When Curio had offered to accompany Juliet to visit Romeo at the Gradisca mines, he had done so only because he wanted to finally meet the boy. Well, perhaps 'meet' wasn't the right word, because what Curio truly wanted (had wanted from the moment Lady Juliet came into their group's collective care) was to spill the blood of every last member of House Montague and of every last one of their supporters. 'Threaten' was much closer, but he knew Juliet would never stand for that. She had proven to all of them many times over that she was more than capable of defending herself in battle, and in that sense, Curio had complete confidence in her. But Juliet had never been in love before, and loving the son of her lifelong enemy was potentially more dangerous than going into battle unarmed. It was his duty to protect Juliet, help her exact her revenge on Montague, and seek justice for the suffering people of Neo Verona—all of which would be impossible if she were suffering from first love's broken heart.
So his original plan had been to accompany her to the mines, let the young lovers have their moment, and then corner Romeo. However much Juliet had told them about Romeo being a kind man, and wholly different than his father, Curio knew he was still a noble, born and breed in a life of luxury that Juliet had never experienced, and a Montague noble at that. The boy had been fed lies about the House of Capulet since he was a young child, and it would be hard to abandon those ideas now, even if he was in love with Juliet.
He supposed that was it, really. He mostly wanted to make sure that this Romeo was truly in love with her. True, another small part of him wanted to castrate the boy on principle, but unnecessary violence was another thing Juliet would never stand for.
"Have I turned green, Curio?" Juliet asked seriously, interrupting his thoughts.
"What?" he asked dumbly, his eyes narrowing in confusion.
Juliet chuckled lightly, a sound which he'd always found beautiful. "You were staring so hard in my direction that I thought perhaps my skin was changing colors."
"Oh, no," he replied, "it's nothing, Juliet. I was just…thinking."
"You were thinking of Romeo," she said. It was a statement, not a question, and Curio wasn't quite sure how to respond. She laughed again, a little louder this time. "Don't think I'm ignorant of your reasons for coming with me. I'm not a child, Curio."
"You are a child," he corrected her gently. "You're barely sixteen."
"Sixteen is a reasonable age to fall in love, I think," she teased, smiling grandly over at him. "Don't you also, Curio?"
He didn't trust himself to say anything, so he kept quiet until they reached the mines. He was surprised to see that the rumors were true: the men had built a little village on the outskirts of the mine, and from the looks of things, they were doing well enough.
As soon as her dragon steed's hooves were on the ground, Juliet was sprinting into the run-down little house where she'd told him Romeo was living. He called out to her, but her utter joy at being in that poor hut with her love again drowned out his voice. He dismounted and would have followed her, but out of the corner of his eye he saw a group of men making their way towards them. Two long strides put him in front of the door just as Juliet was opening it again.
"Stay back," he warned, reaching for his knife. "Get back inside the house!"
The men strained their necks to see behind him, and one of them said, "Is that…?"
"Is she perhaps Lord Romeo's…?"
"Could she be the handkerchief girl?"
"Ah, she must be!"
Clearly, these men had gone made from heat and exhaustion. "Lord…Romeo?" Curio repeated skeptically.
Juliet spoke from behind him. "The handkerchief…!"
Curio turned to face her. "Do you know these men, Juliet?"
"No," she admitted. "But these men know Romeo and know of the handkerchief I embroidered for him. So I trust them because Romeo does."
He needed to talk with her about putting her trust so quickly in strange men, especially convicted criminals, but it somehow seemed unimportant when he saw the happiness in her eyes.
The men showed them around their village for a time. As he expected, the conversation turned very quickly to Romeo. They were regaled with the story of Romeo's bravery in the mines, his declaring the workers free, and his goal of settling the village. The men here seemed to hold him in high regard, which amazed Curio somewhat. Romeo's father had exiled them all here after their convictions, and it was truthfully Romeo's fault that the mine's quota had been doubled. Curio had expected these men to hate the son of Montague; instead, he was their leader.
A wind of change, indeed.
"Where is Romeo, anyway?" one asked suddenly.
"The usual place, I bet," another replied. "He spends every free second there, doesn't he?"
Juliet smiled and chuckled quietly to herself. Before he could ask them to fill him in, she took off walking. He groaned, rolling his eyes at her impulsiveness, and followed her.
The 'place' was a church, and Curio wondered to himself why this location was so special to the boy. And to Juliet, for that matter. He was standing in the front, talking to himself about his future plans for the village.
"I'll just go…water the dragon steeds," Curio said. "They must tired from the journey."
Juliet turned and smiled at him. "Thank you."
Despite his words, he did watch them from a distance. He knew they would want their privacy, but he was here above all else to protect Juliet. He couldn't let her leave his sight for long, because although Conrad, Francisco, and the others had done their best to assure no one knew of the group's comings and goings, no one could ever be certain that there wasn't a Montague soldier lurking behind every corner.
After a long while, they emerged from the church walking hand in hand. They were talking, speaking so softly to one another that the breeze obscured their words. For a moment, Curio wondered on which subject they spoke. He shook the thought from his head—if he couldn't give them complete solitude, he would at least give them rest from his idle curiosity.
The two of them eventually stopped on a little cliff overlooking the village. The lovers continued to talk, and when Romeo suddenly reached for her hand, Curio turned away. His prying eyes didn't need to see their intimacies, even if his first priority was her safety. His time was better spent looking around them for Montague soldiers instead of staring at them.
On their way back to the village, Romeo rode behind Juliet on her dragon steed, his arms wrapped strongly around her waist. His chin rested on top of her head, and when they fell behind him, Curio didn't object. He heard their whispers and occasionally a laugh, and once more had to chide himself for his intrusiveness.
When they had reached the little house again, Juliet said, "Time to leave, Curio."
He looked up at her and nodded. "Right."
Curio glanced over at Romeo and, quickly coming to a decision, walked over to him. He grabbed the boy by his collar and yanked him closer, looking as intimidating as he could. Romeo gasped, and a look of confusion took over his face.
"What are you doing?" Juliet yelled.
"I always promised myself that I'd crush you to a pulp upon finally meeting you," he growled. Romeo expression changed from confused to frightened in half a second. After a moment, Curio sat him back on his feet and let him go. "But I won't. I have a feeling that if I even attempted it, Juliet would crush me to a pulp."
Juliet rolled her eyes at him as he mounted his dragon steed. Curio allowed himself a smirk, satisfied that he'd made his point.
"Curio?" Romeo called as they were about to take flight. "Take care of her."
That had always been his aim, he thought to himself as they traveled back to Mantua. He looked over at Juliet again, her lovely long hair streaming behind her, and nodded to himself. He would take care of her always, until the day came that she destroyed Montague and brought peace to Neo Verona once again. And after that day, Romeo and Juliet would marry. He supposed when that happened, he would have to let Romeo take his place as her guardian, her eternal defender.
And Romeo had better do a damned fine job of it, because failing to protect Juliet had never been an option.