The day that James Lockwood signed up for university was the day he thought he’d made the biggest mistake of his life.
The anxiousness of writing and sending his personal statements was nothing compared to the cold stone of dread that had found its way into the bottom of his stomach, weighing him down to the bottom of the metaphorical pond.
Swimming with the metaphorical fishes.
Metaphorically, of course, because he couldn’t swim.
He didn’t just apply for Oxford and Cambridge. Nottingham was a close third- the place where his granddad (mother’s side) had studied before running off to join World War 2, and also the place where, ideally, he wanted to end up.
Crowther’s third choice was Bath Spa, Timms’ was Canterbury, and Dakin refused to think of anywhere but Oxford, but had secretly applied to Winchester.
And now, in the orange hue of the afternoon, sunlight streaming through the boxy windows of the hallway and lighting up his own and his friend’s grins, he couldn’t help but feel like going to university, getting in debt, moving away from home, and leaving all that was his life behind was going to be the first mistake in a series of misfortune that was to follow.
Dakin disappeared from the picture almost immediately.
Lockwood supposed it wasn't his style to stick around, but it still stung a little, seeing as they were always close. Not as close as Scripps and Dakin were, but close nonetheless.
Cambridge was… more than he’d expected. Surprisingly small compared to what he had experienced and was expecting, but still with massive stretches of space that took what felt like too fucking longto cross.
Timms bought a bike within the first few hours of arriving. He was slow on it, but made better progress than he would have done walking.
What Crowther couldn’t get over was how flatthe land was. The tallest hill he’d seen so far was Limekiln, which had a road that ran over it and a few chalk pits on the way. He claimed, while lying off Lockwood’s bed one crisp autumn day, “The road up there was less than four metres wide. But there was a sign warning drivers that there could be horses and riders along the route. Who the fuck in there right mind would bring their horse all the fuck-off way up a hill that’s got traffic worse than the city centre?”
Lockwood couldn’t argue. The furthest out he’d been so far was to The Brook.
His desk was quite possibly the cleanest thing in his room. To him it was a novelty having one that wasn't duel purpose, also serving as the dining room table.
Solid oak, varnished to a sheen so smooth he could see his face in it, and with little slots and cubby holes for this, that or whatever.
He mainly used it to store the cheap lager he got from the off licence. Also for the essays.
And there are definitely essays. Sometimes up to four a week. Only lord knows how he’d made it though those times. Usually it’s assigned reading; last week he was suggested War and Peace from a classmate called Veronica, but was too caught up with reading Catch-22for the sixth time.
In truth he didn't feel up to the task.
There was another classmate (called Reality of all things) from America who had taken to talking to him after the lectures they happened to share. She’d picked up punting upon reaching Cambridge, and shamefully, Lockwood thinks that she could lift him if she actually wanted to try. The realisation is shameful because he first thought it when wanking.
He decided it’s ‘his thing’ and carefully moved on.
“The architecture here is maturbatory worthy.” Posner states, marvelling at That Fucking Church, named so by the boys because none of them could remember it’s actual name, save from Scripps. Our Lady And The English Martyrs stood tall and firm as it felt like it always had, always between the centre of town and the train station, and always made of cold towering stone. On the current typical English day it looked like it was made of the cloud that enveloped it.
Scripps was somewhere inside.
Dakin scoffed, “Only you would want to fuck a building.”
“Maybe two of us. Have you ever seen Gonville and Caius College? I've been inside exactly once but fuck those people knew how to design something memorable.”
“I’d’ve thought the obvious one would be Kings?” Rudge said, looking over.
“Kings is good, but good in the way that a Dairy Milk is. You know, sweet and smooth. But I’ve never known a Dairy Milk that has even so much as stood up to Belgian Chocolate.” Timms looked smug, possibly because he was using a metaphor, but more likely because he was talking about chocolate.
Timms had lost weight since starting university, but was still the largest in the group. He wore his weight in the way one would wear a comfortable jacket, like he was made for it, even though he could look better if he left the jacket behind. Lockwood looked around the group, thinking back on how they were before, all bright eyed and bushy tailed. He wasn't sure what exactly had changed but the group felt… sleeker, somehow. Less like an amalgamation of different people that just so happened to be friends, but like they all were made to complement one another in different ways.
