Chapter Five

Disclaimer: I do not own Hamlet.

In the royal cemetery, two gravediggers were very busy digging a grave.

"Why are we doing this again?" the younger of the two asked between digs.

"Because it's our job," replied the other. "Now stop complaining and keep digging."

"But there's no body; she doesn't need a grave," the first pointed out.

"Just because her body is missing does not mean that she doesn't need a proper Christian burial," the second insisted.

"I get that she needs a service and a headstone but we're basically just digging a hole so people can stand around at her funeral pretending there's a body and then burying an empty coffin," the first sulked.

"What's your point?" asked the second.

"Why can't they just pretend that there's a hole here and save us the work?" the first demanded.

"Because they don't have that much imagination," replied the second.

"Don't have that much imagination?" the first repeated incredulously. "The poor girl's father died so they concluded she went mad and then when she left the country and they couldn't find her they decided she was dead! How is that in any way lacking in imagination?"

The second gravedigger shrugged as he climbed out of the half-finished grave. "Do you want to get paid or don't you?"

"I suppose," the first confirmed reluctantly. "Hey, where are you going? We're not done yet!"

"I'm on break. I'll be back in an hour or so," the second told him. "Guard the graveyard, will you? I hear Prince Hamlet's back."

"Will do," the first confirmed, scanning the graveyard for the notorious grave robber.

Unaware that he was being watched, Hamlet merrily strolled into the churchyard, Horatio at his side. "Hey, look! Skulls!" Hamlet exclaimed, bending down to pick one up. "I bet it was a lawyer. It looks annoying."

"The…skull looks annoying?" Horatio repeated. "How could it possibly be annoying you? It's just lying there."

"Exactly," Hamlet agreed. "It's a terrible conversationalist. That's how I can tell it's a lawyer; they're not fun to talk with because they nitpick every little thing you say."

"Only when they're arguing a case," Horatio disagreed.

Hamlet peered suspiciously at Horatio. "Are YOU a lawyer?"

"What?" Horatio asked, taken aback."No, of course not."

"Then stop nitpicking every little thing I say."

"I do not-" Horatio began.

"There, you're doing it again," Hamlet complained, crossing his arms. "Hey, you," he called to the remaining gravedigger.

"Yes, Prince Hamlet?" the gravedigger answered.

"I am a travelling…sailor," Hamlet introduced himself.

"Of course you are, Prince Hamlet," agreed the gravedigger. "How may I help you? Do you need a grave dug?"

Hamlet considered. "Maybe later. Right now I'm just curious: whose grave is that?"

"Mine," came the immediate response.

"You're digging your own grave?" Horatio asked, surprised. "Are you planning on killing yourself soon or something? Because that's really thoughtful not to make anyone else have to. Although if it was suicide no one would, I guess…"

"It's possible he's a criminal being forced to dig his own grave before his execution," Hamlet suggested. "But then why wouldn't he have someone supervising him to make sure he didn't escape?"

"No, no," the gravedigger shook his head. "You have it all wrong. It's my grave because I'm digging it."

"Oh," Hamlet stopped for a second. "Then who is going to be in the grave?"

"No one," the gravedigger replied.

"So…no one will be in the grave because all men and women are living things and the occupant of the grave will be dead?" Horatio worked out, looking pleased with himself.

The gravedigger shot him a look. "You over think things. No one's going to be in the grave because the grave belongs to someone who didn't die, she just left the country."

"I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but…" Hamlet took a deep breath. "That makes no sense whatsoever."

"Tell that to the King and Queen," the gravedigger told them, shrugging a little. "I don't understand it either, but apparently there was this fishmonger who died and he was the advisor to the King's father so she went mad and killed herself."

"I thought you said she left the country," Horatio pointed out. "And if she killed herself, why isn't there a body? And why is she getting a burial?"

"She did leave the country, but the King and Queen don't believe that and so decided she was dead when they couldn't find her," the gravedigger explained. "Which is why there isn't a body and she's getting a funeral because she's a lady of the court, the King thought she was pretty, and the Queen wanted her to be her daughter-in-law."

