That August in 1916 was a last bit of freedom, a place that felt almost removed from the flow of time, away from the concerns of their last year of University and everything that came with it. There was talk that Canada was considering passing conscription laws, as the Great War continued and the horror of it was becoming clearer.
Young men had begun to lose their taste for ardent glory, and the old lie, as Wilfred Owen had put it, that dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Sawyer told Locksley that in Montreal, the Québecois were leaving to hide out in Gaspésie and the wilderness, building log cabins and staking claims in remote woods. Sawyer himself had negative opinions about British leadership in the war and their charge of Canadian troops, and told Locksley that he had no intention of serving. He was already deviant, he said, he may as well also be called a coward. He called it being a conscientious objector.
As for Locksley, his father was part of that British leadership, and his mother had already paid all the necessary doctors to have her only son declared unfit for duty. Locksley didn't know his father's opinion on this, but figured that there were certain battles, in war, as in marriage, where one would always be overwhelmed by superior force.
All of this to say, that their August together, with the queer way that it interrupted Time's arrow, was a welcome respite from what was to come in the Autumn and beyond.
Choosing a weekend when his mother would be away visiting friends, Locksley invited Burnaby Lovelace to stay at the Estate. The official invitation, in case it were to be intercepted at any point, promised some version of Cribbage and male bonding. Eleanor Somerville was delighted that her son was inviting a second friend over to stay, even if she would not be there to meet him. She had heard of the Lovelace family, and they seemed a fine enough sort to her.
That left only the Servants, but Locksley used all of his pomp and imperiousness to insist that he and his guests were not to be disturbed between such and such a time and some other time. He reminded himself that he did not owe the help an explanation or accounting of his activities. It did not make Lock any less nervous that one of them might walk in on their planned activities anyhow.
Watching Sawyer spank Burnaby was...fine. Lock's dick hardened, and he enjoyed stroking himself as he watched attentively. Burnaby seemed to be in a sort of daze as it happened. What surprised Lock was just how hard Burnaby wanted to be hit, after Sawyer had worked him over for a little while. What surprised Lock further was the kindness that he saw in Sawyer as he encouraged Burnaby to take the whacks and soothed the skin in-between sets with touches that made Burnaby shiver and writhe.
When they finished, Sawyer took Burnaby aside and put a warm wool blanket over him. They spoke quietly together for a good ten minutes, Burnaby's head in Sawyer's lap the entire time as Sawyer toyed with his hair. So that was what it looked like from the outside.
Although watching Burnaby had not done much for him, the thought of being watched while Lock was bare-assed and both Lovelace and Sawyer were fully clothed had him fully hard and dripping already. He found that he quite liked the idea of other people seeing him in pleasure. While Burnaby dressed, Lock pulled down his trousers. When they were out of the way, Sawyer took Lock by the hand and led him over to the back of the divan-style couch, and positioned him with his legs spread apart and his hands on the tallest portion of the backrest.
"Don't forget, Lock. You can ask me to hit less hard, slow down, or stop completely whenever you like. But I know you'll also do your best to take what I give you, won't you?"
Lock blushed further, but nodded. His hands clenched into the material of the divan, uncaring if he stretched or otherwise marred the fabric. Burnaby's smile from across the room seemed insufferably smug to Lock. Lock felt a bit humiliated at the knowing look that Lovelace was shooting his way, but the humiliation only seemed to increase his arousal.
"Okay, then, lean over, Lock. Here comes the first one."
The tap that came after those words was so gentle that Lock was almost offended. Soon, however, the whacks were coming harder and faster, in steady rhythm. Sawyer was constantly increasing the power behind his hits, ramping up as he tried to find where Lock's current limit was. Lock realized that even though he did not say a word, aside from the casual small yelp or grunt, Sawyer seemed attuned to his pain. Sawyer must know Lock's body language very well to be able to manage that.
Lock wasn't sure what to make of it at first. it was pleasant, the way the flesh of his buttocks grew warm, and it felt good to please Sawyer by taking the pain, and yet...the sensation itself did not do very much for him...
That was when Sawyer paused and ran his hands over the area that he had just spanked especially thoroughly, and Lock's eyes rolled back and he loosed a lascivious moan, eyes screwing shut involuntarily. The nerve endings were brought alive in a way that Lock had never felt before. The sensitivity was astounding, and he pushed his ass into Sawyer's hands, wanting more.
"That's my boy, Lock. You like how sensitive it makes these cheeks of yours?" Sawyer continued to rub for a few seconds longer before he simultaneously smacked both of Lock's asscheeks again, returning to his rhythm.
