Because in your heart of hearts, like Barclay and Delahay and Fowler and Menzies, you still believe, in spite of your talk of equality and fraternity, you still believe some people are better than others because of the way they make love.
Guy Bennett, Another Country
Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of hearts,
As I do thee.
Hamlet, Act III Sc 2
Yes, but it isn't -- and might never be, had been the unspoken response, coming from what had felt like the school itself, if not the whole unknown wideness of the world, at the time.
How well, too well, they had both learnt that, had already known it even when he asked that question -- Judd trying to make that wonder into reality, Guy himself trying to -- what, ignore? manipulate? blackmail? he was still unsure what he had hoped for -- reality into something which now seemed fantastical, or at the very least unrealistic in both expectation and possibility.
How very much they had both given up for the sake of watching that possibility disintegrate under the burden of harsh truth, disappear into the chasm that lay between what is and what should be.
Perhaps, Guy thought, it had not been so much what should be as what I want to be true, and wasn't that supposed to be against Judd's ethos in the first place, to want something?
He didn't know. He'd never really asked the right questions about what it meant to believe the way Judd did, he'd been too caught up in being accepted automatically into the places that he'd always been told life should mean, places where words like School and Country and King meant everything, and words such as Love were irrelevant and to be subsumed into some nebulous greater glory.
And yet, didn't all those things, in some strange way, mean God, or at least what he had always thought was God? Not the God of churches and Chapel and Sunday mornings when, even at home, neatness was expected in thought, word, deed and sleeked-back hair, but the God hinted at in the Psalms, and never really discussed, one that was not -- Guy suspected -- entirely Christian at all.
"Well, he wouldn't be," Judd said with a faint eye-roll. They had ended up in his room to finish what was laughingly called Prep, as usual, and Guy supposed he should be relieved that in all the upheaval, that one constant still remained.
Judd with his never-ending work ethic and his ever-too-short days and his stolen light; night falling into and through the windows and something spilling out that should have been kept inside; distraction, reality, truth.
Words spoken aloud that should have stayed locked away, caught at the back of the mouth, behind gated teeth, on the silenced clappers of too-ready tongues --
All problems solved for life. No commies and no queers --
But no-one and nothing had ever been able to silence Judd. Not even despair, or the mocking facsimile of it --
And then they send me you --
Quieter these days, yes, like Guy himself, but not silenced. Never silenced.
Still distracted at times, though, yes, that much at least was true. Guy, who accepted his own constant and yet ever-changing state of distraction as a fact of life, to be considered much as he did perpetual motion, recognised it for what it was. He always had done, and there were times even before all those festering wounds had been laid open to the air again when he had wondered -- Is this what it takes? Is this it? Is this one of the answers?
Were friendship and battling the attempted dissolution of it really all it took -- all it had taken -- all it still took -- to divert Judd's peculiarly intransigent mind?
He blinked, and realised he'd been spoken to by the author of what had become to feel like the one spark in all the dark misery he was surrounded by. Spoken to, eye-rolled at, and a response clearly awaited by.
"Sorry, what?" He hoped he didn't look as blank as he felt, but he guessed it was a near thing.
"Obviously the God of the Old Testament isn't the Christian -- why do I bother talking to you again? You're like the proverbial vacuum that space loathes -- God." As Guy continued to look at him blankly, he added, "Because he's before Christ, you enormous ignoramus, and I know what you were thinking about because you have this terrible habit of talking out loud when you finally get your brain to operate."
"Yes?" Guy offered. Judd looked only mildly homicidal, though, which wasn't always the case when he was deigning to explain things, so maybe meek puzzlement was the way to proceed.
Or not, as that seemed to be the extent of what Judd had to offer.
But Guy wanted to ask, he wanted to ask and he wanted to be answered, and for once he wanted to know things, know them because he'd asked, and not just because he'd just come to some erroneous conclusion based on what he simply heard and accepted to be right.
None of it was right, he knew that now. He'd been as wrong as everyone else, in the way he'd gone about things, and Judd had been wrong to give in to the system, even thinking he stood a better chance of demolishing it from the inside than from without, and yes, there was no doubting that Fowler was among the wrongest of the wrong, but that didn't change anything.
It hadn't changed how damnably hurt they'd both been by it all, and it hadn't changed the inescapable and obvious fact that the wounds had already been there, and were just now more gapingly, glaringly obvious, and it didn't change anything: even with knowing that, with knowing that all the hurt already existed, and had just been waiting for them to catch up with it, nothing had been changed.
It didn't change anything, he thought, despairingly, and then, with far more accuracy, no, us, we, we didn't change anything, we were so different in our approaches and yet neither of us changed anything, and how was that possible, how could that --
"Why didn't we?" he murmured.
"Why didn't we what?" Judd sounded as though he were trying to be what Guy had once, foolishly, called 'kind', and earned himself a half-hour diatribe on the difference between the misguided and woolly emotion known as kindness and the highly useful motive which those with intelligence called 'disinterested compassion'.
Guy still thought Tommy Judd, unlikely as the idea and even the germinating concept might be to just about all of their contemporaries, could be kind, though. It wasn't something he was inclined to view disparagingly, himself, after the last few unhappy (years) weeks.
"Why didn't we change anything? Why -- you gave everything up and they utterly humiliated you for it, and I had to and got beaten for it, and Devenish gets everything and Fowler gets away with everything, and nothing's changed, in the end. It's as though neither of us did anything at all."
"Because we didn't do anything at all," Judd said patiently (for him, at least). "We just both gave in. Differently. But we both gave in."
