White River National Forest was one of those ancient looking forests with towering snowy mountains, tall redwoods and pines, and the bluest skies Waylon had ever seen.
Despite its undeniable beauty, it still had an unsettling kind of feeling to it. It looked like it stretched on forever, and although Waylon knew it had a lot of visitors and even ski resorts, the second they’d stepped into it, he’d still felt like there’d be no real civilization for fifty miles or more. He couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d get lost out here, never quite making it back or to the other side. Maybe it stretched on forever.
To cover up his unease, Waylon kept trying to initiate Miles in conversation, despite the latter's tendency to run off the path to mutter unintelligibly to himself over what he considered strange fauna and flora.
“I thought Bigfoot was supposed to be in Willow Creek, California.” Waylon pushed through some thick bushes with a groan. “Not ‘bumfuck Colorado’, as you so lovingly called it.”
“That’s what they want you to think,” Miles said, tearing away from a rock just long enough to grin over his shoulder. “See, while all the nerds are down there, gettin’ nothing, we’re up here-”
Miles chuckled and pocketed the rock, before finally getting back up. “Oh, ye of little faith.”
This wasn’t exactly Waylon’s idea of a good time, running around in the woods, hunting for Bigfoot or whatever Miles’ flavor of the month was. He’d have been happier with a simple, casual camping trip, full of campfire tales and roasted marshmallows, but that wasn’t Miles’ way. Even if they’d planned it as a simple camping trip, Miles would have found a way to turn it into something a little more mysterious. Whether it was searching for a Bigfoot, or Mothman, or some mythic carnivorous tree. At least this trip wouldn’t be as mired in cheesy tourist traps as their time in Flatwoods.
“Where are we even going? We’ve been out here for hours.”
“You don’t think the Wigidokowok would stay near the main roads, do ya?”
“The Wigidokowok. That’s what my people call them.”
“Your people?” Waylon hoisted his backpack further up on his shoulders. “Since when are you Native American?”
“Uh, since always? My mom’s great grandaunt was Navajo.”
“You told me your mom’s great grandaunt was Irish when we were researching changelings.”
“I was young, then. Naive.” Miles looked at Waylon over his shoulder, no doubt trying to give him a worldly, dignified glance, but it just made him look constipated. “I know better now.”
“We did that just last month.”
Miles pretended that he hadn’t heard.
After walking for what felt like another few hours still, all the while listening to Miles’ chatter about the lack of Bigfoot evidence - the government apparently didn’t want people to know about the hidden connection between Bigfoot and the presidential election - and the evidence he claimed were everywhere, from the broken branches near the path, to the way the forest would go quiet every now and then.
Finally they made camp in a small clearing by a river, smack dab in a deep, dark part of the woods. They had food, purifying tablets and water filters shaped like straws for drinking water and other supplies, enough to last them for at least a couple weeks.
“Uh.” Waylon glanced at the food. “Shouldn’t we put that up in a tree or something?”
Miles looked at him over the stack of tent plugs, clearly confused.
“Huh?” He shook his head. “I told you I was sorry about that carnivorous tree, alright? No need to be smart about it.”
“No, I mean-” Waylon glanced around, before he lowered his voice. “What about bears?”
“Bears?” Miles burst out laughing. “There are no bears here!”
“Jesus. Did you not read the sign on our way in here?” Waylon hated to admit that he was getting more than a little nervous. Usually when Miles got it into his head to research something or whatever, they’d stayed in various tourist traps and smelly motels. He’d thought Miles had some actual experience doing real life camping, but looking at him now, banging the wrong plugs into the ground, he realized Miles didn’t have a clue. “There are bears, and cougars and-”
It was the most Miles thing Waylon had ever heard. Here was the guy who believed in Bigfoot and UFOs, but scoffed at the idea of bears in a national forest. Still, the way Waylon figured, he was going to have to learn on the fly if he wanted to not die and make sure Miles didn’t die either.
Something occurred to him just then.
“God, you did bring rope, right?”
“Of course,” Miles scoffed and shook his head. “How else would we get into Bigfoot’s lair?”
Yeah, Waylon was really glad that he’d come with Miles. Although, if he knew Miles, he’d have survived alone anyway by sheer dumb luck, and come out concerned only with his lack of footage.
“Right,” was Waylon’s only reply.
So, he went over to help Miles with the tent, doing his best to correct Miles all throughout, and ignoring how Miles shook his head and suppressed laughter when he hoisted the bag of food into a nearby tree.
They were going to die. Or at least Waylon was going to die. Knowing Miles, you could drop him in the Sahara desert with nothing but a spade and he’d still find a way to make it out.
Sheer dumb luck indeed.
Things seemed less dire in the morning early sun, as it tended to do.
Miles was whistling while cooking sausages over the campfire. As much as he failed at basic camping knowledge, the man knew his way around food. In the embers he’d placed an old rusty coffee pot, and around the fire he had somehow managed to pull some fallen trees to make some primitive seating areas.
“Morning,” Waylon greeted, reaching a hand up to rub schmutz out of his eyes. “You’re up early.”
“Of course. It’s when they’re the most active during the day.”
Waylon immediately knew who, or what, “they” were, and he didn’t know if that said more about Miles or himself. Still, he took it in stride and sat down near Miles, pouring himself a cup of coffee from the already brewed pot.
The coffee seemed more fragrant out here in the middle of nowhere, and Waylon breathed in deep. The familiar deep, bitter smell meshed with pine needles and Earthy scents to form a strange, yet enticing aroma. It perfectly matched their surroundings. Even in the light of morning, the thick woods still blocked much of the light outside of their clearing, forming an eerie ring of darkness around them.
“So what’s the game plan?”
“Well, first, we have to figure out their habits,” Miles explained, vague as he could manage. “When and where they’re traveling, where they rest. I thought about making a little platform in a tree to watch. Or just sitting on a branch, blend in.”
“Uh-huh.” For some reason it was easier to believe Miles’ theories and stories out here. Or perhaps it was the fact that Waylon had zoned out completely, just enjoying his coffee and the sizzle of sausage.
“So I think I’ll go out after breakfast and get the lay of the land,” was the next thing Waylon heard, and it made him jolt to attention.
“You sure that’s a good idea?” Waylon asked, cocking an eyebrow. “I can come with you.”
“No, no, no, you should stay here. Protect our food from bears.” He emphasized the word with a roll of his eyes and a laugh, before cracking two eggs into the pan.
Waylon wanted to point out that as long as they hoisted the food up into the trees, then there was no need to actually watch the food at all. He knew he should definitely tag along, but it was obvious that Miles’ mind was made up. So instead of disagreeing, he watched as Miles slid the cooked sausages onto two stainless steel camping plates, along with the eggs and two slices of bread.
“I bet you city-boy needs to get acquainted with the food anyhow.” He handed Waylon one of the plates before dumping down on one of the logs with the other, while Waylon resisted the urge to point out that Miles had grown up next door and was every bit the city boy Waylon was.
“Now, before I go, there’s some things you gotta be aware of.” Miles pointed his fork at Waylon. “If you for any reason notice that the sun goes the opposite way across the sky, then you go into the tent and stay there.”
“Oh, boy, got it.” Waylon speared one of the sausages and took a huge bite of it.
“And listen carefully, ‘cause this is important. If the forest goes silent like a vacuum around you, then you hide, you got it?”
Now, Waylon could deal with Miles’ conspiracy theories and crazy stories, but somehow this felt different. A chill went down his back.
“Did you know people go missing in national forests?” Miles continued before Waylon could answer. “All over the country, yeah. People go on hikes with others, and poof! Gone. Not a single thing to explain how or where they disappeared.”
“They’re not found again?”
“Some of ‘em turn up, a lot of them turn up dead.”
Waylon took another bite, albeit a bit less enthusiastic than before, while waiting for Miles to continue.
“Strange cases too. People go out of sight for just a second, and suddenly they’re gone. Sometimes their clothing or shoes are found miles from where they disappeared.”
“Maybe they tried to find their way back?”
“Would a two year old be able to walk miles across mountains?” Miles fixed Waylon with a look, before shaking his head and dipping his bread into the egg yolk. “Nah, it’s weird stuff.”
Then, as if he hadn’t said anything creepy at all, he completely changed his demeanor.
“Good sausages, right?” He had another bite, grease dripping down his chin. “So I figure, I go out today, alone, see what I can see, and then we go together tomorrow.” He swallowed loudly. “I’d take you with me, but really, I think you’d miss the signs.”
“What am I supposed to do here alone, though? Hunt for rabbits?”
“You could do the dishes.” Miles laughed and put the now empty plate on the ground next to him. “You’ll be like a hillbilly housewife, it’ll be fun.”
Miles grinned, and then collected some seemingly random things from his backpack: A piece of chalk, a handful of old pennies, a couple of Jolly Ranchers and what looked like a catnip cat toy.
“Well, I’m off! Good luck with dishes, wife of mine.” He winked and then made his way out of the clearing. It didn’t take long before the forest swallowed him up.
Birds had taken a short break while he moved, but once he had disappeared they started up again, and soon it felt as if Miles hadn’t been there at all.
Waylon sat in silence, too comfortable to even move his plate and cutlery.
Despite how comfortable he was, and how ridiculous as Miles could be, Waylon had to admit the woods were eerie, and seemed vast and deep enough to hide something strange.
It was hard to hear much of anything by the river, and Waylon kept glancing around him as he washed the plates and cutlery as best he could in the running water.
He felt- watched. Like there were eyes on him, coming from somewhere in the forest, but as Waylon glanced around, he didn’t see anything.
“Miles?” he called, raising his voice. If it was Miles, he’d get a response, and if it was a wild animal, then he’d have less of a chance of it wandering upon him without meaning to.
No reaction whatsoever, and still Waylon felt those phantom eyes on him.
Shit, what if there really were bears out there. Maybe the sausage lured it in, and without access, then Waylon was the closest edible thing around.
With a gulp, Waylon turned his attention back on the dishes. What was that saying? If it’s brown, lay down, if it’s black, fight back… He glanced around again. At least there weren’t polar bears here, because he definitely remembered how the last part of the saying went; if it’s white, say goodnight. He shuddered. He’d seen the aftermath of a bear attack during some ill-advised Googling after a National Geographic episode on bears, and he hadn’t been able to shake the images from his mind since.
He gathered up the relatively clean camping plates, cutlery and frying pan, and tried to exude confidence when he made his way back into camp.
“Miles, I swear, if you’re pranking me, I’m hitting you with your own pan!” he called out for a second time, making extra sure he could be heard.
Nothing. He’d silenced the nearby birds, but he couldn’t hear anyone or anything around.
He put the dishes back into the biggest backpack, before running his hands over his arms. The temperature hadn’t dropped, but he still felt chilled to the bone. In an effort to keep his mind occupied, he started clearing up the campsite. At least the birds had started up again, so he didn’t have to worry too much about what Miles had said, although it was definitely there in the back of his mind.
Finally he dumped down on the log in front of the dying fire, wondering how long Miles would be gone, and what to do next. He stared at the fire for a few seconds, before deciding to get more firewood. He was too restless to just sit still and watch for birds and the sun’s movements.
He went in the same way Miles had, and soon the sound of the river was muffled somewhat by the trees and the underbrush. He started picking up branches as he went, watching the forest around him. He didn’t stray further than he could hear the rustling of water, and before long his arms were filled with branches of all sizes. It would last them a few hours at least.
Then, one by one, the birds fell quiet.
At first Waylon was certain it was his own footsteps that did it, but the birds didn’t start up again even as he stopped and listened.
Soon the whole forest had stilled, and had it not been for the fact that he could still hear the faint sound of the river behind him, he’d think he had ended up in one of those vacuums Miles had talked about. He stood completely still, darting his eyes back and forth, turning his head and held his breath to hear better. His heart beat against his ribs, and he had to focus on not freaking out. If he let fear get to him, he imagined he’d just run without any real destination in mind.
It was hard not to think of what Miles had come here for. To tell himself that it was silly to be worried, that, if it was anything, it was a bear, not Bigfoot, or a dogman, or something even more terrible.
The sound of a branch snapping somewhere in the forest was so loud it almost sounded like a gunshot. Waylon startled and almost dropped his branches.
“Who’s there?!” he demanded in a panic.
Still no answer, but Waylon heard what absolutely sounded like footsteps, soft as they were on the damp earth, shifting ever-so-slightly towards him.
Waylon couldn’t take it anymore. He ditched the branches and bolted. He didn’t know what he was doing or where he was going, but whatever was there, it scared the hell out of him.
He ran in a panic, and although he wasn’t certain which direction he had taken, he knew it was away from whatever that thing had been. The forest was a blur around him, and he ran until he tasted blood.
By the time he couldn’t run anymore, his legs sore and lungs burning, it was too late for Waylon to think rationally. He’d had no idea where he was running to, and, as he stood there, catching breaths that burned his throat, Waylon realized that he couldn’t hear the river anymore. A cold chill ran down his spine.
He walked a few steps in either direction, trying to listen for the river, or whatever that thing had been, but he heard nothing.
For the second time, Waylon felt a panic rising in him, but this time, he wasn’t motivated to run. Oh God, he was lost in the woods, oh shit, oh fuck, this was exactly the kind of thing he wanted to avoid. It was just his luck too. Of course he was the one who heard something spooky and ran like a coward, while Miles was out doing who knew what.
Goddammit, Miles could be in trouble too.
He had to get back, had to find Miles, tell him, they had to-
“Hey, hey!” an all-too-familiar voice called from behind him.
Despite knowing the voice, Waylon whipped around, ready for a fight. As quickly as he did, though, he was glaring.
“What are you doing out here?” Miles asked, cocking his head and sauntering up to him. “I told you to stay at home like a good wife.”
“Jesus, Miles,” Waylon hissed, frustration bubbling to the surface. “I was fucking scared, I thought you might be dead, I-”
“Whoa, whoa, slow down,” Miles said, his brow furrowing and demeanor changing. “What happened?”
Waylon gave some vague gestures towards where he thought he’d come from, towards their camp, sputtering out sounds and hoping to make words.
“The- the- that thing!” he managed. “Something. Something in the woods, watching me.”
“Did you see it?!” Miles demanded, completely invested now. “How big was it? What color? What shape? What was it doing?”
“No, no, I just- I heard it,” Waylon explained. “I could feel it, out there, watching me. Freaked me the hell out.”
“Dammit,” Miles muttered. “Ugh, sorry, Waylon, I get it, they’re intimidating, but it would have been really helpful for you to just get a glance at it.”
Miles and his priorities. Waylon didn’t care one way or another. If anything, he just wanted to get out of the woods, right away. Somehow, though, he doubted that Miles would go along with that.
“Come on,” Miles said after a moment. “Let’s get you back to camp. I’ll make you one of the good meals, a just-add-water one.”
Waylon didn’t really want to eat. He certainly didn’t want to go back to that camp. With Miles insisting and tugging at his arm already, though, there was no way he could argue.
More than ever, Waylon was certain that they were going to die.
They sat around the crackling flames, and it seemed like Miles had purposefully waited for nightfall before telling Waylon what he’d found out on his little excursion, because only when darkness had crept in on all sides, the flames illuminating his face, did he start his story.
“So,” he started, talking a long, dramatic pause. “There’s definitely something here.” He made a strangely childish face just then, his eyes opened wide and his cheeks puffed. It seemed he was waiting on Waylon to react, but when he didn’t, Miles released the air and sighed. “You’ll roll your eyes at me.”
“Trust me, after today, I won’t.”
“Okay, so… I found footprints. Big ones. Most likely a juvenile, but still plenty big. No droppings, but I think they’re smart enough to bury those.” He had another sip of coffee. “The footprints were kinda washed out, so I couldn’t see the toes or much details. It won’t be fit for evidence, but the general size fits.”
“How did you find your way back?”
“I’m like a bloodhound, man, my sense of direction is insane.” He laughed at Waylon’s expression. “I used the chalk. Made an X on the trees. Won’t work well during a rainstorm, but today it was gonna be clear, so…” He shrugged. “I think I got the place memorized now, though, and if not, I have the map and compass. Just gotta figure out how to use it.”
Of course Miles did. Once again, Waylon was going to have to take charge here. Why the hell hadn’t they brought a gun, a knife, a slingshot at least? Well, he knew why. Miles thought these creatures were some kind of gentle giants who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Now, Waylon didn’t think there really was a Bigfoot out there, but there was definitely something. So the idea of gentle giants with no ulterior motives was an idea that Waylon was doubting more and more by the moment.
“So, yeah,” Miles said, unaware of Waylon’s plight. He even had a grin perking up on his face. “We’ve got some work to do! Aren’t you excited?”
Waylon only wished that he really shared his friend’s enthusiasm.
Miles was sleeping soundly, his snores filling the tent, but sleep eluded Waylon.
He kept thinking about whatever he had heard in the forest, and what would have happened if he had stayed. More than anything he wondered if the thing was still out there right now.
Maybe Miles was right. Maybe it wasn’t really anything to be scared of. Maybe it was just a curious forest-dweller who was as surprised to see him as he was to see it. The thought had Waylon exhale deeply in a near chuckle.
And now he believed in Bigfoot. Great.
The birds had gone quiet after sundown, so he had no way to truly tell if something was lurking around their tent, other than listen for the sound of footsteps or snapping branches. The trouble with that was that he’d never really thought about just how many sounds there were in a forest. Sure, it seemed quiet enough, at least on the surface. But then, if you paid attention, the sounds were still there. The rustle of the underbrush, some critters undoubtedly scurrying about. The occasional mournful whoo-whoo of an owl somewhere above. The constant, irregular chirps of the thousands of crickets. All dulled by the gentle sound of the river, although at night it was anything but gentle.
It was a far cry from the easy blow of a nearby fan, the buzz of a television, or-
Miles rolled over in his sleep, startling Waylon out of his train of thought.
Jesus. He’d heard that camping could be calming, but so far it had been anything but.
Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow would be a better day.
By the time the sun was peeking through their tent, Waylon didn’t think he’d gotten any more than an hour of sleep. Half because of all the sounds and paranoia, half because he wasn’t used to a sleeping bag. He pushed himself to his feet and found his back stiff and sore. A better day indeed.
Miles had warned him that they wouldn’t be eating as luxuriously as they had on that first day for long, and when Waylon crawled out of the tent, he noticed that the sausages were replaced by beans Miles probably had soaked himself in the river water.
Waylon really wished that this could have just been a casual, week-long camping trip near a fast food joint and a mall. He was sore, tired, a little grumpy, and really could have gone for a burger.
Miles, on the other hand, seemed as cheerful as ever, and he alternated between checking on the food, and squinting at the sun.
“Ready for your virginal Bigfoot outing today?”
“Oh boy, am I.”
The sarcasm was completely lost on Miles, who simply grinned in response. After checking on the beans with a stick he found on the ground, he plated them up along with more eggs and bread and handed one of the plates to Waylon.
“So, I say we continue on the path I took yesterday. Real nice and open for a while, so easy even on you, city-boy.”
Waylon resisted the temptation, again, to point out that Miles was every bit the city boy he was.
