The Beast of Bodmin Moor
“Shall I cook some bacon while I make our cuppas…?” Phin asked, remembering that he hadn’t remembered to do either. “Or do you want me to drive you home now?”
“Are you hinting that you’d like me to go?” Jack’s lips twitched with one of his twinkly smirks.
“No. I don’t think I’m very good at doing hinting. If I wanted you to leave, I would have said: ‘You’ve been here a long time, do you want to go home now?’”
“Good to know…” Jack’s grin was every bit as glinty as light glancing off glass. “I doubt that could be considered a hint in anyone’s book. I don’t need to go, put it that way, but I don’t want to overstay my welcome, which can’t really be called a welcome, when I wasn’t invited. At all.”
“I’m glad you came anyway,” Phin told him. At which point, Jack’s throat made the strangest sound, like a rusty gate hinge. “Oh, you must be starving, sorry…and I still haven’t put my pants on.” At the mention of the missing bacon, those blues blazed with the sort of hunger that could ‘eat a horse’. Phin would rather drop dead but that was beside the point, which was; putting some pants on and feeding Jack. It was impossible to do concentrating in his presence; Phin’s marbles were too scattered to count, let alone sort. Pants. “D’you mind having it microwaved, it will be quicker?”
“I don’t mind how it’s cooked, I could eat it raw, to be honest.” Jack…did not fib. Weirdo.
“Eww, that’s just wrong. Like orange. Sadly, raw sausage is far too right…that’s just fiendish. I shouldn’t scoff it or I’ll get tapeworms.”
“Tapeworms…oh gawd—” Jack spluttered a snort that segued into a coughing fit o’the chuckles.
“You’re a very noisy guest…it’s going to seem very quiet when you’ve gone,” Phin noted. Aloud. Oops. “I don’t mind the racket, though,” he added, quick as a fox jumping over a lazy log—not a brown one—honeyed grey, he decided. Which meant he forgot to do concentrating on seemliness. “I like your snorts ‘n’ splutters and slurpy sounds. Even your grumbly guts.” A snippet of info that prompted yet more yukking it up. Jack really was oddsome—but in a good way—not a Jaws music sort of way.
“I don’t slurp!” Snorted he.
“You did!” Phin insisted. As fact.
“I haven’t had so much as a sip of tea, let alone a slurp.” After indulging in a sniff of affront, Jack added, “That was hinting, by the way.”
“Sorry, I keep meaning to make it, and put my pants on…um, that’s when you slur—” Oh nooo. Phin’s face felt as if it had burst into flames, burning scarlet bright. And his ears.
“Oh… I, er…occupational hazard?” The flushing thing seemed to be infectious, but Jack still managed to rustle up a (rather rosy) quip. Unless he hadn’t…and Phin just had jobs on the brain.
“You were very thoro-ooh I shouldn’t have said that, should I?” Phin wasn’t sure if his ‘eek’ emoji expression—or the least welcome compliment ever—set Jack off again, but he was still hooting away when Phin asked: “Was it shocking unseemly?”
“Unseemly? Oh fuck…I think it’s safe to say it’s far less seemly to invite yourself to someone’s campervan and embark on an obscene racket, ten minutes after saying hello.”
“You didn’t…you said ‘Are you okay’?” Phin informed him.
“How remiss of me,” Jack attempted a solemn expression. It was rubbish, his lips kept twitching. Nooo, still no pants. “It’s probably a good job I don’t go visiting—” Jack forgot to finish his sentence when Phin shot off to the sink as if his (no) pants were on fire. The van would be next if matters progressed apace.
“Was that hinting?” he tossed over his shoulder while busying himself with cups and teabags and sugar and not facing Jack at all.
“Were you doing hinting? Telling me that you won’t be visiting again, in a kind way?”
“No. It was self-deprecation. Like an eye-roll at myself.” Jack explained, sending the blue skywards in illustration. A shade every bit as gorgeous as the gleam of sunlight through stained glass.
“Oh, okay. I’m glad.” Phin was beaming to himself as he (finally) poured the boiled water onto their tea bags and Jack’s sugar mountain. “Um…could you pass me some pants from the second shelf in the cupboard?” he asked, rather than turn around. At all.
“Sure…sorry, about the last pair.” It was barely a breath later that Jack’s blowtorched Phin’s nape. Oh gawd, I’ll be stuck facing the sink forever. “Do you want me to visit again? Despite the din?” Jack’s velvet voice shivered across Phin’s skin in a crackle of static. “Turn around…” His murmur was as soft as the lips ghosting the curve of Phin’s neck…up, up, towards his ear. Every single hair on his body went as quivery as his knees.
“Phin… I’d be disappointed if you weren’t.” Was a wicked whisper of breath. Scorching his earlobe.
