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the storm will take its pieces

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the storm will take its pieces

no matter who you are

i’ve finally stopped the dreaming

and quieted my heart

 

i want to leave, i want to stay

and anything could push me either way

i want to live, i want to die

i’m all right

- AIHVHIA

[]

"Do you believe in ghosts?" Hamlet asked.

"I don't think it matters if I do or not," Horatio replied, his stomach icing over in dread. "They will or won't exist regardless of my belief."

Hamlet hummed. He was staring out the windshield, his eyes were distant. His booted feet were up on the dashboard, his outfit his black-on-black-on-black, with ripped knees and many layers, one over the other.

Horatio was driving. It was Hamlet's car, a BMW, with custom rims and paint. Things that Hamlet had cared about once, but didn't now. Hamlet used to drive their long commute every day, but after his father's death, he would toss his keys to Horatio and slump with no small amount of drama into the passenger seat. They attended school a tedious, traffic-filled drive away from home.

"I saw a ghost last night." Hamlet wasn't wearing his seatbelt, and floated his fingers in the air with a faked whimsy. "He stood in my doorframe and called to me, by name. And I thought it not a ghost but a memory. Until it told me..."

Horatio tightened his hands on the wheel. "What did it tell you, my lord?"

Hamlet's eyes were glassy and fixed far, far away. He spoke through a daze, "Do you think it's right to listen to them? The ghosts? No matter if they are real or aren't real, but if they are."

"I think you'll end up obsessing over it whether you'd like to or not," Horatio replied, still encased in dread, afraid to break its spell. His Prince was plagued by grief for so long, and now it was taking forms, figures, and giving words.

"Too right you are. Too right you always are." Hamlet swayed forward a little, then turned to offer Horatio a tired smile. "I'm sorry. I didn't sleep. Are we there yet?"

"Not quite," Horatio said, "You could close your eyes for a minute."

"Ah, but then, what would I see?" Hamlet mused, and kept that dead-eyed gaze beyond the horizon ahead.

Horatio drove, steady, calm, while his heart beat hard against his ribcage, playing a nervous rhythm. It took a while to realize that the maw in his chest was fear, like premonition, like sickly clairvoyance.

[]

"You're a mess," Horatio said, as Hamlet dropped in the passenger seat. His muddy boots sprayed dirt over the dashboard as he leaned back.

"A royal mess," Hamlet replied. He ran a hand through his hair and made it worse, sticking up at all angles. "I'm haunted, Horatio."

"By what?"

"By who," Hamlet said, glum. He kicked the windshield.

"The ghost came again, then," Horatio guessed. It had been a couple days, and his hope that it would be a one-time event was dashed. 

"It wouldn't leave," Hamlet complained, and then shivered, crossing his arms over his chest and looking away. "Are you planning to drive or loiter here admiring the grounds?"

"Sorry, my lord, I thought maybe we had more pressing issues," Horatio replied, managing that thin line between respect and sarcasm that he walked so neatly.

"The issues have only just begun," Hamlet replied, then dug his palms into his eye sockets. "I have been tasked, Horatio. I have been saddled with a burden. I have been locked in war with my morals and my duty. Are you driving or not? If we're late for class, I'll also be saddled with a late slip."

Horatio drove, calm but focused intently, "Are you going to explain, or would you like some more time for mysterious melodrama?"

"It is the ghost of my father," Hamlet declared.

"I did figure that much out myself, thanks. What did he say?" Then, Horatio added quickly, "My lord."

"Revenge. He was killed by my uncle, and he wants me to avenge him," Hamlet said, grim and sullen, then kicked the windshield again. "A ghost, a ghost of my father, of the man who raised me. He has sought me out beyond the grave and I am to take him at his word and kill my uncle. I should do it."

"Should you?"

"Shouldn't I?"

"Do you know it was him?"

"I don't. But you know I hated him for marrying my mother. But my father, it is my duty, my honor, my..." Hamlet trailed off, and shook his head. "I'm so confused, I'm lost. I wish that ghost had never come. I don't know what to think and I don't know what to do."

"Have you had any breakfast?" Horatio asked.

"I'm in the midst of a profound mental breakdown."

"Alright, let's get you an Egg McMuffin."

