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Lord of the Wood

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Shiro’s heard the stories — the forest around Camp Silver Lake is haunted by a terrible monster. 

Sometimes the kids say it has a stag’s head and glowing eyes like coals, other times they swear it’s a man made of shadows, or maybe a woman; there’s no telling. Other times, they say the crows in the pines are watching them, and speaking in low, garbled tongues.

Shiro never took much stock in the stories — they are, after all, just stories. 

It’s a sunny afternoon on the third day of camp when Henry Green and Sammy Sanchez run out of the woods screaming bloody murder, each kid latching onto one of Shiro’s legs with an iron grip.

He looks down at them, gently patting each dark head of hair. “Guys? What’s up?”

Sammy looks up; Shiro can feel him shaking. “The m-monster was there, Shiro,” he whispers, lower lip trembling. “It...it was eating a…”

“It was eating a deer!” Henry wails, burying his face in Shiro’s jeans. “There was blood!”

Shiro frowns, and detaches both kids from his legs so he can kneel down and talk to them. Sammy and Henry are in his cabin of third graders, and it takes a lot to freak them out. They’re also not the pranksters of the group, so this is...worrying. “Okay, calm down,” Shiro says. “Where did you see it? What was it?”

The boys exchange frightened glances. “It was really big, Shiro,” Sammy whispers. “With big sharp teeth and a long slobbery tongue like a dog but…” He gulps. “It wasn’t a dog.”

“You think maybe it was a wolf?” Shiro prompts. “Or a bear?” They don’t get either of those up here too often, but...it’s more likely than an eldritch beast.

Both boys shake their heads. “No!” Henry insists. “It wasn’t! Please, the other counselors won’t believe us, but you will, right? It was the monster!”

Shiro exhales, and forced a smile, ruffling their hair. “Sure,” he says. “Maybe it was the monster. But guess what?”

“What?” they both whisper, scared but eager.

“Not all monsters are bad,” Shiro tells them both in a conspiratorial whisper. “Think about it! If Camp Silver Lake’s monster has been here all this time, and no one has ever gotten hurt...maybe it’s a guardian of the forest.”

Their eyes go wide. “A guardian?” Sammy breathes. “Whoa...so it won’t hurt us?”

Shiro grins. “Well, I wouldn’t go chasing after it, but I think you’re good, buddy.” 

Henry visibly slumps in relief. “I was afraid it was gonna eat us!” he exclaims.

“Nah,” Shiro laughs, “unless you’re a deer, don’t worry about that.”

The boys giggle again, and from the trees, a pair of golden eyes watches, warm and approving.

*

Later that day, Shiro traipses through the quiet forest and keeps an eye out for any sign of butchered deer or monster tracks. 

He finds nothing, only warm sunlight and peaceful birdsong.

*

Shiro shoves two six packs of beer into his canvas bag, glancing warily around the grocery store even though he is three years past twenty-one and has no intention of sharing the alcohol with any minors. The other counselors are equally legal, and they have an annual tradition of kickbacks each Friday, to unwind together at the end of each long camp week. Still, Shiro feels a little guilty now that it’s his turn to buy the goods. He has a cabin full of third graders waiting for him, for God’s sake.

He glances over his shoulder again while debating whether to add a bottle of cheap wine to the mix...and freezes upon seeing the most beautiful being he’s ever laid his eyes upon.

The guy is wearing all black and has fluffy black hair that curls under his ears and around his neck, tan skin, thick dark brows, pretty pink lips, an upturned nose, and wide, shining eyes that look almost purple under the harsh store fluorescents. He’s frowning down at his armful of gummy worms as he walks past, but maybe he feels Shiro’s shocked eyes on him, because he pauses mid-stride and looks directly at him.

“Uh,” Shiro says, eloquently. “Hi.”

The guy smiles and Shiro melts on the spot. “Hi?” He tilts his head, hair falling into his face in the most charming way. His skin is perfect. Is that creepy? Anyway, it’s flawless.

