Disclaimer: I disclaim.

Author's Note: Halloa, all! This is my first venture into Shakespeare fanfiction. I'm afraid I cannot replicate the dialect of that era, but I hope that the point gets across all the same. Enjoy!

The sitting room was nearly silent; the crackle of the fire and the scratching of a pen were the only sounds there. Two men sat across from each other, their plump armchairs as close to the fireplace as they could safely be. The two could not be more different. The older man was obviously affluent, dressed as he was in fine-cut clothes and the ruffled, extravagant style of the era. He scribbled furiously on the stack of paper in front of him, eyes gleaming with excitement. The younger, disheveled man merely slumped listlessly in his chair and stared into the flames.

After some time, the older man finished writing and pointed the pen at his guest reproachfully. "Have you told me everything, sir?" he inquired.

The other's mouth twisted into a brief, bitter frown, but he did not look up from the fire. "Every word," he answered, and despite the fact that he had recently spoken for some hours, his voice sounded hoarse and disused.

The older man stroked his moustache and couldn't repress a smile. He put the stack of papers on the table with a loving care. "Well, sir," said he, standing, "if that is all…"

The younger man stood, too. "Are you certain that everyone will hear it?" he asked insistently.

His host chuckled. "Every man who has the means to do so will hear it," he assured him cheerfully. He wrung his guest's hand enthusiastically. "What a splendid story! You have my eternal thanks." Beaming, he looked up. It was the first time he had looked the other man in the eye the entire evening, and upon doing so, his exuberance faded. His guest's gaze was empty save for something dark and haunted in its depths. If eyes truly were windows to a man's soul, then this man was… Well, "broken" certainly came to mind. He shuddered, but continued valiantly, if less fervently than before, "Good night, sir."

"I made a promise," the young man said, and then he was gone.

The older man stood there for some time, stroking his moustache and contemplating the feeling that he had just shaken hands with a ghost. Soon, however, his thoughts turned to the newly acquired notes on the table, and his joviality returned. He rubbed his hands together eagerly. "I do believe this will outmatch Julius Caesar," he said to no one in particular. "Indeed, within this very year, the name of Hamlet will be on everyone's lips! It shall be my best play yet!"