"Wait, wait…OPEHLIA'S dead?" Hamlet asked.

"No, she left the country, remember?" Horatio corrected.

"Don't be silly, Horatio. She has a grave, thus she is dead," Hamlet decided. "I'll have to make a note to dramatically and irreverently crash the funeral."

"Why can't you just attend like a normal person?" Horatio moaned. "Wait, stupid question…"

"So tell me your life story," Hamlet suddenly commanded.

"Okay…" the gravedigger said slowly. "I've been a gravedigger since King Hamlet defeated King Fortinbras in battle, thirty years ago. Coincidentally enough, that was the day Prince Hamlet the Insane was born. I bet Queen Gertrude was pissed he missed their son's birth to go play war."

"Thirty years?" Hamlet repeated, confused.. "But I'm only nineteen."

"That's nice, but we're not talking about you, we're talking about Prince Hamlet the Insane," the gravedigger said disinterestedly.

"You realize you called him Prince Hamlet twice earlier, right?" Horatio asked.

"I do indeed. Why?" the gravedigger inquired.

"Just checking."

"Why do you keep calling me 'Prince Hamlet the Insane'?" Hamlet wanted to know.

"Because he's insane, obviously," the gravedigger replied.

"Ah, that makes sense," Hamlet nodded. "Hey…this skull looks strangely familiar. It's not…it is! Yorick!"

"Who?" Horatio asked, puzzled.

"That was the jester for Old King Hamlet," the gravedigger explained. "He's been dead for twenty years now."

"Twelve," Hamlet corrected automatically. "Alas! Poor Yorick. I knew him."

"I should say so if he was your father's jester. Still, isn't twelve years a little long to be in mourning?" Horatio asked tactfully.

"It's never too long to obsess about dead people!" Hamlet declared.

"I'm not surprised you think that," Horatio muttered.

"I've just realized that everyone dies, decomposes, and turns into dust and that depresses me. I bet people have built walls out of Julius Caesar and clean Alexander the Great off of furniture!" Hamlet cried.

"There, there," Horatio said soothingly, patting him on the back.

This tender moment was soon interrupted by the arrival of Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and everyone else at court as well as anyone who was in the area and had nothing better to do.

"Hey, what are they all doing here?" Hamlet blinked innocently. "Did somebody die or something?"

Horatio closed his eyes, attempting to resist the urge to strangle his absentminded friend.

"Do you know, I haven't been in a graveyard since I killed my brother," Claudius said dreamily.

"Oh, right, you just sent flowers to his funeral," Gertrude nodded.

"I wonder if I can start pointing out the obvious, get myself declared insane, and leave like Ophelia did…" Horatio mused.

"Are you sure we should be doing this?" the priest asked Claudius. "I mean, this is all very irregular, considering she-"

"Killed herself?" Claudius interrupted, laughing nervously. "Don't be silly; anyone could have accidentally drowned in six inches of water."

"I was going to say 'isn't dead', but I suppose that would also be a good reason not to have a funeral for her," the priest agreed. "Giving her a proper Christian burial would profane the dead."

"You heartless bastard!" Laertes shouted, jumping into the empty grave. "That's my sister you're talking about."

"What?" Hamlet cried, shocked. "Ophelia's dead? Why didn't anyone tell me?"

"The gravedigger did," Horatio pointed out. "He also said she wasn't really-"

"Oh, right," Hamlet interrupted sheepishly. "I'm coming, Ophelia my love!"

"Huh?" Claudius turned towards the source of the intrusion. "Oh, right, you were coming back today, weren't you? Your brother's here, too. Still, a funeral's not exactly the best place to have a family reunion…"

"Laertes is not my brother and I'm here for Ophelia," Hamlet corrected as he also jumped into Ophelia's now not-quite-empty grave.

"We already talked about this, Hamlet," Claudius said sternly. "It's not nice to disown your relatives and Ophelia's dead so make sure I don't get any zombie stepgrandbabies."