By the end of half an hour of this treatment, Lock was unsure whether he was capable of speech anymore. His mind seemed to have floated away — he felt blissful and horny, but also quite muddled. Sawyer cuddled him, and told him how good he was, and Lock basked in the sensations. Even Lovelace seemed to care about Lock's wellbeing. Without being asked, Lovelace poured water from the pitcher in the corner and brought it over to Sawyer, who tipped it to Lock's mouth. Lock drank deeply, and curled up against Sawyer's shoulder. He found himself feeling rather sleepy, and Sawyer told him that was just fine. Lock fell asleep while Sawyer held him.
For once in his long illness, Locksley was awake during the afternoon. It was then that two men wearing clerical collars and dark clothing strode across the grounds. In the sunlight, the fog had lifted sufficiently that Locksley could see the two of them investigating Sawyer's memorial monument. One of them picked something up off the ground — the wooden cross that Locksley had taken from the Chapel storage. He grimaced — what must they think of the Somervilles, that they had left such a holy object out and exposed to the weather?
The priests both performed the sign of the Cross and knelt to pray at the monument. Locksley found that he could not take his eyes off of them, but that his head was beginning to feel quite full and heavy, as if he had a headache coming on. He groaned. His eyes felt sensitive to the light, and he drew the curtains closed and returned to bed. The old mattress barely seemed to support his weight anymore, and he felt himself sink into the plush fabric. Closing his eyes, he awaited the dark and Sawyer's return.
Later that evening, all too aware that there were only three nights left until All Saints Day, when Sawyer had said he would depart, Locksley went down to the monument intending to make the most of this strange, liminal time that some strange force, whatever that force might be, had granted them.
When Sawyer arrived, he looked resolute. He also seemed to have aged some, and looked more like Lock's own thirty-two years. There was something uncanny about that, and the fact that Sawyer was not smiling. "Lock...I still have something that I need to tell you. And I think I've thought of a way to help you to be able to listen. I want to hypnotize you."
"Can it wait one more night, Sawyer?" said Lock, drawing nearer and adjusting Sawyer's shirt collar. "If I'm going to be sad, let it be tomorrow. Tonight, I want to feel the love between us."
Sawyer closed his eyes, and the tension in his forehead relaxed. "Yes...It can wait one more night, but no more than that. No longer."
"Make love to me, Sawyer," said Lock, tugging Sawyer down toward the beach.
Kneeling down in the damp sand, some magic seemed to protect Lock from the chill in the air and the grit — or perhaps it was just his own excitement that kept him warm and smoothed out the sharper edges. He knew that it was strange for him to be out in the dark, waiting for his ghostly lover to penetrate him, but he had seen many queer things this month. Sawyer, as always, had been considerate in warming his lover's hole and ensuring that he was prepared for what was to come. Lock did not question where the lubricant came from, whether it was ectoplasm, or Sawyer had pilfered oil from the Estate kitchens, or whether this, too, was some strange magic that defied explanation.
Locksley's body seemed to open and blossom at the slightest urging from Sawyer. It was as if all the distance and time between the last time that they had lain together and now had been pulled away, and what remained was the sweetly aching need of two men who had needed to hide their love away.
Sawyer covered Lock's neck and throat with kisses from above, leaning over his kneeling form and rolling Lock's small, sensitive pink nipples between thumb and forefinger. He rubbed his hardening penis against Lock's ass, nestling it between his cheeks as he held him silently for a time. Then, gently gripping Lock's hips, Sawyer eased his head in with a gasp of pleasure. The ghostly man murmured soothing words. Lock's eyes were closed as he lost himself in the sensation of fullness. Sawyer pressed a little further in, and after a time, further still, until his erection was fully sheathed inside of Lock.
"I love you, Lock," said Sawyer, gripping his lover's hips more tightly as he began to thrust inside of him.
"I wished I had loved you better then, Sawyer, but — ahh! — believe me that I love you now," returned Locksley, groaning softly as the movement began.
Afterward, when Sawyer had spilled his ghostly seed inside of him, and Lock's had dried into little pearls in the sand, Sawyer and Lock lay on the beach together. Sawyer held Lock and stroked his hair, just as had been his habit. "Tomorrow, I want to hypnotize you. Tomorrow, I have to tell you what I came here to tell you."
And just like that, there were two more days until Locksley would have to return to life without Sawyer.
All that last year of University, Sawyer, Locksley and Burnaby had to steal time away from other responsibilities in order to spend any time together at all.
