The Beast of Bodmin Moor
“That’s not a bad thing, by the way. I’d very much fancy being deflowered by a breeches-ripper. Oops…I shouldn’t have fessed up, should I? Was it unseemly?”
Jake was damned if he could fathom an answer to that. How the hell was Phin still alive? It was a bloody good job he’d remained a virgin if that was his fantasy night out. A dream date with a breeches-ripper. F’fucksakes.
Lightweight. I’m in. Jack the Ripper at your service, sir…
If Phin belonged to him (Jake ignored the horrific warmth that thrilled through his body at this, most forbidden of thoughts), he’d never let him out alone. Ever. And possibly insist on cuffing Phin to his own wrist when they ventured out together. Oh, Christ.
“Are you okay? You just did a big groan. A ‘despairing’ one, rather than indigestion induced. Don’t fib, I would recognize that sound even if my ears fell off.”
“There’s no need to fib. I did—but it was self-directed—you didn’t cause it. So, next time you hear it, assume the same and you won’t be wrong. But yeah, I’m fine. Except I really should get my arse into gear and get out of your hair, before you’re sick to the back teeth of me.”
“I want to do a despairing groan now, directed your way. You made yourself sound like nits. I don’t want those, it would drive me demented. I’m too scratchy already. I don’t mind you ‘in my hair’…and you can assume the same in anywhere else. So you needn’t worry, or wonder.” Phin shrugged, as if he’d admitted something of no consequence whatsoever. Rather than offered himself up as a virgin sacrifice to slaughter.
You’re such a melodrama queen. You should watch more French porn and less schlock horror, it’ll do wonders for my constitution. Killjoy.
Jake did not deign to respond.
The only dignity you’ll glean from that, is in defeat, and y’know it. Whatever you’re about to spout now is deluded in the extreme...and thus, doomed to defeat. Amateur.
“Phin… ” Crap. No matter how he phrased this, it was going to reek of a rebuff—
”I-I…don’t think…” Jake tripped over his treasonous tongue, tried again. “I can’t, it’s not sa—”
“S’okay! Sorry…I didn’t exp—” Phin broke off in a flurry of unruly limbs, scuffling backwards in an effort to clear the table top before nutting the damn thing when he staggered to his feet. “Agghfck!”
“Y’okay?” Jake winced, springing up to…stand there uselessly, unsure whether Phin would allow—let alone welcome—touch. The offer of comfort from the one who’d inflicted the hurt.
Phin was a ‘mishap’ waiting to happen left to his own devices. The last thing he deserved was added insult to injury. The thought of Phin driving was too dreadful to contemplate, so Jake didn’t. Mostly because he had far more immediate horrors to focus on, such as… the fact he’d fucked everything up. Had made Phin feel unwanted—maybe worse—unwantable, having blatantly sensed a brush off on the way. Mortifying in itself. Brutal; after offering far more than he could afford Jake to crave. Or covet with every fibre of their being, furry or otherwise.
Way to maim him for life, fuckwit. Fix it.
“Phin, I didn’t mean…please don’t think—”
“S’okay. You don’t have to do white lies, or say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. I’m not…slow.” Phin sighed, pressing the heel of his palm to his forehead and kneading, hard. Too hard, after all it had suffered of late. His words had been soft, lilting with acceptance. Aching with self-awareness. The shame that scythed through Jake’s system was scalding.
“I know you’re not…far from it. I wasn’t trying to fob you off, it’s just, I never expec—I-I can’t risk… ” Jake’s pathetic attempt to form an entire sentence stuttered to a pitiful halt. He couldn’t make this right without telling truths so far-fetched it would make matters worse. Even more insulting. Quite a feat after being rejected in the immediate aftermath of blowing someone’s mind. For the first time.
Jake stood, utterly inept, willing Phin to…even look at him. Those inimitable eyes were staring into the far-off distance, unreachable. Cherub lips upturned in a small smile that shrieked ‘quiet courage’. It was impossible to say how, but something had shifted; shuttered Phin off, as if an inner portcullis had come crashing down. His entire frame, every excessive inch, seemed to have shrunk inwards, warding Jake away. Worse—worst of all—was Phin’s cloaking of unnatural calm. Akin to that eerie stilling of air before a storm breaks.
“It’s okay…” he repeated, into the ether. “I’ll just… put some clothes on and drive you home.” Phin hadn’t quite crammed his fingers in his ears and started humming, but it was a close run thing.
Phin wanted Jake gone. And who could blame him? Jake least of all. Home was the last place he wanted to go, but he sure as hell couldn’t stay. Inside, wherever the jackal resided, he could feel Jack’s fretful pacing. The frustration seething beneath the surface of Jake’s skin wasn’t his own. Sort of. It felt physical…a force in itself. A restless, clawing sensation that surged alongside his sudden spike in temperature. Boiling the blood in Jake’s veins as his pores wept sweat. He had to leave. Flee. Fast.
Phin bent to scoop up his scattered clothes, scrunching them into an absent-minded snarl of fabric that belied his unnerving equanimity. Then turned and wandered into the loo without a word, shutting himself inside.
Now. Thought and deed, done in the blink of an eye. Jake snatched the door open and shot outside, tugging it shut behind him. He stood, scanning the expanse of scrubby grass and granitic rubble, isolated in indifferent majesty. As barren as it was bleak to those oblivious to its beauty. Nowhere to hide. Everywhere to run. There was no trace of human scent as far as Jack could smell or see, aside from the most alluring of them all.The autumnal afternoon was overcast; the sky as grey as the ancient rock at his feet. Ominous clumps of cloud hovered in low clusters, hugging the horizon, heavy with the odour of oncoming rain.
The camper van at his back concealed Jake from the road that edged the moor; all before him belonged to it. The borrowed robe was flapping in the wind, still hanging open, so he shrugged it off his shoulders and tossed it onto the bonnet where Phin should spot it before driving off. He daren’t risk the only other option. Threading a window wiper through a belt loop to stop it blowing away was about the best he could do. He might be an utter bastard, but Jake wasn’t about to bugger off with the bathrobe he’d borrowed, t’boot.
He ran, ran like the wind whispering through his hair, grateful for its cool caress on overheated skin. Bare soles skimming scrubby grass and mossy tufts, feathery underfoot as Jake picked up speed. Fast…faster still, until he was but a blur in the distance. Then he let go.
The alien sense of rightness flooded every fibre of Jake’s being when the silent shimmer thrilled through his veins; aflame with a power as primal as the fire trembling down his spine. Unfurling from his very core, it rippled through his body in a fluent stretch that twanged every sinew to screaming point. Joints popping alongside the gut-wrenching grate of bone grinding bone as tendons tore and muscles strained at sheaths. Those final shudders; rolling down his back to spill through reformed flesh as fur flowed over his subterranean self. Excruciating pain, the euphoria of freedom. An agony and ecstasy that echoed the ache in their heart.