Shiro coughs. The guy’s smile falls a little. Floundering, Shiro nods to the dozens of gummy worm bags and blurts, “Are all of those for you?” 

The guy blinks, brow furrowing, and nods to the beer peeking out of Shiro’s bag. “Are all of those for you?”

“No!” Shiro exclaims, and scratches his head. “It’s, um, I work at Camp Silver Lake? As a counselor. The drinks are for the counselors.”

The guy’s brows lift. “The camp full of children? Seems an unlikely place to allow alcohol.”

Shiro bites his lip. “It’s a secret,” he says weakly. “Don’t tell?”

He’s unprepared for the guy to grin and stick out a hand enthusiastically. “Deal. I’m Keith. I like your face, counselor.”

Shiro is saved from having to respond to that when several bags of gummy worms tumble from Keith’s arms and onto the floor. Shiro’s scrambling to pick them up without thinking. When he hands them back to Keith after shaking his gloved hand hastily, Keith stares at him, lips parted. Keith accepts the gummy worms, fingers brushing against Shiro’s bare arm as he does. Goosebumps prickle in his wake.

“Shiro,” he mumbles. “My name. It’s Shiro.”

Keith’s gaze rakes up and down his body, and Shiro tamps down the urge to flex. “Hello, Shiro,” Keith says. “Do you spend all your time counseling, or are you free this weekend?”

Is this really happening? This is really happening. “Um,” Shiro squeaks, “Saturday night?”

Keith’s lips quirk. “Okay,” he says. “I live nearby. I’ll meet you next to Cabin 7. Eight o’clock.”

Then he saunters off, clutching his gummy worms like a baby, and Shiro realizes dazedly that he never told Keith which cabin was his.

*

Staring up at the ramshackle cabin in the woods, Shiro wonders if he’s about to be murdered.

True to his word, Keith had appeared outside Shiro’s cabin at eight on Saturday night, leaning against an oak tree with his arms crossed, leather jacket shining in the distant firelight. The kids are busy singing camp songs and roasting marshmallows, and Allura promised she’d cover for him. Shiro hadn’t told her he was meeting a beautiful stranger in the forest. She thinks he’s smart, and he’d like to keep it that way. Shiro is smart...just not when he’s thinking with his dick.

“Sorry,” Keith mumbles, ducking his head and squeezing Shiro’s hand. “I know it’s not much…”

Shiro shakes his head, eyes tracing over dark windows and peeling shingles. “No,” he says, “it’s nice. It’s just...you live in the middle of the woods? All alone? What do you, um...do? For a living, I mean.”

Keith exhales, and opens the door, ushering Shiro in. It wasn’t locked.

“I make charms,” Keith says as Shiro steps inside, heart thudding. “People come to me, asking for protection, or love, or good luck, or health, and I give them a charm to help them. There are all different kinds. People will give a lot for well-made charms.”

“So you’re like...a witch?” Shiro asks. The door creaks closed. The cabin is small, but cozy, illuminated by actual candles along with a string or two of fairy lights across the bare rafters. There are only a few rooms, and they’re standing in the combined kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Keith opens the ancient fridge in the corner and nods. “Sort of. Want a drink?”

“Uh-huh.” Shiro’s mouth is dry. He doesn’t see any rusty saws or hunting knives…

Keith turns, expression unreadable. “You’re afraid. Aren’t you?”

Shiro shakes his head automatically. “Just...a little weirded out. Why? Should...should I be afraid?”

Keith sucks in a breath, slowly advancing, the fridge door slamming shut behind him. “Probably.”

Shiro’s back hits the wall. “Oh.”

Keith stops halfway to him. “Drinks,” he repeats, drawing the word out thick and slow as syrup. “You got me distracted.” He turns back to the fridge. “You like wine?”

