Chapter 1: Chapter 1
1) Mel finally got me to write the Hamlet fic I've been wanting to write since I was in high school.
2) You may read this and say "This is a BIT melodramatic, isn't it?" to which I will reply "Have you read the source material?"
2) There is a second part of this that I haven't written yet, but it lurks... ominous.
3) There is a fruit anachronism. I'm aware. I will expand on it in the after-notes.
4) Brannagh may have been way too old (imo) for the role but he sold me on BlondieBear!Hamlet. So ymmv, but Alex Pettyfer (only at his blondest and curliest) has been my CM for Hamlet while writing this. Michiel Huisman is my Guildenstern, Santiago Cabrera is my Rosencrantz, Ben Barnes is my Horatio.
5) There is A LOT of sex. So much sex. It's the fucking University of Sexenberg up in this bitch.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hamlet, crowned prince of Denmark, meets the Lords Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when they crash in through the door of his chambers on his first night at Wittenberg.
They have their arms around each other, doublets unbraced, and both their cheeks are flushed a high pink color from what appears-- by their inability to balance-- to be excessive drinking. They’re singing a drinking ballad, yowling off key about some long dead maiden fair, and kissing. The lyrics of the ballad fade in and out of audibility as one cuts the other off with the crush of lips meeting. They stagger across the room and fall onto Hamlet’s bed, one fully on top of the other, before they so much as look away from each other. When they do, the one with longer, lighter brown hair looks up from underneath his partner and glances quizzically around the room.
His eyes settle on Hamlet as his friend starts to lay a series of kisses on the column of his long, pale neck. He looks like he might speak but then his eyelids flutter in pleasure and he hums in approval instead. He does snap out of it a moment later.
“Rosencrantz, it uh-- it appears we’ve made a small error.”
“Of course we have, Gil. To err is human and so are we. We must, therefore, continue to err. We have no other choice. Shut up and kiss me.”
“No,” the other man-- Gil?-- says, laughing. “I meant in our selection of room…”
Rosencrantz pulls away and frowns. “What the devil do you… Oh. Well, yes, that is a very expensive looking bedspread,” he murmurs. And then, after a beat, “Can’t be ours.”
“I don’t believe that is our confused scholar in the corner, either.”
Rosencrantz cranes his neck back to look at Hamlet. After a moment of bewildered staring his whole face melts into an easy, charming smile. “Well, not yet, anyway,” he says, throwing a wink at Hamlet.
“If the bedspread was too costly for you I dare say I’m out of range as well,” Hamlet retorts, not sure in the moment whether it’s an insult or not.
Both men burst into laughter though. Rosencrantz rolls off his friend and onto his side, lounging on Hamlet’s bed easily. “And what price do you tender yourself at, dear little prince?”
Hamlet raises a wry eyebrow, entirely sure Rosencrantz is unaware of why his phrasing is perfect. “Why should I tell such a thing to men whose names I’m not even privvy to?”
“You shouldn’t!” shouts Rosencrantz. “Therefore, I am one Rosenstern and this is my Guildencrantz.”
“He means I am his Guildenstern and he is one Rosencrantz.”
“I’m quite sure that’s what I said, Gil, what should be the aim of this repetition? Are you now a parrot?”
“If I am, I am a bird of your feather.”
“If I am, I am a bird of your feather.”
“If I am, I am a bird of your feather.”
“And feather-brained, the pair of you,” Hamlet says, marveling at their nonsense. Their replying smiles are a perfect combination of ease and invitation.
“Well a ton of feathers weighs less than a ton of bricks, so at least our shoulders are less burdened with weight than yours would seem, good lord,” Guildenstern says, propping his upper body up on his elbows and causing his tunic to slip over his shoulder.
For some reason, it makes Hamlet grin. No one in the whole court (or country) of Denmark would ever speak so forcefully with him. It’s refreshing. “And how shall I remedy myself from such a strain as a head full of bricks?”
Rosencrantz sits up and grins, “Unburden yourself a while, good sir,” he pulls a wineskin from his side and holds the leather pouch aloft.
Hamlet smiles fully then, and stands from his chair to wander over. At the edge of the bed he takes the pouch and takes a long pull from it. It’s mead, sweet and bright. Hinted in the back of the flavor is the taste of cherries. It’s delicious.
“The store this comes from must be excellent. Thank you for sharing,” Hamlet says.
“You’re welcome, m’lord,” Guildenstern says, still leaning back on his elbows. His eyes, though a brighter blue-grey color, seem dark with drink and desire.
“And… how should a man repay such generosity?” Hamlet asks.
Rosencrantz takes his wineskin back, brushing Hamlet’s hand as he does so. He takes a long drink from it-- head tipped back and throat moving with each pull. “By sharing your company methinks,” he says, lips stained with pink honey wine.
“While you’re both still in my bed?”
Guildenstern falls back on the bed with a low sounding laugh, hands laced behind his head. “Prove how generous you are and share that as well.”
“As well as, if you please, your name,” Rosencrantz adds.
Hamlet grins and tugs at Rosencrantz’s belt, bringing him forward so he can seal their lips together. Everything tastes of burgeoning intoxication. “Hamlet,” he says when he pulls back, against Rosencrantz’s lips.
And from there he falls into bed with the both of them.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not-- contrary to both popular belief (and what they spend an enormous time establishing as popular belief)-- spend all their time together. They attend separate lectures often and must attend to various errands and duties separately on occasion. But it is definitely strange to see one without the other. They seem to pine for each other when one is not near. It’s nothing spoken. It’s just a something aching in the way they list off to the side, knowing that the other will not be there to rest against but doing so out of habit all the same.
Their families, Hamlet learns, have been sworn allies to each other for the last ten generations. They were born to be brothers in arms. Hamlet suspects that perhaps they did not mean “in each other’s arms” but Wittenberg is another world, enchanted and distinct from any outside expectations of church or state. This otherworldliness is what lets Hamlet permit himself to fall so deeply into them. And fall he does. Their company, their dynamic, their bed. They are three threads woven together such that they seem only one strong cord.
Lips at the shell of his ear whispering nonsense feel the same as lips trailing down his spine or up to where his inner thigh meets his hip. Hands hoisting him up to jump over stone walls in a quick escape from a friendly jape have the same affection as hands that wrap snuggly around him and bring him to release. They joke and they laugh and they fuck for hours, and the pair of them seem to have a completely never ending supply of wine.
When the weather is fair they make eyes at the kitchen maids for food to take in a basket and eat out in the sunshine soaked meadows, or strip naked and splash in the brook nearby. When it seems the rain outside will never stop they hole up in Hamlet’s quarters and tell stories until they all fall asleep. When the snows come they bundle up and wage the friendliest possible war of snowballs in the courtyard of their dormitory.
Neither Rosencrantz nor Guildenstern ever ask him about Denmark, and he never offers information. Only the letters from his mother and father ever remind him he will one day rule a country. Hamlet never wants to leave Wittenberg. But unfortunately in order to stay he does have to focus occasionally on his studies and that is an activity which neither of his compatriots support. To the point that he himself stops supporting it, in truth. He does what needs must to stay in good graces with his professors, but nothing above and beyond, until of course he is so behind that he must double his efforts. This would be fine if not for the fact that his friends have quite an effective way with distracting him when it suits them, which is all too often.
When there are monarchs to be studied or poetry to be memorized, Guildenstern will always abandon them in favor of throwing Hamlet down on the nearest available surface. The same can be said of Rosencrantz and essay writing, which he particularly loathes. He verges on sullen whenever the task is set in front of him.
In fact it is a balmy May mid-morning that finds them all scattered around Guildenstern’s quarters, Hamlet chipping away at the same essay Rosencrantz is yet again attempting to write by way of staring out of the window wistfully. He’s balanced on the wide window sill, one leg bent so as to rest his chin on his knee while the other leg kicks back and forth like a listless metronome. For the fifth time within the quarter hour he groans loudly.
“I can hardly think of anything less useful than German,” he says bitterly.
“We are in Germany at present, dear friend,” Guildenstern murmurs, not looking up from his own mathematical reading, “there are several immediate and practical uses for--”
“Useful to the soul, Guildenstern. Where’s the heart in it?”
“I will suggest that it might be easier to see the heart of it if you removed your head from inside your arse,” Hamlet says, scratching away with quill to paper.
“And had I but known we had a master of modern anatomy in our midst I would have given him his proper due!” Rosencrantz replies, rolling his eyes.
“Scandalously inappropriate of you not to have, Ro. Poor showing,” Guildenstern says, grinning like a wolf into his mathematics text.
“How will my family live with the shame? They’ll have to burn my branch off the family tree.”
“A tragedy if ever I heard one. It is a good and a healthy branch, thick and heavy… with such girth.”
Rosencrantz whips his head around to stare with a mischievous look at Guildenstern, who only spares one filthy glance up from his text. That’s all the encouragement he needs, however. Rosencrantz springs up off the window sill and glides over to Guildenstern’s chair. He stands behind where Guildenstern sits and runs splayed fingers up the back of his neck, into his curling brown hair. Guildenstern doesn’t look up as his friend bends to lay wet kisses along his neck, but he does tilt his head to one side to allow better access.
