Keith rolls over and there is nothing beside him.
For a few moments, Keith doesn’t think much of it, in his between-sleep state of mind. But, then, he starts to remember. Shiro. Shiro is supposed to be next to him, sleeping, in their tent—they’re camping, they have a tent together, and this is wrong. Something is wrong. It’s a kind of absence Keith knows doesn’t come from Shiro going to take a piss.
It’s overwhelming. All-consuming. Keith feels like he’s drowning. The night outside of the nylon is completely silent. There are no signs of sunrise.
He waits. For about fifteen minutes, Keith sits in dead silence, and the only audible thing is his blood rushing through his ears, and his heart causing his throat to pulse. With every second, he wishes Shiro would come back. Wherever he is. God, what if something happened to him? Why the fuck would he wander off at night, into the fucking woods, like a goddamn idiot?
Shiro has a very particular way of convincing Keith to do things—usually, Shiro’s actions come from a complete lack of awareness of the fact that Keith is in love with him. So, camping? A normal camping trip. We haven’t been in ages! C’mon, remember when we were kids?
He does. Sitting by the river in the hatchback of Shiro’s father’s van. Munching on butter waffle pretzels out of a red solo cup. Watching Shiro try to light a fire so he can cook their hot dogs.
They aren’t kids anymore. They’re in college. It’s not okay to play stupid games like this, anymore.
Keith breathes deep, clenches his eyes shut, and starts to unzip his sleeping bag. As he untangles himself and crouches in the small tent, he prepares himself to see Shiro sitting out there, staring at the stars. He hopes that’s what he sees, and not Shiro’s remains strewn across the campsite. Fuck, he’s paranoid.
When he unzips the tent, his fingers are shaking. He allows his eyes to adjust. Shiro is seated on a log by the fire circle. His back is hunched. And Keith immediately feels his heart sink—how could he have thought those awful things earlier? Shiro is having a flashback or a panic attack or something.
“Shiro...?” Keith steps out of the tent, and the sound of his feet crunching leaves causes Shiro to turn in place. “Hey, what’s up?”
He can’t make out Shiro’s face or his expression—it’s too dark. But he can see vague body movements, and Shiro shrugs, turning away once more. He doesn’t speak. Keith creeps closer, until he can sit on the log with his best friend.
“You’re supposed to be having fun,” Keith tries to tease, bumping their shoulders together. Shiro is comfortingly warm, and Keith leans against him. For those few minutes, Keith had been running the bloodiest of scenarios through his head. It’s a small pleasure to assure himself those were all paranoid, sleep-deprived thoughts.
Shiro clears his throat, but doesn’t speak. Keith furrows his brows, and leans forward to get a good look at Shiro’s face. He appears pensive. Deep in thought.
“Wanna talk about it?” Keith asks. “You have a nightmare, or something?”
Shiro shakes his head. Finally, he speaks—his voice is rough, and it cracks. “I guess. Just thinking.”
Keith frowns. Something about those words...it’s familiar. Keith recalls the countless times he’s comforted Shiro after a nightmare. He’s probably said the same exact thing before, and that’s how Keith realizes with a painful jolt just how often this happens.
“Let’s go back to bed, man,” Keith urges. “You need real sleep.”
“I’ll stay here.”
“No, dude, come on. It’ll feel better in the morning. I promise.”
Finally, Shiro meets his eyes. Familiar grey meets dark blue, and Keith smiles, standing and offering a hand.
Shiro takes it.
“Let’s stay another night,” Shiro says, as Keith begins to roll his sleeping bag.
Keith freezes. “We have class tomorrow.”
“We can skip,” Shiro suggests. He’s on the log again, sipping from his water bottle, wearing a painfully tight white t-shirt that forces Keith to look away. “How many classes do you even have?”
“Four,” Keith reminds him, because Shiro skips all the time and doesn’t remember that Keith has to get good grades, because he’s not rich, and he needs his scholarship. “We can come back next weekend, if you want?”
