Prompt: Rosvolio + wedding night?
There was not enough wine in the world to ready Benvolio for what he was about to do.
God knows, he had done his best to fortify himself for the task at hand, having finished off several glasses of his uncle’s best Rhenish between all the feasting and the dancing – and, for his pains, was now feeling more than a trifle light-headed – but he could not yet bring himself to rise from his chair and make his way upstairs, where his all-too unwilling bride waited.
The ceremony had taken place that morning in Capulet’s cathedral, as his uncle had wished, for the remaining structural work had miraculously – and mysteriously – been completed before the arrival of autumn. All of Veronan society had turned out for the occasion, dressed their most colorful silks, velvets, and brocades, making the interior of the basilica resemble nothing less than a great casket of jewels. His bride, for her part, had made her way towards the altar dressed in a gown of deep cerulean blue, and Benvolio couldn’t help but notice the bodice, cut square and delectably low across her chest – before he had the good sense to shift his gaze upward.
As the assembled nobles stood watching, the two of them had knelt, their hands joined together by the bishop, followed by an exchange of vows in Latin. There was a brief mass, and those gathered took communion, beginning with the newly-married couple, both of them dutifully parting their lips to receive the body of their Lord. It had been difficult for Benvolio not to think back to the last wedding he had attended – a secret one, with only two witnesses, the ceremony performed by a humble friar – and draw altogether unfavorable comparisons. For all the misfortunes it had brought, his cousin’s marriage had at least been born out of love, not politics, and there had been no mistaking the joy and passion in the eyes of Romeo and his Capulet bride as they had uttered their vows in that candle-lit chapel. Benvolio’s new wife would not even look at him – although he could hardly blame her, given his rather cowardly lack of resistance to the news of their betrothal. And if her heart secretly belonged to another, as he had come to suspect, gazing upon his face would no doubt bring her only pain.
At the celebratory feast that evening, they had proved a somber pair as they sat together at the high table, sharing from the same plate and goblet, but saying almost nothing to each other. She drank but a half-glass of wine and ate very little, and part of him wondered if she planned to escape this marriage simply by refusing to eat, intent on wasting away from lack of sustenance. As the revelries proceeded into the night, Benvolio found himself reaching for the wine time and again, refilling the glass from the silver flagon that sat nestled among the platters of food. The warm evening air was heavy with torch-smoke, thick with the sounds of the drum and pipe as they sung out over the voices in the crowded courtyard, and Benvolio had slowly felt his head begin to spin with it.
In that haze, his eyes had found occasion to seek her out, drawn to her as to a lodestone, although he did not dare to let them linger long. For even in her silent indignation, his wife truly was beautiful – no man could deny it. In the warmth of the torchlight her skin shimmered with rich tones of gold and umber, pulling attention to the winged jut of her collarbones and the length of her neck. She had been endowed with wide, dark eyes, made more expressive by her frequent displays of wit, and a pair of full and rounded lips that seemed to have been formed for no other purpose than to be kissed. He remembered how she had once spoken of her desire to enter a convent – but by Saint Peter, what a waste that would have been.
Yet in the end it mattered not what he thought of her neck or her eyes or even the fullness of her lips, for she did not want him and had only consented to marry him by means of great persuasion from her uncle and the prince. And as Benvolio stared into his half-empty glass, he had realized he could not bear to have her think of him the same way, as yet another man who sought to break her will upon his own.
By and by, the night had grown late, the torches burning low within their sconces, and the time had come for the bride to take her leave and excuse herself from the assembled company. She had risen to her feet amid the ribald cheers and customary encomiums to her beauty and virtue, and just as quickly departed – all without a single glance in Benvolio’s direction. A pair of serving women had been directed to escort her upstairs to his chambers and there she was to make herself ready for bed.
Benvolio waited as long as he possibly could to follow, and he might have waited a while longer, had not his uncle come and clasped a strong hand around his shoulder.
“Go, Benvolio, and make a Montague of her,” he urged, nodding his head towards the stairs, “or at least put one in her.”
Benvolio’s face burned bright with shame – for they should all have been ashamed, having cruelly used this young maid as a pawn in their dealings – but his uncle mistook it for excitement and laughed lustily, quickly pulling Benvolio out of his chair and pushing him in the direction of his chamber.
His feet were like lead upon the stairs, a sharp contrast with his dizzy head, and a hopeful part of him latched onto the possibility that she had simply gone to sleep rather than await his arrival.
Alas, fortune did not favor him, for as he quietly opened the door he could see that a single candle had been left burning and his new bride was sitting up in bed, very much awake. She was clad in a nightgown of fine ivory linen, her unbound hair falling in loose curls over her shoulders. A pair of dark eyes instantly turned towards him, her hands stiff as she clutched the bedclothes tightly against her chest. He had not imagined that he could possibly feel more abashed, but the way she was staring at him, with equal parts defiance and fear written into her gaze, made his heart twist forcefully against his ribs. Had she imagined that he would straightaway attempt to claim his marital rights, he wondered, even in the face of her unwillingness? One look at her was all it took for him to know.
