Hiya, I added the final chapter – Jake – beneath Phin’s, as it insisted on being so brief. We’ll be paying them one more visit for an epilogue. Thank you, as always for being here.🥰
The Beast of Bodmin Moor
“Hold on…” Jake instructed, after pressing a kiss to the tip of Phin’s nose.
Scant seconds later, he’d done sitting up and shifted them round to plant his feet on the floor and push himself up. With Phin clinging on like a lanky monkey. He’d never felt so light, fragile, in his life, which was a bit bonkers when he’d never been less breakable. But, the fact still stood, despite being about five inches taller than Jake. It wasn’t a frequent thing to feel as weightless as a wisp of gossamer when lifted aloft, at six foot plus. Phin liked it. A lot.
Jake’s sharp inhalation made his eyes flare wide but, nose like a sniffer dog aside, Phin was pressed a smidge too close for jackal-in-the-box antics to go unnoticed.
“What on earth did you just think?” Jake chuckled. “Your scent spiked so sharply my knees nearly gave out.”
“Do I have to tell?” Phin asked, slamming his lids shut before cranking one open a smidge for a peep.
“No…but I’m now more curious than I was, which Jack finds frustrating.”
“I think you use Jack like old folks use their age to suit themselves, so they don’t have to do remembering stuff that sucks rocks. Or ‘hearing’ it in the first place. It was p’raps about feeling as light as a feather—literally—when you do lifting me, and liking it. A lot.”
“A lot, huh?” Jake grinned, rather than rebuff the blaming Jack part, as Phin had hoped. Bummer. “As for Jack…he likes that ‘snippet of info’ far too much. So, make what you will of that…while I go and run your bath and change the sheets…” Jake smirked, lowering Phin to the sofa. The second he was seated, the scoundrel turned tail and scampered off, leaving Phin far too foxed by Sphinxy riddles to do fathoming left from right. Or Jake from Jack…which was p’raps the point. Of what? Phin wasn’t sure. He was too flummoxed.
Only one fact seemed certain; he would never do getting to the bottom of things that made Jake fascinating…or bored of the bottom that had just done slinking off with a wink of the dimples above its sumptuous swell.
The scent of essential oils soon did wafting down the stairs…lavender, the sweet, herbal smell of chamomile…and one more, a minty woodsy whiff. Phin realised that he could hear the bath do filling up—not just the whoosh of the water from the tap—the sound was getting deeper, denser, as the level rose. His ears could still do picking up the noises from the bedroom as Jake rustled about; shaking out a sheet, having a scrap with the duvet cover. Phin was about to go and offer to do helping; it was his mess, but Jake was so super-swift he’d finished before Phin could do acting on the thought.
The taps turned off and a few seconds later Jake reappeared in the doorway.
“Your bath awaits, sir…if it doesn’t smell orange. I hope?”
“Nope…lavender, laced with chamomile…and…something else, just as green. Thank you, Jake…” Phin did smiling from under his lashes, blushing a bit. He’d come over all unnecessary. He liked that turn o’phrase a lot, but he’d never done feeling it before.
“Y’welcome…ready? Fireman’s lift or—” The fireman’s lift part ignited such a scorch of memory that Jake broke off on a rakish grin. Then did bending to clasp Phin’s right wrist and lift the arm aloft before tucking his tousled head beneath it. A snatched-off breath later, Phin was upside down with the best view in all of Kernow. Nope, scotch that… watching it bunch, tighten and roll its way upstairs was sublime. “There y’go…” Jake’s voice was raspy raw when he lowered Phin’s feet into the water. It did lapping at his calves in a silken caress, slithery with oil. “Clary sage…that’s the other green smell. It’s an antispasmodic…I kept cramping for days…”
“After your first shift?” Phin wondered. When Jake just did a tight-lipped nod, a flicker of thought suggested a second question: “Did you try to do repressing stuff—fight it—next time?”
“Yeah…” Jake did a sigh so heartfelt it made Phin’s ache for him. Neither of them did acknowledging the cause and effect consequences of Jake’s answer aloud. They were as clear to Phin as the water rippling round his legs. Oh, he hadn’t done sitting down yet. Duh.
Phin sank to his haunches and did parking his bum before shifting back a bit to make way for Jake. When he’d done stepping into the bath, Jake turned to present him with Phin’s favourite perspective on life, then clasped his bent kneecaps to do sinking between his legs.
“Mmmm…” That happy hum of sound happened on its ownsome when Jake did leaning against Phin’s chest. A sultry slip-slide of moist heat that was sheer bliss. A shade of buttermilk so luscious, he might get partial to baths for the first time in forever. Phin was too fidgety to ‘do relaxing’ and too clumsy to do reading while having a soak. That left one thing. Shooting yourself in the eye wasn’t a lot of fun, so Phin preferred to do showering, oddly ’nuff.
“Oh, I needed this…” Jake’s sigh was a spectrum apart from his last one.
“Is it my fault?” Phin had to do asking because he dreaded the answer.
“No….far from it. It’s mine. You didn’t cause any of this, I did. I’m just tense, that’s all. Strung too tight, waiting for…the worst to happen.”
“What would the worst be?” Phin murmured, wrapping his arms around Jake.
“Doing you irreparable damage…” Came the instant response. “Not just physical…”
“You were far too late to do damaging my head, y’daftie.” Phin assured him. “So you needn’t do fretting about that.”
“Your head isn’t damaged..or wasn’t until people tried to persuade you it was.” Jake grunted. “What is Mr. Neil supposed to help you with, Phin?”
