Characters: Ros, Guil
Rating: T for language
Disclaimer: Clearly not mine
Summary: Modern AU. As students at Wittenberg, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern study, and gossip.
“Ophelia thinks she’s pregnant,” Rosencrantz says, in a conversational tone.
Guildenstern doesn’t stop reading as he takes the drink he’s being offered- already one empty bottle sits on the stack of books beside him. There’s an end of term exam coming up, but he isn’t too worried. Rosencrantz isn’t worried at all.
A bottle top bounces onto the wooden floor and Guildenstern frowns faintly, but keeps his complaint to himself.
“Hamlet will be pleased.” He wets a finger and flips a translucent page before taking a swig of beer. He sets it on the floor by his armchair, moving an ashtray out of the way. This reminds him that he wants a cigarette, so he fishes around in his trouser pocket for the pack and lights one. “How did you come to glean this piece of information, then?”
“She told me.”
“She told you?” says Guildenstern, exaggeratedly feigning surprise. He looks to Rosencrantz- who lays stretched out along the sofa- with raised eyebrows and the ghost of a smile. “What an honour- for her to put such faith in you, for her to see you as such a friend, a confidante.” He keeps a straight face, despite being pleased to hear Rosencrantz laughing through his teeth. “Have you told him?”
“No, only you.” The reply is lyrical, laughter still lacing the young man’s voice.
“Well, she wants you to.”
Rosencrantz sits up to take a sip of beer.
“How do you figure that?”
Guildenstern takes a long drag on his cigarette. As he exhales he sees the smoke fill the dormitory, lit up by the sunlight streaming in through the window. It’s a good job they’re paying enough at Wittenberg for the smoking not to be an issue, he thinks.
“Well, he won’t make things official with her, so she’s trying to trick him into it. Perhaps she thinks he’ll get frightened or, God forbid, pull some sort of paternal instinct from out of his arse, and then propose. Who knows. One wave short of a shipwreck, that one.”
Rosencrantz swings his legs off of the sofa and brings himself upright, and then there is a lengthy pause. Guildenstern looks back down to his book but his concentration is shot now and he has no chance at memorising any verses. He briefly checks his mobile phone and then focuses his attention on his friend again- his shirt is unbuttoned, and creased to match his forehead. He looks pensive.
“I think I want one of those,” he says, finally.
This is odd, as Rosencrantz has never smoked, but Guildenstern shrugs it off and throws the pack across, then the lighter. One is caught in each hand, and then he fumbles with the pack before speaking again.
“In a way, you can’t blame her-” the unlit cigarette bounces between his lips. “-he’s more into Horatio than he is her.”
“I think I see a royal wedding on the cards.”
“You think he’s going to marry Ophelia?”
Rosencrantz grins. “Well, he did move out of here and into Horatio’s room.”
The dorm room, which was spacious to begin with, seems huge now that Hamlet is gone. His bed isn’t even there anymore. They had moved the furniture around to fill some of the gaps but it didn’t do much good.
Sometimes Guildenstern feels as though he and Rosencrantz don’t belong in a place like Wittenberg. Hamlet, yes, but now that Hamlet isn’t constantly around them Guildenstern occasionally feels that they’re only here for his benefit. He wonders what the point of study is when he finds it near impossible to think of the future.
Still, at least the room’s easier to keep tidy now.
“I think the state of the place was the main factor. I would ask if you were raised in a barn if I didn’t know better.”
Rosencrantz scoffs and aims a plume of smoke his way.
“More likely to be your snoring.”
“Or your tendency to walk around in the nude.”
“I like to dry naturally after a shower,” he says, lying back down. “Besides, I don’t see what the problem is. We’re all boys.”
Meaning Hamlet is far more likely to appreciate a naked female than your bare arse, thinks Guildenstern. Not everybody’s used to the sight of it. Is it weird that he’s used to the sight of it?
“...Yes, I suppose so.”
An inch of ash falls onto his corduroy trousers, and, frankly, it’s a welcome distraction. He rubs the mark away with a wet thumb.
“You know, I don’t see the point in this,” says Rosencrantz, holding the cigarette aloft.
“I didn’t think you would.”
“What’s it meant to do?”
“Helps me concentrate. Why did you take one in the first place?”
“Well,” says Rosencrantz airily, “So many avenues open to us at this moment in time... freedom of... times being what they are...”
“More... liberal, I’d say. Best to try a bit of everything while we can, don’t you think?” Shrugging, Rosencrantz takes a final drag before dropping the butt into an empty beer bottle. “’One wave short of a shipwreck’! Guildenstern!” he laughs as he settles back down. Guildenstern smiles.
“The king’s never been keen on her anyway.”
“Well, that’s why he keeps her around, I expect. To annoy his dad.”
“That’s his hobby- pissing him off.”
“It’s a dangerous game, that. Imagine if he dropped dead one day- the King. I mean, if it were me, I’d go mad with guilt.”
“Mm. Maybe. I hate to say it, but he can be...”
“A bit of a dick?”
“I was going to say ‘flaky’, but...” Guildenstern pauses. It occurs to him that biscuits and a pot of tea might be a more appropriate beverage than bottles of beer. Knitting needles and hair rollers might also be fitting. Perhaps a small lapdog, or a garden wall to talk over, seeing as the two of them are behaving like middle-aged women. “Well, he’ll grow up eventually. Most likely when they betroth him to some obscure Eastern European duchess, or something.”
“That’s rather grim isn’t it?”
He gestures with an upturned palm. “Them’s the breaks. He’s the Prince of Denmark.”
As Guildenstern stubs out the cigarette his phone vibrates in his pocket. He opens the new message and holds back a snort of laughter.
‘wtf is up with Ophelia?’- Hamlet
“I’m glad I’ll never be made to marry some foreign woman.”
He looks up to see Rosencrantz kicking his shoes off while undoing the top button of his jeans.
“I don’t know about that. We’re both young and rich.”
“No, I can’t see it happening.” Guildenstern thinks that he seems very sure of this, and wonders if he isn’t the only one who feels as though nothing ever changes. “Besides, I’m through with women.”
It’s a curious feeling that disappears just as soon as he starts to dwell on it. An impossibility disguised as a fact, nestled in the back of his mind- but if he stops to think about it he realises that he knows time is linear, and not cyclical. He knows that déjà vu is just déjà vu, and that people only live once.
“I’m just not particularly interested.”
“Mm. I think I’m going to go for a walk. Are you-”
“Especially not foreign women.” The pointedness of the remark catches Guildenstern’s attention, and he looks across to the other with a dark frown as he carefully uncurls himself from his chair and stands up. Rosencrantz slowly begins to pull on his socks. “What?” he asks.
Cigarettes are hamfistedly shoved into a pocket, keys are checked for, and shoes are slipped on. “I don’t think I want to discuss your sexual escapades,” he clarifies, as he heads across the room.
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I’m talking about,” says Guildenstern, and he pulls the door open with no small degree of force. Rosencrantz follows as he does up his jeans.
“Oh... I said I was sorry about the girl from Barcelona!”
The door falls shut with a bang.