Hamlet spares them glances every few words as he continues to write. They’re beautiful. Guildenstern is tall and lean, brown of hair and broad of shoulder. Rosencrantz is dark of hair, shorter, but more muscled. His mother was a Spanish courtier, Hamlet knows; he thinks her son must have her eyes.
“Gil?” Rosencrantz questions.
“It’s such a lovely spring day, don’t you think?”
“It is, indeed.”
“And should not on lovely spring days be heard the sweet sounds of bird songs?”
“I believe if you listen closely, Ro, you’ll hear them doing just--” Rosencrantz bites gently at Guildenstern’s throat, “--just that.”
“You’re quite right. But there is one song missing.”
“The goldfinch, of course.”
Hamlet’s quill freezes on the page. He shakes his head and runs a hand through his hair. You’d think neither of them had ever seen blonde hair the way they carry on and call him ‘goldfinch’. The nickname is, obviously, unfathomably embarrassing to him but he tries to hide how very much lest they seize upon it and make even more use of it.
“Ahh, you make an excellent point,” Guildenstern says, closing his text and abandoning any pretense of still studying.
He reaches a hand back to twist his fingers into Rosencrantz’s hair. He tips his head back and Rosencrantz dips down to kiss him, easy and lush. They stay like that, kissing slowly, for a while. It’s hard not to watch them, valiantly though Hamlet tries. Rosencrantz is the one who pulls away, taking Guildenstern’s hand and tugging him out of the chair. They cross the room, shedding clothing as they go. Only Guildenstern’s breeches remain, as they reach the bed, and when he lays down Rosencrantz pulls him free of them. Guildenstern looks beyond Rosencrantz to where Hamlet is still seated.
“Come,” he says beckoning.
Hamlet smiles a little and shakes his head. “In a moment. I’ll watch first.”
Rosencrantz turns and his smile is wide. “I’ll put on a show then.”
Guildenstern takes him by the wrist and pulls him bodily down on top of him. “You always put on a show.”
“They can hear him in the cheap seats, that’s certain,” Hamlet says, leaning back in his chair.
Rosencrantz laughs loudly. “And do I have adoring fans?”
Guildenstern darts in for a searing kiss and palms his arse. “Most ardent,” he replies as he pulls away.
Rosencrantz tilts his hips, already hard, with a needy noise escaping him. His hand strays to wrap around Guildenstern’s cock. Hamlet is suddenly aware of his heart hammering away in his chest and his own cock, pressing up against the laces of his breeches. Guildenstern bats Rosencrantz hand away and takes both their cocks into his larger hand, stroking up and down. They curl into each other, writhing and tangling their legs.
They are so very familiar. Their bodies have a history, shared memories. Rosencrantz’s hands roam everywhere. His breath is erratic. He seems almost at the edge already. Guildenstern appears to have the same thought. His eyes spring open and he stops moving.
“Shhh,” he says, kissing Rosencrantz. “Easy.”
“I want you.”
“I know, Ro.”
“Then what are you waiting for?” Rosencrantz says, grinning.
Guildenstern raises an eyebrow. “What’s the rush? Don’t make me tie your hands.”
“Oh. Oh, shall we?”
“The leather’s in the nightstand.”
“I know where the leather is.”
“Then get it and tie me down already.”
Guildenstern moves like lightning. Hamlet can’t stay away any longer. As Guildenstern fastens Rosencrantz’s hands over his head to the bars of the bed frame, Hamlet divests himself of his clothing and walks to the bed.
“A-ha!” Rosencrantz says, smiling at Hamlet. “That’s what it takes to lure a goldfinch from its nest.”
Hamlet rolls his eyes and settles down on the bed with his front to Rosencrantz’s back. His skin is flushed and warm.
“You’ve yet to make me sing, though.”
“Patience, young man,” he replies.
Guildenstern pins him with a look so incredulous Hamlet bursts out laughing. “Point taken,” Rosencrantz says, shrugging as much as he can with his hands tied above his head.
Guildenstern reaches back into the night stand and pulls out a glass jar filled with translucent oil before turning back and settling down on the other side of Rosencrantz. He hands the jar to Hamlet, who removes the cork stop from the top and pours a bit onto his fingers. Guildenstern hikes up Rosencrantz’s leg to lay across his own. Hamlet hands the jar back and bends to kiss Rosencrantz’s shoulder before sliding fingers down to his arse.
Rosencrantz makes a short, high sound as Hamlet pushes in shallowly with one finger. The muscles of his back ripple and tighten against Hamlet’s chest. He teases him, pushing around the rim but not fully inside. Rosencrantz whines, shifting. Guildenstern captures his lips in a kiss, but keeps their torsos and hips from touching. Rosencrantz’s hips jerk downward, searching for more sensation. Hamlet complies, finally pushing one finger in fully.
He takes his time, pushing in and out. First quickly, then slowly. Guildenstern slicks up a finger too and works it in beside Hamlet’s. They find a rhythm, play with it. Sometimes they push in together, sometimes alternating. Rosencrantz is a swearing, squirming wreck. His cheeks are a redder kind of pink, beneath his beard. His cock is straining against his stomach, leaking. He asks for more, over and over again.
Hamlet takes his cues from Guildenstern, who shakes his head no each time. It must feel like forever to Rosencrantz before Guildenstern adds another finger and Hamlet follows suit. The noise he makes is completely shameless, a broken groan. He bears down and works his hips fervently, panting. A layer of sweat has built up between his back and Hamlet’s front. Hamlet groans himself when he inadvertently thrusts against him and the slide is easy and warm.
Guildenstern removes his fingers and goes for more slick. Hamlet thinks it’s to further work open Rosencrantz, but he reaches over their friend and wraps his hand around Hamlet’s cock. Hamlet groans and seizes upward to lay his lips on Guildenstern’s, who strokes him firmly and kisses back. His mouth is soft, and Hamlet nips gently at his lower lip. When he pulls away, Guildenstern repositions Rosencrantz’s leg so that it’s bent at the knee and lifted. He nods to Hamlet, who moves down and presses his cock into Rosencrantz.
It’s as good as it always is. Hamlet shudders at the feeling of so much wetness and warmth pressing in around him, the sheer closeness of a whole other person. He enjoys women’s love as well for this reason. He can’t be bothered with making a distinction, though some men seem to insist upon it. After the first dizzying wave of pleasure, Hamlet lets his hips take over. He has a rhythm of his own with each of them. Rosencrantz prefers strength of thrust to speed, at least at first. He glances over Rosencrantz to see Guildenstern on his knees, desire glazing his eyes. With one hand he holds Rosencrantz’s leg in place as with the other he strokes himself with torturous slowness. Hamlet’s cock throbs at the sight; it’s almost too much.
Hamlet rests his forehead and on the back of his friend’s neck and strains himself with pushing in and out. The slide is so, so good. He loses himself in it. The sound of flesh meeting flesh, the taste of Rosencrantz’s skin under his mouth. The smell of sex hits him unexpectedly, which of course only makes him more lustful. He speeds up his thrusts. Rosencrantz is shouting his bliss with every push of Hamlet’s hips. There’s so much shared body heat. Hamlet can feel sweat beading on his forehead. Rosencrantz’s voice is echoing off the stone walls.
Guildenstern stops touching himself to lay down and put his mouth around Rosencrantz’s nipple-- to great effect if the frantic string of curses Rosencrantz lets out is any indicator. Hamlet wraps his arm around the leg Guildenstern is holding so he can move more freely. Guildenstern grins and kisses his way down Rosencrantz’s chest, finally stopping to lick at the head of his cock. Rosencrantz looks down, eyes pleading. Guildenstern keeps his eyes entirely on Rosencrantz as he wraps his lips around him and moves his head down.
“Close, close, close, close…” he whispers, and Guildenstern nods, lips still around him, which to Hamlet looks exactly like permission.
Rosencrantz reads it as such too, and throws his head back as he grinds his hips between and Hamlet’s cock and Guildenstern’s mouth, screaming wordlessly. His whole body tightens and jerks and Hamlet can see Guildenstern’s throat working as he swallows.
His thrusts slow. Rosencrantz looks more than debauched, thick black curls sticking to his forehead. He twitches and shivers as Hamlet pulls out of him. Guildenstern rises up, wiping a the back of his hand across his mouth. He climbs over Rosencrantz and on top of Hamlet. Hamlet’s half breathless with desire to come. He fumbles for the jar of oil, still somewhere near the bed. Guildenstern grabs for it on the other side of Rosencrantz, who is watching them with post coital, tired eyes.
Hamlet takes the jar gets some more oil onto his fingers and, once the cork is back in, pushes two into Guildenstern, who moans. His fingers move fast, rapidly in and out. Guildenstern collapses forward and spreads his knees, pushing back into it, crying out. Hamlet kisses him, his free hand tangling in his brown wavy hair, damp with sweat. He pushes his cock next to Hamlet’s groaning into his mouth.
“Three fingers, then fuck me.”
Hamlet pauses to work a third finger in and the noise Guildenstern makes is beyond the telling of it. He didn’t always know how to make him scream like this. But they’ve trained him extensively and he is an expert now. Wittenberg has trained him to do so much more than he ever thought it would.
