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Baby, I Love You

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Romeo has always been one to horribly over complicate the hell out of situations.

He effortlessly makes mildly stressful circumstances with easy fixes seem like the end of the fucking world as humanity knows it.

He’s always been overly dramatic like this. Benvolio can’t even count how many times during their high school years that his cousin told him that his life was over because some girl he had fallen head-over-heels in love with turned out to not even be aware of his existence. It was a nearly weekly occurrence, as was Romeo deciding that no one would EVER feel about him the way he felt about them and that love as a whole was dead.

Yes, Romeo will wholeheartedly admit to sometimes overreacting and getting overly melancholy and emotional, but he thinks that the state of nerve-wracking fear he’s been in for the last few months is perfectly understandable and that his cousin should at least TRY to act like he still feels bad for him.

Proposing to the love of his life and facing either devastating dejection or the rather daunting prospect of building a domestic life together is a pretty big fucking deal…. And Romeo is honestly having a hard time getting himself confident enough to get down on one knee and do it.

He’s been talking about proposing to Juliet for a little over five months now, telling Benvolio and Mercutio about his latest plan on how to pop the million dollar question at least once a week, each time the plan becoming more and more elaborate and more and more ridiculous in Benvolio’s expert opinion on insanity.

Romeo has ventured down to the jewelers three times to gawk at engagement rings and their nightmare-inducing price tags. He’s become desperate enough to beg his cousin and best friend for a loan to use to buy a nicer ring, one of the ones with a halo design or princess cut that are always featured in those godawful fashion magazines that Juliet loves to indulge in.

He’s been wracking his brain for creative ways to ask her the oh-so important question, not wanting to do anything cliche or unimpressive. He’s a bit of a perfectionist at heart, something Benvolio has rubbed off on him, and he wants every detail of his plan to be flawlessly ironed out and idiot-proofed. He wants this to be as perfect as humanly fucking possible for Juliet, and he’s been going to insane lengths to ensure this.

He’s been planning and plotting and thinking and scheming for so goddamn long….but he has yet to actually ask the question that’s been weighing down on him like a pile of cinder blocks.

Benvolio had felt genuine pity for his cousin in the beginning, he really had. He knows his cousin better than anyone else, so he’s perfectly aware that he overthinks everything and he knows that something as important and crucial as this is bound to cause him anxiety.

Especially since it’s something that Romeo is doing in hopes of appeasing Juliet, whom is one of the few people on the planet that he’d break his back pampering. Benvolio has always been grateful that Jules isn’t a high maintenance girl with expensive tastes, because his foolish cousin would’ve certainly gone into deep debt and worked his hands to the bone for her by now if she were….

Mercutio, on the other hand, seems endlessly amused by his friend’s inability to propose to his girlfriend, constantly asking him with a smirk if he’s picked which romantic gesture he wants to use to ask yet: leaving a post-it-note on the fridge for her to find or sending her a text message during work. Romeo finds Mercutio even less amusing than he usually does and the tensions are even higher than they were back in school when Mercutio would poke fun at Romeo’s latest infatuation.

The whole thing has gone on too long, and Benny is tired and worn out, simply to the point of telling his cousin to ‘just fucking do it already’ and internally cringing whenever he gets a call from Juliet. She’s by no means a stupid girl nor is she oblivious to other people’s feelings. It’s quite the opposite in fact, she was the first one to figure out the extent of Benny’s feelings for Mercutio and she seems to always pick up on the underlying emotions everyone’s hiding, so Romeo’s anxiety and worrying is definitely on her radar.

She’s called up Benny and Mercutio about twenty times now, asking fearfully, twice while in tears, if either of them knows anything about Romeo seeing other people behind her back or about him having any hardships he’s not letting her in on.

Benny feels awful each time she calls, assuring her as gently as possible that his cousin would never cheat on her and that, as far as he’s aware, he’s not going through anything right now, suggesting that maybe he’s having a stressful time at work lately or just fallen into a depressed funk like he tends to every once in awhile.

It’s been a stressful and tentious last five months to say the least, and Benny is fairly certain that his cousin is running out of time to ask before Juliet starts to hound him or breaks down in front of him, tearfully asking him what’s wrong.
------------------------------------------

“No.”

“But Benny, please, I just ne-”

“I said no,” Benvolio replies with a sigh, trying to sound as inflexible as possible. “I can’t, Romeo, I’ve got things to do this evening.”

“What things?” Romeo asks, a hint of desperation in his voice. “I thought you got home from work around six, I waited to call so that you’d be off shift.”

Benvolio raises an eyebrow, tucking his cell phone under his ear as he digs around in his pocket for his set of keys. “I do get off at six but, I know that this may come as a shock, I do things outside of work. I do in fact have a life that doesn’t involve sitting in a cubicle all day and pretending to care about my coworkers’ pets and children.”

Benny hears Romeo sigh. “Alright, I’m sorry, I just assumed you wouldn’t be doing anything this evening. These days it seems like you and Cutio don’t really have any big plans.”

Benny raises his eyebrow yet again, nearly dropping his house keys on the floor as he fumbles around with them. “We don’t really have big plans?” He parrots. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I...I just meant….I mean, you guys don’t usually seem to be tied up in the evenings is all…. You don’t go out and disappear for the night anymore, you’re usually at home watching reruns of old sitcoms and eating take-out. It’s not hard to find you or get you on board to go do something because you’re not out already,” Romeo explains, stumbling over his words nervously, having a bad feeling that he just accidentally hit a nerve.

Benny sighs, finally managing to unlock the door and let himself in. “Whatever,” he mutters, shrugging off his bag and setting it down on the kitchen countertop. “Believe it or not, we actually do have big plans for tonight, so I’m afraid we can’t accompany you to the jewelers for the third time. You’ll just have to be a big boy and go by yourself.”

Romeo sighs heavily, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel and chewing his bottom lip to a bloody pulp. “Alright….I’ll just go tomorrow evening. Are you free then?”

Benny winces as if he’s just been shot. He’d love to say ‘no, we’re busy then, too’ but…. there’s no way his cousin will buy it. Apparently excitement is something that he and Mercutio have strayed away from for some time, so it’d be absurd for them to be to do more than stay at home and watch sitcoms for more than two nights in a row.

“Yeah, that’s fine. What time?”

“Can I pick you guys up around half past seven? I want to eat dinner with Jules because….I haven’t eaten with her in two weeks now and I think she’s getting worried.”

“Uh-huh,” Benny deadpans, rolling his eyes as he kicks off his shoes and makes his way back into the kitchen. “I’m sure she is. Why aren’t you eating with her tonight?”

“I already told her earlier that I’d be at work late tonight so…. I think she’ll be even more suspicious if I show up and act like I’ve suddenly been let off early.”

“Probably,” Benvolio agrees with a sigh, opening the fridge to fish out a jar of marinara. “You should make her dinner tomorrow night, make up for the time you’ve spent away.”

“That’s what I was thinking. I don’t know though….I can’t really cook. What’s something easy to make that she’ll think is me making an effort?”

“Omelettes. Make omelettes with sauteed mushrooms and bell peppers,” Benny answers with a nod of self-approval, digging around in the pantry for a box of pasta. “Trust me, it takes minimal effort yet looks wonderful.”

Romeo nods to himself. “Alright….I think I can manage that….”

“If you can’t, you officially fail at being a functioning adult.”

Romeo snorts and nods. “Alright, alright. Thanks, Benny. Enjoy….whatever it is that you and Cutio have planned for tonight, okay? I didn’t mean to-”

“It’s fine,” Benvolio says with a tired sigh, cutting him off. “We will. Enjoy….”

“I’m currently driving around the McDonald’s parking lot repeatedly.”

“Alright, well, enjoy your drive. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

“Yeah, see you then, Benny.”

Benvolio keeps the phone tucked under his ear until he hears an obnoxious beep, signaling that his cousin has hung up. He sighs, slipping his phone back into his pocket and digging a big pot out from underneath the sink. It’s not that he’s all that uncomfortable with lying to his cousin to get out of doing something he really does NOT want to do, but Romeo’s got him thinking, and now he’s wondering if he and Mercutio really DON’T do anything these days….

When is the last time they went out on a date without Romeo and Juliet there as well? When is the last time they made anything besides grilled cheese or soup? When is the last time they really did anything?

Benny figures some spaghetti isn’t too much of a hassle and it’s something, right? He can make spaghetti and maybe he’ll dig around in the linen closet and find that stupid package of bath bombs Jules gave them three years ago that they have yet to open, and they can take a bath together. That’s something that they haven’t done in awhile…. they were back in college last time…. Jesus Pete Christ…..

Benvolio is abruptly snapped out of his thoughts and brought back to planet Earth when he hears the front door close with a thud.

“Hey,” Mercutio calls from the front hallway in greeting, the closet opening up with a squeak as he kicks his shoes off. Benny winces as he hears them bounce off the wall with a thud, certainly chipping at the paint. “You home, Benny?”

“Yeah, in the kitchen. How was your day?”

“Fine, boring, bland…. I wasn’t horribly busy.”

“I could tell by the amount of bizarre articles analyzing Fanny Hill you emailed me.”

Mercutio grins, making his way into the kitchen. “Well, classic literature is important and interesting, isn’t it?”

Benny smiles and rolls his eyes, watching Mercutio gingerly set his heavy case down on the floor. “Figures that out of all the literature you could appreciate it’s Fanny Hill that interests you.”

“The first famous erotica novel, Benny, with explicit gay sex, may I add. It’s right up my alley.”

Benvolio just smiles and shakes his head. “Did you do anything today besides overindulge in what’s equivalent to tabloids for you?”

“Yes, actually…. I had one client scheduled for today and I have to tell you, Benny, it was pretty fucking wild.”

Benvolio’s smile widens and he leans over the counter, watching his partner unclasp his case, opening it out and grabbing a portfolio neatly laid on top of his camera lenses. The strange clients are the best, the two of them can spend hours huddled together on the couch going through Mercutio’s portfolios, gawking and giggling like teenage girls looking through a PlayGirl magazine.

“Wild, huh?”

Mercutio chuckles and nods, straightening up and laying the portfolio down on the countertop. “Oooh yeah. This woman came in and the first thing I noticed were her breasts, Benny.”

Benvolio snorts and raises an eyebrow. “You noticed her breasts?”

Mercutio laughs, eyes crinkling in the corners, and nods. “Yeah. They were huge, like…. I think she told me that she’d had three breast augmentations, right? I had to ask how big the implants were, naturally, and you’ll never guess how much silicon this woman has in her boobs.”

“How much?”

Mercutio leans forward, as if about to whisper a dirty secret into Benny’s ear. “Eight hundred and fifty cc’s, Benny.”

Benny raises a questioning eyebrow as in slight disbelief. “I thought that doctors refused to put implants in that were bigger than three hundred and fifty.”

Mercutio nods, still laughing. “They do, most of them anyways, but there are always those willing to commit malpractice for money, Benny. It does make the world go round, after all.”

Benvolio grins and lets out an impressed snort. “That it does, that it does. Holy shit, so this woman has-”

“Bowling ball sized, completely round, unnatural looking breasts,” Mercutio finishes with a nod. “Anyway, she was actually extremely sweet. She’s a model, okay? Of course, like, why else would she have breasts the size of Venus, right? Her agency wanted some shots to promote her and her figure. Their requests were…..really fucking bizarre. Just wait until you see, I don’t even know if I can describe to you the absolute oddity that was this session.”

Benny smiles and laughs, setting the pot over the stove to boil the water. “Are these pictures good enough to show Jules?”

Mercutio nods exuberantly. “Definitely. She’ll get a kick out of them.”

There’s a pause in which Benvolio feels Mercutio’s eyes on his back.

“You’re making dinner?” He asks.

Benny shrugs nonchalantly. “Yeah, I figured I should make something with some nutritional value since we’ve been eating leftover take-out Thai for the last week.”

Mercutio’s lips spread into a smile and he takes a seat at the counter. “Mmm, yes, I’d almost forgotten what real food that’s not covered in chile paste or sesame oil tastes like.”

Benny shoots a smile over his shoulder, shrugging again as if really trying to play this casual thing off. “Can’t have that can we? I was also thinking…. Do you have to make a spread of the pictures you took today?’’

“Yeah.”

“Could you possibly wait until tomorrow night to do it?”

Mercutio shifts in his seat, smile further widening, leaning forward to lay his chest and torso across the countertop. “I suppose I could if you have something really important planned….”

“Well….I remembered those bath bombs that Jules gave us and was thinking maybe we could finally use them, clear up some closet space.”

Mercutio stares at Benny for a minute, beaming bright as the sun. “A bath sounds nice,” he murmurs, color starting to paint his cheeks. He’s been so busy the last few weeks as has Benny and there really hasn’t been any intimacy for a few days now….

The phone suddenly starts to ring, startling both men. The creepily robotic voice of the answering machine announces the caller ID aloud: Montague, Romeo.

It’s Jules calling from her and Romeo’s apartment.

Benvolio and Mercutio exchange a look before the latter of the two reaches out to grab the phone out of it’s cradle and answer it.

“Hey, Jules. How’re you doing tonight?”

“Hi, Mercutio,” Juliet greets, voice shaking slightly. “I’m okay, how’re you?”

“I’m doing fine. What’s up?”

“Oh, uh, well,” she pauses to laugh ungracefully. “I’m actually kind of concerned. I’m really sorry to bother you and Benny about this again, but Romeo said he had a late shift today and this is, like, the third time he’s told me this over the last few months and he NEVER had any before. So, I uh…. I called him, but he didn't answer, so I assumed his phone was dead, right?"

"Right."

"Okay, so I called the administration office at the middle school and asked to talk to him because I wasn’t sure if I should make enough casserole for both of us, I wanted to ask him if he was going out to eat before coming home and uh…. When I called the administrator told me that Romeo wasn’t there. He told me that Romeo hasn’t had any late shifts since the day he started working at the school five years ago so…”

Mercutio bites his lip and glances over at Benny, who’s staring at him intently.

“Jesus, Jules….” he murmurs, not sure how he can cover his friend’s ass this time. “Oh, Jesus….”

He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, trying to think of something he can say to justify this without telling the truth or making his friend look like the world’s biggest scum bag. The feeling of unease in his chest builds when he hears Juliet start to sniffle.

“I don’t know if you know anything about him seeing someone else and I don’t know if you’d tell me or not if you did, I really don’t, but if you know anything, could you please just come clean? Please, Mercutio? You’ve always been such a good friend to me, please just-”

“I-I really don’t know anything, honey. I swear I’d tell you if I did, but I don’t. So he’s….he’s been lying about these late shifts?”

Benny’s eyes widen and he gapes.

“Yes, he has! I don’t know, I love him and I thought I knew him….he’s never seemed like the kind of guy to cheat, he really never has but….I can’t think of any other reason he’s avoiding me like this and lying. I can’t….all the weird behavior and I just…. I don’t know what to do, Mercutio.”

“Aw, Jules….”

“I just called him to ask him where he was and he said he was still at the school! He’s lying to me!”

“Look, Jules, if he is cheating, he’s making the worst fucking decision of his life. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him, sweetheart, and I mean that. Me and Benny have told you over and over again, you were the one who straightened him out when we couldn’t, you were the one who grounded him and you’ve been his rock. If he’s daring to take advantage of you, it’s his loss. You deserve so much better than that.”

“I know it’s just….I feel so stupid!”

And now she’s sobbing, sobbing hysterically over the phone, and Mercutio feels like he’s about to sink through the kitchen floor.

“I never….I never saw this coming! I thought he….I love him, I really do. He’s been there for me as much as I’ve been there for him and I really fucking thought that...that he’d stay with me since we've been together so long. Eight years now! That's so long, we're so comfortable with each other and...I was actually going to….”

“You were actually going to what?”

