Benvolio is reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" when his cousin bursts into the room, all aflutter. He sighs, carefully inserting his bookmark between the yellowing pages. "What is it, Romeo?"
"Rosaline and I are going out tonight,"
Romeo grins, showing perfect white teeth that Benvolio can't help but think he himself lacks.
Benvolio reaches for his book again. If he has to entertain more of Romeo's praises about his emotionally cold girlfriend, he will knock himself unconscious. "That's nice."
"Yeah, it's that new bar downtown." Romeo says, sitting across from him in the violet loveseat.
"Hmm. 'The Lounge'?"
Benvolio sees Romeo nod over his book. He turns a page. "Yes! You should come too."
"Yes! You haven't been out in so long - when's the last time you've been on a date?"
It's been a couple of months, Benvolio will warrant that. He's rusty. "Barely a month," he lies. The lie tastes of copper on his tongue.
Romeo doesn't buy it. He cocks his head the way he does when he can tell Benvolio is lying. "Benny."
"Alright, maybe it's been two months, but it doesn't matter. What do you care about my romantic life?"
Which is non-existent, Benvolio thinks.
"Cousin," says Romeo sympathetically, sitting forward and taking Benvolio's book from him. "Frankly, I'm worried. You need to get out. Make yourself available."
"No way." Benvolio shakes his head. "I can do it myself, thank you."
Two hours later, Benvolio trails behind Romeo, clutching his shirt like a lost puppy as they enter "The (crowded) Lounge". He squints through the people in front of him, wondering how Romeo is weaving so effortlessly between them when all he himself sees is a bitter fog cast over everything. He can't make out shapes, let alone people. "What is-"
He coughs twice. "What the hell is that stuff in the air?"
"Weed!" calls Romeo confidently.
Benvolio nearly faints. "Romeo, where are we?" he complains instead. "Where's Rosaline in all this mess? Does Uncle Montague know you're here?"
"We're at a club; Rosaline says she's at the back, and no, Dad has no idea I'm at a nightclub where people openly smoke weed and make out."
Benvolio gags. "Ugh, Romeo… I want to go home."
"Just hold your breath," instructs Romeo. "We're almost where Rosaline told me to meet her."
In almost an instant, the fog clears around them. Benvolio blinks at the sudden blessing as light overwhelms his gaze and he has to duck his head to avoid the neon purple above. Romeo rushes off to meet Rosaline, leaving him alone.
Idly Benvolio registers someone singing in the background. He plucks a chip from an open bag left on a counter and walks to the source of the sound. It's drawing him in, as if he's a sailor and there's a siren luring him out to sea.
It's a male voice, emanating from what looks to be a large stage at the front of the club, and as he approaches, he brushes his hand against the base of the stage and looks up. More fog lingers around his head for a few moments as a new song starts up. Then Benvolio catches a glimpse of the enchanting singer.
Benvolio vaguely recognizes the song - it's some 90's pop mumbo-jumbo - and this man is hitting all the notes of the first verse exactly right. The bass thumps with his racing heart as his eyes drink in the sight of the singer. Sun-kissed blond locks form a fringe across his forehead and fall slopingly down around his ears to rest, curled, on his shoulders, wonderfully unruly. The man's eyes are an electric blue, such as Benvolio has never seen before, and he sees them clearly through the haze. He wears a confident, amused grin as if he is telling the joke of the century, as if the notes he is singing are simply spilling out with no effort, looking so relaxed and at ease. Benvolio takes no note of his outfit or the theme, nor the people around him singing backup.
He is only startled out of the singer's revelry when Romeo claps him on the shoulder, at which point he startles and emits a small scream.
"Hey, Benny," Romeo says behind him. His voice sounds as if he is moping.
Benvolio turns, annoyed. "Romeo! The next time you come up behind me, please don't give me a heart attack!"
Seeing Romeo's face, he pauses - the man looks positively let-down. He sighs. "What happened? Did you not find Rosaline?"
"She's nowhere," laments Romeo, hanging his head. "I looked everywhere, Ben. I can't find her."
Benvolio grunts. It's typical of that bitch. Always setting his cousin up and failing to appear on dates planned weeks before. It's always crushed him inside when, from the very beginning of the relationship, Romeo's flitted about like a hummingbird days before a date with her, only to go and come back, tears dropping down onto his crisply ironed suit.
"Forget her. Let's watch the show." he says, wanting to hold off his anger so as to enjoy the rest of the nymph's tune.
Romeo grips his cousin's shoulder only tighter and looks up at the stage with him. "Oh, I know him," he says almost immediately.
"You do?" Benvolio replies excitedly, willing his voice to stay low. He clears his throat. "Uh, who is he?"
Romeo turns round to Benvolio, raising an eyebrow in suspicion. "His name is Mercutio - we used to go to school together. Is something wrong with you?"
Benvolio splutters. He never was a good pretender. "No, no, why would something be wrong? He's only..."
He sighs, resigning himself to his fate as his gaze returns to the blond dreamboat. "Unlawfully handsome..."
At this, Romeo's mouth curves into a huge grin that Benvolio is glad is partially obstructed by the haze of smoke. "Aww, are you in love?"
"What - love? Isn't that a bit much? No, can't I simply admire a man from afar?"
"I'm introducing you two after he's done," says Romeo definitively. "No ifs, ands, or buts about it."
Benvolio sighs again as he looks back up at Mercutio. An instant blush comes over his face as the man starts in on the chorus - only now does the meaning of the song make him breathless.
Mercutio's voice is deliciously tenor - rich and smooth. "If you're horny, let's do it, ride it - my pony,"
With this line uttered, he winks and sends Benvolio's stomach into turmoil. "My saddle's waiting, come and jump on it."