Shortly after adjusting the angle to brush against that place inside Guildenstern that makes him buck and yell, he asks for Hamlet’s cock in a thready, breathy voice. Hamlet could cry, he’s so ready to come. Guildenstern takes him in hand and sits up, taking a miraculously short time to get them lined up before he bears down and sinks onto him. Hamlet swears and wastes no time pushing into him. The friction is so much more intense, as there’s less oil, and Guildenstern is so much more mobile.
Hamlet grabs his hips and meets him thrust for thrust but almost can’t focus past the build of such pleasure. Guildenstern grabs his own cock and starts pumping away, cursing and moaning. Hamlet can feel it all building in his spine, the release is so close. His whole body is tense and coiled. Guildenstern tilts back and groans when Hamlet’s cock his that place inside him again. He rides that place hard for a few thrusts and then he comes, spilling all over his hand and whispering Hamlet’s name fervently.
Hamlet hears his name said in such a way and it snaps every barrier inside him keeping his release at bay. It rushes over him, white hot and ecstatic. It holds him in that place of bliss for a long while, weightless and deep. When he comes back to himself, Guildenstern has untied Rosencrantz’s hands and flopped down between him and Hamlet. They’re all drenched in sweat.
Hamlet looks at the pair of them, and how well they fit together. It has a way of making one feel special, that they’ve allowed only one other person into this world of theirs. Being fair, Hamlet suspects that at times they have certainly let more than one other person into their bed, but not necessarily their world. That is the honor. Although, he can’t help laughing at how silly said world often is, to use all this just to avoid a German essay.
They look up at the sound of him chuckling. “What?” Rosencrantz asks.
“I know we’ve already established this, Ro, but you really don’t like essays.”
They all start laughing, stomach’s clenching, and then it’s hard to stop, drunk on post-sex sensation as they are.
“How do you know it’s that I don’t really love fucking?” Rosencrantz asks, when they’ve finally stopping laughing quite so hard.
“I’m not so certain at this point that you don’t hate German more than you love fucking.”
“It really is a nattering little language. The whole--”
“Must we?” Guildenstern interrupts.
“Must we what?” Rosencrantz says, rolling onto his side.
“Must we labor through the whole scene on the uselessness of this before you do what you inevitably always do and simply go ask Horatio for help?”
Rosencrantz scrunches up his mouth and then sighs dramatically. “I’ll go tomorrow morning.”
Hamlet frowns, looking between the two of them. “Who’s Horatio?”
They both frown and turn to him in perfect sync. “How,” says Guildenstern.
“Can you not know,” Rosencrantz picks up.
“Who Horatio is?” Guildenstern finishes.
Hamlet shrugs. “Apparently with ease. How do you know him?”
“You mean to tell me you get the marks that you do, with how often we distract you, without going to Horatio for council?”
“Is he some sort of tutor…?”
“Half of Wittenberg has their work done for them by Horatio! How have you been here this long and never even heard of him?”
“I appear to be a part of that honorable other half who does their own work?”
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern roll their eyes and begin mock bowing to him, which is difficult given their reclined positions, but they manage.
“Ohhhhh, the good and most honorable goldfinch.”
“Mooooost nooooble among the other sky rats of the continent.”
“Often sought for his soooound judgement.”
“Grant us grace, your most pious highness.”
Hamlet decides the only payment for such insolence is obviously to grab the closest one to him and ruffle his hair relentlessly with his knuckles, laughing all the while. Guildenstern makes a few shouts of protest between his laughter, and Rosencrantz is too helpless laughing at Guildenstern’s misfortune to keep their little act going.
When Hamlet pulls away and flops back into the mattress, Guildenstern’s hair resembles something like a thorn thicket. “In earnest,” Rosencrantz says around a huge smile, “you should come with me to see Horatio, anon.”
“What need should I have of a tutor? Is there any likelihood, even if my marks should plummet, of Wittenberg expelling the crowned prince of Denmark?”
There’s a long pause. Hamlet looks over to the pair of them, stony with silence.
“The what?” Rosencrantz asks.
“The…crowned…” Their faces are blank. “You.. you didn’t know? This whole time?”
“You, our Hamlet, are the crowned prince of Denmark? The shock I feel at this news is-- the horror! The deception.”
“God in heaven above, we could have kept that ruse up for days and you give yourself away so obviously in the very first moments? Ro, this is, without question, my greatest disappointment in you.”
Hamlet exhales the breath he did not know he was holding. “You demons!” He cries, throwing his arm over his eyes and laughing.
“Of course we knew,” Guildenstern says, chuckling. “You were always so vigilantly set against ever bringing up anything surrounding the subject that we thought ‘Well... should he ever just come right out about it, we have to pretend ignorance.’ It was the only option.”
“What a nice change of pace for you to pretend ignorance instead of merely living in its squalor.”
“You are a cruel and a vicious prince.”
“Indeed, Prince Goldfinch, I never thought you would show yourself to be such a tyrant,” Rosencrantz says, shaking his head.
“I could not have chosen two worse schoolmates should I have sought them out.”
“Well, really, who befriends the two drunkards who stumble into his room bent on buggering each other?” Rosencrants replies with a raised eyebrow.
“In contrast, perhaps because of that there’s hope for you yet, Prince Goldfinch,” Guildenstern says, fighting a smile.
“I have quite a serious inquiry,” Rosencrantz says, leaning in. “Is his sovereignty only over goldfinches or over all birds while happening by circumstance to be the most golden of all--”
Hamlet lunges for Rosencrantz and nearly tackles him off the bed.
The next morning, in the multi-colored light coming through the massive stained glass windows of Wittenberg’s sanctuary-esque library, Hamlet finds himself in the midst of having a revelation. He calls this revelation Horatio (as that is, in fact, his name). He really does not expect to think much of this mysterious genius Rosencrantz and Guildenstern so revere. He doesn’t even intend to actually go and meet him. But following Rosencrantz to the library is something to do as, for a brief moment, all his coursework is complete.
And he further doesn’t think much at first of the thin, dark haired boy Rosencrantz points out at one of the long tables near the wall. But when they come closer, Hamlet has an inkling of why Rosencrantz and Guildenstern profess to favor going to Horatio for academic assistance over anyone else. Horatio is an almost painfully pretty, rather young looking, man. His eyes are large-- so brown as to appear black-- and his hair is a thick, straight black mass falling to just above his shoulders. He has lips pink enough to stand out from afar, and the line of his jaw is something to be admired. When he smiles warmly at Rosencrantz, Hamlet feels almost envious for a moment, and it takes not an hour’s time in Horatio’s company before he feels himself entirely charmed. It happens thusly:
Rosencrantz opens his mouth to speak but Horatio interjects before he can.
“Fünfzig zeilen von Vergil?” He says, barely glancing up.
Rosencrantz sighs. “And two pages of critical analysis thereafter. And all in German, of course.”
“What a sadist your German professor must be to assign the homework in German.”
Rosencrantz huffs, “I would venture to say that as it currently stands that point has not merely been sufficiently made but also decorated, advertised, and put on display for curious passers-by.”
As Hamlet laughs and takes a seat across the table, Horatio extends a hand toward him.
“Hamlet,” he replies, shaking his hand.
“Hamlet Of Denmark?”
“What brings you here? From what this fellow and his compatriot tell me of you, you have no need of my help. Nor much interest in it.”
“Oh, I’m here to watch.”
And a brilliant grin breaks out across Horatio’s face. “A fan of blood sport, are you?”
And in the course of an hour Horatio proves it to be a blood sport indeed. This is, really, the source of the revelation. Hamlet realizes quite quickly he’s never seen anyone verbally knock around Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. The pretty marvel in front of him is the very first. Hamlet has seen his pair of jokers charm, seduce, and coerce almost every student (and, more impressively, roughly half the faculty) with ease and grace, but Horatio will flatly not have it.
He doesn’t for a second allow Rosencrantz any of his usual trickery. Every sly remark is rebuffed and directed back to the subject at hand, every slight error corrected and noted on paper. He makes Rosencrantz recite his translations aloud and corrects his vowel pronunciation without fail, which practically amounts to roughly once every twenty seconds. He makes Rosencrantz start from the top until he gets all the way through without a mistake. And all the while he progresses steadily with own work in front of him, quill scratching away on parchment.
A shaft of red tinted light from the window falls on his black hair, glittering faintly, while every now and again only the very tip of his nose will dip into the nearby shaft of blue light. Hamlet can feel a fascination spawning already. Horatio cannot be more than twenty and yet he holds himself like a professor of many degrees.
It’s not arrogance, though. Hamlet came of age at Castle Elsinore, he knows arrogance. This is... distilled confidence, unwavering certitude. Perhaps it is the foolhardiness of youth which makes it so prominent, a sort of bravado in the extreme, but Hamlet doesn’t think so. It’s quieter than that, manifested from the core. Hamlet wants to bottle it-- pull it from Horatio’s marrow and drink it down daily every time he he’s required to set foot back on Danish soil.
