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That's What You Do For A Friend

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Chapter 1

Gagged and tied up, Hamlet was led onto the pirate ship by a big bulky man with a long sword at his side. His clothes were torn from where Hamlet had cut the pirate but the man had been a lot faster than his size would lead to believe. The prince wouldn’t make that mistake again.
"Set sail, we have what we came from,“ the pirate said to one of the crew members as Hamlet’s ship was already starting to move beyond the horizon. Those lying nobles had no right to ever call themselves friends of the prince of Denmark, Hamlet only wished he could see their faces when they got to the port and found he’d changed the letters, too late to do anything about it.
The man released Hamlet, cutting the rope around his wrists as he did so. Without a further thought, Hamlet turned, drew the man’s sword and pointed it at his neck. The pirate didn’t seem surprised to find himself in this situation.
“Give me a reason I shouldn’t run you through right now, for all you have done is kidnap me from one prison and brought me to hell, a fate worse than death to be a slave to pirates.“
Before the bulky one could even open his mouth, Hamlet felt something hard strike the back of his kneecap. Hamlet's leg went from under him as he fell. The pirate he'd had cornered now moved to pick a safer distance. "The young never do change - just as brash and careless as 10 years ago – you, prince of Denmark, will die of hunger and dehydration if you run this runt through. This is a ship, where did you plan to go,“ A withered voice started reprimanding him as if he were a child.
Hamlet stood up. His knee was hurting but still functional enough to stand on as long as he was careful how much weight he put on it. His blade ready to strike, Hamlet turned around to find an old woman who had just smacked him with a broom. These pirates were a bizarre bunch indeed.
“How do you know who I am, woman? Are you a prisoner or a pirate, if the later, I’m afraid you won’t be spared so easily. It would weigh heavy on my conscience to strike a woman of your age yet I will as you obviously have no qualms doing it to me.”
The male pirate couched and, to Hamlet’s surprise, let out a laugh. “If you think you can kill the hag, try it. Baba, you will have to hold back, Horatio has told us to deliver this princeling in one piece.”
“How do you know Horatio” Hamlet demanded. His trusted friend couldn’t also be a traitor and a spy, could he. Hamlet took pride in double crossing anyone who attempted to harm him yet he’d never imagined Horatio to be one of those lowlives.
“He is our captain, I’m Thomas Rolfe, the second in command when he is not here. Our current mission is to deliver you to Horatio in a Port of Denmark. It would be appreciated if you didn’t kill anyone in the process, prince Hamlet.”
“How do I know you are telling the truth?” Hamlet, skeptical as ever, asked. Horatio and a pirate captain, it would’ve been laughable if he hadn’t told Hamlet everything he knew about the ocean today while they were in Paris. The wonders and tides, Hamlet had assumed Horatio was well read, never that he’d actually been to all of the places he’d talked about.
“This boy is as thick as a log,” Hamlet heard the old lady mumble before she struck again, this time at his head and Hamlet gave way to the darkness. “And never shuts up,”
“Look who’s talking,”

