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Creature of the Wood

Chapter Text

The sky was clear, the midsummer sun shining down warmly, a gentle breeze cutting the heat just enough to make being outside bearable. A perfect day for a picnic, or so Darryl Wilson had suggested. His wife, Carol, had seemed less than enthused, but had agreed to go along. It was hard to tell what Grant thought of anything, but as Darryl was tidying away the last of the supplies at the end of the afternoon, the boy was running around the park near them, kicking his soccer ball, practicing his favorite moves. It was good to see him off his phone, Darryl thought with a wry smile.

He glanced at Carol, and sighed softly. She seemed comfortable enough, sprawled on the picnic blanket, but she had her phone to her ear, gossiping with one of her friends, no doubt. It felt like he could never do anything to make her happy. He shook his head and looked back at their son just in time to see a misplaced kick sending the ball barely over his head and into the copse of trees at the edge of the park behind him.

“Don’t worry about it, kiddo, I’ll get it,” he called, waving at the kid with a smile, showing he wasn’t upset about nearly having his head taken off by a stray soccer ball. He could use the walk, anyway. And a little time on his own.

He shoved his hands into his pockets and plodded towards the trees. He was trying, damn it. Didn’t that mean anything? Distracted by his brooding, he didn’t notice that he’d come up to the ball before his foot tapped it, sending it bouncing further into the thicket. He frowned slightly, his brow wrinkling under his cap. He didn’t remember the trees being so thick here. Must look different from inside. He went on into the shadows a few more feet and bent down, picking up the ball. Then he turned around.

He should be able to see the park from here. It wasn’t more than a couple lines of trees separating the park from the residential area on the other side. But the way back was obscured by thick underbrush, and large, towering trunks that stretched to the sky, blocking out the sun. Well, standing here staring wasn’t going to do anything about it. He set his jaw and tucked the ball under his arm before stomping forward, pushing his way through what he thought had been the path.

Ten minutes later he was still walking, with no sign of the smooth, manicured field of the local municipal park. This wasn’t possible. He stopped and rubbed his forehead. What the hell was going on here? He wasn’t drunk, not this early in the day, and he definitely wasn’t high. So how was he lost deep in a wood that shouldn’t exist?

Scowling, he pressed on again. There had to be a way out. He needed to get back to his family. He needed--

He lost his train of thought as he stumbled suddenly into a clearing. Branches still weaved overhead, but sunlight found its way through, spattering the ground with a lacework of gold. White and blue flowers grew in scattered clumps around a large trunk that bisected the glade. He didn’t know much about forests, but a tree that size falling is probably what let other plants start growing. What he did know, however, was that he needed to sit down.

He slumped onto the fallen tree, letting the soccer ball fall to rest beside his feet. He was definitely lost. In a public park. Somehow. He leaned forward, head in his hands, propped up by elbows on his knees.

A rustling behind him caught his attention, but it was the crack of a branch snapped under a foot that had him whip his head around. He jumped to his feet, poised to demand answers and a path back to society, but his mouth snapped shut again as his brain caught up and told him what he was looking at.

A man stood before him, tall and willowy, head raised confidently, a knowing smile on graceful lips. No… not a man, not exactly. His face, while gently beautiful, had a decidedly masculine cast, as did the lithely muscled chest that had nothing to cover it from the ravages of the wood. No, what had him questioning was the pair of horns curling down from the person’s--creature’s?--head.

“What… what are you doing here?” he finally stammered.

Delicate eyebrows arched upward. “I live here, or near here,” the mysterious person said dryly. “I should be asking you that. What brings you to my woods?” He politely gestured to the log, clearly inviting Darryl to sit again.

He awkwardly complied, still staring up at this strange, horned individual. He cleared his throat. “My son’s ball--”

“The toy, yes. That’s what led you here. But that alone is not enough. What are you searching for, Darryl Wilson?” Golden eyes seemed to gaze through him, into the very heart of his being. He almost didn’t notice that the stranger knew his name, and even when it did register it seemed right, somehow.

He sighed deeply. “I was lost,” he said, words pouring out of him unbidden. “My wife barely talks to me, except when she’s angry, which seems more and more often, and… I don’t know, I feel like it’s my fault. We were so young when we got together…”

Weight settled beside him on the felled tree trunk, and a slender hand cupped his cheek. “You carry a great pain,” his new companion murmured quietly. “You were right to come to me.”

