Peter Guillam knows it's stupid and wrong. He knows it's going to bite him on the arse one day, but he lives his life on so many knife-edges already, he decided long ago - what's one more? Peter works in the Circus, after all, where secrets and lies are currency, where anything at all can be held against you, especially love. Of course, he could choose to be a man without emotion - visibly at least, like Smiley. He admires him - a train-wreck of a marriage and yet you'd never know it to look at him. Or he could choose to be so free with his favours that no-one could ever tie him down enough to hurt him, like Bill Haydon. Who Peter admires slightly less, but likes rather more. Except that given his own proclivities, gratuitous promiscuity is more likely to earn him blackmail not brownie points. Or he could take the middle course, one that is preferable to his temperament, while steering around life's obstacles as best he can, and indulging himself along the way.
Because that's what Richard is - an indulgence; a delicious, rumpled, balding, comfortable indulgence. One that he doesn't ever want to give up, but Peter knows he'll have to eventually. It adds a spice for him, knowing that, a bittersweet frisson to the relationship, one that might otherwise have cooled its ardour to nothingness long ago. And Peter enjoys that too - knowing the irony of it, that the only reason he and Richard rub along together so well, is Peter's fear that one day he'll have to give it all up. It doesn't make him a good man - but it might well one day make him a better spy. Everyone finds their own way, after all. And Peter intends to go all the way to the top.
Ricki Tarr isn't a good man. He knows it. They know it. Hell, the bloody KGB know it. But it's got him through some tough spots. He takes his licks, he spits out the blood and gets on with things. He's a practical sort, is Ricki. Love isn't a practical thing though, so Ricki's not even sure if he's felt it, if he's ever been in love as the saying goes. Lust, yeah, sure - lust's an old friend, that stands him in good stead in his line of work. He's heard the gossip, he knows what they say - Ricki's a good man with women, he knows them, understands them. He knows what makes them tick, enough to get them into bed, to trust his pretty face and get them to spill in all sorts of ways. But love?
Ricki doesn't think he loves Irina. They didn't have enough time together for a start. Love grows over time, he knows that much. If it doesn't, if it peters out and fails, if it gets dull and stale and boring then it's not love, right? That's what Ricki thinks. And he's got a lot of time to think, on the run. Watching the damp patch on the ceiling grow in a terrible doss house in Krakow he thinks about it a lot. What he felt with Irina was electric, and quicksilver, and heavy with the push/pull of mutual need. She was great in bed, best he's ever had, which is saying something, but desperation of a certain kind does that, can heighten everything, and Irina had some kind of revenge to indulge as well. Ricki never minds the shadow of a brute like Boris - that helps the passion he finds, and he's never been a jealous sort. But it's not love, now is it?
He pushes himself to his feet, automatically checking his jacket pocket, feeling the blunt end of his knife handle bump at his fingers. No, what he and Irina have between them is guilt. Him and his stupid empty ambition got her taken, and now he wants to make amends. That's all it is. He knows what love is - choosing tea sets, having kids, getting the lease on your first council house, right? He ran away from all that, but he knows it when he sees it. Surely he doesn't want that with Irina? He wants Irina back because... guilt's the worm in the apple, that's all. And he just wants to see her stupid face.
George Smiley loves his wife. It's a simple thing to say, with a great deal more to it than is first apparent. But George thinks that may well be the story of his life. His work and his personal affairs, all sail along with the serenity of an iceberg, and with just as much hidden beneath the surface. He has always supposed that Ann resented that, but then, he has always supposed much about Ann and he's never known when he's right and when he's wrong.
Ann has certainly resented many other things throughout their married life, because she has told him so, she's even screamed them on occasion, although George is not comfortable having a blazing row, so it's perhaps not been as often as Ann might like. He is far more likely to walk away, go for a stroll around the Heath perhaps, look at the ducks on the pond, swim in Hampstead Pool. And when he returned Ann would have calmed down and they could carry on their stately progress together, two icebergs, not touching, all the resentment left under the surface, but no hurtful cruel words left to fester in the caverns of their memory either. George has always supposed it to be better that way.
It is possible that his iceberg analogy, while accurate enough, is perhaps less than tactful. It is possible that tact has not been what Ann needed from him. But George has never known what she needs from him. If he knew that, he would provide it, or try to, as far as possible. Children, for example. He tried to give her children. Possibly his most conspicuous failing. But later, much later, Ann wasn't interested in adoption, even as a last resort, so that was that.
He supposes Bill Haydon to be what she wants, at least for now. Perhaps he is exciting - certainly more exciting than George Smiley has ever been. But George only wants Ann to be happy, or at least content enough to stay, and if he recognises in himself a cowardly fear that without Bill, she might not do that, well - at least he's honest about it in his own mind, if nowhere else. Because George Smiley loves his wife, and trusts Bill Haydon - Bill would never run off with Ann, or declare undying devotion, or any nonsense of the sort. He still visits an ex-Deb in Muswell Hill, for example, and he's got that young lad he keeps in a flat in Walthamstow.
He's not saying the affair doesn't hurt, of course not, and the pity shown him at work is hard to deal with at times - but it's nothing compared to the alternative, and above all George has always tried to be realistic.
Jim Prideaux is having far too much fun. There's a war on, for god's sake, he's not supposed to be having fun at all, but he's yet to be able to help himself. They're fighting for a cause, after all, a noble calling, all of that, and what's more they're winning! He dares anyone not to be excited about that.
And then there's Bill Haydon. Jim would be lying if he didn't include Bill in his list of reasons for happiness. Louche Bill, always smoking, always with a good bottle of whisky in his bunk, clever, witty, brilliant Bill. What would Jim's life be like if he'd never met him? Considerably more boring, that's what. Who else could make all the new SIS recruits play cricket in the middle of the Nissan huts, their superiors to go hang? Only Bill could get away with it. And Bill, for whatever crazy, madcap reason, had chosen Jim. As a pal, certainly, but also as...
Who else could make Jim's heart beat so fast, or his palms sweat at the mere sight of him, while just the touch of his arm around Jim's shoulder can get him harder than a rock. Thank god for baggy army issue trousers.
Thank god for empty training huts at night. For whispered curses, and the curl of fingers in his hair and around his cock. The sound of Bill gasping into Jim's ear, and his pride in knowing that he's put that note of desperation in Bill's voice. Him, Jim Prideaux, and no-one else.
Of course, it's illegal. Terribly so. There's hard labour, solitary confinement, being beaten to a pulp by queer bashers, all these possibilities have crawled through Jim's head, but they don't hold a candle to Bill's beautiful smile.
Bill's going to rise like a rocket, Jim just knows it. They'll win the war, then they'll keep the country safe, but behind the scenes, no muss, no fuss, just as they should. And while Bill is captivating the world with his brilliance, well, Jim will be there in the shadows, keeping him safe in turn, so he can shine just as he should. Just thinking of the future makes his mouth water and his chest feel tight with love - they're going to have such a fine old time! Jim and Bill together, forever.
Who couldn't look forward to that?