Shiro blinks rapidly and remembers how to breathe. He nods, and Keith’s grin slices through the dim room. He figures he’s had a decent life. Besides, Keith could punch him in the face and Shiro would thank him.

*

But Keith does not punch him, or kill him. Keith gets him very, very drunk.

“Your ceiling,” Shiro slurs, sprawled out on Keith’s overstuffed sofa, “looks like a lion.”

Keith snuggles up to his side, his lips stained red with wine. “Yeah? Where? Show me.”

Shiro points to the series of lines and whorls in the wood, and they squint at them together for a while. “See?” Shiro mumbles. “There’s the head, and the mane...and the tufty tail…”

Keith chuckles, and then Keith’s fingers are warm on his jaw, tilting Shiro’s face towards his. “What do I look like?” he whispers.

Shiro swallows, lifting a clumsy hand to cradle Keith’s cheek. “Pretty,” he says. “Like the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Keith hums, leaning into his touch, and Shiro’s eyes flutter shut as they kiss, sweet and deep, Keith’s teeth grazing his lower lip in a promising sting. Keith kisses hungry and hopeful, clinging to Shiro’s shirt. He tastes like sugar and wine and something else, something powerful and earthy and enticing and deadly. 

There’s a monster in the woods...

Shiro’s mouth goes lax under his, and Keith pulls away to squirm out of his sweatpants. Keith’s bare skin slides against his jeans, and Shiro’s breath catches. He shrugs off his leather jacket, letting it fall carelessly to the floor. Keith’s long black T-shirt covers the tops of his thighs as he slings a leg over Shiro’s hips and looms over him. 

“Shiro,” Keith whispers, his eyes shining in the dark like twin eclipses, “you — you can, I want you to,” and before Shiro can react or reply, strong slender fingers catch his wrist, and drag his hand between Keith’s parted thighs, under the hanging hem of his shirt, and Shiro stops breathing when his fingers slip into rough curls and thick, wet folds.

“Keith,” Shiro breathes, staring up at him. “Oh, shit. You’re —”

“Wet,” Keith moans, grinding down onto Shiro’s fingers, which drag and rub uselessly over the slick skin. “I’m so wet, fuck, please, need —”

And he’s not kidding; wetness is running down to the hollow of Shiro’s wrist, coating his fingers in viscous liquid like honey, warm and sticky and tingling wherever it touches his skin. Keith fumbles with the zipper on Shiro’s jeans and he sucks in a sharp, panicked breath, because yeah, yeah. “Yes,” Shiro groans, lashes fluttering as Keith grinds his palm over Shiro’s trapped cock, “want you, wanna be inside of you, Keith, please…”

It’s an accident when he plunges two fingers inside of Keith; his hole is so wet and open that it practically swallows them, and Keith arches above him as Shiro’s fingers crook deep inside of him, rubbing blindly into his clenching cunt. He strokes rough with his thumb over the swollen nub of Keith’s clit and Keith swears, sweaty hair falling into his face, smile savage. 

Thick goo runs down Shiro’s fingers and palm and he gasps when it glows in the gloom, a faint but unmistakable purple. “Wh-what…?” Shiro whispers, his fingers squelching as he tries to pull them out, only for Keith’s cunt to suck them right back in, greedy and unrelenting. Keith’s eyes glow, too, a deep red that catches Shiro and keeps him down, quells the panic rushing through him.

“Shhh,” Keith whispers back, stroking the side of Shiro’s face. His expression is soft although his teeth are sharp, serrated like a hunting knife behind the glossy pink of his parted lips. “You’re safe here, Takashi, safe under me, inside of me…” He pops the button on Shiro’s jeans and coaxes Shiro’s cock out, his gaze approving, filling Shiro with unearthly warmth that intensifies as Keith shifts above him, tugging on Shiro’s wrist until his fingers withdraw, coated in glowing goo. 