There’s a heavy pause. It’s the kind of silence that makes Keith think he fucked up, to the point of Shiro storming off into the woods on his own. But, then, Shiro speaks, and Keith can hear the smile in his voice. “Yeah, I’d like that. I guess I got you addicted to this.”
You’re fucking addicting. “Guess so, you hippie.”
Shiro laughs, and Keith can’t help but bite back a grin. Between his scare last night and the knowledge that he slept next to Shiro for the first time in three years, Keith is glad to hear something so incredibly reassuring.
Once the site is cleared up, they make their way back to the car, which is parked precariously in what is very obviously a no parking zone. But, it’s not marked, because they’re so out in the middle of nowhere, and no one is bothering to administer tickets. It’s sunny, and humid, and Keith notices that Shiro isn’t sweating.
“Drink your water, dumbass,” Keith says, as he passes Shiro on the trail, and he taps Shiro’s water bottle on the way. “Work up a fuckin’ sweat.”
Shiro laughs. Keith’s mind catches onto something, like dead skin on silk. The laugh. It’s the same laugh. The one from earlier this morning.
The exact same one.
It sounds like a fucking recording. Keith is glad his back is turned to Shiro, because he probably looks like a pale little bitch right now, over something he’s clearly paranoid about. Shiro laughs all the time. Of course it’s the same laugh. That’s how people laugh. Why the fuck is he still thinking about it?
They reach Shiro’s car, and Keith steps towards the trunk so he can throw the majority of his luggage into the back. After a few moments of nothing being unlocked, Keith glances at Shiro. He’s staring at his keys, then glancing at the car. Back and forth.
“Y’all right there, champ?” Keith, eyebrow raised, motions to the trunk lock.
Shiro’s subsequent nod is delayed. He presses the trunk button on the keychain, and it pops open, and Keith tries not to think too hard about what just happened. Shiro’s already sleep deprived. And so is Keith, apparently, for trying to make Shiro out to be a serial killer in disguise or something.
But, when he seats himself on the passenger’s side, he finds Shiro glancing over the controls of the car like he’s never seen them before. He picks up his phone and unlocks it. Again, he stares. With every agonizing second, Keith feels more uneasy, and a sense of claustrophobia rises with the heat inside the car.
“Dude.” Keith leans forward. “Do you need me to drive?”
Shiro looks over. Suddenly, he’s alert, and typing in the college’s address to Google Maps. He turns the key in the ignition, pushes down the e-brake, and they’re on their way. “Just thinking.”
What the fuck. “Yeah. You said that last night.”
And that’s when Keith knows he’s not in the car with his best friend.
They all eat lunch together on Wednesdays, during free hour. It’s the only hour during the whole week when there are no classes. It’s late summer, so the gang chooses their favorite food from the Commons, before heading to the picnic tables on the quad.
But Keith can’t enjoy the nice weather. He keeps noticing how close Shiro is getting to Lance, like he’s never learned the concept of personal space. How he’s eyeing Hunk like he’s trying to read the front page of a newspaper. Keith can’t explain any more than that. But, he knows this isn’t Shiro. It’s not.
Which brings the real question: where the fuck is Shiro?
Lance tells a joke. Shiro laughs. Keith has to rise from the table and walk to the nearest trash can, where he pretends to scroll through his phone, like he got a text on the way there. In reality, he can barely see straight. That fucking laugh. He’s had a few nightmares about it, this week.
It’s been three days, and nothing is the same. At first, Shiro wasn’t answering texts. Keith and Shiro text every day, nearly nonstop. And, when Keith reminded him of this, the texts started coming in full-force. Then, Shiro wasn’t meeting him in their usual places after class. Keith would text him, and on Tuesday, boom. There he was. Ahead of schedule, every time.
Keith glances up from his phone towards the table, about fifty yards away. Shiro is staring directly at him, unblinking. Keith realizes a second later that he can also see Shiro’s back—like his head has turned around completely, and when his grin grows so wide that it appears as though it’s sliding off the sides of his face, Keith clenches his eyes shut.
Someone jostles into him, elbowing his stomach. It forces Keith’s watering eyes open. When he stares back at the table, he can see the back of Shiro’s head once more.
