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Act II Scene 1.5

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[RALEIGH enters the dugout. He glances at STANHOPE who- apparently oblivious- is sitting working at the table under the dim and flickering light of a single candle, before flushing red and hurrying into his room. STANHOPE looks up guiltily and seems to debate something before placing his papers onto a central pile. He rises and walks over]

STANHOPE: [softly but with authority] Raleigh, come out. I need to speak with you.

[There is silence. A moment passes and RALEIGH appears at the doorway.]

RALEIGH: Yes, Stanhope... sir?

[He is obviously flustered and avoids looking STANHOPE in the eye]

STANHOPE: I... [he hesitates, obviously unsure of himself, and searches RALEIGH's face. There is a pause, and when it becomes evident that RALEIGH will not make eye contact he continues]

I want to speak to you about what happened earlier.

[RALEIGH looks up, still avoiding eye contact]

RAlEIGH: I am sorry Stanhope. It won't happen again. I was just... [he trails off as it becomes evident that STANHOPE wishes to speak]

STANHOPE: No Raleigh. I should be the one apologising.

RALEIGH: [interrupting with some passion]
But De-Stanhope, I was in the wrong. I shouldn't have refused to follow orders, and-

STANHOPE: No please. Let me finish.

[RALEIGH immediately closes his mouth and flushes bright red. It is evident he is embarased once more ]

STANHOPE: No really, I want to apologise. It was wrong of me to act that way towards you, no one likes to have his letters read and I should have been more considerate of your relative inexperience...

RALEIGH: [Quietly, almost whispering] So I take it that you have read the letter then.

[STANHOPE grimaces slightly before making a decision]
STANHOPE: Yes I have. And... I realised that I am a fool. I was... concerned... without just cause it seems.

RALEIGH: [Still uncomfortable] So you know.

STANHOPE: Well I had an inclination beforehand but... yes. I know.

[RALEIGH seems ready to cry. His face crumples]

RALEIGH: I am dreadfully sorry. Really it is a child-like fantasy and I should have grown out of it by now. I mean, I'm eighteen for God's sakes [his voice cracks and tears brim in his eyes] and we are in the middle of a war-

[He is cut off by STANHOPE's mouth pressing against his, lightly at first, and then with increasing pressure. He gasps and pulls away backwards.]

STANHOPE: [mortified and stunned] Oh God. Oh my God! I... I'm s-sorry. I'm so sorry. That was foolish and impulsive and oh god! How could I...? Why did I-? [With emphasis] Oh god...

[RALEIGH is silent. He looks down at the floor and tears begin to spill down his cheeks. He roughly swipes at them with his sleeve, mortified. STANHOPE ceases his sexuality crisis for a moment and looks at the younger man. Making a decision he tilts RALEIGH's head up and looking to him for permission gently brings their lips together once more. This time RALEIGH returns the kiss with vigour, and blindly the two stumble backwards until STANHOPE's knees hit the bed and they fall onto it, STANHOPE pulling RALEIGH into his lap without ever breaking the kiss. Their motions are feverent, as though neither can believe that this moment is really happening and they gasp for air as passion takes their breath away. STANHOPE runs his hands up and down RALEIGH's back and they forget about the world and the way and anything apart from themselves and that moment.]

*** *** *** *** *** ***

[Sometime later, as made evident by the fading of the sunlight that enters the dugout through the doorway to the support trench OSBORNE enters. He sees the two boys entwined, RALEIGH seated on STANHOPE's lap arms around his neck. The older man has his hands tangled within RALEIGH's hair and they are still kissing. He halts suddenly. The two men break apart and stare at OSBORNE wide eyed, their lips swollen. STANHOPE is the first of the three to recover himself. He reached out imploring to OSBORNE ]

STANHOPE: Uncle... I can-

OSBORNE: [interrupting, not rudely but in an odd tone and awkward manner] I'm going to- go outside. I think I fancy a nice long walk to enjoy this new spring feeling. And when I return, in about an hour with the others, that will be the first time I have been in the dugout since I left at beakfast this morning - and whatever this is that you two have going on right now- will be sorted. [He turns to leave, and as he reached the door he looks back] And Stanhope, [he pauses, managing a small albeit shocked smile] whatever makes it work.

[He leaves. RALEIGH is still frozen straddling STANHOPE, who looks rather dazed. Both men had watched OSBORNE leave, and they now turn slowly to look at one another. As they make eye contact STANHOPE begins to laugh, an incredulous but happy sound. RALEIGH looks bewildered but after a moment he too begins to chuckle. As the two men laugh RALEIGH lays his head on STANHOPE's shoulder, who wraps his arms back around him. The lights are dimmed so the men are the sole focus point. The curtain falls.]

End of Act II Scene 1.5