“Come to you? I don’t understand.” Darryl shook his head slightly. “I… What’s your name? Darryl Wilson, nice to meet you.” Yes, the man already had known his name, but falling back into his normal mannerisms made him feel more confident. He lifted his chin and held out his hand for a shake.

Delighted laughter bubbled from within the stranger, and he curled his hand around Darryl’s with surprising strength for the fragile looking build of his body. “Oh, my sweet man,” he murmured, eyes flashing in amusement, “I do not have a name as you know it. I am a child of the oak and stone, the wind and sun, the stream and heather. But to make you more comfortable you can call me, hmmm… Henry. That is a name of your people, yes?” He smiled warmly as he released his hand.

“Henry,” Darryl murmured. As ridiculous as it would sound of a man with, what, ram horns, it suited him.

“Darryl,” he answered, matching his tone. He put a hand on the human’s shoulder. “I can see your burdens. You worry too much about what everyone else wants, without enough worry about what you want. If I asked right now, you couldn’t tell me, could you? But I will help. I will draw forth the hidden heart of you and let it free.”

Darryl opened his mouth to protest, but fell silent. What did he want? He wanted… Carol and Grant to be happy. Henry was right. He swallowed. “You’re going to do what now?” he asked instead of objecting.

Henry leapt from the log and produced a carved wooden flute from somewhere within his flowing pants. “Shhh, Darryl,” he said with an impertinent grin. “You’re thinking too much. You always think too much. Come.” He moved backward, gesturing Darryl to follow, and now he could see that something was slightly off about the way he stood. He frowned, trying to put his finger on it, when Henry began to play.

Music hit him like a physical force. It was like nothing he’d ever heard, wild yet plaintive, dipping from melancholia to joy and back again in the space of an instant. He realized he was holding his breath and let it out in a huff. Henry was moving into the shadows, and Darryl stood to follow without hesitation, the music tugging his soul as though pierced with a hook.

He ran through the woods, somehow avoiding any roots or brambles that would trip him up, finally stumbling into another, larger clearing. Henry was there, in the center, standing on a great boulder, foot tapping time against the stone as he played. Darryl was breathing heavily from the run, but that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the music.

It started as gentle swaying, but soon he was spinning and leaping in time with the eerie piping, lost in the joy of the dance. He didn’t know how long it was before he felt hands on his waist, twisting him around to gaze into Henry’s eyes. The inhuman creature grabbed one of his hands, leaving the other on his hip, and pulled him into some sort of wild reel through the long grasses. It didn’t even occur to Darryl to wonder how the music kept going without its piper. He just went with it, his heart almost bursting with elation.

Suddenly, though, the music stopped abruptly, and their motion stopped as well. Henry’s eyes shone brilliantly in the setting sunlight. “Now, tell me, Darryl,” he said, his voice low, “what do you want?”

The clearing was still and silent. Darryl was frozen for a brief moment before he surged forward, hands going to Henry’s cheeks as he kissed him hungrily. He couldn’t stop himself if he wanted to. His heart still pounded with the beat of the music, cutting his brain off from his body.

He didn’t regret it, though. It felt perfect, natural. Like the only thing he should be doing right now.

He felt rather than heard Henry chuckle against his lips, and felt strong hands tangling in his shirt. He found himself pushed with his back against the boulder, Henry’s mouth never leaving his, his body pinning him in place easily. His insistent tongue forced its way inside his mouth, making Darryl moan in need before withdrawing. “Naughty,” Henry said in amusement. “You still haven’t told me what you want.”

“You,” he gasped hoarsely. “You. Please. I want you.”

Henry’s thumb traced the line of his jaw. “Mm. That will do for now,” he said with a sly smile. “I know you have greater desires, though, and you will discover them.” He reached up and knocked the baseball cap off Darryl’s head, threading fingers through his hair. His hips pressed forward, grinding his obvious arousal against Darryl’s own rapidly hardening cock. He keened desperately and Henry quickly silenced him with another rough kiss, not pulling back until Darryl was gasping for breath.

Without a word he released his hold on the human and stepped back. A simple tug unlaced his pants and let them fall, displaying him in all his glory. Darryl stared. His legs were distinctly animalistic, bending strangely and ending in a pair of hooves, covered with a soft golden pelt. And, of course, nestled between was his proud, erect cock.

He swallowed roughly. He should be nervous. He’d never done this before; hell, he’d never been with anyone but Carol before. Fuck, he was married, he shouldn’t be doing this at all.

“Shh, Darryl,” Henry said, crooking a beckoning finger at him. “You’re thinking again. Come to me. Let me undress you and give your body the tender devotion it deserves.”