Hamlet pouted, drumming his fingers against the seat, and said, "Fine, fine."

Horatio smiled, if only for a moment.

[]

It was late at night. Horatio was driving in the darkness, lit only by streetlamps. They passed at predictable, regular intervals, and flashed the cab of the BMW to illuminate Hamlet hunched over, face buried in his knees. He wasn't wearing his seatbelt.

Hamlet had wanted to go for a drive, to get away from home, and threw Horatio the keys with red eyes. There was no universe in which Horatio would deny him that, or this, or anything really.

"Should I avenge him?" Hamlet muttered. "Do I even know that it was Claudius who killed him? Is it worth the risk? Am I bound by duty or can I live my life without following the ghosts path down into a darkness from whence I can never return?"

"What do you think?" Horatio asked.

"Do I think? Do I think at all, or am I just a puppet, dancing along to a song that is predetermined for me a long time ago? If I kill him, I am a murderer, but if I leave him be, that murderer becomes King. Either way, a murderer will be King. I am doomed to stain red the lives of those around me."

The streetlights flashed. Hamlet's shoulders shook, and he said, "Go faster."

Horatio went faster. The lights flashed with alarming frequency. The road was empty but it was dark and anything could happen. Horatio slowed back down reflexively.

"And you return to the limits." Hamlet sighed. "Good Horatio, you are too sensible for me."

Horatio's heart ached at that. "I apologize, my lord. I admit, I don't understand why you ask me to drive -- I don't quite have the heart for the speeds you enjoy."

"What do you think?" Hamlet changed tracks so quickly, it was hard to keep up.

"Of the ghost?"

"Of my father's command."

"Wild idea, but have you considered going to the police with your suspicions?"

Hamlet laughed, and it echoed too-tight in the BMW interior. It was a pained sound. "On what suspicion? On the word of a ghost? You don't believe it to be true, I know you don't."

"I think that the existence of this ghost, whatever it may be, is unwinding your grip. But I don't doubt your suspicion, I merely doubt your course of action."

Horatio slowed to make a turn, and the next time he looked at Hamlet, his friend was pinching his own brow.

"You think the ghost is going to drive me insane," Hamlet summarized.

"I fear it has already driven you to obsession. What are you going to do?"

"I can do nothing. I am behest to an unfolding tragedy."

The ice returned to Horatio's stomach. In seemed to get stuck in his throat. He didn't know what he could say. He said nothing at all.

They drove until there were no more streetlights.

[]

"Do you ever think about death?"

Horatio took a deep breath. He kept his eyes on the road, as much as he wanted to look at Hamlet in that moment. He said, "I have."

"I think of it all the time," Hamlet said, flopping back, hand against his forehead. "I think of it every moment I'm alive. I wonder if my father is there, where he is, and what he wants from me. I am haunted, I am haunted by death and dying and the dead."

"Does it scare you?"

Hamlet turned to Horatio. "What?"

Horatio repeated, calm, "Does it scare you?"

"Death? Yes. No. I don't know. I can't stop thinking about it. When you think of death, Horatio, what do you think?"

"I think it is an unavoidable thing we all spend our lives trying to avoid." Horatio swallowed. "When my mind strays that way, I am always struck by the helplessness of it all. The certainty of the uncertainty that follows."

Hamlet pressed his forehead hard against the cold window beside his head. It seemed an eternity before he asked, "And does it scare you, Horatio?"

"Not for myself, but yes, for others."

"Not for yourself?"

"If I am dead, it is no longer my problem. But to be alive when one is dead, well, that's the torture, is it not? Is it not why you think of your father in agony? Wondering if he died unjust and is trapped in a stasis you must relieve him of? And wishing him still alive. Missing him."

Hamlet sounded like he was struggling to breathe, but when Horatio turned his head, he was immobile and still. There was no fear on his face. There was nothing.

There was a time after his father's death that Hamlet sat in the passenger seat and was deathly quiet. While the increasingly worrying musings were terrifying, Horatio far preferred it. At least then he put voice the demons in his head, and did not hide them from Horatio.

"With my mind so troubled and dark, I feel as if I am wrapped in shadows," Hamlet said, changing tracks, hugging his middle.