“Keith,” Shiro says, helpless. “Please —”

“I’ve got you,” Keith promises, and sinks down on Shiro’s cock, velvet heat sheathing every inch, slickness running down Keith’s thighs, puddling on Shiro’s heavy balls, tingling everywhere it touches. It’s on the edge of too much, and Shiro claws at the couch cushions, head thrown back and throat full of strangled sounds as Keith tightens around him, fingertips resting in the hollow of Shiro’s throat, stroking gently. 

He grasps Shiro’s hand in his own, squeezing and leaning down to kiss him, and as he starts to move on Shiro’s cock in shallow, needy rolls of his hips, Shiro surges up into the kiss with a blatant desperation he cannot even be ashamed of. When his hand tangles in Keith’s hair, Keith moans softly against his lips, rocking down onto his cock harder, lifting up and sinking back down again on flexing thighs. 

Shiro whimpers into his mouth. Keith’s cunt is hot and vicelike in the best way, squeezing his cock on every thrust with inhuman strength. Keith isn’t human, Shiro thinks blearily, and maybe he should be afraid but instead his cock twitches, too close to the edge already.

Keith nips at his lower lip and draws back, shaking his head. “I’m not done with you yet,” he whispers. 

Shiro doesn’t know whether to cry or moan. He settles for dragging Keith down into another bruising kiss and reaching between them to thumb over Keith’s clit and bounce him on his cock until he comes with a gasp of Shiro’s name and a flash of sharp teeth and scarlet eyes.

*

It goes on like this, night after night. Some nights Shiro is busy, but when he isn’t, Keith meets him at their oak tree and kisses him soundly against it. Sometimes Shiro brings drinks, and once he brings three bags of gummy worms. As soon as Keith sees them, he leaps onto Shiro and climbs him like a tree, legs locked around his waist and lips searing. That night is a good night – then again, they all are.

Shiro doesn’t know what Keith is, and he doesn’t ask. How can he ask such a thing, when Keith is curled soft and beautiful between Shiro’s thighs, weaving a little pendant of twisted roots, dried berries, fox fur, and jay feathers with the utmost care and focus? He gives it to Shiro afterwards, saying, Keep this in your pocket, and good things will find you.

I think they already have, Shiro replies, running his fingers through Keith’s hair, and Keith looks up at him with luminous eyes and smiles.

Keith gives him lots of these little gifts. A carved stone raven on a leather cord to bring wisdom. A bracelet strung with polished agate beads for safety and stability. A shard of red glass embedded in a quartz-speckled clay triangle for insight. A crown of wildflowers and ivy for youth and health. 

Shiro’s favorite is the tiny stag figurine Keith presses into his palm after a night spent doing no more than kissing and cuddling under the endless stars. It’s carved of dark wood, and despite its small size the level of detail is incredible. Its black eyes gleam as he studies it, and Keith watches him anxiously.

“It’s beautiful,” Shiro murmurs, touching the delicate antlers and long, prancing legs. “Seriously, Keith...you could make a fortune off these pieces.”

Keith frowns and flops down onto the worn picnic blanket and dewy summer grass. “Fortune matters little to me. That is a powerful talisman, Shiro, the strongest I have. It is for protection.”

Shiro lays down beside him. “Against what?”

Keith sighs, rolling onto his side to set his hand upon Shiro’s chest. “Against any that would do you harm.”

Shiro knows there’s something Keith isn’t telling him, but he doesn’t ask. He doesn’t want to ruin what they have. So instead, he kisses the tip of Keith’s nose, whispers thank you, and holds him close until dawn.

*

One night, Keith doesn’t meet him. 

Shiro knew this night would come; yet he refuses to believe it. He wanders through the trees, calling softly, grateful now for Keith’s charms. The forest feels uneasy, as if holding its breath. Shiro keeps walking, until he reaches the lake’s edge. 

