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In The Years That Follow

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One day later

After they bring her home, they don’t leave her alone. She knows why. They’re afraid she’ll try again, try to follow her dear Romeo into death. They’re probably right. But it’s annoying, so she retires to her bed in the early afternoon, feigning sleep until the real thing creeps up on her, providing blissful blankness.

When she wakes again, it’s dark in her bed chamber, the single candle on the nightstand nearly burned down to a stub. It’s just enough light to see the shadowed form of Friar Lawrence in the chair by her bedside. The moment she stirs, he’s leaning over her, offering to help her sit, to drink, to eat something. She refuses all his offers, and rolls over. He means well, she knows, but she doesn’t want his sympathy right now.

“They say suicides burn in Hell,” she says, her voice sounding strangely distant and hollow to her own ears. “I would be all right with that if Romeo was there with me.”

“I do not think either of you would be destined for Hell,” Friar Lawrence says after a long pause. “While the Church does not condone suicide, this was an unfortunate, but understandable situation, I would like to think.”

“Then you should have let me die there as well.”

He doesn’t reply, and after a while she falls asleep again.

One week later

She’s let them dress her up, fix her hair and everything required for a formal audience with the Prince of Verona. Not that it matters to her. Romeo is dead, what does she have left to care about?

It’s a private audience - just the Prince, her, her father, and Lord Montague. So far the peace between their families has held, paid for as it was with Romeo’s life given in his love for her. But the Prince wants guarantees. Wants a new marriage contract to bind the houses together.

“I understand you’re mourning,” he says to her, his tone full of genuine if detached sympathy. “But you are a widow now, and could remarry. Romeo did have a cousin…”

“Benvolio. Yes. I know,” she says, ignoring the sharp look from her father. It’s rude to interrupt the Prince, she knows, but the nuances of social diplomacy don’t seem important to her anymore. She knows where he’s going with the statement anyway. Why drag this out any longer than necessary? “No more fighting. If that’s what it takes, so be it.”

Her father’s not happy of course, but she’s long given up caring what he thinks about things. Lord Montague’s reaction is unreadable, but likewise, not something she cares about. The Prince looks happy enough, but then again, all he wants is peace for Verona. In that, she agrees with him. There has been too much blood spilled. No more.

Besides, it’s better than marrying Paris.

One Months Later

The marriage is rushed, but it’s still a marriage between the two biggest and most influential houses in all of Verona, so preparations take time. She says barely a handful of words to her husband-to-be beforehand - a combination of lack of opportunity and a lack of desire to bother. It’s mutual, that much she knows. Benvolio may have been Romeo’s blood cousin, but they’d been raised practically as brothers. So she makes no effort to talk to him beforehand, and likewise he doesn’t seek her out.

The wedding itself is far more elaborate than her first one, but all the pomp and ceremony makes little impression. It’s hollow frippery, a needless waste of money. She tries not to compare everything to her first wedding - that near magical rushed, and ultimately doomed, ceremony with her dear Romeo. But she can’t help making them and finding this one lacking in every way.

By unspoken, mutual agreement, they share a bed that night and nights following, but do not consummate their marriage.

Two Months Later

When she realizes her menses are late, and what that means, she breaks down crying in the middle of dinner and flees the table. It is Benvolio, not Nanny who finds her in the garden, stirring memories of childhood tantrums and Tybalt being the one to find and comfort her. And like her late cousin, Benvolio lets her sob into his jacket, quietly stroking her hair until she’s exhausted her tears enough to speak. She tells him, and he understands the implication. Their families might think their wedding put to rest the issue of Romeo’s death, but she and Benvolio, they are still mourning in different ways.

They have yet to consummate their marriage.

The child is Romeo’s.

One Year Later

The families make much of baby Calio, talking constantly about how beautiful he looks, and how much like his father. They’re lying of course. They have to be lying. Who could look at Calio and not notice the shape of his nose, the line of his jaw, the darker blue of his eyes, and not realize he’s Romeo’s son? But it makes them happy to make the false comparisons, and thus they leave her alone sooner.
Both families press her to find a nanny for the boy, but Calio is her living connection to Romeo’s memory and she’s loath to turn him over to anyone else. Benvolio at least understands, and he is able to demand what she can only request. It is enough, and Calio stays with her.

She finds herself warming to her second husband. She doesn’t love him and he knows that. Understands that. She doubts he loves her, all too aware that without her involvement, both Romeo and Mercutio would still be alive. But he does not hold their deaths against her, and as time goes by they settle into an odd sort of friendship.

Three Years Later

Calio is a sweet child, but he has more energy than she can handle, especially with a second child on the way, so she finally gives in to her family’s request and hires a nanny. She tries to stay involved with his life though, unlike her mother did with her. It’s hard though - this pregnancy has taken a greater toll on her body than Calio’s had.

“It’s because this one is mine,” Benvolio says in private, with that half sympathetic, half amused smile she’s found herself growing fond of despite everything. She feels guilty about it sometimes, worries that the fondness is betraying her love for Romeo.

“I do not think he would not begrudge you moving on with your life,” Friar Lawrence tells her over and over again, in his tone of slightly strained patience when she asks him about it in confession for the hundredth time. “You can not mourn forever. Benvolio is a good man. It is alright to let yourself be happy with him”

She’s not sure about happy, but she is content. And that is enough.

Ten Years Later

It’s not that she’s forgotten Romeo, but, between caring for Mirabella and Calio and running the household, he intrudes on her thoughts less and less as the years go on. There’s just not the time, and Benvolio’s been a more than adequate husband. They share a love for their two children and they have become good friends. She finds herself thinking Friar Lawrence was right. She will never stop loving her Romeo, but she has found a different sort of happiness. She thinks he would approve.