When Rosencrantz is done and makes a hasty retreat from the library, Hamlet can’t decide whether he wants to follow or not. Of purposes to remain, he has exactly zero. But he doesn’t want to leave yet. He moves to get up but then stops himself awkwardly mid-motion and flops back down, momentarily having forgotten how to make decisions about movement. Horatio doesn’t seem to notice. He finishes writing the end of a sentence and then drops his quill onto the table, flexing his hand to stretch it out from being cramped in one position so long.
“So how do you know Rosencrantz?”
“That depends, how innocent are your ears?”
Horatio chuckles. “Not very.”
“Ah. Then I made his acquaintance the night he and Guildenstern mistook my quarters for theirs amid some drunken debauchery.”
“Now, here’s the matter, everyone always relays that they met that pair in the most sordid way and then I have to reply with how I happened upon them in the stacks having a heated argument about how to pronounce the french pamplemousse.”
Hamlet laughs so loudly for a library setting it briefly embarrasses him.
“In which, may I add,” Horatio continues, “both of them were wrong.”
“That’s far better than my story!”
“Oh, really,” Horatio says, with a quirk of his lips.
“Really! How wrong could they have been?”
“Pam-PLEM-us and Pomp-le-MOUSE.”
Hamlet has the good sense to cover his mouth before laughing this time, but it doesn’t help much. A rather severe looking librarian walks by and pointedly stares at them. Hamlet puts his hands up in surrender and nods at the man, which serves as both his acknowledgement and apology. The librarian looks appeased and walks on.
“I feel I may be a disturber of the peace. I should leave you to your work,” Hamlet says, quietly, rising from his chair.
“Oh, no. My peace was long overdue for a disturbance. I appear to be finished, at any rate.”
“Oh,” Hamlet says, grinning. “Then would you care to go for lunch?”
He doesn’t know where that comes from. He’s not apt at asking for company. He’d fucked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for weeks before he’d thought to or been comfortable with asking them to share a meal.
Horatio grins back at him. “That sounds delightful.”
Revelation thy name is Horatio, Hamlet thinks and waits patiently for him to gather his supplies.
Re: Grapefruits and anachronism. Wikipedia informs me that they are "an 18th-century hybrid first bred in Barbados" so, no, there is not really a feasible way for them to be arguing about the French pronunciation thereof. HOWEVER. Hamlet as a play contains some of my favorite anachronisms ever. See: Claudius calling for his Swiss guards some 400 odd years before Switzerland was even a country, if you're setting the play in the 7th century. Not to mention the debate as to what century the play is *actually* supposed to be set in. Because some people will tell you the 800s and some people will tell you 1599-1602. Wittenberg was founded in 1502. So either it's set then or Wittenberg itself is the anachronism. EITHER WAY I'M HOLDING THAT THE ANACHRONISM ITSELF IS SHAKESPEAREAN AND I LIKED MY GRAPEFRUIT JOKE, OKAY?
Re: Brannagh: I have to say I don't want the before notes to imply I don't dig the Brannagh version, because every version has its flaws for sure but I LOVE THE SHIT OUT OF THAT ONE. I just wanted that on the record.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Lunch ends and turns into a walk around the whole of the grounds which turns into dinner which turns into a bottle of mead stolen from the kitchens and shared on the front steps of Horatio’s dormitory. Horatio holds his drink well but he sounds, at present, more intoxicated than he is because he is passionately, loudly expounding on The Illiad.
“Because it changes Achilles’ entire character arc! That is why I care, oh sweet prince. That is why I care.”
“Well unfortunately Homer is not at present living to provide you with an answer.”
“Which is why I will only yield on this point to an argument so exquisitely defended that Homer himself descends from the heavens and corroborates it.”
Hamlet laughs mid-sip and sends himself into a coughing fit. Horatio’s hands fly to his back, thumping and rubbing soothing circles until Hamlet can breathe again. “There, there,” Horatio says, “we cannot have you perishing because you took some wine wrong, the whole of Denmark would demand my head.”
Hamlet finds himself thinking Well, I am wholly of Denmark and I certainly wouldn’t mind it, and it actually startles him how little time that took. He says instead, “You are out of danger for now, friend.”
“I shall be sure to stay on my toes, however.”
“Vigilance is a virtue.”
“Diligence, I believe you mean.”
“Oh, thought you I meant the heavenly virtues?”
“Aye, though apparently I was mistaken.”
“I’m fairly sure that’s something you invented from your own head this very moment.”
“Should that mean you love it any less?”
“Speak we of love?”
“Is there a point in speaking of anything else?”
“Well, if that is your thinking, what I was trying to speak of with regard to Achilles and Patroclus--”
“You cannot let this go, it seems!”
“Not seems, but is!”
“Is a bit silly.”
“No, seems a bit silly. Is crucial to a thorough reading of the text. Fear not, sweet prince, we’ll get you there yet.”
Hamlet takes another swing, successfully this time, and leans in close-- drunk on wine, yes, but also on good conversation. “Convince me, chief-most scholar of the British isles.”
Horatio takes the bottle from him and takes a long drink, then stands and takes Hamlet by the wrist. “Ask and ye shall receive.”
He sets out, pulling Hamlet along in tow, back across the courtyard and through the small alley between dormitories, across the campus to the library. Hamlet has no idea where this day, this night has taken him. It seems so strange that before today he’d never ranged freely about the school grounds with no purpose other than to have something to do that prolongs the conversation. But they had walked nearly the whole of the grounds in a single day. It felt as if it vanished in an instant.
Horatio heads around the back of the large building which houses the library and glances back at Hamlet. “You have not asked where I am leading you,” he says, over his shoulder.
“No, for it is surely into temptation.”
“And yet, not astray.”
“Well that is a small comfort.”
Horatio halts suddenly under a balcony one floor up and Hamlet walks right into his back. They both laugh and Hamlet steadies them easily. It takes him a second or two longer to take his hands off Horatio’s shoulders than anticipated.
“Finish the bottle,” Horatio says.
“Because,” he replies, turning to the wall and fussing with the ivy growing there. “We can’t take it with us when we climb. You’ll need both hands. Ha! There is it.”
Hamlet can see a bar of metal and discerns that there must be a ladder hidden against the wall beneath the foliage. Horatio finds a foothold and starts to climb. Hamlet drains what was last in the bottle and watches him scale the wall. Midway betwixt the ground the the balcony he pauses and wriggles and his robes fall off of him directly onto Hamlet’s up-tilted face. Hamlet’s helpless giggling as he flings them off and then a little short of breath for watching Horatio’s arse in tight breeches as he climbs. The ladder ends a foot or so under the balcony and on its left-- Horatio has to leap to get to it, which he does as if he has practice. Once on the ledge he swings over it, beckoning Hamlet up with enthusiastic waving.
Hamlet tosses the bottle down and follows him up. It’s a touch more athletic than he was expecting. Horatio did it so quickly, the spry little wall-climbing loon. He does his best not to appear winded when he reaches the landing. Horatio is crouched down, fiddling with the lock on the pair of glass doors.
“I... think I’ve fallen in with the wrong sort,” Hamlet says, leaning back against the wall and crossing his arms.
Horatio runs a hand through his hair to pull it away from his face, grinning and twisting a thin piece of metal into the lock. “Your judgement must be rather poor to fall in with vandals.”
“Tragically, I seem to place my trust in anyone with a good bottle of wine.”
“Well, that can’t be it. I do that as well and I’ve never fallen in with vandals,” he says as the lock gives a soft click and the door swings open.
“I wonder why that should be,” Hamlet says sardonically, and strides into the library.
“The grace of god, I would wager. I’m vigilant, I’ve been told, which is of course a virtue.”
Hamlet pins him with a look both fond and put out, which Horatio shrugs at, smirking. He shuts the doors behind them and walks into the shadows to their left. Hamlet follows. Horatio darts and turns through several sections of bookcases. Finally, he seems to find what he’s looking for. He takes one book down from the shelf and then bends at the knees to scan the shelf below for another. After a moment he makes a triumphant noise and plucks another book from its place.
With both books cradled into one elbow he trots to the nearest table, which is underneath a window spilling ample moonlight into the cavernous, empty library. Someone’s left a scrap of parchment on the table, and Horatio rips it into little shreds. Hamlet isn’t entirely certain he hasn’t inadvertently become a bit preoccupied with a lunatic. Flicking through the first book, he scans a few pages, then marks one with a scrap of paper. A few pages later he does the same, and closes the first book. He repeats those measures twice with the second book and takes a moment to raise his arms in the air as if victorious.
“Here. Convince you, my prince, I shall,” Horatio says, and pulls him in closer. “Here in the original Greek,” he points at the first page in the first book and lets forth a torrent of perfectly executed Greek as if it were his mother tongue. “This is Achilles mourning Patroclus. And here,” he flips to the second marked passage, again fluently reading it aloud, “that is Andromache mourning Hector. The same words here… and here, the same tone, the same inflection. The same language for friendly fellow soldiers as for husband and wife? For what reason should that be? Perhaps to prove that grief for any close companion is grief all the same-- and all humans feel it acutely in the midst of loss, but it remains that the relationships are equated. Both losses were felt with similar keen anguish. For whatever connection Achiles and Patroclus had, it cannot be downplayed to have meant less to Achiles than what Andromache felt she had with Hector.”