The rush of blood to Benvolio's face makes it hard for him to focus on quite honestly anything but Mercutio and his song. It's then that Mercutio's gaze flicks once more over the crowd and lands on him.
"Oh, look! He's looking at you!" Benvolio hears Romeo coo. As if he needed any other indication that the singer of the seductive song was gazing at none other than him. Benvolio attempts to return the stare for as long as his blush may allow, but he caves when Mercutio sends him an -honest-to-goodness- wink and a grin as wide as his forearm. Quickly he drops his face into a napkin and suffers Romeo's teasing until the song is over.
"Oh my god, Romeo, no,"
"Romeo, yes. Come on, Ben. When else are you going to get to meet a bonafide tenor hotty?"
Benvolio grits his teeth as Romeo drags him onto the stage and over to the back curtains. He's moving faster than Benvolio has ever seen him move before, probably because he's never gotten a chance to set him up with anyone before. "I really don't want to bother him, I mean-" he protests, only to be silenced with a SHH!
"Mercutio never does anything. It's fine. It's not like he's booked."
"How do you know he isn't?" Benvolio squeaks as they pass the velvet curtain. "Do you even know where he is, I mean-"
Romeo interrupts him with a noise of triumph. "Ah-ha! There he is!"
And across the room, holding onto a microphone, stands Mercutio. Benvolio's breath catches in his throat and he wants to turn around, but it's too late. He's already seen Romeo.
"Hey, 'Cutio!" calls Romeo cheerfully to the singer, Benvolio in tow. Benvolio feels his cheeks warm to boiling when Mercutio looks to both him and Romeo.
"Hey, Romeo," he says smoothly, casually. The total opposite to Benvolio's utter mortification. "and…"
"This is my cousin. Benvolio." Romeo says hastily. Benvolio stares at Mercutio, frozen.
Mercutio smiles at Benvolio, recognition lighting up his face. "Ah. You're the hottie from the show."
Benvolio nearly faints dead away. "Oh, hottie - I'm - thank you. You're a lot hotter than me, anyway- I- I mean- you're good looking, moreso than me, er…"
He pauses. "I'll shut up."
Romeo face-palms in the background. "Benny, for Pete's sake."
"No, no- it's okay," laughs Mercutio. His laugh is as golden as his voice. The heavens sing. "It's fine. Your cousin's mad cute, Romeo."
Benvolio smiles bashfully. "I- I enjoyed the show. Very much." he confesses.
Mercutio parts his lips slowly. Benvolio watches him lick them almost teasingly. Then he grins and replies, "Hmm. You'll get a first-hand experience of it if you want it."
"Oh… god…" Benvolio giggles, his face turning even redder. "I think I'd like that!"
Two weeks later is their first date. Benvolio stands before a mirror wearing a casual t-shirt and jeans. He had originally wanted to wear a crisp tuxedo, but he'd changed at Romeo's insistence.
"It's a club you're going to," he had told him, rolling his eyes, "not a wake."
Now Romeo sits bored on the loveseat across from Benvolio, reading a magazine called, "Verona's Romance Tips".
Benvolio turns slightly in order to see his backside. "Hmm. How do I look?" he asks.
Romeo's head snaps up from the magazine and he gives a careless little wave. "Yeah, fine."
Benvolio takes that to mean he approves.
Mercutio looks even more handsome on the date, if that's possible. He's wearing a three-quarter-length cotton shirt and shorts and something about him just seems to glow. Benvolio scratches his head nervously, a hand dug into his curls when he approaches the table.
Mercutio gazes at Benvolio with a smile on his lips. "Hey, Benvolio,"
"Hello." Benvolio smiles back.
"Shall we get acquainted, then?" asks Mercutio, and Benvolio nods, sitting.
"And then, I swear to all, he says, 'Butter is dairy?!'"
Benvolio snorts through his laughter, forcing himself to swallow down his salad and not choke on it. This has been Mercutio's third joke, and they keep getting funnier. He hides his mouth with a hand and keeps silently chuckling.
Mercutio reaches over to hand him a napkin, grinning. "Ah, here,"
Benvolio nods desperately. "Thank you."
He wipes away the ranch coating his cheeks. "You're funny and a good singer?"
Mercutio shrugs humbly. "I suppose. I also enjoy puns."
"Ah?" Benvolio hums.
"Yessir," Mercutio replies, taking a bite of penne. "Although, my mother didn't appreciate it."
Benvolio smiles fondly. "Hmm, my mother didn't approve of my hobbies either."
Mercutio's eyes widen as he shoves more pasta in his mouth. "What hobbies were those?"
"Ah, dancing - she didn't like me dancing ballet, or tap; she hated me doing poetry, things like that,"
"Yeah, I suppose she didn't want me to 'turn gay', or something of the like."
Mercutio tuts. "Ignorant, if you don't mind me saying so."
Benvolio nods. "No, not at all. Besides, I'm gay anyway."
He gives a humourless laugh. "She couldn't supress that no matter how hard she tried."
Mercutio's hand flops dramatically. "I used to steal my sister's dresses and wear them around the house, pretend I was a model. My parents didn't give a damn, though."
Benvolio smiles shyly, and leans forward to place his hand atop Mercutio's. "Well, for what it's worth, you look like a model to me."
He doesn't expect the pressure of Mercutio's lips against his, or the feeling of him gripping, scrabbling at his collar to pull him closer. He doesn't expect himself to sigh and for moans to fall from his throat into the kiss, or to insert his tongue into Mercutio's mouth to make it deeper.
Later, he doesn't expect to end the date by making out restlessly in Mercutio's stylish Mercedes Benz and then taking each other's clothes off in order to live out the song Mercutio had been singing the other night.
Benvolio doesn't expect any of these things, and yet he gets them. And loves them.