Happy Weekend 🥰 Thank you so much for your support for their story ❤️ Phin’s chapter is a mite maudlin so I’ve included Jake’s chapter too.
Phin’s part contains self-harm which doesn’t endanger him, but I should hate it to trouble you. It can be ignored entirely (or read down to the stars *** and skip to Jake’s) without losing the plot. Suffice to say, Phin returns to the moors that evening.
The Beast of Bodmin Moor
Phin tugged his jeans on and ruffled his flattened hair, then stooped to peer at his face in the cloudy mirror. Not that it mattered…Jack had seen more than enough of it already. How he must wish he hadn’t lost his clothes, then he p’raps wouldn’t have happened upon Phin in the first place. Let alone stuck around ’til he woke up and it was too light for a starkers strollabout. It still wasn’t dark enough, so Jack was stuck with him until Phin drove him home. If only, he hadn’t admitted that he wouldn’t mind Jake ‘in anywhere’. That had been unseemly, extremely. And presumptive.
“I-I…don’t think…I can’t, it’s not sa—”
Phin wasn’t sure what any of that meant…but knew it meant nothing he wanted to hear. It was just a clatter of words that screamed; ‘back off, it was just a bloody blow job.’ Phin had a sneaky suspicion that Jake’s word salad sentence boiled down to: ‘I’m just not that into you‘. That’s what people really meant when they used a lot of words to dump your ass without suffering uncomfy consequences, wasn’t it?
Phin had attempted the pretend-it-doesn’t-matter-a-bit thing. That’s how you acted considerate about being dumped: No probs. I’m fine, it’s all fine. Fine, fine fine.
Fine (adj): Fuck awful.
Adding a c’est la vie shrug ‘n’ smile so people didn’t feel bad for making you feel bad was the icing on the considerate cake. Phin had tried. It was tricky to say how it had turned out when he hadn’t been able to focus past the fact he’d needed Jake to go. Leave Phin alone so he could do concentrating on clawing back a bit of comfiness.
His whole self had felt like a silent shriek. So Phin had shut down, to hold it inside. He hadn’t wanted Jake to see. He’d seen far too much already. Much too much too-muchness. But Phin had somehow forgot himself in the face of Jake. All the things that made it extremely important to ward the world away and its dagger-shooting-glare-of-shame with it.
Jake didn’t respond to the offer of a lift home, which made Phin even more scratchy. He just sort of wavered about instead, as if wondering whether to pat Phin’s head or flee before the fallout. The latter would have been Jake’s best bet. Phin had to hold it all in, until he’d gone. It was doable, Phin had done it a trillion times before. It was p’raps akin to being eaten alive by maggots… far preferable to the Glare.
The bathroom mirror wasn’t about to offer up any words of wisdom any time soon, so Phin checked that it was sporting the correct-expression-for-the-occasion: his feeling fine face. A last glance at his cuffs assured him that his jumper seams were not on the outside, safely away from Phin’s skin (screaming loon-on-the-loose). That was a daft thing to do, it must be admitted, but he was too scratchy to tell without looking.
After doing a deep breath, which was supposed to help somehow—it did not—Phin pushed the loo door open. The utter silence that greeted him should have been blissful. It was not. The empty van was a void into which Phin’s stupid, hopeful heart plummeted. Jake had gone. Phin had never felt so alone, which was weird, when that should have been a wonderful thing. ‘Alone’ wasn’t like this, though. Alone was pottering about, as cosy as can be, but this…coshed him with an emotion so strange, he wasn’t sure what it was. Only ‘loss’ seemed similar, but that was a different sort of sadness. This sort was sucking the air out of his lungs. Suffocating him.
Phin shoved the loo door shut with his back and slumped against it, scrunching his eyes tight shut. Then slid downwards, until he was curled as small as he could make himself and pressed his forehead to his bent knees. He never knew how long he stayed put, listening to what loneliness felt like. Long enough that his bum went numb.