"I loved her more than you did!" Hamlet insisted, punching Laertes.

"What? You dumped her, killed our father, and kept sexually harassing her," Laertes pointed out angrily.

"Actually, she dumped me," Hamlet defended himself.

"The other two are true, though!" Laertes yelled.

"You abandoned her!" Hamlet accused.

"I offered to let her come with me! Besides, she still had our father when I left. You left after you took everything from her!" Laertes shot back. "This is all your fault!"

"I love Ophelia so much I would eat a crocodile for her!" Hamlet announced.

That gave Laertes pause. "…What does that have to do with anything?"

Hamlet shrugged. "I don't know, but I just thought I'd point that out."

"Well, okay then."

"I would also be buried alive for her," Hamlet continued nobly.

Unexpectedly, Laertes brightened. "You would? That's great news. I'm sure she'd appreciate it. Now let me just go find the gravedigger."

"Oh, would someone break them up?" Gertrude asked, annoyed. "They are SO ruining the mood."

"I agree," Claudius agreed. "Besides, I already have plans for my crazy nephew's death and they do not involve being buried in his ex-girlfriend's stead."

"Fine, spoil my heroic fight scene," Hamlet pouted, stomping off.

"We'll reschedule," Laertes called after him.

"I am so sorry," Horatio apologized to the shocked funeral attendees before following him.

- -

"You'll never guess what happened to me!" Hamlet exclaimed.

"Did somebody try to kill you?" Horatio guessed.

"No, somebody tried to…how did you know?"Hamlet asked suspiciously. "Is this some sort of conspiracy?"

"No, it's just that people often feel the need to kill you and it only stands to reason that a few of them would act on this desire," Horatio explained. "So tell me about it."

"I was really bored one day so I decided to steal Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's mail. My uncle had a letter to the English monarch saying that if I was being annoying during my stay there, feel free to have me killed! Can you believe that? My own uncle!" Hamlet wailed.

"Considering he had your father killed, yes, yes, I can," Horatio nodded.

"Naturally, I switched the letter for one saying that if they annoyed anyone, they were to be killed," Hamlet beamed.

Horatio looked horrified. "But…but they can't even tell themselves apart! They'll never make it!"

Hamlet was unrepentant. "It's their own damn fault for not wearing nametags. Still, I probably shouldn't have kicked Laertes' ass at his own sister's funeral. After all, we share a common desire to kill Claudius to avenge our father's death."

"But…Claudius didn't kill Laertes' father, you did," Horatio pointed out. "Or are you convinced that you two are siblings, now?"

"I will never believe it," Hamlet snapped. "And it's really not my fault Polonius is dead."

"It isn't?" Horatio repeated. "But…you stabbed him."

"Yes," Hamlet nodded. "But that's only because I was looking for revenge against my Uncle, so therefore it's all his fault, really."

"If you say so…" Horatio said doubtfully.

"I'll apologize and it'll be fine, you'll see," Hamlet said optimistically.

"Would YOU be fine if Claudius apologized for killing your father?" Horatio asked.

"Nope," Hamlet said cheerfully. "But I don't see why Laertes wouldn't be."

"Hello, Prince Hamlet!" a courtier gushed, entering the room.

"Oh, hello Osric," Hamlet greeted with a long-suffering sigh. "He's a fanboy," he whispered to Horatio. "Observe: Osric, are you cold?"

"Freezing," Osric agreed.

"Really? Because I was thinking of opening up a window because of this dreadful heat."

"Would you? I didn't want to say anything, but I feel like I'm going to pass out from this massive heat wave," Osric contradicted.

"Do you need anything?" Horatio quickly cut in, seeing that Hamlet would likely continue to play with the poor pompous yes-man for hours.

"Ah, yes. Laertes wants to duel you. He's so dreamy!" Osric sighed happily. "He signed my chest and everything! And he and Claudius have a bet riding on it, so if you could hurry and come down, that would be great."

"What if I don't want do duel?" Hamlet asked. "After all, I just got back and my Uncle wants me dead."

