Get up, get up quick. This was Mercutio's mantra.
If you don't get up, you're weak. If you don't get up, you lose. If you don't get up, you die.
He slammed his fist into the space between the Capulet man's shoulder and his neck. The man grabbed his shoulder in pain, allowing Mercutio to drive his elbow into his temple. In seconds, the man was down.
Get up, get up quick.
"You lose," Mercutio said, watching the man groan in pain.
He turned to face Romeo and Benvolio, the former frowning profusely. Mercutio's serious expression split into a grin. "Cheer up, Romeo!" But Romeo's eyes only narrowed. "Cheer up? How can I cheer up when I've just watched my best friend destroy a man?" Benvolio rolled his eyes at his cousin and stuttered as he laughed. "Y-you too have had your fair share of d-duels, Romeo. We all have. We have no right to h-halt M-Mercutio If he feels he should do so as well."
Romeo pushed himself away from the wall he leaned on, his hair whipping violently. The other two followed him.
"Fighting has n-never bothered thee before, cos," Benvolio pointed out. "But Mercutio chooses to fight skin on skin!" Romeo exclaimed. Mercutio simply shrugged. "As opposed to what? Rapier to rapier? Tis a coward's way to fight! You know very well that I have no need for a blade nor do I carry one on my person."
Blades were too impersonal. Mercutio wanted to see the terror in their eyes. He wanted them to see the utter amusement in his.
This hadn't been his first time being chastised by the Prince.
His cousin, as well meaning as he was for taking Mercutio and his younger brother in, enforced strict rules upon the two. And by the two, he meant Mercutio.
Fighting had been prohibited in Verona for the disruption of peace. Mercutio thought the law was foolish.
"But Escalus, as long as no one dies…" The prince gave Mercutio a stern look. "The feuds of the Montagues and the Capulets are messy and should not be spilling into the streets. Nor should it be spilling into the lives of other families for that matter." Once again, the prince was referring to him.
"Escalus, how many fights have you been in yourself?" Mercutio asked. "Enough," replied the prince. "Then you know the feeling! It's a rush that comes more powerful than pain and more fleeting than love! How can a man deny that?"
Mercutio was standing now, his legs locked in his challenging position. The prince met his stance, looking down at him from his own height.
"Have you killed a man, Mercutio?" Mercutio shook his head. "Then you do not know the feeling. You do not, and I hope you never will, know the guilt found only as you watch the light drain from a man's eyes." He shoved Mercutio back down into his seat. "You do not know what it's like to wonder if he had a family; a widowed mother or a young son. Or perhaps a hot-headed kinsman."
Both men knew the conversation was over and Mercutio tossed his chair back, leaving without a word.
That night he mulled over his cousin's speech. He wondered how many men Escalus had killed. Which one had he been talking about when he yelled at Mercutio?
Maybe it had been more than one, their faces appearing when the prince dreamed. As Mercutio drifted to sleep, they appeared to him as well.
His dreams were all but forgotten the next day as word spread through Verona that Tybalt Capulet was looking for Romeo.
Benvolio looked worried as he told Mercutio the news. Mercutio himself was surprised. "Romeo? What in the world would the Prince of Cats want with our man?" Benvolio shared another worried look. "What is it, dear Benvolio? Have you failed to mention something to me?" The blond stuttered. "W-well…They're saying that Romeo's betrayed us."
Mercutio was wary. Romeo, as foolish as he was, would do nothing of the sort. He was heir to Montague after all. "What are 'they' saying? How has he betrayed us?" Benvolio bit his lip. "He's lain with a C-Capulet girl. Juliet. Tybalt's cousin."
Mercutio's mind swam with thoughts. Romeo wouldn't! But Mercutio thought the situation over again. Yes he would.This wasn't the first Capulet girl Romeo had fallen for.
He grabbed Benvolio by the arm. "Come, we need to confront our man." Benvolio shook his head. "Leave my cousin to his m-mess. Let us not be involved." Mercutio glared at Benvolio and tightened his grip. "His business is our business. Besides, who would you rather have find him: you and I or Tybalt?" Convinces, but only slightly, Benvolio allowed himself to be dragged along.