"If you live in the shadows, to follow your metaphor, then you must seek the light, my lord. For there is still light."

"And how? Where will I find this light?" Hamlet asked, tired. Sounding as if the ghost was sitting on his chest.

"A therapist?" Horatio suggested.

Hamlet scoffed, and shook his head.

"Is that worse than your constant grim and fatalistic anguished speculation?" Horatio tried.

"I've nothing to say to them." Hamlet's lip sneered.

"You've just said it all to me."

"That's different. You're you."

If the situation weren't so dire, that might've made Horatio pleased. A word of affection to a starved mind. If Hamlet was focused on death, then Horatio felt like he was focused on love. On how he didn't know what to do with his own.

As it was, instead he said, "And one day I might not be enough. Consider it, will you?"

Hamlet did not reply. The drive continued, silent.

[]

It was a few days later when they got in the car, but didn't go anywhere. Privacy in confined quarters. Hamlet laid in the backseat, his feet against the ceiling. Horatio was turned in the BMW driver's side, trying not to elbow the horn. 

"How can I be charged with decisions beyond my own mortal coil?" Hamlet said, "How can I be placed with the burdens of morality and mortality so young, so foolish, how could I ever make a decision that would be just? But I am haunted by the mistakes of others, or by their maliciousness, and I am tasked with deciding which is which is which."

Hamlet inhaled. He kicked the ceiling. The chains on his belt rattled. His black clothes were rumpled and worn. He said, "The ghosts stare at me. I feel as if I am an animal, starving, trapped in a cage made by others for my own demise. All I am good for is death. All I have to offer is the chaos. My mind is beyond my own grasp, a bird cast out into the wind, unreachable. And I'm stuck with a bitch of a mother who jumped into bed with that bastard man."

Horatio was leaning on his palm. He said, "Do you ever stop talking, my lord?"

"Not in recent memory, no," Hamlet replied, but his lip was quirked.

"I'm sorry to hear that you are unwell," Horatio said, "Is there anything I could do to help?"

"Answer me a question."

"I'll answer a hundred."

"That's too bad, because I only have one," Hamlet laughed, then it quickly sunk into a dark expression. "Would you ever have done that to me?"

"Done what, my lord?"

"Married my brother a week after I'm gone."

Horatio's heart beat too-hard against his ribs, his blood cold like he'd been caught having feelings. His mouth was dry as he said, "You don't have a brother."

"You know what I mean."

Horatio did. He carefully said, "I would not do that to you, no."

"I know you wouldn't," Hamlet released a little sigh, his lungs soft. "I know. I just wanted to remind myself. You're the good in the world, you know. You're the compass."

"I think you sell yourself short," Horatio said.

"What would you do?" Hamlet said, that rapid subject change again.

"If you died?"

"Yes."

"I would follow you anywhere, my lord."

Hamlet had been boneless and languish in the backseat, and very suddenly whipped around to face him at that statement. For a moment, Hamlet stared at Horatio with a suspended, horrified shock.

"Absolutely not." Hamlet breathed. "You cannot. Promise me you would not."

Horatio was flattered, even as his heart ached. "You'll just have to stay alive then, won't you, my lord?"

"I cannot promise that, you know I cannot. And I could never let you die for me. You must promise me you'll live, Horatio. I command you."

Horatio bit his lip, and tried to still his heavy-beating heart.

"Please." Hamlet begged. "Please, if you love me, please."

Horatio was weak and foolish. He would regret this promise to the ends of the Earth if the foretold tragedy occurred, but he gave in, and he said, "Alright, my lord."

All the tension leaked out of Hamlet's body, and he covered his face with a trembling hand, "I'm not the only one who's thinking so much of death lately."

"Hard not to, with your company, my lord," Horatio teased, aching, aching.

[]

Hamlet was drunk. Horatio was driving him home.

"It is a lonely thing to live among the ghosts," Hamlet said, head pillowed on his arms.

"You aren't alone, my lord," Horatio said.

Hamlet was quiet for a very long time. Horatio thought he'd fallen asleep. The rain pattered down against the BMW roof, and the windshield wipers worked frantically.

"I don't know if I want to be alive," Hamlet said.

Horatio yanked the car over to the side of the road and stopped. Hamlet jostled, drunk and disgruntled and gave Horatio a glare.

