It was the mercuriality of the man that drove Guildenstern mad. The way he could prance about like a child one moment, exuberance painted like a road sign on his too-open face - then sit with his brow furrowed the next, gnawing on a knuckle and staring at the tapers, as if he saw something terribly wrong with the universe resting in the heart of the flame. Guildenstern could never resist disrupting the former with weighty matters, or disrupting the latter with a hug and reassurance. It did not give him joy, but at least he could influence the other man, if only for a moment... nothing influenced him for longer than a moment.


It might as well not have been his name, as he nibbled the end of one fingernail and stared at a strip of mortar across the room.

"Up. The boat is waiting."

"I don't like it," Rosencrantz said to the strip of mortar, quietly.

"You don't have to like it. It's an order from the King, a royal directive. That is the entire point of royalty; to allow us to simply do, without having our own desires dragged into it. We are... to be on a boat."

"And what then?"

"To England! Weren't you listening?" Likely, he had been, but it hadn't stayed. Rosencrantz has a mind like a steel trap, Guildenstern reflected. A very large steel trap, one that could not catch anything smaller than an elephant, any of the little details of life. Invariably, the elephants were too large a meal for him to digest, so his mind would worry at it, then release it.

"Yes.. but... between here and then. We'll be on a boat."

Guildenstern sighed. "Yes, we will. Come." He hauled on Rosencrantz's shoulder, and the other man stood, changing his focus from a strip of mortar to Guildenstern, with a look of surprise on his face better suited to the former abruptly transforming into the latter.

Rosencrantz suddenly grabbed Guildenstern's shoulders. "We'll be alone. On a boat."

Guildenstern looked down awkwardly at the hands on his shoulders. "Not alone. We'll have the sailors."


"And Lord Hamlet."


Rosencrantz sighed and let go. "I don't like to be alone."

"You're never alone. We've been together since..." Guildenstern squinted and tried to think. His memory blurred somewhere around puberty, and refused to reveal origins. "Since as long as I can remember."

"Me, too."

"Which is not very far, in your case."

"No..." Rosencrantz shook his head, turned to the bed, and picked up his satchel as if it weighed far more than it did. "We have been together that long..." he turned back to Guildenstern, his face puzzled, "and we never..." he put his hand out to touch Guildenstern's cheek, looking, if possible, even more puzzled. Guildenstern shook his head. "Why not?"

"Mores, morals, conventions - the dictates of society," Guildenstern replied, with conviction.

Rosencrantz dropped his hand. "Are they important?"


"And England?"

"We'll just have to see when we get there. I've heard rumors."



"Dramatic precedents?"


For just a moment, Rosencrantz became the giggly child again. Guildenstern cast his mind about for a weighty matter to pull Rosencrantz out of it. "Can you swim?" he asked as they left the room.