“Good job on the dishes, by the way.” Miles held his fork up against the light. “I knew you had a bit of a housewife under that nerdy getup of yours.”
“Hey!” Waylon said indignant around the beans in his mouth.
“Y’know, there’s been some urban legends about Bigfoot abducting female humans for breeding purposes.”
“I don’t like where you’re going with this.”
“No, no, hear me out, alright? He sees you, all bent over the river with your blonde hair and shapely ass, washing the dishes like an obedient-”
“Hey, if you got it, might as well use it,” Miles insisted, casual as could be.
“You suck,” Waylon mumbled weakly. “So, what, I’m gonna be bait from now on?”
“Basically. You gotta work your way up. No one becomes a crack investigator without being the lure a few times.”
Waylon couldn’t remember Miles ever acting as bait. Then again, he supposed it would be hard, what with his scruffy stubble and ruffled hair. He’d never pass as anything but an amateur sleuth.
“So, do we have an actual plan?” Waylon asked. “And if you pull out a dress I’m gonna kill you.”
The scariest part about being out in the woods with Miles, was the fact that he had to trust that Miles knew what he was doing. Hopefully some of that luck would drip onto Waylon, because he did not wanna be left out here alone.
Going in, the forest had seemed serene. Beautiful even. Then, after his little experience yesterday, every tree and every rock gave him the creeps.
Miles must have seen it on his face, because at one point he knocked his shoulder into Waylon’s and asked if he wanted him to hold his hand. Waylon had respectfully declined, and not just because of what a watching Bigfoot might think.
He’d once made the mistake of looking behind them, and he saw the marks Miles had left on the trees. Miles had said he’d marked the trees with an X, but to Waylon they looked more like crosses. Maybe he was trying to ward off the cryptids of a more demonic variety, the werewolves, the hellhounds, the Loch Ness monsters, but it still gave Waylon the creeps.
Shit, he needed to get some new friends.
“How much longer?”
“Any minute now.” Miles held out his hand to help Waylon up an especially steep rocky incline. Waylon ignored the outstretched hand, and made his way to the top without the assistance. “Alright,” Miles said. “Do you see it?”
“See what?” Waylon stared at the rocky hill in front of them. “You’re not making me cross that, are you?”
“Look closer.” Miles grabbed onto Waylon’s chin and moved it slightly to the left. “See it now?”
Waylon squinted at the rocks and the trees, trying to unfocus his eyes like one might with one of those 3D images, and after a moment, he saw exactly what Miles meant. He felt like an idiot.
“Is that an abandoned mine?”
“Bingo!” Miles grinned. “See? You’re almost ready for a promotion already!”
Waylon stared at the mine with his eyebrows knotted together. The wooden logs that propped the entrance open had almost sunken in with how rotted they were.
“Do we really want to go lurking around mysterious mines?” Waylon asked. “I’m surprised there’s even one here, it being a national park and all.”
“Maybe it was there before it became a national park?” Miles didn’t seem to care much one way or the other.
“Which means it’s more like a cave than a mine now,” Waylon argued. “You know, the ones predators like to use as their base camps.”
“Jeez, Way. Another ’bear’?”
“Or a cougar, or coyotes, or rabies infested bats, or who knows what that isn’t what we’re looking for.” Waylon gave an anxious laugh before adding. “And what we’re looking for might not be happy to see us.”
Miles looked pensive at the mention of what they were looking for, but then he shook his head, smiled and said “Nah. Let’s go.”
Yup. Waylon was getting new friends as soon as he got out of this mess.
The thing Waylon hadn’t anticipated about a mine was how noisy it was.
Sure, it was more quiet than the forest outside, but that only made the silence that much louder. There was the occasional dripping from the ceiling, wind howling through the entrance, and the sound of their footsteps.
The inside looked about what he’d expect; long winding tunnels with crudely propped wooden support beams. He glanced up at the planks supporting the ceiling, trying to ignore how they sagged in the middle. He swallowed thickly, and kept close to Miles, hoping that some of his confidence would carry over.
“You’re sure about this?” Waylon asked, for what must have been the third time.
Miles shushed him once again.
“Well, it’s not like anything in here doesn’t already know we’re here,” Waylon insisted.
“You’re bad at this, I’m demoting you,” Miles hissed back.
Waylon huffed, having already had more than enough of this mine. There was nothing there, and they were liable to end up stuck in a cave in, with absolutely no one knowing where they were.
“What are we even looking for?” Waylon pulled on Miles’ sleeve.
The temperature had already dropped significantly, and Waylon wanted to say something about how unlikely it was for someone or something to nest down there, but it wouldn’t be of any use. Miles was like a dog chasing a bone, and nothing would deter him from his goal.
“Uh, Miles,” Waylon tried, but again, Miles shushed him.
It was weird, though, the more he thought about it. They were in a national park, a pretty old national park. What was an abandoned mine doing here?
They were steadily moving downwards, and the fear was making Waylon dizzy. The planks overhead seemed more and more decrepit the further in they went, and the old mining equipment scattered about did little to ease his nerves. It looked like people had left in a hurry.
As they turned the next corner, Waylon froze to the spot. The floor had partially sunken in and filled with murky, stagnant water. Miles didn’t seem to think much of it. He simply took an abandoned pickaxe and used the handle to prod the bottom.
“Seems stable enough,” he said, and started prodding further. “I think we could cross it.”
Waylon’s head was swimming. Hadn’t he heard something about stagnant water in old mines? He couldn’t remember what it was, only that it was bad.
“Miles, I think we ought to turn back.”
“But we’re close, I can smell it!”
Actually, Waylon could smell it too, but he didn't think it had anything to do with any animal.
Miles glanced over his shoulder. Maybe the fear was finally showing on Waylon’s face, because Miles’ expression softened. “Alright,” he said. “I can come back here later on my own. No biggie.”
That was when it happened. It etched in Waylon’s mind as if it all happened in slow motion. Miles grinning and tossing the pickaxe into the water, the murky water rippling and lapping at their boots. Then the mine seemed to give a shudder, unless that was all in Waylon’s mind.
“Wha-” he tried to say, clutching his head with how dizzy he’d gotten. Things got blurry, everything reflected in brilliant hues of blue and green.
He thought he heard Miles yell something before everything disappeared in a blur of colors.
Waylon was a little surprised when his eyes blinked open once more, though, he wasn’t immediately sure why. He was draped comfortably over a mossy patch of the forest floor, propped against a pile of fallen branches.
As he glanced around, getting his bearings, he found that Miles, on the other hand, appeared to have been unceremoniously plunked on his belly in the grass.
“Hey,” he grunted. “What the- hell?”
“Where’s- where’s the pudgiwudgi,” Miles murmured, attempting to push himself up only to stumble back down. “Why ami-” Miles didn’t move anything but his eyes this time. “Why you cozy?”
Waylon didn’t know how to answer that. He wasn’t even sure he physically could.
“Is cuz you a woman,” Miles finally snickered against the grass, before promptly passing out again.
Waylon turned his head so he could look back at the mine, only to realize it wasn’t there anymore. He blinked hard a few times, scanning the rocky surface. Only after doing this three times did he find it. Only not.
The wooden support beams had collapsed, leaving nothing but a pile of rocks and an even bigger mystery.
What the hell had just happened?
The conversation as they trekked back to camp went as such:
“I told you! I told you they’re here!”
“We could have died!”
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, it was a wonder they didn’t get dizzy. It was only interrupted by both of their occasional stops to vomit and then dry heave as whatever they’d breathed in left their systems.
Because once the fog had cleared, literally and metaphorically, Waylon realized what had happened. Suddenly he’d been transported back in time to when he was a boy scout, when their leader had sternly told them about old mines and the accumulation of poison gas in stagnant water.
“If you hadn’t stirred it, the gases wouldn’t have been released,” Waylon said, trying to keep his tone from sounding accusatory.
“Hey, for all you know, we could have stirred up gases simply by walking through the place,” Miles argued. “Gases like to accumulate along the floor, after all.”
“Oh, since when are you a damn mine expert?” Waylon pressed a hand to his stomach.
Miles didn’t answer, just smiled in that maddening way that let Waylon know he’d never tell.
“Okay.” Waylon sighed. “Then why did you drag me in there?”
“To get proof!” Miles let his head back and laughed. “And didn’t we?”
Waylon had to admit that it was too much of a miracle that they had been transported out of the mine, still alive, but at the same time, Miles didn’t seem especially repentant for nearly killing them both.
“Look at it this way,” Miles said after a while. “I can’t exactly drag you back in there anymore.”
“That is not an excuse.”
“Well, if I’d known that was gonna happen, I wouldn’t have made you come in. I’d have had our sasquatch rescue all to myself.” He sniffed, and sounded resentful when he continued. “Maybe I’d be the one lain like a princess and not thrown on the ground like a sack of potatoes.”
Waylon didn’t have much of a response to the last statement. It was weird, the special treatment that he’d gotten, the care and consideration. What made him so special? He couldn’t imagine that it had much to do with his ass as Miles would suggest. He had to wonder if whatever was out there had some kind of plan for him.
It was a relief when the two of them arrived back at camp. Waylon hadn’t felt watched on the way, so he was at least confident that the whatever-it-was hadn’t followed them. For now.
“Maybe you should prod your backside for Bigfoot juice,” Miles suddenly said, making the hairs on Waylon’s neck stand on edge.
“What the fuck, Miles.”
“I’m serious. Maybe this was part of a mating ritual or something. You never know. I did leave ‘em the Jolly Ranchers after all.” He scrunched up his forehead and stared into the horizon. “Maybe they lay eggs.”
“Jesus Christ.” Waylon prodded his lower abdomen, worried he’d find his skin rippled from all the eggs within.
“I doubt it, but if you feel anything, let me know.” He didn’t lose his pensive expression though, and Waylon caught him mumbling about how it would make sense if they were a type of monotreme, whatever that was.
For better or worse, nothing strange happened for the rest of the evening, and Miles didn’t push for any more adventures. As they settled down to sleep, Waylon found himself somewhat more comfortable with all the night sounds. The crickets sounded less alien, the owls more like comforting night watchmen. Somehow, after having been saved by whatever-it-was, Waylon felt at least a little less like a giant hand was going to reach in and abduct him at any time.
That easy night carried into the morning as well, and Waylon enjoyed his coffee down by the lake, with Miles furiously scribbling things in his notebook. From what he could see, Miles had made a sort of crude map of the area, with a large X where the mine once was. Truth be told, Waylon was all too happy about it being inaccessible to them.
This was more what he’d had in mind for their trip. He was almost sad they hadn’t brought fishing rods, because he could see small fish jumping in the clear water. God, without the impending doom of whatever Waylon had thought he heard out there, this place was paradise.
“Telephone poles,” Miles suddenly hissed next to him, before furiously scratching something out in the notebook. Waylon knew better than to ask.
The sun warmed Waylon’s face, and he closed his eyes with a sigh. Now, this was the life.
“We gotta head back out.”
So much for that.
“Hm?” Waylon didn’t even open his eyes.
“I figured it out! The mine!”
“I’m not going back into the mine, Miles.”
“No, no.” Apparently Miles made quite the grimace, because Waylon could hear it in his voice. “We’re not going back in there, but it’s the right track.”
Waylon cracked open one eye and stared suspiciously at Miles. “What do you mean ‘the right track’?” He groaned. “Please tell me it’s not some kind of mine-track pun?”
“Hah! I wish!” he laughed. “We have to go beyond it, a little more to the west. These animals are obviously smart enough to know how to leave signs to take us off their real trail.”
In no way did Waylon see how that was obvious, but he listened nonetheless.
“We have to look closer, go further, not be deterred,” Miles enthused. “It’s the only way we’ll find any real evidence.”
Miles seemed to think that was a satisfying conclusion, but Waylon hesitated to reply.
“Do you ever think-” Waylon stopped himself, wracking his brain for the right way to say what he wanted to say without sounding crazy. Crazy to himself, if nothing else. “Maybe that, if they’re trying so hard to put us off their trail, then we should just leave them alone?”
Miles’ peppy demeanor faltered if only for a moment, and Waylon could swear that he looked honestly heartbroken.
Almost immediately, though, he sprang right back up.
“Come on, Way, where’s your adventurer’s spirit?” he asked, giving Waylon a light push. “Nothing ever got done by not doing anything.”
“Nothing bad has ever happened by not doing anything either.”
“Wa-ay,” Miles whined. “We’re already out here. You can’t get cold feet now.”
Well, Miles was right about that much, he supposed. He couldn’t just take the car from where they’d left it and leave Miles to find his own way back. For better or worse, Waylon was in this for the long haul.
“And don’t tell me you’re not having any fun,” Miles continued to push. “Or that you don’t like having a sasquatch guardian.”
“The woods are beautiful,” Waylon admitted. “But I don’t know. Something’s not right.”
“That’s how people usually feel when in the presence of them.”
Waylon couldn’t exactly argue. He didn’t have any more or less idea of what was going on than Miles, just less certainty. For the time being, all he could do was wonder.
After making a decent lunch for them to bring with them, Waylon hoisted the food back up into the tree to Miles’ great amusement, before they started their way back to the mine.
The pleasant feeling from the camp slowly dissipated as they ventured further and further into the forest, and he was once again reminded of the entrance to the mine, the poisonous gas, and whoever - or whatever - had rescued them. Perhaps he should consider that a good thing, but there was still a sense of dread whenever he thought about that mine. Perhaps because he knew it had no right being here at all.
Further in, the forest was no longer lush like it was by the river. The trees were taller and closer together here, turning the underbrush into mere sticks for how little sun the forest floor saw. The trees were bare too, apart from near the top, and as they walked, Waylon kept imagining something peeking out through the sea of trees to watch them. The crosses Miles had marked the trees with were still there, adding to Waylon’s discomfort.
“This place is perfect,” Miles whispered in awe.
Yeah, Waylon bet it was. He’d have to be especially watchful.
They kept on down the trail, Waylon’s attention grabbed by every distant animal call and whisper of the wind. It was like he’d been transported back to their first night there. Every little thing seemed to be out to get the two of them.
Of course, that was when Miles decided that he needed to improvise.
“Wait here,” Miles said suddenly. “I need to settle a hunch real quick.”
Without waiting for commentary, Miles stepped off the trail and disappeared. Waylon had no choice but to stand quietly where he was, trying not to look too closely on his surroundings. This was the kind of place he realized all the myths had to originate from. It didn’t matter how little he believed in this sort of thing, the forest still felt quivering with something, as if holding its breath.
Ever since they had moved past the mine and Miles’ markings, Waylon had been given charge of the chalk. He’d made friendly little circles instead of Miles’ ominous crosses, but glancing behind him now, they seemed to resemble staring eyes instead. He shuddered.
A crow cawed overhead, startling Waylon out of it.
There weren’t as many birds out here, he had noticed. Just the occasional crow or raven. He wondered if it was the lack of water nearby. Miles would no doubt say it was because of Bigfoot or whatever else mythical beast he was currently obsessed with.
Waylon’s head snapped to the right, the opposite direction to where Miles had left. He saw nothing, couldn’t hear anything, not animal nor person, in the deep darkness around him, but his body was still being flooded with adrenaline.
Could Miles have looped around? Waylon licked his lips and dared to cast a quick glance around him. He might have, but it didn’t explain the sudden, deafening silence. He was again reminded of what Miles had talked about.
“Miles?” he tried, but his voice was timid and didn’t carry. “Miles?!” he tried again, and it sounded strange in the vast emptiness of the forest. Not quite an echo, but something like it.
There was another loud crack, closer this time, and Waylon took a step back. He wanted to run, but found himself frozen to the spot.
This was the vacuum then, as Miles had called it. He felt dizzy with the thought of it. If Miles was right about this, what else could he be right about? He kept his eyes where he thought the sounds had come from, trying to will his limbs to move. He had to hide.
But where could he hide? His only option seemed to hide behind one of the pale trees. He didn’t even know where whatever-it-was was lurking, or if it could smell him anyway. Was he upwind of it?
Crack. There it was again, ever closer to him, and he made a snap decision to get behind the nearest tree. He leaned against the trunk, covering his mouth with one hand. He felt dizzy with the lack of breath, his heart hammering in his chest. Whatever it was, whatever creature was out there, it was definitely closer. He heard heavy footsteps, heavier than those he had thought he heard before. Whatever this thing was, it was massive.
Stuck like this, back up against the trunk of the tree, everything felt hyperreal for a moment. The air had frozen in his lungs, the bark digging into the palm of his hand. The only thing that truly moved was the creature, and Waylon thought for a moment he could hear it breathe.
He wondered if the thing knew where he was, if it could hear his heart. Perhaps smell the blood rushing in his veins. The footsteps were so close now he was certain, absolutely certain, that if he just peeked out from the tree, he’d know what it was.
It was funny, but he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to know what this was, because if he glanced out and saw some massive human ape, he was certain he would lose his mind. So instead he kept quiet, listening to it walk on the other side of the tree, breathing softly.
A droplet of sweat ran down Waylon’s temple. Beneath his fingers, resting on the tree, he felt movement. It was as if the creature touched it from the other side, and somehow the vibrations had reached him.
It was a good thing his throat had gone completely dry, because any sound now, even something as quiet as a breath or a swallow would surely betray his position.
He wondered if he had to get ready for a fight. The thing was so close now that it would notice him at any second, if it hadn’t already. He closed his eyes tightly, and started counting inside his head. Once he reached five, he was gonna push away from the tree, get a rock or a stick, and fight.
One. His throat spasmed. Two. He could definitely hear the thing breathing now. Three. Just a few seconds now and it was gonna reach around the tree to grab him. Four. He was gonna-
Then, before he could move or even finish counting, came a soft intake of breath, and hurried footsteps as the thing retreated. It didn’t take more than a few heartbeats, and then Waylon heard another pair of footsteps coming his way. These were noisier, though, carefree, and he knew without the shadow of a doubt that it was Miles.
Along with him came sounds again; the mild rustle of the wind, the occasional crow.
“Nothing,” Miles said cheerfully once he reached the trail, and it didn’t even seem like he noticed Waylon was gone.
Waylon couldn’t have hurried out fast enough to join him.
“Waylon?” Miles said, puzzled. “What were doing over there?”
“Did you see it?!” Even though Waylon had stood perfectly still, he was out of breath and his voice raspy. “Was it here?”
“Was what he-” Miles stopped himself and his eyes blew open wide when he realized just what Waylon was saying. “Oh, mighty chupacabra,” he said in awe, sounding breathless himself now. “It really is drawn to you.”
“No fuckin’ kidding,” Waylon hissed, eyes darting back and forth like it might come back at any time.
“Did you get a good look this time? A glimpse? A gander? A gaze?” Miles looked more and more unhinged for each word he spoke. “Please tell me you saw it!”
Waylon took a deep breath so he wouldn’t scream. “No, I didn’t get a gander. Miles, I was fucking terrified! I heard it breathing!”
“Breathing? What kind of breathing?” Miles had his notebook up again, and he started scribbling. “Fast? Labored? Wheezing?”
“Just…” Waylon cradled his face in an effort not to scream. “Just normal breathing. Barely audible.”