But Hamlet needed his full attention, not the damn flooded roads. Horatio reached across to grab Hamlet's face, holding him in place, and said, "Why do you think you are only hurting yourself?"

Hamlet blinked slowly. He replied, "Is it not suicide? To throw your life your life away for the ghosts? To become a ghost while trapped in their midst?"

Horatio shook him, as gently as he could manage, "You do not have to die, you idiot. You are not bound to fate. Don’t look at me and say you are behest to an ongoing tragedy. You are alive, alive, alive, and being alive means you can make the choice. You don’t have to die."

Wearing all black, face pale, it highlighted how red Hamlet's eyes were. He croaked, "I'm not. I am an instrument of revenge."

"You are my friend. " Horatio ached, and he let go of Hamlet's face only to clutch at his own heart. "It is truly death you seek, or escape? We could leave."

Hamlet's lips twitched. "You could not leave your studies."

"I don't give a fuck right now."

"You would later. I have a duty. I have a kingdom. I will not leave, not even if it kills me. When it kills me." Hamlet hiccupped, and then hurriedly pried open the car door so he could crouch in the ditch and throw up in the rain.

[]

"That was quite the performance." Horatio said. He hadn’t known about the plan beforehand, it was something Hamlet concocted on his own in the past couple of days. 

Hamlet was flushed with pleasure, and a grinning smile. "Wasn't it? We had a blast. Ophelia really got into the spirit, I think. Serves those bastards right for eavesdropping, for meddling in our lives."

"Did you really say, 'get thee to a nunnery'?" Horatio asked, impressed.

"I'm supposed to be crazy, aren't I?" Hamlet asked, all teeth in his smile, making his mouth unnervingly too wide.

Horatio was driving, and it was hard to focus on the road. There was a mist in the air, heavy with fog, making the universe unreal before his own eyes. He said, "So you say now that crazy is an act?"

"Maybe it was an act all along." Hamlet challenged. He was still not wearing his seat belt. "They thought me mad for love. Hah! And to toy with Ophelia as such, how unfair to her. She said to me that she wanted agency. I thought it an admirable goal. We put on a show of our own, which is just a precursor to the show we'll be serving later."

"What purpose does the insanity act serve, my lord?"

Hamlet continued on as if he hadn't spoke, "She just wants to be free. Her free is different than mine, but nonetheless important. The men saw what they wanted to see, and now they will leave her alone. Her freedom is released, and mine is assured. It is coming." Hamlet conducted an invisible symphony with his fingers.

Horatio tightened his hands on the wheel. There was a lump in his throat. His voice was so quiet in comparison to Hamlet's ravings, "Are you acting crazy, or are you truly crazy?"

"Does one not feed the other?" Hamlet fiercely jabbed his hands in the air.

"I think even if you say you are acting, that is still a sign. If one acts crazy, then they are definitely not well."

Hamlet's hands fell hard into his lap. The fog hung so heavily in the air that it weighed them down too.

[]

Stuck in traffic, they were already late for class. Hamlet rolled down his window and stuck his head out, frowning at the long line of cars. When he pulled himself back inside the car, he said, "I couldn't do it. I'm stuck. I know his guilt but I could not do it. I saw his face, he ran, he feels guilt."

"You tried to kill him?" Horatio tried to not sound frightened.

"Hesitation is my friend and my enemy," Hamlet replied, picking at his nails, tearing the skin apart. "Can I live with myself if I don't try?"

"Maybe you could." Horatio suggested. "Is not the ultimate tragedy of life to not even try to live, to let live?"

"And my father's murderer, just let him live?" Hamlet echoed darkly. "Revenge is the only way. It wasn't the moment. He would be free. It wasn't the moment, so I am still left in my own turmoil."

Horatio's throat felt like a pinhole. He watched his friend pick the skin around his fingers until they bled. Horatio asked, "Do you want to live?"

"I want a life, but it feels like the only way to get it is to die."

Horatio wondered what that meant as the traffic moved up an inch and he focused on the road for a moment.

"Do you need to talk?" Horatio asked.

"I need a fucking nap," Hamlet said, and he sounded so very tired. As if he'd been dragging a heavy corpse around for days and weeks.

