Even after the play had been written, the piece was published, and the world fell in love with Romeo and Juliet’s story, Anne Hathaway found that she could still enter the Story.
At least, that’s what she was calling it; the realm that seemed to be some sort of suspended reality, something similar to, but definitely not completely tethered, to their usual world. The Real Life, as William coined it.
In Story, the tale of Juliet and Romeo continued, far beyond what the two writers originally intended. It was confusing even to William, who found that he, too, could reprise his usual roles, as time passed in Story.
“Might be good for a sequel of sorts,” William quipped one morning, sitting next to April as they watched Juliet, May and Nurse from afar.
“Eh, I think they deserve some peace, don’t they?” Anne asks, slipping her hand into his. “Everyone does. It’s been quite the last few months for them, a small break won’t kill anyone-” she makes a face at the bad phrasing, which makes William laugh.
“Fine, fine, no Romeo & Juliet 2 , I suppose,” he quips with a smile. “I rather like it here.”
“It is quite nice, isn’t it?” Anne asks with a grin, looking over at him. “A few rules, though: we don’t stay in here for more than a day maximum, and we definitely don’t bring the girls in here.” She looks down at their hands. “We don’t know the full extent of this place, so-”
The name is second nature to Anne now: April, the woman of Story, best friend to Juliet. When she’s in the Real World - or alone with William - she’s Anne; but here, with Juliet and company, she’s April. It’s all as compartmentalized as she could make it.
“Oh, ready to go?” April asks, jumping off the ledge to move to meet them. “What’s the plan today, everyone?”
April did always love the adventures and antics they got into in this world; she had a freedom here that, in the Real World, she wasn’t allowed. It was refreshing on multiple levels.
“Probably just going to hang out in the square,” Juliet says with a shrug. “Then I’m meeting up with Romeo for a nice dinner.”
“Oh?” April asks with a smile. “That sounds lovely… how’s that all going, anyways?”
William, who was following originally, is suddenly stopped by a few of Romeo’s friends. With a smile and a wave, he moves away, towards the other side of the square, still in eyeline of each other should they need it. Now that they weren’t fighting, they never wanted to leave each other’s sides - as much as possible, anyways.
“We’re alright,” Juliet continues. “We’re getting through some things. Not really sure what we are currently, but that’s okay for now, you know? We’re definitely friends. I just hope we can get closer.”
April smiles. “That’s a good way to go about it.”
“It’s a fresh start,” Juliet replies. “I like where it’s going.”
“And how about you, May?” April asks, smiling a bit coyly at them. “What about you?”
“Oh, uh… me and Frankie are doing well, thank you,” they reply, a soft smile on their face. “It’s been wonderful, really.”
Juliet laughs at that, pulling May closer. “You can’t stop talking about him, May! It’s adorable.”
May chuckles at that, shrugging a bit shyly. “It’s nice, you know? To have that connection with someone. It’s nice.”
April nods understandingly, smile growing wider as she looks over at…
“Oh, uh,” Angelique replies, chuckling. “We’ll see how it goes. Lance has been quite the charmer since we decided to… er, you know.” She chuckles. “I’m meeting with him tonight, actually, while Juliet and Romeo go on their little date of sorts.
“Oh, it must be a date night,” May quips. “I’ll be with Frankie. We’ve got a faire to go see.”
April tilts her head. “Oh, where is it? I might take-”
April stops, though, and stares, straightening up a bit.
It’s a chill down her spine, a stoppage of breath, a terrifying reaction to something unseen.
The group stops to look at her. “April? You alright?” Juliet asks, frowning.
April doesn’t react for a moment before, suddenly, she looks down, a bit confused.
She’s not sure what just happened, but she’s sure of what she needs to do.
“I… need to go,” she says, looking around; sure enough, William is rushing to her side. “Emergency.”
“Can we help-” Juliet starts, but Anne’s already rushing off, having taken William by the hand.
“I’ll be back in a bit!” Anne replies. “Don’t wait up!”
William follows quickly. “You felt it too, right?”
“Yeah,” Anne nods. “Something’s off.”
The duo end up in an alleyway, where they close there eyes, take a deep breath, focus…
… and William opens his eyes to find himself in the Real World. He’s thankful that little trick hasn’t failed them.
The first thing he does is check on the girls; they’re safe, still not back from their trip. With that anxiety lessened, he continues the search for whatever has gone wrong.