“It’s looking for a mate.” Miles slapped his notebook shut and stuck it back in his pocket. “I guarantee it. We gotta go after it. Right away.” He grabbed ahold of Waylon’s wrist and started pulling him along. “Which direction did it go?”
“Right, I think.” He barely even finished the sentence, before Miles started jogging after it. “Miles, won’t... “ God, he didn’t ever think it would get to this point, and he hated himself for finishing his sentence. “Won’t it hear us if we’re running?”
“They’re bigger and stronger than us, but if my calculations are right, they’re not going to be faster.”
“Do we really wanna happen upon them, though?” Waylon swallowed thickly. “Especially if it’s looking for a mate. I don’t wanna end up a Bigfoot bride.”
“Relax, Waylon,” Miles reassured him. “The chance that you get raped by this thing are pretty slim. They’re usually gentle with mates.” He hesitated before adding. “Gentle by their standards, anyhow.”
“Usually?! By their standards? Miles, I wanna go home.”
“But we’ve come so far!” Miles pushed, hopping from one foot to the other. “We can’t just give up when the trail is so hot, come on.”
“Easy for you to say,” Waylon sniffed, a little out of breath. “It’s not your fucking ass on the line.”
“Hah,” Miles turned back to grin at him. “It’s so funny when you swear.”
“I hate you so much,” Waylon said, even though, in his heart of hearts, he knew that Miles had this little argument in the bag.
“Of course ya do,” Miles replied merrily, rushing through the trees, only occasionally stopping to look at a broken branch or disturbed earth.
And, of course, all Waylon could do was hurry after him, worried that he might slip on a rock or something.
“We’re definitely hot on his trail!” Miles pointed to something that might resemble the imprint of a heel in the ground. “Our boy was in a hurry, methinks.”
“We should be in a hurry too,” Waylon panted. “To go the other way.”
He thought back to their quiet morning by the lake, with the warmth from both sun and coffee. It felt like a lifetime ago.
“You must have been a boring child.”
“Boring, but at least alive!” Waylon called back.
“This is living, Waylon!” Miles shouted, any pretense of keeping quiet and stalking this thing completely out the window.
Waylon wasn’t certain that they were going to be living for much longer, but he had to admit, the adrenaline was a fun high while it lasted. Once, Miles gave an echoing whoop into the forest, and, in his thoughtless rush, Waylon mimicked it, setting off a back-and-forth between them.
Perhaps this really was living.
Alone, the forest had seemed ominous and foreboding, the trees skeletal, but with Miles around the world seemed to surge back into focus. Despite what Miles thought, there really wasn’t a Bigfoot around. It was just the two of them, running through the narrow trees like children. It felt very much like their school days, carefree in the shallow woods back home. Miles hadn’t changed all that much. Neither had Waylon.
One thing had changed though. They weren’t children anymore, and Miles’ intuition was more tiring than ever to follow. It felt like the two of them had been running for hours; Waylon was ready to collapse where he stood and let the bears drag him away. He wondered if Miles would believe in them then.
“Miles,” he groaned, but Miles just pulled him further.
“We’re close,” he said, and when he looked back at Waylon, he had that look in his eyes again. “Don’t you feel it?”
No, Waylon couldn’t say he did. The only thing he felt was exhaustion and a faint hunger, but he allowed Miles to pull him along all the same.
“Close, close, closecloseclose,” Miles mumbled in front of him.
Then, all of a sudden, Miles stopped dead in front of him. Waylon just barely swerved out of the way and stopped himself, suddenly realizing that the forest had opened up to a partial clearing. There, nestled between the forest and a steep cliff, was a small wooden cabin.
Waylon blinked at it in confusion. They were in a state park. There shouldn’t be buildings here. The only explanation would be that it was some kind of rangers station. It certainly looked like one, with stacked wooden walls and shuttered windows.
Miles, on the other hand, gave a long whistle. “Our boy is sophisticated!”
“Miles, you don’t seriously think this is the work of a Bigfoot, do you?”
At this point he might just. Miles seemed so desperate for any confirmation that he was right that he’d accept even this. He was already up against the windows, trying to peek in through the shutters.
“God, Way, look at this.” He started picking on some moss growing between the logs and stuffing it in his pockets. “This is amazing.”
“Miles, I think someone lives here.”
“Of course someone lives here.” He blinked innocently at Waylon. “I think we found the nest.”
“I meant someone human, Miles, jeez.”
“Do you see a mailbox, though? A well?” Miles started moving along the wall so he could inspect the entire cabin. Once he had rounded the corner, Waylon heard him call out “Okay, so there’s a well, but still no mailbox!”
Waylon resisted the urge to ask how anyone would get mail out here, and instead groaned, taking a step back so he could give the building a more thorough once-over. It looked sort of abandoned, but something about it told Waylon that someone was still living there.
He followed Miles around the corner, and nearly gasped at the view. It overlooked the valley below, and there was nothing but trees as far as he could see. It was beautiful.
When he turned around, trying to find Miles, he saw something decidedly less so. There was a small window far up on the wall, with Miles’ legs wiggling out of it.
“Miles!” Waylon hissed, adrenaline shooting through his heart all over again. “What the hell are you doing?”
Miles kicked about with his feet for a bit, before Waylon heard him mumble something on the other side. Then his legs slid from view followed by a loud crash, and Waylon could only imagine how his landing must have been like.
Waylon gave a huff, blowing his hair out of his eyes, before walking over to what looked like patio doors, the inside obscured by thick curtains. Whoever lived here didn’t want company, that was for sure.
After a few moments, Miles’ face poked through the curtains, grinning wildly when he focused on Waylon. He somehow looked even more disheveled than usual, his hair sticking out in awkward directions. He unlocked the door, and his lips were moving even before the door had opened.
“-won’t believe what I found in here, Way, there’s a kitchen and everything.” He snatched a hold of Waylon’s shirt and pulled him inside before Waylon could bolt.
The inside didn’t smell dusty and abandoned, like Waylon had imagined, but clean and well-kept. They were in a living room, with comfortable looking furniture.
“Look,” Miles pointed to the walls. “No family portraits. No humans at all.”
“Maybe whoever lives here is Muslim,” Waylon replied dryly.
“No, I’m telling you-” Miles got distracted again, leaving the sentence unfinished. “Look!” he said instead.
“No! Miles, we gotta go!”
Miles didn’t reply, just flicked a switch on the wall, and to Waylon’s surprise, the whole place was flooded in light.
“Hm,” Miles hummed, staring at the switch on the wall. “Seems to have tapped into the power grid.”
“Must be even smarter than we thought.”
“Miles,” Waylon repeated, firmer this time. “We are in someone’s house. We are trespassing!”
“Way, don’t be silly,” Miles insisted. “This is a national park; no one can live here.”
“Well, whatever it is, someone is living here, dammit.”
“Oh, someone is, indeed.” Miles waggled his eyebrows. “Your future mate.”
“Miles, for God’s sake, listen to me, we need to go.”
Waylon’s eyes kept darting back, looking out, not for Bigfoots anymore, but for a very territorial, probably gun-wielding landowner.
“Waylon, there’s nothing to be-”
Miles never finished as, somewhere not far from the cottage, a rumble thrummed closer and closer.
“Is that…?” Waylon gripped Miles hand.
“Oh God, they’re coming!” Miles said, elated, his eyes shining. “A whole stampede of them!”
That was it. Waylon gripped Miles’ hand harder and moved to bodily drag him away from the cabin.
“Hey!” Miles cried out, struggling against Waylon’s adrenaline assisted iron clasp. “We’re so close, what are you doing?”
“Saving both our asses.”
Waylon completely ignored Miles’ insistent protests and whining. He wasn’t gonna die like this, not out here. Now now.
Just barely, Waylon managed to drag a very resistant Miles behind the treeline before the rumbling reached the cabin. Miles would thank him later, he knew for a fact.
Miles didn’t thank him. In fact he didn’t forgive him either, refusing to talk to him for the space of a little under an hour after they returned to camp. Still, Waylon didn’t regret dragging them both away from the cabin and whatever called it home.
They ate a very quiet meal together, before going to bed early.
Despite that, Waylon didn’t sleep well that night. Whenever he closed his eyes and felt himself drifting, he’d startle awake with the phantom roar of whatever had come for them earlier.
He thought he heard other things too. The rustle of leaves, the occasional cracking of branches, and in one terrifying moment, the wheezing breath or something right outside their tent.
He hoped it was all in his head, but Miles was sleeping so soundly that Waylon couldn’t even shake him awake to ask him about it.
Why couldn’t they have just taken a normal, relaxed camping trip? One where Miles didn’t just happen to be obsessed with hunting down a stupid Bigfoot? Waylon didn’t want to deal with any of this, the frustration, the confusion, the fear. He felt even worse than he had their first night on the trip.
Waylon wanted to sob with frustration, but he held it back. He just wanted to go home, but it wasn’t going to help anything to cry.
“Shit, Waylon, get out here!”
Waylon couldn’t have slept for more than a couple of hours when Miles called out for him.
He grumbled out something groggy and unintelligible, but Miles was not having it.
“Waylon, get your ass out here or I’ll dump you in the woods with Jolly Ranchers up your ass.”
For a moment, Waylon puzzled over why Miles would put Jolly Ranchers up his ass, whether it was to attract the horny sasquatch to him or make them want to eat him. That train of thought died, however, when he realized that it was ridiculous either way. From there, he begrudgingly pushed his way out of the tent.
Waylon blinked through the bright morning light, squinting until he could focus on Miles’ face. He was beaming with triumph, which was always a scary look on him.
“Look!” he exclaimed, spreading his arms out. “You definitely have a suitor!”
Waylon had no idea what Miles was talking about, until he stared up in the trees around them.
Tied neatly with string in various heights were a whole butcher shop worth of sausages and various slabs of meat. Waylon blinked at it in confusion, wondering if he was still feeling the effects from the poisonous mine.
“It’s real good stuff too.” Miles had a huge bite of one of the sausages, which dangled conveniently in range of his mouth. “Food is a great mating present.”
Waylon stepped up closer and had a tentative sniff of one of them. They definitely looked homemade, and high quality at that.
“Miles, these are smoked sausages. I very much doubt Bigfoot has a habit of smoking and curing sausages as a part of a mating ritual.”
Miles’ eyes went wide again. “This explains all the forest fires,” he breathed, before having another bite of sausage. “It’d be smart for them to preserve meat for Winter months.”
Whatever really was out there, Miles sure as hell had flown right off the plantation and into cloud cuckooland trying to find it. Waylon shook his head while Miles jumped up and down to nibble at something that looked like a flank steak.
Waylon stumbled towards the fire, refusing to try any of the meat dangling from the trees, only to stop dead in his tracks.
There, propped up against the seating log, was a thick blanket and a pillow.
He hadn’t wanted to touch the meat, but he leaned down to rub the blanket between his fingers, finding it warm and soft to the touch. It too looked homemade, but gave off an entirely different vibe than the meat.
Someone really was after them, then. Not Bigfoot, as Miles seemed to think, but someone all too human. Waylon didn’t know if that was a relief or somehow even more terrifying. Who could possibly have found them? Well, he knew part of the answer: whoever lived at that cabin. But why would they be giving Miles and Waylon food and creature comforts after breaking in?
Well, Waylon had one idea: the people watching him and Miles didn’t think they’d survive otherwise. They were probably right too, what with all the running around, hunting Bigfoot, nearly dying from poison gases in a goddamn derelict mine. The two of them must have looked like the biggest idiots ever, trying to die in the woods. Was the only reason they hadn’t perished because someone or someones were looking out for them? Probably.
Of course, that still left the question of why whoever these people were seemed so focused on Waylon in particular. He couldn’t help but think that the single pillow and blanket were for him specifically. Waylon glanced over at Miles who was still jumping up and down trying to get a bigger bite of meat. Maybe Miles just wasn’t as loveable, or something like that.
Unless they both had received gifts. Meat for Miles and the blanket for him. Still, it made Waylon seem delicate in these peoples’ minds. In need of luxuries like a thick, but soft wool blanket, even when he was out camping.
With a sigh he pushed his palm against the pillow, before sitting down on it.
“Fucking shit,” he mumbled to himself. “It really is comfortable.” He wrapped the blanket around himself, pressing a corner of the fabric against his nose. It smelled like the cabin, clean and comfortable. Safe, somehow.
“It really is funny when you swear,” Miles said around a mouthful of sausage. “You’ve got such a light voice, it’s a real contrast.”
“I do not!”
“You keep telling yourself that,” Miles quipped with a shrug.
“If I have a light voice, then so do you! Remember your mom couldn’t tell us apart on the phone in college? That’s how I learned your nickname.”
Miles’ demeanor immediately changed.
“Don’t say it,” he hissed, a flush creeping onto his face.
“Aw, don’t you like it when I call you widdle-”
“I can’t believe you!” Miles cried, his face hot and red now.
“I thought your mom was insulting you or something until I Googled it.”
“And realized it meant-”
“‘Baby doll’.” Waylon snickered at the utter horror on Miles’ face.
“I don’t know why I invited you on this trip!”
“What’s wrong? Does the widdle baby doll worry that Bigfoot will overhear and change his mind on who to mate with?”
“We’re not friends anymore, Waylon!” Miles declared, standing up and gathering all the sausages he could carry before turning to storm off.
“Yeah, see how long that lasts,” Waylon called after him.
It lasted about five minutes, by Waylon’s estimate.
Miles wandered back into their camp and sat down nearby, mumbling something about not wanting to leave Waylon alone to get raped. Miles had somehow mastered the art of looking offended while munching on food, and he ate his sausage noisily while staring into the fire with a big frown.
“Aw, you do care,” Waylon teased, lighter than he had before.
Miles grumbled something in response that Waylon couldn’t hear.
“What was that?” Waylon asked as he packed the blanket tighter around himself, feeling quite cheerful all of a sudden.
“I said your voice isn’t light.”
“And you’re not a little baby doll,” Waylon agreed.
Miles puffed out his cheeks and huffed, but the smile was back on his face.
“Can I share your blanket? It gets cold at night.”
“Only if I can have some sausage.”
“You sure that's a good idea?" Miles asked, smirking. "I have the stomach of a cat. You’re of a much more dainty constitution.”
Waylon punched him in the arm.
It truly hit Waylon then, how bizarre it all was. Here they were, Miles eating mystery meat he’d found hanging from the trees, and Waylon snuggling his face into a stranger’s homemade blanket. Give it a year or two, and they’d both live in trailers near Area 51, with UFO posters and maps on the walls.
The crazy was rubbing off on Waylon.
“We have to go back.”
Darkness had fallen and they were drying off in front of the fire after a dip in the lake. It had been a nice, quiet moment, their excursion finally containing what Waylon had wanted most of all; floating carelessly in the still-warm lake followed by the heat from the fire, soft blankets and marshmallows. Now, though, he had to suspect that everything had simply been an attempt to butter him up.
“Back where?” he asked, fully knowing where Miles meant.
Miles sent him a look. “Where do you think, ya dolt? The lair, of course.” He rubbed his hands together. “The nest.”
“Miles, that is someone’s house! We can’t just go snooping around whenever we want.”
“Sure we can!” Miles said cheerfully and shook his wet hair like a dog. “No locks, no mail, no one’s going to jail.”
“That is not a good excuse to trespass.” Waylon shook his head. “It’s not even a real saying.”
“Well, if you’re just so convinced that a person is living there, whoever it is will probably want this back.” Miles scooted to the edge of his log so he could stick his hand down his pocket. After digging around for a bit, with Waylon looking respectfully the other way, Miles pulled out an antique looking box with an intricately carved lid.
Miles grinned and flipped the lid, revealing what looked like an old sewing kit.
“Guess where your blanket came from!”
Waylon balked in horror. “Miles, why would you-?!” He gritted his teeth and let out a groan. “Ugh, shit, we do have to go back then.”
“Told you.” Miles flipped the lid shut again, before putting it back in his pocket. “If he sleeps at night, then maybe we can catch him.”
“Jesus Christ.” Waylon cradled his head in his hands. Going there during the day had been scary enough, he didn’t even want to imagine how the forest would be like at this hour. Actually, he wasn’t going to.
“Don’t you worry, Way-Way.” Miles slapped Waylon’s back with his still sausage-greased fingers. “I’ll protect you from our horny Bigfoot. I got a flashlight after all.”
“Oh goodie.” Waylon rolled his eyes and nibbled halfheartedly to the edge of his marshmallows. “Didn’t know Bigfoot was half-vampire.”
“Now you’re just being silly. A vampire wouldn’t be scared of a flashlight.”
“We go in the morning,” Waylon said sternly. “I’ll fight it now, but I won’t during daylight.”
“Fine.” Miles didn’t look like he thought it was fine. He was scowling again, poking the fire with a stick like a child.
Waylon was going to get better friends and a restraining order, he swore to himself. He couldn’t take this anymore.
After another hour of Miles sulking, Waylon had finally gotten him in a better mood by asking leading questions about cryptids and local myths, and when they finally retreated into the tent, he was in a swimmingly good mood.
“I’m certain, absolutely certain that Manipogo in Canada is the very same as Nessie in Scotland.” He was so excited his feet were shaking. “Connected by deep underground caves, I guarantee it! Maybe even the same ones as the Lusca!”
“How does it-”
That was as far as Waylon got before a loud screech broke through the silence outside.
Miles’ eyes went round as saucers, and he alternated between looking at Waylon and looking in the direction of the scream.
“What the hell is that?” Waylon whimpered, and scooted away from the walls of the tent.
There was another scream, closer this time, and it ended in a gutteral gargle, before rising again.
“You know what that is,” Miles whispered.
“Don’t say it.”
“That’s a Bigfoot. A juvenile.” Miles had that look again, his eyes shiny and far away. “Maybe he wants his sewing kit back,” he continued. “Maybe he won’t leave until we return it.”
A branch cracked close to the tent, and after a tense moment, the screaming started again. It was so loud that Waylon covered his ears and moved until he was almost on top of Miles.
“I gotta go out there!” Miles turned to the direction of the scream. “Don’t go anywhere, Imma coming!”
That was it. Waylon clamped his hands over Miles’ mouth, and put his full body weight on him. “We are not going out there. You’re not going out there. That might be a coyote!”
The scream rose and fell in pitch, but despite how it seemed to come from every direction, there was no denying how human it sounded. Waylon shuddered.
Waylon was about to say something when a large shadow fell over the tent. He stared at it wide-eyed, trying to gauge how large the creature had to be. That wasn’t a coyote, that was for sure.
“We should have brought a gun,” he hissed, so low that whatever was outside couldn’t hear him.
There was a moment of silence before something scratched the canvas walls of the tent, and Waylon could clearly see fingers indenting the fabric. He whimpered and tried to ignore the way Miles licked the palm of his hand to get him to move his hand away.
Whoever was outside made a low whooping sound, and it rose until there was nothing there but that scream, and the sweat running down the nape of Waylon’s neck.
They were gonna die.
He shifted along with the person outside, watching as fingers were pressed into the fabric where they scratched the whole length of the tent.
Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the fingers retreated, along with the screams, and soon it was nothing but an echo in the forest behind them.
Waylon finally let go of Miles’ face, and wiped his hand on his sleeping bag.
“Anything to make you let go!” Miles were already up, fiddling with his clothes and almost falling over himself in the process. “We gotta go after him. I gotta go after him. We’re so fucking close, Way. So fucking close.”
“We can’t just…” Waylon groaned and tried to wiggle his way out of his own sleeping bag.
Goddammit. It would be impossible to deter Miles now, he knew that, so he had two choices. Go with, or stay in camp while Miles ran out there without a voice of reason to keep him safe. Waylon groaned again.
Miles was already out of the tent, but when Waylon followed, he stood staring at something.
“What are you-” That’s as far as Waylon got, before he realized what he was looking at.
In front of the fire, illuminated by flickering flames, was the sentence ‘Feed me’ scratched into the ground. Waylon stared at it in horror.
“This isn’t a Bigfoot, Miles, this is a person.” He looked up at Miles, who was also staring at the words. “Some demented fucking stalker that feeds us mystery meat.”
“There are cases of apes using sign language.” Miles stuck his chin out. “Bigfoot would be just as smart, if not smarter.”
“You’ll clutch at everything, won’t you?” Waylon cradled his head for a moment. “Alright, we go back, we return the box, but then we’re out of here, alright?”
“Alright,” Miles said, but Waylon didn’t quite believe him. He still had that manic look in his eyes, and he had a suspicion he’d agree to anything at the moment, as long as it got him back into that forest.
“Then let’s get this over with.”
Waylon had been sweating bullets by the time they left camp, and he wasn’t embarrassed to admit he had stuck closer to Miles than ever before on their trek through the forest.
It wasn’t so much that Miles felt safe - he felt anything but safe - but he did have an air of knowledge of these kind of things, not to mention the flashlight. It was the very definition of better than nothing.
Honestly, it would have been better to omit the flashlight altogether. The beam of light was anemic and narrow through the trees, and he kept thinking he saw things whenever the light flickered and moved. At one point he actually shrieked, until Miles let him know it was just an owl. Honestly, anything would be scary at this point.
Thankfully the screaming didn’t return.
Sooner than he’d thought, but later than he’d hoped, they broke through into the clearing again, the cabin in stark relief to the stormy sky beyond it. The shudders were still closed, Waylon realized, but light were shining through the cracks.
“Someone’s there,” he hissed, but Miles was already on his way over.
“He’s fast,” he breathed as he went. “Come on, Way.”
This was bad. This was the absolute worst possible scenario. Miles was going to get shot. Or eaten, if the scratchings by the fire was anything to go by.
All Waylon could do was hurry after him, hoping to tackle him and pull him away if necessary.
“Just put the damn box on the doorstep and let’s go.”
Either Miles didn’t hear him, or he chose not to, because he moved up to the nearest window instead. He pressed his face up against the shutters, finally peeking inside.
“Whoa,” Miles whispered after a beat. “It’s bigger than I thought.”
Curiosity finally got the better of Waylon, gun wielding maniac or not, and he moved up next to Miles, who moved so he could get a glance as well.
Miles hadn’t sounded especially surprised or scared, so it gave Waylon a start when he realized something really was on the other side.
Waylon stared at it through the narrow crack in the shutters, his throat dry again. The narrow opening warped his vision a little bit, so it was hard to get a clear idea of whatever he was looking at. It was shaped like a human, sure, with wide shoulders and narrow hips, but it seemed grotesquely oversized for the small room within.
“Jesus,” he whispered.
“Did you bring the camera?” Miles asked, glancing up at Waylon.
“What?” Waylon hissed.
“Camera, bring, did you?”
“Why would I-?!”
At that moment, the figure stood up even taller and seemed to glance around. Waylon grabbed Miles, and pushed him down out of view.
“Just got my phone,” Miles mumbled to himself, barely even registering what had just happened. “We won’t be able to get much of his markings, but it’ll be enough.” He gave a firm nod to himself.
The heavy footfalls of the creature inside was audible even through the thick walls, and Waylon’s neck and back prickled with perspiration. If they were caught out there, they’d have nowhere to hide.
“Miles.” He tried to hide the panic in his voice. “Where’s the box? Let’s just leave it and-”
Miles didn’t listen, because of course he didn’t. He was too busy turning on his phone. For how savvy Miles was with a lot of things, he didn’t seem to know what was up and what was down. He flicked through various apps before he finally got his camera working.
“Alright, let’s just…” Miles trailed off, licking his lips. Waylon knew just by looking at him that he wouldn’t get any response to anything he might say or do, so he just kept close.
With more mumbling, Miles finally got the camera positioned by the crack in the shutters, and he adjusted it slightly as he squinted at the figure inside.
“Alright,” he said. “Ready, set…”
The light was blinding.
In all honesty, it probably wasn’t, but it sure felt like it for how dark the forest was.
“Fuck!” Miles shrieked.
“Ah!” came the muffled, but distinctly human response from inside, followed by rapid footsteps.
“You didn’t turn off the damn flash?” Waylon didn’t care how shrill his voice sounded, just grabbed onto Miles’ hand so he could pull him along.
They must have been found out, but the two didn’t stick around long enough to see the cabin’s owner.
They heard it, though. Heard it roar something after them, and even though Waylon couldn’t be sure, he was certain that it had followed them into the forest.
“It” wasn’t really an it though, was it? It was a man, obviously. Waylon knew that, and now, if Miles’ picture came out right, he’d have his proof of it.
“Yup, we’ve definitely got one,” Miles declared.
“You have got to be kidding me now.”
It was so clearly a man. In crap, cell phone grain quality, but a man still, turned half-towards the camera with wide eyes and a look of utter shock.
God, they’d been in someone’s backyard the entire time.
“Miles, we really need to go,” Waylon repeated for what must have been the fifth time. “I mean it this time.”
“Wow, they’re even more humanoid that I thought.”
“Miles!” Waylon exclaimed, grabbing him by the collar. “There is no Bigfoot and we’re trespassing!”
“What do you mean?”
Waylon was ready to scream into the forest. In fact, that was exactly what he did, tossing his head back and letting out a long scream.
“That’s it!” Waylon called out at the end of his scream. “You can run around and hunt whatever you want, but I’m going back to the car! I’m through!”
Immediately came the protests and accusations from Miles, but Waylon didn’t care anymore. He was already grabbing for a smaller backpack and shoving the blanket and the closest food he could find into it. He’d had more than enough, and he’d make do.
“Way-Way,” Miles tried, but Waylon was far beyond endearing pet names.
“Miles, I love you, but I gotta get back to some sort of normalcy. I can’t do this.”
“But…” Miles looked a bit like a lost puppy. “How will I get home?”
“I leave at noon.” Waylon slung his backpack over his shoulder. “Whatever you plan on doing to that guy, be done before then.”
He didn’t wait for Miles to answer, just stomped off into the forest, with no real direction.
Waylon really didn’t have any direction at all.
He’d had an inkling about ten minutes into his trek through the dark forest, but now, two hours later and counting, he realized he was completely lost.
Despite knowing there wasn’t a Bigfoot looking for a mate in this forest, every sound still made him jump. Cougars and bears were plenty scary, he realized. If a bear came he probably couldn’t even tell if it was black or brown, and then where would he be?
He could barely even see in front of himself. Waylon slowed down, but only for a moment. He had to get some bearing on where he was and where he needed to go. At the very least, he needed to know how to get back to Miles. It wasn’t a good option, but it was better than wandering alone. Miles had mentioned that people got lost in the woods all the time, and either never turned up again or turned up as a corpse. Waylon shuddered at the thought.
Then, paying more attention to his looping thoughts than the path ahead of him, he tripped.
It was strange, how these things happened. One minute he was scouting the area, the next he was halfway down a slope, fighting to get a hold of something to stop his rapid descent.
It didn’t hurt, that was the strange thing. Not when his ankle did a dry snap halfway down, and not when he landed head first into a rock at the bottom.
He groaned and rolled himself over. Down here the stars looked especially impressive, and he spent a long while staring up at them. Vaguely he was aware of the sound of footsteps coming his way, but the realization seemed unimportant. Whenever he lost focus on a star, they all went blurry on him. Maybe he’d gotten a concussion. His head certainly felt strange enough. He blinked the stars back into focus, but they soon blurred out again.
A shadow crept over him, but Waylon wasn’t afraid. He knew who it was, what it was. It hadn’t made sense a moment ago, but it did now.
“You came for me,” he breathed, and tried to tilt his head and look at the creature.
The creature spoke with a low rumble, but Waylon couldn’t make out the words, if they even were words. And then its hands were on him, gentle, cradling his head.
Fucking hell. Waylon started laughing, but soon winced instead. Miles had been right. There was a Bigfoot here, and it had singled out Waylon as his mate. Waylon wasn’t sure what came over him. A need to survive, maybe. He reached his hands out and placed them on the creature’s wide chest, finding it covered in coarse fur.
Nothing was real, anyway, right? Everything blurred together in the end.
Maybe this was just his fate, as some feral bride. Maybe that’s why Miles had been compelled to bring him here, and why Waylon had been compelled to get himself lost when he did.
Down here, cradled by both soil and monster, everything suddenly felt so clear.
“Take me,” he groaned, pushing himself closer to it. “Do what you came here for.”
There was a moment’s hesitation, as if the creature was perplexed by his eagerness, or, perhaps, working to comprehend Waylon. Then it leaned over him, finally giving Waylon a glimpse of it. He saw strong features and pale eyes that seemed to glow in the moonlight. The creature - for Waylon was certain this couldn’t be a man - didn’t speak, just hoisted Waylon carefully into its arms until he was rested on its lap.
It rumbled something against Waylon’s neck, and Waylon let his head fall back, granting it better access. The creature bit down when he did, and Waylon groaned. He should have paid closer attention to Miles’ stories. He wasn’t sure if a Bigfoot bite would mean anything. Maybe he was marked as the creature’s wife now. Waylon laughed again.
It felt like a man, that was the thing. He had started moving under Waylon, caressing his back and moving his hips against Waylon. It was more tender than he would have expected, more considerate. The low rumble against his neck didn’t feel threatening, but seductive.
“Yes,” Waylon moaned as the creature palmed him through the suddenly all too constricting fabric.
It felt like a dream. Like an especially life like fever dream.
He was reminded of those words left by the fire: feed me. It made his instincts kicked into overdrive all at once, compelling him to touch and grab and spread his legs out. He was rewarded by a deep growl and the creature bucked against him. Yes, he would. He would give him everything.
As he reached one arm around this thing’s shoulders, Waylon’s palms found, again, a coarse, fibrous kind of fur on its back. Nothing that a human could grow, he was certain of that much.
Despite that fact that it didn’t matter, he briefly wondered how well endowed this creature would be, and if it would hurt him. Waylon reached a hand between them, pressing his hand against the prominent bulge between the creature’s legs.
God, he was big, big all over.
The creature put his hand over Waylon’s, dwarfing it completely, before moving it away so he could get his cock out. He growled again when Waylon was finally able to touch him properly. It felt surprisingly human, to Waylon’s relief. It was thick and veiny, but all smooth skin.
“Shit,” Waylon almost slurred. “You’re so big.”
He wasn’t sure if the creature understood him, but he seemed to understand what he had meant, because he bit down on Waylon’s neck again and rocked against Waylon’s fingers. He was still holding Waylon upright with one hand, but the other had strayed down to the hem of Waylon’s pants.
“Yes,” Waylon moaned. “Touch me.”
The creature finally slipped his hand between the fabric and Waylon’s skin, his thick fingers fanning over Waylon’s ass, his middle finger resting teasingly right above where Waylon was longing to be touched.
Waylon let his head fall back again, and he blinked up against the sky while trying to get ahold of himself. There was something seductive about the whole thing. About being taken like some animal by a beastly creature in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to judge him but the stars and the moon.
That was when the creature tilted his head right back up again so he could cover Waylon’s mouth with his own.
Waylon gasped against the kiss, surprised that such a creature would initiate anything of the sort, but he soon reciprocated, nearly sucking on the creature’s tongue.
“God, I can’t-” Waylon groaned against its eager mouth and moved his hand from the creature’s cock to his own, undoing his own zipper so violently he almost destroyed it in the process. His cock immediately rubbed against the creature’s, and they both groaned at the sensation.
They were both slick with precum, and desperate for friction. Waylon tried to fit both their cocks in his fist, but found that he couldn’t.
The creature pulled away from the kiss, removing his hand from Waylon’s ass in the process. Waylon gave a pathetic whine at the loss of contact, trying to push himself closer. The creature chuckled then, low and deep in his throat, before bringing his own fingers to Waylon’s mouth.
Waylon opened his mouth for him, sticking his tongue out, and the creature immediately started moving his finger along Waylon’s tongue and into his mouth. God, but it was obscene. He didn’t just add one finger, but two and then three, chuckling again when Waylon desperately licked them.
Once the creature was happy with how slick they were with spit, he carefully removed them from Waylon’s mouth and down below the hem of his pants again. He didn’t waste any time, just moved his hand along the crack of Waylon’s ass once more and firmly sank his middle finger into him without much hesitance or resistance.
Waylon moaned then, desperately seeking the creature’s mouth again. He wasn’t the only one who was desperate. The creature groaned against his lips, thrusting his hips and fucking Waylon’s ass with first one finger, then two. Waylon’s head swam with it.
If there had been any doubts in Waylon’s mind about what he wanted to do, and how far he was willing to go, then he quickly had to abandon them all. In a move so quick that Waylon barely had time to realize what was going on, his pants were pulled off, and the creature’s cock was pressing insistently against Waylon’s opening.
“God,” Waylon murmured, gasping when the creature pulled his shirt up so he could place his mouth over one of Waylon’s nipples.
As the creature bit down, he started sliding his cock into Waylon, inch after inch, until Waylon was all but babbling with the sensation. His cock jerked when the creature started rocking into him, while licking and biting Waylon’s nipples.
Waylon dug his fingers into the creatures back while he speared him fully on his cock.
The position was strained, somewhat awkward for what they were trying to do, but even so, the creature began to move into him. It was only shallow, slow thrusts, not what either of them needed, but after waiting so long, it was gratifying enough for Waylon.
It wasn’t long, though, until the creature’s grunting grew frenzied and impatient.
In an instant, Waylon was shoved down and onto his knees, just barely catching himself. He shivered at the chill of the dirt beneath him, now coating his hands. Before he could react any further, the creature was bearing down on him, covering Waylon’s body with his own. It might have been humiliating if Waylon cared anymore. Between frustration and lust, though, he was a slave to his arousal.
He scrabbled at the ground, looking for purchase, and it must have seemed like he was trying to get away. The creature came down hard on him, growling and pushing his cheek into the dirt. Waylon gasped for air, but he’d never been so turned on in his life.
The creature wasted little time before he buried himself to the hilt inside Waylon, biting down on his neck in the process. In this position he was able to go deeper than before, and Waylon let out an animalistic cry he’d be ashamed of in any other setting.
Waylon dug his fingers into the soil and arched his back up, allowing the creature full access to his body. Not that it would have mattered if he hadn’t. If a creature like that even could listen to reason, Waylon guessed that he was too far gone in arousal to do it now anyway.
The creature was grabbing on to his hips and neck, using a punishing rhythm to fuck him. And God, Waylon had not been fucked like this before. He couldn’t even focus on anything besides the stimulation between his legs.
His mouth hung open and he closed his eyes.
It could have been minutes, or hours, or days, this thing pounding away, wrecking him, taking what he wanted. It was filthy, it was bestial, it was wrong.
It was the best Waylon had ever had.
Somehow, with just the pounding, Waylon felt his balls draw up and heat rush through him. Within seconds, he was coming, splattering his release in the dirt. All the while, the creature just kept going, chasing its own climax as its growls grew louder and louder.
When it finally, finally came, Waylon felt an arm clamp around his neck. As he felt this creature’s cock twitch and throb inside him, Waylon gasped for air and, on instinct, struggled against the hold.
The creature didn’t mind this time, only held Waylon tighter as he spilled. It was more than enough to tell Waylon that, yes, he belonged to this thing now.
It stayed in him for a long while, grasping Waylon hard and rumbling in his ears. It was like a lullaby for Waylon, ushering him towards sleep.
He would have collapsed straight into the dirt were the creature not there, still holding him up. Waylon was vaguely aware when the weight lifted off of him before he was lifted up into strong, unyielding arms. What could he do but accept it?
“Thank- you for the blanket,” he slurred, fighting to keep his eyes open as his head lolled against its chest.
And just like that, wrapped in warmth and the insistent heartbeat close to his ear, Waylon lost consciousness.
Waylon was in that pleasant half world between dream and reality, slowly growing aware of soft blankets all around him, and a warmth like nothing he’d ever felt before. Dry and pleasant and all-encompassing. So different from anything before.
He must have been dreaming. It had felt like he’d been stuck in a nightmare for hours, days, weeks, he wasn’t sure. All he had was the vague image of eerie, shadowy woods with monsters stalking every corner and cold, lumpy beds.
But no, that wasn’t possible. This felt like a bed, a nice hotel bed no less. Impossibly comfortable and warm.
It really must have been a dream. They’d gone to some nice resort instead of a shitty tent in the middle of nowhere. Maybe Miles had decided to hunt for the rare humanus wealthus instead of Bigfoot.
Waylon yawned and stretched comfortably, winced, and realized a couple of things all at once.
Pain, first and foremost. It hit him in a rush, in his back and abdomen and his ankle, oh God, his ankle.
It felt thicker than normal, and throbbing in tune with his heartbeat. After the pain was the startling realization that this was real. His mind seemed to whirl all around him, vision swimming, making the room spin. This was absolutely not a hotel. This was not some kind of nightmare. This was absolutely one hundred percent real.
The room was dark, but he could make out shapes in the dim lighting. He tried to force the panic down and take in his surroundings. It was worn and personal, with a quilted blanket hung neatly on the wall next to an old cuckoo clock. The panic was harder to keep in check once he looked to the window and realized its heavy shutters were closed.
He was in the cabin again, and this time Miles wasn’t even there with his dumb luck and connections. Waylon couldn’t even tell if it was night or day, the shutters were locked so firmly in place that not a glimmer of light, sun or moon, could penetrate the wood.
His skin prickled. The creature last night with the glowing eyes and… Had been real? Had they really…?
He looked at his nails, startled to find his hands clean. He had been moving around in the dirt so much last night that it was a wonder he even had nails left. He gently touched his neck, startled but not really surprised to find it aching and raw.
WIth a gulp, he lifted the blanket to assess the damage. Using his fingers to press against himself through his underwear, he gave a slight wince. He was sore, no question about it, but it didn’t really hurt. His ankle was another matter entirely; it was bandaged tightly and excessively. No wonder it felt thick. He prodded it gently with his fingertips, biting down on his tongue so he wouldn’t scream. He couldn’t run away like this.
What could he do? The place was dark and quiet, and he had nowhere to go and no way of doing it. There was a distinct possibility that he’d been fucked by a damn Bigfoot, and now he was in an unfamiliar place, an unfamiliar bed, with no friends he knew of. He could have been anywhere, but Waylon had a suspicion that he knew exactly where he was. The closed shutters told him as much.