Their senior class lectures and seminars, the work of successfully graduating, took up the bulk of their energy. Meanwhile, Lady Eleanor also insisted that her son show civic-mindedness, and dragged Locksley along to the charitable events that she and her circle of friends organized to support the war effort. There were rallies, public parades, charity balls, and drives of all sorts — a new one every week, it seemed to Locksley. The university, for its part, hosted its share of rallies as well.
And so, the trio snatched what time they could, meeting on their breaks in unused hallways, or even occasionally skipping a particularly yawn-worthy lecture. Locksley's cottage became even more of a haven than it had been. The year seemed to pass by in an instant.
When they all graduated that summer, it was all but a certainty that Conscription would pass. And so, Sawyer explained to his rich bedfellows that he had to leave Fredericton and Saint John. He would find work on the ships that carried goods through the Great Lakes, he told them, and be back to visit as soon as he could safely do so.
To Locksley, that summer seemed interminable. Though Sawyer wrote, and though he had struck up a true friendship with Burnaby Lovelace, he found himself melancholy. His mother stopped asking him to attend the charity balls to dance with the local young women because his dour mood seemed to spread off of him like an evil fug. Unless Lovelace came to call, he mostly worked on architectural plans in his study, or brought books down to the beach and sat on solitary rocks to stare out onto the ocean. He had always been a loner, and yet this kind of loneliness, after the companionship that he had with Sawyer, felt rather different.
So, when Sawyer wrote that he was coming for a visit in late October, when the ships began to cross the Lakes less frequently due to the onsetting cold, Locksley seemed to come alive again. Sawyer arrived on October 22nd, 1917, with his hair freshly cut, and a bouquet of roses for Lady Eleanor. When he threw his arms around Lock, it seemed to Lock that Sawyer only just stopped himself from kissing him full on the lips.
It was the first time that Sawyer had come to stay at the Somerville Estate that Lord Somerville wasn't away in England, or at the Front.
When Locksley met up with him the next night, Sawyer was carrying a familiar candle in addition to his lantern. It looked to be the exact one that Sawyer had first used to hypnotize him in his Fredericton cottage, twelve years ago. Lock moved to hug Sawyer. Sawyer hugged him back, but soon broke it off.
"We have to stay focused, Lock, as much as I'd like to kiss you until the sun came up. If you'll permit me, I can come inside the house to do this. So that you can be on your own bed," said Sawyer carefully. "It might help to keep the wind off, too. So that the candle doesn't go out."
Locksley nodded, and led the way. He could feel the way that his body, even after all these years, was prepared to give in to Sawyer's words already, even though they had not yet begun.
When Locksley was settled into his bed, Sawyer placed the candle on the desk and it appeared to light itself. "All right, there, Lock. It's been some time, but I know you'll just find it so easy to focus on what I have to tell you..."
Locksley drifted in and out of consciousness as Sawyer spoke to him softly. He knew that his mind was hearing and absorbing the words, even if he didn't remember all of them. It felt good to give up that control to Sawyer — it was as if all the tension within him melted away like snow in a Spring thaw.
"Remember that if you feel out of your depth, you can always steer yourself back toward safer waters... There's no need to be afraid... You can allow yourself to hear the things that might be hard, or scary. I'll be there to support you..."
Locksley found a smile coming to his lips at those words, and he continued to listen to Sawyer, missing some of it, but trusting his mind to keep what was important.
"...There's no need to call the wind down if you get scared, Lock. The wind just gets in the way. Let me help you instead..."
After some time — Locksley had no idea how long — Sawyer took Locksley's hand in his own, rubbing the back of it gently. "We can face it together. I won't leave you alone... It's time to wake up now, Lock."
As Locksley's eyelids fluttered open, he tried to remember some of what Sawyer had said. "Did you say that it was me, calling that awful wind?"
Sawyer nodded grimly, glancing around as if afraid that the wind would enter inside the main house. The windows rattled slightly, then stilled again. "You haven't wanted to hear what I have to say, even though you probably already know it, somewhere inside that stubborn head of yours, Lock."
Locksley smiled and put a hand to his face, covering one eye. "What do you mean, Sawyer? You think I'm the stubborn sort?"
"I know you are. You always were good at ignoring what you didn't want to hear," Sawyer said, sitting on the bed. Locksley lifted himself to a sitting position as well, leaning against Sawyer's shoulder. Sawyer wrapped an arm around Lock and took a moment to relax with him.