But, even from this distance, he can hear Shiro laughing.
His last class on Friday ends just after noon. He’s supposed to meet Shiro at his car, so they can make a quick escape for the campground. When Keith told Pidge about this plan under his breath at lunch, they had whistled and cooed and told him to bring condoms. Keith didn’t have the heart to tell them that he’s packing a knife, instead.
Shiro is leaning against the side of his car, looking at his phone, scratching the back of his neck. For a wild, quick moment, Keith revels in the possibility that he’s just imagining shit. Hallucinating—stress, a lack of sleep, or maybe he isn’t eating right. Shiro is Shiro. His best friend. His crush. The love of his life.
Then, Shiro looks up and smiles at him. Keith washes that hope away with a swift rush of fear. That’s not Shiro’s face. He doesn’t understand how no one has noticed it, yet. It looks like him, it sounds like him, but it’s not him. And Keith can’t even name any specifics. It’s like Shiro is a really well-rendered video game. The kind where you have to pause and double-check that it isn’t a real person.
“Ready to go?” the imposter asks.
Keith nods. It’s all he can really do. He cautiously seats himself in the car after he stows his backpack in the trunk. He half expects Shiro to purposefully crash the car, killing them both. Keith senses the need to kill, but he doesn’t know why the man driving hasn’t acted on that, yet. His knife, tucked away in his boot, burns against his shin.
Shiro asks him basic questions on the way to the campground, and Keith answers as best he can, because he’s itching to point out just how fucking normal they are. They’re questions about school and class and the real Shiro knows there is far more to Keith’s life. Keith might be a little too serious about his grades, but he hates to talk about them. The real Shiro knows that.
“We should fish tomorrow,” Shiro suggests. “I brought rods, and all that.”
Keith fucking hates fishing. “Yeah, sure. That sounds good.”
The rest of the drive, and even the hike to their fire pit, continues in this fashion. Shiro asks him continuously about school, like he doesn’t realize he’s asking the same question with different words. He’s on autopilot, or something. Keith’s heart is starting to pound, and it’s not because of exertion—it’s because he didn’t quite calculate that he could die out here. Alone, without anyone, for miles.
Keith wants to be relieved when they finally reach the camp site. He sees the remnants of their fire, and Shiro places their gear next to it. It’s dusk. They need to get a fire started soon, or they’ll be stumbling around with flashlights. Keith digs around in his bag for a grill lighter, and Shiro wordlessly gathers tinder and kindling.
Within minutes, their fire is going, and it’s perfect for them to start cooking their hot dogs over it. But, just to test it, Keith doesn’t bring up dinner at all. And Shiro doesn’t notice. He doesn’t speak a word about how hungry he is, or how he hasn’t eaten all day, or how they should probably get something in their stomachs.
It’s not exactly damning evidence, but Keith is already convinced he’s dealing with...something. He’s not sure what. It’s definitely not human.
“You look like you wanna ask me something,” Shiro says, after a few moments of silence, while they’re seated by the fire. On the very log where, Keith suspects, they met for the first time. “Or, maybe I’m just crazy.”
“You’ve been acting weird.” Explain this, bitch. “Like, really weird. Ever since last weekend.”
Shiro’s brow furrows. “I have?”
“Like, not yourself. You’ve been talking like a different person. And, on the way here, you asked me a ton of the same questions, over and over.”
Shiro’s expression goes somber, and he stares down at the fire. Keith watches the flames dance in his eyes. “I guess I just...had a really shitty nightmare, last weekend. I’ve been trying to get over it, since then. This is helping.”
Bullshit. Bullshit bullshit bullshit.
Keith nods, and then they’re silent again. Keith feels the heat from the fire, but he also feels the heat coming from his left side, where Shiro is. It’s an aching need in the form of a warm chill crawling over his body. Nonchalantly, though his fingers are shaking, Keith reaches down to unsheathe the knife from his boot. He hopes to God his voice doesn’t shake.
“I’m just gonna cut to the chase, I guess.”
Shiro glances between the knife and Keith’s eyes. “The chase?”
