SUMMARY: The aftermath of Tybalt's first visit to a brothel, and the seeds of his rift with Julia. Based on the Hungarian production.
CANON: Rómeó és Júlia (Budapesti Operettszínház)
CHARACTERS: Tybalt and Julia
RATING: T for offscreen sex that is implied to be somewhat traumatic at best and not fully consensual at worst; also Tybalt is 14 and underage by modern standards
NOTES: This was actually the first thing I attempted to write in this fandom. I was going to write a coda to this where Tybalt first realizes his unwanted feelings for Julia, but it just wasn't happening, so I thought I might as well post what I had. In this story, Tybalt is 14 and Julia is 11.
raised in the shadows
When he returned to his room, Tybalt ordered a bath, as hot as the servants could make it. Let them grumble at being roused out of bed; the smell of the brothel still clung to him, cloying and thick, cheap attar of roses and other men's sweat, and under it all the sharp smell of sex. The smell turned his stomach, and he could hardly be expected to sleep like that, reeking of a whore's perfume.
He scrubbed himself until his skin felt raw, with short, harsh strokes of cloth and pumice. He winced at the sting of the marks left by the woman's nails—she had not quite drawn blood, but she had left swollen welts, although he had not minded it at the time—but did not gentle his hands.
No matter how hard he scrubbed, no matter that his skin turned pink and clean and the smell of roses faded into the clean smell of bergamot soap, he still felt filthy.
Perhaps he cried a little, or perhaps it was only water from where he had passed a trembling hand across his face.
His chest was a hard black knot of rage, although he could not have said at what. His father, perhaps, or the whore, for turning him into a rutting beast, for showing him that his mastery of himself was as fragile as gauze, to be destroyed at a woman's whim. Father had said women were to be used, and yet Tybalt could not shake the feeling that she had used him far more than he had used her.
Perhaps she was laughing at him right now, with the other whores, laughing at the Capulet boy who thought he was a man.
He clenched his fists until his palms hurt from the dig of his nails, until his fingers began to cramp. He wanted to hit someone, wanted to fight until there was nothing but the taste of blood in his mouth and the feeling of flesh giving under his fists.
The bathwater cooled and went cold. When at last he started to shiver, he removed himself with reluctance, dried off as roughly as he could, and pulled on a nightshirt, feeling no cleaner than he had before the bath.
Tybalt had nearly managed to calm himself enough to fall asleep when a soft knock at his door startled him fully awake, his heart pounding as he blindly reached for his dagger.
It was his cousin, little Julia, barefoot and wide-eyed in her nightgown, and the look on her face as she shrank back was the worst blow yet in all the night's terrible business. Julia, little Julia who alone in his family had never been afraid of him, because he had been so careful to keep his anger leashed and hidden from her; Julia, the only one among them still pure, untouched by the hatred Tybalt had nursed with his mother's milk, the hatred the entire clan steeped in until they no more noticed it than the air they breathed. Except Julia.
The dagger clattered to the floor and Tybalt dropped to his knees. Julia flung herself into his arms with a little sob, clinging with the trust of the child Tybalt could no longer remember being. "What's wrong, Julia?" he murmured, stroking her hair as gently as he could. The fine strands caught against his fingers, and he stilled, lest he hurt her and make her cry more. "You ought to be asleep. Is something wrong?" O God, what if something had happened—what if the Montagues—where was his sword—
But Julia was sniffling into his shoulder, slowly relaxing. "I only wanted to bid you a happy birthday," she said, her voice still wavering. "They made me go to bed before I could, and then I waited and waited for you to come back, but I fell asleep."
"You could have waited until morning, you silly goose," Tybalt said, relief an unfamiliar lightness in his chest.
"I didn't want to wait," she said, still clinging to his neck. Julia had always been affectionate, ever since she had learned to walk. She would embrace him, not caring that he hardly knew how to return it; or tell him he looked sad and tickle him until he smiled. He had always been secretly grateful for it, although he knew it made him weak. Now, with the memory of his father's voice and the whore's knowing touch on his skin, Julia's simple, trusting affection made creeping tendrils of terror twist in his gut. He knew he was debased, tainted—but what if she could sense it? Or worse, what if he somehow transferred the taint to her, like a sickness?
"You ought to go back to bed," he said, disentangling her arms as gently as he could. All the same, he gripped her arms too hard, and she winced, rubbing at her wrist.
"Will you not tell me about the celebration?"
Tybalt felt his mouth twist; there was very little he could tell. Certainly he could not tell her of the brothel, or anything of his father's advice. "It was very dull," he said at last, a lie—it had been many things, but not dull, "and my father drank too much wine."
Julia's eyes went wide. "Did he sing?"
"He did," Tybalt said, his startled laugh harsh in his own ears. That, too, had not been something for the hearing of women or children. "But you would not have liked it. Come, Julia, it is very late. Will you not go back to your own chambers? I will see you tomorrow, I swear it."
Her arms around his waist again came as a surprise, almost hard enough to knock the breath from him. "Promise?"
In the morning there was a new fencing master, an extra lesson. And then he was to begin upon Greek, for all that he saw no more use for it than Latin. In the afternoon he accompanied his father to the city courts, and in the evening to a meeting of the elder men of the family.
He avoided looking at Julia's pale, reproachful face at dinner. He was a man now, after all, and in the clear light of day he could see that this was the best way to protect her; it was only a little promise broken, soon to be forgotten when she returned to her nurse and her dolls.
He had to protect her. She was all he had.
I feel like part of why Tybalt is so fixated on Julia is because she represents their childhood, before gender roles and adulthood pushed them apart—but I also get the impression that he himself withdrew from her due to his self-loathing issues, and a lot of his issues seem to stem from his sexuality and perhaps that early formative/traumatic experience with his father taking him to the brothel. (Actually, I think he has father issues in general, but those are things to explore in another story.)