“I was considering asking him if he wanted to get married,” she admits, sniffling and stuttering on a sob. “We’ve just been together for so long and, sure, we’ve had our ups and downs like anyone else, but we always came out the other side together, you know? I thought we’d been together long enough for us to take that next step, I thought we were ready to cross that bridge. Do you think he had a feeling that I was going to ask about marriage? Do you think he knew and got cold feet?”

“I doubt it, Romeo’s….pretty dense.”

“Do you think he’s just started cheating on me now or do you think I’ve just been blind and that it’s been going on for years?! Was I just ignoring obvious signs because I loved him? Have I been-”

“Jules, I’m just as shocked as you are if he’s cheating,” Mercutio says, trying to sound as reassuring as possible, staring back at Benny in horror. “We’re not even positive he is cheating yet, let’s-”

“What else could he possibly be doing, Mercutio?! I can’t think of any other rational explanation for all of his weird behavior, I don’t want to believe it, but I honestly can’t think of any other reason he’s been….he’s been-”

“Maybe it’s something else? Maybe he’s...maybe he’s started having trouble with….substance abuse?” Mercutio suggests desperately, shrugging.

Benvolio’s mouth drops further, jaw near hitting the floor.

Juliet is silent for a moment, sniffling and sniveling before replying.

“You...you really think he could be having problems with drugs? I mean….he’s never shown signs of addiction, but I don’t really know much about any of that….”

Mercutio winces, biting his lip as his squirming intensifies. “I don’t know either, Jules, but there are other things that could be up besides him cheating on you.”

Juliet is silent again for a few minutes, still sniffling softly.

“Mercutio, none of the things that could he could be up to are positive things that should be happening. He’s either….. He’s either sleeping around on me all of a sudden or out getting high and selling drugs or God knows what. It’s not something he wants to let me in on, it’s something he’s hiding and whenever he crawls away into his shell like this….it’s something bad.”

“I don’t have the answer, sweetheart. I promise you that I’d tell you if I did….I’ve noticed that he’s been acting strange lately, too.”

“So...so it’s not just me that’s he’s been being weird around?”

Mercutio hesitates to answer, having a feeling he’s just dug himself into a deeper hole. Benvolio’s horrified stare seems to confirm this.

“No.”

“O-okay….would you mind….would you mind coming over? It’s just….I’m really….I could use someone right now and-”

“Of course! Just give me twenty minutes and I’ll be there, okay?”

“Okay….thank you so much, Mercutio.”

“Don’t think about it, Jules, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

After Mercutio hangs up there’s twenty seconds of silence, Mercutio staring at the floor with a look of shame on his face and Benny staring over at him in horror.

“You….you told her that my cousin might be out there snorting coke? Why...why would you-”

“I was improvising and I didn’t know what else to say! You come up with another plausible scenario given your cousin’s bizarre behavior of late!”

“You should’ve just told her the truth,” Benvolio mutters, sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Jesus Christ, Mercutio….you should’ve just told her what’s been going on…”

“But that would ruin the surprise.”

Benny groans, shaking his head. “There might not be a surprise the way this is going.”

Mercutio sighs, sliding out of his chair and padding across the kitchen, offering Benny the phone. “Well….these are the cards we’ve got to play with now, Benny. Call Romeo. Tell him to go home and propose ASAP.”

“That’s...that’s not an option,” Benvolio mutters, closing his eyes and praying for a god, any god listening, to give him the strength to get through this. “He doesn’t have a ring right now…”

Mercutio goes wide-eyed, shaking his head in disbelief. “Yes he does! We loaned him eight hundred dollars to go out and buy her a ring! We went with him and were there when he picked one out!”

“He returned it a few days ago!”

“Why?!”

“I don’t fucking know, ask him! He thought it wasn’t the right one because he saw her ogling at another one with Rosaline at the mall the other day!”

“Where the hell is he now?! Why isn’t he home?!”

“He was going to go out and buy her another one tonight….he wanted us to go with him but I said we were busy and that we’d go with him tomorrow night after work…”

“Okay, change of plans, call him! Tell him you’ll go ring shopping with him, make sure he picks out a nice one, and come back so that he can propose.”

Benny sighs, taking the phone from Mercutio’s hands and beginning to punch in his cousin’s cell phone number. He sighs heavily yet again, acknowledging that the evening he planned has just been ruined and pissed upon by fate.

He sighs again when he realizes that he’s seriously disappointed about not getting to eat spaghetti on the couch with his partner of nine years tucked under his arm, gawking at pictures of an extreme fetish model.

He feels beyond old.

“Hello? Benny?”

“Hey, Romeo. Look, uh, we need to go get that ring tonight. Come pick me up in five minutes.”
----------------------------

“So….so she thinks that I’m cheating on her and doing drugs?” Romeo asks, face ashen and eyes wide.

Benny sighs and rolls his eyes, following his cousin across the dark parking lot. “Well, not necessarily. She seems more sure about the cheating, the meth head thing is all thanks to Mercutio.”

Romeo gapes, running his hands over his face and groaning. “I never meant for her to think-”

“Well, I hate to say it, but you’ve taken too long.”

“I have?”

Benvolio snorts without humor, holding open the heavy glass door to the mall. “I’ve been telling you to propose for almost three months now. But as always, for some reason beyond my comprehension, no one listens to me.”

“I didn’t mean to upset her like this! I’ve just been trying to get it down right so that it goes perfectly for her! I’ve-”

“Look, I’m not trying to sound critical because I tend to do this too, but you’ve been overthinking it. You need to just ask her when it feels right, as ridiculously cheesy as that sounds. Forget all the other plans you had: scratch the carriage ride that none of us would be able to afford, scratch the fancy dinner that you needed to make reservations for, and please, I’m begging you, forget the whole writing her a song idea. It looked great on paper but the actual song…”

“Did it really suck that bad?” Romeo asks, glancing over his shoulder at Benny as they make their way to the escalator.

Benvolio sighs. “Well….yes. Yes it did. It was just as awful as all of those poems and love letters you used to write in high school.”

Romeo cringes and runs a hand through his hair. “Jesus. I still can’t read those. Jules found one of my old binders when we were moving out of your and Mercutio’s place and she had a fucking field day with all of the poetry stuffed in there. She was laughing so hard that I thought she might piss herself.”

“You’ve never really been good with words. You’ve always had a knack for instruments though, you’ve been good on the guitar ever since you picked it up in middle school, but as far as your lyricist skills….they’re lacking. I mean, hey, if you really like the idea of playing her a song you can play her something somebody else wrote or your own song but don’t….don't use your own words.”

Romeo chuckles sheepishly, leading his cousin to the far corner of the shopping mall that harbours a small cinema and the jewelers that he’s become all too familiar with these past few months. “You're scolding me about the exact opposite thing every English teacher I've ever had in my life has yelled at me about.”

“If I had been one of your English teachers, I swear, I might’ve begged for you to plagiarize. I proof-read all of your essays and short stories junior and senior year and it was a chore every goddamn time,” Benny mutters, rolling his eyes as he enters the store, swearing that the man behind the counter is giving him and Romeo a funny look, a squinty-eyed, dejavu stricken stare that says, ‘I swear that I’ve seen you before.’

Romeo hums quietly, choosing to ignore his cousin’s comment, and starts to pace up and down the aisle, eyes glued to the huge glass cases that are all proudly displaying a broad eray of engagement rings, ungodly expensive bracelets, and bejeweled necklaces.

“There was one that Rosie and Jules were looking at in the display case the other day….Rosie texted me a picture of it and said that Jules loved it….” Romeo murmurs, pulling out his phone to show Benny the picture. “I think….I think it’s a little pricier than the first one I bought…”

Benvolio raises a skeptical eyebrow and freezes in his tracks, watching his cousin continue down the showroom with a look of worry. “It’s more expensive?”

“Yeah….just a little.”

“How much more expensive? I mean, the first one you bought wasn’t exactly cheap, Romeo.”

“Uh….hmm…...oh! This one right here! This is the one Rosaline said Jules fell in love with.”

Benny takes a moment to get it together before jogging over to get a glimpse of the ring and hefty price. “Which one?”

“This one right here,” Romeo says, jabbing his index finger at the case, leaving a smudge on the otherwise spotless glass. Benvolio swears that he catches the cashier flinch out of the corner of his eye.

“See? I should have known, I should have picked this one to begin with. Whenever she talks about jewelry or is in Macy’s with me she seems to gravitate towards the rings and necklaces with intricate little designs.”

Benny stares at the ring that’s caused this entire mess tonight, the ring that made Romeo feel inadequate about his selection and postponed what should’ve happened months ago.

And he feels a wave of nausea overtake him.

The damned thing looks expensive. It has three diamonds in the center of a circular arch in the center. It has three stones...the first ring Romeo purchased only had one and it was significantly smaller.

“How much is it?” Benny asks, feeling his temples start to throb and his legs start to shake.

“Mmm, don’t know. I guess we’ll have to ask…” Romeo mutters, not seeming at all concerned as he turns around to get the man behind the cash register’s attention.

“Oh, God, please don’t let this ring be as expensive as it looks….” Benvolio mutters, watching the jeweler make his way over to talk with Romeo. “Please, let my life be somewhat simplistic for once and don’t have this ring be worth both of my damn kidneys….”

Benny is distracted from his praying when he feels his phone buzz in his pocket.

He pulls it out to see a text from Mercutio.

Mercutio: How’s the ring shopping going?

Benvolio: As well as I thought it would go.

Mercutio: So….????

Benvolio: The ring he wants to buy looks extremely expensive. I’m having a hard time deciding which arm to sell.

Mercutio: Your left one, Benny. Sell the left one.

Benvolio: Haha, aren’t you the funny one.

Mercutio: What does this ring look like? I need to make sure it’s beauty is worth one of your disappointingly scrawny arms.

Benvolio: You’re really upping the charm factor tonight, aren’t you?

Mercutio: I try.

Benvolio: There’s a picture of it. What do you say? Is one of my ridiculously buff arms worth it?

Mercutio: Mmmm….personally not my taste….. I like that one next to it though. The one with the sapphire gemstone? If you’re going to give up an arm, I think it’s completely inappropriate unless you’re giving it up for that baby.

Benvolio: That’s not the one Jules likes and that Romeo is hell bent on buying.

Mercutio: Pity. That’s the one I like.

Benvolio: We’re not shopping for you.

Mercutio: *dramatic sigh* Oh, alright, Benny. If that’s the one Juliet likes and the one Romeo wants to buy, it’s the one he’s going to get. The price won’t matter, you know how Romeo gets when it comes to Jules, he’ll buy it even if he needs to sell some internal organs to be able to afford it.

Benny groans, looking over his shoulder to watch the jeweler go through his keys, finding the right one to unlock the big glass case. Romeo’s smiling like he just won the fucking lottery as the man hands him the ring to look at, asking him for his girlfriend’s ring size.

Benvolio: I know, believe me, I’ve seen Romeo in love-struck ‘I will die if she doesn’t love me’ mode. Anyway, hows Jules doing?

Mercutio: Well….it’s been an interesting evening. We’ve been watching 'Love Actually' despite it being June and we ate an entire quart of cookie dough ice cream. My arm that she’s been laying on is asleep and my shirt is thoroughly soaked at this point.

Benvolio: She’s been crying?

Mercutio: Yeah, it’s been rough. She thinks he’s been cheating on her and, you know, I can’t blame her.

Benvolio: Neither can I. Claiming to be working on late shifts is a bizarre excuse for a middle school music teacher and his weird skittish behavior doesn’t help.

Benny looks over at his cousin again as the jeweler leaves to go find the ring in Jules’ size.

“Did he tell you how much it costs?” He asks.

“Yeah,” Romeo mutters, shuffling around in place, refusing to make eye contact.

Benny feels like he might cry. This all but spells disaster.

“And?”

“Well, I was right, it’s a little pricier than the last one I bought….”

“How much is it?”

Silence.

“Romeo, how much does it-”

“It’s roughly….. roughly four thousand dollars.”

Silence ensues between them yet again, Romeo still staring down at his feet as he drags them across the spotless tiled floor and Benny feeling his eyes widen to the size of dessert saucers.

“Four thousand…..four thousand dollars?” He questions meekly, hoping that he misheard.

“.....Yeah… four thousand dollars.”

“R-romeo, that’s, that’s five times what you spent on the last ring!” Benny yells, finally finding his voice again. “Four thousand dollars?! Are you fucking crazy?! We are NOT spending four thousand dollars on a ring! Do you even have any idea WHERE that money would come from?! Do you?! Because I gotta tell you, Romeo, I don’t happen to have four thousand bucks shoved up my ass at the moment, do you?!”

The jeweler shoots a bewildered look over his shoulder at Romeo and Benny, as do the two other men in the shop. Romeo flushes, feeling all six eyeballs glued to him and his irate cousin.

“Benny, hold up, wait, I can explain….”

 

Benvolio snorts and rolls his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest and glowering up at his cousin. “Oh, my bad, please, do explain yourself.”

“Okay, look, I have five hundred dollars stored in my bank account. I can make a withdrawal and-”

“And what? The eight hundred me and Mercutio gave you added with your savings is still less than half of what you need!”

“Well,” Romeo flushes, scratching at the back of his head sheepishly. “I was wondering if you and Cutio could possibly….could possibly lend me a little more.”

“You seriously expect me to hand over another three thousand dollars? Are you fucking with me or what?”

“No, it’s just….I’ll pay you back, I swear. I can probably ring up my mom and get her to loan me at least one thousand and then we can maybe convince Mercutio to call his uncle and get him to lend us two thousand-”

“No,” Benny says sternly, shaking his head and cutting his cousin off mid sentence. “No fucking way. Look, maybe Aunt Matilda will give you a loan, but there’s no way in hell that Mercutio and I can lend you anymore than we already have, nor is there a chance in hell that Mercutio’s uncle will loan him any more than fifty dollars. You know how their relationship is, you know that he’s not just going to hand Cutio a fat check anymore. Besides, are you really going to try and persuade him to make that phone call? Do you have any idea how awkward and weird it’s going to be?”

Romeo blanches slightly, rubbing at the back of his head. “Okay….let’s say mom gives me two thousand dollars-”

“And where’s the last seven hundred dollars coming from!? Romeo, no one has the money for this! Me and Mercutio gave you as much as we could afford to without being unable to pay rent! Aunt Matilda and Uncle Wesley most likely won’t be willing to give you more than one thousand, if that. They don’t approve of your choice, okay? We’ve all been over this plenty of times before during some of the most awkward family dinners I’ve ever been guilt-tripped into attending. If it were another girl, maybe they’d pay for the ring themselves, but they won’t because you want to marry a Capulet.”

Romeo sighs, rubbing at his face and fidgeting. “Maybe-”

“No, forget it. I’m going back to the car to wait for you. I’ll see you once you’ve figured this mess out,” Benny mutters, starting to feel self-conscious as he catches the other customers staring at him warily.

“Benny,” Romeo mutters pleadingly.

Benny just shakes his head, cheeks a bright shade of pink as he swiftly makes his way for the door and exits, hurrying through the crowded mall and making a hasty beeline for parking lot.

Benvolio: Well, I became my Aunt Matilda tonight.

Mercutio: ???? Did you buy things you really didn’t need because they were on sale??

Benvolio: No, I screamed like a crazed lunatic in public like there was no one else around to overhear my tirade.

Mercutio: Oh, Benny…

Benvolio: He’s seriously trying to convince me to hand him over more money so that he can buy this ring, which, by the way, turned out to be even MORE expensive than I thought it would be.

Mercutio: How much?

Benvolio: Four thousand bucks.

Mercutio: Jesus….how much was he asking for?

Benvolio: Not sure. He was trying to come up with all of these ways to amass this money, talking about calling up his parents and asking for a loan and considering asking you to call your Uncle to ask for money.

Mercutio: Yeah, that soooo would’ve gone over well.

Benvolio: I know, that’s what I told him.