Horatio hadn’t expected Hamlet to be jumping up and down on the docks waiting for him, but he had expected Hamlet to be waiting as Horatio made his way towards the vessel under the cover of darkness, his satin clothes abandoned in favor of a tunic and cloak to mask his identity. As he stepped foot on his ship for the first time in years, Horatio wondered if Hamlet had killed himself and the crew for only that would explain the abandoned deck.
Spying a door leading below deck open, the man slipped in and immediately knew Hamlet was still alive as no one else would curse as fancily as his friend did. Horatio followed the voice that led him to what had been his chambers and were now doubling as the holding place for what must’ve been the noisiest guest to ever grace a pirate ship.
Hamlet was tied to a bed but one of his hands was free and he was fighting off Thomas with all he had. The crew member couldn’t use his sword so he was forced to try and reason with a very mad Hamlet. Horatio knew first hand how that never ended well.
“How nice to see you are well, my dear prince,” Horatio said with amusement as Hamlet finally noticed him, as did Thomas who, with his notice drifting to Horatio, got a fist in his chin. Courtesy of Horatio’s charming prince.
“I demand an explanation you traitorous sea urchins, trying to climb too high, never aware you’ll die too far out of you element.”
“You need a raise, Thomas,” Horatio said to his crew mate as the later stepped away from Hamlet who immediately went to work on his other restraint.
“Even you don’t have enough gold to pay for the raise I deserve for putting up with the prince,” Thomas said to Horatio as he stepped past him, “but I’m glad you’re home. It’s been too long and the ship hasn’t been the same without you. Good luck with him,” Thomas gestured to the bed, “I’d happily throw him overboard if you wish.”
“That won’t be necessary, and neither is a weapon, Hamlet!” Horatio added as Hamlet smashed a chair against the floor. It shattered, leaving one of the legs in the man’s hand, its edge jagged and sharp. Horatio heard Thomas close the door behind him and didn’t blame the sailor for having enough of Hamlet. He wasn’t an easy person to handle but Horatio couldn’t get enough of the prince.
“They hit me on the head and tied me up, Horatio. Your pirates! Why do you have pirates?”
“I don’t own them, they are here because they want to be here. Did you give them a reason to hit you on the head? My dear prince, do not deny it and become a liar.”
“I had every right to resist restraint, for I would die before living in captivity.”
“You are not a captive, but a guest aboard my ship.”
“Do you always tie up your guests?”
“From what I've seen from you so far, I can see how Thomas wouldn't have had another choice as I forbid him to harm you.”
“Then he has failed in his task, or maybe he never intended to keep his word as you are not a noble or a prince, you're my father's servant, why should he obey you.”
“Hamlet, aboard this ship, you, a prince, are no better than Thomas is, no better than I am. He has taken care of this ship for me for years and I trusted him to deliver you safely. Of course I knew you wouldn't come willingly but I had hoped you'd eventually listen to reason.”
“Why, Horatio?” Worse than having him kidnapped, why had Horatio so cruelly pretended to care, had stayed when others thought Hamlet crazy.
Hamlet hadn’t parted with his chair leg so Horatio stepped closer and took hold of the sharp edge. One strong push from Hamlet and he would be bleeding, a well aimed blow at his head and he might not wake up, “Because that’s what you do for a friend, my prince,”
“Horatio, can you answer a question for me?”
“If it is in my power, I’ll ease your mind,”
“Why do I trust every word you that leaves you lips, even when they are words of deceit, meant to drag me to my doom in the bottomless depths of the dark ocean, so vast you could sail it and never find the end, so dark it would hide my body and you’d be free of me. Tell me, Horatio, why do I still trust you.”
Dramatic as always, my dear prince, Horatio thought as he mulled words into sentences poetical enough to match those of the nobleman in front of him. Drama antics had never been his strong suit and that didn’t change even when being accused of lying to his best friend. Still, Hamlet’s words had given Horatio hope that the prince would see how he was the only one Horatio would try and calm with such consideration, the only one he’d hand the power to make him bleed red and trust not to take the chance. “Because your heart sees me, even as your mind forbids it to, sees how I’m bound to you by not only duty but love, prince Hamlet. I’ve left my position in The King’s court, I will be considered a traitor were I ever to set foot on the soil of Denmark again. For you, my prince, and only for you, have I sacrificed all the things I’ve built on the lands of the man who took me in. May he rest in peace. And may you find peace in the truth of my intentions.”
There was a pause of complete silence and then the chair leg hit a corner with a bang and fell to the floor. Horatio gave a weak smile as he extended his right hand, "Thank you, my friend,"

Chapter Text

Horatio, concerned for his crews safety, requested Thomas to bring breakfast to his chambers where Hamlet was sitting cross legged on the bed, staring down the second in command as Thomas moved to put the tray on a side table.
“Prince Hamlet, will you strike me through if I put this down?” Thomas asked mockingly in a concerned voice.
“Daunt me and you shall find out what a heart in pain feels like because you shall find a blade through the centre of yours.”
“I see why you use a sword, your punches couldn't rival those of a young woman's,”
Hamlet bristled and Horatio could see the over the top words forming on his tongue. He had to admit, Thomas was asking for it and Horatio knew Thomas took pleasure in getting under people's skin just as much as Hamlet enjoyed his antics. The two would make a formidable pair if they could work together without fighting. Any opponent would be morally destroyed even before weapons were drawn. "I can see this is going swell," Horatio cut in to save himself from a headache later on, "Thomas, don't you have anywhere to be."

