Rough Justice

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 8

As soon as lunch was over Robert set off at a cracking pace, arriving at the units forty minutes early. Suddenly shy, he scouted around and discovered the security door to the courtyards. It was ajar, so he slipped through, pulled it shut behind him, bounded up the three flights of stairs and, having by now decided he didn't care if it was childish to arrive so early, knocked on the kitchen door. An elderly head poked from the opposite entrance, demanding his name, what he wanted, and how he had got there.

'Hi. I'm Robert. I'm visiting my cousin, Bart, and stupidly locked myself out.' The words just slipped out and Robert wondered if he was becoming an incorrigible liar. His innocent grin failed to soften the old woman's tersely drawn lips, so he burbled on. 'My mother says I must be a bit soft in the head, always doing things like that. '

Her lips twitched

'Bart's lucky to have someone as security conscious as you. Most people don't care about others.'

The woman left the shelter of her doorway to join the young man at the railing, a canny crinkling of the eyes indicating she had taken his measure.

'Isn't it a great view?' As usual, Robert's smile, easy charm and apparently random non-sequiturs did the trick. By the time Bart opened the door to see if there really had been someone knocking, they were friends.

'Bart, you should look after your cousin better, he got locked out. Why have you never introduced us before?'

Robert leaped in. 'My family's only just moved to the area.' One truthful statement at least. 'Sorry, Bart. I let the door close and couldn't get back in.' He turned with a wink and Bart didn't bat an eyelid.

'I hope he hasn't been a nuisance, Hazel. Robert's the black sheep of the family.'

No one registered the political incorrectness of the remark.

Inside, the furniture had been shoved to one end, the CD player was emitting the tinkle of a mandolin, and sunlight spread a golden glow.

'Glad you got on with Hazel, she's better than a watchdog but going to get into trouble one day. She's fearless - accosts anyone suspicious.' He looked at the clock and smiled. 'You're early.'

'Yeah, sorry. I feel stupid coming more than half an hour before we said, but it seemed silly to just sit around and wait.'

'I agree.'

'I ran over, only took fifteen minutes.'

'Well done. What...' Bart paused uncertainly before continuing in a rush. 'What did your parents say about me after I left?'

Robert pulled a long face and shook his head. 'It was pretty awful actually. They bundled me back into the lounge and demanded to know what the hell I thought I was doing. You know, your being so much older and everything. They said you were only after my body and I wasn't to see you again. I had to sneak out after lunch or they'd have stopped me.' He looked up sadly at Bart's suddenly grey face and startled eyes. 'Hey! Only kidding! Dad said you couldn't come back because Mum fancied you and he was jealous. She said you were quite the nicest man she had met in Australia, but you were only interested in me, so Dad was safe. Then he laughed and said that was OK and you'd be welcome back as often as you wanted. Happy?'

'Is that really what they said? About being only interested in you?'


'And they didn't mind?'

'What's the matter? Disappointed it's me here and not Mum?'

'Of course not but - I don't know.'

'Who does? Who cares? Let's get wrestling.' Robert looked down at empty hands. 'Blast! I was in such a hurry I forgot to bring my gear. Got anything?'

'You're hopeless. Luckily, I've spare shorts in the bedroom.'

'Tell you what,' Robert said as though he'd only just thought of it, 'I've been doing a bit of reading about the original Olympics. All sports were done in the nude. Even wrestling! Let's do that; be classical wrestlers. You can be Hercules and I'll be Antaeus. We studied a sculpture of them the other day. What do you reckon?'

'Do you never stop flapping your lips?'

'The place isn't laced with hidden video cameras is it? Come on, don't be an old fuddy duddy. I challenge you! There! If you refuse - I've won.'

Bart was still shaking his head doubtfully as they stripped off and faced each other in the centre of the lounge. Robert had seen plenty of his fellow students naked in the changing rooms over the years and never thought much about it. Like everyone, he'd automatically check them out but as he hadn't been curious about them as individuals, he wasn't particularly interested in their bodies. With Bart, however, it was different. He felt a hot, embarrassing arousal of interest and quickly started wrestling. As soon as the bout was under way, concentration erased other thoughts and the moment passed. Bart gave no quarter, and toppled Robert four times in quick succession.

'You've been conning me, haven't you? Letting me think I'm better than I am,' Robert gasped in the break after the fourth fall.

'A bit. I didn't want you to get discouraged. But you're very good considering the time you've been learning.'