Mercutio: So….what’s going on? Is he picking another one or is he calling his parents or what?

Benvolio: I honestly don’t know. I realized very shortly after my outburst that people were staring at me like a seven-headed alien, so I left to wait in the car.

Mercutio: Hey, cheer up. You’re not becoming your aunt if you went to wait in the car. Your aunt has ranting sessions in the middle of Target on a weekly basis and NEVER seems to realize that her raving has attracted the attention of other shoppers.

Benvolio: Wow, that makes me feel so much better. Thank you.

Mercutio: I feel like that was sarcastic.

Benvolio: It was. How’s Juliet?

Mercutio: Well, she’s currently on the phone with her jackass of a cousin, crying to him about what happened.

Benvolio: Oh shit

Mercutio: Yeah. I hope that Romeo gets everything together soon and fixes this or I have a really bad feeling that Tybalt is going to try and track you guys down for the sole purpose of kicking Romeo’s ass.

Benvolio sighs, the feeling of anxiety in his stomaching just growing and becoming heavier and heavier. “Oh shit,” he murmurs to himself, running his hands through his hair.

All he wanted was to have a quiet, semi-romantic evening without leaving the flat. Alls he wanted was to eat spaghetti and make love to his partner in the bath tub.

Apparently life decided that he was asking for too much.
-----------------------------

“You’re so good at this!” Juliet marvels, staring wide-eyed into the hand mirror she’s been holding up with a shaking arm for the last hour. “Why didn’t you go to beauty school and become a hairdresser or cosmetologist?”

“Meh,” Mercutio mutters with a shrug, continuing to part Juliet’s hair into sections, braiding the long, dark strands and curling the ends. “I’m not sure, Jules. I guess I was always just drawn to photography, you know? I liked the idea of capturing life in it’s most simplistic and complex forms, it was an intriguing subject to me. I DO love this kind of thing though, and I haven’t had beautiful hair like yours to play with since my dad threw out my doll styling head when I was a kid.”

Jules, somewhat intoxicated from the bottle of cheap wine her and Mercutio blew through and overemotional from the night’s events, looks absolutely heartbroken, trying to turn her head to give Mercutio a look of pity.

“Your dad threw away your doll styling head?” She asks, sounding as if she’s one the verge of tears. “Why the hell would he do that?”

Mercutio snorts and shakes his head. “Because the thought of his son playing with dolls or styling girls’ hair freaked him out. My uncle was the one who bought it for me in the first place, I mean, my uncle was the one who raised me so he bought me the majority of the things that I owned. Anyway, for my ninth birthday he got me the styling head and I loved it. It had nice, thick, blond hair you could brush out, straighten, curl, trim, whatever."

"Like a bodiless barbie doll!" Juliet cries.

Mecurtio chuckles and nods. "Yeah, like a bodiless barbie dolls. I thought it was the shit as a kid, I played around with it a lot in my bedroom, using my late aunt’s beauty products. Sometimes I took it downstairs and messed around with it on the living room floor with my uncle, little brother, and cousin all sitting there, and none of them ever seemed to care that I was playing with a toy marketed towards girls. My dad, he was a whole other story though.”

“What happened?” Juliet asks, trying to turn around to look at him again. Mercutio gently places his right hand on her jaw, keeping her facing forward so that she doesn’t screw him up as he curls the end of her big, intricate braid.

“Well, he came back from Romania earlier than my uncle thought he would. He usually came by twice a year at most, usually around Christmas and again in July, but that year he came home at the end of May. At first I was ecstatic to have him home….I loved my dad as a kid and whenever he came home he came back with cool stories of his travels, gifts for Paris, Valentine, and me...and a new woman hanging off of his arm."

"Riskay!" Juliet chirps.

Mercutio laughs. "Totally. Anyway, on the day of his arrival I foolishly brought the head downstairs while he was sitting there with my uncle, catching up and playing cards. The second he saw it, he lost his shit and starting yelling at me, angrily telling me that it was a toy for girls and calling me a plethora of slurs. He quickly turned all of his anger on my uncle, though, accusing him of corrupting me by letting this kind of thing go on underneath his roof. He took it off of me and threw it out and, well, that was that.”

“Aw, Cutio,” Jules murmurs, reaching back to grip gently at his forearm. “I’m so sorry! Your dad had no excuse to do that to you, he’s nothing but a... a homophobic dick!”

“I know, we haven’t really talked since I graduated from my GED class.”

Jules furrows her eyebrows and stares dubiously into the hand mirror, trying to catch Mercutio’s eyes. “That’s nearly a decade ago,” she mutters.

Mercutio shrugs. “There are some people you just have to cut out of your lives, Jules. There’s no point in having toxic people hanging around you to drag you down.”

“I know but still….wow. Can I ask a personal question?”

“Go for it.”

“You just said that you and your dad don’t talk, but do you and your uncle still talk? I only ask because….you know that my family is practically up your uncle’s ass since they want connections and, I mean, being tight with the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the state is one of the best ways to go about that. My parents tried to set me up with your cousin and during all that there was a lot of talk about your family and…. I talked to your uncle, but he never said anything about you. He talked about Paris and Valentine, but he never talked about you by name, he just mentioned that he had another nephew who was a few years older....”

Mercutio sighs, taking a moment before replying. “We….we talk occasionally. We stopped talking on a regular basis around the time that I moved in with Benny.”

“Was it...was it because you were moving in with Benny instead of Brittany?” Juliet asks, quirking an eyebrow.

“No, it had nothing to do with me moving in with another man. My uncle isn’t the least bit homophobic, he’s bisexual himself and he never seemed to have any qualms about me being with Benny. It was all about my….my life decisions before that. I didn’t finish high school, I went to a crappy liberal arts school instead of going to a ‘real college’ like he’d always dreamt of me doing, I didn’t join in on the family business, I wasted four years of my life doing drugs….it’s my fault. He finally just decided he couldn’t deal with it all anymore and pawned me off on Benny to deal with. I pushed him until his breaking point.”

Juliet sighs, shifting in her seat. “It’s not you, Cutio. It takes two people to ruin a relationship.”

“Not always, Jules. Sometimes it just takes one and the breaking of the other’s spirit.”

Juliet shakes her head. “No, I don’t think so, take me and my father for instance. I haven’t talked to him in over five years now, not once, and I think he’s mostly to blame, but I played a part in our estrangement, too. He hates Romeo, he always has, and I….I kept trying to force the relationship, you know? I kept pushing for them to get along, for my dad to forget the dumb feud he has with the Montagues and accept him and the fact that I’d fallen in love with him instead of the big CEO’s son. It never worked, my dad just shut me out, and all because I’d kept pushing. I always wonder if I’d let it all go, if I’d let my dad get used to the idea of his daughter being with a Montague boy on his own time, if things would be different now.”

“I don’t know, Jules. The rift between your and Romeo’s family runs pretty damn deep. It’s not something that can easily be bridged.”

Juliet sighs heavily, eyes becoming damp and red, tears threatening to spill over.

“I miss him. I was a big daddy’s girl growing up, you know? I love my mom of course, even though she was always distant, and my nanny, but I was definitely my dad’s girl. He used to take me with him when he went fishing or camping and didn’t even seem to care in the slightest that all of the other men had brought their sons. He was the one who taught me how to throw a football and he was also the one who taught me how to drive. I just….I miss him and I want him back in my life but…. I guess maybe he’ll come around now, now that he gets to gloat about being right.”

Mercutio quirks an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“He warned me about Montagues, he said that they’re untrustworthy and lazy and that if you turn your back on them they’ll sink the knife right in. I know he was just being bitter because of what happened between him and Romeo’s dad, but because this is how my relationship blew up… I don’t know if he’ll move on, I don’t know if I’ll be allowed back after betraying the family name or if he’ll just tell me ‘I told you so’ and turn away from me.”

“Oh, Jules….he’s holding a grudge heavy as the fucking planet if that’s how he reacts,” Mercutio mutters sternly, taking a step back and spinning the chair around. “If he loves you, no matter if you’re with a Montague or not, he’ll start to try and bridge the gap between you. I get that it’s probably hard for him to swallow his daughter being with the son of people he hates, but he’s had plenty of time to come around now. Do you want me to do your makeup?”

“Are you as good with makeup as you are hair?” Juliet asks with a strained smile, gazing at her reflection in the mirror.

“I usually try to at least appear to be humble, but yes, yes I am.”

“Alright then,” Juliet says, a few tears winding down her cheeks, lips quivering. “I’ll go get my makeup case, I want you to prove it, Escalus. Wait here.”

Mercutio watches her hop off of the kitchen chair and hurry down the hallway sadly, rubbing at his sweat-damp forehead. He slips his cell phone out of his jean pocket and checks for any new texts from Benny.

Mercutio: Hey, did the ring conundrum sort itself out?

Benvolio: Yes, he just came back to the car a few minutes ago. He purchased one well within his price range that I think looks nice.

Mercutio: Send me a picture.

Benvolio: What do you think? It was only five hundred.

Mercutio: I like the pearl, it’s elegant. I’m sure Juliet will love it.

Benvolio: How is she?

Mercutio: Hanging in there. She perked up a little when I suggested doing her hair and painting her nails, but she’s still upset obviously. I’ve kind of been trying to distract her.

Benvolio: This’ll all be over soon…..hopefully. We’re on our way over now. I need you to do me two big favors though.

Mercutio: Yes?

Benvolio: Answer this: is Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran or All I Want is You by U2 a more romantic song to propose to?

Mercutio: Personally, I think Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley would be my first choice, but out of those two I’d go with Ed Sheeran since Jules is such a big fan.

Benvolio: Alright, Ed Sheeran it is. Romeo’s been tied between the two for the last ten minutes and apparently my opinion wasn’t good enough.

Mercutio: Your opinion means everything, Benny. The whole world stands still to listen to you explain your views on our barbaric culture.

Benvolio: I’m not in the mood for your antics at this point, Mercutio, please keep the snark minimal tonight. There’s another thing I need you to do, and it’s more difficult than stating your opinion.

Mercutio: You know that I love a challenge, Benny.

Benvolio: I need you to get Romeo’s guitar down to the lobby of the apartment building.

Mercutio: ??? Where is it?

Benvolio: He says it’s in his and Jules’ bedroom by the doorway.

Mercutio: Alright. Give me twenty minutes to figure this out…. I take it he’s going to try and greet her in song to avoid the questions and hysteria that would most likely be the outcome of trying to talk to her?

Benvolio: Yes. Let me know when it’s in the lobby.

Mercutio: Got it.
---------------------------

“Do you know all of the words?” Benny asks warily, glancing over at his cousin as they drive around the rundown Walmart for the twenty third time. “I know Jules is a big Ed Sheeran fan, but I’ve never seen you listen to anything that's not indie as hell.”

“Yeah. Trust me, Jules wears the pants when it comes to who controls what radio station is on in the car. I’ve listened to plenty of Ed Sheeran and Adele in my lifetime.”

“So you know all of the words?”

“I think so, yeah,” Romeo mutters, face scrunching up as he thinks. “I’m going to need to practice a few times before going up to my apartment though, make sure I have it all down perfectly.”

“And you know the chords?”

“I can barely read music, I play things by ear most of the time. If I listen to the song once or twice I should be able to do it.”

“How the hell do you teach a music class for preteens if you can’t read music?”

“I said I can barely read music, I didn’t say that I can’t. I know the rules, I know how all of it works with the lines and spaces, it just doesn’t compute in my head when I go to actually play the guitar or the saxophone. It’s all ears when I’m in the middle of playing something.”

“Seriously?” Benny asks, looking rather impressed. “What about that time you played 'In My Time of Dying' at school in tenth grade to try and impress Rosaline? You had a sheet in front of you, I thought it had all of the chords. That’s, like, an eleven minute song!”

“No, I had the words written down. I have a harder time remembering lyrics than I do notes.”

“Jesus,” Benvolio mutters, shaking his head. “That’s seriously impressive, Romeo.”

“You underestimate me, Benny,” Romeo says with a cocky smile. “I know I tend to be pretty incompetent most of the time, but I do have my talents.”

“You did an amazing job that time in the cafeteria…. Even if Rosaline didn’t pay any attention to you during the song. It sounded good enough to be on a CD, I’d listen to it again.”

“It would’ve been better if Balthasar could’ve kept up…. He was lagging a bit during the first few minutes of the song, but he did a half decent job. I would’ve found someone who was more confident on the drums, but he was my only friend who had any skill at all with percussion.”

“It was still great, even Tybalt couldn’t lie about it, his applause was just as exuberant as anyone else’s.”

“Except Rosaline’s,” Romeo says, grinning at the memory that used to cause him anguish. “I thought she was a Led Zeppelin fan because her art project that year. She made a really detailed painting of a cemetery with all of these quotes about death on the tombstone and one of them was ‘Oh, Saint Peter, at the gates of heaven, won’t you let me in? I never did no harm, I never did no wrong’. So naturally, you know, I assumed she liked Led Zeppelin since she quoted them.”

“Rosaline’s favorite musical artists in high school were all hardcore pop,” Benny says with a smirk. “I have a feeling she just found the quote on the internet and thought it was poetic and fitting for her project.”

“People can have differing musical tastes!”

Benny grins and shakes his head, checking his phone for a new text after he hears it buzz. “Yeah, they can, but you're one to talk. For three weeks during sophomore year, you pretended to be the world’s biggest J Cole fan to impress that Harper girl, and I don't think you've ever even-”

Romeo snorts and playfully rolls his eyes. "Shut up, Benny. I didn't expect her to actually ask me what my favorite song was..."

“Hey, start to head back to your building. Mercutio says that your guitar is in the lobby.”

Romeo nods, turning out of the deserted parking lot and back onto the main highway. “I wonder how he did it…”

Benny shrugs and lets out a heavy sigh. “Mercutio manages to do a lot of things that baffle me. I’ve learnt to just try my best not to question how he does what he does and let it go.”

“Yeah but….he’s with Jules, isn’t he? You told me when I picked you up that he was in my apartment-”

“Just let it slide, Romeo. You’ve been friends with Mercutio since the fourth grade, you should know better than anyone that he has a tendency to do things that most would think impossible….or irrational.”
----------------------------------

“Okay…..I see my guitar over there but…WHY are the rest of my things down here?!” Romeo asks, panic edging his voice as he and his cousin hurriedly enter the apartment complex.

Benvolio stares around the lobby, face blank. His cousin’s guitar is propped up by the wall of tiny, silver mailboxes…..along with the cases for his saxophone, flute, violin, and keyboard. His clothes are scattered across the carpeted floor along with all of his dumb knickknacks and the photos he keeps stacked on his nightstand.

“Why...why is all my stuff down here?!” Romeo asks again, staring around the lobby with wide eyes as he bends over to pick up a pair of jeans. “Benny, did you tell him to JUST bring down my guitar?”

Benvolio thickly swallows, staring at the next mess of the night for him to deal with. “Yeah, I specifically asked for him to just bring your guitar down here….uh….okay, we’ll pick this all up later. Just…. find the song on the internet and start practicing, I’ll deal with this.”

Romeo nods, slinging his jeans over his shoulder and picking up his guitar, absently strumming while he searches for the lyrics on the internet. He tries his best to pretend that all of his shit isn’t currently decorating the lobby like a yard sale.

Benvolio sighs, picking up his cousin’s snowglobe from Santa Monica as he pulls his phone out of his pocket.

Benvolio: I know that I asked for you to bring Romeo’s guitar to the lobby, but why the hell did you go the extra mile and bring all of his instruments and the entirety of his wardrobe down here too??

Mercutio: Sorry. I couldn’t just get his guitar downstairs….

Benvolio: What the hell did you do?

Mercutio: I told Jules that she’d feel better if she threw all of his stuff out, that it’d be liberating and let Romeo know that it’s over.

Benvolio: So….you both carried all of his belongings down here to signify that she knows he’s cheating and that she won’t stand for it?

