hey guys, imma do the #Sheith angst fic a little later this afternoon, but I wanna start the puma sphinx one! @lioslegbelts i know NOTHING about being a park ranger in AZ (or anywhere really so...plz don't hates this lol)

I think it wont be NSFW at first, and kinda sorta
like a meet cute? i am basing most of my sphinx shifting and design off the comic S/kin D/eep's depiction of the lead chara Michele. There's a human form, some midforms, and the full form, but instead of medallions, its just that Keith's a shifter because magic!

Ok? Here we go!
Shiro was sitting at his desk in the stuffy, little office. A fan whirred on his govt issued Park Ranger desk in a desperate attempt to cool the room.

It wasn't. Working. Shiro groaned. He was so bored and it was only 2pm! He'd done his care of the three mules already, there
weren't any known hikers on his end of the Black Canyon recreational trail currently, and as it was still march, not too many snakes out yet.

So, Shiro was booooored. He'd also already done the requisite paperwork because fuck if the government didnt love that shit.

He was
so busy petulantly stewing, he didn't hear his name being called until a hand touched his right shoulder.

"-iro. Shiro! Fucks sake, bro. Hey. Ya with me? Need some water?" Lance, a recent soul in the BCRT outpost, blinked down at him. He had on the uniform but the overshirt was
unbuttoned, showing his bandshirt on underneath. Shiro peered at it.

"The Yuppers?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah dude! Good band, does a lot of covers. Anyway, we just got this report in from the local power company. Seems the old Kogane place is throwin some weird readings their way after
all this time. They want you to go check it out since you're the senior ranger." Lance pouted a little. "You get to have all the fun."

Shiro smirked and took the paper just as the other young ranger, Hunk, leaned into the doorway.

"Hey boss. You going out? I got your water and
stuff all set. It's by the door, there's a full canteen in the fridge."

Shiro got up and stretched, his prosthetic squeaking a little. Lance grumbled a little more then flounced out of the office to go find something to eat and maybe sit down with his phone to text his sister.
"Be careful out there, man. Now's the time any number of things might be waking up!" Hunk blinked a little nervously. The samoan blushed a little. He knew the other two didn't believe like he did.

Shiro just smiled placidly. "I'll keep my eyes open." He put his sunglasses on,
grabbed his gear and canteen and slid out into the warm midday sun to head to the barn.

He walked into the open barn and to the stall where his best girl, a mammoth mule with white splotches all over her otherwise black coat, leaned her neck over the stall door and snorted
as she watched her rider gather her saddle and bridle. She whickered, getting excited.

"Hey girl. My beautiful Blackstar. You wanna get outta here? Huh?" THe mule nodded as if she agreed and brayed as loud as she could. Shiro laughed and brought her out, kitting her up.
"I bet you're wondering where we're going today, huh baby? Well we;re goin out to Kogane Ranch! That's where your dam was born!"

Kogane Ranch was a 300 acre property nearby, between the trail and the Garrison Military Academy that a man named Heath Kogane ran as a wildlife rehab
with a few well-trusted friends. He had also been a hotshot and volunteer firefighter working with the parks dept.

Sadly, almost 10 years earlier, the man had died while out in california, helping put out fires there.

In his will he asked that his land be made into a nature
preserve and his cabin left to the elements. He also requested that it be off limits to hikers and campers when possible and no hunting was permitted at all.

He was much beloved but a solitary man.

His funeral had been a small but heartfelt affair. There'd even been a freak
thunderstorm that day.

Shiro had still been a cadet at Garrison at the time, but he'd helped Mr Kogane with injured birds and coyotes a few times.
Blackstar brought herself into an easy lope until they reached the long drive leading to the Kogane cabin.

She made to head up but suddenly stopped, pulling her head high and scouting around with her intelligent dark, liquid eyes.

"Whatcha seein, girl?" Shiro pulled his
binoculars out of his pocket and looked in the direction his mule was aimed.

Near the canyon though, in the midday shadows, he couldn't make out anything suspicious.

Blackstar cautiously made her way up the drive, stopping every 5 minutes to scent the air and look around.
black might be a prey animal, but she'd never backed down from a fight in her life, not even when a rabid coyote came onto the property and went after her stallmates, Greenbriar and Bluebelle.

When they reached the cabin, the mule sniffed around and shifted about nervously.
Shiro stayed in the saddle a little bit longer, scouting about again. Nothing to report.

He shrugged, hopped down and dug out the keys for the shack, opening the door.

"Hello! Anyone in here? Ranger Shirogane, I'm with the parks dept! Anyone? Drug dealers? drunk cadets?"
Something fluttered in the kitchen and Shiro stopped. Oh.

Just a window open, the old canvas curtains flapping softly in the easy breeze.