Silver Lake is a glossy mirror in the moonlight, silent and smooth. Shiro stands on the bank for a long while, drawn by a force he doesn’t understand, and is just about to turn away when a familiar head breaks the surface. Shiro’s blood goes cold. It’s Keith, arms flailing and mouth opening in a garbled cry before he vanishes under the surface again.

Shiro’s diving into the lake before he knows it, frigid water flooding him with adrenaline as he swims as fast as he can towards Keith. He sounded so scared, face twisted and pale — 

Something grabs Shiro’s ankle and yanks him under.

Shiro struggles against it, furious bubbles escaping his nostrils, then his mouth as he cries out — claws are ripping into his calf, and when he looks into the lake’s depths, he sees hundreds of eyes, glowing white and dead. Shiro struggles harder, but it’s no use; more clawed hands grasp at him, tearing indiscriminately through clothing and flesh, and Shiro’s screams echo through the dark water, growing darker with his blood.

One of the hands reaches for his pocket, and amidst the pain, Shiro remembers the stag. 

Keith. It is the simple plea of a dying man.

He hears a dull roar. The hands pulling him down falter. 

And then Shiro is pulled upwards in a dizzying rush, the claws falling away in a cacophony of shrieks, and when his head breaks the water there is a murder of crows surrounding him, diving into the lake with vicious intent. But the crows are not what saved him — the creature looms over him, antlered head silhouetted against the moon, huge clawed hands cradling Shiro close to its broad chest. Its skin is rough as tree bark, and it stares down at him from the hollow black eye sockets of a stag’s skull. In them, he can see a glimmer of dull red-gold.

It carries him carefully out of the lake, head bowed. Shiro’s vision fades in and out, and in the end he slumps against the monster’s chest in defeat. It walks for a long while, and it is only when it sets Shiro down on a soft bed in a cabin filled with candlelight that he understands.

“Keith,” he rasps, reaching out to it. 

But the monster shies away. Rest, it says in a voice that is not a voice, ancient and hollow. You are safe here.

He rests.

*

Shiro wakes, tired but healed, to a shadow over the bed. The stag’s skull turns towards him, red eyes brightening. Good, Keith says. You are strong. I knew you were.

“I don’t understand,” Shiro whispers. “What are you?”

Keith shakes his head. I am sorry, Takashi Shirogane, he sighs. I was wrong to give you my favor. There are others like me, and their jealousy puts you in danger. So...this is for the best. May you forget me, and live well — 

Shiro scrambles away before the long black claws can touch his forehead. “Don’t,” he gasps, “please, I want to remember you, Keith.”

Keith stands still as a statue. Why?

Shiro swallows. “Come here,” he pleads. “I want to...see you.”

No. Keith takes a step back. You do not want this. You know what I am, what they call me. I am the monster of Camp Silver Lake.

Shiro shakes his head. “That thing in the lake was a monster. Not you.”

I frighten your children. I frighten you.

“You don’t,” Shiro says, hand settling on Keith’s jagged shoulder. “You’re beautiful to me. Strange, but beautiful.”

I am a relic of a time long gone, Keith murmurs, but he approaches, head tilted. Your kind worshiped me, once. In return, I blessed them and their lands with knowledge and fertility. I wanted to bless you, but I think I have forgotten how. I hurt you, instead.

But Shiro shakes his head, smiling helplessly. “You eat gummy worms and watch the stars with me. You kiss me like no one else matters. I fell for you at first sight, Keith. You gave me charm after charm when, really, the best charm was you.”

I love you, Keith breathes, and the blank skull shifts into a face he knows, too sharp and perfect to be human. His feathery black hair is crowned with antlers and his eyes gleam red, and he’s still the most beautiful being Shiro’s ever seen.

“Come here,” Shiro says again, and this time, he does.

Keith settles atop him with care, running his strange clawed hands over Shiro’s body to be certain every wound is healed before he leans in to kiss him, sighing against Shiro’s mouth when Shiro’s fingers weave into his hair. His body is larger like this, an inhuman bulk of coiled muscle and magic pinning Shiro to the bed, and when Keith’s thick, flexing thighs bracket his hips, Shiro makes a breathy sound he isn’t proud of.