“Fear not, lady,” he muttered with a sigh, “I will not impose myself upon you.”
His words seemed to put her at ease, but only slightly, her wary eyes still fixed upon him as he stepped into the room.
“And what of tomorrow night, and the nights that follow?” she asked. “Will you say the same?”
“I will say it every night you do ask it of me,” he answered quietly, “for I am not the unrepentant blackguard you imagine every Montague must be.” Benvolio rubbed his hand along his forehead, a sudden weariness overtaking him. “But for tonight, put out thy candle and let us have peace. I will rest elsewhere…” – he nodded towards the long wooden bench set flush against the opposite wall – “…and leave you to your dreams.”
He did not wait to see her reaction, but made his way over to his makeshift bower and swiftly stripped himself down to his shirt and hose. It was not until he had laid down upon the bench, using his wadded-up doublet as a cushion for his head, that he realized she had not blown out the candle. Let her keep the light, he thought as he closed his eyes, if it brings her some comfort.
He had almost surrendered to the weight of sleep when he heard her shifting upon the mattress.
“I wonder, my lord,” she murmured, “if you had decided… to impose yourself, what might you have done?”
Benvolio’s eyes snapped open, uncertain that he had heard her true. He glanced over and saw that she had turned onto her side to face him, propping herself up upon an elbow. Something had shifted in her expression, for while she still held herself guardedly, she no longer looked quite so apprehensive, and her eyes glinted with a spark of curiosity. Still, in the thick fog of his mind he could not be sure she knew exactly what it was she was asking.
“What might I have done, when I came into the room?” he stammered.
She nodded, her gaze wide enough that he could see the light of the candle reflected there. Time seemed to slow for a moment, in the stillness of his half-darkened chamber, and all Benvolio could feel was the rough pounding of his heart within his chest. He did not entirely understand why she had thought to ask such a thing, but he would give her an answer – a truthful one.
“Well… to begin, I would have come to sit by your side, lady. For ‘tis all very dependent on proximity.”
“Of course,” she said, her features softening ever so slightly. “And then?”
The corner of his mouth tugged upward in a wry smile, the first time it had done so all day. “Perhaps I would have kissed you,” he said, with a shrug of his shoulders. “Gently at first, and then with greater urgency.”
With her gaze still caught on his, she bit against the fullness of her bottom lip, perhaps in innocence, or perhaps to tease him – and with a tightening sensation in his belly, Benvolio realized he did not care in the slightest which it was.
“Is that all?” she asked.
He exhaled roughly, his breath half-mixed with laughter. “Oh, my Rosaline, had you no nursemaid to tell you of such things?” He paused and pursed his lips, taking her coy silence as his cue to continue with his answer. “No, ‘tis merely the beginning. For then I might have taken you into my arms and held you close, until naught remained to separate us.”
Her lips parted a little, her chest rising and falling with each breath. “And what of our clothes?”
“I would fain have us unclothed,” Benvolio replied, and her dark eyes widened, as if scandalized at the thought. “As husband and wife, there should be no secrets between us.” He swallowed hard, allowing his mind to momentarily cloud with visions of his new bride, her bare skin velvet-smooth and flush with yearning. Perhaps it was only the presence of such distracting thoughts that could explain the liberties he took in speaking to her so brazenly.
“And I would wish to see you, my lady – all of you – as you laid back and pulled me down with my weight upon you. For then there would be nothing left but for me to possess you fully, our bodies joined together in the most intimate of ways.”
He fell silent, knowing not what else to say as he gazed at her, recumbent upon his bed, the wild tendrils of her hair spilling onto the sheets, her eyes shining with something that could only be desire. His breath came heavy, caught in his throat, his hunger for her coiling and nestling deep within his groin. Benvolio found himself filled with the compulsion to rise to his feet and make his way over to where she lay, so he might in fact begin to enact that sequence of events he had just described to her. Before he could do anything, though, she tilted her head, her gaze leveling him with cool appraisal.
“Perhaps it is fortunate, then, that you were compelled to restrain yourself,” she said, her eyebrows raised into uniform arches. “For now, armed with such knowledge, I feel wholly prepared to resist any advances should they be attempted.” She gave him one final shrewd glance before she put her lips up to the candle’s flame.
“Good night, my lord,” she whispered, and with a single breath plunged the room into darkness.
For a moment, Benvolio could only lay back upon the bench, fully awash in bewilderment and frustration, listening to the rustle of the bed linens as she settled herself down for sleep. But as he recalled the words that had just passed between them, he finally came to the realization that she had provoked him deliberately, drawing his mind towards thoughts of carnal pleasures all the while knowing she would allow him no satisfaction of them. But her response to his words had been clear enough – she could not have feigned such desire, could she? Jesu, what sort of bold little minx had he married?
And then he couldn’t help but smile, and shake his head, knowing that he had all the remaining days – and nights – of his life to figure it out.
[my Still Star-Crossed ficlets are on AO3 – read them here]