Will looks around anxiously; something’s off, he knows it, but he can’t seem to find anything at the moment-
-which, with a terrifying realization, he knows is part of the problem.
“Anne?” he asks, rushing through the home. “Anne, where are you-”
He stops, however, when he enters the next room, eyes wide.
Sure enough, the man was standing there, Anne being forced to stand in front of him, a knife to her back.
“Hello, William,” Chrisopher says. “It’s nice to see you again.”
William shakes the shock away.
“Where are the girls?” Anne asks; it’s the biggest concern to her right now, not even her own safety.
William expected nothing less; it’s what he would worry about as well.
“Safe, not here, still on that trip,” Will explains. When Anne visibly relaxes, William turns his attention back to the current situation. “I thought you died, right about the time you were outed as not the writer of all my plays.”
“Greatly exaggerated,” Christopher explains. “But don’t worry, I’ll soon reveal myself to the masses… as the new William Shakespeare.”
They both reply:
“Both of you are rather cute with the whole do-the-same-thing-at-the-same-time thing,” Christopher grumbles, “but now’s really not the time for it.”
He pulls Anne closer.
“I’m done with being in your shadow, William,” Christopher says, taking out something. “And I think this finally my chance to take what’s mine: your works, your legacy… your lady here.”
“Since when are you even remotely interested in Anne?” William asks, giving him a confused look. William was getting more and more confused by the moment.
Christopher takes a moment before he shrugs and nods.
“Okay, fair play, I’m not really after her, but… the Story, that’s what you’ve been calling it, haven’t you?”
Anne tries to look back. “How do you know about that-”
“That’s a conversation for another time,” Christopher says. He starts to move and Anne’s scared he’ll move towards her husband.
“William, back away,” Anne says, voice as steady as it could be given the moment. She tenses when she feels something against her back - something that’s getting hotter by the second. “Get help. Don’t worry about me.”
“And leave you here with him? Not a chance,” William growls out, glaring daggers at his opponent.
Christopher smiles. “One more chance, Will. Give me the play, or I’ll take her from you.”
“Christopher Marlowe, get the hell away from her-” William starts, but then Marlowe presses the thing further into Anne’s back, and the woman gasps, eyes wide.
There’s some sort of… darkness, of shadow, that floats through the air, coming from Anne’s back and into the woman’s heart. Marlowe backs up, away from Anne, but the woman is still floating in the air, darkness surrounding her.
“Anne!” Will tries to yell, but he’s suddenly knocked down by an unknown, invisible force.
When he sits back up, he looks with wide eyes.
Standing before him is his wife, but her eyes… they’re as black as night. They look straight through him.
Christopher looks pleased.
“Now then,” he says happily, gently carding a hand through Anne’s hair. “I think another rewrite is in order, wouldn’t you agree, love?”
He offers her a dagger… which she takes.
“Anne, please-” William starts, but then the ground shakes and a sigil appears on the ground. His eyes go wide.
“We’re not killing you, William, don’t worry,” he says. “Just everything you’ve held dear will be destroyed over the next 24 hours. Isn’t that right, Anne?”
Anne says nothing as she’s suddenly engulfed in the shadow… and they’re gone. They’re both gone.
William can only stare.
Back within the Story, Juliet was a bit panicked.
“I know April does this sometimes,” Juliet said with a frown, “but never for this long. Does anyone know where she’s gone off to?”
“Not that I know of,” Nurse replies. “She’s usually here by now-”
“There you two are.”
The duo turns to find April there. Juliet almost smiles in relief, but…
“Are you alright, April?” Juliet asks, moving over to the woman with urgency.
April looks over and, for a moment, Juliet feels a coldness. It’s gone as soon as it came, though, and April gives her a smile.
“Of course, Juliet, why wouldn’t I be?” she asks, the normal tone and warm smile back in play.
Juliet shrugs. “You were gone for half a day without telling anyone where you were.”
April shrugs. “Sorry. Shall we get going?”
Juliet narrows her eyes as April walks past.
A few hours later, it’s clear to Juliet that something’s wrong.
It’s April, she’s sure of it, but it’s also… just… not .
When the two of them were alone for a moment, Juliet takes the opportunity to talk to her privately.
“You’ve been acting strange all day, April,” Juliet says gently, taking the girl’s hand. “Are you sure there’s nothing the matter?”
