Prompt: Character—Mercutio Monty
Mercutio Monty lifted the towel away from his lip just long enough to assess the damage in the bathroom mirror. The lip was bleeding, and it was beginning to swell. That’s going to look like hell in the morning. Wouldn’t matter. He already had the big dark family eyebags to go with the big honking family nose. He was definitely not the pretty brother. Maybe a smile would help. He tried a tentative, one-sided smile.
Nope. Didn’t help, and smiling now wasn’t a very good idea.
“Ice bag,” his brother Romeo announced, handing it over. He leaned against the doorframe and gave Mercutio a critical once-over. “That’s going to look like hell in the morning.”
Mercutio took the ice bag. “Shut up,” he snapped. “I got this saving your ass.”
Romeo shrugged. “I didn’t ask you to save my ass,” he said. “The real problem is that Jules has a psycho brother. She asks me over, he tries to kill me. I ask her over, he follows her over and tries to kill me again. Has Tybalt always been this crazy?”
“Yes,” said Mercutio darkly. “Look, it’s not something you ask or don’t ask. He hits my little brother, I hit him back harder.” He glared at Romeo over the ice bag.
Romeo tilted his head to one side and surveyed Mercutio. “It’s a nice look for you,” he said. “So yeah, thanks for saving my ass. Wish it had saved our date, but not a total loss. By the way, Jules and I are going steady now.”
“Hey, that’s great!” said Mercutio, grinning, and then winced. “Ow, dammit, my jaw.”
“Yeah. Only. . .” Romeo muttered, hesitating—“Only I didn’t exactly want to.”
Mercutio sighed and picked up a towel. “You’re kind of a douche. Did you know that?”
Romeo rolled his eyes. “I’m only sixteen, for crying out loud! What am I supposed to do, kill myself over her or something? It made her happy. She’s cute when she’s happy. It’s the red hair. I can’t hold out against the awesome power of the redhead, man. You know how it is.”
Do I ever, thought Mercutio. “Yeah, I guess,” he said, drying off his face.
“I mean there’s Hermia. She’s real cute. Not as cute as Jules, but she’s still cute. And she likes you. You like her, right?”
Mercutio nodded. “Hermia’s nice, yeah.”
“You should make a move on her fast, though. Before Puck’s party. He likes her, too.”
“Right,” Mercutio said sarcastically. “Because one Monty involved with one of his sisters makes Tybalt into a little ray of sunshine. Can’t imagine what he’d be like with double the fun.” He threw the ice bag back at Romeo. “Out. I want to get in a workout before bed.”
Romeo looked confused. “Wait, what? It’s eleven already. You didn’t get enough of a workout fighting with Tybalt?”
“No,” Mercutio said, glowering. “Because this time, he split my lip. Next time –"
“There doesn’t have to be a next time, though, does there?” asked Romeo, sounding troubled. “You got him good in the eye, I heard it. So why—“
“Because. Because I need to. Because I’m worked up and stressed out and I need to, goddamn it. Let me out of this bathroom or so help me—“
He didn’t need to finish the sentence. Romeo was gone.
Mercutio walked out of the bathroom and onto the open air patio, where he’d installed a weight machine he’d gotten second hand from the high school gym. He racked up some weights and began doing chest presses. This was something he knew how to do, maybe the only thing he knew how to do. It was up to him to look after Romeo, the way he always had.
He sure couldn’t keep the family together the way he was going, and he’d have to, soon. Nonno wasn’t going to last long. Nonna had no idea what to do with herself out of the kitchen and she wasn’t going to learn how now. He could always get a job with Uncle Tony at the family restaurant after graduation, except—
“No,” Uncle Tony had said, smacking him on the back of the head. “You go to college and be smart. I never went,” he said, looking wistful. “Always wanted to.”
“Can’t,” said Mercutio, scowling and rubbing his head. “Lousy grades. Can’t afford it.”
“I thought you pulled up your grades,” said Uncle Tony, looking disappointed. He hated disappointing Uncle Tony. “Hey, what about an athletic scholarship? You could get one of those.”
“Nope. I quit track.”
“Tybalt’s on the track team, that’s why. I don’t want to be anywhere near that asshole.”
“See?” said Uncle Tony, looking at the ceiling and waving his arms. “You see? Your whole life, it’s about what the Capps do, what they don’t do. You need to get out of here.”
“I’m not going to college,” Mercutio said stubbornly. “Romeo’s going to college.”
“That one,” snorted Uncle Tony. “Always with the girls, that one. As long as there’s a girl, he doesn’t care. Him, I’d give a job in the kitchen—do him good to peel some vegetables. But you—“ he said, shaking his head, “your life is not here. You stay here, you’ll be miserable. Best place for you is college. You can be smart and find out who you really are.”
“You’re smart. You know who you are,” Mercutio pointed out.
“I met your aunt,” he said simply. “Maybe I’m not so smart, either. But I’ve got Japan to look forward to, right?” he added, grinning. “Now shut up, and turn up the volume on the radio. It’s getting to the good bit.”
Mercutio hadn’t had the heart to tell his uncle that probably ladies in Japan didn’t sing “Un bel dí vedremo.” And besides, Uncle Tony wasn’t ever going to Japan. Everything was for the twins—the college fund, the music lessons. There was never enough left for Uncle Tony and his travel savings, but he never complained, and he still said he was going to Japan someday. Somedays didn’t happen to Montys.
It was different for the Capps, he thought savagely, as he started doing pushups. Plenty of money, plenty of connections. They could go anywhere they wanted, and they would. Tybalt especially would, the bastard. You couldn’t get past that mask. Literally.
He was tired of dealing with Tybalt. He was tired to death of trying to outrun, out-jump, out shotput, and out-throw Tybalt, and he sure couldn’t outsmart him, and that’s why he’d quit track. He was trying to avoid him, but you couldn’t avoid someone who stalked your little brother right into your front yard. And even then, all he was trying to do was block him, but Tybalt was angry, and he could hardly keep him off Romeo, and Tybalt kept twisting under his hands and sweating and crying, until his shirt was ripping to shreds and he finally ripped away, breathing hard and drying his nose off with his hand.
Mercutio tried to stare him down. Watch the chest plate, he knew—it telegraphed what they’re going to do next. But the red Capp hair pulled your eye away—up to the head, down the neck, down the shredded line of the shoulder and then to all the places the shirt had been pulled away or ripped—
And that was when Tybalt cracked him in the jaw.
Well, fuck that. He let Tybalt have it in the eye then, but good, only no one was ever going to know that he’d won that fight because you could not see behind the mask to the shiner he’d earned. But Mercutio knew it. He’d seen it in the malevolent glare in the other eye as Tybalt pulled his sister home, snarling. There would be other fights, and next time he’d be stronger, faster, better able to protect himself and his. He wouldn’t actually have to touch Tybalt again. Not like that, anyway. Not that close.
He was tired enough now. He could take a shower and get some sleep and get some peace from the goddamned dreams. He looped a towel around his neck and put his hands over his eyes. At least he didn’t have a black eye, right?
But he wished he could do what Uncle Tony said and go to college, get away, put it behind him, be who he really was. Because. . . because. . . he took a big, shuddering breath—
--because things were—
“So fucked up,” Mercutio mourned aloud. “So fucked up.”