Mercutio: Yes, and I have to tell you, Benny, it was actually really fun. She was laughing and cursing way more than I’ve ever heard her curse before and she said she felt a little better afterwards. We talked about your cousin’s fickle behavior over the last few months and I got her to see that she deserved better than someone who takes her and her support and love for granted. It was a very empowering and emotional night.

Benvolio: Okay but….my cousin isn’t actually cheating on her.

Mercutio: I know, but if he were, I’d be confident now that she’d have enough confidence and self-respect to walk away with her head held high.

Benvolio: How anti-Romeo did the two of you get tonight?

Mercutio: We both talked about all of the annoying things he does and all of his undesirable traits, like his sometimes suffocating sense of insecurity and tendency to become detached and unresponsive, getting lost in whatever project he’s been sucked into and neglecting his loved ones’ needs. Apparently he has a bad habit of leaving the toilet seat up, too.

Benvolio: I swear to God, if you just prepared her for single-life again and turned her against him, wasting our entire night and single-handedly ruining their eight year relationship….

Mercutio: I did no such thing! Everyone has to bitch about their partner SOMETIMES, Benny! We all have to get it off our chests, that’s why girlfriends go out on Friday nights to get wasted on Cosmos and guy friends go to get shit-faced in bars. We all need a breather sometimes.

Benvolio: Did you talk about me then?

Mercutio: Just a little….

Benvolio: What do I ever do to you?! I have faithfully been putting up with your anxiety-inducing antics and insane schemes since the age of ten!

Mercutio: I love you.

Benvolio: This is not over, we are revisiting this later.

“I think I’ve got this,” Romeo mutters, staring up at the ceiling in concentration as his fingers skillfully strum the chords, the familiar tune that’s been playing non-stop on the radio all summer clearly audible.

“Alright, sounds good, do you know the lyrics?” Benny asks, starting to pick up some of his cousin’s discarded t-shirts.

Romeo quirks an eyebrow, a look of worry etched onto his face. “Good? Just good?”

Benvolio sighs and rolls his eyes. “It’s fucking fantastic, Mick Jagger. Do you know the lyrics?”

Romeo nods, clearing his throat. “When your legs don’t work like they used to before-”

“Alright, yeah, good. Let’s….let’s go up and have you propose, yeah?”

Romeo nods, face paling slightly and hands starting to shake. “Alright…..afterwards can we-”

“Yeah, we’ll come back down here and get the rest of your stuff,” Benvolio answers with a nod, slipping the snow globe underneath his arm so that he can grab Romeo’s keyboard before stepping into the elevator.

Romeo hesitates a moment before following his cousin, pressing his back against the wall and staring down at his Converse as the elevator doors close with a ding.

There’s a heavy silence between them until the doors open again on the sixth floor.

“Benny?”

“Yeah?”

“I think that I’m going to puke.”

Benvolio looks over at his cousin warily.

“You’re going to puke?”

Romeo nods, face completely ashen at this point. “I...I think so.”

“Then turn your head the other way and vomit.”

“Benny,” Romeo pleads, burying his face in his heads. “Can you please at least pretend to be sympathetic for once?”

“I’m always a little too sympathetic towards you,” Benvolio replies heatedly, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I don’t know if I can do this, Benny! Seriously, what if she says no?! Then what?! I’ve loved her since I first met her and then we’ve built this life together, I mean, the two of us have our apartment and it’s been ours for years now and-”

“Jesus Christ, Romeo!” Benvolio groans, shaking his head. “Yes, you two have been together for eight goddamn years! You’ve lived together for the last six of them and if she was to say no, I’d be beyond shocked! Come one! If she didn’t want to spend the rest of her godforsaken life with you, why would she have stuck around all of these years?! Why would she have put up with your insecurities and bull shit for so long if she wasn’t serious about being with you?! Why would she have stayed with you despite her parents basically acting like she’s dead to them and your parents treating both of you like shit on the bottom of their shoes if she didn’t love you?!"

"You really think she'll say yes? No doubt?" Romeo asks meekly, face bright pink.

Benvolio rolls his eyes and dramatically nods.

"Yeah, zero doubt, Romeo! She would’ve sooooo been done a long fucking time ago if she wasn’t serious about you. She would’ve cut it off after her parents quite talking to her or when your mom refused to have her over for Thanksgiving the first time! She would’ve walked away two or three months into the relationship, not eight fucking years! She’s GOING to say yes and you NEED to ask NOW! Look at the mess you’ve made for yourself by waiting so long! She thinks you’re out there snorting coke off of a prostitute’s tits and sleeping around or whatever! She thinks you’re LEAVING her, that’s why all of your shit is in the lobby! GO! We’re doing this now!”

Romeo swallows thickly and nods, looking over at his cousin for a stern look of assurance before headed down the hallway, shoulders drawn back and guitar at the ready.

He knocks on the door twice before Juliet answers, swinging it open and staring at him blankly with red-rimmed eyes for a moment, Mercutio hovering anxiously behind her.

She looks beyond pissed off at first, glossy lips curling into a snarl and hands balling up at her sides as if she’s tempted to deck him. The anger quickly sizzles out though, Jules isn’t anything like her hotheaded cousin, she’s always been one to be saddened by hardships instead of angered. Her shouts always quickly disintegrate into sobs. Her lips quiver and tears start to build up in her eyes as she stares at her boyfriend of eight years, shaking her head forlornly, hands un-balling to grip at her arms so tightly that her knuckles turn white as snow.

She looks heartbroken and Romeo just wants to wrap his arms around her and hold her close, whisper reassurances into her ear and make her pain fade away. It takes him a second to collect himself before he remembers his mission, remembers what he’s doing.

And then he starts to play.

He has the song down perfectly chord wise and he really does know all of the lyrics. His singing is off key though, his voice shakes and his own eyes fill up with tears, feeling beyond remorseful for having had caused his love so much misery and hurt. He manages to keep his hands from shaking so that he can play, and he sings the song to the best of his ability, looking Juliet in the eye the entire time, hoping he can get her to understand what’s been going on, hoping he can make up for the obvious pain that he’s unintentionally managed to cause her.

After he finishes the song, there’s a solid minute of silence. Romeo and Juliet both stare at each other, tears streaming down their cheeks, Benny and Mercutio both fidget as they watch the scene in front of them intently.

“Jules I….I know that I’ve had you worried sick these last few months, and I’m so, so sorry….that wasn’t my intention at all, I was really just nervous and scared about broaching the subject that I’m about to bring up in a few seconds here. I wanted for this moment to be perfect, I wanted for it to be cheesy, rom-com worthy, teeth rottingly perfect….but I seriously fucked that up. I lied to you, I did. I never had to stay late after work and I never went out for drinks with Balthasar and Benny… I was out planning for this moment. I had all of these big plans, too, I was trying to save up for a horse and carriage ride, I tried to get reservations at several top notch restaurants downtown….all in vain, as you can see. I just….I love you, Jules. I WANT to always be with you, I want to roll over in bed and see you laying there next to me, I want to look over in the car and see you sitting shotgun….so…. I want to ask you a very important question.”

Jules’ hands are cupped over her mouth and she lets out a sob, tears and mascara freely flowing down her cheeks in rivulets.

“I’m sorry again that I butchered this so fucking bad,” Romeo mutters, sniffling and wiping his eyes as he drops down to one knee, digging around in his pocket for the little wooden box. “I really did try, but I have the tendency to severely fuck things up…. Juliet Capulet, the girl who turned my life around and made me a better man, the brave woman who defied hatred by my side and stuck with me no matter how harsh our families got…. will you make me the happiest man on the entire miserable fucking planet and marry me?”

Juliet sobs again, squeezing her eyes shut as she frantically nods. She shakes like a leaf in the wind as Romeo slowly clambers back to his feet, tears streaming down his cheeks as well. The ring that Romeo spent twenty minutes picking out is slipped onto her finger, and Juliet grabs onto him like he’s a lone piece of driftwood in a choppy sea, crying into his shoulder and clinging to him for dear life, frantic apologies falling from her lips.

He holds onto her just as tightly, rubbing her back as she sobs into his shoulder, muttering rapid ‘I love you’s and ‘No, I’m so sorry’s into her hair.

Mercutio smiles, wishing he’d brought his camera along so that he could capture this moment in the quality that it deserves to be caught in. He makes do with the crappy camera on his phone, snapping a few pictures to memorialize the chaotic evening.

Benny feels his own eyes burn, smiling pridefully at Romeo and his new fiance. This has been a long fucking time coming, and after the mess and panic, it all panned itself out rather nicely. He should’ve expected this to be so hectic though, honestly. Nothing between the Montagues and Capulets has ever been smooth, so why would marriage be any different?

And that’s when both Benny and Mercutio seem to momentarily snap out of their joyous reverie, staring at each other blankly.

This engagement is NOT going to go down well with either Romeo or Juliet’s family. There will be no ecstatic parents, happy of the news of Romeo’s proposal. The Montagues will most likely be angry at their son for proposing to a Capulet, even after all of these years, and the Capulets will be angry at Juliet for giving up her honored family name in turn for taking up the name of their worst enemies.

Romeo and Juliet both seem to be aware of this too, as the smiles have been wiped from their faces, leaving them both staring over each other’s shoulders with tear-filled, helpless eyes, holding onto each other tightly.

The rough ride has only just begun.

Chapter Text

When most happy couples become engaged, they quickly inform all of their friends and family of the joyous espousal through a series of painstaking but happy phone calls and arranged brunches.

This is not the case for Romeo Montague and Juliet soon-to-no-longer-be Capulet.

It’s been two weeks since the messy but successful proposal, and Benny and Mercutio are still the only outside parties to be aware of the engagement. Whether or not Romeo and Juliet simply plan to quietly elope behind the scenes or face the almost certain backlash of their families and throw a big, fat Italian wedding is unknown. Benny bets his money on the former for the sake of his sanity, Mercutio on the latter for the sake of the drama.

Romeo is in the weeds and is just happy that his girlfriend agreed to spend the rest of her life with a lovestruck fool like him. He honestly couldn’t care less about HOW they get married (a Michael Jackson impersonator could perform the rites for all he cares), he just wants to BE married to Juliet already.

Juliet secretly wishes to have an elaborate wedding like she’s dreamt of since middle school, princess ball gown, romantic first dance and all...but she knows that such a thing may very well be impossible given their special circumstances. It’s not like she NEEDS to have her dream wedding, because she already has the most important thing, the perfect guy, so she assumes the rest of the pieces will just fall into place.

No matter how everything pans out, no matter what sort of wedding is held and who is present, both Romeo and Juliet know that all that matters is the end result: their legal marriage.

It’s just uncertain how they’ll get from point A to point B.
------------------------------------------

The Verona Community Theatre is a proud, old building sitting at the top of a hill for all to see. Such a dramatic display is necessary, because the building is honestly the closest thing that the town has to a historical monument, and no one wants to come across as uncultured, now do they?

The theatre has always been held with much respect by Verona’s citizens since its establishment decades ago. Theatre is an art form, a thing of elegance and grace that presents quality performances of the classics such as ‘Antigone’ and ‘Medea’.

It’s an establishment with standards, an establishment that frowns upon bizarre and unchristian plays and performers alike. Only shows that are approved by the Roman Catholic priest of St. Frances are brought to life upon the holy stage, and all actors and actresses are also given a background check by the church.

Everything is prim and proper in the respected Verona Community Theatre. All rules of both the priest and God alike are followed to a ‘T’ to ensure public safety.

At least...that’s what it was before Rosaline Maccazi was made the sole owner and director.

Rosaline truly does appreciate classic literature (‘Madea’ is actually one of her favorite plays of all time, as nothing hits so close to home as a fellow woman’s struggles with promiscuous men), but she also appreciates some pretty thought-provoking new-age plays.

The first play she directed two years ago was headed by a very talented, very flamboyant gay man, and neither the church nor the traditionalist mayor granting the theatre money to remain up and running was pleased.

However, the critics were impressed by the preformance of all the actors (gay, straight and in-between) as well as the riveting plot. Extolling reports were published, thus starting Rosaline’s indefinite career in theatre as a director instead of a performer as she had dreamt of since freshman year.

A production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ is currently being orchestrated, and Father Lawrence has already sent Rosaline eight polite but desperate letters, begging her to reconsider and perform something more Jesus-friendly instead, as he is honestly sick of church-goers and the mayor bitching at him about it. No compromise has been breached, and Juliet would honestly be more surprised if Rosaline did cave, as she’s always been headstrong and stubborn.

So she’s sure to have an opinion on how Juliet should get married.

“Rosaline?” She calls as she approaches the heavy wooden doors of the theatre. “Hey, Rosie? Can you let me in?”

There’s no answer.

“Rosie? Hey, are you here?”

Still no answer, which is odd really, as Rosaline is always either at the theatre, cooped up in her condo, or occasionally downtown in the strip district, bar hopping and trying to scout out potential talent by watching the tipsy karaoke contestants.

“Rosaline?”

There’s a loud bang from within the theatre that makes Juliet leap back a foot or two, followed by angry shouts.

“Please, Miss Maccazi, just consider it?”

“I’ve told you no at least a thousand times now, Father! Don’t you have better things to worry about, like banning slow dances at high school prom and making sure there’s plenty of aspirin for all us women to hold between our knees?”

”Miss Maccazi, you know that I personally take no issue with your productions here, I’m simply worried about the funding being cut off and your safety!”

The doors of the theatre are thrown open and Father Lawrence and Rosaline both march out, Rosie looking agitated and Father Lawrence looking fed up and tired.

“My safety? What the hell, pardon my french, do you mean my-”

“Don’t you remember the uproar after some of your other risque performances? Many people in Verona are unhappy with-”

“Since it’s the twenty-first century, I assume I won’t be burnt at the stake,” Rosaline dead pans, causing Father Lawrence to pinch the bridge of his nose and wince. “There’s plenty of people here who enjoy theatre for what it is, we almost always sell out the house.”

“I know and I’m impressed, but the small minority who are displeased-”

“Let me know if they’re assembling the pyres, Father. Oh, Jules!” Rosie exclaims, face lighting up as she looks over and spots her best friend. “How long have you been out here, honey?”

Juliet smiles and can’t help but feel awkward for walking right into their fight. “Hey, Rosie, sorry to interrupt.”

“It’s quite fine, Juliet, I was just leaving,” Father Lawrence says with a shake of his head and a faint smile. “How are you doing? I haven’t seen you in mass the last few weeks.”

“Oh, I’m fine, just a little busy. Are my parents still attending Sunday mass at noon?”

“Yes, so you and Romeo should continue to come to Saturday mass in the evening,” Father Lawrence replies, smile softening. “Please, tell me, how is Benvolio? I haven’t seen him in years.”

“He’s great,” Juliet replies with a shrug, not sure if it’s wise to say much else considering her brother-in-law’s life decisions. “Still working at Nationwide as a database administrator.”

“That’s good to hear. Make sure to tell him that he is by no means exiled from the church...I’ve missed seeing him at mass and I’d love to meet the Escalus boy.”

Juliet can’t help but smile and nod. She should’ve known, Father Lawrence has never been one to show hostility. “I’ll make sure to tell him that. Have a good day, Father.”

“You too, Miss Capulet. Please consider my alternatives, Miss Macazzi, but I wish you the best. If you ever want to talk, you know where to find me.”

Rosaline sighs softly and nods, shaking the priest's’ hand and waving to him as he goes before turning back to Juliet.

“What’s up with you, chickadee? Is everything okay at home?”

“I take it your latest show is turning some heads with the more traditional crowd?” Juliet asks with a knowing smile, quickly turning the spotlight back around on her friend as they walk into the theatre.

Rosaline dismissively waves her hand and rolls her eyes as she ushers Juliet into her office. “Don’t they always? I have nothing against Father Lawrence, he’s a good man, but I highly doubt I’ll piss anyone off enough to find myself at gunpoint.”