Dakin felt like a leader now- to an extent he was before, but now it felt like he and the others actually listened. Something in his demeanour had been altered so that he doesn't seem like the half-fictitious person he was before, like he wasn't always caught between a lie and brag.
That being said, Lockwood wasn't sure if it was a change in personality or a change of hairstyle. Could be either, as far as he knew.
To save buying a hotel room, the Oxford boys crashed on the floor. Timms with Rudge, Crowther with Scripps, Akthar with Posner.
Lockwood didn't particularly look forward to being in close quarters with Dakin, for reasons he assumed were obvious. It was one thing for them to be jovial and friendly on the walk home from school, and another thing to share a room with barely enough space to function in, let alone function with two people. If Dakin kept his arms exactly to his sides there’d be enough room for him to sleep on the floor. But knowing Dakin-
“I’m not sleeping on the floor.”
“You either sleep on the floor or you sleep on the desk. I’m not letting you steal the bed.”
Dakin lay back on it, his hair contrasting with the bright red of the sheets, and he wiggled his toes where they brushed the floor. Like always, he smirked, “You’re supposed to be looking after me here. You don't even care about me getting a good night’s sleep? Jimmy, I’m hurt.”
“Dakin, I’m not going to sleep on the floor.”
Dakin is… something. He always was, unfortunately, but it still surprises Lockwood sometimes.
“Issue is, Timms, is that you're not even fucking willing to try.If you attempted and didn't enjoy it, fair enough, but you won't fucking-”
“Fuck’s sake, Dakin. I don't need to try. Leave me alone.”
The pub was smoky, but not so much that it muffled the noise, like it sometimes did in the Regal. He supposed the high ceilings might’ve had something to do with it. Posner tapped his cigarette on the ashtray and exhaled, “Not every man is made for it,” He paused as Akthar laughed, “Not everyone is you, Dakin.”
“Thank fuck for that.” Crowther said, and snubbed out his own cigarette. Rudge picked at his fingernail, uninterested.
In the light, Lockwood felt like the moment would be immortalised forever in his own head. The room was a dark maroon, the furniture a black wood and the windows letting in thin strips of streetlights. It felt like a renaissance painting, but also reminded him of the painting Dogs Playing Poker- something about the tone contrasting with the subjects.
Then he remembered.
“Timms has tried it, Dakin. Didn't get on.”
The table erupted into laughter and jibes, Timms turning a deep red as Lockwood put his arm around him and shook him from side to side. “I’m not into it,” he muttered, “No shame in that.”
Dakin’s eyes sparkled, focused now on Lockwood. “How would you know?”
Finally, an opportunity to make Dakin deflate like an old birthday balloon. Lockwood met his gaze, mirroring the surly not-quite smirk he held. “Why Dakin,” he said, his voice lofty. “I assumed you knew?”
Dakin shifted uncomfortably, his smirk bending into a frown. He didn’t have the impatience to ask ‘knew what?’ But damn if he wasn’t close to it.
Scripps looked almost as uncomfortable as Dakin. Posner looked like it was Christmas Day.
“Aside from Scripps,” Lockwood began, voice full of bravado, “youare the only one among us that hasn’t slept with me. Now, I’m not saying that you have to, and I’m not saying you should, but it’s worth knowing.”
Dakin said nothing for a moment, giving enough time for Rudge to say, “I think you’ve broken him, Jimmy.”
“Should I be impressed?” Dakin asked, impressed. Timms took a loud sip of his pint, looking to the side and avoiding the conversation. “You sound boastful. ‘I’ve shagged six blokes and you haven’t.’ Is that something to boast about?”
“It’s something you’d gloat about.” Posner pointed out. “In fact, you’ve kept track of how many people you’ve shagged. Scripps would know, considering the conversations you two have when ignoring me.”
All eyes turned to Scripps, who shrivelled under the attention. “I hardly reciprocate,” he said, attempting to justify himself, “And it’s not like I actually know off the top of my head.”
“That’s besides the point,” Lockwood drew the conversation back to himself, “The point is what I’ve stated; you act so full of bravado when you aren’t even the most experienced among us. Maybe, just maybe, you should take the sodding hint and be humble.”