'You condescending prick! This time you're for the high jump!' Robert launched himself at his opponent and using every trick he could think of, all his strength and slight extra weight to advantage, threw Bart onto his back, pinning his arms and immobilising his legs.

'Do you give in?'

'Yes. Now get off while I still have air in my lungs.'

It was the only point Robert scored. Bart had decided to be completely honest in his dealings with Robert, and this was a beginning. The final bout ended with Robert on his back, Bart collapsed on top, sweat pouring. Inadequate ventilation, afternoon sun and slick skins made holds impossible.

'You've been an excellent opponent.' Bart gave a push to lever himself up but was prevented by arms locked round his waist. 'Hey! Let the old bloke go so he can shower off.'

Robert frowned.

Bart stared into unsmiling eyes, then slowly lowered his head and brushed Robert's lips gently with his own. It was the lightest touch, a flicker of a may-fly's wing, but enough to electrify his skin, sending ice slivers shafting to the core. He raised his head. Apprehensive. What the fuck have I done?

Rigid, his mind a blank hull of uncertainty, Robert couldn't respond. What did Bart expect?

'Relax' Bart blustered to hide his panic. 'It was a joke between mates!'

Robert's arms were still locking them together.

'But if we lie here much longer we'll be more than mates.'

'What do you mean?'

'We'll be queers!' Bart snapped harshly, thrusting himself up, dragging Robert to his feet and pushing him towards the bathroom. They avoided looking at each other. 'Get yourself showered.'

Clean, dry and dressed, Robert sluggishly set the room to rights, mind awash. Then suddenly his skin began to tingle and in a brain-stopping, incandescent burst of awareness, everything fell into place and his life began to make sense! Jocelyn, Marcia, his feeling of not belonging. Like a stage curtain, clouds of confusion parted to reveal a sunlit pathway. He let out a wild yell and whizzed round the room, shoving everything into place before throwing open the curtains and standing wide-legged on the balcony gazing rapturously at the view.

'Bart kissed me,' he whispered. 'Bart fancies me. I fancy him. We're lovers!' Unable to stop the grin that threatened to split his face, he mulled over everything that had happened that term. For the first time in his adolescent life he felt normal. Completely and utterly normal! He wasn't some freakish incompetent without sexual urges who couldn't love, who was going to end his days wanking alone. His brain flitted again over everything that had happened until, little by little, doubts began to worm their way into newfound certainties.

Doubts. Not about himself, but Bart. He had tricked him. He had badgered and pushed him from the beginning. First to teach him to wrestle, then to visit him at his apartment, inviting him to dinner, then virtually forcing him to wrestle naked and holding him after the last bout. He didn't know why he'd done that. Last night Bart had tried to tell him he was sick of him. He hadn't wanted to go on with the wrestling, but Robert had nagged him into it. He was just being polite to a dumb kid and was returning what he saw as some sort of favour, not wanting to hurt him, in the same way as up to now he had let him think he was better than he really was at wrestling. He had to confront Bart. Even if it meant losing his friendship. He looked up as the object of his concern came in from the bedroom, equally thoughtful and just as worried.

'You're good at tidying. Noisy, but efficient.'

'Better than I am at wrestling.'

'Practice will fix that.' In the awkward silence, Bart fussily rearranged an ornament and straightened an already well aligned painting. 'Beer or tea?' he demanded brusquely.

'Beer thanks.' Robert knew he ought to run – to escape from what he now realised was a terrible mistake, but dejection robbed him of energy. He sank onto the couch.

Bart reappeared with two opened cans and sat down opposite, school frown-lines firmly in place. He stared intently at Robert. 'Are you all right?'

'Yes.' He had to clear things up immediately. 'It's you I'm worried about.'

'What do you mean?'

'Are you teaching me wrestling because you feel sorry for me? Because I nagged you into it? I'd hate it if that's how you felt. I need you to be honest. Why am I here?'

'Is this because of… of what happened just now?'

'That started me thinking.'

'Do you know why you're here?'

'I do now.'

Those three words, uttered like an accusation, sent fear pounding, constricting Bart's throat and drying his mouth. 'No, no,' he whispered, 'it's not like that! I'm sorry. It just …. It'll never happen again! I promise.'

Oblivious to the confusion, face drawn, Robert insisted. 'Tell me, Bart! Why am I here?'

The utter hopelessness of his case calmed Bart's nerves. He sighed. 'True confessions, eh? OK, you first.'