Keith turns and keeps his demeanor even. “What the fuck are you?”
Shiro’s breath catches. Instantly, there’s confusion on his face, in the form of parted lips and innocent words. “What are you talking about...?”
“Don’t play with me, motherfucker.” Keith wants to stand, wants to hold his knife up to fake-Shiro’s throat. But, he keeps as calm as he can. “You’re not him. You’re a goddamn idiot if you thought I wouldn’t notice.”
Their body positions are still that of two friends spending a night together by a campfire. But, the air has changed, and the flames have sucked away the clean oxygen. Shiro turns, stares at the embers, and the fire lowers by at least a foot.
Fuck. Fuck, he’s in trouble.
“What gave me away?” Shiro asks. He doesn’t look at Keith.
“Everything.” Keith is shocked that his voice comes out confident. “You forgot how to open the trunk of the car, and then suddenly, you remembered like nothing had happened. All fucking week, you’ve done this thing—you forget something important, I remind you, and then it’s back to normal. Instantly.”
The fire is extinguished completely. Keith wants to breathe, but it’s nearly impossible when fear and anger are constricting his chest cavities. He can still see Shiro’s face in the moonlight, but there is something so horrifically wrong, that it finally forces Keith to his feet.
Shiro’s eyes are glowing. Whites and all. A bright, vibrant yellow that glows in the dark, like two lightning bugs suspended in the air. Still sitting, Shiro stares up, and even in the low lighting, Keith can see that fucking smirk. The same one he saw on the quad. His stomach turns, and he readjusts his grip on his blade.
“You killed my best friend.” It’s not a question. He already knows. He tried to deny it, again and again, in his head. But, he can’t anymore. Seeing this thing is proving that.
“I ate your best friend.”
Not-Shiro is on his feet, now, and he appears taller than before. The darkness is completely warping his features, probably making them more terrifying than they really are. He even takes a few steps closer to Keith, who refuses to put his guard down. Refuses to move.
Eventually, though, he can’t look, anymore. His blood is cold. He feels the terror dying. Greif rises in his throat like bile. He has to blink away tears. Shiro is gone. Forever. Finally, he turns his head and glares at the ground, like a child covering themselves with a blanket.
“Oh, wait a minute,” the creature taunts. Keith’s eyes are slammed shut, but he can tell the fake Shiro is inches away from his face. “There’s another reason you’re so upset.”
Keith isn’t going to say anything to that, and he’s about to clench his teeth and swing his knife, even though he’d be stabbing his best friend’s face. But, then, pain explodes on his jugular, and Keith cries out, instinctively stumbling back. It rips the thing’s teeth out of his skin, and when he slaps a hand up to the wound, he knows there’s a chunk missing from his neck.
The blood cascades down his shirt. I ate your best friend. “What the fuck?!”
The creature scoffs. “You’re in love with him. Of course you are. Is that why you’re out here? To avenge your fallen lover?”
Keith is shaking. The dark blackness of blood on the creature’s chin is stark against pale skin. “Jesus Christ. What the fuck.”
“Kuro, actually.” The demon—Kuro—raises a hand to wipe Keith’s blood away. He licks it off his fingers. “You’re perceptive. And fearless. I like that.”
“You kind of gave yourself away with your fucking owl head thing.”
Kuro shrugs. He starts to pace. Keith doesn’t move. “Sometimes, you can’t help it, you know? I like scaring people.”
Keith is more pissed off than anything else, he realizes. His mind spins—Shiro is dead, the real Shiro, but Shiro’s in front of him and he’s so confused. There’s a haze draped around him, now. A thick fog of reassurance. Of comfort. Keith knows Kuro is causing it. “Wait. What are you doing...?”
“I know why you’re out here, Keith,” Kuro chimes. “You can tell yourself what you want to hear—that you were going to kill me, somehow. But, I know better. I know you just like seeing his face.”
“Stop messing with my head,” Keith demands roughly. He feels dizzy, now. He wants to run, attack, but he can’t move.
Kuro doesn’t stop talking. He comes closer once more, and Keith doesn’t back away, but it’s not out of a need to appear fearless. It’s because he wants it. He wants Kuro to step closer. To speak to him.