Thomas smiled pleasantly. "Of course , captain," this kind of behaviour was what had landed the young man on a pirate ship. Being from the colonies and acting like you were the captain rather than a cabin boy on an English navy ship did have its consequences. Horatio had never minded a temper and the Englishman had made a valuable asset. After all, the idea of his ship was to let everyone be who they wanted to be. It might've been a unconscious decision, Horatio had met Thomas when the latter had been little more than a boy on the streets of London. Horatio had done what King Hamlet had done for himself because he knew what sleeping on hard ground, freezing in the winters, never having enough food to feel full, felt like. He'd never told Hamlet how he came to be in the Danish court, never told anyone, but Horatio suspected Thomas knew some of it.

"I can handle myself, Horatio. You need not step between me and a foe who dare insult the skills of which no man or woman on this earth has yet to encounter the likes of in anyone except me."

"My dear prince, I do not doubt your confidence in battle, yet your social skills could use some work." Horatio sat down next to Hamlet on the bed and gestured to the breakfast tray, "please, help yourself," seeing Hamlet wary, Horatio took a bite of a bagel, "See, it isn't poisoned, Thomas would know better to seriously harm anyone I call a friend, anyone I love and respect as I do you, my prince."
Hamlet watched, looking for symptoms of poisons, familiar and foreign. Seeing none, he hungrily dug into a bowl of soup. Hamlet felt Horatio's gaze roam over him but a true gentleman, especially one as cultured and pristine as Hamlet, would never speak with their mouth full. So Hamlet thought of all the great lines that could be delivered to fill the silence like 'pirates eat normal food, a shock to stop my heart. That was Thomas' plan all along, his deceitful ways may bring an end to the once hopeful, beating heart of the Danish prince and replace it with barely a whisper of what it was before, turn it into a lifeless dull hole, void of poetry and words of art.'
Hamlet didn't notice himself smirking as the words flowed in his mind but nothing was left secret to Horatio. 'My dearest Hamlet, is a comedy or a drama brewing? In their own way, there's beauty in every one of your words. They stab and they cut but most of all they bring light to my soul.'

***

"I refuse," Hamlet said as he turned on his heel, back to Horatio who was holding up a new suit, one which Hamlet had never seen before. It consisted of skull white flowy pants and a red tunic, but what set Hamlet off were the feathers. They seemed to be dominating most of the head wear which, as Horatio had told him, was an essential part of the outfit.
"Hamlet, please, you've been through all of my clothes already and yet you find nothing that would suit you," Horatio said desperately, examining the hat, "what is wrong with this piece?"
"You ask what is wrong. Has your eyesight gone so poor you fail to notice the telltale signs of a peacock slaughter that has apparently taken place in your closet for I refuse to believe you would pay even a penny for this monstrosity you call a hat."
Horatio lowered his eyes.
"Wait a second, you mean to tell me you've worn this before." the silence that answered Hamlet's question was clue enough and the prince fell backwards into a chair, shaking with laughter, "My father's trusted advisor, the feared pirate Horatio wears feathers, may I ask what lunatic told you that was a good idea. I believe they were trying to make you the talk of the town."
Horatio didn't answer the daunts. "Please wait here for a minute, my prince," the man said as he strode out of the cabin. As soon as the door had shut, Horatio let the heat rush to his cheeks. Hamlet had never been known for being sensitive but Horatio had been the only one who hadn't been on the receiving end, until now. He examined again the garments he held in his arms. New clothes had been the first thing he had gotten for himself and his crew. Whatever kind they had asked for, Horatio had secured it. He had done the same for himself. In courts, one could not wear flamboyant clothing unless he wished to be known as a night entertainer, but here, Horatio had felt free to wear what he wanted. In the Danish court, Horatio had been well off but he hadn't owned a single thing that was his own and not the property of the country. His ship had been the place where Horatio let his tastes show, it had been safe, free, like a home should be. Horatio stroked one of the feathers with a single finger. It felt soft, silky and lively, like with it's shining vibrance alone it could give life back to a hundred dead men. So close to what Horatio wished he could be and saw in Hamlet. Horatio shook his thoughts away. Hamlet was waiting and Horatio knew him to be very impatient. "Thomas," Horatio called on the deck, "Give me some of your everyday clothes,". The pirate in question looked puzzled but went below deck and came back up again with a simple white long sleeve, a vest and dark trousers. They were devoid of colours, devoid of life and personality, and yet Horatio knew Hamlet would give them one. Maybe that was why the captain wore vibrant colours, he was hoping they made up for the life and soul Hamlet seemed to carry with his words alone.