Robert hesitated.

'Not so easy, is it?'

'Promise you won't hate me?'

'Sounds ominous, but I promise.'

'Don't look.'

Bart stood and stared out the window.

Robert took a deep breath and nervously uttered the words that, although he was certain would lose him a friend, simply had to be said. 'I'm gay, Bart, and I think…I think I'm in love with you.' His whole frame was shaking and he buried his face in his hands.

Bart was sure he was going to burst. Relief swamped him, filled his being and set his skin aflame. He stayed at the window until his own trembling stopped, then sat beside Robert on the couch, not daring to touch him in case the dream fractured. 'Robert,' he said softly, 'you're here because I'm crazy about you. And as for the idea you nagged me into it, it's the other way round.'

Robert's face was a mask of incredulity.

Nervously, Bart continued. 'On the first day of this term, and for the first time in my life, I let gut-feelings guide my actions. A young man crossed the quadrangle in tight trousers and I thought, this guy looks interesting, I wonder what he's like. Using the excuse of compulsory activities, I asked Warren Pinot if there were any new senior students. With predictable innocence he gave me your name and form. At interval I handed Molly Henderson a note telling you to come and choose an activity. She was a bit surprised because the scheme has, in reality, lapsed. When I explained that I wasn't going to risk getting the boss on my back, she understood and passed on the message. I then got cold feet and wondered how to get out of it. That's why I was such a wanker. But when you started to walk away I regretted it and asked if you always gave up so easily. You're a pig-headed cuss, so back you came.'

'You're having me on.'

Bart grinned. 'No way. I got worried, though, when you pushed your leg against me in that study period. I had visions of you trapping me for revenge. I got a hard-on, impossible to hide in those PE shorts, covered it with the clipboard and didn't dare move in case you or anyone else saw it and reported me. I was paranoid by the end of the period.'

'And here I was wondering if you had any nerves in your legs. But what if I'd just accepted one of the activities? And how were you to know the headmaster would support me?'

'If you'd chosen one of the listed sports I'd have developed a sudden interest in it, and if you were as nice as you looked, I'd have offered special coaching or something.' He gave an amused shrug. 'I don't know. I hadn't thought that far ahead. As for Nikelseer, I was pretty sure he'd act like that. But if he hadn't I was ready to back down - that's why I made certain I was there. And I wasn't going to let you get away with practicing only once a week, so made a date for every morning.' He laughed with embarrassment. 'Got so excited I couldn't sleep at nights. When I thought you were hooked, I stopped the practices at school.'


'Like you, only with more reason, I'd begun to question what I was doing. I was getting emotionally involved and that was stupid, because apart from anything else I knew nothing about you. Also, I wanted to see if you really liked wrestling, and me, or were just feeling guilty because you thought you'd pushed me into it.'

'But what if I hadn't asked to come here?'

'I was on the point of offering my services.' Bart laughed again, this time with more confidence. 'We're a complicated pair.'

'Complex sounds better,' grunted Robert, staring at his feet, willing himself to believe. He risked a look at Bart, let the truth wash over him and grinned. 'I thought of naked wrestling.'

'You're a genius.'

'So… you're gay too?'

'As queer as a coot.'

'And I never guessed.'

'That's a relief.'

'Did you guess about me?'

'My appalling behaviour was based solely on hope.'

'But why? You didn't know me.'

'That's the crazy part. You're not bad looking, but it wasn't anything to do with that. Something… I don't know… the way you walked, held your head, you looked… God knows. All I know is a little voice in my head said you were the man for me.'

Robert's brain was bubbling. This was exciting, intimate. He'd never imagined having a conversation as open and frank with anyone - being able to say you liked them, and why.

'I liked you after the first lesson,' he confessed. 'You're such an excellent teacher, and…'


Robert blushed and hung his head. 'No, it's too embarrassing.'


'And when you smiled at the other teacher I thought I'd never seen a more wonderful thing. I fell in love with it.'

It was Bart's turn to beam with delight. Hesitantly, they touched fingers and, almost in unison, heaved sighs of relief.

'How long have you known you were gay?' Robert's heart hammered at his daring.

'Since I was about fourteen. And you?'

'About fourteen minutes. I'm a slow learner.'

'You mean…'

Robert nodded.

Bart's panic returned. Robert was probably confusing admiration with being gay. Suddenly he saw their relationship as others would – a teacher seducing a pupil! Only three people knew about the wrestling, thanks to Robert's reluctance to tell anyone; his parents and the headmaster. The last one was a worry as he had already condemned their association. Robert was frowning.

