SUMMARY: Romeo dreams airy dreams, as Mercutio dances and flirts with fire, and Benvolio is only poor, simple earth, loyal and steady, at once caught between them and too plain for either of them to truly notice. A coda to the kiss-chase scene in the Hungarian musical production.

CANON: Rómeó és Júlia (Budapesti Operettszínház)

PAIRINGS: Benvolio/Mercutio, unrequited Mercutio/Romeo and Benvolio/Romeo

RATING: T for implied sexuality

NOTES: An alternate take on the kiss-chase scene after the Capulet ball; I had KMM's Benvolio and Zoli's Mercutio in mind, but it's hard to say when Mercutio isn't talking much, and I haven't seen much of KMM's Benvolio to go by (and only have audio of those two particular actors interacting).

I also recommend Pantalaimons' "Brontide" (on archiveofourownDOTorg) for an excellent darker, more impending-doom take with a Mercutio who actually talks. Thanks to Morgan and Pantalaimons for the new cast footage quest and discussion of the scene, without which I definitely would not have written this, and to drcalvin for betaing.

best befits the dark

It's an old game between them, worn smooth and meaningless with time and repetition. Mercutio is a spirit of fire, burning with a flame that Benvolio has always felt the draw of, even as he knows that flame would consume him. Mercutio's flame could ignite all Verona.

And so Benvolio laughs and protests, turns his face away so that Mercutio's lips press warm and soft against his cheek, just brushing the corner of his mouth.

What is different tonight is that Mercutio tried to pull Romeo into it, as he never has before. Mercutio who will flirt half-seriously with everyone in Verona, but who always treated Romeo as chastely as a brother, leaned over and kissed him with a theatrical expansiveness that failed to hide that the game had quite abruptly ceased to be a game. At least it was not hidden from Benvolio, who found himself flinching away from the bitterness under Mercutio's affectation, the real wounds masked by a flick of the wrist and babble of flight. Romeo, lost in the memory of the Capulet girl's charms, heard nothing but familiar prattle, saw nothing but clowning.

Romeo never sees anything but the next pretty thing in skirts. He dreams airy dreams, as Mercutio dances and flirts with fire, and Benvolio is only poor, simple earth, loyal and steady, at once caught between them and too plain for either of them to truly notice.

And yet tonight, Mercutio has noticed him also; he looks down at Benvolio with a curious quirk to his mouth, perhaps only a trick of the moonlight. Flame burns, Benvolio reminds himself, but he does not squirm away from under Mercutio's weight, does not turn his face or bat Mercutio's hand aside when he traces the line of Benvolio's jaw.

"You are beautiful," he says, and the familiar response, No, I am ugly! withers on Benvolio's tongue, for he cannot discern even a trace of mockery. Not this time.

Mercutio's mockery, no matter how harsh or dissonant—that is a familiar tune, and he knows the steps to the dance. But this, ah, against this strange honesty, this vulnerable bitterness that is not directed against him, he has no armor. It's not what he wants—not who he wants, he tells himself, and it is half true, as true as Mercutio's games that are not games. And yet. And yet.

There are still cool fingertips pressed against his jaw, under the point of it where the flesh is tender and unprotected, where someone might grab and dig in a fight, to force his head back. They linger, a gentle, undemanding question. That, too, Benvolio has no will to resist, as he would if Mercutio pushed, if he held him down with all his height and weight and lean wiry strength as he had done to poor sputtering Romeo earlier, if he spun a web of sharp, glittering words sweet and poison as fairy wine.

He could have done all that, and Benvolio would have shoved him away, laughed it off as an excess of wine, to be forgotten in the morning.

He hadn't.

And Benvolio isn't who Mercutio wants, either, not really; perhaps that is what makes him tilt his head up: offering, acquiescing to the touch that traces a slow, lingering path down his neck, over his collarbone. The flame cannot consume him if it is banked for another, can it? He wants this—wants to close his eyes and think of Mercutio's hands and mouth, his friendship that has been sometimes careless, occasionally cruel, but never in doubt, and not of Romeo's dreamy smile. Not of Romeo.

The kiss, when it comes, is slow and teasing, Mercutio's tongue as clever in this as in wit. It stirs Benvolio in body; he tells himself it does not touch his heart, not in the least. He slides his hands up to grasp Mercutio's shoulders, closes his eyes, and does not let himself think at all.

It is not a night for thinking.