Keith draws back to peer down at him, glowing eyes knowing. It has been a long time since I have taken a human like this, he murmurs. But I would be happy to give you that, if it is what you wish from me. 

As he speaks, Shiro sees the rough plates at the join of his thighs shift and part, a dark red and black appendage emerging from the slit between them. Shiro groans; Keith’s cock is long and thick and dripping with sticky violet, and when he reaches out to take it in hand, Keith’s mouth falls open in surprise, his long dark tongue lolling free of his mouth before he shuffles off of Shiro and between his legs. Long claws make short work of Shiro’s pants, and he watches with widening eyes as Keith nuzzles into his belly and thighs, tongue dragging over Shiro’s skin.

“Nngh,” Shiro gasps, head falling back against the pillow, “Keith, please —”

I worship you, Keith whispers, his claws digging into Shiro’s spread legs, I give you my blessing and my claim. 

He licks inside of Shiro and Shiro shouts his name, vision whiting out in a brief eternity of overwhelming bliss. When he comes to, his cock is hardening again, teased by Keith’s claws and errant globs of violet slickness, and Keith’s tongue is deep inside of him, working Shiro open in wet, twisting motions. Shiro grabs at the sheets, at Keith’s feathered hair, his toes curling and breath hitching, clenching around Keith’s tongue as it stretches him ever wider. 

Keith’s hulking form crouches at the end of the bed, and Shiro can see his cock fully erect and leaking against his belly, its size drawing an eager moan and squirm from Shiro. Perhaps he should be scared of Keith, unnerved by this creature he has become, but it is still Keith, and Keith would never hurt him. 

Keith’s tongue withdraws with a filthy squelch of sound and Shiro whines in its absence, lifting his hips and curling his fingers around Keith’s antlers, pleading for more. Keith shushes him with a shocking kiss, his tongue filling Shiro’s mouth, saliva dribbling out from the corners of Shiro’s slack lips as Keith moves atop him and lines up. Then he pauses, and draws back, and before Shiro can protest Keith has flipped him onto his belly, ass presented to the waiting god, who enters him in a firm, aching thrust. 

Shiro arches up into it, panting harshly into the pillows and grasping blindly for Keith’s hand. Warm, clawed fingers enfold his trembling hand, and a sloppy tongue lavishes his neck with kisses as Keith gives him time to adjust. Shiro can feel the strange, wood-and-moss skin rubbing against his spine when Keith slowly begins to move, rocking in and out while Shiro mewls, eyes rolling back in his head. He’s full and frantic, cock grazing the sheets below him with every thrust, and it’s all too easy to surrender to the feeling of Keith gently biting at his shoulder, stroking broad hands over his ribcage and then down to his cock, where sharp claws prick and rough palms rub over swollen flesh until Shiro is twitching and moaning in his grasp. 

That’s it, sweet one, Keith murmurs, tongue tracing the shell of his ear, look at you, so perfect, so willing, so beautiful. I am so lucky to have you.

“Keith,” Shiro sobs. “Love you, love you, I love you —”

Keith presses him down and fucks him hard and deep and incredible, and when Shiro opens his bleary eyes, he sees Keith’s human face is gone, replaced once more by the stag’s skull, and the air around them is all aglow, as if with a thousand impossible fireflies, filling the cabin with golden brilliance. 

You have done this to me, Keith whispers, and his eyes may be fiery and fearsome but they are full of adoration. You make me so happy, Shiro.

Shiro gasps and comes, bathed in soft warmth, and Keith groans above him and comes deep inside seconds after; tingling, euphoric pulses of heat that bring Shiro to a second climax.

“You make me happy too,” Shiro breathes, slumped under him, lashes wet and body sated. “So, so happy.”

That is all I ever wanted, Keith whispers, and holds him close.