The cabin in the woods. The belly of the beast.
And if he was in the creatures nest as its bride, then it would soon come back for him.
The thought had him jerk upwards, but a wave of nausea hit him and he promptly had to lie back down again. It struck him how soft and weak he was. He couldn’t even escape whatever this was.
Without the ability to run away, he used his other senses instead. The room had two doors, one window. There was a bed with a nightstand, a rocking chair with his backpack on it in one corner and a small desk by the window. The cabin was quiet, except… Waylon tilted his head and tried to locate the sound.
Running water? Footsteps? Waylon shrunk back against the wall. What could he do? He had no weapons, no means to escape or-
Oh, those were definitely footsteps, and they were closer now. Heavy, too, by the sound of it. Should he play dead? Pretend to be sleeping?
If it’s brown, lay down, if it’s-
Waylon turned his head and closed his eyes, forcing himself to breathe evenly, even with his heart pounding so hard that he could barely even hear the doorknob turning. In fact, he would have thought the thing had walked past the room entirely, had the primitive parts of his brain not let him know that there was definitely something in there with him. It wasn’t so much a sound as a feeling, his scalp tightened in that uncomfortable way he’d come to realize meant someone was observing him.
It was quiet, whatever it was, but he thought he could hear footsteps - soft now, as if the creature didn’t want him to know it was there - and even softer breaths.
Waylon’s own breath was lodged in his throat, and sweat had started pearling on his forehead, but he forced himself to exhale. The creature stopped then, he was sure. Perhaps it was wondering if he truly was asleep. Then, after a pause it crept forward again, ever closer, the floorboards creaking beneath its weight.
All at once the room went dead silent, like the forests had before. He didn’t even think he could hear his own heartbeats, and for a moment he was certain he was dead. In an effort to calm himself, he tried to think of Miles, but all he could conjure up in his mind was what he had seen, or thought he had seen, the previous night. He saw flashes of pale, luminous eyes and strong hands he knew could very well tear him apart.
The silence and his efforts to calm himself meant he had lost track of where the creature was. At least, until something touched his shoulder. He had to bite down on his tongue again not to flinch or scream. The room was still so silent, unnaturally so, to the point where the touch felt as abnormal as any of the other experiences he’d had out here. It was but a touch from a dismembered creature in a darkened, silent room.
Waylon had the wild thought that he had to know. He had to see. The creature let its hand move from Waylon’s shoulder to his upper arm. Waylon’s eyelids were quivering. Even in the darkness, he thought he could see shapes dance in front of his eyes.
The room wasn’t just quiet now, it was electric.
Then, breaking the spell, the creature simply moved its hand away, then it retreated slowly to where it had come from.
Waylon waited until he heard the door close softly behind the thing, and then he waited some more. He counted to a hundred in his head, then another, before he dared open his eyes and look around the room.
He took a few deep gulps of air, getting light headed in the process. God, it had been in here. It had touched him. Waylon fought panic, clutching his middle and forcing himself to breathe evenly.
It didn’t matter if he couldn’t move much on his ruined leg, he still swung his legs out from under the covers and onto the cool floor. He had to get away, had to escape, had to find Miles. As soon as he placed any weight on his ankle, though, he had to bite down on his knuckles to stop himself from screaming.
Fuck. Shit. He was stuck. Goddammit.
He tried again, taking care in not putting any pressure on his wounded ankle, and awkwardly moved towards the window while supporting himself against the furniture.
Waylon’s mouth went dry when he tried to get a peek out the window. It really did seem like some kind of horror movie. He could barely see the night sky, and a tiny sliver of the full moon. He glanced back towards the door, and then back out the crack of the shutters. He could only imagine the thing in the cottage running out there stark naked and transforming under the full moon. He pulled away.
With a groan he tried to suppress, he limped towards the door the creature had entered through. He reached out, grabbing the handle as hard as he could manage and making to turn it. It turned, but not comfortably, and as Waylon yanked at it, it didn’t so much as budge. Waylon’s heart dropped into his stomach.
That was it then. He was a prisoner.
With a groan and a pounding heart, Waylon hobbled back to the bed, feeling both dejected and panicked in a strange, numb sort of way. He sat down on the bed, glancing towards the window again. He could only hope Miles was out there, on his way to rescue him. If he wasn’t, well, then Waylon suspected he wouldn’t last long at all.
Please, Miles, Waylon thought, gnawing on his bottom lip. Please come find me.
With a defeated groan he fell back into bed. Nothing to do but wait now. He just hoped he was waiting for Miles, and not his own demise.
Despite the terror of waking up in the cabin, or perhaps because of it, Waylon had slept like a log through the night. He couldn’t even remember any dreams, not even shadows of dreams, and when he opened his eyes and blinked against the light, he felt more well rested than he had in years.
The room seemed different in the light of day. In fact, for a place that had brought him so much dread, it was oddly cozy on the inside. Quaint. Homey. Light was shining in through the narrow crack in the shutters, illuminating the throw on the bed and the scrubbed wooden floorboards.
Somehow the contrast made his skin crawl.
Something else was different as well. Another contrast. Waylon’s head felt clearer than it had the previous night, past paranoid thoughts long forgotten.
Well, almost. Waylon lifted up his shirt so he could prod his stomach for eggs just in case. Damn Miles and damn whatever creature had brought him here. He should have stayed in Denver.
Unlike the previous day he was able to sit up without much nausea, and despite the fact that he couldn’t run off anytime soon, he still felt more than fit for fight. If that thing came back, Waylon wasn’t gonna go down easily.
Once level headed, he kept looping back to whatever had happened with the creature under the moon. It seemed impossible in the light of day, a dream he'd left somewhere in the forest. He could remember, but only in flashes, images, sensations.
It had felt good. Far too good. Waylon had to bite his lip to keep himself from wondering whether or not he'd do it all over again.
Luckily he didn’t have time to ponder that too closely, because he suddenly picked up on a sound on the other side of the wall. Footsteps. There was definitely the sound of those footsteps again. He stayed upright this time, staring at the door, ready to face whatever lurked on the outside head on.
More alert now, Waylon could tell that they were made by someone - or something - big. He’d known that the whatever-it-was was big, but it was more visceral now, more tangible. He swallowed at the thought of standing in the same room with it. Him. It was a him, he knew that much. Despite his earlier intentions of standing his ground, he still shrunk back against the wall.
Slowly, the footsteps got closer and closer, until the door jiggled for a moment before finally it creaked open, revealing a-
Waylon blinked. It was a man. Just- a man, probably the very same one Miles had snapped a picture of however many nights ago.
He was tall and muscular, carrying a tray of food, and when he realized Waylon was awake he froze by the door for a moment. There was a strange expression on his face that Waylon couldn’t quite make sense of. Was this who Waylon had…? Had they…? Waylon couldn’t speak, too busy studying the man with wide-eyed surprise.
“Ah, you’re awake, thank God!” the man finally said, interrupting Waylon’s train of thought. “I was terribly worried you might be in a coma. The nearest hospital is an hour away and explaining why I was bringing you in would be difficult.”
It was amazing, how normal he looked; how he resembled what Waylon had seen in the dark so little and yet so much. The detail that had been elusive like smoke then, were crisp and clear now. He had a lilt to his voice, not quite an accent, but noticeable all the same.
Waylon wasn’t sure what to make of him. If this was who Waylon had encountered in the woods, he never would have imagined that looking like this. Despite his friendly tone of voice, he was still terribly daunting, nearly filling out the doorway completely. Waylon eyed him closely.
He seemed nervous, that was the best Waylon knew how to describe it. He rubbed the nape of his neck, alternating between staring a bit too intently on Waylon’s face, to everywhere but. It was just so bizarre, this man who Waylon had feared and revered suddenly standing in front of him, looking sheepish. He was still talking, an endless string of words, when Waylon finally interrupted him.
“Who- who are you?”
The man blinked, then chuckled softly to himself.
“That was rude of me.” He smiled and ducked his head a little. “My name is Eddie Gluskin,” he said before adding, “I live here.”
“Eddie Gluskin,” Waylon echoed in awe. “I’m-”
“Waylon,” Eddie said, the name seeming to put a smile on his face. A smile that quickly fell. “Forgive me, I’ve seen and heard far too much while not introducing myself.”
Seen too much? Waylon wondered, a flush creeping up his neck.
The man, Eddie, moved forward again, and Waylon couldn’t stop himself from flinching back. There was a brief look of disappointment on Eddie’s face, but he didn’t comment on it, just placed the tray of food on the nightstand next to the bed.
Waylon stared at his forearms, at the thick tendons and clearly defined musculature. If this guy turned out to be a psycho, then he didn’t stand a chance.
“I tried to make something light.” Eddie hovered for a bit, watching Waylon intently again. “Some soup and scrambled eggs. Try to get some more rest and we’ll talk later.”
“I really must insist.” The way he said it left little room to argue, but Waylon still opened his mouth to do just that.
“I really shou-”
“No.” Eddie stared down at him, and that look was enough to have Waylon shrink back again. “You really need to rest.”
This time Waylon just gave a meek nod, suddenly more than a little uneasy around the man.
Eddie smiled, then. “And do try to eat.” With that, he gave a small nod and made for the door.
For a moment, Waylon realized, Eddie fought with the door, pulling it into what seemed to be a tight frame. He didn’t, however, hear the click of any kind of lock. The door didn’t even have a lock as far as Waylon could tell. It was just sticky. God-fucking-dammit, Waylon was an idiot. He probably could have left the previous night, had he not been so terrified of some unnamed monster in the dark.
Despite all of that, he couldn’t fully shake the feeling that Eddie might be more than what he appeared. The creature that had been in there the previous night had definitely felt predatory, unless it was just Miles’ influence speaking again.
What had happened the night before still seemed hazy, and whenever he thought he remembered important details, they disappeared like smoke instead. He remembered the pale eyes in the moonlight and the coarse fur beneath his fingers. His face flushed when he remembered all the other things as well, and he cradled his head with a groan.
Eddie’s eyes had been pale, sure, but also human. From what he had been able to see of Eddie’s chest, the two top buttons of his shirt unbuttoned, was nothing but pale, smooth skin. No fur, human or otherwise. So what was he missing?
He dumped back against the pillows with another groan, before eyeing the food suspiciously. At the sight of it, his stomach gave a loud growl, and Waylon pressed his hand against it. He really was hungry, but accepting the food of some weirdo living in the middle of nowhere? It was like every horror movie ever.
Then again, Waylon argued with himself, if the man wanted to kill him, then he’d had ample opportunity already. He shifted, then winced. It was very clear to him that even with the knowledge of the door, he was still very far away from being able to escape on his own.
With a defeated sigh he made for the tray.
Waylon managed to feed himself, if just barely. The soup was difficult, and Waylon spilled some over himself more times than he would have liked to admit, but he finished it before it went cold at least. The scrambled eggs went even faster than the soup, Waylon having fully realized how hungry he was. Falling down a hill and sleeping for who-knew-how-long worked up an appetite, it seemed. Didn’t hurt that Eddie was a good cook either.
He ignored the little voice in his head that said that having beastly sex with strangers in the middle of a national forest no doubt worked up an appetite as well.
Waylon pushed the tray away with a frown.
Everything worked better on a full stomach, and when Waylon leaned back against the pillows, his mind was on overdrive. What did people do when they were kidnapped? Play along? Fight back? Wayon chewed on his bottom lip.
He could try to appeal to Eddie. Get some sympathy. Wasn’t that a thing? Like a reverse Stockholm syndrome?
After seeing Eddie and thinking about what had happened in the forest, he couldn’t stop wondering if he’d been brought here as some kind of sexual plaything. Waylon’t mind was reeling at the thought. Eddie easily had a hundred pounds on him, if not more. Not to mention Waylon’s ruined ankle and whatever was going on with his head. If he really was the creature from last night, then he was probably already chosen for a mate.
It didn’t quite make sense for how Eddie was acting, but all of this could all be very intentional on Eddie’s part. Setting himself up to play the hero. His heart pounded. What had happened to Miles?
The more Waylon thought, the more he shuddered. He could fairly easily convince himself that the sexual bits from last night had been his imagination. He’d hit his head fairly hard, and even after hours of rest, everything still had a strange, dreamlike quality to it. Whatever he'd fucked, it had been animalistic, hairy. It hadn't spoken at all, only growled. Or, that's what Waylon remembered. It could all have been a pain induced nightmare.
His soreness could be explained by the fall. Eddie could have explained the mysterious figure who'd found him. Yet, it all felt a little too real. Like he could still feel the remains of that thing's climax inside him. Waylon shuddered. It had been far too intimate, real or not.
Either way he certainly couldn’t stay here with this strange forest dweller. Who the hell lived in the middle of nowhere like this? In a national forest, no less.
Maybe he could wait for Eddie to fall asleep, and then- Waylon tried to move his ankle, and quickly abandoned that idea. He’d have to heal first.
God, he would have to convince him in the meantime. Maybe offer himself sexually as a ways to escape. He laughed at himself, but the laughter came out all wrong. He must have hit his head harder than he’d thought.
He’d have to get through tonight first. Whatever happened tomorrow, he’d just have to figure it out as he went. So far Eddie hadn’t given him any reason to suspect he was violent, so maybe it would be fine. Maybe.
Waylon tried to ignore the fact that he’d thought the exact same thing when agreeing to the camping in the first place. It would be fine, right? Waylon scoffed. So far he’d been nearly killed twice, kidnapped and forced to watch Miles eat mystery meat hanging off trees.
Things were very far from fine.
Unlike the previous night, though, he didn’t beg for Miles to come. He didn’t feel he had to, because if there was one thing he had come to realize, it was that Miles always stumbled in where he was needed.
He would come, Waylon knew. Without a shadow of a doubt, he knew.
When Waylon slowly came to the next day, it was to the sight of a huge hand nearing his face. Despite his decision to play it cool, he still screamed and scooted up until he was curled into the corner of the bed.
Eddie sat perched on the bed with his hand frozen mid air, his eyes opened wide.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.” Eddie said, but he didn’t lower his hand. “I was going to check your temperature.”
“Temperature?” Waylon’s voice had a hysterical edge to it that he immediately hated. “What else were you gonna check?”
Eddie immediately frowned and drew his eyebrows together. So much for getting on his good side.
“Really, darling, don’t be crude,” Eddie chided, and Waylon shrunk back further. “I’m trying to take care of you.”
“You really shouldn’t,” Waylon babbled. “Because I really should be going.”
“And I really have to insist you stay.” Eddie stared down at him, and now his face seemed more like a tight mask.
Okay, that was creepy. Definitely a really bad sign. There was no doubt in Waylon’s mind that he found himself in the presence of some kind of weirdo. Maybe he was one of those doomsday preppers. A religious nut of sorts. Maybe the tree-meat had been some sort of ritual. God, maybe he was a serial killer.
Worse still, what if this whole thing hadn’t been about a Bigfoot at all, but some kind of shapeshifter. That would explain the furry body and glowing eyes. A werewolf? A skinwalker? Waylon shuddered at the latter thought. Not a lot of Miles’ cryptids freaked him out, but skinwalker stories sent a chill down his spine.
All thoughts ceased when the smell of food registered, and he noticed another tray of food on his bedside table. It wasn’t soup this time, but thick slices of bacon and fried eggs, and a cup with the enticing scent of coffee. Waylon’s stomach gave a rumble, and he couldn’t help but feel a little bad. He hadn’t done anything to earn any kindness, in fact he’d done nothing but be suspicious of the guy.
“Thank you,” Waylon mumbled sheepishly, and took the mug.
“You’re welcome,” Eddie replied, and the whole thing was so domestic and out of place that Waylon had to bite down a laugh.
Instead he had a few gulps of coffee, taking that time to study Eddie more closely while convincing himself that it was to form a strategy.
For someone who lived in the middle of nowhere, the guy was dressed kind of nicely, with black slacks and a white button up that he had rolled up to his elbows. Waylon almost laughed again when he realized this forest-dweller was dressed nicer than Miles managed on special occasions.
What really got him was his haircut, though. Stark black hair shaved in an undercut, the guy looked like he was trying to audition for some underground metal band.
“So,” Waylon said after a moment of contemplation.
“So,” Eddie echoed, before he continued. “How are you feeling today?”
Terrified, was what Waylon would have said. Terrified and trapped and worried.
“Better,” he answered instead. “My ankle isn’t quite as tender, but my head’s been aching like hell.”
“A mild concussion, perhaps?” Eddie suggested, his expression a mesh of concern and thoughtfulness. “I’ll try to mix a little fish oil into your food. Maybe some cabbage too, vegetables.”
It was too much. Eddie’s food, Eddie’s insistence, Eddie’s concern that didn’t seem feigned enough for Waylon’s comfort. If Eddie truly was some kind of monster, then what was his game?
Maybe this wasn’t the first time, and Waylon would end up as a pile of bones somewhere on the property with all the others. Waylon swallowed thickly. Then again, perhaps Eddie really was just being a good samaritan. It wasn’t impossible. Just unlikely.
“Have you seen the guy I was with?” Waylon asked suddenly. “We were supposed to meet at our car.”
“I’m afraid not. I was more concerned for you in the moment.” Eddie cleared his throat before adding, “You seemed in more immediate danger.”
A likely story, but it wasn’t like Waylon could argue even if it wasn’t. If this guy wasn’t some psycho, then it was being rude, and if he was, then Waylon was putting himself at needless risk.
“Did you…” Waylon swallowed. “Did you see anyone else there with me?” He resisted the temptation to add something along the lines of ‘someone big and hairy’.
“Someone else?” Eddie’s eyebrows pulled together. “Do you not remember?”
Waylon flushed and had another sip of coffee to cover it up.
“What I remember doesn’t make much sense,” he mumbled, before speaking up again. “Was that it all along?” Waylon asked, veering away from the subject of the previous night. “Just you, watching us, scaring us?”
“Not just me, I’m afraid.” Eddie watched Waylon with suppressed interest. “A friend of mine was the first to see you.”
Oh God. Waylon blanched. He hadn’t thought of the possibility of a second creature, but it made sense, didn’t it? It did strike Waylon as unlikely that Eddie would claw on stranger’s tents and hang meat in the trees. He seemed harmless in a way, well-spoken and sharply dressed. Now the only question was what he meant when he said ‘friend’. Was it another human, or something else entirely? Or maybe Eddie was the creature and his friend the human. God, Waylon’s head was spinning.
“Was your friend the one who-” Waylon cut himself off, unsure how to continue.
Eddie raised an eyebrow.
“If whatever it was was particularly unsavory, I can assure you that it was him.”
Would the sex be considered unsavory? Waylon searched Eddie’s face.
God, but what if this was simply a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing? What if this “friend” of Eddie’s didn’t exist at all and it was all some scapegoat figment of imagination? Waylon could be dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic for all he knew, and he had no way out. All that Waylon could do was try not to set him off. He’d been so caught up with Miles’ conspiracy theories to deal with the most likely scenario; that this recluse was severely mentally ill.