Crowther stifled a laugh. Dakin glared across the table with fire in his eyes, his hand clenched around his glass. Fortunately, he said nothing.
“If we could get back to our regularly scheduled program, s’il vous plait.” Posner said, leaning his arms on the table. “Speaking of which, where’s Akthar?”
Lockwood slept on the bed, alone. From the floor, Dakin could see underneath the curtains and into the sky outside. There were no stars, but the orange glow of the streetlights felt almost the same, almost like a piece in some fake star map. He shifted and sighed.
He chose to use this opportunity wisely and thought on his sins and past mistakes. It felt like whenever he couldn’t sleep his mind slipped back into the dark place others liked to call his ‘mistakes’. Contrary to what the other boys thought, Dakin didn’t see his sexual history as something to be ashamed of. Hell, he didn’t even see his non-sexual history as a mistake. When Charlotte thought they were in a relationship because they’d fucked it wasn’t hismistake but hers. And when Graham came to him in search of a repeat performance and he’d refused, Graham should have known better.
However, Lockwood didn’t seem to have that problem. Everyone he’d fucked he’d only fucked, and no one assumed otherwise. Was Lockwood better with boundaries? Probably. Was Lockwood a better lay? Definitely not.
Somewhere, deep within what little of his conscience he had left, he thought himself perverted for thinking about someone's sex life while that someone in question slept less than three metres away from him.
But was it so perverted when that someone in question planted the seed of thought in the first place?
Much to Dakin’s dismay, Lockwood didn't bring up either of their sex lives again. And to his further disappointment, none of the other boys did either.
He was still acting himself, still moving with the motions, still conversing in conversations, still rocking the boat on the unexpected beats.
“Confidence,” Posner said, walking in the middle of Sydney Street, Lockwood and Dakin to his side, Scripps a step or two in front, “Is something not many of us can apply to all situations with ease.”
“You sound confident saying that,” Scripps replied, looking over his shoulder slightly.
“I am. As you can see, I can easily apply it to this conversation. However, there’s still a time and a place for it. You don't see me being confident with a gardening manual and a set of secateurs, Scripps.”
“Not my fault your father prizes his lawn above your right to experimentation.”
“Anyway,” Posner said again, ignoring how Lockwood rolled his eyes, “All I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to act confident when you’re not. I wish more men would realise that.”
“Get turned on by a bloke’s sensitive side, hey Pos?”
“I wouldn’t be the only one, Dakin.” They came to a stop at a fork in the road, and Lockwood slouched against the wall, looking in the direction of the river. Posner tossed his fringe out of the way, looking Dakin square in the eye. “Or, at least, I shouldn’t be.”
“I’m not sleeping on the floor again.”
“Did you think I would change my mind overnight? I’m not letting you take the bed.”
This time, at Crowther’s flat instead of the usual pub table, Dakin wasn’t so willing to let the others think of him as they had before: as an insensitive and uncaring lover. Lover was perhaps the wrong word, but angry and watching TV as he were, it was difficult to think correctly, especially with Crowther and Posner trying not to spew their pints across the room with laughter.
Lockwood had his legs in Scripps’ lap, lying across the couch in a way that could only be described as either indifferent or possessive. Scripps didn’t seem to mind, too invested in the screen in front of him. Posner, however, spared him occasional almost weepy looking glance. Dakin tried his best to ignore all of them, instead glaring at The Young Onesin front of him.
There should have been enough room for four of them on the two couches, with Posner, himself and Rudge taking the floor. Timms and Crowther seemed happy enough on the couch together, but Akthar didn’t seem too happy to be between them, his arms pressed firmly to his sides.
The canned laughter erupted on screen again, breaking him from his thoughts.
“He should have seen that coming,” Lockwood said, suddenly enough for Dakin to almost flinch.
Crowther hummed, “You know what he’s like though. Can't talk about his feelings for shit.”
Posner shrivelled slightly, appearing to shrink in on himself, tucking his legs in closer and resting his chin on his knees. Dakin could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand.
Someone was watching him.
“This surely isn't the best way for us to spend a Tuesday night, is it?” Dakin asked, breaking the silence, “I mean, I’m all for watching telly, but isn't there something better on?”
