Geoffrey knows what he has to do.
"All right," he says, and if it comes out equal parts petulant and despairing, well, Darren can't fault him that. "All right. You can be Guildenstern." It pains him to say it; Darren will tear through every pompous rant without finesse, the irony totally escaping him. Geoffrey still finds it the lesser of two evils. Being still young, and unacquainted with death (besides Ruffles, but Geoffrey has the suspicion that dogs don't count in Stoppard) he can't possibly do Guildenstern's slow arc of horror justice; Darren, on the other hand, being Darren, wouldn't be able to find Rosencrantz's quiet sideways wisdom even with weeks of cajoling under a seasoned director. So, the lesser of two evils: Darren the unintentionally ironic Guildenstern, Geoffrey the consummate Rosencrantz.
"Thank you, Geoffrey," Darren says, with the little smirk that telegraphs his witty intellectual triumph at getting the best of Geoffrey, and Geoffrey wants to strangle him. Under the layers of idiocy Darren must have some preservation left, though, because he clears his throat, adjusts his ridiculous glittery scarf, and says, "Line run?"
Geoffrey groans and tilts his head back, hoping that there is some sort of benevolent higher being to give him the strength to put up with Darren for the month and a half he has to refrain from killing the man. "Not act one," he says. "Please. I am not going to say 'heads' ten times in a row for your own sick amusement."
"Act three, then," Darren says, and Geoffrey can't tell if the flippancy is put on or real. "Let's see if you know your stuff, Geoffrey." He flicks his scarf over his shoulder and gives Geoffrey an expectant smirk.
"Fine," Geoffrey says, and settles down on the ratty couch, ubiquitous to all backstage university theatre rooms. When Darren keeps looking expectant, he heaves a sigh. "You have the first line, Guil."
"Ah," Darren says, and laughs -- yes, a little awkwardly, he's capable of losing his fine ridiculous composure around Geoffrey. "Are you there?"
It's still Darren asking the question, incongruous in his stupid mismatched clothes, but Geoffrey sighs again and settles into Rosencrantz, alone in a vast darkness with a singular voice to tether him, and asks, cautious, "Where?"
"A flying start," says Darren in a snap of contempt, and Geoffrey feels a jolting little thrill, because they have this down, they already have it perfectly in tune; of course the irony of playing Guildenstern is lost on Darren, but the irony of playing Rosencrantz off him had been lost to Geoffrey until these three words.
"Is that you?" he asks, careful, into the imagined dark, feeling his voice fall into layers of meaning.
"Yes," Darren says, locking eyes with him, and they're off, a rapid exchange, perfectly timed to Rosencrantz's stumbling confusion and Guildenstern's panicked impatience. "You can still think, can't you?" Darren demands, dropping down next to Geoffrey on the couch, inhabiting it, inhabiting Geoffrey's space, acting, and for a moment Geoffrey can't think.
"I think so," he says, shocked to discover it takes him a moment to find his breath and voice and line.
"You can still talk," Darren says, an instruction, Guildenstern guiding Rosencrantz blind through the night, and for a moment, again, Geoffrey can't.
"What should I say?" he asks, a helpless breath, knowing the lines and still genuinely meaning the question.
"Don't bother," Darren says, catching his shoulders, shaking him gently, trapping Geoffrey inside the moment. "You can feel, can't you?"
Yes, Geoffrey wants to say. He can feel his resignation melting into excitement, the rehearsal process tumbling out in front of him in a promise of snapping line runs, three AM breaks for coffee and ice cream, the channeling of his perennial urge to kill Darren into Rosencrantz's struggling confusion with the world and a physical push against Darren's gripping hands. It's going to be fucking fantastic. "Ah!" Geoffrey says, half-breathless, gathering his energy from the connection, "There's life in me yet!"
"What are you feeling?" Darren asks, inhabiting Guildenstern, entirely himself, pulling Geoffrey with him, only the faintest edge of arrogance in his face and tone because -- and here Geoffrey realizes it, in the same adrenaline jolt that he realizes what the script calls for next, Darren is as scared and exhilarated and hyperaware of the electricity of the moment as Geoffrey is. Fuck.
Geoffrey reaches out, slow and careful, his palm sliding along Darren's denim-clad thigh. He always wears his jeans too tight. Geoffrey can feel the heat radiating off him. It's in the script. "A leg," he says, and nearly giggles with absurdity and nerves. "Yes, it feels like my leg."
"How does it feel?" Darren breathes, and Geoffrey knows the answer is dead, that the audience is hearing a conversation in the dark, hearing a word to recall them to the title and inevitable end, that this exchange is just another in the series of slyly homoerotic jokes the play offers up, but Darren's breath is hitching very slightly and the answer is not dead, the answer is fuck, it feels alive, it feels warm and good and I hate you, you smug bastard, how in hell are we going to get through rehearsals? and they lean forward at the same time into a desperate kiss.
At some later point Geoffrey is definitely going to have to kill Darren. At the moment he's unwinding the ridiculous scarf from around Darren's neck so that the murder is not premature, his other hand still clenching spasmodically at Darren's thigh until Darren says, breathless and bossy and annoyed, "If you don't mind --" and Geoffrey says, "Oh, right, sorry," and various pesky bits of clothing are unsnapped and unzipped and tugged out of the way. "Huh," Geoffrey adds, staring down in some surprise, because he'd known for a while now that good acting was a turn-on, and it's not as though Darren isn't moderately attractive under all the infuriating pompous idiocy, but -- huh.
"Geoffrey, do stop looking like a vacant goldfish," Darren tells him, and Geoffrey starts to snarl some reply that gets lost when Darren kisses him again, the pushy bastard. It only gets worse when Darren decides to augment this a moment later with the best clumsy handjob Geoffrey's had in recent memory. Geoffrey feels a moment of panicked white noise before he realizes that he'll never live it down if he fucks this up, so he sucks on Darren's lower lip and reciprocates. Darren makes a little noise of shocked pleasure and Geoffrey thinks, perhaps a little hysterically, This is part of the rehearsal process, which is bullshit but comforting bullshit.
He leans into it and goes with it and, damn, this is good. His brain now done with rationale, Geoffrey's thoughts start running absurd lines, The ears are senseless that should give us hearing, to tell him his commandment is fulfill'd, and he knows in the next line Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, but before he can hit that next syllable he starts coming, quite without warning, and hears Darren make the echo of a shocked sound into his mouth.
Well, fuck, Geoffrey decides dazedly, shivering a little. He and Darren lean together, panting, and Geoffrey thinks, Now what? They still have a month and a half to tolerate each other.
"Dead," he says, ridiculously, because they're a collective sticky mess and he still can't think of a better way to save this than to keep running lines.
Darren's head jerks up. "Dead?" he repeats in total bewilderment.
"I can't feel a thing," Geoffrey tells him, in entirely the wrong tone, pointedly, and watches the dawning comprehension on Darren's face.
"Give it a pinch," Darren suggests. He even smiles a little. Geoffrey squeezes his thigh, and Darren jumps a little, aftershocks.
"Sorry," Geoffrey says unrepentantly.
"Well," Darren says, "that's cleared that up," and grins at Geoffrey, probably the most honest expression Geoffrey's ever seen on his face, and thank god, they're going to be fantastic after all.