Hamlet considers that he does have a point. The evidence is present. “I cannot deny that what you say is true, Horatio.”
“And yet I wish for it not to be so.”
“Is it… terrible to believe that two men--”
“Oh. Oh, no,” Hamlet laughs. “It’s just that it’s so much more melancholy that way. If they really loved each other as you suggest-- if they were devoted to each other in more ways than the given… Patroclus’ death is not just upsetting, it is… excruciating.”
Horatio nods. “This is not a text that needs more tragedy. I can admit to that. But it deepens meaning where otherwise it would seem thin by comparison.”
“Seems,” Hamlet retorts, impish.
Horatio rolls his eyes and opens the next book. “But here, here’s the rub, look at this translation!” He points to the first bookmarked page in the second book. “And then here,” he flips the pages, “to the second. Different words. Deliberate erasure of tone, of meaning.”
Hamlet feels a real and sudden sadness that were Horatio to write this critique and hand it into a professor he would undoubtedly be ruined. “It’s a shame you could not claim this interpretation publically. It may be scandalous, but it remains very bright all the same.”
Horatio smiles and looks down. “I’m positive I’m not the first person to think it, nor will I be the last. But I thank you all the same. I do wish I could have convinced you though.”
“You did convince me. I only wish now I could ever read it without that sadness lingering around it.”
“For that, I am sorry.”
“Don’t be. I shall read it, feel the sadness,” Hamlet says, turning his back to the table and facing Horatio, “and then remember you, and feel a fondness I cannot account for. One shall balance the other.”
“I always wanted to be a part of such epic poetry.”
“Even as a child, yes. Kings and gods, truest love and deaths avenged.”
“Are you a bard?”
“No, not I. I have no stories yet to tell.”
“Time will bring them to you. And you shall be remembered for them, there is no doubt.”
“No doubt in you, sweet prince.”
“Aye, no doubt in me at all.”
They are quite close. Hamlet’s arm touches Horatio’s. In the moonlight spilling through the stained glass, the library is a hundred shades of blue. Hamlet finds himself leaning in, caught spellbound by Horatio’s deep, dark eyes. He tilts his face up, as he finds Horatio is a touch taller than he. But Horatio blinks and looks down, away. And that Hamlet takes as his cue to step back.
His fascination, it seems, is not returned in entirely the same fashion. It stings a touch, which Hamlet is quick to rebuke himself for.
He only met Horatio that very morning. It is… it is better this way. Not everything can be so immediate and reciprocal as with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Not all relationships must also lead to a bedroom. If Horatio is not inclined that way, Hamlet will have him any other way he likes.
Horatio looks back up at him with an expression quite open. He seems about to speak but Hamlet hears a noise, as if a far away door is unlocking and swinging open. He puts a hand over Horatio’s mouth and listens closely. Against his palm, he can feel his lips slide up at the corner.
“Hello?” Sounds a voice at the other end of the library. Hamlet and Horatio turn to each other with identical wide-eyed amusement. “Speak if you be spirit or living!”
Hamlet rolls his eyes and shakes his head. Horatio stifles laughter into Hamlet’s palm. They slip out, silently, as the man across the library beckons demons to announce themselves if they be by. Horatio takes the two books and slides them back into the shelves from whence they came, which Hamlet obstinately tries not to see the sweetness in.
The carefully open the glass the doors to the balcony and shut them with a faint click, allowing themselves a moment of soft laughter once the doors are closed. “Well, this is a fine predicament, young scholar. How shall we get ourselves down from here?”
“Well, I intend to fly,” Horatio remarks blithely.
Hamlet nods solemnly. “Well plotted, Icarus.”
“In earnest, I think it best just to drop.”
“How do you usually leave the library at these hours?”
“Out the back door. There are not regularly seekers of ghostly interference blocking it, as at present.”
Horatio swings one leg over the balcony’s railing and then the other. Hamlet does the same. In short order they’ve crouched down and let their feet dangle while only their hands still remain on the stone of the ledge.
“Until we meet again on the ground…” Horatio says, and lets go.
Hamlet realizes rather abruptly that while he may not have a fear of heights, it appears he may have a fear of falling. Horatio’s pained grunt as he hits the ground does not help. His options appear to be ‘fall’ or ‘stay here forever like a hanging plant’. So he lets go. He twists himself midair so as to avoid breaking his own neck, and he does manage that, the fall being significantly shorter than he’d thought.
It does hurt rather a lot, though. His shoulder takes most of the brunt of his weight and immediately he knows his upper arm will bruise with it. He groans as quietly as he can manage. Horatio rolls over from where he’s landed and pats his non-injured shoulder.
“There we are. Was that so awful?”
“In short: yes.”
“Astutely put, it was rather awful.”
Hamlet finds himself laughing more in the presence of Horatio than nearly all of other of his school fellows combined, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern included.
“You most assuredly set my spirits higher, Horatio.”
“Are they often low, m’lord?”
“I am finding perhaps they were lower than I thought them to be before I began keeping your company.”
Horatio’s smiles, sitting up. “Then you must continue to keep it. For your good health. And… and also the health of the Danish state.”
“Rightly so.” Hamlet pushes himself up with some difficulty.
Horatio is first to make it to his feet and he offers Hamlet his hand for ease of getting himself standing as well. He winces when his abused shoulder knocks into Horatio.
“You took quite the beating as you landed.”
“It seems a small price to pay.”
Hamlet shrugs. “If every day of this quality ended in a fall such as that, I’d fall a hundred times.”
Horatio seems to blush a bit, and Hamlet concludes that perhaps he must go easier on him with such blatant declarations of affection. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are far more effusive with each other, but perhaps Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are much more particular unto themselves than Hamlet has even realized. He does not have many friends, truly. He intends to make one of Horatio, and it will never happen if he sets about making him uneasy at every turn.
“Apologies if I am entirely too… demonstrative. I suspect Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may have altered my estimation of what friendly company looks and sounds like.”
Horatio shakes his head. “No, no. Do not alter your manner, Hamlet. I am ill at such affections, not having much practice with them.”
“Then we shall learn of each other at an unhurried pace. Does that agree with you?”
“I am glad of it.”
They take a step towards the direction from whence they originally came, but Horatio slips quite fully on the unseen bottle Hamlet had earlier tossed away. Luckily Hamlet catches him, though it twinges his arm to do so. Horatio laughs, gathered against his chest.
“Let’s get thee home and away from any future harm,” Hamlet says, willfully ignoring the effect the scent of Horatio’s hair seems to have on him.
“For the rest of this night, at least.”
“Aye, that is all we can hope for.”
“Truly,” Horatio says, leaning against him as they begin to walk. “Truly.”
Time spent with Horatio has a different quality than other time. It begins to feel like air at higher elevations. What would satisfy him with others must be doubled with Horatio just to keep breathing regularly; by its nature it makes him feel more inclined to light-headedness. And while that kind of air feels thinner, time with Horatio feels denser. It passes more quickly but contains so much.
Whole days elapse in a blink, yet he never falls behind in his work anymore. His professors have made quite a note of it. They incline their heads with fond smiles when they see him walking with Horatio in the corridors. Occasionally they halt the pair of them and pose them a philosophical question to see how they reason around it. They wheedle them into going to guest lectures of Very Distinguished Visiting Scholars and every so often sit with them in the back to make disparaging comments or exchange wry glances.
It is an entirely different Wittenberg than that he previously knew. He finds it richer, more vibrant; he’s so happy to discover what was already his favorite place in the world has even more to offer. He is, however, developing aches and pains of passing similarity to what his favorite jester Yorrick oft complained of in his later years, and he suspects the chairs of Wittenberg library are entirely to blame.
When he speaks of it, Horatio likes to bicker with him about how lamentable it is that he should try and pass off on defenseless library chairs the symptoms of what are clearly age and infirmity (which Hamlet is far gone in, due to being a shocking four years older than Horatio himself). Hamlet’s most common retort is that Horatio’s zealous defense of such clearly guilty parties is evidence of his warped perspective, and when they grow old together at Castle Elsinore (and such chairs are banned in Denmark), not only will he lament the perspective of his youth, but they shall also laugh together at how misguided he was then.
On Hamlet’s birthday, amid the height of spring, they bat around this aging argument as they lay out in the grass by the banks of the Elbe. Horatio has his head resting on Hamlet’s stomach and Hamlet can’t help himself fiddling with his hair. Sometimes (not too often but sometimes) when he wakes in the morning, he has the odd first thought of running his fingers through Horatio’s hair.
“They undoubtedly have a conspiracy. The chairs,” Hamlet says, a little tipsy.
Horatio laughs and slices into a pear with a small pocket blade, bringing the slice to his lips and then cutting one for Hamlet. “I’ll indulge your lunacy for a moment.”
“How good of you.”
“Yes, I’m the picture of charity.”
“Chair-ity,” Hamlet quips.
Horatio falls into a helpless fit of laughter, back arching as he coughs around the piece of pear he’s chewing. Hamlet’s stomach bobs up and down as he laughs as well, and Horatio fights against a wide smile to avoid spitting out pear. Hamlet wonders at the small intimacy of this, precisely because it doesn’t feel small.