Hard. Jack meant hard. A flicker of tongue almost sent Phin’s head shooting through the roof.
“You would?” he sort of gulped.
“Yes…” Jack enclosed the back of Phin’s hand (clutching the counter top) with his own, and slowly, so slowly, drew it downwards…behind. A pause. Was Jack giving him time to tug free? Phin was frozen in flames. That’s how it felt. Then. His palm docked on a stonking ridge of hard heat. Granite encased in soft fleece. “That. Has been like that since…you opened your eyes.”
“All that time?” Phin gasped, agog. Crikey, he would have combusted by now. “Jack, can I ask you a question?” he managed, despite the fact his very own hand was still there.
“Should I be worried?” His voice sounded like sexy velcro. It might be best not to mention that.
“I’m not sure…” Phin frowned, he was too fizzy to think. “I don’t know what makes you worried. It’s not a tricky one,” he assured Jack. Who really didn’t feel worried. Strewth. “Just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.”
“Might you let me make some racket, maybe?” Phin wondered. Oops. Jack’s breath snatched off, alongside his strangest sound yet. “S’okay, I don’t mind if…I mean, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”
“No…you didn’t—” Jack broke off when a new noise made a bid for freedom; the grind of gears after being stuck in the garage all winter. “I…Yes.”
“Yes I can?”
“Yeess. You can.”
Yes!? Phin was so chuffed he almost clenched his fists…but it would have been very hard to have that mishap. Yesss. It was too-good-to-be-true. Too anything was not good. He musn’t get too wound up. Yet.
“Now!? Or is that too soon? Waiting isn’t my best thing,” It was best to mention that, Phin decided. In a before-being-banned-from-the-zoo sort of way. He fretted that things wouldn’t happen if they didn’t happen now.
“Yes…I mean, no, it’s not too soon.” Jack slammed his eyes shut and…gargled some more grit.
Where? How? Kneeling? Sitting down, standing up? Phin’s system let rip a hyperdrive adrenaline rush of anxious. An excessive one. Too much. Can you do this too much? Too fast? Frantic? Lavish? Loud?
“I don’t know why I used ‘Jack’ earlier,” he groaned, rolling his eyes at himself again. “I rarely do…I’ve been called Jake for as long as I can remember…”
“You were a tad…distracted. I like both, Jake suits you too, it’s more…rakish. Less solid, not as safe as Jack.” Ja…ke looked a smidge staggered. Why? Ahh. “‘Til you add Sparrow, o’course.” Phin grinned, having solved that and finally happened upon an exception that proves the rule and made some sort of sense. “At least they sound similar, I’m glad you didn’t tell me it was Herbert all of a sudden. I’ll try to do remembering and not make a muddle, but ‘Jack’ might be stubborn. I did manage earlier though, or you’d still be Foxy.”
“Foxy?!” Ja—ck let rip another splutter.
“Oops, sorry. It came from a dream I had last night, about a fox. Well, sort of…his colouring was amiss and his eyes were as blue as yours. Which is weird, because only huskies have blue eyes. Anyhoo, when I woke up and I saw yours, I thought they were his for a mo.”
“I…was it a nice dream or a…nightmare?” Jack looked fretful, which was daft, when Phin was fine. Far finer than fine.
“Oh, it was brilliant. Most of mine are…dreadful. Full of dread, chilling. They make me want to claw my skin off rather than suffer it but I don’t want to talk about that anymore,” Phin said-all-in-a-rush; which still made him sound like a loon, but for less long. “Last night I wasn’t scared at all. I thought Foxy was…a friend.”
“A friend.” Jack smiled, sort of sadly. It wasn’t upside down though, it just felt that way.
“I wanted to ask… I’m worried that I’ll do it too much.” Phin swivelled his eyes downwards so that Jack—Jake—might get his drift, as it were.
“I don’t think that’s possible, unless…you bit down.”
“I’m not going to bite, I promise. No raw sausage scoffing mishaps.”
“I…There’s really no answer to that.” Jack clamped his lips shut, shoulders quaking as he tried to stifle his latest fit of the splutters.
Ja—ke laughed as if it was the last thing he might ever do. With his entire self…and yet, he never seemed to be laughing at Phin. Or picking him apart to find fault. Jake had never sneered, nor even shot Phin that look; the gut curdling, steel jaw trap one. The dagger-shooting glare of shame. That’s why Phin preferred being on his own; he was safe from eyes. It was a relief. A huge, whole self sigh of relief.
So why wasn’t his skin all scratchy yet, or his head screeching for silence? It was all most odd. Phin was starting to suspect that his own ‘Jack’ might just be too many exceptions that prove the rule to count…