"Can you sign my forehead?" Osric asked.

"Fine…" Hamlet quickly scrawled his name on the courtier's head. "I'll be down in a minute."

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Horatio asked immediately after they were alone. "I mean, you yourself said that Claudius is out to kill you and he said as much at the funeral when he was explaining why he didn't like Laertes' 'bury Hamlet alive' plan."

"You worry too much," Hamlet said dismissively. "The worst that could happen is that I'll die and my life sucks anyway, so why not?"

"If you're going into this with the full intention of dying without having any noble reason like saving someone else, wouldn't that be akin to suicide?" Horatio asked.

"…No…" Hamlet disagreed. "Besides, like I was saying earlier: everyone dies. There's nothing you can do about it so I might as well die within the hour."

"When you die, I've GOT to find saner friends…" Horatio muttered as he and the Prince made their way down to the hall.

Hamlet immediately sought out his rival. "Hey, Laertes, sorry about your dad. It wasn't my fault; I was crazy! Please forgive me. I love you!"

"I'm not quite sure what the etiquette is about forgiving people for murdering their family members and there's still the matter of Ophelia so…let me get back to you on that. I will accept your love, though," Laertes said decisively.

"Wait…love?" Gertrude repeated."I'm never going to get any grandchildren, am I? On the bright side, I won't ever have to feel old…"

"Isn't that, like, incest or something?" Claudius wondered aloud. "I think that's a sin."

"Oh, so NOW you care about incestuous unions," Hamlet muttered. "And that's not what we meant, anyway."

"Ah, so it's brotherly love, then? Good to see this family is starting to come together so nicely, it's a pity it's right before your brother and I murder you," Claudius said, wiping a tear from his eye. "Okay, now if Hamlet wins the first or second hit, I will drink to his health and then put a valuable jewel coated with poison in the cup for Hamlet to drink. Any questions? No? Good."

Hamlet quickly struck Laertes, but shook his head when Claudius offered him the cup. "No thanks. I have a very low alcohol tolerance and it wouldn't do to get drunk in the middle of a match."

As Hamlet struck Laertes again, Claudius remarked. "You know, Laertes actually kind of sucks at this. Good thing my money's on Hamlet."

"Yes, way to have faith in your nephew," Gertrude nodded. "Hey, Hamlet, I'm thirsty, do you mind if I drink from your cup in your place?"

"Nah, go ahead," Hamlet replied, blocking a low strike from Laertes.

"Don't drink that; it's poison," Claudius told her urgently.

"You can't tell me what to do! I can't hear you because I'm too thirsty!" With that, Gertrude chugged half the cup.

"Quick!" Claudius shouted. "Somebody go get some coffee and put salt in it!"

A few moments later, Osric arrived with said drink.

"Drink this, my dear," Claudius handed the cup to his wife.

"What is it?" Gertrude asked as the world started to spin.

"It will make you throw up," Claudius replied.

"But…I can't do that! How unsightly would it be for the Queen to throw up in front of the entire court?" Gertrude demanded.

"But you'll die!" Claudius begged her.

"You should have thought of that before letting me drink poison," Gertrude said stubbornly.

"I did! You just didn't listen," Claudius pointed out.

"Way to take responsibility for your own actions," Gertrude said sarcastically.

"Look, if you went to the bathroom, could you drink this and throw the poison up? No one would have to see," Claudius suggested.

"And miss the match?" Gertrude asked, shocked. "That would be most improper."

"So is dying in front of the court," Claudius replied. "And we could call for a break…"

"No, my mind is made up. I'll drink it after the match, should I survive it," Gertrude decided.

"But you won't live that long!" Claudius cried.

"You really should have gone with a slower-acting poison, then," Gertrude told him. "Serves you right for trying to kill my son."

"But…I won't be dying, you will," Claudius said.

Gertrude ignored him to focus on the match.

"Killing Hamlet like this is almost against my conscience…" Laertes murmured. "On the other hand, he's crazy as a loon, a danger to himself and those around him, and still won't take responsibility for my father and sister's death. DIE!" he shouted, stabbing Hamlet and drawing blood. Finally succeeding, he dropped his sword in surprise and Hamlet did the same.