“Oh, sorry, would you rather we all watch Countdown?”Akthar asked, leaning away from the others to look closer at Dakin.
“I’d rather,” He began, glaring over his shoulder, “We do something with these two weeks together other than drink and sit around. So far we’ve done twenty minutes of sight seeing, around eight hours of drinking and doing nothing, and twelve hours doing fuck all. I say-”
“You didn't include sleeping!”
“Fuck off Timms. As I was saying, I think we should perhaps do something. Talk about something other than university or our past.”
Scripps finally raised his head from the back of the couch, “We all talk about the past. It’s what we do. It’s like telling Thatcher to talk about the weather, it’s not her field and makes shit conversation.”
“Don't fucking- don’t. Don't mention Thatcher in my fucking flat, Scripps. What right do you have?”
“You get what Scripps means though, yeah? It’s not going to click.”
“I can't hear the TV.”
“Boo hoo. But seriously, what else is there to do? The only thing that makes Cambridge an attractive place to be are the colleges. That’s it, really.”
“There’s a river in Oxford. You can punt on it too.”
“You're a punt.”
“Fuck off, Timms.”
“There’s fuck all to do in Cambridge.”
“How would you know.”
“I don't know, Rudge! Maybe I've been living here for the past six months.”
Posner shuffled away from Lockwood after the outburst, looking up at him like he didn't know who he was any more. “Okay so maybe Cambridge was… less than you’d expected, but that doesn't mean this is a bad place to be! There’s got to be something else, right?”
There was a heavy pause. All of the boys looking at one another, twisting their heads this way and that to see if any of them came forth with an answer. Slowly, as to not be so obvious, Crowther reached down the side of the couch and muted the TV. Lockwood closed his eyes and rested his head on the back of the couch, breathing heavily with his lips clamped together. He still hadn't taken his legs from Scripps’ lap, unwilling to lose the hand that rested below his knee.
Why did Dakin have to be so… Dakin?
“Maybe,” Scripps said slowly, “We should disband and meet up tomorrow instead.”
“Get some snacks, meet on Jesus Green at twelve?”
There were some quiet agreements. For the first time in two hours, Lockwood moved. He reached to push Scripps’ hand off his leg and swung them around carefully to avoid hitting Rudge. “Right then.” He said, “Let’s go.”
“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined.” - Thomas Szasz
Leaning somewhat solemnly against the side of the building, Dakin, for the first time in forty-seven and a half hours, was alone.
In the gloom, he could only barely see the tips of Saint Mary the Greatfrom where he stood, for the sky was not yet completely black. He drew in a deep breath of the crisp night air, held it as he counted to five in his head, and let it go again. The market square was currently empty, the cobblestones glistening from the gentle drizzle that had set upon them as he’d left Crowther’s flat.
Although standing in the drizzle was hardly pleasant, especially because he didn't have the foresight to bring his coat, he’d rather be outside than inside. Sooner be soaked than pretending not to hear what they're saying about me, he thought. Most of them had already left, but he was waiting for Lockwood.
“I’d’ve expected you to already have set off.” Lockwood said in greeting, his voice almost impressed.
He could feel his eyes tighten into a glare, but he didn't pull his cigarette from his mouth quite yet. Lockwood wasn’t looking at him, too focused on rummaging through his own bag to find his lighter, so Dakin didn’t say anything.
“Do you need another?” He asked instead.
“I don’t think I get you, Dakin.” Lockwood said, ignoring the question, “You come here with the others from Oxford, intent to spend time with us, and now you don’t want to.”
“It feels like every conversation we’ve had in the past three days has been an argument. Why would you come here if you didn’t want to see us? Or see Cambridge? I don’t get it.”
Dakin scowled at him. “Call me naive, but I assumed there was more to this place than this.”
“Call me naive, but I assumed you had some manners. I’m here to show you Cambridge, one of the ‘must see cities of England,’ so I’m told. I might not think much of it, and you might not either, but Dakin.” Lockwood finally lit his cigarette, taking the opportunity to actually breathe. Dakin, perhaps wisely, said nothing and waited for him to continue.
The pause lasted longer than he was comfortable with.
The lighter snapped shut.