April, for the record, isn’t really hearing Juliet right now; all she can focus on is the voice in her head, repeating the same thing over and over:
As it continues, April can’t help but remember a time, not so long ago, where she and Juliet fought back against demands like this. April had helped Juliet make her own choices, her own decisions… the same things that aren’t being allowed for April - for Anne - right now.
It helps give her strength and, for a moment, April can see the light in the darkness.
Juliet starts in surprise, stopping. “I’m sorry-?”
“No, not…” April sighs; she’s surprised that came out of her mouth. She winces, a hand to her head.
“Are you alright-” Juliet tries, a hand reaching out to try to help steady her friend, but April pulls away rather harshly.
“I’m fine, don’t touch me,” April growls out. “I need a moment.”
April moves past without much fanfare.
Juliet frowns, watching her friend as she moves into a dark, shadowy back alley.
In said alley, April walks fairly unsteadily, eventually toppling towards the wall. With a deep, shaking breath, she steadies herself.
“This… th-this isn’t right,” April says quietly, to herself. “All of this, it’s not-!”
“But it is, April~”
She can hear him, she can feel him… but she can’t see him.
“What did you do to me?” Anne demands, anger rising the longer this continues. She looks up. “Show yourself, Marlowe!”
“Where’s the fun in that?” he asks, though clearly not anywhere near Anne. She looks around wildly, angrily… but nothing. “No, no, you still have a job to do, Annie.”
A dagger suddenly appears in April’s hands.
“No,” Anne says. “I refuse. I absolutely refuse-”
“You can and you will,” Marlowe cuts in. “You won’t have a choice. This isn’t your narrative anymore, Hathaway. This is mine . It will all be mine.”
“I have a choice,” Anne growls out; to herself or to Marlowe, she’s not sure, but she clings onto the reminder like a lifeline. “I have a fucking choice-”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Marlowe starts, just as the darkness rises once again. Anne feels like she’s drowning in it, fading off into obscurity because of it, completely unable to overcome it.
“You will never have a choice again.”
Anne shakes, dagger laying in her hands… and then slowly but surely, she grabs it and holds onto it tightly.
The darkness is eternal, swirled around her, and she relaxes into it.
“I will,” she replies, her voice devoid of emotion. “I will.”
She’s resigned to it, suddenly; she knows there’s no other way. She knows what she must do - what she has no choice but to do.
The darkness has taken hold again.
“Good,” Marlowe replies. “Now, it must be done before midnight,” he says. “Which is in about… four hours.”
The darkness swirls around Anne more and she closes her eyes, taking a deep breath. Succumbing to it.
“I will, before midnight,” she promises.
The darkness fades.
Anne puts the dagger on her belt, hiding it from view, before she moves back towards the others.
Juliet looks back as soon as April is seen.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Juliet tries again, but April gives her a smile.
“Never better, I assure you,” April replies with a grin. “Come on, Juliet, we have much to do before tonight.”
Juliet raises an eyebrow but follows. “What’s tonight?”
April just grins.
Back in the Real World, William has been trying over and over to get back into the Story… but for some reason, he just can’t. No matter how hard he focuses, how hard he writes… there’s nothing. He’s blocked, it seems, from his own creation.
“Come on, Anne,” he says, a frustrated sigh following. “You need to let me in-”
“She’s not coming, William.”
William glares at the man in front of him: Marlowe, once again, holding a book. He recognizes it immediately, but he doesn’t care.
“Give her back to me,” William demands. “ Now. ”
“So sorry, can’t do it,” Marlowe replies. “You can read along, though, if you’d like.”
When William gives him a questioning look, Marlowe throws the book at him. William catches it, opens it up… and his eyes go wide and he drops the book immediately.
“Witchcraft!” he exclaims. “That must be witchcraft.”
“It’s something far worse, I assure you,” Marlowe replies. “It won’t hurt you, though. And you can follow along with what’s happening in that realm of hers… and watch when she completely destroys it.”
William glares… but takes the book anyways. When he looks up, Marlowe is gone.
All he thinks he can do is just… read along, as the words appear on the page.
He joins in just as the clock is about to strike 11:30 at night.
“What’s happening in half an hour again?” Juliet asks; at this point, she and April are alone, walking the streets of Paris, arms linked. “It’s dangerous to be out here alone like this, you know… we should have waited for Romeo, he said he was only going to be another minute or so.”
