Out of the many, many, many flaws Rudyard Funn had been gifted with by the Gods, the one that was the most glaringly obvious was his complete lack of observational ability. This was first apparent as a child, when Rudyard had scored a goal, celebrated victoriously, only to discover he had kicked it in his own goal. This was not helped by the fact that Antigone took this precise moment to demonstrate her ineptitude at kicking as she tried to kick the ball and missed, breaking Rudyard's nose and more importantly, ruining her shoes.
Nevertheless, even Rudyard wasn't completely blind.
When Eric Chapman stepped into the parlour of Funn Funerals, Rudyard was distinctly aware of two things.
His groin was tingling and that Eric Chapman was strange.
And then, he smiled that smile and Rudyard hated him.
When Rudyard stepped into that hospital room and saw Eric Chapman he was gripped with a familiar sense of doom.
"Rudyard, great to see you," he said, grabbing his hand firmly.
Rudyard ignored the tingling of his hand and tried to maintain his usual glare.
"Chapman," he said, hoping to inject all the disapproval he could muster into his voice.
"Busy afternoon, eh?" He said, smiling.
"Stop flirting," snapped Rudyard, irritated, "Nurse, I demand this man be told to vacate this bijou residence immediately."
"Look, this is my bad and I've really got to apologise for this one," began Chapman apologetically.
"Mr Askey requested it. With his final words, he said he couldn't bear to be buried by such a feeble little weed as Rudyard Funn." The nurse cut in, voice acidic.
Rudyard gaped speechlessly as he felt his soul descend directly into the ninth circle of hell.
"Interesting man," remarked Chapman, "Wanted to see my gold medals in the 200m dash. Gotta say I wasn't expecting business to take off quite so quickly."
"You're doing a most proper job, Mr Chapman," said the nurse, practically waggling her breasts in his face.
"Thank you nurse. I think we'll collect him first thing tomorrow morning," said Chapman, seemingly oblivious to the nurse's flirtations.
"Gotta run. Good to see you, Rudyard," he said smiling again.
Good lord, did that man ever stop smiling?
Rudyard would never admit this to anyone but Madeleine but the nurse wasn't the only one watching Eric's retreating backside.
"What a charming man," remarked the nurse, sighing, "I hear he's still a bachelor."
"So am I," said Rudyard, squinting suspiciously at Eric's back.
"Yes, well, hardly surprising is it?" Sneered the nurse.
"Are you alright, sir?" Georgie asked, staring at Rudyard's increasingly red face.
"Hello, Rudyard," said Chapman, popping up behind Rudyard.
Rudyard startled and pitched forward into a bush.
"Oh, it's you. Hmm, did a fair job I hear, congratulations," said Rudyard, surrounded by shrubbery, "You know they won't hand it to you on a plate, this is very much the exception."
Rudyard got up and waved a hand in front of Eric's face.
"You can talk, can't you? Say something." said Rudyard, growing impatient.
"Rudyard," said Eric, as if he were about to say something incredibly important and then stopped.
"Have a nice evening," he said, a soft fond look coupled with a toned down Eric™ smile on his face.
"What do you mean have a nice evening? What do you mean by that, Chapman?" shouted Rudyard at his retreating back, "What if I don't wANT TO HAVE A NICE EVENING? EH? CHAPMAN? WHAT IF I DONT WANT- ? CHAPMAN? WHAT DID YOU MEAN? CHAPMAN?"
"Chapman," he said quieter.
""I'm afraid I've got something laid on for this evening."
"Oh really? Whats her name?" Cackled Mrs Bloom.
Eric laughed uncomfortably and fakely."
"And then what happened Antigone?" asked Rudyard, scribbling furiously in his notebook.
"Honestly, Rudyard, you absolute twit, I have embalming to do."
Rudyard had come to a clear conclusion. Eric was not a ladies man. News like this needed to be heard.
The Piffling Telegraph office was quiet until the shrill ringing of a telephone cracked it like a walnut. The editor rushed to pick it up.
"This is an anonymous tip about Eric Chapman," said the phone.
" Rudyard, is that you?" Said the editor.
The phone was silent.
" How did you know?" Said the phone.
"We have caller ID and Antigone doesn't know how to use a phone."
"Nevermind that , I have the biggest news story of the year," exclaimed the phone.
"Bigger than our annual Pumpkins Festival?" Said the editor, disbelievingly.
Not much happened on Piffling and any news at all was considered juicy gossip.
"Yes," said the phone, "Very big news."
"Eric Is Not A Ladies Man Claims Man That Has Never Had A Girlfriend," Georgie read out.
"Sir, did you do this?" asked Georgie.
"No," mumbled Rudyard, into his coffee that was most definitely stolen from Chapman.
Antigone slammed the door and stormed out into the parlour.
"Rudyard, you bloody idiot. If you're going to sabotage Eric Chapman, at least make sure you don't make it obvious. Go over there and apologise so he doesn't think we're trying to sabotage him."
"What the hell do you mean? It's VERY obvious that we're trying to sabotage him and we've been trying to sabotage him for months. This is just bad writing, at this point."
"No fourth wall breaks," said Antigone sternly, stirring her tea, "Now go apologise to Eric."
Rudyard grumbled his way over to Chapman's, kicking various stones in what he believed was a suitable outlet for his angst.
"Chapman," he announced, voice appropriately impressive.
"Rudyard," said Eric, beaming.
"I think I need some sunglasses," Rudyard muttered, blinded.
"What?" Said Eric, looking confused.
"Nothing," he replied, poking Eric's display.
Rudyard cleared his throat.
"Anyway, it has come to my attention that we have been perhaps a little too savage in our buisness pursuit."
Eric waved his hand.
"It's just friendly rivalry," he dismissed.
"Didn't I try and kill you, like last week?"
"It's definitely not the worst thing someone has ever tried to do to me. Also, you always fail so."
Rudyard tried not to be offended by that entirely true statement and failed.
"Besides, I could think of worse things to see before you die than your face, Rudyard," said Eric, winking accompanied by another beaming smile.
Rudyard stood still for a full minute and registered Eric's smile growing dimmer. 𝘘𝘶𝘪𝘤𝘬, 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬, yelled his brain, d𝘰 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘣𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘯.
."Uhh, Eric, you have a great smile," Rudyard garbled.
Eric looked confused. 𝘕𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘪𝘥𝘪𝘰𝘵, reprimanded his brain.
Then he smiled again. His brain let out a sigh of relief.
"Has anyone told you you're a charmer?" Said Eric, dimples on full display.
Rudyard looked at him. Deciding Eric was apparently serious, he replied.
"No. Literally never. "
"Shame," said Eric, and 𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦. Rudyard's body was on fire, nerves alight as Eric brushed a hand down his chest.
"I like that quote from you in the newspaper," he breathed into Rudyard's ear. Rudyard shuddered, Eric's breath hot against his neck. Rudyard's brain, had at this point, completely shut off and had taken all that blood to a much more useful place.
"How did you know it was me?" Rudyard stammered out as Eric did something indecent with his hips.
"Please, you're the only person on this island who hasn't had a girlfriend, including your sister," said Eric, breathless as he rolled his hips against Rudyard.
"Fuck, don't mention my sister right now," he panted out against Eric's neck.
That was when the editor of the Piffling newspaper chose to make his welltimed arrival.
Both Rudyard and Eric froze.
___ ___ __ ___
Eric Is Not A Ladies Man (I Told You So Says Rudyard), reads the Piffling newspaper, the next morning.
Rudyard, from his warm and comfortable place in Eric's bed, does not bother to read it. Instead, he goes back to sleep with an arm wrapped around him and several hickies on display.