“The mayor could stop funding the theatre,” Juliet points out as she plops down on the patched up sofa. “Since you’ve officially pissed off both of our representatives with your offensive productions, if the mayor decides to stop granting you a check, you’re screwed…”

“Won’t happen,” Rosaline insists as she straightens up the disastrous office, as if picking up a few papers and Micky D’s bags will make it look any better. “Trust me, Jules, it’s all good here in Verona’s center of art. Now...how’s the boyfriend situation?”

“Like I told you last week, it’s all alright now, we just had a misunderstanding.”

“You sure?” Rosaline asks, quirking an eyebrow. “You seemed pretty convinced that he was up to no good, and to be honest, I was too.”

“No, that’s actually why I dropped by...I have some news.”

“Good or bad?”

“Depends on how you look at it,” Juliet replies with a nervous laugh, knowing that such news would make her mother weep. “I’m assuming that you’ll take it as good, though.”

“I’m listening, honey.”

“Well, all of Romeo’s weird behavior...it was because he was trying to...well, he proposed to me two weeks ago.”

Rosaline gasps unintentionally, black rimmed eyes going wide as she stares at her friend in disbelief.

“He proposed?!”

Juliet smiles and nods, face turning bright red. “He proposed,” she repeats, watching as Rosaline begins to pace around the messy office, wringing her hands. “I would’ve told you sooner, but-”

“But what?! Why didn’t you tell me sooner, you bitch?” Rosaline asks with mock anger, shooting a mischievous smile over her shoulder. “You’d think that I of all people would be in the loop!”

Juliet laughs quietly and shakes her head. “I would’ve told you but we’ve been keeping it quiet. Once word gets out-”

“Oh, I’m sure your families will be absolutely thrilled,” Rosaline jokes dryly, whipping around and dropping to her knees, clutching at her chest as if in immense pain. “My sweet Lord! My daughter Juliet marrying a filthy fucking Montague! What has this world come to?! It will be the end of meeee!”

Juliet rolls her eyes at her friend’s dramatic antics, just glad that Mercutio isn’t present to play along and take it to the nth degree.

“That’s sort of why we haven’t been going around talking about it...the shit hits the fan the second our families find out, so we’re just enjoying the prospect of being married for a little while before the storm.”

“Don’t worry about it too much, I mean, they must’ve known it was going to happen eventually, right? You two have been together longer than those who practice abstinence.”

“I know, but still...this isn’t going to go down smoothly.”

Rosaline nods, taking a seat next to the other woman and putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. “We’ll make it work, girl, don’t you worry. Now...I need all of the details that you’ve been withholding from me! Tell me how the question was popped and, for the love of God, let me see the ring!”
------------------------------------------

“You’d be surprised how fucking hard it is to book reservations at a stupid, fucking restaurant,” Benvolio mutters, glaring at the phone book on the table in front of him with disgust. “Seriously, I’ve now called four places and been told that they can reserve a table for me five months from now. Five fucking months!”

Romeo watches his cousin stew from the sofa with slight concern, not used to seeing Benny get so bent out of shape over something so trivial.

“Uh, there’s plenty of restaurants that you could go to that don’t require reservations?”

Benny seemingly ignores his cousin, continuing to impatiently flip through the yellow pages in search of an upscale yet reasonably priced place to take Mercutio for a nice night-out. See, they DO go out! They do!

“Hey, while you’re looking through that, do you think you could peek at some caterers?” Romeo asks offhandedly, the wedding forever in the back of his mind. “I brought up eloping last night, and Jules didn’t really seem all that crazy about it, so I guess we’re having a semi-traditional wedding.”

“I think you need to find a venue before you start worrying about catering,” Benny mumbles. “Do you or Jules have any ideas as far as where you want to get married?”

“I don’t know, maybe the church?” Romeo says with a shrug. “I mean, I’ll get married wherever if that’s where Jules wants to get hitched, I’m not picky as long as she shows up.”

“So you’d willingly get married in the middle of a morgue?” Benny asks with a roll of his eyes, really not in the mood for his cousin’s love sick exaggerations.

“Sure.”

“What about at a Justin Bieber concert?”

Romeo hesitates and visibly cringes. “Oh holy shit...I mean...yeah, yeah...I’d go through with it, but I wouldn’t ever be the same again, Benny. That’s like Dante’s ninth circle of hell…the shit music and the crazy preteen girls jumping around….”

“So you love Juliet enough to marry her in front of the Biebs and all of his crazed fangirls? Wow, that’s dedication, I’m actually impressed.”

Romeo scoffs, jumping up off the couch and sauntering over to his cousin with a prideful smile. “I do. I also love Juliet enough to marry her in drag, or in a gay bar, or in a subway.”

“A subway station or the restaurant?”

“Either.”

“Okay, so you don’t give a damn where, do you have any idea of when?”

“No.”

“Are you planning on ever telling Aunt Matilda and Uncle Wesley about your engagement or are we just waiting until they find out through someone else?”

Romeo sheepishly scratches the back of his head and looks down at his feet, all of his confidence suddenly gone.

“I’m going to tell them, I just...I don’t really know how.”

“Do you want me to do it?” Benny asks, shooting his cousin a sympathetic look. “I will if you don’t think that you can.”

“No, I have to tell them myself. They’ll just be angrier if they get it from someone else…”

“Is your engagement public news yet? Because if it is, the clock’s already ticking.”

“We haven’t told anyone, no one is aware except you and Cutio...and we’re hesitating to talk about it because we know our parents are bound to find out in this little fishbowl once the word is out…”

Benvolio nods, closing the yellow pages with a sound thud. “If you really want to try and avoid sudden lashback, you should break the bad news over lunch. If you’re in public-”

“My mom doesn’t hold back. You’ve seen her when she goes shopping.”

“I have...but it’ll be a little less terrifying in a public place.”

Romeo nods and lets out a humorless chuckle. “You know, Benny, most parents would be thrilled that their son was finally tying the knot. Mine are going to fucking lose it.”

Benvolio lets out a heavy sigh and pats his cousin’s back in understanding. “Yeah, I know, but we’ll get through it. You’ve got me in your corner no matter what...so your entire family doesn’t hate the idea of you marrying a Capulet.”

Romeo cracks a small smile. “Thanks, Benny. I’ll always have your back, too.”

“I know.”
------------------------------------------

It’s nearly two in the morning when Romeo wakes up, blinking groggily as he rolls over. His arms feel devastatingly empty without his Juliet curled up in them, so he begins to feel around for her warmth.

“Hey, Jules, c’mere…” he mumbles, hands splaying across the surprisingly cold sheets. “Jules? Baby?”

When Romeo doesn’t get a response, not even an irritated grumble, he rolls back over to turn on the lights.

After his eyes adjust to the blinding light, he sees that he’s the only person in the bedroom, sitting up in the smack middle of their bed without his girlfriend there to act as a wall and keep him on his designated side.

“Jules?” Romeo calls softly as he gets up and makes his way into the hallway, going slowly to avoid tripping or stubbing a toe. “Hey, Jules?”

He hopes that she’s just gotten up to use the bathroom or get a drink, but judging by how cold the sheets were, Romeo has a feeling that his girlfriend has yet to grace the bedroom yet tonight. She has to get up for work at seven, what the hell is she thinking staying up this late?

“Jules, what are you doing, babe?”

Juliet is hunched over the coffee table in the dark living room, the ungodly bright glow of the laptop screen illuminating her face. She seems to be completely and utterly absorbed in whatever it is she’s doing, ignoring her fiance’s presence until he calls out to her a second time.

“What are you doing up, Romeo?” She asks, rubbing her bloodshot eyes. “You have work in the morning.”

“So do you,” Romeo replies, padding across the room to take a seat next to Juliet on the couch and glancing at her laptop screen. “What’re you doing?”

“Nothing,” Juliet insists, attempting to close the laptop lid before Romeo can get a look. “It’s fine, I’ll be in bed soon.”

“No, c’mon, babe, let me see what you’re doing up this late, please? I mean, if it’s something really kinky…you know I don’t mind.”

Juliet giggles and shakes her head, setting the computer in Romeo’s lap for him to see for himself. “No, no porn….Quite the opposite actually, I was just looking at some nearby Catholic churches and gardens...I’m trying to find somewhere for us to get married, a venue.”

“Why wouldn’t we get married in St Frances by Father Lawrence? That’s the church both of us were baptised and confirmed in.”

“I know but…” Juliet hesitates to answer, fidgeting slightly. “If we get married in St Frances...my parents are bound to find out…”

“You weren’t going to tell them?”

“No, I am, I just….I told Rosaline today, and I realized that my family is going to be pretty upset and...I knew this already but, I don’t know if I’m ready for it.”

“If you want to wait a year or two-”

“No, no, no! I want to get married this year!” Juliet insists, grabbing Romeo’s hand and frantically shaking her head. “I want to make you my husband as soon as I can! I just….I feel like our wedding might be better without our families there.”

Romeo slowly nods, noticing in the light of the laptop screen that Juliet has tears in her eyes. “If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do, I promise. But...I have a feeling that you want your family there.”

Juliet shrugs and sniffles, running a hand through her dark hair. “I do...I always envisioned my dad walking me down the aisle but...you get what you get, right? We all have to compromise with what life gives us sometimes.”

Romeo sighs, very well aware how much the cold shoulder from Mr. Capulet affects Juliet. He wishes that he could fix it...but there’s no way to do such a thing, at least not one that he can think off.

“We don’t have to make this decision tonight, Juliet, we’ve got time to do this however we want to. It’s too fucking late for life changing decisions anyway, okay?”

Juliet laughs and nods in agreement, allowing her fiancee to lean over and press a kiss to her forehead.

“You’re going to be exhausted tomorrow morning,” Romeo says with a teasing grin. “You’ll be my little, bitchy zombie.”

“Then maybe I should sleep in...maybe we should both sleep in,” Juliet suggests, snuggling into her boyfriend’s side and letting her heavy eyelids droop. “We could set the alarm for nine and take the day off…”

“Well, I do feel a spontaneous cough coming on…” Romeo replies with a sly smile and an exaggerated example that draws another giggle from the woman tucked into his side. “What about you?”

“I think that my fourth cousin twice removed just died,” Juliet replies with a laugh and a yawn, standing up and pulling her boyfriend up with her. “I guess neither of us are fit to work tomorrow, huh?”

“Nope,” Romeo agrees with a shake of his head, helping his girlfriend stumble down the hallway to their bedroom. “Guess we’ll just have to stay home.”

“Hmm, what a pity.”
------------------------------------------

Benvolio sits at his desk in a bored stupor, drumming his nails off of the desktop as he waits for his lazy coworkers to send him the files he needs in order to finish writing up the salary report.

His life is just so fucking fun and interesting, and it just gets better when his phone buzzes with a text message from his cousin.

Romeo: I have something important to tell you.

Benvolio: Oh Lord….

Romeo: So….I have plans to go out to dinner with Tybalt tomorrow night.

Benvolio sets his phone down to process this information and after three minutes of trying to make sense of it all, his brain is only capable of computing one thing from it:

What the actual fuck?

Benvolio: Tybalt Capulet. Juliet’s cousin who hates you more than he hates anything else on this damned planet. He’s going to dinner with you.

Romeo: Yes.

Benvolio: Please explain.

Romeo: Jules invited him out to dinner and he thinks it’s just going to be the two of them at Lucky’s.

Benvolio: But...it’s not going to just be the two of them.

Romeo: No. I’m coming and I was attempting to rope you and Cutio into coming, too.

Benvolio: Why? Do you want someone there to film the assault to use as evidence in court?

Romeo: Wow, you’re really helping me feel confident about this, Benny.

Benvolio: You do realize how unlikely this is to be successful, right? If I remember correctly, the last time you and Tybalt had any contact was two years ago at Juliet’s last-ditch attempt to get you two to get along disguised as a dinner. It ended in several fist fights and a trip to the emergency room.

Romeo: You don’t need to remind me, Benny.

Benvolio: You had a broken nose.

Romeo: Yes, I remember.

Benvolio: Mercutio had to jump in.

Romeo: C’mon, Benny…

Benvolio: And then there was that other time after you and Juliet first came out about your relationship when Tybalt keyed ‘Filthy Sister-Fucker’ into the side of you car.

Romeo: Benny….

Benvolio: And that other time when you shoved him into his own family’s pool for calling Juliet a traitor. Or what about the incident when he punched a hole through your front door? Or when you slashed the tires of his motorcycle? Oh, wait, I almost forgot that time when he tried to convince Juliet to leave with him right in front of you and you decided to get into a fight with him in the middle of Walgreenes.

Romeo: Look, I get it, me and Tybalt’s relationship has been a little rocky, BUT, I’d like to try and fix that.

Benvolio: What happened to the whole ‘I don’t give a damn what either of our families thinks’ mentality.

Romeo: I found out that Jules kind of wants her family at the wedding, so I’m going to try my best to convince at least one of the Capulets to show up without booing and throwing up.

Benvolio: Oh Lord….I understand that she wants her family there, I would want mine present, too, but I don’t think this is possible, Romeo. Does Juliet even know that you’re showing up to dinner with her?

Romeo: No...she just told me when and where she’s meeting her cousin for dinner, so I’m going to tag along.

Benvolio: I’m not.

Romeo: C’mon, Benny, please?

Benvolio: No, and I strongly advise that you don’t go either.

Romeo: Fine.

Benny sighs in relief, slumping back in his chair and hoping that his fool of a cousin actually heeds his advice. Romeo rarely does such a thing, but if there were ever a time for him to, it would be now.

Benny jumps when his phone buzzes again.

Mercutio: Do we have plans for Friday night?

Great.

They would have plans if Benvolio could’ve managed to make reservations somewhere like a good, romantic life partner, but...he failed to do so. Looks like this Friday night is another night cuddled up on the sofa in front of the TV, the usual.

It still pisses Benny off that the shortest wait was three months…

Benvolio: No, do you have anything in mind?

Mercutio: We’re going out to dinner, honey.

Benvolio: Alright, where do you want to go?

Mercutio: Romeo invited us to Lucky’s with him to try and patch things up with Tybalt. I thought it sounded like a front row seat to the year’s best drama.

Benny freezes, staring at his phone blankly for a moment before the anger sets in.

Benvolio: Romeo, did you seriously just go behind my back and ask Mercutio? Are you fucking serious?

Romeo: Sorry… ):

Benvolio: You’re not sorry! What the hell?!

Romeo: I just really don’t want to show up without back up and I knew your boyfriend would say yes…

Benvolio: That’s not a fucking excuse!

Romeo: I already said I was sorry!

Benvolio: That doesn’t fix it! You’re like a little kid who’s mom said no so they went and asked their irresponsible father to get the answer they wanted!

Romeo: …..

Benvolio: You’re lack of a response doesn’t surprise me.

Romeo: So….Cutio’s the dad who lets me eat ice cream for dinner and you’re the mom who makes sure that the homework is done and the bedtime is followed?

Benvolio can’t help but groan and shake his head in exasperation, turning off his phone to avoid sending something he’ll regret later.

He knows that this isn’t going to end well, he knows that this is probably going to go about as well as every other interaction between Tybalt and his cousin has gone…which is why he knows that he has to go to try and keep the peace.

His cousin has a way of pushing all of his buttons and baffling him with his bizarre antics for the naive sake of love, but Benny loves him and would never let him go on one of his dumb escapades solo.
------------------------------------------

Tybalt awkwardly shifts in his seat and watches the couple seated in the booth across from him get much more PDA than they should given that they’re seven-year old son is with them.

He’d never admit it aloud, but he’s nervous. A little bit scared even.

He hasn’t seen Juliet in person for over a year now, and even though they’ll occasionally talk on the phone, their relationship has become strained due to the mess of family binds and enemy lines.