How Phin wished his mind would follow suit, but not even his bedtime tablets could perform that miracle. Maybe take those and try to go to sleep? He’d forgotten about them last night, so it wouldn’t count as snaffling an extra dose. Phin wasn’t tired, but he rarely was. Hence the need for the knockout drops, because staying awake for a week was ‘bad for him’. Going to bed was the bane of his life. Boring beyond belief (that might be a catchy turn of phrase but Phin sure as strewth-I’m-bloody-bored, believed it). He hated being still and doing nothing to dispel the scratchy. But this nothingness was much worse; he’d rather claw his own skin off than feel it.
Phin knew he was being daft. He hadn’t lost Jack, who hadn’t been his to lose. Not even a friend, let alone a…lover? Boyfriend? Jake couldn’t even be classed as a one night stand; that would be an upgrade in the ranks of brief encounters. Theirs had been thong-sized. Aptly enough, when it was as vividly scored into Phin’s memory as cheese-wire through Cheddar.
It had been too good to be true. Full stop. Dreams never had a real life Phin to sabotage them. The sudden slash of self-loathing that scythed through his system blitzed Phin’s brain with scarlet bile. Sosooostupid. Their tea cups sat, as serene as can be, on the counter top, mocking him. A surge to his feet and swift sweep of an arm sent them crashing to the floor in a spatter of tea spray like dirty rain. Every bit as grubby—not good enough—as he’d always known himself to be. Wired all wrong, for all to see, as if Not Like You was tattooed on Phin’s forehead in fancy font. The gnawing need to smash everything in sight was scalding; a scorch so intense that a bit of spontaneous combustion should have saved Phin the satisfaction.
* * *
All the hopes Phin should never have permitted shelf space, shattered. For the briefest, brightest of moments, there they’d glistened, unfathomably within reach. Destroyed in one hapless instant, as surely as the porcelain shards scattered underfoot. A glint of light glanced off a fragment shaped like a shark’s tooth, ensnaring Phin’s gaze. He bent to pluck it off the floor, a jagged remnant of its former self. He would keep it, he knew; a single treasure salvaged from the day his foxy friend came to stay, for a while, at least. ‘A while’ worth all the teacups in China.
Phin closed his hand around it and held tight, lest he lose it, then slid back down the door. Until he unfurled his fingers to examine his prize, he hadn’t felt the icy burn that promptly blazed a trail up his arm. His fingers were too numb to take any notice. He couldn’t feel them, just the searing sting scored across all four, where their ‘bend here’ line used to be.
Bummer, the ivory shark’s tooth was now smeared scarlet, t’boot. Phin’s palm felt squelchy with stickiness. Nowhere else hurt, though. He didn’t even feel scratchy. His head was a bit whizzy, which felt preferable to having a hatchet buried in it. The burn itself felt…cleansing, which made sense in the funeral pyre scheme of things. The blood was dripping down Phin’s forearm now, decorating it like ruby trickles of melted candle wax down a wine bottle. The screeching soreness was wearing off, which was a bit rubbish; it had helped to have that single pulse of pain to focus on.
The scratchy was coming back too, clawing at Phin’s arms and legs. A fire-ants-scurrying- under-his-skin sensation so intense he should be able to see them. It was driving him demented. One swift slash across his inner forearm, where the creepy-crawling was worst, might expunge a few. Thousand. Oops, that turned out a tad wider than expected. The shark’s tooth was p’raps thicker than a blade. Ah well. Its scorch seemed to warm him through as it radiated from the gash, gathering force, rather than subsiding. His brain felt as numb as his bum and fingers now, which was a plus, but he felt a bit squiffy, which was not. Phin hadn’t had a jot to drink. He definitely didn’t want to wake up two days running with a hangover after nary a hot toddy to make it seem worthwhile. P’raps he should take his tablets, then go and have a lie down. He was a bit dizzy, as if he’d been spinning on the spot to make the world go whizzy.
Phin swallowed his pills with a slurp of water from the tap, then held his upturned arm under the flow. Drying blood felt as if your skin was shrinking, which was never a fun thought to trigger. Particularly before bed…which was where Phin should comport himself, before his nook took on the look of a…rook’s nest. Or was it a crow’s? The lookout bucket at the top of a ship’s mast to scan the horizon for scurvy dogs. That would do—it didn’t rhyme though—so the rook would just have to snaffle it. Like a cuckoo. Oops…he had an aviary already.