“You’re not Shiro,” Keith whispers through gritted teeth.
“I’m the next best thing.”
A hand is caressing his cheek, now. Warm. Keith leans into it, and when his eyes open, he sees Shiro’s face. Shiro’s worried eyes. The creature has shifted, somehow, like it matched Keith’s memory of Shiro perfectly. Keith realizes with a dull jolt that Kuro has to consume someone to gain memories—it’s how he knows Shiro so well.
“Keith, stay with me.” Shiro’s voice—fuck, it’s so similar, Keith nearly bursts into tears. His mind is too hazy to portray any emotion. “I can keep you safe, out here. I promise.”
“Stop it,” Keith says weakly, his voice cracking.
“Come with me,” Shiro pleads. No, Kuro. It’s a demon. Kuro. “Keith, please. It’s not safe for you here, and I can protect you.”
Keith has always wanted Shiro to look at him like this. He’s already completely screwed, and in the hands of some kind of monster. There’s no way around that. And, he knows he’s being manipulated. He doesn’t have a choice but to go with Kuro. Somewhere. Anywhere. Keith nods, slowly, and Kuro smiles as softly as Shiro used to.
Keith drops his knife to the forest floor.
Keith’s world turns as Kuro picks him up, bridal style. He has to lay his head on the creature’s shoulder—it feels like a bad high. Confused, delirious, and craving comfort.
“If you stay with me, I’ll be yours,” Kuro tells him. They’re moving through the woods, and wind rushes through Keith’s hair. It’s too dark to see how fast they’re going, but he knows it’s at speeds that aren’t human. “What do you have to go back to? I know you hate school. You don’t hate me.”
“I know what you’re trying to do,” Keith bites out, but then something—something amazing explodes in his head and he groans, exceptionally loudly. His body is alight with electricity, and his clit throbs with need. It fades quickly, but, fuck, it felt like the best orgasm he’s ever had. “Wh-what the fuck.”
“I can make you feel that all the time,” Kuro whispers. They’re slowing down. Approaching something tall, dark. “I can give you Shiro and everything you dream about.”
Somehow, Keith is standing. It’s still too dark to see. His eyes aren’t adjusting, and he can only make out Kuro’s glowing eyes. Keith leans back, against what feels like rock—his mind supplies the word. Cave. They’re in a cave. Keith starts to pant and Kuro keeps him pinned to the wall.
“Let me keep you,” Kuro purrs. Hot breath brushes Keith’s neck, and it feels so fucking good. The teeth that scrape his skin are sharp, dangerous, and Keith is more than well aware of how wet he is. “Do you want me to show you how good it can be?”
Keith hears himself breathing, “Yes. F-fuck.”
He feels Kuro grin against his neck, and suddenly, Keith is on fire. It’s like he’s been given the strongest aphrodisiac, and it’s coursing through his veins, culminating between his thighs. Gasping, he arches his back, crying out, and Kuro takes the opportunity to grab Keith’s hair. He tugs, and Keith groans.
“Good?” he hears whispered into his ear.
“Stop,” Keith moans, hands pressed against Kuro’s chest, and he can’t help but run his fingers down to the creature’s hips. Keith didn’t catch when it happened, but Kuro is naked, and he has Shiro’s naked body pressed against him. Keith is dripping. “N-no, don’t—!”
Kuro growls. It’s inhuman. Animalistic. Keith should be terrified, he should be screaming in fear, but he only cries out in ecstasy when Kuro grabs him by the hips and spins him to shove him chest-first into the rock.
Keith feels denim sliding down his legs, and even that rough sensation gives him chills. The cold air of the night is unbearable, because Shiro—Kuro—isn’t inside him. Kuro’s chest isn’t against his back, anymore. He feels hands spreading his legs, and then he feels warm wetness between them.
“Fuck!” Keith shouts, and he almost comes, but the contact is short-lived. “Fuck, fuck, stop it!”