“But Dakin, would it kill you to be a bit more polite? From what I can see, Oxford has all the same shit Cambridge does-”
“I don't care.” Dakin shut his mouth. “What I do care about is being a good host. Stuart, I want you to see the light, and understand that I’m trying my fucking best here.”
“You should try harder.”
“That’s not the fucking point. The point is that maybe you should stop being so fucking selfish and accept that sometimes things,” He gestured to the empty market place, the church, and then himself, “Are a bit lacklustre. It’s not the place that lacks the ‘Umph’, its yourefusing to see it.”
And just like that, Lockwood turned away, sulking up the street in the direction of his flat. Dakin stood, perhaps stunned, for a moment more, before snapping out of his stupor and jogging to Lockwood.
“So that’s it? I should change, and not Cambridge? This place has more flaws than you would like to admit, things that can be changed and you're content to just leave it there? Not make any progress in making this place better and making it more of a place to be?”
“Sometimes it’s not the place that needs to change but the people in it.”
“So you're saying we shouldn't be here?”
“Sometimes it’s not the people that need to change but the things we associate with them.”
“You know, when you talk like that you remind me a bit of Hect-”
Dakin was on the floor, his hand instantly rising to his chin in awe. Lockwood, above him, still had his fist raised. Although the darkness shrouded them, Dakin could still see the livid anger in Lockwood’s eyes and for once in his goddamn life he actually regretted what he said. “You fucking arsehole. You fuck.You know how much I hate that fucker. You know what he did to us. You have no right to say I’m like him! What the fuck is wrong with you Dakin?”
Shocked, Dakin said nothing. Somewhere near by someone shouted for them to be quiet. In an act of pure anger, Lockwood turned away and stalked back to his apartment.
Stunned, Dakin sat on the cold stone street and watched.
It’s odd, he thought, thinking about self worth when you act as if you have all the confidence you need, but in reality have none. To Dakin it was a struggle remembering the last time someone was so blatant in telling him no, and an even greater challenge when thinking back to the last time he talked about something as feminine as ‘feelings’. “You’re such a boy,” Fiona once told him, “You can’t even admit when you’re wrong, let alone when you’re out of your depth.”
To a certain extent, Dakin protested. You see to him it was natural behaviour, bottling up abnormal quirks and emotions that weren’t something you could talk to your makes about over drinks. But for some reason Lockwood seemed to have missed the memo. In school he still acted as was expected, being the rough and tumble and jagged-edged mate he’d grown up to be, but when it was one on one he opened up. This often made for strange situations. Situations Dakin had no ground in. And the strangest situation Dakin ever found himself in was exactly three years ago to the day. March 28th, 1980. He could still remember what Lockwood had said, loud and clear, four years and countless apologies later.
It was, for all he could remember, the first time someone his gender and age apologised to him, and for some reason it shook him.
Dakin might not admit when he was wrong, or when he was out of his depth, but perhaps having someone else do it for him was a suitable alternative.
But now he had to figure out how he could get Lockwood back on his side. Surely there had to be a way.
“What the fuck did you think was going to happen?”
Crowther looked at him with sheer disbelief, his hand now stilled on the mug and tea towel, no longer drying it. Dakin curled.
“I wasn't thinking.”
“That’s no excuse. You know how fucked up he was about that. I get that you weren’t there when he broke down that first term here, but mate, it was bad. You know about how he didn't go to lectures, right? He almost got kicked out because of it.”
For a moment Dakin sat there, side-eyeing the doorway into the living room, waiting to see if Scripps would enter.
“Scripps is still asleep. He’s not going to sympathise with you on this one anyway.” Crowther said, reading Dakin’s eyeing of the doorway.
“Lockwood punched me!”
“So? Hell, I feel like doing the fucking same. Lockwood is my mate. I've known him longer than you have, and I know for a fact that he doesn't forgive Hector. He may have seemed fine with it at the time, but when you look back on that kinda shit you realise just how fucked up it was.”
Dakin sniffed, dissatisfied.
“Have you thought about it? Since the end of summer, at least?”
“Not really. No use dredging up the past like that.”
“Says someone that studied history at A-levels.”
“Either way, i don't need you to pick at my few flaws, i need you to tell me how i can fix this.”