His head was getting a bit out of hand. Flopping down before he fell over would be a cunning plan indeed, Phin decided. He felt almost euphoric with relief when he snuggled under the duvet and dragged it over his head. Phin loved the dark—far more than any particular season—night was his favourite time of day. It made him feel safe. Even the bittersweet tang of tears felt comforting in his cosy cave under the covers…
Urgh… When Phin peered above the duvet he really wished he hadn’t. Ouch. His head hurt…and his eyes were sore. And his arm. Fingers. His toes seemed okay, which was not to be sniffed at when they tended to bear the brunt of mishaps. Phin needed a pee something chronic, so he’d have to drag his arse out of bed. Dammit. He also needed to buy loo roll, he remembered—which he had not—yesterday. That meant people. Double dammit. He didn’t want to see anyone at all, beset as he was by a stroppy ‘if I can’t see Jack, I don’t want to see anyone ever again, so there’, sort of mood.
Phin squinted down at the angry slash on his arm, which was a bit puffy ‘n’ purple. It wasn’t bleeding any more, but the duvet looked as if it had been tie-dyed in rusty water. After blowing out a huge huff, Phin threw back the covers and scrambled around to lower himself to the floor. Pee ‘n’ tea. Then what? Quite why he asked himself this, when he knew damn well that he’d be off to the moors later, Phin knew not. It wasn’t as if he had the luxury of choice. That was fruitloop delusion more excessive than conjuring up furry friends with eyes that gleamed aquamarine.
Jake & Jack
It was with utmost gratitude that Jake grabbed his jacket off it’s hook. His shift had seemed endless. He’d twitched his way through it, antsy and distracted by an internal pacing too relentless to ignore. The slivers of patience Jake could lay claim to had been whittled away to naught and his now nerves were frazzled to fuck.
After fleeing from the camper van Jake had let Jack have his head—literally—it had been a relief to hand the reins over. Take a back seat, become a mere passenger to his instincts; let Jack indulge in pure and simple pleasures, guilt-free and glad to be alive. Gone was the gut-wrenching grief of what-might-have-been, the gnawing knowledge that Jake had hurt the least-deserving lover he never had.
Flinging himself into the wind, Jack flew with the fur ruffling breeze, without a care in the world. Except for catching a whiff of rabbit before the heavens opened. Nevertheless, Jake was glad when it started hammering down a few hours later, which lessened their chances of being spotted on the way home. The winding lanes were either flanked by trees or bordered by high hedgerows, safe from streetlights and random passers by. His cottage backed onto woods, which made the risk of being observed minimal. There was a spare door key secreted in the rockery and Jake kept an emergency stash of clothes in the shed, for such unforeseen incidents. One naked stroll was quite enough for the foreseeable.
Jake had not spent the time before his shift sulking. No, not at all. He’d been practicing his guitar, having a shower and tidying up. Useful things. Keeping himself busy until he went to work.
He had managed four hours without biting anyone’s head off, just about, and now… freedom beckoned. It was nearing half-eleven and the moon was high in the sky, casting it’s ghostly glow over their labyrinth lanes home. The night was young and the jackal was eager to be unleashed upon it. Much to the mutts chagrin, Jake had laid down the law. No midnight excursions, we can’t risk heading to the moors. Not tonight.
Jake found himself flat out a few seconds later, clutching his guts, wracked with pain. Clawed by phantom paws with a glee so rabid he should be quarantined.
You and whose army this time?
They appeared to be moorward bound whether Jake liked it or not…and unless he fancied spending the rest of his life four-footed and furry, he had no choice whatsoever. Thus, Jake headed home and had a quick cuppa before stripping down to his boxers and heading to the shed. After stashing some clean sweatpants and t-shirts in there, he leaped barefoot over the garden fence and sprinted off into the night. Once safely in the woods, Jake let go, indulging the jackal in some pant-shredding humanity-shedding en route. The night air was calm; clear after the early evening downpour. It was a bit chilly, but not too cold to while away an hour or so amidst the ruins of a tumbledown engine house…
Would Phin even be there, or was the camper van long gone? He may have packed up his shattered pride and fled the memory of the bastard who’d stolen his innocence. Jack was convinced this was cobblers. Jake just knew that’s exactly what he would have done, had their roles been reversed.
