SUMMARY: The female servant who attempts to comfort Tybalt during "Ez a kéz utolér (This Is the Hand That Will Win)" returns later, with a gift from Julia. She finds Tybalt unnerving in the extreme.

CANON: Hungarian Operettszínház production, with Szabó P. Szilveszter as Tybalt

PAIRING: Tybalt—Julia unrequited, Tybalt—OFC sexual harassment

RATING: T

NOTES: An attempt at a character study; some consent/power issues apply.


seeming sweet converted to bitter gall

Master Tybalt's chambers were dark, lit only by the dim red light of a pair of torches near to guttering, and stiflingly close, the air thick and over-warm. Tybalt himself was only a dark shape in the bed, but at least this time he had obeyed the doctors and rested after his fit. Still, Olivia remembered the bruising grip of his hand on her neck earlier, and did not approach.

"What do you want?" His voice was curt, not quite a snarl, but there was nothing unusual in that.

She stood up straighter, gripping the cup of mulled wine carefully so she would not spill it. It was better not to let them see if you were afraid, any of the Capulets. And Tybalt was not so bad: courteous enough, when he was not in one of his rages, and for the most part he kept to the brothels rather than the maidservants. "My lord Tybalt, the lady Julia bid me bring you wine," she said, pleased when her voice did not shake. "Her nurse steeped it with herbs for your—" She faltered and shut her mouth. It was better not to mention the fits.

Tybalt unfolded himself from the bed, and Olivia saw that he was only half-dressed, without a doublet, his shirt open at the throat. His hair was disheveled, his eyes wild, and it was all she could do not to step back when he came closer. His hands covered hers on the cup for a moment: his skin felt fever-hot against hers. He looked at her vaguely without seeing her, then pried the cup from her grip.

"How kind of my cousin to remember me," he said, in a voice bitter as rue. But not, Olivia, thought by the mocking twist to his lips as he regarded the cup, bitterness towards the lady Julia.

He drained the cup in one draught, head tilted back; his neck stretched long and pale, ruddied by the torchlight. Olivia found her gaze transfixed by the open collar of his shirt, the soft triangle of skin at his throat. Tybalt alone in his rooms was not the same as Tybalt surrounded by servants, or Tybalt in the fencing salle, or Tybalt at dinner. Somehow he seemed more dangerous here than he ever had in any of his rages, and she fancied she felt something like the rabbit before the hounds. If she remained still, the hunter would not see her.

She took the cup back with a stumbling curtsy, and gathered up her skirts to go when he waved in dismissal. Her foot had scarcely touched the square of light from the hallway when she heard his voice again, this time sharp with command.

"Wait!"

She stilled, bunching her hands in her skirts to keep them from trembling; and then she felt his fingers on the nape of her neck, tilting her head downward. There had been no time earlier to use powder or to redress her hair lower to conceal any marks, and although she had not been able to see the bruises when she had twisted around to try to see in the mirror in Lady Julia's room, she could feel them, tender to the touch.

"I hurt you earlier," said Tybalt, his hand falling away from her neck, but Olivia did not dare to raise her head. She could feel him behind her, the whisper of his breath against her neck and the heat of his body, and she almost shivered. "I apologize."

"It is nothing, my lord," she murmured. And it was nothing: some of Tybalt's cousins had done worse in their cups—Matio they only ever sent men to wait on now—and she could not blame Tybalt for what he did after a fit took him. He had meant nothing by it; she was almost certain he had not even realized she was there. What unnerved her was his notice, and that he had apologized—he, a Capulet, to her, a servant.

His lips pressed against her bent neck came as no surprise; the faint spark of warmth they struck in her was. It was not a seduction, the perfunctory kiss and his hand on her shoulder, fingers brushing against her skin. Olivia had been seduced before, with pretty words and soft touches, things Tybalt had never shown signs of knowing and certainly would not waste on a servant. It was not a seduction, but neither was it quite an order. She tried to remember if anyone had ever dared to deny him, and could not.

Her mouth felt dry, the weight of Tybalt's fingers on her shoulder like a chain. "I am expected," she said, as softly as she could. "The Lady Julia will want to know if you are well."

As easily as that, his regard was gone; she could no longer feel him behind her. "As well as a man might live when his heart has betrayed him." He gave a sharp bark of laughter, again with that inward-turned bitterness. "No, do not tell her that. Tell my dearest cousin I am well, and I thank her for her care."

Olivia did not breathe freely again until she reached the hallway and the door closed behind her. Her heart pounded in her breast, and her fingers cramped and ached where she had them clenched in her skirts; the handle of the cup was imprinted into her palm.

By the time she returned to the Lady Julia she could smile and say her cousin was well, and resting as the doctor bade. Her voice did not tremble at all.