“If you can’t out-strategize the inanimate chairs of Wittenberg,” Horatio finally says, smiling hugely, “I dare say Denmark will pay the price for it.”
Hamlet barks a somewhat offended laugh and a hand flies to his heart. “Your arrows cut deep, Horatio. Are you saying I will be an unfit monarch?”
Horatio turns onto his side but keeps his cheek to Hamlet’s mid-section. He sets the pocket blade off to the side. “I did not intend to wound, m’lord.”
“You wound me worse with formality, you know that.”
“You are due some small fraction of it. I… I make a religion of overstepping the ceremony due to you as it is already,” he says, frowning a little.
Hamlet runs fingers through his hair. “The halls of Elsinore are overrun with courtiers lining up to genuflect in my direction. Preferably if my mother or father are standing behind me. My appetite is quite sated in that respect.”
Horatio stays silent and, after a pause, nods. “Very well.”
Hamlet smiles and can’t quite seem to tear his gaze away from Horatio. He wants to, really. Wants to break the moment because the longer it stretches on the more keenly he feels the weight of it. It sits on his lungs and he can’t quite breathe from it. It’s Horatio who finally looks down and away. It is usually Horatio who does. And for all he’d wanted to stop before, it aches when they’re no longer connected in that moment.
As he had requested of Hamlet that first night they snuck into the library, he has been easy and slow with Horatio. The more time passes though the more he suspects that while Horatio may not be repelled by the love of men in literature, he may feel differently about it in the physical. Or mayhaps it is just that he does not want that from Hamlet. Yet Hamlet would know if he took a lover, female or male. He’s asked, he’s observed. Horatio lays hands to books and occasionally food with ardor, but it seems only two those receive such benefit. The question is a weighty pang inside his chest. It’s been starting to ache more and more that way with each similarly broken moment of eyes no longer meeting and company departed from. His heart is starting to ache from too long in an untenable position just as his shoulders and lower back have started doing. That ache has started spreading outward too.
But Hamlet figures that (for all the joking to the contrary) he is a fit and spry young man. He can withstand the aches and pains--physical and… less so-- in exchange for the reward of Horatio’s company. The alternative is not to be thought of. He will simply have to handle it, he tells himself. That’s the only solution.
And it really isn’t until he gets a letter from his mother several months later that Hamlet realizes how poorly he has misjudged this entire state of affairs. It’s so small a turn of phrase, but it triggers an avalanche in his mind.
“And my darling boy,” she writes, “how fare your companions Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? You have not mentioned them of late.”
And with a rather guilty sinking felt in his stomach, he realizes that she speaks the truth. He has, of late, spent all his days with Horatio and only a handful of nights with his other close friends. It brings him a measure of contrition to realize how long it has been since he took a meal with them, or sat with them while they attended to their studies. He has let an entire summer pass by without laying out in a field with them, without walking into town with them at night and singing drinking songs at their favorite tavern until they’re hoarse.
At first he had still seen them casually, in the evenings when he thought to visit (or some vigorous exertion was in order), but the last encounter of that type was months gone by. If he so spurned Horatio for even half that length of time, it would certainly distress both of them quite a bit. He sets down the letter and heads for Rosencrantz’s quarters.
It’s a short walk, only a floor away from his own, on the same side of the hall directly under his own, which makes him feel briefly all the more ashamed that he has not kept up in visiting. He doesn’t bother knocking, just strides inside. Guildenstern is at the chair in front of the window, lounging back and reading. He looks up and his face brightens with a smile.
“Hamlet! And what winds drove our goldfinch this way?”
Hamlet closes the door behind him and pulls the second chair across the room next to Guildenstern as he replies. “The winds of shame, I’m afraid.”
Guildenstern snaps his book shut and looks at Hamlet with glinting eyes. “Tell me everything.”
“Oh, I’ve nothing scandalous to report.”
Guildenstern frowns. “Then that was a very misleading opening parry, dear friend, and I’m rather disappointed.”
Hamlet chuckles. “Well then allow me this re-phrasing. It is scandalous to me the precise ‘nothing’ which I’ve only just realized I must report... which your company of late bears the name of, good friend.”
Guildenstern shakes his head fondly. “I could not hold the actions of a man as besotted as you are against him.”
Hamlet drops his head into his hands. “I know you would not, but it seems no real excuse to me. I… I may esteem someone quite higher than I-- well. But to abandon my comrades-- the first souls here ever to treat me with kindness and acceptance-- it should not be. I can only offer apologies.”
Guildenstern sets his book on the window sill and leans forward onto his knees, putting a hand over Hamlet’s. “It is a transgression forgiven before it even occurred. The very first day you met Horatio, Rosencrantz returned to me from the library and relayed that it was quite possible we may see less of you in the future. We have been at peace. It was no large matter.”
Hamlet exhales heavily and squeezes Guildenstern’s hand. “Thank you.”
Guildenstern shrugs. “Are you not happy though?”
“I… am, very.”
“Truly? You seem to hesitate.”
“My feelings are… my own. And yet I know that Horatio enjoys my company. He does not want, however, to enjoy it to quite the extent that you and Rosencrantz did.”
“That seems impossible to me.”
Hamlet grins. “Flatterer.”
Guildenstern leans back and puts both hands behind his head. “What need have I of flattery? I am the wronged party here!”
“You said all was forgiven!”
“The facts remain the facts,” he says, teasing.
“Very well, then.”
“Yes, very well, indeed. It is impossible that Horatio should not love you back.”
“He. He does. Love me. I believe him to, at any rate. Not that way, th--”
“Hamlet, he does! He must. Who could not?”
“Someone uninterested in my bed?”
Guildenstern barks out a laugh. “He is interested in yours. Trust me.”
“I spend all day with him, Gil. Day in and day out we are at each other’s sides. I would have seen it by now were it there to see. I may love…” he’s never phrased it thus out loud before and it feels foreign on his tongue, “...love him dearly, but I would know if he returned my ardor. We sit arm to arm every moment we are able, and eat with touching knees beneath the table at every meal. If it were there, it would have, by now, been revealed. I would worry I had invented it all in my head if not for that, to be sure, he seeks me out as often as I go in search of him. And not to be near him causes in me a kind of pang.”
“How deliciously excruciating.”
“That latter of that mark hits at the center of it. I love him quite enough to share his company in whatever way he wishes. But I’ve come to suppose he must care for me without a lover’s desire.”
“Your suppositions, I must inform you, are garbage, dear prince.”
Hamlet chuckles. “Our friendship is a privilege that I would not for the world wish to find myself bereft of. What it is will have to do.”
“That sort of arrangement never holds. It will not bear the weight of a heavy heart. Let alone two.”
“It will hold. I will hold it.”
“That is…” Guildenstern begins with some passion, then pauses on a curious expression. “That is your choice and I’ve no cause to interfere with what you decide. Have you spoken thus with Rosencrantz yet?”
Hamlet quirks an eyebrow at his abrupt about-face, but shakes his head.
“Ahhhh. Well. He is in the library at present, and he would do well to hear you say what I’ve just heard.”
“I thought it was a transgression already forgiven…” “
It is! But hearing it aloud is pleasant, he’ll enjoy it. And, I’d like for you to deliver him something from me.”
Hamlet shrugs. “What shall I give him?”
“This,” Guildenstern says, wickedly, and leans in to kiss him. Hamlet smiles into it and tilts his head. Guildenstern takes Hamlet’s face in both hands and sucks lightly on Hamlet’s bottom lip before pulling away. “Would you please deliver that to him? Post haste, if it please you.”
“It does,” Hamlet says, laughing.
“Most pleasing all around, it appears. Now off with you, I’ve this reading to finish before I can have any proper fun and I’m nearly finished.”
“At your service, good sir,” Hamlet says, and pecks him on the lips once more before he leaves.
Rosencrantz is easy to find once Hamlet gets to the library. Hamlet has but to turn a few corners on the second level, and there his friend stands, in one the aisles of the sciences section. Horatio has them all memorized, but that is why Hamlet generally sends Horatio to gather their materials for him while he stays at their preferred table. Rosencrantz is scanning the shelf just above his eye level when he hears Hamlet approaching and turns. He grins.
“Hamlet! And what forces may I thank for conspiring to bring us together at present?”
Hamlet slides in front of him and brackets his friend in with a hand on either side of the shelf behind him. “Ahh, that would be the goldfinch messenger service.”
Rosencrantz licks his lips and raises an eyebrow. “Are you a courrier now?”
“Our dear friend Guildenstern would like me to relay the following,” Hamlet says, and leans in to kiss him.
It feels like any other kiss they’ve shared, with accompanying chemistry, warm and easy. Hamlet is reminded of the sensation of slipping on a familiar, well worn coat. For consistency, he takes Rosencrantz’s face into his hands and mimics the kiss Guildenstern had given him. When he pulls away Rosencrantz is breathing heavily.
“I am sorry,” Hamlet says into the small space between them.
“You need not be for a kiss like that.”
Hamlet shakes his head and grins. “You two are so strikingly similar.”
“That’s a compliment.”
“I meant it as such.”
“And I meant that I’m sorry to have forsaken you of late.”
“Forsaken. Are you the crowned prince of melodrama as well?”