Crowther didn't reply for a moment, too busy putting the now clean dishes back in the cupboards. But then he slapped his wet tea towel over the back of the other Kitchen chair and sat down in it, resting his elbows on the table. All of a sudden Dakin felt like Crowther was looking straight into him, attempting to pull apart whatever Dakin kept in front of his heart to protect it.
No one, and he did mean no one, had seen his heart in a very long time.
“Lockwood told me something about you two, and while I’m not certain that this is totally true, I still feel the need to ask you about it, okay?” he said, not even attempting to reveal what it was he wanted to ask. Dakin said nothing, but gestured for Crowther to continue. Drawing in a deep breath, he asked, “Did you and Lockwood… I don't know how to phrase this. Did you and Lockwood attempt a relationship? He mentioned something about it when we were like fifteen.”
Dakin froze, his eyes locked on the tabletop as his hands began to sweat. Crowther, feeling the weight of the silence, took it as his answer.
He stood again, leaving Dakin there, and went out of the room for a moment. Dakin could still see him from where he sat, but waited to see what Crowther was doing. After a moment he returned with a copy of The Complete Works Of Shakespeare.“I saw how much you used to make fun of Scripps for carrying around a diary, so I hid mine in this.” he said, and sure enough, the inside pages were covered in his own handwriting, and not the expected text. Dakin didn't have time to question this however, and Crowther continued without considering this. “I was doing this journaling thing on my own anyway though, before I knew that Scripps did it as well. Anyway,” he flicked back through it, showing Dakin more of the small black print that was his handwriting, “I wrote it down somewhere. Ah, here!”
Crowther, obviously not remembering the heated game of keep-away whenever Dakin got a hold on Scripps’ diary, handed his journal to him with the offending page open.
On this page it read:
‘Lockwood was telling me earlier about how he and Dakin were agreeing to meet up after school on Wednesdays. Not sure about the whole story, but he mentioned that he and Dakin had a ‘thing’, sorta like me and Lucy, I suppose. None of the other boys know, and I agreed to keep this information hidden too.
‘Hope it goes well at least. About damn time Lockwood had some good luck.’
And there the passage went on to another subject, and Dakin stopped reading. He turned to Crowther, a confused expression evident on his face. “What’s the deal with that, then?”
“Is what he said true? You two used to have a thing?”
Dakin’s face coloured, and he looked at Crowther, offended. “It’s not like I meant anything by it, we were fifteen. I didn't intend to, i don't know, act on it later.”
“I know that, you twit. but what i am saying is that since that point your people skills have seriously disintegrated. You don't know how to do relationships anymore, regardless of if they're romantic or platonic or otherwise. Do you even know howto say sorry? Have you considered that?”
He soured, feeling a lot like a scolded child, but neither Crowther’s words nor his actions suggested he thought of Dakin as such. If anything, Crowther seemed more disappointed than anything. It was like he was thinking that Dakin had ruined his Tuesday night and Wednesday morning lie-in. He had, after all, came crawling back to spend the night after Lockwood had given him thatkiss with his fist. To be honest, Crowther was probably thinking that.
“How do I go about it though, just walk up to him? You really think he won't just ignore me or leave?”
“You’ve seen first hand that he’s not afraid of confrontation, Dakin. If he gets insulted he’ll probably just hit you again and call you a bastard. What’s worse, losing a friend of fifteen years and being punched in the face for it or actually fucking apologising?”
“Even if I did apologise I’d’ve still been punched in the face.”
“If you don't grow a pair and leave my flat and apologise like an actual decent human being for once you might just be punched again.”
In the end, Crowther was dragged along with him to act as a kind of unwilling peacekeeping. Apparently being punched in the face was enough for Dakin to not only become scared of Lockwood, but also enough for him to finally accept that he was wrong. If only his past self could see him now, huh?
Either way, they agreed to meet on the bridge on Bridge street (creative name, I’m aware), just near Magdalene college, just as the sun was going down and the pubs nearby was finally getting ready for the onslaught of students after the afternoon lull. “After this let’s hit up The Maypole. I've had enough of this drama of yours to warrant drinking for a week.” Crowther said as they approached the bridge. “And whatever happened to meeting up on Jesus Green? You being prissy about that swept that plan under the rug too, didn't it?”
“Enough of that, Chris. I get it.”
“What, feeling bruised?” he snickered.