"Ow! That hurt!" Hamlet cried, picking up Laertes' poisoned foil and chasing the rather terrified Laertes around the room for a while until he finally managed to stab him back. "God, you got that worked up over a little bloodshed? That's a little pathetic, don't you think?"

"You idiot! You just killed me!" Laertes complained.

"What, do you have hemophilia or something?" Hamlet asked, confused.

"No! It was a poisoned blade," Laertes responded.

"Oh. Well, I guess I'm dead, too. Sweet! Dying serves you right, though, for killing me," Hamlet said sternly.

"What do you care? You want to die!" Laertes pointed out.

"Hey, what's wrong with my mom?" Hamlet looked over to see Gertrude fall out of her seat.

"I'm dying, too," Gertrude informed them. "Since your father didn't warn me not to drink his poisoned cup."

"But I did! Twice!" Claudius protested his innocence.

"Wait, so Laertes, Hamlet, AND Gertrude are all dying?" Horatio repeated. At their nods, he continued, "Is there anyone here who's not dying?"

Claudius raised his hand.

"I can fix that," Hamlet snarled, running up to Claudius and stabbed him with the poisoned foil.

"Damn, dying makes you thirsty," Claudius noted. "Can you pass me that?"

"This?" Hamlet picked up the poisoned wine. "Here you go."

"Thanks," Claudius took a long swill of it. "You know, you're not so bad."

"Neither are you," Hamlet replied, touched. "It's a shame we're only figuring this out now that we've killed each other."

"Crap! We're going to die!" Laertes realized suddenly. "And we didn't even get any death rites! We're all going to hell! Uh, Hamlet, I forgive you for killing my father and causing my sister to die."

"And I forgive you for killing me, even though I'm not really all that upset," Hamlet said magnanimously. "Hey, is that marching I hear? Do you think Fortinbras is back?"

"I suppose," Horatio said, kneeling next to his fallen friend. "Do you have any last wishes?"

"Yeah, since I'm the last of the royal line and I'm dying, I want you to be King of Norway so you better not kill yourself!" Hamlet said sternly.

"I don't need a palace to convince me to live," Horatio replied. "I mean, it's sad that everyone's dead but it's mostly their own damn fault, so…"

"A plague on both your houses!" Hamlet declared dramatically. "Now that's a death line. Eat your heart out, Polonius…"

"Did I just hear that you're going to be King of Denmark?" Fortinbras asked, entering the hall.

"I…guess…" Horatio replied. "Can he even do that?"

"Well, there really isn't anyone else, so why not?" Fortinbras shrugged.

"As you're the new King, I have a message for you from England: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead," the English ambassador declared.

"That annoying, huh?" Horatio asked.

The ambassador winced. "Like you wouldn't believe."

"I don't really know anything about running a Kingdom, though…" Horatio mused. "I suppose I couldn't possibly do worse than Claudius, though…"

"That's the spirit," Ophelia said approvingly as she came into the room. "And don't worry, I'll help you. I've had years of being treated like the advisor to the King."

"Ophelia! You're alright! You found Fortinbras alright then?" Horatio asked.

Ophelia nodded. "Oh yes. They were very sympathetic to my plight and let me stay with them until Fortinbras' timeline said everyone would be dead. It's a shame about my brother, but…"

"I know," Horatio agreed.

"I want to hear everything that happened after I left," Ophelia told him.

"As do I," Fortinbras piped up. "The comings and goings of madmen never ceases to amuse me."

"Alright," Horatio nodded. "I really should start at the beginning, though. It all started with the drunken watchmen…"

Review please!

Note: Wow, this was fun to write. Hope nobody minds I changed the ending, but it would set a bad example if one of the Only Sane Man's went insane and drowned and Hamlet randomly handing over the Kingdom to some other country when Fortinbras was two minutes away from getting his own kingdom always seemed kind of strange.