"We have nothing but time," Horatio gestured to the traffic.

Hamlet reclined his seat and pulled his beanie down over his eyes. The car was quiet again, except for Hamlet's soft and even breathing.

Horatio glanced at Hamlet far more times than he cared to admit. He was thinking about how unafraid Hamlet was to speak his mind, how the words flowed from his mouth without a second thought or pause. Horatio said only what was expected, only what he was supposed to. He said my lord and what did it matter the words he wanted to say if he could never push past the wall he put between them?

Horatio knew with stark, honest dread that he loved Hamlet. And that it was not a simple, easy thing to be. Like waving goodbye to the sailor on the docks, knowing that your love was going somewhere you could not follow. The path to insanity was a lonely one, the path to revenge, the path to ruin. And his devotion to his Prince, his place in society, his own duty to his friend, not to be the one to make his life worse. But when he looked at Hamlet, he thought, what if I opened my mouth and I was ever as brave as you are every second of the day?

Horatio took a moment of his own to press his forehead into the steering wheel, and cursed underneath his breath. Doomed folk, stuck in traffic. Abandon all hope. Put your car in park.

[]

It was a much colder day when Hamlet climbed in the car after class with a large box.

"What's in the box?" Horatio asked.

"It's a cake for you." Hamlet said. He had red-rimmed eyes but he smiled when he looked at Horatio.

"What for?"

Hamlet flopped open the cover, and it said, 'you lived, bitch' in black and white frosting.

Horatio couldn't help but laugh. He'd spent all of his time, when he wasn't putting out fires for Hamlet, studying for all of his Honors midterms, and had finished his last one today.

Horatio was honestly surprised that Hamlet remembered, and incredibly touched that he went out of his way to do something to celebrate. The two of them sat in the school parking lot and ate cake with plastic forks. The rush of sugar was immediate.

"I'm sorry I'm such a terrible friend," Hamlet said, sullen, as he stabbed at the icing with malice.

"Excuse me? You gave me a cake," Horatio said.

"Yes, because I feel very poorly that everything is about me and my problems."

"Your uncle killed your father and you're currently being haunted by his ghost, I'm cutting you some slack."

Hamlet shook his head miserably, "I know you deserve better than this."

"My lord, I have just consumed proof of your support and good deeds.”

Hamlet tossed the plastic fork down, and licked icing off his fingers. He said, miserable, "The only sensible thing I’ve done in my life was keeping you around. And I’m beginning to think that was a disservice to you. Don’t you have anything better to do?"

"And miss this theatre production level of melodrama? That would be a shame," Horatio said, undeniably amused.

"Are you only loyal because of the person I used to be? The one I was before? Because I feel like once my life was filled with ghosts, I became a self-absorbed dick. Who was I before I had death upon my head and my heart?"

Horatio tried to answer, but Hamlet shook his head vigorously. Hamlet continued, "Who was I before this? Do you think of them? Do you miss them? It would be a kindness to kill the one who took that person away from you, don’t you think?"

"No, my lord," Horatio said, firmly. The too-sweet cake was making his stomach churn.

"Please tell me what you used to see in me, why you stayed. Now tell me why you stay when that person is gone," Hamlet said.

"I see you, my lord," Horatio said. "I saw you then and I see you now. I choose to stay of my own accord. I know you to be just as loyal and true as me. If you trust me to be honest and true, then trust I know how to make informed decisions of who I devote myself to. I will always willingly give whatever I can to you, my lord. That is my choice."

Hamlet's eyes were glossy, and he said with a soft voice, "Even if all you could ever give me was your smile, I would still have you at my side until the very end."

Horatio could only smile at that, surprised, heart hurting, but struck with helpless and painful joy.  

[]

It was the middle of the night. They were hiding in the parked car, alone. Shadowed in darkness, Hamlet sitting in the driver's side but not touching the keys. Horatio was laid out in the back for once, tired. Hamlet had said only one thing, ages ago: "If I were dead, all our problems would be solved."

Horatio broke the silence after thinking over his next words for a long time, "Would you die for me, my lord?"

"Without hesitation," Hamlet answered lightning fast, passionate and true.

"Let me ask a harder question. Would you live for me, my lord?"