“Cognitive behavioural malarkey. It hasn’t done making a jot of difference,” Phin admitted. “He’s very good at his job, I’m just a rubbish customer. P’raps it does working better when OCD is the issue, not a spin-off? I don’t know but my autism thinks it’s shady and does shooting it a suspicious side-eye. The colour stuff is separate…that’s just like being left-handed.” There. That was all of it…sort of. The rest was consequences…like cutting, but Jake knew about that.
“I suspect your instincts are too strong to slip anything ‘shady’ past them,” Jake chuckled. “Logic can’t touch ’em either, so I doubt it matters what’s drilled into your brain…”
“It doesn’t have a hope in hell now…turning foxy is not a jot logical, is it?” Phin couldn’t help but do grinning. “Jake, can I ask something that does defying all logic to me?”
“Should I be worried?” Oops, it seemed to be Jake’s turn to do slanting a shifty side-eye.
“It’s more a past thing, than a future fear?” Phin hedged. Jake didn’t do tensing in response, nor did his scent sour, so… “If jackals mate for life, why would she scarper after finding you at Glastonbury? ‘How’ makes even less sense…I’d rather die than do leaving you.” Phin felt as matter of fact about that as the clean duvet being claret.
“It didn’t seem strange at the time…nor since, until we met. Now? I’d rather drop dead than abandon you, so…I have two theories: either she’s the anomaly, the exception that proves the rule, if y’like. That’s my preferred option. Or—how I hope this isn’t true—maybe she lost her mate? Grief’s a force as powerful as the love it mourns…if anyone hurt you I’d be quite capable of tearing them apart with my teeth and considering that justice. Unless it’s as simple as searching for second best…which never winds up feeling enough.”
“I hope she finds someone she can’t do leaving, if that’s her story, it’s so sad. I wish you hadn’t suffered for her hurts but…” Phin trickled off, the rest of that sentence reeked all wrong and felt like rusty nails. Forgiveness was Jake’s to give.
“I know…walk a mile in her shoes, then judge her harshly, huh…?” Jake snuffed a sigh then did adding, “I’d rather she was heartless than heartbroken, t’be honest. Following in those paw prints is the last thing on Earth I’d want to do…”
“I can’t help but be glad she was a jackal…rather than say…a wolf.” Phin ’fessed up. “I would be a rubbish pack member. Having to follow lots of scratchy laws would do driving me demented. Too much bossing about would make me miffy…so I might forget to do remembering the rules and get bitted for being bad. Besides…I just want to be with you. I don’t want to do sharing.”
“I wouldn’t wish being stuck with me on my worst enemy, y’know,” Jake countered, which was the daftest thing Phin had ever heard anyone (else) do saying. It’s top spot was blink-n-miss it brief: “I’m fuck-awful company, and you deserve so much more…”
“You’re the only company I’ve ever wanted to do keeping, so I feel m’self fortunate to be ‘stuck’ with it, you nutter. There is no more than you, and that’s that.”
“I’m the nutter? Thinking yourself fortunate for being stuck with me makes you certifiable. We should book you an appointment with Mr. Neil sharpish, see if he has any shady tips to imparrh fuck…” Jake tangled his fingers into the tufty hair hovering above his shoulder when the shell of his ear was accosted by a trickle of tongue. The lapping at its lobe ceased when teasing teeth sank into soft flesh and a feathery trail of fingertips started heading south, snatching away the last of Jake’s breath. Ah well…there was all the time in the world for talking. Surrender had never felt so sweet. Or permissible. Letting his lids glide shut, Jake inhaled a lungful of the most intoxicating smell of all, the mulled wine scent of his mate.
“Kneel up, ’kay? I want to do washing you…” Phin murmured against Jake’s neck after leaving the hot imprint of his lips there. The blood that prickled to the surface—blooming to a bruise—would be long gone before Jake made it to a mirror.
Phin snaked out a long arm to snag the sponge when Jake grasped the sides of the bath to haul himself to his knees. A spurt of cherry almond preceded the slow sweep of soapy circles that spilled shivers of heat down Jake’s spine. He felt as fluid as the rivulets of water trickling down his skin, lapping at his legs. As languorous as the sultry air.
“Hmm…” Phin could pack more pleasure into a single syllable than ‘bliss’ could encapsulate.
No one responded to stimuli with an absorption that could compare to Phin. Those inimitable eyes, as excessive as his thirst for more. He revelled in every touch, taste, scent, sight, sound, as if he might never know another. As if each was the first…and last. Wringing magic from the most mundane moments; infusing them with more. A self-sustaining energy source, personified.
Logic alone suggested that the flip side of this was—would be—brutal, which went a long way to explaining the ‘scratchy’ and Phin’s fear of it. If he could drink so much joy from things he delighted in doing, then—
You can’t control the air quality he breathes, you pillock. Nor would he thank you for it. In fact, quite the opposite, while we’re on the subject an’ all.
I know that, but—
But nothing. Just be there for him. Jump on the other end of the see-saw. Send him flying again. Obliterate the scratchy with a stronger ‘stimuli’, you fancy schmancy git. If anyone can…
What if I fuck up, fail him?
If? You’re half-human, you lummox. Count on it. Of course you’ll fail him, he’ll fail you. We’ll fuck up. Together. I’d add ‘forever’ there, but it would sound too trite.
You just did.
With incorrigible Phinesse though, y’must admit…
* * *
Fin…epilogue to come…