Then, Sawyer glanced down at Locksley. "When was the last time that you ate something, Lock?"
Locksley shrugged. "I haven't had much appetite — I've had the flu ever since I spent the night out-of-doors a few weeks ago. At the full moon."
"Right. Your limbs have felt weak? You haven't had much energy?"
Locksley nodded, confused. The wind howled a little louder outside.
"It's taken all your effort even to lift a pen, or a book, right? Because of the flu?"
Locksley tilted his head, confused. "Yes, I've just told you that I've been ill, Sawyer. Not to mention that I took an awfully hard knock on the head from a tree root. I think I might have been concussed."
Sawyer nodded patiently, and pushed Locksley's hair back from his temple. "When's the last time you spoke directly with someone other than me?"
Locksley tilted his head. "Why — I spoke with the gardener and the groundskeeper. Someone desecrated your memorial, and I told them to clean it and post a guard...before I knew that it was you skulking about. Say! Did you write those weird symbols on your own monument, Sawyer? Why?"
"Did you really speak with them, Lock? They acknowledged you, called you Mr. Somerville and all that?" Sawyer took Locksley's hand in his own and covered it, giving it a supportive squeeze. "And those symbols...that was plain English, Lock."
Locksley thought back to how he had thought the groundskeeper and gardener were behaving rudely, using language that they would typically never use in front of him. What was Sawyer driving at? "Plain English?"
"The symbols should still be visible from here, even though they tried to scrub them," said Sawyer. "Supernatural lettering doesn't fade so easily. I was trying to send you a message, trying to help you realize what had happened... Are you ready to read them, Lock? Are you ready to see?"
Locksley furrowed his brow. "Speak plainly, Sawyer! What are you driving at?"
Sawyer shook his head. "I've tried, Lock. But you didn't want to hear. I tried to tell you and you brought that infernal wind down on us because you wanted to block it all out."
Locksley tore his hand away from Sawyer's and dashed to the window. He looked out across the lawn. Though it was dark, there was no longer any fog, and the moon, though not full, did provide some faint illumination. He found that he had no trouble reading. The symbols — the words, he now realized — seemed to even faintly glow.
Locksley gave a cry of surprise and dismay.
John Locksley Somerville
January 16th 1895 - October 10th 1927
We are joined together in death.
"My God, Sawyer. That can't be true."
Sawyer rushed to Locksley and threw his arms about his shoulders, holding him close and tight. His voice was desperate, the words spilling out at a rapid rate as he tried to get it all through to Locksley before he was stopped again, by Locksley's own denial, by that wild wind that stopped all thought and speech.
"You died the night that you burned your letters to me, Lock! You have to listen to me! I don't want you to become stuck here, alone and confused, forgetting who you are, and what you mean to me...I don't want you to be a lost and lonely spirit...! If you don't come to terms with it...you may be stuck here, wandering Somerville Estate forever, until you lose yourself entirely... It's already begun to happen, the lost time, the long hours where you think you've been asleep...! Lock!"
The windows shattered.
Lock smiled and laughed as Sawyer playfully blew a raspberry on his naked stomach. His cheeks were warm and red in the candlelight. He ran a hand through Sawyer's hair, and ran a finger along the cup of his ear and earlobe. They were laying together in Locksley's bedroom. "My God, Sawyer, it's good to have you back here with me. Become my butler, and I can order you to perform all sorts of duties for me whenever I please."
Sawyer grinned. "No, you've got it all wrong, Lock. Run away with me and become a sailor. I'll show you the most beautiful places. Have you ever been to the Georgian Bay? Lake Huron's waters are turquoise and about as clear as you could wish — cold, though."
"Dangerous waters out there, aren't they? I heard that it's almost like a small ocean itself."
"Oh yes, plenty of danger and adventure for two strapping young men! And when the war is over, and I don't have to make myself scarce anymore, we'll settle in along the Bay and build houses together. Why, we're engineers now, aren't we? We'll build everything a little town could need. Bridges, a library, and a firehouse. And little cottages, just like yours in Fredericton. We'll call it...Locksleyville... No, let's call it Invert Town. No, even better: Invertness."
"There's already an Inverness in Canada... Oh, that's not what you said." Locksley laughed aloud. "I think I prefer Locksleyville."
"We'll work on the name," said Sawyer, tickling Lock's hips, and lowering his mouth to Lock's swollen cock. Locksley moaned loudly, putting a fist to his mouth and biting on it to stop the sound.
There was no knock before the door revolved smoothly on its hinges. Lord Somerville stood in the doorway, palpable shock giving way to rage.