Guy thought about it, and opened his mouth to refute it, and subsided unhappily, because yes, yes they had, they had both given in, they had both accepted the rules were there, if only to try and break them, and wasn't that the whole point of Judd's beliefs?
Hadn't that always been his point, jokes about cricket aside?
That the rules were wrong, that they shouldn't exist?
"You can't change what you keep on accepting," he said, and nodded in weary agreement. "I understand why I did, but you --"
Why did you? he wanted to ask, and managed to stop the words escaping him, because he knew the answer to that, even if it was something Judd would never admit to on the grounds of superficiality and sentiment and unneeded emotional tripe.
Because he thought I needed someone.
"So much for disinterested compassion," he muttered, and felt a very real smile pull at the corners of his mouth for the first time since he'd truly realised what it meant -- what it would always mean --
pansy, nancy, fairy, fruit, brown-nose --
to be who and what he was by nature and by inclination.
"I have no idea what you're talking about this time," Judd said very dryly, "but I think it would almost be a relief to go back to your attempted analysis of the Psalms."
"Of course it would," Guy said benignly and forgivingly. "And besides, how could you pass up another attempt to explain to me why there is no God?"
"I don't need to explain to you why there is no God, you are living proof as to why I know there is no God, now will you shut up and let me get on with some work, please?"
"In a second," Guy said, drew in a deep breath, and said, "After you tell me --" and stopped, fumbling for words and so afraid, so very afraid for once that with all his much-vaunted and histrionically-demonstrated eloquence --
what had it been, back then, what had it been that he had so prided himself on coming up with? Some rubbish about a dappled faun in sunlight, or a faun in dappled sunlight, or --
oh, God, what did it matter now? --
"That you've finally lost what remains of your pathetically underused mind?" Judd asked, looking two breaths away from another rant about terminology.
"Why you'd do -- why you did that for me," Guy said bluntly, and gave up on himself. Eloquence and attempts to genuinely elicit a proper answer did not, it seemed, go very well when he tried to put them together. "No, never mind. Forget I spoke. In fact, I'll go further and point out that at this precise moment I would really prefer it if we forgot I could speak, that would be absolutely marvellous..."
But Judd just looked confused. "Do what? Listen to you? You don't, to the best of my recollection, give me any choice!"
"No." Guy swallowed, waved a hand, and continued, "Why you'd -- go into the system like that. After all you said."
Judd's laugh didn't seem to have even a passing acquaintanceship with amusement. It was something bitter and twisted and far, far too adult -- not in the faux-jaded way they all sometimes assumed, but in the real, true-and-tried way of someone who, even while Guy had been looking, had become a man, and not a boy, and could having lost even the faintest scraps of illusion do that? Had it to him?
No, he thought honestly. No, not yet. It hasn't yet. I still have illusions, I just haven't been made aware yet as to what they are.
"It wasn't for you," Judd said, "it was because of you," and Guy tried hard not to groan because oh God, no, not semantics, please not semantics, it was all perfectly hideous anyway without any need for bloody semantics... and then -- "Because no matter what you claim," Judd said quietly, "I do believe in equality and fraternity. And, as it happens, liberty. Which you left out, if I remember correctly."
Guy winced. Deserved, but painful. So not semantics, then. Apologies, instead, which had a nasty tendency to be rather more painful, but were at least over with more quickly. "No, wait, before you go on, I shouldn't have said --"
"Yes, you should." There was no arguing with that implacable voice, not even when it was speaking utter rubbish, and Guy wanted, God, he really wanted to think that it wasn't the case now, that this was something else he could add to his little hoard of realities. "You should have. And if I don't have the courage to fight, if I don't know when to stand up for everything I believe in, not just the things someone else has written down for me, then I'm as much a hypocrite as the rest of them. You were right about that. And I won't be," he said, suddenly fierce, and Guy had a moment's foreshadowing terror, a moment of pure knowledge that one day he would lose Judd, they would all lose him, the world would lose him to that blaze of conviction. "I won't be because now I know I can fight. I can and I will. And that matters."
Guy looked at him helplessly, and all the things he had wanted to ask, all the questions about ethos and ethics and God and truth and belief and perhaps Love, shrivelled and fell into ash on his tongue. They were as irrelevant now as they had always been. That kind of belief -- that kind of conviction, of courage, of, strange though it sounded when used in reference to Judd, faith -- that came from within, and no-one could give it to him, not with answers and not with books.
He would have to find it himself, find it for himself, find it within himself.
It was at once terrifying and exhilarating, to think that one day he would find that same clarity of purpose.
More terrifying still to see that while he had seen defeat, hopelessness, impossibility; a tangle of convention and hypocrisy and a half-life from which there would never be any escape, Judd had found a new core of strength, a new source of determination.
Perhaps something had changed, after all.
"Yes," he said, almost wonderingly, because it was an answer, and it was his, and he was the one giving it; and Judd half-smiled at him, still bitter and still too old, but it was almost a smile; and it was half a start, if not to his ever really understanding Judd, then maybe to understanding what he himself was truly driven by. "My God, yes, but it does. And you can."
He decided not to think, for the moment, about where he now knew that would inevitably lead to -- and perhaps for them both.
But for now, Judd was almost smiling, and Guy had come up with an answer of his own in place of endless, yearning questions, and it wasn't a start, not a real one, because they had started long ago, both of them, on their own paths; and it was not, in any way, a defining moment, because it was impossible for them to share one, but it was a place to be recognised, and to stop, and pause, and mark out -- something.
Perhaps, Guy thought, here is where one of those ridiculously old wounds, at least, can start to heal.