|DoS: Summer Edition #8 [Hamlet Request #4]
||[Jul. 25th, 2011|02:18 am]
(lives between pages)
WARNING: Character death, but with the bells and whistles for which I have an unfortunate knack. The request called for a canon kiss. This piece ran long.
It Will Be Now
As Fortinbras begins to speak, four soldiers crowd close around Horatio, smelling of sweat and horses. He swallows, prepared to let go even as they begin to lift—
Every muscle in Hamlet's body seizes, his fingers locked on Horatio's forearm. Horatio is learned enough to know that death by poison is not always swift. He clutches back, fingers at Hamlet's elbows. Be it reflex or revival, they'll have some time left.
And it will hurt.
"Not yet," Horatio pleads, curling forward until his chin rests on Hamlet's damp head. "Leave us a while. Please, my lord." He doesn't know if Fortinbras is even listening.
The soldiers' rank, unwelcome warmth retreats. Horatio raises his head to find Fortinbras standing over him. The Norwegian prince looks tired and testy in the hall's spare light. He shouts at the cowering courtiers, all cold, weary authority.
"Did you not hear the scholar? Follow my men!"
"For this favor, much thanks," says Horatio, softly. Hamlet's fingers twitch.
Fortinbras drops to his haunches beside them, studying Hamlet with vague unease.
"How came he poisoned?"
"By Laertes, there, son of the slain Polonius. The blade was fouled."
"And the poor wretch himself?"
"By his own weapon, at Prince Hamlet's hand."
Hamlet stiffens at the sound of his name, coughs a trickle of blood.
It's then that Horatio knows his course, and Fortinbras knows it, too.
"Was it conspiracy, then? Whose?"
"The king's, begun with the murdering of his brother."
Fortinbras nods, setting an awkward hand on Horatio's shoulder.
"You seem an honest sort, to have earned the prince's love. What testimony else?"
"Search the royal chambers," says Horatio, curtly. "You'll find his tables."
"Thorough of him, to have writ on it," Fortinbras murmurs. "Had he much to suspect?"
"Very much," Horatio reassures him, dabbing at the trickle of blood as Hamlet twisted in his grasp. There was fight in him, doomed though he was, some awareness—
Hamlet chokes, tries to speak, and it sounds like nothing earthly ought.
Fortinbras lifts his hand as if burned, rising quickly.
"I'll fetch my surgeon. Don't move him."
They're alone with the echo of footfalls and surrounded by the dead.
Hamlet chokes again, his eyes half slitted. It must be torture.
"Not strict enough," Horatio mutters, casting about for the cup. It's still standing next to Hamlet's thigh, within easy reach and at least a third full. He lifts it to Hamlet's lips, and the prince needs no urging. He takes one mouthful and gags. What he's unable to swallow runs down his chin, further soaking his bloodied collar.
"No," he agrees, turning the syllable into a wrecked laugh.
"You never did rest easy," Horatio says, and finally, finally, tears come.
Hamlet shakes his head, his cheeks drained and his smile terrible.
It takes very little effort for Horatio to bow his head again, this time for a kiss. He swallows what he finds on Hamlet's lips—one last, stunned gasp—and then delves deeper, tastes blood tinged with the pearl's bitter taint on Hamlet's tongue.
The prince just stares up at him, labored breath subsiding on a sigh. Already, there's white-hot pain in Horatio's throat and bile rising to meet it. He doesn't have to think twice about drawing Hamlet's hand to his mouth, doesn't have to explain himself.
Not now, and not for this.