Author's note (August 2013): I have now posted this to my AO3 as well. There is a link in my profile.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were in the courtyard. One of them was sitting on a bench. The other one was standing.

"I've felt nothing before," said Rosencrantz.

"No, you have not," Guildenstern said irritably. "You felt something, which is not nothing, and you cannot feel what it is like to feel nothing because it is nothing."

"But do we feel nothing, then? Since we remember nothing? We can't feel anything if we're no one. I might be Rosencrantz and you might be Guildenstern or you might be Guildenstern and I might be Rosencrantz, but we don't really have names because we don't know. If we remember nothing and have no names, aren't we no one?"

Guildenstern leaned against one of the columns in the courtyard and simply looked at Rosencrantz for a moment. Rosencrantz was not looking at him; he was looking at the ground. He looked sad. Actually, he looked miserable.

"Of course we feel things," Guildenstern said a little more gently than usual. "I wouldn't feel so much like strangling you if we didn't feel things, would I?"

Rosencrantz looked up hopefully. "You want to strangle me?"

"And feeling things means we exist," Guildenstern added. He pushed himself off the column and came to stand in front of Rosencrantz. "Since I feel things caused by you and you feel things caused by me" – here Guildenstern kicked him in the shin and Rosencrantz winced – "we both feel things and ergo, exist."

"Guildenstern?" Guildenstern raised an eyebrow at him. "Rosencrantz?"

"What?" Guildenstern demanded.

"Do you ever not want to strangle me?"

Guildenstern squinted at the sky. He thought about it for a moment. "Yes."

"When you do not want to strangle me, do you feeling nothing for me or do you feel differently about me?"

Guildenstern rocked back and forth on his heels as though he were unsure. He wasn't. He walked around to the crabapple tree that Rosencrantz had been admiring earlier and plucked off an apple. He looked at it, and then tossed it away. He looked back at Rosencrantz. Rosencrantz was watching the apple open-mouthed. Guildenstern scowled at him; why did he always pay attention to the apple and not to him? Guildenstern stalked over to the bench and sat down next to Rosencrantz. "Well?" said Guildenstern when there had been a long enough silence; surely the apple had stopped being interesting by now.

Rosencrantz looked at him in surprise. "Well what?"

"Well? Do you ever feel anything, or do you still think you feel nothing?"

"Hmm." Rosencrantz seemed to have forgotten that Guildenstern still hadn't answered his question. "I do feel something, so I don't feel nothing, but I don't know what to call it. Does it have a name, do you think?"

"We wouldn't know."

"No," Rosencrantz mused, "I guess not." He leaned back and squinted up at the blue sky. "I think it's a bit like those coins. You know, the ones that always came up heads?"

"Yes, yes, I remember." He looked away from Rosencrantz and muttered, "We are the coin." More loudly he said, "Stuck, you mean?"

"No. Well, yes. Maybe. But always coming up the same."

Guildenstern snorted. "We wouldn't be wandering around like this if we weren't stuck."

"What? No, no! No us." Rosencrantz sat up properly and looked at Guildenstern. "We are not like the coins. How I feel is. How I feel about you, I mean." Guildenstern frowned at him. "That is – if how I felt were a coin, no matter how many times you tossed it, my feelings will always come up the same. Even if you tossed it a thousand-thousand times."

"Always," Guildenstern provided after a moment's thought.

"Yes. I will always feel this way. About you, I mean."

"Ah." They both looked straight ahead. There wasn't much to see. Rosencrantz's hand moved sideways by minute degrees and ended up on Guildenstern's. Guildenstern's hand twitched as though he were trying to shake Rosencrantz off, but somehow their fingers ended up laced together. They didn't look at each other. "And how is that?" Guildenstern finally asked.

Rosencrantz thought. "I don't know. But it's not nothing."

"It's something, since you feel it." He squeezed Rosencrantz's hand a little for emphasis.

"Yes." Rosencrantz scuffed the ground with his feet. There was a moment of silence. Rosencrantz looked up very suddenly. Guildenstern looked at him with concern. Rosencrantz was staring at him with eyes that were wide and, though neither of them would admit it, fearful. "But if I feel things, ergo I exist, and you make me feel things, ergo I still exist, what if I've made you up?"

"You haven't," Guildenstern told him, and when neither of them looked away, he leaned over and kissed him.

Guildenstern's stubble scraped against Rosencrantz's chin and Rosencrantz made a noise of surprise. He broke away and Guildenstern frowned. "Wait," said Rosencrantz, and he rubbed his finger along Guildenstern's chin. Guildenstern jerked away, offended. "Huh. Look here," said Rosencrantz, and he leaned in and kissed Guildenstern. This time he made a noise of appreciation and pulled away. Guildenstern glared at him.

"Are you mad?" demanded Guildenstern.

"What do you mean?" Rosencrantz was watching Guildenstern's lips with interest. "Is it like that every time?"

"Like what?"

"Like that." Rosencrantz kissed him again for emphasis.

"I wouldn't know, since I can only speak for my own existence," Guildenstern muttered angrily when Rosencrantz had pulled away again. "Must everything be an experiment?"



"Why not?"

Guildenstern glared at him. "Because we have a finite amount of time, and experiments take too much time."

Trumpets sounded loudly in the distance and they both jumped. Guildenstern squeezed Rosencrantz's hand more tightly. They both looked toward the sound, but they saw no one; this was not one of their parts of the play.

"Do you remember when we were talking about death being a boat?" Rosencrantz asked, talking very quickly.

"Not a boat, you mean."

"It sounds lonely, if you were to be alone and not on a boat." Guildenstern rolled his eyes. Rosencrantz didn't notice. "But I'm not worried about it. Do you think I should be?"

"No," Guildenstern said bluntly. "When it happens, you won't be able to be worried or lonely."

"Right. But whatever happens, I won't be alone, because you'll be there. Won't you?"

Guildenstern looked at him. "I don't think I have a choice."

Rosencrantz brightened. "Exactly."

"You say that like it's a good thing."

"Isn't it?"

"Is it?"

They looked at each other intently. The trumpets sounded again and they could hear voices approaching. Guildenstern let out a frustrated breath and kissed Rosencrantz fiercely. He buried his free hand in Rosencrantz's hair and let it snarl around his fingers. Rosencrantz closed his eyes and dragged his lips away from Guildenstern's to press an open-mouthed kiss to his stubble: he couldn't make that up, that was real, Guildenstern was real. They separated and Rosencrantz took a deep breath. "Infinite coin tosses–" Rosencrantz began breathlessly.

"In a finite amount of time–"

"And the coin always comes up–"


"Heads. I win!" said Rosencrantz brightly.

The voices were almost on them. With their hands still joined, they stood up and ran into the shadow of the walled walk that surrounded the courtyard. When the king and queen came into view, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern had already disappeared into the depths of the castle.