Jack’s instincts were, as ever, faultless. The camper van sat serenely on the verge, the soft glow of a nightlight seeping through its drawn curtains. Not a sound came from within, so Jake allowed himself to hope that Phin had, indeed, headed off to his favoured spot.
If Jack could grin with glee? There was no doubt he’d be doing just that. His tongue was lolling from his open mouth, looking dafter than seemed feasible, as he stood scenting the air with eager anticipation. Off he set at a sudden run, skimming sure-footed over stone, rock and clumps of scrubby grass. Phin’s scent, a sparkling thread of promise, luring them with magnetic force. Stronger, richer, now; more mulled wine than cinnamon sugar. More…insistent.
When Jack reached his spying spot behind a crumble-down wall, he hunkered down on the moss with a happy huff of contentment. Phin was sitting exactly where he belonged, facing the engine house ruins with a notebook on his lap. They watched as he scribbled a few words, sometimes a few lines, between bouts of chewing the end of his pen and gazing around as if he were waiting for a tardy friend.
This made them both a bit fretful; no-one had joined Phin before, nor had it seemed they might. Jack craned his head around, scanning the horizon in every direction, but there wasn’t a soul to be seen or scented. The skittish twitches of his skin and ears refused to relent; there was too much at stake. Jack would not, could not, share Phin. He was theirs.
With an unhappy huff of unease, he let his head flop onto his front paws. The small whine that sounded in his throat was involuntary; impossible to quash even if he’d known it was was about to exhibit itself. Phin snapped his head up with an alertness that suggested he’d heard a rifle crack. The pen fell unheeded from his fingers.
“Foxy…?” was a soft expulsion of breath.
Did Phin mean Jake, or the friendly ‘fox’ he’d ‘dreamed’ last night? Rosebud lips pursed around a low whistle and then—in warm, coaxing tones—called out:
‘Here, boy?’ Well fuck. Now there was an invitation Jake had never thought to hear this lifetime. Jack’s butt was twitching, his fur quivering in anticipation. Nooooo!
How the jackal managed to suppress a spring so imminent, Jake knew not, but sure as hell knew they were fucked, seconds later. This, when Phin’s shoulders drooped with a disappointment almost as dreadful as the wilted scent of sorrow that spoiled his own.
Jack was off like a shot, bounding over the rubble.
As bidden… he pointed out before Jake could muster a limp protest. He summoned us; he wants us, we want him, simple.
Summoned? F’fucksakes. Does he have a death wish, or is Phin so certain you mean him no harm?
There was no trace of uncertainty on Phin’s face, nor fearful souring of his scent. He didn’t even flinch when a furry missile came flying through the air, aimed his way. Instead? A huge beam of joy put the starlight to shame when Jack skittered to a stop a few feet from Phin’s right thigh. Tongue lolling out in a goofy grin.
A most undignified one. Indecent, in fact.
Jack didn’t give a stuff. Particularly when Phin extend his fingers towards him, stilling them several inches from his nose. When Jack stretched forwards to snuffle them, Phin’s chuckle was so charming, he could scarce restrain from swiping the hand a lick.
“Good boy…hello…” His endearment was a melted chocolate murmur…Jack wanted to lick that too.
Good boy!? For chrissakes. He’ll be off to buy you a collar and lead tomorrow.
Soft limit, or hard? Suit yourself, I’m in.
Jack couldn’t resist tasting those fingertips for a second longer. They were being wafted under his nose like the tastiest of treats. It would be rude to rebuff them. Very rude. And Jack was a gent.
Oh, do pipe down at the back.
Which is exactly how it feels, dogbreath. Stuck in the backseat of a car, watching a mate cop off with your not-so secret crush.
Mate, huh? I’m touched. Well, buckle up and sit tight, buddy, it’s my turn. You had yours. Then—if I recall rightly—gave him the brush off and buggered off without so much as a word of farewell. Thus, it seems a leetle bit likely that you’re in the dog house, remember? You’ll find it located at one of the Poles, or thereabouts, I reckon. Laters…