Dakin reached up to rub the purpling splodge on his jaw and glared at him.
They came to the crest of it, and there, like it was made to be, was Lockwood. Although Dakin was aware his hair was a rather light brown, in the sunlight it looked red and wavy. Since their gang had broken up to go to university Lockwood’s hair had gotten longer, and now, leaning over the side of the bridge watching the Cam’s waters flow beneath him, it brushed his forearms and the cold white stone of the bridge. Being later in the day, the streets were practically deserted and the bridge was no exception.
Crowther cleared his throat in way of a greeting and Lockwood turned to face them, his face stormy. Dakin swallowed around the lump in his throat, and Crowther gestured to Dakin, hoping for him to start his speach.
Brilliant. Eloquent. Superb. Outstanding. That’s exactly what he meant to say.
Lockwood, thankfully, gave him enough time to say more, and filled the silence with nothing but a raised eyebrow.
Crowther took a few steps backwards before turning away and putting his head in his hands, rubbing the heels of his palms into his eyes. Lockwood turned around where he stood so that his back was resting against the railing, and he looked up to the sky, lips pulled back into an angry grimace.
“I should have known. Should’ve fucking known.” he began to mumble. Off to the side, Crowther sat down; legs splayed out and watched the scene before him with subtle but morbid curiosity.
“Okay look. I’m sorry, alright? I've already fucked this up, I know, but I’m sorry. It was a cheap dig at you that I didn't realise would upset you so much.” He blurted, finally finding his tongue. “And I know I’m saying this wrong as well, who would have thought someone that took English at a-level would be so bad with words, I know! And I’m blabbering but-” He took a breath, finally looking back at Lockwood and- oh.
Lockwood was looking back, eyes widened.
“I don't… blame you now for acting how you did. I only realised after what I said and what it meant.” He finished, voice quiet.
For a moment there was no movement. But then, slowly, Lockwood turned to fully face him, his hip leaning on the stone. “You're done?” he asked, dangerously.
Mute, Dakin nodded.
Lockwood then began his own speech. “I’m sorry I hit you. But what you said hurt me, and I guess in that moment I thought hurting you was the only way of getting revenge.” Dakin raised an eyebrow but said nothing. “Although, now that you're here and you said that, I suppose I didn't need to. You weren’t aware of what you were stepping into, right? When you said that?”
Again he nodded.
“Why, then?” Lockwood opened his mouth to say more but instead just shook his head and closed it again.
“I didn't think it was anything, before.” a chill spring breeze shook through the willows then, and Dakin shivered. “I didn't realise it affected you that badly. Back then you seemed… well, you seemed like I do now, I guess. Unaffected, to an extent.”
Those last words lay flat now, up for the grabs, but none of them took it. Of course, this didn't mean that any of them couldn't be thinking it. Lockwood thought it over, and yes, he supposed all of them were unaffected by it in some ways and affected in others. Had any of the others had such a ‘freak out’, as it were? He wasn't sure. He did know, however, that he had, and in this current situation that was all that mattered. He may have just been the only one to act like he had because of his upbringing. His memories of his father, although thankfully few and not especially pleasant, were always enough to send him spiralling. Memories of Hector combined with those of his father were enough to last him a lifetime of trauma. ‘It’s over’ he had to remind himself, but in those first three or so months of being here it was harder to believe. But now, looking at Dakin in the afternoon light, he didn't need to think about those rat bastards. He could focus on the now, not the then, and not the when.
Now was all that mattered now, so everything else could wait.
“Okay.” he finally said, nodding. His voice cracked when he said it, but Dakin didn't comment. “Okay, I. I forgive you, but for fucks sake Dakin, don't do that again.”
Dakin smiled, obviously tired. “I don't plan on it mate.”
A clapping emerged from behind him and Dakin turned around, obviously in shock. Crowther smiled at them, his teeth showing. “Finally! I couldn't have done that better myself, mate! Now can we pleaseforget about all that angst-y shit and go to The Maypole? I’d die for a cider right now.”
Lockwood laughed, “Sure. You’ll get the first round though.” He said.
“If only you’d realised earlier that that apologies exist, hey Dakin?”
Dakin smirked, “If only.” And then fell into stride beside them both.