He gazed into his eyes, finding comfort in their amber gleam. He reached out and clasped Henry’s hand, letting him draw him forward. “Yes,” he whispered. “Please.”

Hands roamed over him, stroking his flesh as they revealed it, plucking off his shirt easily, then going to his belt. Henry drew the leather free of the buckle, then slid it from the loops. Moving quickly, he hooked the strap around the back of Darryl’s neck, holding it firmly with both hands, and used that to pull him into a powerful kiss. He groaned and acquiesced easily. There was something comforting in the way Henry took control, leaving him free to enjoy the experience without worry about doing something wrong. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth willingly to Henry’s probing tongue.

The angle and pressure of the belt changed slightly as Henry shifted to hold both ends in one hand. The other dropped to pop the button of Darryl’s jeans. Deft fingers took the zipper and pulled it down, then delved in through the fly, curling gently around Darryl’s throbbing cock. He moaned wantonly into Henry’s mouth, his hips bucking forward into his soft hand.

Henry’s lips parted from his and he bent his head towards Darryl’s ear. “Shh, my dear. There will be time enough for that.” His teeth nipped his earlobe, and one of his horns bumped lightly at the base of his skull. “My sweet, beautiful man,” he murmured before pulling back once again. He released the belt, letting it hang from Darryl’s shoulders as his hands moved to his ass, squeezing firmly before sliding inside his jeans and underwear. They didn’t linger long on his warm flesh as Henry shoved the cloth away. Soon Darryl stood, naked in the forest but for the jeans pooled around his ankles. “So beautiful,” Henry went on, and Darryl believed it for the first time in years, despite his figure not being what it had been as an athletic teen. Fingers trailed down his chest to his slightly padded abdomen, leaving fire in their wake, until both hands gripped his hips.

Wide, golden eyes gazed into his for a moment, then Henry licked his lips suggestively, though the suggestion was hardly needed, because just afterwards the heavenly creature dropped to his knees in the grass and wildflowers below them. Darryl gasped. Heat coursed through him, pooling in his center. What had he ever done in his life to deserve such attention?

Henry didn’t give him any more time to wonder. Gazing up at him all the while, he leaned forward and lapped his wide, flexible tongue over the head of his cock. Thoughts fled his head again in an instant, lost by the sensations of a definitely nonhuman tongue on his flesh. Carol hadn’t done this much, of course, but it felt far different.

He whimpered in need as Henry applied another teasing lick, and another, until he was quivering. “Please,” he gasped. “Oh, please.”

A soft chuckle was his only answer, followed by wet heat as the man engulfed him completely in one go, taking him deep into his throat and sucking on his engorged flesh. He’d never felt anything like this. His legs shook and he grabbed onto Henry’s curved horns for balance, fearing he’d fall. Vibrations rippled through him as Henry laughed again without pausing his assault. Hands gripped his hips tightly, helping to steady him, and Henry’s head began bobbing along his length. His tongue and mouth worked him skillfully all the while.

“I can’t-- I’m going to--” He groaned and tried to pull back, but Henry held him all the tighter, sliding down until his nose pressed into his curly hair, his throat constricting around his cock as he swallowed his precome. He screamed as Henry milked his orgasm out of him, pouring his seed down his hungry throat.

It was mere minutes, though it felt like hours, before Henry drew back, licking stray fluids off his chin, and rose to his feet. He wrapped his arms around Darryl carefully, guiding his weak steps to a soft patch of moss, where he laid him down and gently rescued his ankles from the entangling jeans and his sneakers. “Shh, my lovely,” he murmured, running a hand over his broad chest. “Rest up. I’m not done with you yet.”

Darryl could tell that was true, as Henry lay beside him to continue stroking his skin gently. The animalistic man’s large erection pressed against his thigh, as hard and ready as ever. He groaned softly, his own overstimulated flesh twitching in desire, though he looked up at Henry in concern. “I--”

“Shh, Darryl. You know it’s all right. I’m a gentle lover. I won’t do anything you don’t desire.” His thumb brushed tenderly over his cheek. “Rest, though, as I said. We’ll continue when you’re ready.”

He nodded and closed his eyes, nuzzling his hand. He felt safe. It had been a long time since anyone had made him feel that way. A smile crossed his face. "Thank you, Henry," he murmured.

"Don't mention it, my darling. It was freely given." Gentle fingers carded through his hair. "Though I do have much more to give you," Henry added with a sultry chuckle.