“How did you find me, anyway?” Waylon asked, once more shifting topics. “After I fell and hurt myself.”
Eddie hummed, as though it was a particularly difficult question to answer properly.
“When you and your- friend came and took a picture of me, I decided enough was enough and followed you back to your camp.” He paused, lips thinning, as though there were some parts of the story that he preferred to leave unsaid. “I heard you scream, the shouting between you and him, and then I saw you running the other way, even further into the forest. I couldn’t just leave you out there in the middle of the night.”
It wasn’t an unbelievable story at least. Waylon couldn’t see any inconsistencies in it. But still, it was a lot to take in that he had a guardian angel, of sorts, all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. And it still didn’t explain his very vivid memory with a sexual encounter in the woods.
Eddie gave a short nod to the rocking chair in the corner, where Waylon’s backpack sat. “You kept the blanket I made you,” Eddie continued, a smile creeping at the corners of his mouth.
“It’s nice. Warm.” Waylon tried not to look at Eddie, because his expression had changed into one that put Waylon on edge. It was way too close to adoring, so his instinct that this might be a sex thing might not be far off.
“I’m happy you’re here,” Eddie said, and rubbed the back of his neck. “It can get rather lonely here, at times.”
Well, Eddie wasn’t exactly being subtle with that statement.
How did one go about these things? Did he offer himself outright? Wait for Eddie to make a pass. Jesus, he had no experience with these kinds of things. Who did? Waylon swallowed thickly and licked his lips. Eddie was still watching him, but he hadn’t spoken, and the silence stretched on between them.
“I’m not sure if-” Waylon cut himself off and moved a bit closer. “I mean. I’m not sure how you want to do this?”
“Do what?” Eddie asked, giving him a puzzled frown.
Waylon tried to force himself not to tremble as looked back up at Eddie. “You know…” he mumbled, blinking before looking back down.
“Oh,” Eddie breathed.
“I’m very thankful you saved me,” Waylon said quietly. “And that you’ve kept me warm and fed. I’d like to repay that, if I can.”
That was when Eddie suddenly stood up, and when Waylon looked up at him, he was surprised at the expression he found.
Eddie’s face was red now, and he opened and closed his mouth a few times before he finally backed off, all-but-running out of the room.
Waylon stared after him, mouth slack. What? What just happened? He’d thought- Well, maybe he’d thought wrong. Maybe he really had imagined the whole encounter in the woods.
It was a long while before Waylon saw Eddie again. A long, grueling period of confusion, frustration, and plain boredom. All he had to do was sleep and occasionally drag himself out of bed and limp to the bathroom when he needed to.
He didn’t even think he’d be able to, but the thought of asking Eddie for help after what happened was out of the question. He’d rather wet the bed at that point.
He really wished he’d kept better track of his phone. It wasn’t in his pocket where he remembered it being, and Eddie hadn’t mentioned taking it. Either he was keeping it from Waylon, or it had gotten away from him when he’d tripped. It would fit a little too well if he’d taken it from him, to keep him from contacting help.
So, for hours on end, Waylon laid there, splayed out and lost in his own thoughts.
Eddie didn’t come back until supper time, and this time he knocked and waited for a reply before entering.
Waylon hadn’t noticed before, but Eddie almost had to duck to get through the doorway. God, he was tall. No wonder they had mistaken him for-
“Hi,” he said.
“Hello,” Eddie replied stiffly, before moving over to the bed stand with a stack of books. “In case you get bored,” he explained, but didn’t initiate any further conversation. Instead he simply deposited the books and moved for the door again.
“Wait!” Waylon called out, and Eddie froze with his back turned. “I’m sorry, I thought-” Waylon worried his bottom lip with his teeth. “I don’t know what I thought.”
“I know what you thought,” Eddie said, not with anger, but hollow disappointment. He turned to Waylon. “You thought I wanted payment for making sure you didn’t die.”
Waylon flushed and ducked his head in sheer shame. It was hard not to feel bad, hearing his own actions spoken in such a lonely, melancholic tone. It was hard not to imagine that Eddie had been hurt before, in one way or another. Perhaps he wasn’t a creature at all, but simply a lonely man living out in the forest. Surely it wasn’t unheard of.
“I might be a lot of things,” Eddie continued. “But I’m not-” He shook his head. “I should let you rest.”
Something shifted in Eddie’s expression at that, and he tentatively came closer.
“You mentioned it got lonely here,” Waylon started, glancing up at Eddie every so often. “Well, it gets pretty lonely in here as well.”
Eddie stared at him intently again. “Do you want to-” He paused for a moment before continuing. “Do you want to go into the living room with me? Continue the conversation?”
“Yes,” Waylon answered immediately, so fast that Eddie actually chuckled.
The laughter seemed to loosen some of the tension between them, and when Eddie came over to the bed to help him out, Waylon didn’t flinch away from the touch.
Eddie snaked a hand around Waylon’s waist, while Waylon clung to his free hand, and after a moment where Waylon simply tested his balance, they made their way out of the bedroom.
Getting out of the room had been his number one priority, but now that he was, he wasn’t entirely sure where to begin to look for his cell phone, or a way out.
The place looked different when Miles wasn’t around. It wasn’t shrouded in mystery anymore, and Waylon’s eyes darted from item to item, scanning the room for anything he could use.
Eddie didn’t seem to notice, he simply led Waylon towards the sitting area, and deposited Waylon in a comfortable recliner. He seemed to debate himself for a moment before he sat down on the couch across from Waylon, with the table as a barrier between them.
Waylon fidgeted, trying to fight the urge to keep looking. Close to him, on his left, were the patio doors leading outside, the ones Miles had pulled him through in what felt like forever ago. Didn’t do him much good unless Eddie moved to another room. Then maybe while he was distracted Waylon could sneak his way outside and-
“Where do you live?”
Waylon shook out of it and looked up at Eddie who was studying him.
“Denver,” he replied before he could form a lie. “What about you?”
God. Waylon pinched his eyes shut for a moment. What the hell kind of question was that to ask someone in their own house? When he opened his eyes again, it was to Eddie looking amused.
“If you meant where I’m from, then Leadville,” he answered softly. “Lived out here for the past ten years or so.”
Waylon tried to ignore the little voice in the back of his head, the one that sounded suspiciously like Miles, saying that perhaps that’s when he got bit by a rabid wolf.
No doubt seeing the look of suspicious skepticism, Eddie continued. “I work from home, and this place is very inspirational.”
“Work from home,” Waylon echoed, looking over Eddie again. He was big and strong, so perhaps some kind of physically demanding job. Maybe he really was the park ranger. That would explain a lot of things. “What do you do?”
“Ah,” Eddie scratched the back of his neck, looking sheepish again. “You’ll no doubt find it odd, but I sew.”
Well, that explained what Miles had pilfered from the house.
“Uh. You wouldn’t happen to be missing some needles, would you?”
Eddie gave a small, half-smile. “I figured you might have had something to do with that. Yes, I am, but I have more than enough spares. I’d like the box back, though. It belonged to my mother.”
“Sorry about that,” Waylon said, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “Miles can be a klepto.”
“Miles,” Eddie echoed. “That’s the man you were with?”
Something about the way Eddie posed the question, and the way he looked at Waylon caught him off guard.
“He’s my friend, yeah,” Waylon replied, feeling the need to specify. “And a royal pain in my ass at the best of times.”
Eddie chuckled, lightening the mood once more. “Well, I feel your pain in that sense.”
Waylon relaxed his shoulders and allowed himself to sink back against the cushions. Like this, while having a normal conversation, Eddie just seemed like a normal guy. Charming, even. He was still watching Waylon a bit too intently, but it didn’t feel unfriendly.
“Would you like some coffee? Or more to eat?” Eddie asked, veering off subject in the politest way Waylon could imagine.
“Actually, yeah, to both those things,” Waylon said. “Felt like I could eat a horse since I got here.”
Eddie laughed, his face lighting up in a way that made Waylon smile by extension.
“Well, I’m sure I have enough here that you won’t need to resort to such a thing.”
Waylon was reminded of the sausages in the trees again, and he shook his head with the memory.
“I’m sure you do,” he said quietly.
Eddie didn’t seem to take heed of his uncertainty, or, at least, didn’t let on that he did. Instead he gave a nod to the chair Waylon was sitting in. “You ought to sit here while I put things together. And you call for me if you start feeling unwell at all.”
“I will,” Waylon promised. But he wasn’t about to promise to sit and wait.
Eddie scrutinized his face for a moment longer, gave a nod, and walked over to the hallway connecting the living room with the kitchen. Waylon watched him go, and when he was out of view, he got up.
Alright. Time to find that phone, call Miles and leave. Although, the thought was suddenly making him feel bad. Truth was that he’d been having a nice time with Eddie, despite everything. He shook his head.
“Get it together, Park,” he hissed under his breath.
One did simply not have good times with abductors and possible cryptids. That’s not how the world worked.
With a groan he tried to limp as soundlessly as possible around the room. Where would Eddie have hid his phone?
Eddie had said he had lived here for ten years, but there was very little in his sitting room that indicated he had. It was sparsely furnished, like a showroom of sorts, with little to no personal effects. It struck Waylon that Miles must have taken the one truly personal belonging Eddie owned. The thought made Waylon’s chest ache.
Waylon meandered out of the living room after a moment of searching, and found himself in what he recognized as the front of the cabin. He’d looked in these same windows, now with drawn curtains, just days before. Although, he’d been so focused on getting Miles the hell out of there that he’d taken no time to look around. Now, though, he was scrutinizing every detail. Nothing on the desk but some papers and keys, nothing on the walls but some bland paintings, nothing on the clothing stand but-
That’s when Waylon lost his balance, figuratively and literally.
There, hanging next to the door, was a long coat with a hood made of coarse looking fur. No, no, that couldn’t be right, it couldn’t be, but it was. That was all it could be. Waylon blinked at it, his mouth falling open. He was silent for a moment before he called out. Or, he tried to call out, but it came out as a choked sound that echoed through the cabin instead.
In the next instant, Waylon was falling to the ground in what seemed like slow motion. Waylon heard Eddie call out to him from the kitchen, but it never registered. He wasn’t aware of any pain as he hit the ground, not from his ankle or anywhere. The world was steeped in a mist, unclear, just as it had been that night.
He was only aware of Eddie coming to the doorframe by the feeling of his footsteps through the floor.
“Oh my God, darling!” Eddie said, rushing to his side. “Waylon, Waylon, are you okay?”
He felt Eddie’s arms wrap around him, lifting him up and taking pressure off his ankle. Waylon hissed, suddenly all too aware of the throbbing pain there. At the sound of Waylon’s pained groan, Eddie tightened his hold on him.
“I’m... “ Waylon still couldn’t look away from the coat, even with his eyes glazed over. He didn’t even have to feel it to know what it all meant. “Just got a little dizzy.”
“Let’s sit you back down. I’ll get water.”
It was clear to Waylon in that moment that Eddie had tried to make himself seem less threatening during his stay, because he swept Waylon off the ground with far more ease than Waylon was comfortable with. Even so, he wrapped his arms around Eddie’s neck, trying to look everywhere but his face. Eddie carried him back into the living room and laid him on the couch, supporting Waylon’s ankle with a spare pillow.
Once there, Eddie leaned down to inspect his face.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
God, those pale eyes. Waylon could only imagine how they looked under the full moon. He flushed deeply and nodded.
“What were you trying to do?”
“I was… uh. I was looking for my phone.”
Eddie frowned at him. “If you wanted a phone, you could have just asked, you know. No need to hurt yourself in the process of finding one.”
“You have my phone?”
“I have my phone.” Eddie fished an old flip-phone from his pocket.
Waylon’s heart sank and shame overrode anything else on his mind. He hadn’t thought- Why hadn’t he thought that Eddie would let him use the phone? He’d been nothing but kind and patient and willing to allow Waylon space, so long as he wasn’t hurting himself.
“I’m sorry, I-” Waylon started.
“No, no, darling, I should be sorry,” Eddie broke in. “It should have been something I offered earlier. I’m sure someone is missing you.”
There was a particularly melancholy note to Eddie’s voice, and he held out the phone for Waylon to take.
Waylon really should have at least called up Miles. Let him know that it was fine and to come meet him. But…
“Well, I’d like to have a bite to eat first,” he said at last. “If that’s okay.”
Eddie just stared at him for a long pause before he pocketed his phone again and nodded.
“Of course. I’ll go get us something to eat.” Eddie paused like he might leave before adding, “Stay here, alright? Call for me if you need anything at all.” He gave Waylon a heated sort of look, one that made heat rise in Waylon’s cheeks again. “I mean it.”
Waylon flushed at the command. He certainly wasn’t going anywhere now. He stared after Eddie when he went, stared at the powerful line of his shoulders and back. His throat felt dry.
From his seat he could just barely see the hem of the coat. Was it possible that he’d been so out of it that he had mistaken a fur coat for a Bigfoot? It was almost funny, had it not been so terrible. Miles and his damn theories must have rotted his mind.
Faster than Waylon would have wanted, Eddie rounded the corner with a tray. It was obvious, now, that it had to be him. Everything screamed it, from his jaw to his arms.
If Eddie noticed Waylon’s eyes on him, he didn’t say anything to it. Instead he placed the tray in front of Waylon and got himself a plate of food before sitting down opposite of Waylon.
Another one of those domestic moments. Waylon scoffed and rested his head in his hands.
“The night you rescued me,” Waylon interrupted and looked up at him. “Did something happen?”
It was a good thing he’d chosen to look at him, because a myriad of emotion crossed Eddie’s face, before he finally looked away.
“You really don’t remember, do you?” he asked, dejected.
Waylon stared at him in dumbfounded surprise for a moment. Part of him had thought, hoped even, that it really had all been in his head.
“I hit my head, I… I wasn’t sure what was real or not.” Waylon was so mortified he just wanted to cover his face. “It seemed more like a dream than anything that could have…” Waylon trailed off.
“It really was like a dream,” Eddie said softly. “It still is, you being here with me.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Eddie looked down. “You seemed so afraid of me, I didn’t know what to say.”
“But-” Waylon continued, still not satisfied. “In the mine, was that you?”
“Oh, yes, that incident,” Eddie said, rolling his eyes. “I had to break out my gas mask. I knew that old mine shaft was a death trap, but I hardly expected trespassers to find it. You two finally gave me a practical reason to cave in the entrance.”
“And what about-” Waylon struggled to find words for it. “You were the one who arranged me so carefully?”
Eddie coughed, for once, not avoiding Waylon’s face. “Yes, yes, that was me. I figured that you might leave after that and you wouldn’t ever find out. You seemed so tender, so in need of care.”
Eddie had been smiling, ever softly, but the smile melted away as he watched Waylon’s face.
“I’m- I’m so terribly sorry,” he finally said, rubbing a hand over his face and shaking his head. “It was wrong of me, I don’t know what got into me, you were vulnerable and I never should have-”
“I’m not angry,” Waylon broke in, words coming out faster than he could think about their implications. “I’m just…” He gnawed on his bottom lip, trying to put into words what he felt. “I don’t regret it, it was good, I just didn’t know.”
God, he was babbling, all the while Eddie sat there with his mouth open, still mid-syllable, frozen and silent.
“It was good,” Waylon repeated, avoiding Eddie’s eyes now as his face flushed. “You’re really good.”
A sort of darkness had come over Eddie’s face when Waylon finally dared to look at him, like he wanted nothing more than to tear Waylon’s clothes off right there and then and ravage him on the couch.
“I could say the same of you, darling,” he said, and even his voice had changed. “You took me so well.”
Waylon spluttered something, trying to hide the fact that even his ears had gone hot, and then Eddie’s expression changed again.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” Eddie explained, looking sheepish again. “But you laid there so beautifully, asking me to take you and I…” He gave a small chuckle. “Well, I’ve wanted to know you since I first saw you on my property.”
“Y-your property?” Waylon started laughing. “Miles told me we were in a state park.”
“Hardly.” Eddie smiled knowingly. “That’s about five miles to the North.”
“Miles is gonna be so disappointed.” Waylon shook his head and gave a soft smile. “Y’know, he came here hunting for Bigfoot. He almost had me believing a few crazy things as well.”
“Oh?” Eddie looked amused. “Did you expect a few mythical beasts of your own?”
“I actually thought-” Waylon cut himself off.
“Uh. That…” Waylon debated on whether or not he should be honest. “Well. Miles, he- he kept suggesting that a sasquatch wanted to make me its bride.”
“Its- bride,” Eddie echoed, before he got a strange expression on his face. “Are you saying you thought I was…”
Then he started to laugh. First, a light chuckle that soon gave way into a deep, profoundly amused guffaw. He brought a hand to his face, tipping his head back as he lost himself in uproarious laughter.
“Is that what you thought?” Eddie managed to ask between breaths.
“Maybe,” Waylon sniffed, but he had to laugh as well. “I mean, you’re big enough.”
“Flatterer,” Eddie said. Then, as his laughter died down, he shook his head, smiling again. “You are terribly cute, aren’t you?” He looked at Waylon once more, only half-smiling. “I- that’s what I noticed about you, out there. How cute you were. How beautiful.”
“Miles is gonna be really disappointed,” Waylon repeated, uncertain of how to react to being called beautiful or the intensity on Eddie’s face. “He really was convinced there was a Bigfoot or two around. Dragged me here to find evidence.”
“And you thought you did.” Eddie looked like he was trying to suppress another burst of laughter.
“Can you blame me?” Waylon asked, more than a little miffed. “You didn’t even talk during it all.”
“What?” Eddie did a double take. “I did speak to you.”
“Well.” Eddie gave a sheepish wince. “I assure you it wasn’t the only thing I did.”
As if Waylon didn’t know. Unbidden images flashed through his mind; Eddie’s mouth on his, Eddie’s hands touching every part of him, every single part, and how he’d come inside him.
That intensity was back on Eddie’s face, as if he knew exactly what Waylon was thinking, and before Waylon could do much of anything, Eddie had stood up, walked around the table and knelt down in front of Waylon.
“I meant what I said.” Eddie reached a hand up to Waylon’s face. “You really are beautiful.”
Waylon flushed again as more images from that night flashed through him. Eddie’s strong, powerful back, those hips bucking into him… Perhaps it really was visible on his face what he was thinking, because Eddie’s lips stretched in a grin.
“You really are a minx, aren’t you?” he whispered, before he tilted Waylon’s chin down with his thumb and kissed him.
The first thing going through Waylon’s mind was that he was kissing some stranger that had locked him in his cabin. The second was that it was damn good. His whole body throbbed with the contact, his stomach fluttering when Eddie cradled his face.
The kiss started as a gentle thing, but soon they pulled closer, and sooner still, they were almost on top of each other on the couch, deepening the kiss even further. Waylon keened against his lips, grabbing on to Eddie’s shirt to pull him even closer.
Like this, the idea that Eddie was some feral beast was easier to believe. Waylon almost felt helpless in his arms. In what seemed to be an illustration of that point, Eddie pressed his groin up against Waylon’s. Waylon swallowed, his heart rate picking up. That had been inside him?