Something, some semblance of sanity, is stopping him from giving in completely. He can’t help the way his body is reacting, can’t help the desperate whines, but he does his best to vocalize his discontent. He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want this.
From behind him, between his legs, Kuro scoffs against the back of his thigh. He shoves on the small of Keith’s back, forcing him to an angle that gives Kuro better access. The creature spreads him apart, putting him on private display, and Keith sobs out of pleasure and discomfort.
“You’re so wet for me, though,” Kuro teases, and a finger rubs across his clit, and Keith’s mind slips. “I’ve always wanted this, you know. I thought about you all the time. I thought about pulling you apart like this, until you dripped on the floor.”
Keith can’t get a word in. In the next moment, Kuro’s tongue is inside him, tasting him, sliding between his folds and fucking him. Despite himself, Keith pushes his hips back until Kuro groans with satisfaction. Fuck, why does this feel so good? How can this monster make him feel so good?
“I don’t want to come,” Keith moans, and Kuro laughs. “I don’t—you can’t.”
Then, the warmth is gone. Keith nearly screams in frustration, but quickly and distantly reminds himself that he wants to be free. He wants to be clothed and left alone. But, then, he distinctly feels the head of Kuro’s cock against his soaked cunt, and his fingers scrape against the stone. His lip splits from how hard he bites down on it, trying to keep quiet.
“Don’t be quiet, baby,” Kuro tells him. It sounds like Shiro. Fuck, it sounds just like him, soft and beautiful and perfect. “I wanna hear you. I’ve wanted to hear you for so long, Keith.”
Keith gasps wetly. “Shiro—!”
Then, Kuro is inside of him. Keith is stretched to his limit, and the creature shoves hard enough to fill him completely. It doesn’t hurt. Keith’s mind nearly explodes with pleasure, and he’s coming, knees giving out. The sounds he makes are that of surrender. Kuro keeps him up by his thighs and thrusts into him hard, scraping Keith’s cheek against the rock.
“You’re so tight, baby,” Kuro murmurs, between slow and hard thrusts. “So wet for me.”
Keith doesn’t care. He doesn’t care anymore. He feels as though his orgasm took away any reserves he had about this situation. Suddenly, he knows. He knows this is where he’s supposed to be, and he knows he needs Kuro—Shiro—to come inside him. Fill him up. The idea that Shiro could make him pregnant floods his mind, and Keith feels his orgasm building strong in his stomach. “Shiro—fuck, please. Please, harder.”
Shiro rams into him. With each thrust, Keith feels the jagged stone cut into his skin. Shiro bites and nips at his neck, and Keith feels so fucking good. Why would he resist this? Jesus Christ, what was he thinking? He needs this. He needs Shiro’s cock. He’s a toy, a breeding tool, and he loves it.
“So good,” Keith whimpers. “Fuck, your cock is so good. I love it.”
“Shiro, please, I need your cock.”
Shiro, thick and throbbing inside of him, is all Keith needs. This warmth, this all-consuming desire is all he’ll ever want, ever again. He loves it. He loves that Shiro wants him, wants to use him like a toy. Keith’s can’t help but smile, can’t help his eyes rolling back. “Fuck me, your cock, I need your come, Shiro, please, I need it!”
When Keith feels hot seed spilling inside of him, filling him to the brim, his mind goes blank. He can’t believe he resisted this. Hot come drips down his thighs, down his legs, and Shiro pulls out of him with a filthy sound. He feels his back hitting soft fur, and he’s lying down, legs spread and bruised and covered in come.
It’s not enough. Keith whines, and uses shaking fingers to spread himself, showing Shiro how much he’s dripping and how much more he needs. “Please, more.”
Shiro bends down and kisses Keith’s forehead. A hand smooths back his hair, and then, he’s covered with a fur blanket. “Later. If you promise to be good. Do you promise to stay with me?”
“Yes,” Keith exhales. Please, breed me, use me. “Fuck, yes, please let me stay.”
“Good boy,” Shiro praises. “I’m going to keep you here, okay? And I can fill you up, every day. How does that sound?”
Keith moans, nodding, lip caught between his teeth.
And Shiro laughs.