Hamlet did not reply. He put his hands on the steering wheel, then off again. The BMW was shiny and dark and quiet.

"Why are you out here with me, Horatio?"

"Because you asked me to be, my lord," Horatio said, one arm over his eyes. He was tired. Worrying was tiring. "And even if you didn't, you need someone to talk to."

"I’m perfectly capable of soliloquizing."

"I don’t think anyone doubts that, but talking to yourself is no fun if I’m not here to poke holes in your flawed logic."

"What would I do without you, Horatio?"

"Not drive anywhere, apparently."

"Oh, I want to get some coffee. Will you take me to drive-through Starbucks?"

Horatio and Hamlet switched seats. Horatio started the car and began to drive.

Hamlet said, "I have no action, I only have a torturous mind. The ghost visited me and spat upon me, called me a coward. Said I needed to act. I have nothing left inside me, I have anguished it all away. Ever since I have been haunted, I have accomplished nothing at all. I have bitched and moaned about my lot in life, and gotten absolutely no where."

"Isn’t it ever too early for melodrama?" Horatio asked, calm but worried. More of the damned ghost. If it truly was his father, he'd love to ask him to leave Hamlet the fuck alone.

"Let me be melodramatic, please."

"That’s all I ever do."

"Am I weak? Am I a coward? Do you think if I give in and kill him, that I will be released?

"Do you actually seek answers to these questions or do you just find solace in giving your fear a voice?"

"Do you have any answers?"

"I told you, long ago. I wish you would speak to a therapist, or to the police."

"I cannot."

"God forbid we have any sensible solutions, my lord," Horatio said, drily. Then they pulled into the Starbucks and ordered Frappuccinos.

 []

Horatio was sick. He got behind the wheel, but could not stop coughing long enough to drive.

"I'll drive," Hamlet said, taking the keys.

Horatio did not say, I thought you didn't drive anymore. He merely crawled over to the passenger's side. Horatio put his seatbelt on. Hamlet did not. For the first time since his father's death, Hamlet started the car and began to drive home.

Horatio felt feverish and cold and wanted to go to bed. He hacked into his sleeve, and said, "Sorry, my lord, I know you don't want to drive."

"Do you think I'm using you?" Hamlet asked, fake lightly.

"Never, my lord."

"I am," Hamlet said, frank. Horatio was quiet, and he continued, "Do you know why I will not get in a car unless you are too?"

"I assume you like my company," Horatio teased, because the moment felt so heavy.

"I do," Hamlet replied, immediate, without pause. "But if you are here, then I will not drive off a bridge."

The statement hung in the air. Horatio felt dizzy, from the sickness or the heartache, he wasn't sure.

Hamlet continued, "I cannot stand to drive anymore because having to choose every single moment not to crash into a pole is too much to ask of me. It's exhausting. But I can drive if you are here, because I would never hurt you. So I am using you, I'm using you to keep myself in check."

Horatio shuddered, and hugged his middle. He felt very, very ill. Because there would be a day when Hamlet got in the car without him, and since the moment that ghost came, the cold in Horatio's stomach let him know that it was inevitable.

Run from the inevitable all you like, but you will look up one day and it will already be there.

[]

Hamlet got in the car alone.

He was trembling from head to toe. The BMW interior was streaked with the mud on Hamlet's boots. His hair was wild and pulled. His cheeks blotchy and damp, eyes red, mouth twisted. He sobbed, and put the keys in the ignition. Stopped. Stared out the windshield.

"I want to be left alone," Hamlet said to the empty car.

A ringing silence.

"Please, I can't, I can't anymore," Hamlet shook his head. "Leave me alone, leave me be, I won't do it, I can't do it. I'm just a kid. I can't be made to make such decisions. My hands unclean would never be the same. You've poisoned me with a blade of wretchedness, I have no return. Leave me."

Silence.

Hamlet drew in a shaky breath, "I don't think you are real."

Heavy silence.

His lip drew up. "If you are, I hope you are ashamed that you have brought me to this."

Hamlet started the car. It rumbled to life, filling with noise. Hamlet turned the heater on full blast, and cranked the radio. He started to drive, full speed, a million miles an hour, and he screamed at the top of his lungs. Cars blurred past, and Hamlet tried to get to a speed that even a ghost could not follow. The madness. Doomed folk wear no seat belt. Abandon all hope, put your car in sixth gear.