“If I were a more presumptuous man, then I’d suggest we take this to the bedroom,” Eddie murmured against his lips, while sliding his hand up Waylon’s thigh.
A hot thrill throbbed through Waylon at those words. It was madness, all of it. This wasn’t like him at all. He couldn’t, but-
“Are you gonna prove you’re not the big beast I thought you were?” Waylon teased.
“Oh,” Eddie chuckled against Waylon. “I wouldn’t say that, darling, but at least the bed will be more comfortable.”
“I’d say be as presumptuous as you want,” Waylon moaned, as Eddie started palming him through his jeans. “Lead the way.”
Eddie all but growled at that point, and pulled him up from the couch, easy as could be.
“I’ll finally take you properly,” Eddie promised, and Waylon’s mind blanked completely at the thought of Eddie not considering what he’d done to Waylon out in the forest as just that.
Eddie put an arm around Waylon’s waist, nearly sweeping him off his feet again in an effort to ease the pressure off his ankle. He kissed him deeply, while whispering all the things he’d do to him whenever they stopped for air.
“If you don’t take me to bed right this instance,” Waylon breathed. “You’ll have to take me right here.”
Eddie smiled against his lips and started walking Waylon backwards towards what was presumably Eddie’s bedroom.
At least, that was where Waylon thought they were heading before the shrill sound of glass shattering stopped them dead in their tracks. Waylon stared wide eyed as Miles came crawling in through the broken window. He looked like he’d gone feral in the short time since Waylon had seen him last, with ruffled hair, stubble covered jaw and wild eyes.
“Waylon!” he shrieked, and then, seemingly unable to form a coherent sentence just stared at Waylon with wide eyes. “Waylon!” he repeated, and then focused on Eddie. “You!” he said, pointing a finger at him. “You unhand him this moment, or I’ll…!”
Eddie merely raised an eyebrow at him. Before he had a chance to answer though, there was rapid knocking on the front door before a skinny, scraggly looking man burst through it.
He looked even more feral than Miles, if possible, with unkempt facial hair and tattered clothing. “Sorry Eddie!” he cried. “I tried to stop him!”
Waylon looked from one to the other, trying to figure out what was going on.
“Frank, what the hell…” Eddie cut himself off and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Waylon, this is my- associate. Frank.” Eddie finally sighed, gesturing to the scraggly man. “He informed me of your presence in the woods.”
Frank deflated and grinned, before stepping forward to shake Waylon’s hand. “Frank Manera, pleasure to meet ya at last.” He looked up at Eddie, before winking at Waylon. “Well, in person anyway. Gave you some scare, didn’t I?” Frank said, clapping Waylon on the back. “You run like a bat outta hell.”
The whirlwind of events had taken Waylon completely off guard, and he opened and closed his mouth a few times.
“Were you the one hanging sausages in the trees?” he finally asked.
“The sausa-” Eddie cut himself off. “Oh, for God’s sakes, Frank, what did you do this time? I told you to leave the blanket and pillow, nothing else.”
“What, me?” Frank actually looked a bit offended. “I merely fed your boy.”
Waylon’s eyes narrowed, and his directed his glare at Frank. “And were you the one who wrote ‘Feed me’ in front of our tent?”
Frank paled at that, and Eddie’s exasperated stare turned to an outright glare.
“Ahah. Just a prank?” Frank put his hands up.
“You are not off the hook,” Eddie hissed, pointing an accusatory finger at him before turning to Miles. “And you must be Miles.”
Eddie gave a courteous little bow, while Miles looked like he had seen a ghost.
"I thought we were in a park,” he whispered. “White River National forest? Are you a squatter?”
At that Eddie pleasant expression melted away to one of annoyance.
"No, you buffoon,” he said. “This is my property. Twenty acres of it."
“But- we followed the trail in.” Miles looked like he was trying to put two and two together, but not liking the answer he came up with.
“And then clearly made a circle and walked right back out.”
Miles seemed to ponder this for a moment, putting a hand to his mouth.
“Well, then where’s your mailbox, huh?” he demanded.
“I have to drive out to the edge of the forest to get my mail. There’s no other reasonable way for anyone to reach my address.” Eddie glanced to the side for an instant. “It’s the price I pay for some degree of privacy.”
“Well, where’s your car then? I didn’t see any cars today or yesterday.”
“In a clearing, less than five minutes from here. I’ll show you if I must.”
“So it was a car we heard that night,” Waylon mumbled to himself.
Miles opened his mouth once again, but any words died in his throat, and he gave a desperate whimper.
“But- the sasquatch, they...” He trailed off, lip quivering like he might just start crying.
Eddie sighed and shook his head.
“I’ve lived here for ten years, and I can tell you for certain that there are no apemen, no werewolves, no vampires or what-have-you roaming these woods. I’ve only ever seen a bear myself once or twice.”
“Told you there weren’t any bears,” Miles mumbled, still not looking up.
“Miles, what are you even doing here?” Waylon asked, veering off the subject. “How’d you find me?”
“I waited by the car for like half a day!” Miles cried, grabbing at his back pocket and pulling out Waylon’s lost phone, now with a shattered screen. “Then I tried to backtrack, found your phone in a ditch and I knew something terrible must have happened. I was worried!”
Oddly, in that moment, Waylon was more concerned about having to replace the screen, than whatever worry Miles might have had. Honestly, he kind of deserved it.
“Nothing terrible happened,” Eddie cut in with a scowl.
Miles eyed him before he continued. “Yeah, well, Waylon’s head and leg says differently.” He suddenly gasped and yanked Waylon’s head to the side. “And neck! Waylon, did you get a mating bite?”
“Jeez, ouch,” Waylon said, rubbing his neck. “Yeah, I guess I did.”
Eddie gave a snort, but his eyes were soft as he regarded Waylon. Waylon could only imagine that his expression matched.
Frank gave a whistle at the two of them. “Guess you don’t have to go around peeping on him anymore, eh, Eddie?”
Eddie flushed, glaring at Frank once more.
“Frank,” Eddie hissed. “As though you didn’t ‘peep’ as often as I have. And scared them intentionally!”
“Ah, come on, it was funny!”
“Everything’s been kinda funny,” Miles piped up. “You know. In hindsight.”
That was the thing about Miles. He never stayed upset for long. Still, Waylon gave an indignant huff. It had probably all been fun and games for Miles, who hadn’t had to suffer through the horror that was vacationing with Miles, a sprained or broken ankle and waking up in some strangers house. Well, Waylon thought. That part might not have been a horror at all. He glanced up at Eddie, who he found looking right back.
“I suppose it is a little funny,” Eddie agreed with a soft look on his face.
Waylon grumbled, making a show of looking away from Eddie, but he couldn’t quite hide his smile.
“So what now?” Miles asked hopefully, then continued before anyone had a chance to reply. “Say, Ed, your house is a lot nicer than our tent, how about…” He trailed off and fluttered his eyelashes at Eddie.
“Before you ask if you can have a sleepover,” Waylon started, trying not to sound like his mother. “Perhaps you should give him his sewing kit back?”
“Oh, right, yeah.” Miles slapped his hands over every pocket on his body, then dug around in them for a moment longer before finally-
Miles produced the same antique box from before and held it towards Eddie. “Sorry ‘bout that, just a little mix up. Kept it safe for you.”
Eddie sighed and took the box from Miles without acknowledging the comment, shaking his head even as he spoke, “Fine then. I’d rather not have you running around in the woods unsupervised. And besides.” He touched Waylon’s hand softly before twining their fingers together. “We had plans, remember?”
Before Waylon could blush and Miles could gag, Frank grasped both Eddie and Miles and grinned widely. “Then it’s settled! Tonight we do barbecue and while you and Waylon there fuck each other’s brains out, I’ll join Miles on his valiant quest.”
Waylon and Eddie groaned in unison, glancing at each other with a smile when they realized.
“Y’know, I kind of have an eighth sense about these things,” Miles preened, puffing out his chest. “I told Waylon when he was washing dishes in the lake that he’d find himself a mate.”
“Hah!” Frank said. “That’s when Eddie saw him too! Came gushing to me about the-”
“That’s quite enough of that,” Eddie interrupted, his neck pink.
Waylon smiled despite himself. It was somehow comforting now, knowing that it was only Eddie watching him. No mysterious forest dwellers, no cults, no serial killers in the woods. Just- Eddie. Making sure nothing happened to him. He squeezed Eddie’s hand.
“C’mon, Miles,” Frank said, slapping Miles’ shoulder. “Lemme show you some real strange droppings I found in the forest while hunting for ya, it’ll surely tickle your butthole.” He winked at Eddie. “Let these two lovebirds do their thing.”
“Gross,” Miles mumbled, but he still allowed Frank to pull him along through the open window.
Waylon stared after them, unsure if it had just been a hallucination, although the broken glass all over the floor kind of told him otherwise. He shook his head and looked up at Eddie.
“So you were watching me, huh?”
“Hard not to,” Eddie replied without missing a beat, “You’re quite eye-catching.”
“Now who’s a flatterer.”
Eddie chuckled at that, but didn’t speak. Instead he watched Waylon quietly, his eyes dark and hooded. It should have been awkward, just like everything else should have been creepy, but it wasn’t, not anymore. What was Waylon waiting for?
Deciding to take the plunge, Waylon reached around Eddie’s shoulder and leaned up to kiss him on the mouth. Eddie stared at him for a long moment then, frozen in place. Waylon stared back with big eyes that he hoped would tell Eddie what he wanted.
Hold me in your arms, Waylon thought fervently. Ravage me like you did in the woods.
Instead, though, all he managed was a timid, “Eddie…”
Eddie’s expression turned from puzzlement to a wide grin that would have been terrifying in any other scenario.
“Tired of waiting, are you? You minx,” Eddie said, sweeping Waylon completely off his feet in one swift motion. "Shall I put on my coat?" he continued. "Will that satisfy your craving to be taken by a wild beast?"
Eddie’s tone was somewhere between playful and unbearably sexy, and it made Waylon chuckle, wrapping his arms around Eddie’s neck. It was amazing how easily Eddie held his weight without any obvious effort.
That ease was reflected as Eddie took brisk steps back towards the cabin’s bedroom, thoughts of food or anything else forgotten. A thrill went through Waylon’s body at the thought of what was to come.
The trip hadn’t exactly gone according to plan, but Waylon couldn’t deny that it had turned out better than he had expected. He wasn’t dead, Miles had found a friend, and even though he hadn’t found Bigfoot out there in the vastness of the forest, he had found something better.
He tightened his hold around Eddie’s neck, leaning forward to rest his head in the crook of Eddie’s neck.
Oh yes, this was definitely better.
Chapter 11: Bonus Chapter: Five Encounters
Miracles really did happen, it seemed. For once in his life, Frank was actually right.
There really was someone on Eddie’s property. What Frank had neglected to disclose, however, was just how eye-catching this someone was.
The man was knelt by the river, washing a frying pan in the current. His ruffled blonde hair shone like a halo in the early morning sun, and Eddie tried to force himself to either walk up to the man or walk away.
Eddie did neither. Instead he kept watching, hidden in the thick foliage.
Convincing himself it was to form a strategy, to find a way to convince him he had to go, Eddie kept his eyes on the man as he started putting the things he’d already washed aside.
Then, as if feeling someone watching him, the man at the lake stiffened, visible even from where Eddie stood, and glanced around. Eddie took a step back, but didn’t turn for his cabin, despite knowing he should.
“Miles?” the man asked, his voice melodic over the quiet roar of the river.
The man turned around, giving Eddie a clear view of his face. Against his better judgment, Eddie’s first thought was, my, what lovely features. Plush lips, long lashes, beautiful bone structure…
Eddie shook his head. This was far from the time for such thoughts.
Then again, this would have been an excellent time to step forward, introduce himself and laugh at the fact that they had no doubt intended to go to the White River National Forest, but ended up on his property instead.
It would have been, but still Eddie stood quietly, observing the man who suddenly seemed uncomfortable.
“Miles, I swear, if you’re pranking me, I’m hitting you with your own pan!” he called out again, louder this time.
So there was another one skulking around. Another thing Frank had been right about. Eddie’s good mood immediately evaporated.
The man shook his head, before gathering up his clean dishes and moving into a small clearing where they’d set up camp. It wasn’t much as far as camps went, just a small tent, a firepit and some supplies hoisted up in a nearby tree.
This time Eddie did move, quietly pushing forward so that he could see what the man was up to.
He kept looking around, as if he knew Eddie was there, brushing his hands over his arms as if he was cold.
Maybe he’d like a blanket, came a thought from the back of his mind.
What on Earth was wrong with him today? First being taken with the man’s features, now Eddie was concerned for his comfort. He needed to get a damn grip.
After a long stretch, the man stood up and walked away from the campsite, leaving his fire unattended. Eddie couldn’t help but be annoyed. Had this man not looked into safety rules before going camping?
He thought for an instant that it would be best to stay put in case the fire got out of hand, but he didn’t want the man to end up lost and alone in the woods either.
Yes, a potential forest fire that could cause massive destruction, or a single man’s life. Eddie’s priorities were all over the place today. He shook his head, but kept on moving after the man as he started disappearing through the trees.
It was amazing how loud the man was being for someone who didn’t seem to want company. Eddie could hear each footstep easily from at least fifteen feet away, and he took no care not to step on rocks and leaves and fallen branches.
In contrast Eddie moved quietly, following shortly behind.
The man might have been loud, but birds and animals reacted differently to Eddie, as if he truly was a stalking predator. One by one they fell quiet, until the forest was all-but-silent. He didn’t entirely blame them. He’d gone out to investigate signs of mountain lions on his property several times before, and had carried a hunting rifle each time. He’d discharged it once as a warning, and Eddie was certain that the inhabitants of the forest had been afraid of him since.
The man seemed to have noticed as well, because he had started swerving off course, looking around in what looked like a growing panic.
This was madness.
Intending to retreat, Eddie took a step back, and that was his first mistake. His foot landed on a twig, causing a sharp snap. The man in the clearing whipped around.
“Who’s there?!” he barked as he frantically searched for the source of the sound.
Eddie thought once again that he should just introduce himself, explain to the man that this was private property, and move on with his day. Instead he kept hidden like some kind of beast, watching. Get a grip, Eddie thought sternly to himself, clenching his teeth tightly. When he finally had the resolve to take a few steps forward, opening his mouth to introduce himself, the man ran off in a blind panic before Eddie could mutter a single word.
Eddie stood frozen for a moment, unsure whether to follow after him, or finally go back home like he should have done from the get-go.
Honestly, what was he doing?
The stranger wasn’t Eddie’s responsibility. If he wanted to run through the woods like a chicken with its head cut off, then he should just be left to do just that. He’d run into a fence or a road eventually, and be able to find his way back.
Eddie shook his head again and finally retreated back into the forest, trying to shake the man’s face from his mind.
Eddie made the executive decision to leave the two trespassers be, at least for the time being. They weren’t causing any harm, and had likely gotten lost on a camping trip to the nearby park. It wouldn’t have been the first time, but usually wayward hikers were easily directed away. Not so much here.
He wasn’t sure if he could even look at that man he’d seen washing in the river again. He hadn’t the faintest clue what he’d say or do. That he was currently sewing on a matching blanket and pillow for the man was something he wasn’t gonna dwell on.
Eddie shook his head and refocused on his stitch work. It didn’t matter either way. The pair were liable to be gone within the week and would no longer be Eddie’s problem.
Fortunately for Eddie, three pounding knocks on the front door distracted him from the course his mind had taken.
“For goodness sake, Frank, the door is unlocked!” Eddie shouted.
The door was then shoved open, grunting in its slightly too-small frame.
“Hey, Eddie!” Frank called to him from the small foyer. “Guess who I saw again.”
Well, so much for the distraction.
“I don’t think I need to guess,” Eddie said, putting his work to the side. He wasn’t going to get anything done with Frank here anyway. “Did you inform them that they were on private property?” he asked, somewhat hopeful that he’d be unburdened of that responsibility.
“No, no,” Frank said, shrugging. “It’s your dominion, after all. You oughta make the first move.”
Eddie rubbed his temples. Not only did Frank decide to make an impromptu visit, but now he was going to bother Eddie about the two trespassers?
“Oh, yeah, more importantly, I think they’re going to the mine,” Frank added. “Heard the chatty one pointing it out.”
The hair on the back of Eddie’s neck stood on end, any annoyance forgotten.
“Oh, God. Oh God, no,” he breathed before hurrying to open the cabinet near the front door, and pulling out a gas mask and headlamp. “When did you hear that?”
“Ah, maybe half an hour ago? Think they walked in circles for a while beforehand.”
“Why didn’t you stop them?!” Eddie demanded, glaring at Frank again.
“I wasn’t even sure if they’d make it there,” Frank said, shrugging.
It didn’t matter anyway. If Eddie was lucky, he might just have time to catch them before they caused a cave-in, or disturbed a rabid bat, or stirred toxic gases, or worse.
“Stay here,” Eddie ordered as he shouldered past Frank, knowing full well that his words would fall on deaf ears.
Eddie rushed out the door, gas mask in hand, and sprinted into the woods. He knew precisely the quickest way to the mine, had memorized it partially for this very circumstance.
He knew that it was a death trap, had been told as much by inspectors, but he simply hadn’t gotten around to doing something about it. He’d figured that no one would wander so far into his property by accident, and certainly not be idiotic enough to wander into an unmarked cave. Just Eddie’s luck.
The twenty odd minutes it took for Eddie to race through the woods and to the mine felt more like hours. By the time he found himself at the mouth of the mineshaft, no one appeared to be present. As he ventured closer to the entrance, though, echoes found his ears.
“Mi- Mi-iles,” he heard. “No-o…”
Then came an echoing splash and Eddie full-on panicked. He stretched the gas mask over his face, put on the headlamp, and ran into the mine. It didn’t branch out until much deeper, thank God, but they still must have been in deep to find stagnant water.
“Hello?!” Eddie bellowed into the darkness as he ran. “Where are you?!”
No answer. Not even a token groan in the darkness. Oh God, Eddie prayed he wasn’t too late.
It wasn’t too long before he found himself at the edge of a pool of water and, surely enough, there were two bodies, passed out in awkward positions. Eddie’s heart pounded, and he was fueled by sheer adrenaline as he hauled both of them up, each over one of his shoulders and rushed back towards the cave’s entrance. The entire time, he prayed to God that the two of them were still breathing.
As Eddie stepped back into the late daylight, he placed the two of them down in front of the cave. He checked the blonde first, feeling his pulse and respiration. Thank God, he was still breathing and his heart was working. As he listened further, Eddie found that his heart and lungs were only working stronger, not weaker, so it was entirely likely that he’d recover on his own with some rest and fresh air. For the second man - Miles - it was much the same case. It seemed they hadn’t been exposed for too long to have taken a fatal dose of toxic gases.
Although, Eddie couldn’t bring himself to leave then and there. Instead, he brought the man who he’d seen the previous day up into his arms. Eddie couldn’t help but smile at seeing his face. His features were even prettier up close and at ease. There was something pure and angelic about him, something that drew Eddie to him. He was tempted, so very tempted to carry this man back to his home, and-
Eddie pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind. He was being ridiculous. He had no business doing anything more than making sure that the pair didn’t kill themselves on his land.