They’ve both successfully been caught in the crossfire, it seems.

“Sir, are you waiting on someone?” The waiter asks, glancing at the empty side of the booth.

“Yeah, she’ll be here soon, hopefully,” Tybalt mutters, drumming his fingers off of the sticky tabletop and refusing to make eye contact. He does NOT want to come off as that lonely sucker who’s been duped…

“Alright, can I get you something to drink while you wait?” The waiter offers, pulling out his notepad and uncapping his pen. “Maybe an appetizer to hold you over.”

“No, she’ll be here soon!” Tybalt insists. When he realizes that he may have just scared the waiter, he hastily adds in, “But thank you.”

Juliet isn’t cruel, she truly doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, Tybalt knows this, so if she decided not to show up last minute...it would be out of fear, not contempt. Tybalt understands, he really does, and if he weren’t so fucking bad at emotions he would send her a text telling her how he’s nervous, too, and how he loves her and just wants to have that close relationship that they had as kids again.

But Tybalt is emotionally stunted, so he sits and wallows in his own regrets, watching the couple across from him play tonsil hockey like there’s no tomorrow while their son eats his plate of greasy french fries.
------------------------------------------

“She’s not going to be happy when we show up,” Benvolio says pointedly as he drives down the street, trying to catch Romeo’s eyes in rearview mirror. “Seriously, don’t expect a warm welcome.”

Romeo doesn’t respond, shifting uncomfortably in the backseat. He’s just as uncertain about this as his cousin is, but he needs to do it. All he wants is for Jules to finally find some sense of peace with her family, and to do that, he needs to try his best to fix this mess, no matter how impossible it may seem.

“Have you thought about what you want to say?” Mercutio asks, turning around to face his pale friend. “It might be better to go in with a game plan.”

Romeo shrugs and lets out a heavy sigh. “I was just sort of going to go with the flow and let the conversation lead me, you know?”

“Brilliant, so when he calls you an asshole you’ll just go with it and call him one back?” Mercutio asks with a teasing smirk. “Romeo, I like winging it as much as the next guy, but I think we need a bit more strategy with this one.”

“Agreed,” Benvolio mumbles, pulling into Lucky’s congested parking lot. “This already isn’t the best idea, we can’t just walk in with our heads up our asses. Maybe you should start off by telling him that you know he’s probably not happy to see you, but that you need to talk.”

“Be self-deprecating so that he doesn’t have any ammunition,” Mercutio suggests. “Call yourself stupid, a disgusting Montague, and a sister-fucker before he can.”

Romeo blanches but nods, swallowing his pride. “Got it.”

“It probably wouldn’t hurt if you said you were unworthy and lucky as hell to have Juliet, too.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe you should also mention how unsophisticated and clumsy you are, just for the hell of it.”

“I get it, Mercutio.”

“Don’t forget to add in all the nitty-gritty details about how you leave the toilet seat up and have the tendency to be oblivious about other people’s emotions.”

“Mercutio!” Romeo whines, rolling his eyes. “I get it, okay?”

“I don’t know, Mercutio, you didn’t even start on his crappy poetry or inability to hold his alcohol,” Benvolio says with a smile, watching Mercutio begin to crack up.

“You know, Benny, I thought you were supposed to help me out here,” Romeo mutters dejectedly.

“I am, which is why I’m helping you realize all of your flaws. But in all seriousness, you need to make it clear that your purpose for being present is to find peace, okay? Make it impossible to second guess why you showed up.”

Romeo nods and flushes, feeling that his Vans and sweatshirt really don’t cut it for diplomatic attire.

At least a wrinkled dress shirt like the one Benny’s sporting would be more acceptable.
------------------------------------------

It’s not exactly like Benvolio thought that this would go well, he’s not an idiot. He knew it would be uncomfortable and possibly end in physical violence, but his expectations are even further lowered when the first thing out of Tybalt’s mouth is: “What the fuck are you doing here?”

Juliet doesn’t look happy either, dropping her turkey sandwich and staring at her fiancee in horror.

“Tybalt, I...I’m here to talk,” Romeo says with an uncharacteristically firm nod. “I know that we’ve never really seen eye-to-eye or understood each other, but I want to try and fix that.”

Tybalt looks beyond confused, arching a pierced eyebrow and staring at Romeo in silence. He’s very aware that he and his cousin’s Montague boyfriend have never exactly gotten along, but why is he here? Juliet has tried to fix their relationship several times, but it’s never been successful, so why the fuck does he think he can patch it up?

Tybalt chalks it up to Romeo being an insufferable Montague.

“Romeo,” Juliet hisses, shaking her head. “This really isn’t a good time.”

“I think that if you and I just talked, we’d get along,” Romeo says, sliding into the booth next to his girlfriend despite her protests. “So, where do you want to start.”

Tybalt stares at the intruder in silence for a moment, still clearly trying to process what the hell is going on, before clearing his throat and saying with a casual shrug, “We both know that this isn’t going to work, Montague. You might as well drop it and leave shit well enough alone. Let sleeping dogs lie, right?”

Romeo seems determined though, and shakes his head in disagreement. “I think it’s important that we get along moving forward.”

“I think all is as close to fine as it can get if we just stay out of each other’s way,” Tybalt replies with a snort, taking a sip of his Samuel Adams. “It’d be even better though if my cousin could find a better man, one that doesn’t have the deceitfulness and fucking arrogance of a Montague.”

Romeo visibly stiffens, making Benvolio and Juliet both start to feel uneasy.

“I’m not the best man in the world,” Romeo admits. “No one is, but I promise to always treat your cousin with respect and kindness. I love her-”

Tybalt jokingly gags and shakes his head. “Okay, I get it, but words are meaningless, empty air. Just two weeks ago she called me up crying because she thought you couldn’t keep it in your pants. Is that true? You think you’ll find any woman better than my cousin? Because, I gotta tell you, Montague, it’s pretty fucking hypocritical for you to claim you love and respect her when you go sleeping around.”

“I’ve never cheated on Juliet and I never will. She’s the only woman I ever want in my bed with me.”

“Then what was all that shit about? Are you just going to breeze by it like it’s nothing? Act like it never happened?”

“We just had a misunderstanding,” Juliet says with a shake of her head. “He’s never cheated on me, Tybalt, he was just working late.”

And that’s when it comes apparent to Romeo that Juliet has failed to inform Tybalt of their engagement, which admittedly sort of pisses him off. The smug bastard is sitting in front of him, berating him and acting like he’s some sort of scumbag when the only reason he’s here is because he loves Jules more than his sanity.

“Working late is code for in another woman’s bed. Or was it a man? I only have my suspicions because it seems to run in the family.”

Romeo frowns, upset that Tybalt’s trying to drag Benny into this, too. “I wasn’t-”

“Can we just drop it, please?” Juliet asks, staring at her cousin pleadingly. “He’s not cheating on me, believe me, I thought he might be at first, too, but he wasn’t.”

“You’re not dumb, Jules, you know it just like I do,” Tybalt says, glaring daggers across the table at Romeo. Honestly, if looks could kill, Romeo wouldn’t be breathing.

“He wasn’t cheating!” Juliet insists, looking frustrated and stressed. She glances over at Benvolio and Mercutio for help, only to see that they both look nervous, too.

“You’re a real piece of work, Romeo, stealing her away from her family and then treating her like-”

“I stole her?” Romeo jeers with a laugh, forgetting his cousin’s advice and giving in to his anger. “You and your petty parents disowned her! She’s not locked away in some concentration camp, she could leave my sorry ass whenever she wanted to, she still can! YOU never come see her! Your fucking family won’t let her back into the house they raised her in!”

“I would come see her except that you don’t want me around!” Tybalt snaps, leaning across the table. “Every time I rear my head, you freak the fuck out and act like I must be the devil himself because of my last name!”

“Fucking hypocrite, you do the same!”

Several staff members and patrons have noticed the shouting match and paused in their conversation and work to stare. Benny knows this is getting out of hand, so he tries to intervene.

“Hey, if this is how this is going to go down, fine, but let’s take it outside, okay?”

“Please stop yelling!” Juliet begs, also noticing all of the unwanted attention directed towards their booth. She loves Romeo, he’s the love of her life, and she also loves Tybalt, he’s been not only a cousin but a protective friend since she was born….why can’t the men she loves get along?

“Montagues earn their disdain fair and square! Your dad is a backstabber who gladly took all the credit for the work both him and my uncle did at the firm!”

“Your uncle stole my dad’s wife!”

“Your dad was unfairly promoted because he’s a self-centered pig who only thinks of himself.”

“My dad was set to marry your aunt before-”

“She would’ve if he weren’t an insufferable prick!”

“She only married your uncle for the money! Because he owned more land!”

“Stop it!” Juliet yells in vain, watching as both men clamber to their feet and begin to jab fingers in each other’s faces.

“You turned out just like your dad! Thinking you can just have it all! My cousin isn’t enough for you, is she?! You just have to have all the women you can get, you cunt!”

“I’ve NEVER cheated on your cousin! I love her! I love her so much that I’m going to marry her!”

Tybalt laughs, reaching out to grab Romeo by the hood of his sweatshirt, pulling him close. “Over. My. Dead. Body.”

“Too late,” Romeo snaps back. “We’re engaged.”

Juliet jumps to her feet, yanking Romeo out of her cousin’s grip while his hold slackens from the shock. “I was going to tell you, I was getting around to it but-”

“You’re….you’re marrying him?” Tybalt asks in disbelief. “What...what…”

“I was going to tell you, but then Romeo walked in and-”

“You proposed to her?” Tybalt asks, turning back to Romeo. “A fucking Montague got down on their knees in front of my cousin and-”

“And asked her to spend the rest of her life with me,” Romeo finishes dryly, pulling Juliet closer.

Tybalt stiffens and a cold silence sets in.

As the frankly terrifying staring contest continues, a jittery waiter pulls Mercutio off to the side and whispers something into his ear. He looks beyond apologetic, even when Mercutio smiles weakly as if to say that it’s no big deal.

“Well, lady and gentlemen,” Mercutio says with an awkward clap, breaking the silence. “It seems that the owner of this fine establishment requests that we leave.”

Chapter Text

The tension within the tiny confinement of Romeo and Juliet’s living room is fucking electric, even after Benny tries to suppress it with some bitter Folger’s coffee and a bowl of potato chips. Everyone’s on edge, and honestly, given the current situation, it would be pretty fucking weird if they weren’t.

Tybalt sits in the middle of the sofa with a worried frown etched onto his face, bouncing his leg and staring intently at the dark TV screen as if he’s watching the live broadcast of the end of the world.

Romeo anxiously paces across the room repeatedly, running his hands through his hair and checking his phone for any new texts every five steps or so.

Mercutio and Benny both hover around the loveseat, wondering whether Tybalt or Romeo will give in first and say something about the current, shitty situation. It’s been nearly an hour without any conversation besides Benny awkwardly asking everyone if they wanted coffee, and the anxious silence is really starting to become unbearable.

After being politely told to leave Lucky’s, everything sort of just went to hell in the parking lot. Romeo and Tybalt continued to shout and shove at one another, whilst Benny and Mercutio unsuccessfully attempted to pull them apart.

The situation was not diffused until Juliet finally snapped and burst into furious tears, demanding them to ‘fucking stop it’. Seeing her so upset automatically got both Romeo and Tybalt looking guilty as hell, but before they could even begin to apologize, Jules was already storming off towards the bus station without another word. She simply texted Romeo that she was fine and would be back after she’d calmed down, and none of them have heard from her since.

It’s now been two hours.

“Shit,” Romeo mutters anxiously, slipping his phone into his jean pocket and shaking his head. “I’m going out to find her, it’s getting late…”

Tybalt jumps to his feet and lets out a heavy sigh, the same idea weighing on his own mind. “Yeah, I’ll go, too. We’ll cover more ground that way.”

“Mercutio and I will go out, too,” Benny offers, already fishing his car keys out of his pocket. “We’ll head downtown and see if we can find her.”

“I’ll check up by the shopping district,” Romeo says with a quick nod. “Tybalt, can you check the homey village section of town?”

Tybalt simply nods without complaint before rushing out of the apartment.

It’s possibly the first time Romeo and Tybalt have made a mutual decision without duking it out.

Seriously, someone should take a picture.
------------------------------------------

There’s always been a strange, seedy sort of charm to the tiny craft store crammed in between the tanning salon and the Americanized gyro place. It’s nice, it’s quiet, it’s poorly ventilated, and it’s almost always desolate.

It’s the perfect place for Juliet to wander the aisles aimlessly and clear her head, staring at printed fabrics, various sewing machines, and several thick tubes of paint colors no one knows exist.

She’s a mature adult that can completely handle her frustrations, so naturally, to cope with her hurricane of emotions, she buys ten packs of those nifty 3D stickers (ones that are shaped like Sonic the fucking Hedgehog) and sticks them all over her arms and cheeks. Yeah, she’s totally got it, because this is therapeutic as fuck. Who needs a shrink for crazy bad family issues when you’ve got stickers and a whole ball of itchy yarn to unroll around your hands?

Seriously, this sort of treatment could have the pharmaceutical companies in a whirlwind of panic.

The cashier, a lonely old woman with a slight lisp, takes advantage of Juliet’s presence and sits with her on the curb outside of the shop, smoking a smelly cigarette and bitching about her hooligan son who ran off to Vermont and married a crazy south-seer woman with purple dreadlocks. It’s actually a really nice conversation, as sometimes Juliet genuinely enjoys listening to other people bitch just because it reminds her that everyone else has their problems, too, no matter how stupid or inane.

Maybe that’s why she became an HR manager for FedEx.

“And he jus’ never calls me anymore. I call him every onthe in awhile and we talk for a bith but...I have to reach out to him, he thys away from me. I juth want him to come home and marry a nice, normal girl wif a real job! Is that really too muf to ask? There’s plenty of nice, single women who go to my thurth, all of them would make lovely wives...The only upside of this whole meff is that this lady he thettled down with treats him real nice, she doesn’t beat him or insult him, doesn’t even really fight with him all that much. I thuppose that’s good, right?”

Juliet nods with a pensive hum. “It is. I bet he’s happy with her, you know? It’s not every day that we find someone that treats us right and loves us the way we deserve to be loved. Maybe he’d come home if you showed a little more support and didn’t criticize his wife. Sure, she’s eccentric, but...she’s a good woman and they love each other.”

“You really think he’ll come back if I try and athept thith woman? You think they’ll let uth start over again?”

“Sure! I bet he misses you, too, and really just wishes you could be happy for him and his wife. If you re-open your door to them with a warm, welcoming smile, I bet they’ll both be more than happy to come in.”

The old woman’s chapped lips pull into a smile as she nods, staring off at the busy highway. “I’m going to call him tomorrow morning,” she mutters, stubbing out her cigarette on the cement. “I’m going to call him and tell him that he and his wife are more than welcome in my home.”

Juliet smiles back and shakes her head. “Do it now,” she insists gently. “Don’t put it off and give yourself the chance to get cold feet, call him right now.”

The old woman, now looking downright giddy, begins to clamber to her tired feet with Juliet’s help. She utters her sincere gratitude and gives Juliet’s hands a warm squeeze before hurrying back into the shop, clearly more than ready to repair her relationship with Danny….or was it Denise? Something with a ‘D’, Juliet decides absently.

She's unable to bite back her smile as she peers through the window of the craft store to observe the elderly woman tearing up as she clutches her cell phone to her ear, nodding frantically and smiling. Apparently all is going well, and the fact that something good came out of this evening makes Jules feel better herself.

Fate is twisted after all, maybe shit was supposed to hit the fan in order for this lovely lady to bridge the gap between her and her estranged son.

Or maybe Juliet is just trying to comfort herself with other people’s happiness, she tends to do that sometimes.