Then, as suddenly as it came on, Hamlet lifted his foot off the gas. Horror sunk into his skin. He pulled over, rocks scattering, and tore the keys out of the ignition as soon as it was parked. He threw them in the passenger seat. He put his face in his hands and trembled. He murmured, over and over, "I can't do that to him, I can't, I can't do that to him, I can't, I can't, I can't."

Hamlet sniffed, huge, and slung his arms over the wheel and hung his head between them. He said, "He spoke so many things to me that I cannot shake. The torture in being left behind. If I would I live for him. I don't have to die, I am alive, I can make my choice. Why did I think I was only hurting myself. If I die now, I will only hurt him. If I die now, the ghost wins, and the ghost is not my father. Whatever it is, it only seeks to sow more pain into the world. Whether the knife falls to me, or Claudius, both outcomes would hurt Horatio -- if I was dead, or a murderer. But I refuse. I choose the third option. I choose none. I will not hurt Horatio. Fuck, everyone else can suck it, I will not hurt Horatio, the only person who has ever been good to me."

Hamlet put the keys back in the ignition, but when he drove, he drove to the police station at a slow, sedate pace.

[]

Hamlet got in the car with Horatio on a sunny, cloudless day. 

"I don't think I know what love is anymore," Hamlet said.

"That's alright," Horatio said, starting the car. "There's still time to learn."

"Did I ever know? What if I love, but I love wrong? How can I be trusted with such a weapon?"

"There are worse crimes."

Hamlet rubbed his forehead. The crimes of his uncle, arrested for murder, because of him. Leaving him bewildered and lost. Trying to beat the traffic and not be late for his therapy appointment.

They weren't late. Horatio neatly slotted them in the parking lot, and turned off the BMW. Hamlet didn't move. He fiddled with the radio, turning it off.

"I was going to kill myself, but I stopped because I think I love you," Hamlet said.

"Oh," Horatio said, very softly.

Hamlet forced himself to meet his eye. Horatio was staring back, seeking. The words hung between them, and Horatio seemed frozen.

Hamlet did what he did best, and talked, "I just, I thought about how much it would hurt you, and how I didn't want to do that, not even to shake a ghost, to please my father or my honor or my duty. And I could've dragged the whole world down because I wanted it to collapse overtop me and take me with it. But I didn't, because of you. You are the lighthouse in the storm of my life. You guided me where I was always meant to be. Thank you."

"It is always a pleasure," Horatio replied, voice rough, still staring at Hamlet like he could not look away. "I... I don't understand."

"The part where I love you?" Hamlet guessed, unafraid, and gave Horatio a crooked smile. "You think I could not. You always doubt your worth. Dear Horatio, it's all I could ever do. I don't know if I know what love is. I don't know if friendship is meant to be so intense that you feel like you can't breathe, or if this is what love truly is. If this is what love is, then I understand why people go to war, why people write heart-wrenching love songs, and why the world is built and destroyed on love alone."

Horatio's lips parted. He said nothing. Hamlet's smile went wry, unsurprised, and he took off his seat belt, opened the door and climbed out.

"Wait, my lord," Horatio said, hurried, then amended with a flushed face, "No. Wait, Hamlet. Wait."

Hamlet waited, looking down, undeniably eager.

Horatio sucked in a breath, and said, "If you want my heart, you have always had it."

Hamlet climbed back inside the car, and caught Horatio's face under his palm. He kissed him like he drove -- reckless, passionate, and full of life. Horatio gasped, and held onto the collar of Hamlet’s shirt. Horatio tasted divine. Hamlet smiled on his mouth, and then said against his lips, "I'm glad."

"You're also late," Horatio replied, and kissed him again.

"I still think my love is a weapon," Hamlet said, leaning close so their foreheads pressed and their noses tangled. "But I think you may be able to disarm it."

"I've had some practice," Horatio smiled. "I'm not afraid of you, Hamlet. But you should still go to therapy."

"Urgh," Hamlet said. "You'll be here when I get back?"

"I'll be right here," Horatio promised.

He was.