After the windows shattered, Locksley did not remember very much at all. He thought maybe Sawyer had continued to hold him. He thought that the wind had eventually calmed. It was as though a heavy velvet curtain muffled the sounds of it and blocked out his sight.
He woke up alone in his bedroom to the sound of a woman sobbing, and distantly recognized his mother's voice. In a daze, he drifted toward the voice. The Lady Eleanor's suitcases were still in the front hallway. She must have returned home and found out...Locksley's thoughts were muddled, but...she must have found out some bad news, he thought. Locksley felt sure that he knew what the news was — something about the memorial monument, maybe? — but wasn't able to fully call it to mind. At any rate, the defacing of the monument was hardly something to weep over, was it? Locksley found his mother in the drawing room. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and her whole face seemed puffy and swollen, as if this was not the first time today that she cried.
He felt disconnected from his mother's pain, but also responsible to her. He tried to lay a comforting hand on her shoulder, but found his flesh as insubstantial as the air. His eyes flew wide with shock. "Mother!"
His mother looked up, and Locksley felt relieved that she had heard him. But instead of responding, she rose to her feet, eyebrows furrowed, and looked down the hallway. She did not see him! Locksley tried to touch her hand, and once again passed through her. There was a vague pressure seated behind his eyes, deep in his forehead. It was not quite painful, but it caused him some distress. Before he could gather his scattered thoughts, the sound of the doorbell drew his attention. He heard the door open, one of the butlers greeting whoever had arrived. Locksley vaguely recognized the faint sound of the other voice.
Burnaby Lovelace walked solemnly into his mother's drawing room, and took her hand. His eyes, too, looked awfully red. "My sincerest condolences, Lady Eleanor. I came as soon as I heard that you had arrived home."
"Thank you, Mr. Lovelace. I know that my son was looking forward to seeing you at the class reunion."
Burnaby seemed to be considering his next words carefully. "I know that he was...withdrawn, these past years, after...after the accident with Sawyer. But I never stopped considering him a close friend, Lady Eleanor."
"Thank you. You were amongst those who knew him best... I was wondering...whether you would consider assisting me with a eulogy?"
"It would be my honour to help you memorialize Locksley."
Lady Eleanor looked uncomfortable, but finally seemed to make some kind of decision. "You know, I... I always thought that the bond that he found with Sawyer Mulholland was a wonderful... was a wonderful blessing, Mr. Lovelace. Will you be sure to mention something of their...close friendship, in the eulogy?"
Locksley fled the room.
Locksley fled to the beach. The crashing waves spared him the necessity of thought, their white noise allowing him to handily block out the impossibilities that intruded into his mind. He did not notice the time passing until it grew quite dark, and a bobbing lantern appeared in the distance.
When Sawyer was within ten feet of him, Locksley clenched his fists, then relaxed them. "I'm dead, then."
"You are," said Sawyer gently.
"You've been trying to tell me."
"I have," said Sawyer, drawing nearer. He sat beside Locksley in the sand.
"You didn't want me to become a lost, vengeful ghost. So you came back."
"Not exactly...You sort of...called me back. Because you trusted me to tell you. To take care of you."
"I haven't done a very good job of trusting you, have I?" Locksley sighed, and adjusted his position so that he was facing Sawyer.
"You were scared. That's all," said Sawyer, reaching out a hand to cup Locksley's cheek. "But in the end, you listened to me. Like always." The ghost of a smile danced on Sawyer's lips. "Because you know I know what's good for you. Right?"
Locksley bit his lip. "Right."
"When you're ready, we just have to swim out together," said Sawyer, laying a hand on Locksley's shoulders. "But this time, there's no swimming back. Everyone's out of their depth when it comes to this."
Locksley nodded, then swallowed, his Adam's apple moving in his throat. "I'm afraid."
"I know," said Sawyer, "I know, Lock."
Locksley leaned his head against Sawyer's shoulder. "Somehow, I can face it. With you."
Locksley rose to his feet, and kicked off his shoes.
Sawyer did the same.
They both stripped down nude.
Picking up the lantern, Sawyer blew it out, and its wick glowed faintly for a while longer before fading into darkness.
Locksley took Sawyer's hand, and together, they stepped into the inky water. Locksley found that he did not feel the cold, but he could feel the warmth of Sawyer's hand in his. When they pushed off into the waves, Lock let go, knowing that Sawyer would always be beside him.
As they began to swim out toward the horizon with calm, steady strokes, Locksley found himself feeling lighter and lighter.