This is the first of the just-written chapters, so we’re flying by the seat of our pants. Ah well, at least they’re new ones now, rather than recycled…
The Beast of Bodmin Moor
A single word thrilled through Jake’s veins. Mine. So clear it could have flitted from Phin’s lips. PJ stood before him, staring at Jack with the most imploring puppy dog eyes on the planet.
You should take it from here, Phin needs you.
“He’s on his way…” Jack swiped a little lick across PJ’s nose and nuzzled close, breathing him in. Jake?
Jack backed up a bit and dragged his focus from the face that would remain ever imprinted on his mind’s eye, forcing it inwards. Dragging a tractor uphill with a tow rope clenched between his teeth would have been a breeze in comparison. Jack closed his eyes and concentrated on the silent shimmer crouched at his centre. Jake. Caught the baton. Never had a shift been so simple to pull off, as if he’d abruptly acquired the parachute packing technique of Mary bloody Poppins. It was the swiftest sock up a hoover pipe that had ever been schllurrped.
Jake’s skin still had it’s post-shift sheen when he rose to his feet, sizzling with static. Those stargazy eyes, aflame with amber, brimming with a world of words unsaid. Bewitching. Jake bent to cup PJ’s face and press a kiss to the top of his tufty head.
“You’ve got this…I love you. Come back to me, Phin.”
Jake straightened up and stepped back, giving him space. For a long moment, PJ stood, staring at Jake as if he’d soon vanish from view. Then his eyelids slid shut. Jake sensed the shift before it was visible, smelled the intensification of cinnamon spice when the air started to shimmer, surrounding him with an aura of soft wavering light, hazy with heat. Jake watched, entranced, every sense vibrating with awareness, as if they were tuned to the energy waves emanating from Phin.
He hadn’t realised how…transcendent it would seem. Stupidly, when it was a bit of a no-brainer that shifting surpassed the limits of ordinary—human—experience. Way beyond the boundaries of ‘normal’, even when one’s baseline inhabited a stratosphere of its own. How the hell could Phin, who felt everything to ‘excess’, emerge from such a sensory onslaught uscathed? Fuck. Jake’s blood abruptly ran as cold as the clammy sweat that prickled across his skin.
How cruel it would be if Phin—whose affinity with his jackal self eclipsed Jake’s—found the process of reclamation so scratchy it triggered…fucknows what. He didn’t even know what label had been slapped on Phin or the strictures it imposed on his life. Nor how he ‘managed’ his ‘special needs’, or even if that terminology was correct. Jake hadn’t wanted to pry, to make it an issue of something that didn’t adversely affect his feelings, for fear that Phin might think Jake found it a ‘problem’ that necessitated discussion. If ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’? Jake had pretty much fitted Phin with roller skates and shoved him downhill.
Which part of ‘Wheeee!’ didn’t you quite catch?
“Phin…” His name fell from Jake’s lips as a prayer when the warped blur of fur and fog settled, stilling to a slight tremor of air around the miracle crouched on the grass. All present and correct—every excessive inch—luminous in shades of silver and shadow, kissed by moonlight.
“Jake…” Phin raised his head and prised his lids apart, lips curving in a slow smile as dazed as those eyes. Dark pools of bottomless brown, no longer ablaze with amber. Beautiful. “Are y’okay?”
“Me?” Jake spluttered, staggered. He dropped to his haunches and brushed a rogue strand of tufty fringe aside before cupping Phin’s face. “It’s you that matters, I—”
“You smell a funny colour…sort of salty like peanut brittle, blimey I’m starving. I’m…feel as if I’ve been run over a bit.
“A bit. As opposed to…say?” Jake’s inane grin was ungovernable; the flood of relief so great he felt light-headed. Phin, his Phin, was present in those eyes, not lost to Jake in a too much overload that snatched away all he loved.
“Steamrollered? Squished like Tom after he’s been through the mangle.”
“Tom and Jerry?” Jake checked, as if that mattered more than the million questions he must ask before his ignorance did untold damage to Phin.
“Yes…Jake, why are you all frowny faced? Have you done changing your mind but feel responsib—”
“NO!” Jake cut in, too horrified to let Phin finish. “I’m sorry, I…I was afraid—Phin let’s get you inside, you need warmth and rest and—”
“Stop fussypotting, you daftie…” Phin butted in, planting his palms on the grass to push himself up. “I’m fi—ooouch!”
“See? Stay there…” Jake sprang to his feet and bent to scoop a chuntering Phin into his arms, “Stop cussing, I’m carrying you…”
“Bossy boots…now there’s a thought, will you do putting those on later?”
“My boots? But I’m not getting dressed…” Jake noted, knocking the door lever down with an elbow and pushing it open with his backside, which was bare and far warmer than the wood. “Fuck that’s cold…”
“You have the hottest bott on the planet that’s why, I’ve lost the plot now, where was I? My head is fuddled. Ah, that’s it…why would you do that? We haven’t been to sleep yet. Blimey, I’m thirsty, can we have hot toddies?”
“Sounds good to me…then I’ll run you a bath, your body’s still been through the mill, no matter how fast you recover.” Jake told him, carrying Phin through to the front room and depositing him on the sofa.
“Oh good…I didn’t want to be put to bed, I haven’t had my tablets yet. Thank you…” Phin smiled when Jake snagged the fleece throw off his armchair to tuck around him. “You don’t need to do fussing, I’m fine, I promise. Will you be having my bath too?”
“If you want me to…”
“’Course I do…Jake, will you do being honest?” Huge, imploring eyes gazed up at Jake, clouded with doubt. “Are you regretting…me?”
“Regret? Nothing could be further from the truth…” Jake sank to his haunches, searching Phin’s face. “Why…are you?”
“Never. You just seem strange, not distant…p’raps a bit. Sort of…careful.”
He means you’re acting like a wet lettuce.
“I was afraid…you might not come back to me, that it might have…broken you somehow. The too muchness of it all…I should have asked so many things I didn’t—”
“That’s why you’re being all careful? I can’t be broked, I don’t think—not by stuff that happens to me—I do turning inwards, like hiding in my safe room. I can do way worse to m’self with far less effort, so don’t worry, you needn’t do being careful…’kay? Not knowing why—fretting that I’ve done something wrong—makes me scratchy, not too muchness. Anyhoo, I had you. You had no one.”
“Yes but nothing, can we have hot toddies now? You’re too naked for chatting if you want me to do more listening, it’s very distracting.”
“You’re impossible, you know that?” Jake groaned.
“Yup, it’s one of my best things…” Phin beamed, utterly unrepentant. “You have too many to do mentioning, but you excess at being naked. Is it bath time yet?”
“What happened to your hot toddy?”
“I’ve been wondering that for the last ten minutes…oddly ’nuff.”