Fighting a Montague was normal, almost natural, Tybalt couldn’t remember a time where he did not fight them, or Mercutio. Of course, some things had changed with time, the fights with the Prince’s nephew became more like a game between them, they grew closer, much closer than what his Montague friends could imagine. But fighting them was still natural.
Except that particular fight had been different, it shook Tybalt to the core, left him breathless, with a weight on his chest so heavy he couldn’t push it away. Because it wasn’t just a Montague, no. It was Juliet. Who now was a Montague. Juliet who now showed all the strength and fire that drove the Capulet’s hearts, fierce as a warrior. As a true Capulet, who now she wasn’t any longer.
Tybalt didn’t hate her, he could never do that, since the day he saw her for the first time, that little thing in the Nurse’s arms, he swore to always love her and protect her. Hate was simply unthinkable. And yet they fought like they hated each other and Tybalt left to return home.
The day of bad choices, he would call it much later, if he’d waited five more minutes Juliet would have invited him to stay over, she would have noticed. She would have cared as she always did. Instead, he walked away like the stupid, proud boy he was. Not a man, for a man would have taken the right decision. And he did not.
He felt it coming, like a tingling feeling spreading in his body and the memory of all the other times screaming for him to reach home fast. He clenched his fists, dug the nails in his palms attempting to focus on the light pain he felt now. - It never worked and yet he tried every single time. -
He was alone, he was too far from the Capulet’s palace, in a small alley that suddenly felt even smaller. Alone. And scared.
“I’ll go after him before he does something he’ll regret!” Mercutio said upon learning of the fight; he heard, as he was already running in the same direction the young Capulet took, Romeo and Benvolio yelling at him to leave him be. “I’ll be right back, my friends! - He yelled back shooting them a smile. - I’ll just make sure our dear Prince of Cats reaches his den and I’ll be back in time for that party.” He winked at them and run off.
He couldn’t tell them how worried he was, from the moment he saw Tybalt staggering back and out of the gate, from the moment he heard Juliet’s voice still loud, or her words spilling like poison. He was worried, and he knew that so was the young girl, she immediately regretted her words and tone, all to similar to the ones her parents used, especially her father, when they were angry. Especially at Tybalt.
But there was something else too. Mercutio couldn’t shake away the feeling that something else would happen and he would be damned if he let anything happen to him. To Tybalt. His Tybalt.
It didn’t took long to catch up with him. He was standing a few meters behind him and had yet to call him aloud when he saw it. Or, well… he saw something. He wasn’t sure what it was or meant, but it was wrong. Somehow. Deeply wrong.
“Too far. - His mind seemed to scream; every sound, either real or not, seemed suddenly too loud. - Unsafe. Keep walking. Get home. Safe. Get home. Home. No. No no no…” A new wave of fear washed over him as he desperately forced his legs to keep moving. He was used to the pain, but fear was something else, fear was different. Fear was powerful. He leaned over the wall of the house at his side, the cold stones seemed to give some relief when he put his head against it, but he couldn’t stay. He had to keep moving. He had to –
Tybalt swayed lightly as his vision blurred for a moment and dark spots danced in front of him, the only thing keeping him upright was the wall and he feared he wouldn’t hold him for much longer anyway.
“Keep moving. Keep mov – fuck!” With a pained cry he held his head. He wanted to cry, not for the pain, despite that becoming more and more unbearable, but in fear. It was bad, it was dangerous, it happened only once when he was alone and all he could remember of that time was fear. Since then he had always been careful to be with someone when the first symptoms happened, or at least at home. Not this time. This time he had been so childish that he chose to walk back home after a fight with Juliet, after something he knew could trigger a fit. Was it for pride? Or foolishness? He couldn’t remember. He couldn’t think.
Tybalt tried to move again, a sound came from his back, a stick being snapped under a foot, echoing loudly in his mind. There was a strange smell in the air, like wood being burned, maybe coming from a fireplace in one of the houses. Or maybe it was just him smelling things that were not there.
But the stick snapping sounded real enough and he turned tentatively, his legs threatening to give in at the movement as another wave of dizziness and pain took hold of him.
Mercutio was staring at him, his eyes open wide in a fear that, as soon as Tybalt turn around, changed in terror. He couldn’t speak, he opened his mouth, but no sound came out. It was even worse than what he thought.
Tybalt was pale. No, scratch that, he was ghostly white. A shade he never thought possible on a human. He still had a hand pressed against his head when he looked up. Whatever was wrong with him it was definitely bad and Mercutio had no idea of what to do, he just felt grateful for choosing to go after him.
He swallowed before taking a step closer, an arm held out to him trying to reach him. Trying to get him to safety.
“Tybalt. - He said in a low voice, afraid to hurt him even more. - My sweet prince what’s wrong?”
The cry he let out as he suddenly went rigid made the blood freeze in Mercutio’s veins. It was – unsettling. Never before he heard a sound like this, and surely not coming from Tybalt. A deep, unknown, almost unearthly fear gripped the young Escalus and he barely had time to realize that Tybalt was falling. He grabbed him, all of his body rigid, almost frozen, dark eyes staring blankly at the sky above them.
And then the nightmare began.
A nightmare that would haunt Mercutio for all the days to come. A nightmare that would never leave him again, different from any other nightmare, one that would always feel so real as the day he lived it. A nightmare of blank eyes staring unseeing at him and blue lips.