Shiro did a full sweep of the cabin and walked all around the outbuildings. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Maybe lightning tripped
one of the power station's sensors. THe ranger shrugged and went to a hand pump well nearby, finding a pail and filled it with water for the now-bored mule. She even had her eyes half shut, back leg cocked up on her hoof. She slurped some water, as did her human, ears flicking

Shiro sat down on the steps in the shade, sipping from his canteen.

"Well, Kogane, just another day, huh? Are you as bored as I am in the off season?" He laughed a little and radioed back that nothing was up.

Hunk whined and groaned. "Aw really? nothing at all? You
know there's been reported puma sightings along the canyon..."

Shiro rolled his eyes. "There's always puma, Hunk. Have been for decades. Besides, it's almost 4 in the afternoon. Any puma aren't gunna be out right now anyway and Black'd scare one off easy. Im headin back now."
Hunk copied and Shiro and Blackstar headed for the post.

They never saw the pair of deep violet eyes watching them from high overhead, nor did they hear the sigh of relief from the same creature once they'd left.

To anyone looking up, they'd only see an unusually large vulture
in silhouette.


The power company agreed that it must have been a fluke reading once they were made aware that no one lived on the ranch, and hadn't for around 10 years., not since Kogane had passed.

It was another month before the outpost got word again that there was some
odd power fluctuations happening, mostly from late evening to just after dawn and had been picking up in frequency of occurrence.

Again, Shiro promised to check it out, this time going just as the sun started to rise.

Black yawned, her head low as she plodded along, unwilling
to do more than half-assedly canter for a mile or two before dropping back into a sedate walk.

The sun was just crowning the horizon when they made it to the driveway and Shiro noticed, by sheer accident, that there was a light on in one of the windows. Suddenly, it went out!
Shiro urged Black up the drive at a canter and pulled his smaller sidearm and jumped off the mule and crept up the steps, before unlocking the door...only it was unlocked!

Did he forget to lock it last time? Fuck he hoped not!

"Rangers, if anyone's here, come on out!" He yelled
"I'm armed and military trained. Come out!"

He was quiet for a minute, listening.

Nothing. Not even a coyote howl.

Just as he was getting back on Black, the door locked and double checked this time, the mule suddenly danced backwards with a startled bray.

She was looking off
into the desert and shiro shined a light, catching sight of a tell-tale puma tail some 300 feet off disappearing down into the dry creek.

"Easy ol girl. It's ok, just a kitty. It's got no interest in us." He patted the mule's neck and she snorted, probably thinking 'yeah right'.
Hunk was thoroughly excited to hear Black's narrow escape from death and Lance only rolled his eyes, smiling at his friend's excitement.

"Hey boss, Pidge is comin out today to do the monthly gear check."

"Alright. I'll be out in the barn office making some calls."

saluted badly and ambled back inside.

Shiro wondered, if there was no utilities online at the cabin, how a light could just...come on.

Until he realized the light had been bright as daylight all most, not yellow or orange like a normal bulb's light.

Maybe he was seeing things?
he sent in his findings to the contact at the power company then sat back, thinking. Maybe he'd go out the next evening, just after dusk.

He'd have to take his rifle for sure though. And he'd have to take the atv. He wasn't going to risk Black, not way out there so late at night
With a plan in place, SHiro steeled himself for Pidge's impending arrival. The tech fiend and all around gremlin was a force of nature and swept in like a haboob. Her older brother, one of Shiro's close friends from his days as an army ranger, ambled in behind her.

It almost
was too much, listening to her and hunk talk desert cryptids and native folklore.

"Did you know that some crytozoologists think there's sphinx here? In the southwest?" Pidge chattered excitedly.

"Sphinx? Like from egypt?"

"Ah don't get her goin, Lance..." Matt groaned then
turned his attention to Shiro, speaking quietly. "Lil sis has been talking nonstop about a new bartender at the Javalina Crossing saloon. And here i thought she only cared about this junk and cryptids."

"Matt..Mattie...if you value procreating, you will shut your mouth." Pidge

Matt merely grinned. "You know Teza and I can't make babies, but we'll damn sure try!" Matt had been married to his husband for 3 years now. So far, the only kid they had had been Greenbriar, whom Matt had saved from a meat auction then donated to the rangers when
another one had passed due to old age.

Pidge colored darkly, embarrassed. "Look, the guy's cute. Said he just came up from Phoenix and used to live in Black Canyon City as a kid. He's /interesting. Unlike all of you! Oh, not you Hunk. You're the best ever!" She beamed at him.
Hunk laughed and shrugged. "I wasn't worried."

"We haven't been out in a while. Maybe we should go out in a few nights. Maybe you'll luck out and he'd be interested in your giant hulk ass." Matt poked Shiro in his side and the bigger man grunted, pouting cutely.

"Just cause
I take care of myself, Holt, doesn't make me a Hulk. Rude ass."

"I can kick him!" Pidge chirped. Lance hid a laugh and Hunk just smiled serenely.

"No brother abusing in the post, please."