'Nikelseer?' Bart asked.

'How'd you guess?

'Great minds. Somehow I thought we were invisible, but he sure picked up the vibes. No one else knows – apart from your parents?'


'Oh, wise young man!' Bart sighed in exasperation. 'Why do I feel like this? You're not under age and… and we haven't even done anything. We might never! It's evil the way that poisonous squirt destroys pleasure.'

'He hasn't. I've never felt happier, and I'm incredibly proud you chased me like that. The other day you said you were no good at picking people up. It's not true. You wrote the book! What I can't believe, though, is that I've never realised I'm gay. I'm so thick!' He shook his head, thrust it between his knees and rubbed his hair. 'How could I have been so stupid?'

'Approval seeking? So busy trying to be like everyone else that you didn't see the differences? There's a hell of a lot of pressure to be the same, so we assume we are.'

'I'll move in with you.'

'You will not! You're going to take a week to think about everything. We will avoid all physical contact until next Saturday afternoon. Don't interrupt,' he said as Robert started to protest. 'This morning you were a reasonably well-balanced, seventeen-year-old heterosexual. This afternoon, just because we had a nude wrestle and got a bit aroused - I saw it,' he laughed, 'you've suddenly decided you're gay. By next Saturday you'll have got over your conceit at being hunted like a rare beast, and will have had a chance to think clearly about what you really want. A week won't hurt, just wank twice as often. If you still feel the same next Saturday, we'll start from there.'

Robert looked doubtful but said nothing.

'You see,' Bart continued seriously, 'I'm not looking for a quick bit of trade. I'd sooner live the life of a monk than have a string of one-night-stands and short-term flings. So that's another thing for you to think about. You're young and probably should look around before making a commitment. I'm just being selfish. Protecting my own feelings.'

Robert looked despondent. 'And if I decide I'm not ready to commit myself?'

'That's fine. It doesn't mean we stop wrestling and seeing each other. All I originally hoped for was friendship. At the first lesson I felt comfortable with you in a way I've never felt with anyone else. They reckon sex can spoil a friendship, and I don't want to risk that. Whatever you decide, I want us to be friends. That's the most important thing for me – friendship. Sex comes a distant second.'

To give him his due, Bart believed what he was saying. He simply wasn't saying everything. A true romantic, he believed implicitly in love at first sight, and at his first glimpse of Robert had been drenched in it from head to foot. What he really wanted was to lie naked beside his new friend, caress him with soft fingers, whisper sweet nothings into his ear, lightly kiss every square centimetre of the satiny flesh, arouse him to unimagined heights of passion and then quench the fires of lust.

Of course he wanted a friend - but he wanted his friend to be a lover as well. Wisely, for one so young and inexperienced, he sensed that a relationship in which one partner imagines he is more desirable, or has more to offer than the other, is doomed to failure. Only when both partners are equally desirous, equally longing, equally committed, and celebrate their equality, is there hope of permanence. Robert also had to long for the relationship and put his feelings on the line. Bart had bared his heart and risked all, now it was Robert's turn. That would render them equal.

Robert didn't have the energy to protest. He was still glowing with the warmth of enlightenment. He was part of the human race! He could love someone. He certainly wasn't too young! Several kids in his class were having regular sex; most had boy or girlfriends, one couple had left home and were sharing a unit. Grimm's' Fairy Tales had been absorbed along with mother's milk, and the noble prince in him almost relished the notion of delayed gratification in the interests of long-term gain.

'Fair enough,' he responded seriously, 'but I need a little more information to help with decision making.'

Bart's look of mystification turned luminous as Robert kissed him.

'That wasn't quite enough,' Robert muttered as they separated for breath. 'One more.'

'No you don't. You're a sex-maniac. Stick to the bargain.'

'OK. Do you want to go to the flicks? We could catch the five-o'clock.'

'Hey! You're supposed to beg me to relent! Not give in to my logic!'

'I know when I'm beaten, Sir. Come on, let's celebrate!'

'Phone your parents and ask.'

Permission granted, they ended their first afternoon together with a hugely calorific take-away under the trees of the Old Botanical Gardens beside the river, having walked out of the most forgettable film they ever remembered paying good money to see. The tentative and gentle kisses in the car before Robert was dropped off, were an expression of friendship, not a breach of the ban.

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