***

Hamlet was left to have lunch alone after Horatio had brought him clothes a human could actually wear. Horatio had claimed he should spend time with the rest of his crew to figure out what they needed to secure before taking to the seas again for who knows how long. He'd said rations as well as clean water had been running low. There was a knock on the door and Hamlet jumped up as Thomas came in, carrying a tray. "Food, your highness." Hamlet didn't answer for he had promised Horatio he wouldn't murder the shipmate.
"I believe you own me a thank you. Those are my clothes you're wearing."
"For that I shall spare your life, sea urchin," Hamlet said, giving a smug smile.
"You are the last one to talk, princeling. I could've denied Horatio clothes for you but I couldn't let his masterpieces be wasted on someone as ungrateful as you are, Prince Hamlet."
"Which masterpiece are you referring to?"
"Take your pick, Horatio's closet is full of them. They are his pride and joy, besides you. Horatio never went after for what he wanted, he let you do as you pleased, but his clothes have been the one thing he has held on to. His father was a spice merchant, Horatio only has a hat left of him and he would've let you wear it. He never lets anyone touch it. I think the hat is where his obsession with colourful things came from. Did you even know where your adviser was from, Prince Hamlet of Denmark? Because he has your life story memorized, Horatio has learned to know you inside and out so he could care for you, the least you could do is return the favour and not throw it in his face like you did." Hamlet was dumbfounded and he didn't like being found speechless, "You were listening to a conversation not meant for the ears of a sneak from another land, who has come to destroy me, admit it, you wish to feed me to the sharks, let them rip me to pieces and watch the waters redden as your conscience grows bleak as the sun after it has disappeared behind the snowy mountaintops."
Thomas looked at him, with more sadness that aggression, "You just don't get it. Eat well, Prince Hamlet," Thomas left the room in a flurry before Hamlet could command him to stay. But what would he ask the pirate he barely knew. Hamlet didn't want to admit it but he had lots of questions for Thomas who seemed to know Horatio as well as Hamlet had thought he himself knew his closest friend. The friend, Hamlet now realized, who was as unknown to him as the snowflakes that would fall ten winters from now when he would be far from his home country and never see them drift downwards, only to be blown around by cruel northern winds.

***

The meeting had dragged and it had finally been decided that tomorrow they would venture into the city, Horatio dragged his steps towards the few empty chambers remaining on the ship. Hamlet had taken over his cabin and Horatio didn't want to make him disturbed by offering he sleep on the couch and they share quarters. It simply would not have been proper. Horatio stepped through the door to the chambers he had used the previous night and light a candle. The man nearly jumped out of his skin as he turned around and spotted someone was already in the cabin. "Hamlet, why are you sitting in a dark room in the middle of the night?" Horatio tiredly asked. He was physically and mentally exhausted from the long day.
"I needed to see you during this unsettling night when even stars hide their true faces and become replaced by endless darkness." Hamlet rose from where he had been sat. "Close your eyes, Horatio," "Why would I need to do that?" "I trusted you on this foreign ship, trust me with this, close your eyes, promise you won't open them even when you see nothing but the darkness filled with empty souls." Slowly, Horatio closed his eyes. He did not like not knowing, he didn't like the shadows that now danced in front of his eyes, so similar in shape to people lost. He felt Hamlet touch his hair and Horatio froze, something was placed there. Hamlet's hands tipped Horatio's chin upwards so the prince's eyes met the closed ones of his old advisor. "My Horatio, my soul, I come to you with everything and it hurts more than the thousand fires of Underworld that you do not feel the same. I have spoken out of term and for that you may punish me if you wish but it will not change the fact that from now on, with will as strong as mountains and resign more powerful than waves, I, Prince Hamlet, Rightful Heir to the Danish throne, swear that I will break down the obsidian walls you have built, I will burn your defenses, jump over hurdles that come my way, I promise you, my friend, that you one day you can again believe in me."

"Hamlet," Horatio, feeling Hamlet's breath on his skin as words left the other's lips, couldn't stand not seeing any longer. His brown eyes met Hamlet's black through feathers tipping forwards from a hat now placed on his head. They obscured Horatio's eyes but not his heart. Hamlet had placed the hat on his head with care, being light as a feather and gentle as a dove with the one item Horatio hadn't allowed anyone else to touch, Hamlet was always an exception.
"Sleep well, Horatio," Hamlet's voice was quiet
"And you, my dear prince,"