Despite that, Eddie made a point to arrange this beautiful man comfortably over a grassy patch near the cave.
Wanting to keep an eye on the two’s condition and knowing that they wouldn’t regain consciousness for a while, Eddie figured that it was about time he caved in the entrance. It was the least he could do.
Frank, for better or worse, had been keeping a close eye on the pair in Eddie’s stead. He seemed entertained by their antics, recounting the lone activities of the black-haired one.
“He kept poking at one of my boot prints, can you believe it?” Frank sucked on some Jolly Ranchers, self satisfied like the cat who’d caught the canary.
Eddie wasn’t sure what he could or couldn’t believe anymore. Things simply were as they were, to his exasperation.
Today, though, Eddie decided on a whim to track the pair on one of their hiking expeditions. They’d gone to a thicker, piney part of the woods, an area where the treetops allowed little light to reach the forest floor. It was far from the safest part of the forest, so Eddie was happy to stand by should anything go pear-shaped.
And, perhaps, happier still to see his pretty blonde again.
Much as he tried to deny himself, Eddie couldn’t help but smile seeing the man’s skeptical glances at his companion’s chalk tree markings. He seemed as annoyed as Eddie had been upon discovering the two of them, or even with Frank, simply putting up with his friend’s antics. It made Eddie feel warm in a way that he couldn’t remember feeling before.
So it was hardly a surprise when Eddie took it upon himself to creep ever-closer.
It was easy to hide himself in his dark clothes behind dark trees and shadows. It was a sense he had of the forest that these two didn’t seem to share. Once more, Eddie could track both of them just be the sound of their walking, the forest floor crunching beneath their feet.
Eddie inched closer, ever-so-slowly, from fifteen feet, to ten, and even smaller increments from there. He could see the man breathing now, but he seemed nervous, as he had the other day. He kept glancing around, as though he knew that he was being watched, but simply couldn’t tell from where.
Eddie smiled. At least he had that sense of things. With time, Eddie imagined that he’d learn how to make himself scarce in the woods.
Right now, though, he just appeared confused and a bit frightened. Curious to see if he might catch on, Eddie intentionally put his foot on a nearby branch, letting out a sharp snap.
The man whipped around towards the sound, head snapping to each side as he looked for a source. Still, he couldn’t seem to spot Eddie.
“Miles?” he called, cautious at first. “Miles?!”
Determined, Eddie stepped down again, louder this time, hoping that it might give his location away for good. Instead though, the man simply backed away, the fear in his expression only growing.
Eddie huffed and moved closer still, his heart beating ever faster. This was it, he’d introduce himself and inform the man that he was on private property. As he did, the man turned and scrambled away, hurrying behind the nearest tree. Eddie decided that enough was enough, and boldly stepped over to it, unconcerned with the noise he made as he did so.
He came up to the side of the tree, touching its bark as he leaned around to look at the now shivering man behind it.
Eddie couldn’t help but gasp. Damn him, even now, after seeing this man several times before, Eddie was still surprised at how breathtaking he was. Those pretty, delicate features, now scrunched up in fear and turned away from Eddie.
He could speak. He would speak. He didn’t want to frighten this man any more than he already had.
Despite all those promises to himself, Eddie pulled away, backing off from the tree and to a shadowy hiding spot. No, no, he couldn’t do this. Couldn’t find it in himself to speak to this lovely man and tell him to go away. Eddie needed to stop coming out like this, stop tempting himself. By this point it would be terribly awkward when he finally did introduce himself, seeing as he kept scaring the poor man.
Yet, he didn’t run away immediately. Instead, he waited to see if the man might re-emerge, unsure of where Eddie had gone. Moments later, new footsteps approached, carefree and jovial and even noisier than the blonde’s.
“Waylon?” he heard as the other man came into view. “What are you doing over here?”
Waylon. So that was his name.
Pretty, the back of his mind said, still lovestruck despite all Eddie’s resistance.
Shaking his head, Eddie finally tore himself away and hiked back towards his cabin. He wouldn’t come out again until Frank told him that they were long gone. Eddie had better things to be doing than mooning over a lost camper like some lovestruck teenager.
After the sun had set and evening had come, Eddie was making himself another cup of coffee, knowing fully well it was a bad idea.
Caffeine or no caffeine, he hadn’t been able to sleep well lately. He couldn’t delude himself into thinking it had nothing to do with the two men roaming his property.
He liked having a name to go with the face, even if that made it all the more difficult to forget him.
The truth was that Eddie was tired. He couldn’t sleep during the night, and he kept walking around at day, wondering where Waylon and the other one was. He’d turned forgetful too, that was the worst of it. He kept leaving windows open and misplacing items. The thought that he might have lost his mother’s antique sewing box should upset him more, but he was too tired to do even that. Besides, it would probably show up eventually. Things always did.
He stirred a sugar cube into his coffee and sat down by the table, mulling things over.
The easiest thing for his own sanity would definitely be to approach the two men, explain that they were trespassing and see them off. Definitely the easiest solution. The best one too, if not for the fact that he’d never see Waylon again. Never feel the weight of his body in his arms again.
Eddie groaned, and in an effort to forget he had a sip of the scorching hot coffee.
This was ridiculous. It was just some stranger squatting in his forest. Eddie didn’t even know what Waylon would like in a romantic partner. If he was- Something occurred to Eddie that made his blood run cold. What if this Miles person was his lover?
Forgetting about his coffee, Eddie stood up, getting ready to pace and curse himself for being such a damn fool. Come morning he was going to march down to their little campsite and escort them straight off of his land. It was the only sensible thing to do.
With that conviction, Eddie became aware of something else.
There was… a sound, outside, like muffled footsteps. Had they found his cabin? Eddie was about to move for the door when there was a sudden blinding flash of light coming from the window.
“Fuck!” he heard someone shout from the outside, muted by the glass, but distinct.
“Ah!” Eddie pawed at his eyes, blinded for a moment, but he still rushed for the door. He didn’t really have a plan, but this was it. This was the push he needed to get these people off his property. He flung his jacket on, and stepped into his shoes without tying the laces.
This had to end now.
Bursting through the door, he caught a glimpse of one of them as they disappeared through the trees.
“Come back here!” Eddie roared after them, following them into the mouth of the forest.
Either they hadn’t heard him or were too terrified to respond appropriately. Perhaps he was being more intimidating than necessary, but he was too angry by now to care. This had gone on long enough, and Eddie was simply done.
He’d heard a scream, he was certain of it.
Rushing through the forest, Eddie honed in on where the sound had come from. It hadn’t been the two arguing, this had been a scream of terror. Any anger he’d felt before was forgotten in favor of worry.
Worry for Waylon, he couldn’t help but realize. It didn’t matter anyway. He had to help if either of the two were in danger.
He thought about those mountain lion sightings again, cursing himself for not bringing the rifle. If something would happen to Waylon, he simply would not be able to forgive himself.
There was a full moon, pale rays illuminating the way as Eddie ran. Frank had told him the two unbidden guests had parked near the main road, right where the road forked, and Eddie could only imagine that was the direction they were headed.
Suddenly, though, Eddie found himself on uneven ground, rocky inclines where few trees were growing. Oh no. Oh no, no, no, this was no place to run through. Even Eddie with all his experience trekking through his property had to slow down to avoid tripping over rocks peeking out from the loose earth.
Eddie had to navigate around crevices of varying depth, some of which very nearly took him to the ground after having been hidden in the dark. He was even luckier as he came to a small hill that, despite its small size, could have proved deadly in the dark.
And, on that harrowing thought, Eddie’s blood grew cold. Even in the dark, Eddie knew precisely who he was looking at. There, at the bottom of a small hill, was Waylon.
Eddie rushed as fast as he could down the hill while avoiding tripping. He was no good to Waylon if he injured himself.
Somehow, some way, Eddie managed to get himself to the bottom without falling once. There, he rushed to Waylon’s side. His leg was bent at an awkward angle, and Eddie could see that his head was bleeding. Eddie’s heart raced at the sight. He needed immediate medical attention, and Eddie wasn’t even sure-
Eddie’s train of thought derailed, as Waylon rolled himself over, grumbling.
“Darling, don’t move,” Eddie hissed as he leaned down over Waylon.
Waylon didn’t seem to hear him, blinking slowly. Then, he managed to speak.
“You came for me,” Waylon mumbled, looking at Eddie seemingly without really seeing him.
“Of course,” Eddie said. “I heard you scream.”
Waylon blinked at him, as if he hadn’t understood a word he’d just said, and Eddie was hit with the sinking realization that he might have gotten a concussion. Kneeling down, Eddie touched his cheeks, cradling his head carefully. He’d already seen Waylon move his head around, which at least ruled out a broken neck, thank God.
As he held him carefully, Waylon gave a short bark of laughter broken by a wince of pain. And then, before Eddie could fully process what was happening, Waylon put his hands on Eddie’s chest. Eddie glanced down at his narrow hands, made pale by the moonlight filtering through the trees, fisting the coarse fur lining his coat. Waylon seemed mesmerized by the feel of it, clutching it firmly, and when Eddie looked back on Waylon’s face, he was surprised by what he found there.
Waylon’s eyes were wide and dark, his lips parted.
“Take me,” he breathed, pushing himself closer to Eddie. “Do what you came here for.”
Eddie felt two things all at once: abject horror and extreme lust. After a brief moment of consideration, he leaned over Waylon, wrapping his arms around him. Would it be wrong? He wasn’t entirely sure anymore, everything clouded by a haze of lust he couldn’t escape.
He pulled Waylon onto his lap, burying his face in his neck.
“I shouldn’t,” he murmured against Waylon’s skin. “You’re hurt and you’re-”
Just then Waylon tilted his head back, his neck pale and smooth. It was an answer as much as anything else. An invitation. Eddie bit down, feeling Waylon squirm in his lap before laughing. Folding his arms around Waylon’s slighter frame, Eddie placed soft kisses where he’d bit down, the skin hot beneath his mouth.
“I’ll make you feel so good, darling,” Eddie promised, bucking against Waylon. “I’ll take such good care of you.”
Waylon groaned when Eddie snaked his hand between their bodies, touching Waylon the way he’d wanted all along. “Yes,” he breathed, deep and low in his throat.
He was moving his hips in slow, teasing circles against Eddie, spreading his legs nice and wide for him. Eddie growled then, his mind overtaken with lust and an insatiable need to claim every part of this man. He thought nothing could surpass the feeling, didn’t think he could possibly be any harder than he was, but then-
Waylon’s hand was small against Eddie’s erection, and he palmed it gently. The fabric was too thick, too constricting, and Eddie put his hand on Waylon’s. He twined their fingers for a moment, before moving Waylon’s hand away. Then he unzipped his pants, watching Waylon’s expression intently. Waylon’s eyes went wide for a moment, before he smiled and moved his hand back.
“Shit.” Waylon sounded breathless. “You’re so big.”
The words spurred Eddie on and he bit down on Waylon’s neck again, rocking against those clever fingers. He supported Waylon with one hand before moving the other further down, skirting just close of the hem of Waylon’s pants.
“Yes,” Waylon continued. “Touch me.”
That was a direct invitation Eddie could not ignore, so he slipped his hand into Waylon’s pants, cupping his ass.
What was he doing? Asked his better judgment. The man’s head was bleeding, for God’s sake. This was no time for-
Waylon’s head fell back, his lips falling open, and Eddie’s instinct took over. He pulled Waylon’s head back, excusing it as some effort not to strain the man’s potential concussion. That excuse went straight out the window, however, as Eddie leaned in to capture Waylon’s mouth with his own. The way he’d wanted to the very first time that he’d seen Waylon.
Waylon gasped against his lips, as if Eddie had caught him by surprise, before he furiously started kissing back. He was more enthusiastic than Eddie could ever have imagined or asked for, doing all he could to get ahold of Eddie’s tongue with his lips. Eddie obliged, allowing his lips to stay parted and their tongues to mingle freely.
“God, I can’t-” Waylon groaned against Eddie’s mouth, pulling back just a bit.
For a moment, Eddie panicked again, fearing he may have overstepped his boundaries. Yet again, though, Waylon surprised him, hand moving from Eddie’s groin to his own and ripping the zipper down to get his cock out. He made a valiant effort to take both of their cocks in hand to no avail, and Eddie had to smile. He was so small compared to Eddie, so vulnerable…
Eddie pulled fully away from the kiss and took his hand off of Waylon’s ass in the process. Waylon whined, trying to push closer, and Eddie had to chuckle. He was damn near cute, given the circumstances. How could Eddie resist him?
Eddie pressed his fingers to Waylon’s lips, and Waylon easily deferred, opening his mouth and lapping at Eddie’s fingers. So obedient, submissive, sweet, waifish.
What a good wife he’d make.
Eddie’s cock twitched at that thought. No doubt, he would have taken great pleasure in impregnating this man, or at least imagining as much.
Once satisfied that his fingers were sufficiently slicked, Eddie stuck his hand back into Waylon’s pants, sinking his finger to the second knuckle inside Waylon with ease.
Waylon gave a broken moan when he did, seeking out Eddie’s mouth again. The moan and desperation spurred Eddie into a frenzy, bucking against Waylon while fucking him with one finger, then two.
Eddie wasn’t ceremonial about it. As soon he felt Waylon was suitably prepared, he lined his cock up, tearing the man’s pants out of the way. Waylon gripped around Eddie’s shoulders, steadying himself.
“God,” Waylon hissed from just the head prodding at his entrance, and Eddie tore his shirt up so he could lick his nipples.
Eddie worked his way into Waylon slowly, not wanting to hurt the man more than necessary. Waylon’s head tipped back and his jaw opened, but he didn’t cry out, his body language a mix of pleasure and pain. Never, though, did he release his hold on Eddie. Eddie took that as permission to continue.
Eddie pumped his hips as best he could, but the position only allowed him shallow thrusts. After only a few moments of hiking Waylon up and down, Eddie gave a frustrated growl.
On what seemed like an animalistic urge, Eddie flipped Waylon around and pushed him to the ground. The sensation sent a sick thrill through Eddie, seeing Waylon’s face shoved into the dirt. This man was his now. He wanted to touch, feel, take, and he would.
Waylon dug his fingers into the soil beneath him, as though he was trying to get away and something burned inside Eddie at the sight of it. He growled and bared down on Waylon, pushing his head down to keep him firmly in place. He thrust back in with reckless abandon, biting down on the junction of his neck. The sound spilling from Waylon’s lips when he did told Eddie he’d gotten the angle just right, and he grinned against his skin when Waylon arched his back for him, easing his access.
Keeping his hand on Waylon’s neck, he grabbed his hips with the other, pulling him back for each thrust. He wanted to make him come, wanting to hear the sounds he’d make, feel his body contract around him. Pleasuring his mate.
All at once, Waylon contracted around him, bodily twitching and squirming and damn near trying to hump the ground. Eddie kept that from happening, one hand still on Waylon’s hip, but it was obvious the Waylon had climaxed, his body tensing and then relaxing. Still, Eddie wasn’t about to let up.
“So good,” Eddie growled. “Being so good for me.” He kept thrusting, enjoying the way Waylon squirmed beneath him. “Gonna fill you up,” Eddie groaned. “You gonna take it for me?”
Waylon didn’t respond, just gave a broken moan. Eddie clamped an arm around Waylon’s neck, holding him firmly in place as he came as well. He was certain that Waylon was a mess by now, but Eddie didn’t care. All that mattered was pushing his seed deep into the body below him.
They stayed like that, bodies molded together while Eddie whispered sweet nothings into Waylon’s ear, Waylon going limp beneath him.
“Waylon?” Eddie finally whispered, hoisting Waylon into his arms. “Are you alright?”
Waylon didn’t reply, his head lolling to the side, unconscious, and the pleasant fire that had pooled in Eddie’s abdomen was suddenly replaced by ice.
Oh, God, what had Eddie done?
Eddie frowned at the filth that Waylon was now covered in, brushing some of it off to little avail. Waylon’s eyelids fluttered, doing all they could to focus on Eddie.
“Thank- you for the blanket,” Waylon slurred before slipping out of consciousness.
Despite himself, Eddie felt a short-lived spark of warmth in his chest, and half-smiled. So, Frank had delivered his care package after all. And Waylon had even liked his blanket. God, what must Waylon have thought of him? Incapable of delivering a simple token of affection personally.
With a shivering sigh, Eddie carried Waylon through the forest like a groom might a bride.
They’d cross the threshold of Eddie’s cabin like that, and the thought that Waylon would be unconscious and unaware made Eddie’s heart ache.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
The very idea of Waylon staying in his home was surreal, and Eddie could hardly believe it even as the minutes ticked by. He was certain that if he simply closed his eyes, he’d wake up and realize that it was all some cruel dream.
And yet, after twelve hours from when he’d brought Waylon home, Eddie still found the man quietly asleep in his bed. Or, so it appeared.
Whenever Eddie had checked in on him during those first twelve hours, Waylon had kept mumbling things in his sleep, groaning in pain whenever he moved. He was anything but quiet in sleep, which was how Eddie knew that he was wide awake as soon as he entered the room. Eddie had wanted to check up on Waylon, make sure that his temperature was normal and the wrappings on his ankle were secure. Now, though, Eddie stood intrigued.
Waylon had his head tilted to the side, blonde hair fanning out over the pillow. He seemed so pale after the fall, especially after Eddie had washed the filth off of him. Another pang of doubt shot through Eddie. Perhaps he should have taken him to a hospital instead of taking him back home. He wasn’t some injured bird, although he did seem frail like one at the moment.
After a breath Eddie moved forward again, pinching his eyes shut for a moment when the floorboard creaked under his feet. Waylon didn’t stir, hardly even breathed, and Eddie wondered if he should say anything.
Instead of pondering it, he reached a hand out, putting it on Waylon’s shoulder.
He really should say something. He needed to say something. Explain to Waylon that he wasn’t some creep, that he had been watching them, truthfully, but never with any malicious intent.
Moving his hand from Waylon’s shoulder to his arm, he marveled how silky his skin felt. The urge to speak was like a bubble in Eddie’s throat, lodged too deep for him to speak around. It felt as if it had an electric current, until the whole room buzzed with it.
Talk to him, a voice inside Eddie’s mind hissed. Say anything.
In theory it was so simple. Shit, in theory everything about this whole thing was simple, should have been simple; approach the men, kindly point them in the right direction, go home. Simple. Instead he’d all but stalked the man, had relations with him in the mud and carried him back to his house like a villain from a fairy tale.
Eddie retreated his hand and briskly made his way back to the door. He had no business overstepping his boundaries any more than he already had.
Eddie had to strain his arm a bit just to push the door forward. Damn thing. He needed to reset it in its frame one of these days. It wouldn’t do having a noisy door when he had someone to take care of.
With that thought he glanced back at Waylon, smiling softly.
Perhaps in time, this would be a funny story about how they met. Perhaps, in time, they might even walk these woods together, hand in hand.
With a final, soft smile, Eddie shut the door behind him.