A beat up pick-up truck circles the deserted parking lot, slowing down in front of the flashing neon sign advertising for the tanning salon. The headlights’ glare lights up the dark plaza and momentarily blinds Juliet, causing her to begin to warily back up towards the door to the craft store when the driver’s side door is thrown open.

“Jules? Hey, Jules!”

It’s Tybalt, and he looks worried as a preschool teacher on the hunt for a pupil who went missing on a field trip.

“Jules, is that you?”

Juliet hurries towards her cousin, an overwhelming sense of guilt building up in the pit of her stomach. She’s fully expecting him to grab her by the shoulders and angrily chastise her for running off like a petulant child, because she knows that she might do the same if the roles were reversed, but Tybalt does no such thing.

He lets out a heavy sigh and wraps Juliet up in his leather clad arms, holding her up against his chest like she’s about to take off on him again. He doesn’t say anything, and neither does Juliet, unsure of what the hell should be said after such an evening.

Sometimes words really just don’t have enough power to reign in the hell hounds.

“I’m sorry,” Juliet finally mutters as her cousin lets her go. “I know that I shouldn’t have run off but...I needed some time.”

“I...I get it,” Tybalt replies awkwardly, scratching the back of his head as he walks around to the passenger side of the truck and opens up the door for her. “I think we all kind of needed some time to relax.”

Juliet nods in agreement before clambering into the truck, shoving all of the volumes of ‘Car and Driver’ off of the seat.

They drive back to the apartment in silence, Metallica quietly leaking out of the speakers to provide them with minimal background noise.

“So, uh….Sonic the Hedgehog, huh?” Tybalt asks with an uneasy smile, obviously trying his best to repair the damage with his own brutish hands. “I was always more of a Mario guy myself.”

Juliet smiles sheepishly, beginning to rip the stickers off of her arms and stick them onto the exterior of the glove box. “They only had so many to choose from...princesses, dragons, racecars, Sonic the Hedgehog, Jack-O-Lanterns, and Santa Claus…”

“I would’ve gone with the racecars.”

Another silence settles in between them until they end up waiting in front of a particularly long red light and Tybalt decides to try and make small talk again.

“How’s work?”

Juliet begins to drum her fingers off of the dashboard and shrugs. “It’s fine.”

“Still working for FedEx?”

“Yeah.”

“You got your own, uh, office yet?”

“I’m HR, I’ve had my own office from day one.”

“Oh….uh, that’s cool. So...you like what you do still? It’s not wearin’ on you?”

“No.”

“Ah, good that’s, that’s good. Uh, you...you take the bus to work every morning still?”

“Uh-huh.”

“You want your own car? Like, don’t you dislike the morning commute since you’re stuck in a confined space with total strangers that may or may not smell like tobacco and McDonalds?”

Juliet sighs, giving her cousin a strange look of pity, knowing that he’s struggling with this more than she is. He can’t bring himself to say what he means, what he’s trying to express.

So Jules comes right out and says it for him.

“I miss you.”

Tybalt swallows thickly, eyes fixed on the road despite currently sitting behind a red light. His fingers twitch as if they’re tempted to reach out and twist that special knob on the radio, that knob that will raise the volume until all of these uncomfortable emotions and thoughts are drowned out by the angry screeching of a guitar.

But the volume stays low, a faint buzzing in Tybalt’s ears. He glances over at his cousin and feels his chest constrict, like he’s just been sucker punched by a manifestation of his own regret.

“I miss you, too,” he replies quietly. “I really fucking miss you, Jules.”
------------------------------------------

The calm after the storm is bizarre and almost a little creepy, as it’s far too peaceful for the Capulet-Montague clan.

Tybalt spends the night at Romeo and Juliet’s apartment, camped out on the sofa overnight with a throw pillow and spare quilt. He wakes up early and lets his cousin and her boyfriend sleep in, and even goes the extra mile and makes scrambled egg sandwiches for breakfast like he’s a goddamn chef.

It’s almost like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, really, Romeo, Juliet, and Tybalt all sat around the coffee table, eating breakfast and watching the morning news. There’s no bickering and no looks of ill-will.

It’s nice and an anomaly as unexplainable as the inner workings of the universe and all of it’s wonders.

“So…” Romeo drawls as he pours everyone a glass of water. “I guess….I guess we should try and pick up where we left off last night? Before...before the getting booted from Lucky’s thing?”

Tybalt hesitates to nod, truly not wishing to ruin this peaceful moment. He’s emotionally exhausted, the last twenty four hours truly having had worked his heart overtime. Tybalt usually just ignores any irrational or unpleasant feelings, so he’s honestly in unfamiliar and choppy waters without a life vest.

“Where do we start?” He finally asks quietly, still unable to help but feel a little uneasy as he watches a Montague press a chaste kiss to his baby cousin’s cheek.

“Wherever you want to.”

Tybalt hums quietly, turning his head to watch the perky news anchor rub her pregnant belly as she talks about a fire that consumed a condo and eight souls.

“I’m assuming that neither of you have told anyone since the world hasn’t ended yet,” he finally mumbles, knowing that his Aunt Janice and Uncle George surely would have said something the last time they talked if they knew that their daughter was engaged to the filthy Montague boy.

“No, the only people who know are you, Rosaline, Benny, and Mercutio,” Juliet confirms with a nod, cheeks turning pink. “I haven’t even decided how the hell to tell my parents yet…”

Tybalt sighs, knowing that his cousin is probably scared shitless, because there really is no way in hell that this is all going to go over well with the Capulets or the Montagues. His outburst last night was a prime example of how such news is to be received.

“Do you want me to tell them?”

Juliet shakes her head. “It’ll be even worse if it doesn’t come from me.”

“I was talking to Benny about telling my folks a few days ago, and he suggested maybe doing it in public just so that it feels...safer?”

Tybalt and Juliet both consider this for a moment, wondering if this really may be the path to take.

“I guess I could invite my mom and dad out for coffee?” Juliet suggests quietly with a shrug. “I mean, if they’ll come. I haven’t talked to them in nearly a year now, I honestly don’t know if they’ll agree to meet up with me.”

“They will if I go, too,” Tybalt assures her. “If we both say that we want to go out for coffee and catch up they’ll be sure to show.”

“You’d be willing to do that?” Juliet asks, looking genuinely surprised.

She elaborates when Tybalt gives her a hurt look.

“You’d be willing to sit there while I tell them that my last name is soon to be Montague?”

Once again, Tybalt can’t help but recoil slightly at the thought of a Montague’s paws all of his cousin, but he nods nevertheless. “Yeah, of course.”

Romeo actually smiles at him after the words leave his mouth, smiles at him like they haven’t tried to fucking choke each other out at least eighteen times before.

It’s actually kind of nice.
------------------------------------------

“How about this one? Isn’t it just gorgeous?” Rosaline asks excitedly, sliding the magazine across the coffee table for Juliet and Tybalt to see. “The one that looks like it belongs to Cinderella?”

“They all look like they belong to Cinderella,” Tybalt mutters, seemingly disinterested in something as girly and inane as dress shopping.

Juliet, on the other hand, takes a good long look at the picture of the dress that her friend is currently jabbing at with her bright red fingernail, and begins to smile so hard that the dimples in her cheeks show. “It is gorgeous, I love the full skirt and that bedazzled veil,...but the price?”

Rosaline rolls her eyes as if her friend’s worries over their meager budget are completely unfounded. “It’s your wedding, Jules, you gotta go big and over the top!”

“I’m sure we can find a more reasonably priced dress,” Juliet insists, glancing down at her phone anxiously, hoping to see the screen lit up with a new message from her parents. “I don’t foresee myself dropping that much on something that I’m only going to wear once.”

“But that’s the whole point, honey. You’re only going to have one wedding dress! Don’t you want that one wedding dress to be the one you’ve dreamt of since your first viewing of a Disney princess movie?”

“We don’t have talking mice or teacups to make us a dress,” Tybalt mumbles flatly, seemingly unamused and siding with his cousin as far as the amount of money being alotted to something as stupid as a dress.

“Neither do those gypsy girls on TLC, but they still get their dream dress,” Rosaline fires back with a triumphant smirk. “We can find a way, I know a few small designers who make costumes for the theatre, maybe I can arrange something.”

“Oh, Rosie, you don’t have to go to all of that trouble, seriously,” Juliet insists quickly, really not wanting to make her loved ones feel like they’ve got to help her string together her trainwreck of a wedding.

“No, it’s no trouble at all, honestly! I just want to help you in any way that I can, and I’m sure everyone else does, too. Right, Tybalt?”

“Mmhmm,” The older Capulet hums, wracking his brain for anything he can do to help out his cousin besides tricking his aunt and uncle into speaking to her again. “Let the theatre chick work her magic for you, Jules.”

Rosaline beams, obviously flattered by her new nickname, especially since the infamously grumpy Tybalt gave it to her in good spirits. “Yeah, let me work my magic and don’t worry about it so much, okay? You already have too much on your plate as it is with your family and the other aspects of planning a wedding, let me be your fairy godmother and handle the dress.”

Juliet smiles shyly and nods. “Alright, if you really don’t mind-”

“Of course I don’t!” Rosaline exclaims with a warm laugh, reaching over to rest a reassuring hand on her friend’s knee. “It’ll be just like when we used to try on all of those dresses that our parents would never let us wear at the mall!”

Fond memories of twirling around in the dim lighting of a dressing room with Rosaline, giggling as if intoxicated whilst wearing dresses far too mature for them flood Juliet’s mind and bring a wider smile to her face.

“Those were the days, weren’t they?”

“That they were,” Rosaline agrees with a nostalgic sigh, draping herself over the arm of the sofa to continue flipping through the magazine. “And I’ll get to dress you up again, but this time as a bride. You know, it’s kind of crazy, really. Seems like we just graduated yesterday, doesn’t it?”

Tybalt can’t help but laugh at Rosaline’s statement, agreeing all too much. Time fucking flies, slips through one’s fingers like sand. It’s been years and all Tybalt’s really done has hidden away along with the rest of his family, alienating his cousin and burying his head in the sand like the best of them.

He’s wasted so much time, because, goddamn baby Jules, the little girl who used to chase him around the yard in her frilly, purple princess dress and ladybug rain boots, is getting married.

Fuck.

Juliet and Rosaline continue to reminisce about their high school days while ogling at the various dresses with panic-attack inducing price tags, but Tybalt’s honestly hung up like soaking wet laundry.

The little girl he grew up with is gone, and all too soon because he went and turned his back on her. That moody teenager who pierced her nose just to infuriate her dad, the awkward preteen with bright blue braces, the little girl who caused him to piss himself because she took too long to find him during one of their uber competitive hide-and-seek matches…

“Tybalt?”

Juliet and Rosaline are both looking at him in concern, and for some reason, Tybalt finds that he can’t talk for a moment, tongue glued to the roof of his suddenly dry mouth.

“Yeah?”

“Are you okay?” Juliet asks quietly, scootching closer to her cousin so that their sides are touching. “You look like you’re going to puke.”

Tybalt laughs and puffs out his chest, using the typical Capulet move of defense and quickly finding an out. “No, it’s just...everytime I see that dumb bitch on TV it pisses me off,” he mutters, automatically causing both Juliet and Rosaline to glance at the muted TV screen.

“Not a fan of Tila Tequila?” Rosaline asks with a smile. “Is it because you’re just too afraid of taking a shot at love?”

Tybalt, completely oblivious to the pop culture reference being made, feels himself flush uncomfortably and begin to squirm. “I had a girlfriend for awhile,” he mumbles absently, cheeks bright pink. “It...it didn’t work out.”

“You had a girlfriend?” Juliet asks, genuinely disappointed that she missed out on getting to tease her cousin about finally getting his first girlfriend. “What was her name?”

“Emma,” Tybalt mumbles uncomfortably. “I met her at the bar I used to frequent…”

“I’m picturing a petite brunette with tattoos and a motorcycle,” Rosaline hums. “That’s the kind of girl I see hooking up with a mechanic at a bar, am I right?”

“She’s a redhead.”

“Damn!”

“How long were you two together?” Juliet asks curiously, intrigued as to how someone as closed off as her cousin was when in a romantic relationship.

“Seven months,” Tybalt answers quietly with a forlorn sigh. “She...she moved in with me for awhile, we bought a dog together, a shar pei puppy. She named it Moca…”

Rosaline and Juliet both coo sadly, holding Tybalt’s hands and giving him looks of pity. “What happened?” They ask in unison.

“There was another man in her life….she took off with the dog and my heart.”

Another round of sympathetic cooing ensues followed by hugs and promises of finally finding love one day. Tybalt looks like he wants to die and is beyond relieved when Jules’ phone buzzes with an incoming text.

Aunt Janice and Uncle George begrudgingly agreeing to meet up with Juliet for coffee on Tuesday quickly takes priority over Tybalt’s failed romance, and Tybalt could not be more grateful.
------------------------------------------

For Benny Mondays are meeting days, which means that he sits in a cramped office all day and listens to his coworkers drone on about statistics and pricing that they seemingly pulled from their asses. It’s unreasonably tiring, and Benvolio almost falls asleep during the commute home.

Meeting Mondays are truly the bane of his existence.

“Hey, you,” Mercutio greets with a soft smile as Benny all but collapses onto the sofa with a groan. “Mondays, huh?”

“Yeah,” Benny mumbles weakly, propping his feet up on the ottoman and closing his eyes. “I swear to God, Mercutio, Gary just keeps stealing my work and presenting it as his own, the bastard...I wouldn’t mind that much, expect his presentations are boring as hell. Is my work really that boring? Does it really pain you this much when I talk to you about it?”

“Of course not, Benny,” Mercutio answers with a shake of his head, plopping down next to his partner on the sofa. “You make everything interesting, even when it really isn’t.”

Benvolio groans again, fishing the remote out from the couch cushions and turning on the TV. “I really wish I could just skip Mondays...fucking meetings…”

“It’s over now, Benny, you’re home,” Mercutio offers gently. “Just try and relax, remember what the doctor said about your stress causing those headaches?”

Benvolio does remember, because he hadn’t even thought it was necessary to go to the doctor for his migraines but Mercutio had insisted…turns out he's anxious, surprise, surprise, and he just needs to chill the fuck out.

“I ordered hoagies before you came in. I got you a-”

“Tuna melt?”

“Yeah,” Mercutio says with a nod, stealing the remote to start channel surfing himself. “That’s what you wanted right?”

“That’s what I always get, isn’t it?” Benny asks dryly. “I get the tuna melt and you get the italian?”

Mercutio smiles, obviously not perturbed by their habitual behavior like Benvolio is. If only Benny could see this, then all of his worries concerning his inevitable aging could stop. It’s not exactly like Cutio’s getting any younger himself.

“Frasier or Cheers?”

“Cheers,” Benny mumbles, rubbing his temple sorely and feeling like an old man. He’s no longer worried that he’s becoming his aunt after bitching about work and giving himself a migraine, but terrified that he’s now becoming his uncle.
------------------------------------------

People typically aren’t all that nervous about meeting up with their folks for a cup of coffee and some casual chatter, but Juliet feels like she might faint.

She spent an hour last night glued in front of the bathroom mirror, practicing cheery smiles and attempting to think of what to say to kick start a normal conversation. What does one say to their estranged parents before revealing the worst news that they will ever receive?

“It’ll be okay,” Romeo assures her before leaving for work. “You’re going into this knowing how it’s going to go down, and it sucks, but at least you’re prepared.”

Juliet nods in agreement, knowing that it really is stupid to expect anything less than a complete meltdown. Her mother will cry, her father will yell, and she’ll most likely be thrown out of a restaurant for the second time this month.

She has so much to look forward to.

“If things go south...well, further south than we expect them to, Tybalt will get you out of there. Why are you wearing your nametag?”

“I’m going to work after this,” Juliet answers as she pours herself a bowl of cereal. “I don’t want to spend the rest of the day wallowing in self-pity.”