Darryl blushed shyly, though he didn’t tense or pull away. The idea didn’t seem as worrying as it had before. Although they had met just this afternoon, Darryl would trust him with his life. He closed his eyes and leaned inward, pressing his lips gently to the other’s. It wasn’t like their previous kisses, hot, heady, frenzied; it was comfortable, soft. It felt like home. He let out a soft sigh and pressed closer, running a hand over Henry’s side to his hip, discovering that point where smooth skin disappeared into silken, wavy fur. Fingers stroked it gently, revelling in the softness of it, sliding around to explore the curve of his ass. He gripped it firmly and squeezed, receiving a delighted rumble from Henry in return. “I see you’ve grown bold,” he murmured against Darryl’s lips. “Shall we?”

“Yes,” he whispered without hesitation. He let out a yelp as Henry moved impossibly quickly, rolling onto him and pinning him on his back. He looked up at him and started laughing quietly. “Sorry,” he murmured.

“Oh, my dearest, you have nothing to apologize for,” he said, flashing a grin. “The act shouldn’t be taken too seriously, don’t you think?” He gave him an enthusiastic kiss and sat back on his heels, licking his lips as his eyes roamed over Darryl’s body, almost awed, as if he’d never seen anything as lovely in his life. Darryl couldn’t believe that, but it sent a thrill through him and he groaned softly in anticipation.

Henry seemed to pluck a jug out of nowhere. “Patience, my sweet,” he said, pouring glistening liquid onto his other hand. He smiled gently down at him. “You are a treasure, and I intend to enjoy you as such.” The jug was abandoned beside them, and his now free hand rubbed Darryl’s thigh. He lowered his head and pressed a kiss to his opposite thigh. “Sweet, innocent Darryl. I thank you for sharing this with me.”

“You’re welcome,” Darryl found himself saying, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Laughing again, Henry patted his leg. “Good boy,” he murmured. He brought his slick fingers to Darryl’s entrance, putting a very slight pressure on the sensitive flesh. Darryl tensed but didn’t pull away. “May I?” Henry whispered huskily, and he let out a sharp breath but nodded slowly. His lover grinned wickedly and pressed a finger into him slowly.

A low, wanton groan fell from his lips. His mind was saying that there was no way this should be good, but his body was overruling it with waves of pure bliss. He rolled his head back, breathing heavily, comforted by Henry’s other hand rubbing his thigh. He couldn’t tell exactly what the creature was doing to him, only that he was being touched in ways he’d never felt before, deep inside. His hips bucked upwards, silently encouraging more.

“Ah, yes, my beauty, there, you see?” Henry’s husky voice filled his consciousness. Fingers touched him somewhere deep in his core that sent sparks shooting through him. “I just wish to teach you all the ways of pleasure you have yet to discover.” There was a sudden emptiness and Henry was above him, kissing him slowly yet forcefully. Darryl gripped his shoulders, digging nails into the flesh, and squeezed his thighs tight around the man. He moaned as the other man plundered his mouth fully with his tongue.

The kiss continued as Henry gripped his thighs, shifting between them until… Darryl gave a muffled cry into Henry’s mouth. There was pressure and some pain, but over it all was something more. Some primal force that went beyond words. He bit Henry’s lip hard with a groan. Heat filled him, just as Henry filled him. He hadn’t known, before, that he’d been empty.

And then Henry was moving inside him, slowly, purposefully, each shallow thrust angled perfectly to send waves of bliss coursing along his nerves. “Henry!” he groaned, his own hips bucking upward into his motions, instinctively begging for more. His hands slid down his back, fingers delving into the curly hair that started growing below the waist. He would have expected it to be coarse and wiry, but it was silky, soft against his skin. Henry’s muscles flexed under his touch, and as his hand moved lower he realized that a small tail was situated at the base of his spine, twitching in happiness. Darryl groaned and gripped his ass tightly, trying to pull him closer.

Henry chuckled huskily. “So eager, my dearest,” he purred, stroking his cheek. He pulled back and thrust in again, a little harder, sending sparks across Darryl’s vision. “Be patient, sweet man,” he said as Darryl cried out wantonly. “I’m going to give you everything you need. You have my word.”

He couldn’t think clearly any longer but he knew, somehow, that Henry would never lie to him, that he could trust him with every fiber of his being. And he did. He felt safe, cocooned in warm, soft fluff, where nothing could ever hurt him. “I know,” he whispered, turning his head to kiss Henry’s palm. “Please.”