The two sprinted through the palace as quick as their legs could take them. Escalus barely dodged the two running down the palace corridor.
"Where are you two headed?" he yelled to them. Mercutio whipped his head around, his infamous grin lighting up his face. "To fight! Romeo needs us!"
Escalus only had enough time to clamp his hand on Valentine's shoulder, holding him back from following his older brother. "You are not a Montague, Mercutio! I hope you remember that!"
As Mercutio and Benvolio rounded the corner at the end of the hall, Mercutio called out to his cousin: "You never let me forget!"
The two found Romeo in the city square, alone and unprotected. "Romeo!" Mercutio called. The teen raised his head at the sound of his name.
"Romeo, we need to speak to you!"
"About a certain girl…"
They approached him slowly. Romeo looked veritably annoyed.
"Explanations, we'd like some." Romeo painted his face with innocence, playing dumb. "What are you two talking about?" Mercutio opened his mouth to reply, but the sound of a ruckus alerted the group to trouble.
They turned and Mercutio found himself slammed chest to chest with Tybalt Capulet.
"Watch it, filth." Mercutio spat in contempt. Tybalt matched his gaze with equal intensity. "I'm sorry, your highness. Fancy seeing you off your throne. How many people did it take to lift you off your ass?"
Get up, get up quick.
Mercutio gave the Capulet a hard shove.
Stumbling back, Tybalt raised his hands in peace. "I'm not here to fight you, Mercutio. It's him I want." He motioned towards Romeo.
Mercutio laughed, but not his real one. This laugh was different; cold, bitter, but most of all, crazy. Fighting made Mercutio crazy.
"You can desire many things in the world, Tybalt: money…power… But Romeo? I don't understand." Tybalt's jaw tightened, squaring out. His smirked turned to a grimace. "It's not of your concern."
Mercutio stepped forward. "Let me tell you something, Tybalt," he moved closer still, "The moment you arrived here, you made it my business." Mercutio slammed his fist into Tybalt's cheek. The crack was sickening and Tybalt turned, spitting blood.
The duel was on.
Tybalt ran towards Mercutio, grabbing him by the shoulders and driving his knee into his gut. Mercutio doubled over.
The Capulet swung his foot across the side of Mercutio's face, sending him flying into Benvolio, who promptly caught him.
Get up quick.
Mercutio wiped his mouth with his sleeve. Red stained the purple fabric and Mercutio smirked.
Mercutio ran towards the Capulet, driving his forearm underneath Tybalt's chin. The Capulet was knocked back. Mercutio raised his leg to stomp, when a pair of arms wrapped around his body from behind.
"Mercutio! He's not worth it!" Romeo called out, his arms locked tight around his friend. Mercutio squirmed. "He's a dog, Romeo! He wants you dead! How can you tell me no?" He turned to face Tybalt.
"TYBALT! GET UP! GET UP-"
He felt it pierce his abdomen; he felt himself shiver with the cold of metal on skin. Mercutio looked down just as Tybalt dragged the knife out of him. The blade was red with his own blood. Tis a coward's way to fight.
He felt the arms release themselves, his body slumping into another's arms.
Get up. Get up quick.
The voice screamed in his head.
Get up. Get up quick.
Or was that out of his head? Around him?
GET UP. GET UP QUICK!
Mercutio felt dizzy. Was that Escalus he heard?
GET UP! GET UP QUICK!
Where were they? Where was he? Who was that? Where was she taking him? That was enough fighting for today.
The light in Mercutio's eyes dimmed, then flickered out completely.
Benvolio and Romeo shook their friend's body. "MERCUTIO! MERCUTIO! GET UP, MERCUTIO!" Romeo sobbed. "MERCUTIO!" Benvolio grabbed a hold of Mercutio's jacket. "GET UP! WE NEED YOU! NE ME LAISSE PAS!"
If you don't get up, you're weak.
If you don't get up, you lose.
If you don't get up, you die.