain Benvolio - was that a good sign or a bad? Benvolio was constantly looking for signs. He also thought Mercutio should write a book. He would never run out of things to say. Benvolio would relish every word.

But this was how Benvolio's thoughts wandered when he thought of Mercutio. In any case, he saw Mercutio alone, and that was when the fierceness in his jests subsided. Sometimes he had even allowed himself to fall asleep as Benvolio read, and Benvolio had woken him as quietly as he could, afraid that if he shook him, an explosion would follow. Now Benvolio knew there would be no explosion, at least not when they were alone.

But the intriguing little plays on words, the eyes full of life - Benvolio knew that what he thought was heresy.

But Benvolio was patient, and he would wait until it passed. He had never felt these things before, and hopefully he would forget them eventually. He was not easily alarmed; even Mercutio's most sudden gestures did not startle him. So why should this odd warmth when Mercutio smiled be cause for fear?

Benvolio didn't understand, but he would eventually, just like with English, French, Latin. It would just take time.

Mercutio had lost himself in thought. Benvolio's voice brought him back.

Why dost thou write...

Mercutio looked at the ground. He had been tracing Benvolio's name in the dust, the same letters over and over and over until they stood out, bold and undeniably there.

He looked at Benvolio, trying to gather his words.

Benvolio cleared his throat. ...my name?

Mercutio tried to think of something witty and dismissive to say, but he choked on everything he thought of before he could say it. His eyes locked with Benvolio's, brown like chocolate and velvety-soft - he had started, and now he couldn't stop. For the first time in his life, Mercutio did not know what to say. He sat unwillingly silent, eyes pleading.

Benvolio swallowed hard - what was he thinking? Mercutio wanted so painfully to know.

Then Benvolio's brows furrowed. He bent forward and, where Mercutio had written his own name, began to trace it himself, over and over and over. M, E, R, C, U, T, I, O. M, E, R, C, U, T, I, O.

Then he reached out with his other arm and took Mercutio's dusty hand in his own. Mercutio's heart hammered in his palm, in his neck, fingers, everywhere. Benvolio felt it, and his own hammering heart as well. He began to trace his own name again, using Mercutio's hand. He alternated between names.

B, E, N, V, O, L, I, O. M, E, R, C, U, T, I, O. B, E, N, V-

He stopped tracing as Mercutio's lips found his.

Mercutio pulled away after a moment and looked wide-eyed at Benvolio, waiting for the inevitable. Do what thou wilt, he said weakly. I care not; I had to... His voice trailed off.

Benvolio had been in shock. Now a small smile curled his lips, and he leaned in close and kissed Mercutio again, somehow tentative and self-assured at once.

Mercutio could have fainted with the flood of relief and warmth and... love? Love was for fools.

All the more fitting, Mercutio decided, and lost himself in the kiss.

Benvolio was startled when Mercutio pulled back the second time. The reckless grin that lit his friend's face, however, was all too familiar.

A fine tryst, this! Sooth, all the cunningest nobles in Verona would not guess this, not if they bent all their minds to the one task of divining who the young ladies' were of whom Benvolio and Mercutio were so enamored! He laughed, but this time the sound was joyful, not harsh and fierce like it had been so many times before.

Mercutio's ecstasy was visible in his eyes and his posture, audible in his voice. It was catching. Benvolio found himself laughing as well.

And thus, Mercutio continued, and then his voice dropped down low and he leaned up close to Benvolio's ear, his breath tickling Benvolio's neck. And thus, we shall be a secret, and an excellent and a beautiful. Together for aye. Benvolio turned his head to look into Mercutio's eyes, the slightest tinge of worry showing in his own.

Mercutio grinned, leaning back. Aye, for aye. As long as this heart beats.

Benvolio smiled and took Mercutio's hands. The sun was sinking lower in the sky, shining in their eyes.

So they closed them and leaned their heads together, finally relaxing after what seemed like endless ages of wondering and hiding. The letters in the dust rested silently, looking almost smug, as though they had known it all along.