He couldn’t tell how long Henry skillfully drew him right to the edge of orgasm then slowed, again and again, keeping him in a state of desperate bliss. The powerful man’s breath was hot and laboured against his ear, and it gave him a thrill to know that he was just as affected as Darryl. He keened with each movement until Henry’s fingers closed firmly around his cock. “Go on, my gorgeous man,” he said roughly. “Give me your pleasure.”

Henry’s voice was a compulsion. Darryl couldn’t have resisted even if he wanted to. He arched in bliss as his body finally was allowed to find release. It felt like his very core was being pulled out of him, gusts of semen surging from his cock. His orgasm seemed to last forever, and Henry never stopped moving within him until he was completely spent. Then Henry’s release filled him with a warm, calming sensation. He fell back against the soft grass as the beastlike man stilled over him. He met his eyes and smiled, dazed but serene. “God,” he whispered, reaching up and gently curling a hand around one of Henry’s horns.

The creature chuckled huskily. “Not quite,” he murmured, dipping his head to kiss him tenderly. “But I’ll accept your fealty.”

“My what now?” Darryl frowned and looked up at him as Henry slowly levered himself to his knees.

Henry’s nose wrinkled as he laughed. “I jest, my dear,” he said, settling comfortably beside him. His arms encircled him and held him close. "I would ask nothing of you but what you've already given." His eyes twinkled mischievously. "Except, perhaps, for more of the same," he added, his voice dropping huskily.

An undignified squawk escaped him, and his cheeks blazed. “I, uh, you… We just… You’re not tired?” He didn’t know how Henry could keep doing this to him. He felt hot and vulnerable and excited all at once. And definitely turned on. Again. This was insane.

"Darryl, my beautiful man, I intend to make sweet love to you until dawn basks us in her rosy glow," Henry murmured, eyes flashing with lust.

How could he resist? Darryl found himself pulled close against Henry, groaning and closing his eyes, his own cock impossibly hard again already.

Time passed in a rose colored haze, lips and flesh and touch binding the two of them as one again and again. His beastly lover showed no sign of flagging as they went through position after position, never the same twice, and neither did Darryl as he went through a series of the best orgasms he'd ever experienced in his life. He didn't know how he could physically handle it, but it didn't seem to matter as Henry pushed him onto his back and rode his cock, his furry tail tickling his thighs and balls every time he undulated over him. He stopped wondering completely when Henry pinned him against a tree, holding him up with powerful thighs and arms as he plundered his body.

Light was indeed touching the horizon when Henry finally lay him down in a soft bed of moss and flowers, weary and dazed. "Rest now, my sweet," he whispered against Darryl's ear. "I'm so proud of you."

A warmth suffused him and he smiled tiredly. "Henry," he whispered before sleep claimed him unbelievably quickly.

 

Darryl groaned and squinted against light that was far too bright. Had Carol bought 100 watt bulbs again by mistake? He shifted and muttered, "Ow," when something poked him in the side. He shoved it aside with one hand and frowned. A stick? Why would there be a stick in his bed--

He sat up with a gasp as memory rushed back to him. No, no, no. It had to have been a dream. Didn’t it? None of that could have been real. But… he was lying naked in the middle of a forest. And his body ached in ways that made it clear what he’d been doing all night.

Groaning, he put his head in his hands. What had he been thinking? How could he have done something so, so impulsive, so selfish? He was married.

He pulled himself to his feet slowly. He had to get back to his wife and son, they must be worried. How long had he been in this place? Where had he left his--

Oh. There. A few feet away his clothes were neatly folded and stacked, with Grant’s soccer ball placed carefully atop. He’d almost forgotten why he’d come into the woods in the first place. At least he hadn’t failed in that, though he didn’t know how it had gotten here. He’d been dashing all over throughout the night.

A numbness crept over his as he dressed slowly. What was he going to say when he got home? And he’d have to go to confession. He’d never had something so awful to be absolved of. He shook his head and settled his ball cap in place, then frowned. There was something cold in his pocket he hadn’t noticed before. He reached in and pulled out a Charleston Chew--perfectly frozen as if straight from the freezer. That should have set off alarms, but as confusing as his day had started, he just wanted the comfort of his favorite snack. He unwrapped the treat and bit into it, eyes drifting shut as the sweetness filled his mouth, the texture perfect from the cold. A gentle breeze caressed his body, and with it came a sense of peace. He felt rather than heard words.

You know who you are, Darryl Wilson. You are free.