Hamlet gapes and puts up his hands, backing away while fighting a laugh. Rosencrantz pulls him back in with a quick looping of his fingers into the top of Hamlet’s breeches. “Even if you were I’d still have missed you, so I accept your apology.”
“Guildenstern made sure to impress upon me that there was not even anything for me to apologize about.”
“Well he is, ironically, more forgiving than I. And there we prove ourselves to be strikingly different instead.”
“Always ready with a twist.”
“Always ready with a kiss.” Rosencrantz counters, and leans in again.
Hamlet realizes as his heart rate quickens that he is a bit starved for touch. Rosencrantz’s lips now feel even better than he remembers. The heat of their bodies resting against one another is delicious. The brush of his fingers skimming along Hamlet’s ribs, even through cloth, is a revelation. Simple touches-- blunt fingertips at the nape of his neck and the flat weight of a palm on his shoulder blade-- are breathtaking. His blood is rushing downward and he can feel himself getting yet more sensitive with every touch.
He doesn’t realize he’s molded himself completely into Rosencrantz until they pull away for air, panting. “And shall I take that as your message back to Guildenstern?” Hamlet asks hoarsely.
Rosencrantz looks considering for a second but then shakes it away. “No. That was for you alone. But…” he takes Hamlet by the wrist and suddenly walks them away and down the aisle.
He takes several quick turns until they arrive in a badly lit alcove rather out of the way of the general foot traffic. Hamlet groans as Rosencrantz spins him and puts him with his back flat to the wall.
It can’t take him more than a few heartbeats to sink down to his knees and make quick work of Hamlet’s breeches. Hamlet registers that having Rosencrantz suck him off in the library has potential for such a certified disaster that it puts itself on par with battles such as Hastings and Sterling Bridge, but his body floods with such fiery pleasure when Rosencrantz takes him into his mouth that he can’t bear to voice it. And the longer he moves his mouth along the length of him, the less Hamlet can bring himself to stop this all.
His head falls back and he has to slap a hand over his mouth the stop himself from making all the ecstatic noises that his body wants him to make. As with all times Hamlet has to keep silent, this only intensifies his urge to cry out. His hand tightens and loosens erratically on Rosencrantz’s shoulder.
He tries to stand still but everything in him wants to move. Rosencrants pins his hips back into the stone wall and bobs his head more quickly. Hamlet threads fingers into his hair, not to guide but to feel. Once his head tips back down and he looks at Rosencrantz’s lips moving along his cock, it’s all he can do not to bite through his own bottom lip.
His orgasm is building rapidly, very close by. The promise of it feels hot and rich. The wet heat of Rosencrantz’s tongue and his gorgeous curly black hair are putting him closer to the edge every second.
His mouth is hanging open and he can’t help the soft, quiet noises now. He doesn’t hear footsteps nearby. He doesn’t register anything but the man on his knees in front of him. Until he looks up and locks eyes with Horatio.
He’s standing there with books in hand and his mouth hung open in complete shock. And Hamlet’s so close already he comes right then. It floods him and feels like it knocks the wind out of him, because he doubles forward, exhaling hard as Rosencrantz swallows his release down.
He can’t unlock eyes with Horatio though. He feels incandescent. His limbs and chest and skin feel abuzz with it.
Horatio is flushed a fetching pink. He turns sharply to the left and leaves.
Hamlet’s career as some sort of carrier pigeon bearing sexual favors is brief but fulfilling. It only goes on for a few more turns before its deemed stale and the three of them settle into a pattern much more closely resembling their original friendship.
Hamlet feels better for seeing them more often because he’s reminded how much he does, in fact, enjoy their company. Horatio is still his waking thought in the morning and his final one at night, but he fears that Guildenstern was right and that such an arrangement cannot hold forever. It hurts more often than it used to. To spend a few nights in easy arms that take him out of his own body for a while, that balances him.
Because being in his own body around Horatio is starting to border on maddening at times now. Hamlet shakes that particular thought away as Horatio shifts on the mattress and turns a page. They’re lying on Hamlet’s bed, feet facing opposite directions. Horatio is reading up on Aristotle and Hamlet is pretending not to be done with his own reading.
His eyes drag over the same words of the last page for the fifth time and when he next chances a glance up it is Horatio who is staring at him. He does this more often of late, ever since seeing Hamlet with Rosencrantz in the library. Hamlet tried to bring it up once, the day after it happened, but Horatio waved it away and would hear nothing of it.
Hamlet wondered at first if perhaps the visual had upset him because it was so graphic. But he was sure Horatio was not disgusted. They still spent all their time together in close quarters. They still bumped shoulders and knees companionably. But Horatio would look at him now with heavy eyes that seemed to question where his mouth would not dare. There was something that seemed tenuous between them. Something that boded of breaking. In Hamlet’s heart of hearts he hoped for jealousy, but could never think on it for too long.
And this interminable stage of unknowing and of tension Hamlet had endured for a fortnight, at least. He felt himself entirely at the edge of it. He snapped his book shut and put it to the side.
“Are you finished?” Horatio asked.
Hamlet rose to his knees and then fell gently onto his side next to Horatio so now both their feet were at the end of the bed. “That depends. Are you finished staring at me with a question sealed behind your lips?”
Horatio looked at a bit of a loss. Hamlet took his book from him and closed it, setting it on the table beside the bed. “I have not… I really could not say…”
“Answer me truly. Is this about seeing me-- seeing me with Rosencrantz? That day in the library?”
Horatio swallows and seems to struggle with what to say. “It is. But I. I wasn’t repelled. I wanted to tell you that before now, but I was at a loss as to how to even begin.”
Hamlet sighs heavily, relieved. “I had hoped that was the case.”
“You are still my dearest friend here. I would still swim oceans for you.”
“I would prefer you took a boat, as you’re quite a bad swimmer.”
Horatio laughs and his whole body relaxes. He shifts onto his side as well, head propped up in his palm. “As you wish, then.”
“I wish for any lingering strangeness between us to dissipate, if I might speak the truth.”
“Please,” Horatio says softly. “Please do.”
“It doesn’t bear thinking on for me to imagine us becoming less joined than we are at present. You are entirely too dear to me.”
“And you to me. It is hard to express.”
“Hard? For my Horatio, so quick of tongue?”
Horatio seems pained. “When it is affections I wish to describe, always. Yes.”
Hamlet tries not to let his breath catch. To let himself hope is to put yet more weight on the structure that can bear no more already. “Take every moment you need to find the words, I will attend you.”
Horatio looks on him softly and nods, smiling. “Thank you, sweet prince.”
At last it feels as though the air between them has cleared of tension. Hamlet runs his hand over his face. “Lord in heaven. And all over a silly game,” he mutters.
Horatio frowns. “Game?”
Hamlet hesitates. It is rather dangerously thin ice to skate on in continuing. Perhaps to explain it in context will help? Perhaps it will put them right back where they were moments ago. It takes a moment of deliberation but the same feeling that had pushed him to bring the matter up at all pushes him forward.
“It was. A game. As with most games with those two it got out of hand rather quickly.”
“And into mouth,” Horatio says, looking down to the duvet.
Hamlet’s jaw swings open on a stunned laugh. But he feels encouraged. “Yes. That is also how matter with those two tend to turn.”
“Well if that’s where it went, where did it even start from?” Horatio is looking curious now, which eases Hamlet. Curiosity is a facet of his friend he navigates well.
“Guildenstern bid me deliver a message to Rosencrantz in the library and when I asked what... all he gave me was a kiss.” Horatio blinks slowly a few times. Hamlet presses on. “So I brought him a kiss from Guildenstern and he pulled me into an alcove to return back… what you saw.”
Horatio looks bewildered and then his eyes roll upward to the ceiling. “Not one to be outdone, is he?”
Hamlet buries his face in pillow and laughs. “No,” he says when he raises back up. “Not our Rosencrantz.”
“So did you?”
Hamlet grins. “Did I what?” He knows perfectly well what.
“Did you return to Guildenstern and suck him off?”
Hamlet had no concept of what it would do to him to hear Horatio say it aloud. He has rather the feeling of the thin ice having cracked beneath his feet. He’s in deep water now. Horatio seems to have committed to this line of questioning. His gaze is firm, even if for some reason his hands seem to shake slightly. Hamlet feels it’s only fair to reply in turn.
“Yes. In his quarters that night.”
“And did the game end there?”
“So what message did he give you after that?”
Hamlet bites his lip. “He fucked me.”
Horatio pauses for a second. Then his resolve comes back. “How?”
“How?” Hamlet repeats, a little taken aback.
Hamlet can feel tension between them again, but this is different than before. It’s not awkward, particularly; Horatio is not accusatory. But it is heady. “How detailed shall I be?”
“As detailed as you like.”
“He stripped me and kneeled behind me while I stayed on my hands and knees.”
Horatio nods and his eyes look darker. “Did you like that?”
“As much as Rosencrantz’s mouth?”
“They’re different, of course, but I… all pleasure is favorable to me.”
Horatio tilts his head. “No matter who it comes from?”
Hamlet shakes his head. “Not between men and women, no. But it is better with some. If you have a camaraderie. If there’s affection.”