Tybalt was still in his arms, his head safely cradled on Mercutio’s legs as a hand moved the black hair out of the way, when his body began convulsing. His legs kicked wildly on the ground, his arms trashed at his side, fingers curled painfully as hands smacked against the stone of the wall before Mercutio could think about moving him. But moving him where, exactly? The alley was small and in the position they were it was only natural he would hit the wall.
“Nothing of this is natural! - His mind yelled at him. - Do something. Think!” But that voice, his own voice, yelling at himself, was the only thing going on in his otherwise blank mind. He didn’t know what to do except for watching the man he came to love trashing on the cold cobbled ground. Watching as his body arched and slam back on the ground glad his head was still on his knees and Tybalt wasn’t going to hurt himself even more.
It felt like an eternity before the fit slowed down and Tybalt was only occasionally twitching. When Mercutio dared to look down at his face, still sickly pale, Tybalt’s eyes where closed and his head lolled limp to the side. He would have called it a blessing before he realized something much, much worse. His lips – the same lips he kissed in secret – were slightly parted, a pale blue hue, and blood trailing down his chin.
“Must have bitten his tongue.” He thought, almost surprised he could still think. But it wasn’t the blood that caught his attention.
Blue. They were blue. It wasn’t normal, even a child knew that. He laid still, Mercutio’s hands gently pressed on his shoulders. Still. Unmoving.
Panic rose like a bubble, surrounded Mercutio and felt heavier with every breath he took. In an almost dazed state his hands moved up to his face hesitating just a bit over his lips. Then the bubble exploded.
A sob broke through his throat, he was almost glad he was alone and at the same time he wished someone, anyone, would walk by the alley and find them. Maybe help them. Help Tybalt. Save him.
“Save? - His mind seemed to mock him and he had no will to stop it. - You could have saved him, and you didn’t.”
“Don’t know how…” He whispered as tears rolled down his cheeks. “Don’t know…”
“And now he’s dead. Look at him. Look down Mercutio!” When he did, the sobs only grew louder, he kneeled over him, his forehead against Tybalt’s chest. It couldn’t be real. He couldn’t be dead. Not in his arms. Not like this. He couldn’t – Mercutio grabbed his black shirt shaking him hard enough to make his head loll.
In his panic and cries he almost missed the weak moan coming from Tybalt.
Everything was blurry. His mind, sounds, even the darkness behind his closed eyes seemed blurry.
And everything hurt, every part of his body screamed in pain, every muscle. Not to mention his head.
“What – ?” Words blurred together at his attempt to think. Something happened, he was sure of that, but what? And where was he? Why couldn’t he think or even remember?! And why was breathing so difficult?
No. One thing at time. He had to breathe. Somehow. Why couldn’t he? It almost felt like he forgot how to do it, but it wasn’t something he could forget now, was it? All he managed to get out was a moan, soft and weak and painful. But it was something.
There was someone with him, someone who carefully caressed his face, and his hair. Only one person could do to. Him.
Him… What was his name again? Tybalt. No, no. that him name’s. It was there, right there on the tip of his tongue, and yet it was unreachable, too far and foggy. Whatever the name was, though, his touch was welcome and kind. Familiar.
Juliet? No, no… Him. Not Juliet. Juliet was – angry? Why angry? What could anger his sweet Juliet? Who did he have to fight that time?
“Tybalt?” Someone, him, called him, the voice still so far away and his own voice still nowhere to be found, there was a hand brushing over his cheek and forehead, comforting. “Tybalt… Tybbs please. - He heard, it sounded so pained and worried. - My dear Prince, please… wake up.”
Prince. He was no prince, he was not part of the Royal family, not an Escalus. Escalus. Mercutio. Him. Mercutio!
When he saw his eyes flutter open Mercutio finally allowed himself to breathe out in relief, fear was still crushing him, an invisible weight standing right on his heart, but at least he could see his eyes again. He lifted in a more comfortable position, careful of every sound he made, every sign of discomfort. He put Tybalt’s head against his chest brushing lightly his hair.
He didn’t expect the smile he got in return, his lips curling up just slightly, or the hand Tybalt slowly, so very slowly, raised, brushed against his arm holding him upright, ad caressed his cheek, wiping away the tears that he had yet to stop.
“Stop… - His voice was barely a whisper, Mercutio leaned over and kissed the top of his head. - ‘m fine…”
There were many, many, things Mercutio wanted to say, starting from a very convinced, and convincing, “No, you’re not.” and a “What the Holy Hell was that?!” and –
“I thought you were dead.” He said feeling tears threatening to fall again and drown him. “You were dead. In my arms. You were – ”
Tybalt moved, still slow, still feeling dizzy and unsure, still confused of everything around him. Everything but Mercutio.
“Safe.” He finished his sentence, knowing all too well it wasn’t what the young Escalus meant, but it was still the truth. He leaned back on him tiredly. Safe. Yes. His arms were safe.
Mercutio jolted awake breathing heavily and scanning cautiously his surroundings.
“A dream… - He breathed out passing a hand over his face. - Just a dream.” And yet, despite knowing it, despite admitting it aloud to make it even more real the fear from the dream, nightmare, still lingered, anchored deeply in his bones. With a sigh he lay back, his head carefully on Tybalt’s chest beside him, he smiled when his arms wrapped around him and held him, like he was trying to keep him safe.
And he was, safe.