“I assure you, Juliet,” April replies, “he won’t be needed.”
Juliet stops then.
“Alright, come off it, then, what’s going on?”
April looks back, questioning. “What do you mean?”
“April wouldn’t just blow him off like that,” Juliet replies. “Something’s wrong here. Can’t you feel it?” Juliet shivers a bit. “It’s like a coldness… it’s you, but it’s the air around you, too. Something’s off, and I think it starts with you.”
April tilts her head in thought before she shrugs. The dagger appears in her hands.
Juliet instantly backs up a few steps.
“April?” Juliet tries, but then the girl strikes, trying to slash at the woman. “April!”
Back in the Real World, William squeezes his eyes shut, trying to focus; why can’t he get in?
Juliet backs up again, eyes wide. “What’s gotten into you? Snap out of this!”
April moves forward once more, once again being dodged. “April!”
“Will you just be a good girl for us and die already?” Anne growls out, going for the stab once again.
“Us?” Juliet asks, suddenly moving forward. Somehow, against all odds, she’s managed to grab the arm with the knife without injuring anyone. “Who’s us?”
They struggle. William tries harder, as hard as he can.
Come on, William, he thinks to himself, your wife’s in danger and you can’t even save her? Do something!
Juliet looks around for a moment before she pushes April away, the knife clamoring to the ground. April stumbles, a hand on the wall as she glares.
“Whatever this is… this isn’t you, April, I can tell that much,” Juliet tries.
April sneers. “Be a good little Capulet and stay still, alright?”
Juliet stands firm. “Absolutely not.”
“Then I’ll make you.”
“We’ll see about that.”
They struggle, once again, and April tries to grab the knife, but Juliet successfully kicks it back towards the opening of the alley.
They’re in a standoff once again.
“So, what, whatever this is… you’re just going to let it control you, April?”
“I’m doing what I must,” April replies. “You wouldn’t understand, you foolish girl.”
“You clearly didn’t do your history, because I do understand,” Juliet replies. “I’m the one that would understand more than anyone, April. You know that.”
April winces at the comment, and Juliet takes it as encouragement.
“I thought we learned from before that we all need to be able to make our choices, our own decisions.” Juliet moves towards April now. “Whatever is stealing that from you… you need to take it back. Please, April, we’re counting on you.”
Juliet notices it immediately, but something starts to happen: April is shaking, eyes wide for a moment in fear, lips trying to form sentences that aren’t coming out. April shakes her head, squeezes her eyes shut, tries to talk… but she just can’t.
April collects herself too quickly and suddenly pushes Juliet down. With her towering over Juliet, April smirks… but is stopped by Juliet herself.
April stops, raising an eyebrow. “You’ve got two minutes before you die, girl,” she says, a hand extended to telepathically take the dagger back. “Make these last words quick.”
Juliet watches the girl carefully - Romeo should know that something’s up, he should be headed this way soon. April clearly wants something to happen before the stroke of midnight, so… she needs to stall. Just for that long.
Okay, Juliet thinks. She can do this.
“Remember when things with Romeo were a bit messy?” Juliet asks. “Remember when I wasn’t able to have a choice in my own life? Remember when you helped me take back my agency, my story?”
April narrows her eyes, but Juliet continues.
“April, what happened to me then, it’s happening to you now. I don’t understand all of it, but I know you don’t want to do this. You’d never want to hurt me, or anyone. Something is making you. But April… you’re not the type of girl to take this and just go along with it. This isn’t you, this isn’t your story, you have a choice here and I know - I know - that you can beat it.”
April is starting to shake, eyes suddenly less sure and harsh and dark. Juliet takes it as encouragement.
“Whatever’s going on, I promise you, it’s something you can break,” Juliet tried. “It’s something you’re stronger than - something you’ve been stronger than.”
April’s dagger rises into the air, but April’s face clearly shows that she’s unsure of the situation.
“April. Please . Remember yourself, your mission, your entire story. You can beat this. I know you can.”
April looks conflicted - more than she’s ever been, as far as Juliet’s concerned - and when the dagger slowly starts to lower back to April’s side, Juliet has a hopeful look on her face.
April seems to look at her then - really look at her - and there’s a spark of recognition.
“That’s me, exactly,” Juliet replies with a nod. “There you go, April, come on, just a bit more. Keep rising above it, you’re almost there-”
But then, suddenly, the darkness surges.