“I’m,” Horatio hesitates. “...of the same mind.”
Hamlet leans forward out of instinct and his hip bumps Horatio’s. His heart beat jumps. It takes only a split second to realize that Horatio is hard. He feels so instantly flushed with heat it makes him light headed. In moments, he is hard against Horatio too.
They meet eyes with matching heavy breaths. Hamlet grabs Horatio’s arm, needing something to anchor him. This is all almost too feverish a dream to be quite real. It keeps their hips together, though. And Hamlet feels drunk on arousal.
Horatio’s hips curve into his and Hamlet groans softly. Horatio’s arms come around him quick as lightening after that. Their legs tangle together and Hamlet grabs on to him too. Horatio turns and flips Hamlet underneath him, twining fingers into his blonde curls and bringing their faces close.
Hamlet thinks his heart might burst because Horatio may be truly about to kiss him. But he keeps their lips apart, even as his hips move against Hamlet’s. Hamlet cries out and lays his hands on Horatio’s backside, pulling him in. Horatio makes a noise which is so delicious Hamlet has to do it again.
“And did your game end there?” Horatio says, his voice almost a whine, moving his hips against Hamlet’s slowly and fervently.
Hamlet groans. “No. No, I fucked Rosencrantz the same.”
“On his hands and knees?”
Horatio’s head drops into the crook of Hamlet’s shoulder and his hot breath against Hamlet’s neck makes him buck his hips. It’s so hot they’re starting to sweat.
“Yes. And then he climbed on top of me and rode me until I came.”
Horatio moans against Hamlet’s ear and it nearly undoes him. “And did you ride Guildenstern just as hard?” He asks, grabbing Hamlet’s arse with the hand not tangled in his hair.
“And you came?”
“And did your game end there?”
And in the space of a breath Horatio is off of him and sitting at the other end of the bed. Hamlet makes a sound of lost confusion.
Horatio looks wrecked. His face is flushed and his shirt is all twisted up. His hair is mussed. Hamlet can’t ever remember him more beautiful.
“I don’t want to play games with you,” he says, miserably.
Hamlet sits up and reaches for him, but Horatio leans back and away, slipping onto his feet and off the bed. Hamlet realizes he is heading for the door and he’s off the bed as quick as he can manage.
He catches him right as his hand pulls on the handle. He slams the door shut and pins Horatio with his body weight. They stay like that for a silent minute, his front to Horatio’s back. Horatio being slightly taller puts Hamlet’s mouth at the nape of his neck.
“Are you jealous?” Hamlet feels too hopeful, and it’s terrifying.
Horatio doesn’t answer right away. “No,” he says, earnestly.
Hamlet feels his stomach drop.
“What they have with you is not what I want from you.”
“Sex, you mean?” Hamlet says, heart aching.
Horatio shakes his head. “No,” he says, his voice sounds thready. “I mean. I want. Devotion. Tenderness. Sincerity. If what you have with them is all you want out of--”
“How poorly must you understand me to not see that you have all of those already! I know not who upon this entire fragile globe has those from me if not yourself,” Hamlet says, hands tightening in Horatio’s shirt. “I have been holding back from you only this one part of myself for fear you could not desire me both as a friend and as a lover. Which is how I desire you, Horatio.”
Horatio takes his hand from off the doorknob and lays it on top of Hamlet’s. “When we first met, you were right to tread carefully...” he says, twisting in his arms and seeming still unsure, which sets Hamlet’s stomach turning. “But the more you give to me the more I crave.”
“As if increase of appetite grows ever more fierce by what it feeds on.”
“Yes,” Horatio says, putting hands on either side of Hamlet’s face.
Hamlet’s heart feels like it surges up because it will not be held down a second longer. “I know it well, Horatio. It is the very pith of how I feel about you.”
Horatio’s face is overtaken by a wide smile. “And will you seal that with a kiss?”
Hamlet falls into him like the dams have finally broken. And his lips finally on Horatio’s remind him of waves dashing themselves upon rocks. Even for all his strife before this moment there is something cyclical and inevitable in it. He can barely catch his breath.
Horatio’s lips are soft and his kiss is passionate. It is so absolutely different a sensation to any other, even though he knows it is just a kiss. Yet, a woman’s kiss, a man’s kiss, none of these were ever Horatio’s lips on his. The intimacy is all. The reality, the fact, of his consent to kiss him, that is the joy bubbling inside Hamlet’s chest. It spills out of his mouth in a soft laugh. And Horatio seems to know it for what it is, and grins as well.
Hamlet wraps his arms around Horatio’s waist and walks him backwards to the bed. He only intends to lay down in Horatio’s arms but he find himself being divested of his shirt in short order.
From there, their other garments come off quickly too and Hamlet is standing naked as Horatio. He takes the opportunity to look his fill. Though he knows in a removed way that Horatio is lithe and trim it is another matter entirely to experience him as lithe and trim and concretely accessible. It heightens everything about looking at him.
He runs a hand along his chest, reveling in the shiver it produces. He slips his hand down to palm his hip and tighten his grip.
“Lay down with me,” Hamlet says, rubbing his thumb back and forth on Horatio’s hip bone.
Hamlet settles himself on his back and Horatio considers for a heartbeat before he climbs over Hamlet and hovers there. He kisses him again, and comes slowly to lay on top of him.
Hamlet can’t quite parse which of all his feelings is the strongest. The smooth expanse of skin on skin. The heat of their mouth together. The sense of delighted completion inherent in just this, just kissing. Although with Horatio is it never “just.”
He wraps his arms around him and lets his hands wander everywhere. He hungers to know what Horatio’s ribs feel like, what his thighs feel like. When they come again to his arse, Horatio moans softly against Hamlet’s mouth. And Hamlet has been getting harder for some time now but that steals his breath momentarily and reminds him how badly he does want this.
He bends his knee and lets Horatio settle more properly astride him. Their cocks press side by side and Hamlet pulls them together more firmly. One hand tangles in Horatio’s dark hair and the other gently guides Horatio’s hips into a rhythm with his. It’s sharply perfect. Hamlet moans and Horatio’s hips push down more forcefully.
Hamlet licks Horatio’s mouth and Horatio opens up to him. The pressure from their moving hips is sending sparks all along Hamlet’s skin. He cries out every time Horatio thrusts down with intent. His legs splay wider to give him more room, which he takes for the invitation is it.
Grabbing Hamlet’s hips Horatio holds him in place and rubs their cocks together. Hamlet bucks and writhes underneath him, holding him close. Horatio’s eyes flutter closed on a groan but then they flick back open to stare down at their hips grinding together. Hamlet throws his head back and holds on as Horatio speeds up. He knows he’s begun speaking, a muttering litany of ‘yes’ and ‘more’ and ‘Horatio’ but it’s all a blur. It’s all so continuous. It feels as if this is all there ever was, really.
Horatio is moaning. His face is molded with the agony of so much sustained pleasure. Hamlet wants to hold him here in this instant forever. Overtaken with stimulation and ardor. But his groans are pleading too. Hamlet feels just how deeply he’s seeking this release. It’s so long overdue and they’re both so mindless for it. He can only kiss him again and reach between them.
With a hand around both their cocks Horatio’s movements slow and become more drawn out. Hamlet curses and whimpers against Horatio’s mouth. They thrust together, consumed by their search for the same sensation, until Hamlet reaches for his bedside table and grabs the bottle of oil he keeps there. Clumsily, he pops the cork and gets some into his hand before he sets it down and grasps them both again.
Horatio’s whole body tenses and then he curves down into Hamlet, hips working desperately. Hamlet is suddenly right at the edge. His whole body is alight with it. And then Horatio digs his nails into Hamlet’s shoulders and spill hot and wet between them. Hamlet’s back bows in a deep arch and shouts Horatio’s name as he trashes underneath him, mindless and euphoric with orgasm. It’s sharp and bright and it keeps washing over him, deep and hot, wave after wave. He can’t find his own mind inside that state. It takes him a long time to come down out of it.
And when he does, Horatio is collapsed on top of him, shaking in aftershocks. Hamlet kisses his sweaty forehead and pets his hair. They can’t move for a while. When they have their wits about them again, one look tells Hamlet Horatio is well exhausted, and it makes him so happy. It just sets a glow over him. He reaches for the cloth he keeps in the bedside table for just such occasions and gently cleans up between them as best he can.
Horatio rolls off of him but stays firm to his side. It’s silent until Horatio chuckles a little. Hamlet looks down at him.
“I… should really finish my reading.”
Hamlet shocks himself with how loudly he laughs. It echoes around the room. Horatio is laughing too.
“You should do no such thing. Idle here in felicity a while, with me. The work will be there in the morning.”
“As will you.”
“As will I,” Hamlet confirms.
Horatio tilts his head up and kisses him. “I never in all my philosophy dreamt… that this could be.”
Hamlet thinks on that. “A rare thing when the waking world out-dreams even sleep.”
Horatio smiles against Hamlet’s chest and lays a kiss there. “Now are bound two noble hearts,” he murmurs as he drifts off into sleep.
Hamlet follows not long after, feeling the truth of it in the way their bodies rest together, in their suddenly attuned and deeper breathing.