Romeo looks concerned and like he wants to argue that she should just stay home, but he doesn’t, knowing that it won’t change her mind. “Okay,” he mutters, hurrying over to cup his girlfriend’s face and press a kiss to her cheek.

He wishes that he could do this for her, wishes he could take the backlash himself and keep Jules safe and sound, but he can’t. He offered to last night, said that he’d go with Tybalt instead and give her parents a nasty surprise, but she declined, saying that she needed to do this.

“If you change your mind and want to stay home, I’m sure your coworkers will manage to handle their own emotional problems for the day.”

Juliet laughs, giving her fiance a hug and a kiss before shooing him away towards the door. “You’d be surprised, babe, I’ve sat through my fair share of fights over who took the last doughnut. The place will go to hell without me there to brandish my packets about teamwork and anger management.”

Romeo smiles softly and nods, hesitating in the doorway for a moment to look Jules over one last time before finally leaving. He knows that he’ll be worrying for her all day today, so there’s really not any use in trying to distract himself with music or needless FaceBook surfing.

He’s kind of fucking sick of Balthasar's lengthy and flawed political posts anyway, but he considers enduring them just to get his mind off of Jules’ dilemma.
------------------------------------------

“You could use a haircut, dear.”

Juliet stares at her mother blankly for a moment, hand subconsciously reaching back to tug at her ponytail. She, Tybalt, and her parents have been sitting in silence for the last two and a half minutes, and this is how her mother choose to finally break the ice.

Apparently she dislikes her daughter’s long hair and wishes that she’d cut it short again like it was in high school.

“I like it long,” Juliet replies quietly, wishing that a waiter would hurry the fuck up and come take their orders, giving her some extra time to figure out how to handle this situation.

“Doesn’t it get tangled?” Mrs. Capulet asks with a distasteful sniff. “It’s better short, less knotty.”

“I have been considering a pixie cut,” Juliet hums, knowing that such a statement is sure to provoke the angered reaction from her mother that it always has without fail.

“A pixie cut?” Mrs. Capulet asks, lips curling back to reveal her bleached teeth. “You’re not a boy, Juliet, don’t say such ridiculous things!”

“Janice,” Mr. Capulet mumbles warily, not wanting his wife to blow her top so soon into this meeting with their daughter.

“If you want boy hair you might as well go all the way!” Mrs. Capulet continues with a dramatic wave of her hand. “Get a mastectomy and start calling yourself Julian, why don’t you?”

“Janice!”

Juliet can’t help but smile to herself because, holy shit, her mother truly hasn’t changed a bit. She’s still a stubborn, stuck-up hen who dresses like she’s on her way to the Oscar’s despite sitting in the middle of rundown coffee house.

“Paris came by last week,” Mrs, Capulet says casually, moving on to her next passive aggressive affliction. “He’s doing well working under his uncle in the business world, his future looks bright.”

“Good for him,” Juliet replies with an easy smile that sends her mother into an internal fit. “He’s always been a very nice boy, I hope that he finds success and happiness.”

“He has found success but not happiness. He hasn’t found a woman to share his life with yet.”

“Some people don’t need a woman in their life to be happy.”

“I feel that he wants one.”

“Well, like I said, he’s a nice boy, and a smart one. I’m sure he’ll find someone deserving of him.”

Mrs. Capulet huffs softly and shifts in her seat, displeased that her daughter did not react to her mention of Paris Escalus the way she was hoping she would. Sensing this tension, Tybalt tries to think of some way to start a conversation that’s not two-faced.

“Uncle George, Jules doesn’t know about your new fishing boat.”

Mr. Capulet, feeling awkward as hell, forces a shaky smile. “Ah, you’re right, Tybalt. Would you be interested in a, uh, a little fishing trip sometime, Juliet?”

Juliet can’t help but smile back, feeling her heartbeat pick up in genuine excitement. A fishing expedition with her dad sounds wonderful, a great way to patch things up between them and get him back in her life.

“I’d love to go on a fishing trip sometime, daddy. When’d you get the new boat?”

“A few weeks ago, I bought it off of a friend and repainted it, made it look brand new again. I still haven’t come up with a clever name yet, but it’ll come to me.”

“Are you going to go vulgar or witty?”

“Well, if my little girl’s gonna be on it, I’m sure as hell not going to go vulgar,” Mr. Capulet says softly.

Juliet swears she might just cry. She almost doesn’t want to mention the wedding just because things seem to be looking up concerning the relationship between her and her father….but what needs to be said needs to be said at the end of the day.

“Um, mom, daddy, I wanted to see you both again, and I’m really grateful that you showed up to see me after all of our differences. But there’s something I need to tell you.”

Mrs. Capulet’s face lights up and she let’s out a cheerful whoop, clapping her hands like a seal in excitement. “Oh, dear, of course you can move back in with us! Don’t you worry, Juliet, I’ve been keeping your room clean for you ever since you left us!”

Juliet stares at her mother in a shocked silence, face falling faster than a bolt of lightning. Her mom thinks that she broke up with Romeo. Her mom has clearly been dreaming of the day when she’d finally leave the filthy Montague boy and come back to her.

Oh lord.

“Mom, I….no, I…”

“No, it’s okay, dear!” Mrs. Capulet insists frantically, tears springing in her eyes as she reaches across the table to grab her daughter by the hands. “It’s all behind us now, we won’t even...we won’t even think about it, will we, George?”

Mr. Capulet, just fucking beaming, nods in agreement.

Tybalt looks at his cousin with pity, knowing that things have just spiraled completely out of control. There’s no fucking way that this is going to end well now….

“Aunt Janice, let Juliet finish,” he insists softly, feeling himself become clammy and nervous, like he’s the one who’s about to have his parents explode in his face.

“Oh, of course, of course!” Mrs. Capulet babbles, dabbing at her cheeks with a handkerchief. “What is it that you want to say, dear? Are you okay? Don’t become jaded, I promise you, baby, men really aren’t all the same. Especially when compared to Montagues, there a category of people all on their own.”

Juliet swallows thickly, feeling like she might throw up. “Well...I am okay, mom. I really am, but….I didn’t….me and Romeo are still together.”

Mrs. Capulet’s eyes go wide and her jaw creaks as it locks. She sniffles one last time, all of her excitement drying up into dust that settles in the back of her throat and burns.

“What...what did you have to tell us, Juliet?” Mr. Capulet asks, also looking disappointed.

“Romeo and I are engaged.”

Might as well just rip the band aide off, right?

“Engaged?” Mr. Capulet echoes, eyebrows furrowing in disbelief. “You and that Montague boy...engaged?”

“Yes,” Juliet says through a heavy sigh, eyes downcast in order to avoid seeing the heartbroken look on her parents’ faces. “We’re getting married.”

“I should have seen this coming,” Mrs. Capulet sneers, going from gooey and emotional to cold and stoic fast as the flick of a switch. “At least you’re no hussy, living with a man outside of wedlock, I guess that’s something to hold with comfort.”

“Mom…”

“No, really, at least you’re marrying him. Now I won’t have bastard grandchildren born out of wedlock, just bastard grandchildren,” Mrs. Capulet snaps, snatching up her purse and hurrying to her feet.

“Aunt Janice,” Tybalt mutters, feeling obliged to help his poor cousin out. “I know that this isn’t the best fucking thing to find out, but maybe if you just sit back down and talk it out-”

“Did you know about this?!”

“What?”

“Did you know about this engagement?!”

Tybalt solemnly nods, feeling his aunt’s burning hot wrath scorching his skin.

“Wonderful!” Mrs. Capulet yells, throwing her arms out. “So does everyone in fucking Verona know except for me and your father, Juliet?!”

The few patrons in the coffee house turn to stare at the shouting spectacle, causing Juliet great embarrassment as she listens to her mother continue to angrily lambast her.

“Mom, please!”

“No! No! What do you think you’re doing, marrying a fucking Montague?! Everyday I pray that you’ll finally come to your senses and come back to us, I keep your room ready for when such a day comes, but now this?!”

“You almost married a Montague yourself!” Tybalt counters angrily standing up for his cousin and serving as the backbone she doesn’t have.

“And I thank my stars every goddamn day that I didn’t!” Mrs. Capulet shrieks. “George!”

Mr. Capulet, looking more disheartened than angry, follows his infuriated wife out of the coffee house, shooting his daughter one last look that all but screams, ‘why?’ before exiting.

Juliet buries her face in her hands and lets out a breath, waiting for her heart to stop pounding and her eyes to quit burning. It’s over now, she did it, they know. Never again will she have to deliver such unpleasant news.

Tybalt, knowing that his cousin is upset and stressed, awkwardly shifts around in his seat and drapes an arm over her quivering shoulders.

“Hey, uh….that went better than it could’ve gone.”

Juliet lets out a weak laugh and allows Tybalt to pull her into a hug. She’s thankful to have him back in her life again, as she’s missed him, she’s wanted him back more than anything. As long as she has him, her beloved Romeo, and good friends at her side like Rosaline, Benny, and Mercutio, she figures that things will probably turn out okay.
------------------------------------------

On Friday night everyone meets up at the community theatre to eat chinese take-out and talk. Rosaline is more than happy to play hostess and even has some of the dancers stay late to put on a little show for everyone.

Tybalt is admittedly more impressed than he should be.

“I wish I was as flexible as they are,” Juliet says with an awestruck smile as the dancers bow and soak in the applause.

“I do, too,” Romeo jokes, earning himself a playful push from Jules and a death glare from Tybalt, who really doesn’t appreciate the sexual quips about his baby cousin while he’s trying to eat egg rolls.

“Good job girls!” Rosaline yells with a proud smile. “You, too, Marcus, lovely! You’ve all made your mama very, very proud!”

“You have all my love, Rosie!” One of the dancers shouts back with a giggle as she and the rest of the leotard clad gang begin to trot backstage to change. “I love you!”

“I love you more!” Rosaline yells back with a boisterous clap, causing her dancers to giggle and whisper amongst themselves.

“I bet you’re a fucking fun boss,” Mercutio says with a sad sigh. “If only I could sing to save my life or dance more like Fred Astaire instead of a chicken with it’s head chopped off.”

“Aw, Cutio,” Rosaline drawls with mock honor, placing her hands over her heart. “I am a joy to work for, I will admit it, and I’d always welcome you and your photography skills into my theatrical family. Actually, would you like to do the shots for the advertisements next month?”

“My lady, I would be delighted,” Mercutio replies, batting his eyelashes and smiling like a loon.

“My god,” Benny mutters with a roll of his eyes. “I swear you two are destined soul mates…”

“He’s my gay boyfriend!” Rosaline claims with a grin, plopping down in Mercutio’s lap and crossing her legs like a little lady in a soap ad from the sixties. “We’re a match made in LGBTQ heaven! We’re birds of a feather!”

“A swan feather!” Mercutio clarifies with a hilariously forceful nod.

“By God, yes, a swan feather! By the powers of pansexual Jesus, I proclaim us to be gay husband and desperately lonely wife! Would you like to kiss the bride on the hand to save face in front of your family, sir?”

“I think I will!” Mercutio declares, taking Rosaline’s hand and pressing his lips to her knuckles before scooping her up in his arms bridal style and marching down the carpeted aisle. “Now, wife I will never touch below the shoulders, let us go home to sleep in our separate twin beds!”

Juliet, Romeo, and Rosaline all crack up, Tybalt barely manages to mask his smile, and Benny rolls his eyes again, taking this opportunity to snatch a dumpling off of Mercutio’s plate.

“Well, babe, I think our faux wedding here went pretty well, but what about the very real and very controversial wedding to take place between Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet?” Rosie asks as Mercutio sets her down.

“Our wedding? It will most likely take place behind McDonalds and we’re expecting approximately four guests,” Juliet deadpans with a sad smirk. “My parents still haven’t called me since storming out of the coffee house Tuesday morning. I tried calling them twice and left a voicemail, but I think I have now been officially blackballed.”

“If it’s any consolation, they’re ignoring me now, too,” Tybalt says with a shrug. “I guess I pissed Aunt Janice off when I jumped to your defense.”

“Give it some time, Jules, maybe they’ll come around...or at least acknowledge that you’re their daughter again,” Rosaline offers with a sympathetic frown. “I know that your family is stubborn as a bull, but they love you.”

“I highly doubt that your father will want to miss his only daughter’s wedding,” Benvolio insists with a gentle smile. “You were his pride and joy, Jules, he’ll show up, I know it.”

Juliet manages a smile and nods, not sure whether to trust Benny’s intuition or not. He’s usually right in an almost creepy psychic way, but Juliet knows her family too damn well and wouldn’t put it past her mother to keep her father away from the ceremony out of anger.

“Have you told your parents yet, Romeo?” Rosaline asks. “Because if the Capulet household already knows…”

“My parents found out last night,” Romeo admits, causing Juliet to throw him an off look.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It’s been such shitastic week so far, I just didn’t want to add on to it. I was going to tell you during the weekend after we’d had some down time,” Romeo admits with a guilt-stricken sigh.

“How did they find out? Who told them?” Juliet asks, reaching over to gently grab her boyfriend’s wrist.

“I guess that freakout that your mom had at the coffee house was spread around town pretty fast...my mom was told by one of her friends during their bridge club. She called me and left a pretty nasty voicemail...I haven’t called her back yet.”

“You don’t have to call her back!” Juliet insists, shaking her head. “If she wants to open up a healthy line of conversation to you, that’s one thing, but if she wants to scream and howl like a cat in heat...you don’t need to, babe.”

“Yeah!” Rosaline agrees with a firm nod. “Sure, she’s your mother, but at the end of the day, you’re an adult now. You call the shots on how you want to live out your life and she can’t dictate what choices you make.”

“In truth, we don’t all necessarily owe our parents anything if they didn’t do anything for us out of love or compassion,” Mercutio says. “Obviously we should be grateful and respectful, but as far as pleasantries...sometimes shit just doesn’t work out. None of us are perfect, including our parents.”

“You’ve got a solid point, Escalus,” Tybalt agrees with a nod. “I don’t even speak to my mother, not since she all but gave me up as a kid. We write occasionally but...I don’t really have much desire to see her again anytime soon. Too much baggage.”

“I talk to my mom sometimes,” Benny says with a shrug. “She lives all the way out in Texas now, so I obviously don’t see her that much.”

“What about your dad?” Tybalt asks.

“He died when I was three.”

“Oh,” Tybalt mutters, feeling awkward. “Uh, sorry.”

Benvolio shrugs before turning to look at his cousin. “My mom does know about the engagement though. Aunt Matilda told her already.”

“So I’m assuming Aunt Candace isn’t thrilled either?” Romeo asks with a cringe.

“Nope,” Benny replies with a soft sigh. “She insist that I stop this ungodly union. I was promptly hung up on when I explained that I helped you propose.”

“So everybody’s pissed about this, huh?” Rosaline asks with a humorless laugh. “You guys are going to put me out of business here, drama for free on the streets! Huh!”

Everyone manages a small chuckle and stares around at one another, waiting for someone to pipe in with something positive about their current situation.

Nothing comes to mind and the silence is only broken when Juliet smiles over at her soon-to-be husband.

“You know what?”

Romeo quirks an eyebrow. “What?”

“I’d go through all of this shit all over again if it means that we get to be together. I’d willingly do it over ten times if it means that I still get to be with you in the end.”

Romeo smiles and blushes like an elementary school boy who’s just been handed a Valentine in the hallway by his crush. Flattered isn’t even the half of it.

“I would, too,” he says simply, leaning over the plastic armrest to press a kiss to the lips he’s become all-too familiar with these last several years. He smiles into the kiss like a total goof and cups Jules’ face, only smiling harder when he feels her begin to smile, too.

Tybalt watches his cousin lock lips with a Montague and, for the first time, doesn’t feel something in his stomach churn unhappily. Actually, in a bizarre but welcome turn of events, he can’t help but smile softly himself.

Maybe this mess will work out after all.