The dagger disappears suddenly and April collapses to her knees, holding her head in her hands, scraming as the whirlwind of darkness continues to surround her and Juliet. Juliet grabs onto her, holding the girl tightly, but eventually the darkness is just too much, even for the Capulet.
The last thing Juliet hears is Romeo calling her name as she collapses to the ground, April having disappeared in the dark.
William feels something break in the back of his mind - a barrier of sorts - before his eyes open to the sight of his wife, on the floor, struggling for breath.
“Anne!” he yells, quickly moving over to her. “Hey, hey, you’re okay, you’re out, it’s alright-”
“For her, yes. For you… hm.”
Anne suddenly straightens up, eyes wide for a moment as tears start to form. She suddenly has the knife in her hands again.
William glares at the man behind her. “I thought you said you weren’t going to kill me.”
“Change of plans,” Christopher replies with a shrug. “Go on then, Anne. You know what you have to do.”
Anne looks down at the dagger, then over at her husband, who is standing way too close for comfort, and Anne just…
She’s conflicted - she still is - but she can’t do this. She remembers what Juliet said - remembers how right the girl was, how the choice is hers and hers alone, and she’ll be damned before she lets someone else take that choice.
She’s Anne fucking Hathaway, thank you, and she will not be denied her choice.
“You had…” Anne says, standing up. She stumbles, but William is there to help. “You had a better chance of me killing Juliet before I killed him.”
William smirks at that, pulling her in for a moment before she moves away, looking back at the guy that had cursed her in the first place.
The clock strikes midnight then, much to Christopher’s alarment.
“How did you do it?” He demands as, suddenly the room gets impossibly darker. “The magick, it was ancient, no one’s defeated it before.”
Anne smirks, the dagger falling from her hands.
The dagger turns into smoke and, with the rest of the darkness in the room, swirls around Christopher instead. Anne feels it leaving her as well - the darkness, the compulsion - and she falls to her knees as Christopher yells in pain.
When she looks back up, he’s gone.
She feels someone close pull her in, checking her over. She smiles softly at him.
“You need to rest,” he says quietly. “Whatever that was, it wasn’t good.”
Anne shakes her head, though, leaning into him for a moment before standing. “We need to go into Story. Juliet… we need to get to her.”
William knows better than to argue at the moment.
Sure enough, when they arrive in Story, Juliet is still down for the count.
Romeo quickly ushers them over. “Please! I don’t know what’s happened, I just found her like this and… and some shadows-”
“I know,” Anne replies, instantly at the girl’s side. She holds Juliet closely now, worried eyes scanning her over. “Go get Nurse, please.”
Romeo nods, rushing off. William kneels next to his wife and Juliet, staying close but staying quiet.
“Come on, Juliet, breathe,” Anne says, trying to wake the girl up. She frowns. “Can you see that, William?”
“See what?” he asks, looking down.
“The Darkness… it’s there.” Anne says. Then, with an understanding nod, she gently puts a hand on the girl’s shoulder and focuses.
Suddenly, without warning, Juliet gasps awake.
“I’m honestly surprised that worked,” Anne mumbles, suddenly out of energy.
Juliet scrambles to sit up, looking around.
“April?” she asks, a bit suspicious, but the soft, warm smile from the woman in question allows Juliet to relax. “Is that actually you this time?”
April nods. “It’s… a long story. I think. I don’t quite remember, but… you saved me, Juliet. Thank you-”
That’s all she can say, however, as Juliet quickly pulls the girl into a tight embrace.
“Don’t you EVER do that to me again,” Juliet mumbles against April’s shoulder.
April smiles. “I’m not planning on it, love. Promise.”
Juliet pulls back with a watery smile.
In the days that follow, Juliet is put on bedrest while April is sent away for rest as well. When she arrives back in Story, Juliet is happy to see her.
“Can you explain what happened, though?” Juliet asks. “That guy you’re always with, William… he’s something special, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, he’s something, alright,” April quips with a smirk.
“No, I mean… he’s special. Like you.”
April looks over at Juliet for a moment; she knew Juliet would figure it out eventually, but… eh, where’s the fun in just telling her?
“Not sure what you mean,” April replies with a grin. “I’m just your best friend, that’s all I need to be.”
Juliet narrows her eyes, but a soft smile rises on her face. “Alright then, April, keep your secrets.” She nudges the girl with a grin.
“It’s your choice, after all.”