He nodded slowly and bent to pick up the soccer ball. He turned slowly to find his way out of the forest, and discovered that he could see the park from where he was standing. The deep woods faded into nothingness, leaving him in the small copse of trees that he’d originally entered to find that ball.

Dazed, he stepped out into the open and tossed the ball to Grant, who was waiting for it like nothing had happened. He didn’t believe that, though. Something had happened to him. He swallowed and headed toward the picnic blanket where his wife was sitting. She put down her phone as he sat next to her.

He stared into the distance for a moment before speaking. “Carol? I, uh. I think I’m gay.”

He could feel her looking at him and he tensed, waiting for the frustration and anger that usually colored their interactions, and was surprised when instead he felt her hand cover his own. “That actually makes a lot of sense,” she said wryly. “We’ll figure it out, okay?”

“Okay,” he said, turning to look into her eyes with a relieved smile. She smiled back and squeezed his hand. He knew, deep down, that he’d just taken the first step into a new and better life.

Chapter Text

He had seen mountains rise and fall, had watched acorns grow into mighty oaks, had been there when men had come to this land, building their towns and cities, and in all this time, letting his human leave was the most difficult task he'd yet undertaken. But one did not teach a bird to fly only to immediately set it in a cage. Such cruelty was unforgivable.

So he’d let his little bird fly free, back to the outside world, his family and friends, to build the life he would have lived had he not tethered himself by the thought of who he was supposed to be. He shook his head slightly. Humans and their silly ideas.

Time flowed at her own pace at this side of the Veil. Though she could be nudged gently in one way or another, as he’d proven by expertly returning his Darryl the exact moment he’d crossed, he thought with a smug smile.

And so time passed, slowly, quickly, it made no difference. Until he felt a presence near the Door between his world and the next. He moved warily closer, until an invocation pulled him instantly to the threshold. He peered across the Veil without crossing, the force was weak enough to resist, at least. And there was his human, sitting on the ground. The invocation turned out to be an offering of beer poured into the ground in his Name. Well, as “Henry,” but he’d given enough of himself to his Darryl that it was enough to link them through power.

He placed a hand on the barrier between them, one that Darryl could not sense unless it was opened for him. “Ah, no, my love,” he said softly to ears that couldn’t hear. “It is not yet time.”

The sound of Darryl’s voice startled him, and for a moment he thought that somehow the human was answering his words. He shook his head and twisted his hand just so, thinning the Door without opening it. Leaving it ajar, as it were, he thought with a wry smile.

Despite using the name he’d given him, Darryl, it seemed, was not actually addressing him as much as talking to himself. For the best, really. If his human had begged, he would have been hard pressed to leave him. He stood silently and listened in grave seriousness. He was relieved to hear that the handfasting with the woman Carol had been dissolved, and that he was making steps to be his true self. He found himself smiling as Darryl described his disastrous attempts to court a human male at the establishments where such minded men would meet.

Soon the man finished his tale, as well as his beverage, and stood to leave. Henry reached after him briefly, then dropped his arm. No. This was for the best. This was the gift he’d intended for the human. He hadn’t anticipated how much he would miss him, however.

The second time he received that summons he was less surprised, and it fell into a routine. Darryl would return periodically to “tell him” about what was happening in his life, and Henry would listen without revealing his presence. He would mark the subtle changes in his appearance, both the lines left by aging and the slow relaxation and release of the stress of his previous life.

Time meant little on this side of the Veil, as he’d previously mentioned, so he couldn’t say how many years passed on the other between his human’s visits. He did know, however, when Darryl Wilson began to grow tired. His hair had faded to a distinguished silver, and he hadn’t spoken of a lover in quite some time. His tales were mostly about his son, his son’s husband, and their children. He didn’t mention his health, but it was obviously beginning to fail him.

Henry smiled bittersweetly. It was time.

The Door spiraled open and he stepped through, standing behind his human. “Darryl Wilson,” he said softly.

The man started, twisting around to stare up at him. He held out his hand and wrapped his fingers around Darryl’s before helping him to his feet. “Henry,” he breathed in awe. “I thought…”

“That I would forget you? For shame, my dearest.” He ran his hand gently over the lined cheek of his love. “I have been here.”

“You… why? I’m old, now. You can’t want me like this.”

“You’ve lived,” he corrected. “And that is beautiful.” He squeezed the human’s hand, then tugged him into his arms. “I would take you home with me, if you are ready.”

Darryl’s head pressed against his chest. “Forever and always,” he murmured.

No more words need be spoken. He kissed his love deeply and drew him through the Door to begin the rest of their lives.