Withered Black

Author's note: This is an introspective fic from Hamlet's pov about his relationships with Horatio and Ophelia. In my opinion, Hamlet seems to rely on the two of them as something of a release for his frustration throughout the play, and I figure much of that didn't make it into the written script. (See Act 3, Scene 1-2; 5, 3; for my inspiration.) I tried to remain true to Shakespeare's characterizations, but it is heavily based on my favorite version of Hamlet, so beware. I also happen to believe Hamlet really was going insane to some extent. Rated PG for the dark themes, mostly just references to death and blood. No slash intended, but as is always my policy, whatever floats your boat. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Hamlet. (I wish.) It belongs to the dearly departed and ever-brilliant Shakespeare. Some references (e.g. "speak daggers") are directly from the play. But probably everyone knows that. Anyway, the references aren't mine, so don't hurt me.

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I abuse them both terribly.

I know this to be true, and I loathe myself for it… And yet every single time one of them comes to my side, I find my miserable soul writhing in a cursed mix of ecstasy and torture, and what follows escapes the fragile bonds of my self-control so completely that I can only pray for forgiveness after they have gone.

I speak daggers to them.

I do not intend to do so, but almost within the very instant of their arrival, I find myself allowing the most horrible declarations to escape from my lips. I whisper in their ears of suicide, betrayal, and revenge until the very torrent of my soul rains red with the blood I speak of shedding. And it is then that their eyes, fixed on me, become filled with such a horrified mixture of fear and pain that I search desperately for the love buried beneath it. Those eyes are my precious release and my painful confinement, both. But can anyone understand why the mere look in their eyes can make me grieve so bitterly?

Can anyone understand what regret fills my heart when Horatio's eyes, always as cool and gray as two stars on a winter's midnight, silently entreat my lips to cease in their torment of his spirit? Can anyone comprehend the infernal suffering of my soul at the sight of Ophelia's once bright eyes, so bright I had likened them to sunlight on blue water, growing as murky and dark as the tempest I hiss into her ear?

And it does not end at words, as deep as words can cut into the mind, leaving wounds that bleed as badly as those wrought with steel.

I strain for their touch.

With desperate abandon, I permit my hands to grope toward them as my words weigh them down with sorrow, and then it is also my grasp that tethers them to the cruel earth as securely as condemnation. I caress their faces and follow an unseen line from their necks down past their arms, sometimes leaving my hand to rest on one knee, with a touch varying so suddenly from gentle to rough that I sometimes feel the jolt of their limbs beneath it. And then, through my fingertips, I feel how their bodies start to tremble underneath the searching, almost severe caresses of my hands. Those tremors fill me with a strange pleasure and a whirling dismay, both at once. And in the flurry of my thoughts, I think on them with anguish.

It is anguish to see the strong, steady Horatio shake under the light touch of a prince's fingers, the fingers belonging to what he would call his dearest friend and his sovereign lord. It is anguish to know that the radiantly beautiful Ophelia, admired by so many young men, would crumple under the grasp of the one that claims to love her best, oh, most best, in spite of the pain I cause her.

And in the end, the thing that is the most terrible of all, the thing that shall doubtless culminate in my ultimate damnation for daring to ensnare the innocent, is neither my words nor my touch. It stains my soul as a testament to my own supreme selfishness.

I bind their souls to my own.

Despite the pleas of my heart, a heart that still would claim to love them in spite of my withering mind, I secure their own dire fate through my actions. I make them swear that against all obstacles they will never leave me, no matter what I may do to lose their trust. I beg for their presence, even at strange times, beseeching them to come to me only so I can torture them further. To him I have imparted my bitter intent of revenge and to her I have made known the full weight of my desires, and both must still their lips from revealing these truths, no matter how their hearts may cry out against it. I know they are bound to me in loyalty and in love forever. And while this soothes my heart in the darkest of nights, it can make my heart ache by day to know what I know. And what do I know?

I know that the faithful Horatio feels even more than what he swears, an eternal devotion to the wretched prince who encroaches upon his every thought. And I know that the tender Ophelia suffers even more than what I see, a torment of the mind that may break her before she can decide to escape from a man so violently cruel.

And I know that I have brought death upon them.

I know that when I have chosen what is to be and what is not to be, the truth of who Hamlet has become will tear sweet Ophelia apart. And I know that if I should fail in my plans for revenge, the passing of Hamlet will murder good Horatio's spirit.

It was my doing. I am responsible for their fear, their torment, their death sentence.

And yet I continue in my spiteful course. I cannot persuade them to leave me, even for their own salvation, and even if I had that breed of strength in my feeble will, I know in my heart that it is too late to undo what has been determined with blood and with tears.

I know. And I grieve.

I once did compare them to two white roses, pure in their souls and chaste in their hearts, in the days where all our minds were blissfully naïve and unaware of the treachery in the kingdom. Now, in my folly, I have held them in my dying grasp until they have withered black, stained with the deep red of their love for me, for the doomed prince of Denmark they adore without question.

O, cursed spite.