"Aw! Why not?"

"Then I'd have to sit on you!" Shiro leaned over and smirked, smug, in
Pidge's face and she growled.


Matt snorted. "So when you plannin on headin out tomorrow?"

"About 5, after I eat. I saw that one puma, but I really don't think it will come back near the cabin."


Back at the Ranch, in the darkness of a bedroom on the second floor,
no human would see the dim light of a laptop screen, nor the violet-eyed figure tapping away on the keys with clawed fingertips.

Nor would they see the many books strewn about, nor the heavy tail draped over a page of one large, opened tome about the history southwest saloons.

The next day, in the late afternoon, just after dinner, Shiro takes the ATV out to the ranch, parking just a few dozen meters onto the property, bringing his shotgun, radio, and cuffs.

He creeps up the drive until he can see the cabin...and a figure laying on a hammock. Who
the hell?

He must have made a noise because the figure made an animalistic cry, startled, and flailed out of the hammock in the low light of dusk, vanishing off the porch and around the back side of the house.

Shiro gave chase, shining his flashlight with one hand and holding
the shotgun with his prosthetic.

But there was nothing. Whoever was there was gone.

Shiro went back to the hammock, looking it over only to see the thing was covered in what looked like cat hair.

Probably some homeless addict trying to find somewhere to sleep.

Now shiro felt
a little bit bad.

"Whoever you are! This is private property! If you need help, come to the ranger station!" Shiro called out.

Of course, there was no reply.

He never saw the figure huddled on the roof by the chimney, watching the ranger drive away. Nor did he see as the
very same creature followed him through the night sky on dark, silent wings making sure the human was not accosted on his way home in the dark.
A few days later had Shiro heading, yet again, to Kogane ranch, this time with Blackstar once more. It was a nice ride out during the day, and the grasses were starting to green up, just a bit.

Shiro had taken the hammock back as evidence and sent some of the hairs off to Matt
but he said they came back as Puma hair, of all things.

Super weird.

Now, as he and his mule went up the drive, he both did and did not expect something interesting to happen. Black was content, trodding up to the cabin without a care in the world, taking her usual spot.

decided to check the grounds out, milling around near the locked up outbuildings.

He was there for around an hour before Blackstars terrified braying.

Shiro rushed out just as the brays stopped and he heard a wild cry followed by all too human cussing.

"You damn mule! You bit
my tail! What the hell, lady! Scared you? I scared you? Yer the dumb thing trespassing! Where's yer ri- oh..."

Shiro blinked at what he was seeing. A puma...with a leonine face and shoulders and chest of a human man was standing on his hind legs, reaching behind himself to rub
the base of his tail where Black had bit him. Only now, the thing was staring at Shiro.

"Uhhhh....You...have seen nothing! Go away, mortal! these aren't...uh...shit." The thing rubbed its paws over its face then turned, slugging the mule in the shoulder lightly. She moved a
bit and snorted, not the least bit impressed.

"Look man, please don't tell anyone you saw me. I have nowhere else to go yet. I ain't hurtin anyone or anything. Dude? Uh. Ranger? You alright?"

"I'm fuckin dreamin. I gotta be...wha..." the last thing Shiro remembered was seeing
the worried faces of his mule AND the puma thing before he passed out.
( @bioplast_hero @leggyorlyb @SashaDistan @alacruxe @kingturtleduck i just wanted to make sure you guys had the chance to see this thread, if you wanted! i didn't want you to get forgotted!)

Keith exhaled heavily at the sight of the passed out human on the desert earth below him. "Black, you just HAD to make a commotion didn't you?" He growled at the mule who looked at him in shock, her mouth falling open.

She brayed in his face. How was this her fault?

"Excuse me?
Keith's voice reached an octave he hadn't hit since preschool as he whipped back to stare in anger at the mule who had the utter gall to look bored.

'i said, ya dumb boy, if you hadn't jumped down in front of me all sudden like, I wouldn't have screamed!'

"Bull shit!"
He stuck his tongue out at the mule who just shook her head. Keith then dropped down on all fours, peering at the human before he shifted down into his midform, wings hidden by magic and his hands were more human. Yay thumbs! He still had his tail though, and his strength. He
leaned over the ranger and scooped him up, depositing him on Black's back.

"For the record, i hate you so much right now Black. Can you get him home alright?"

She threw her head in a nod and turned around, swishing her tail in the creature's face. She looked back at him, eyes
softening. 'Will /you/ be alright?'

"I hope so. I'm not giving up my home. Dad made sure I'd be safe and I aim to not make him a liar."

'Be careful, Sphinx.'

"You too, asshole."

The mule brayed a laugh before hurrying back to the post.

Keith watched them go before turning
back to look at his ranch...it WAS his, after all. All those provisions in his father's will were meant to keep him safe.

As a kid, he hadn't been able to get out of fullform until he hit puberty, but then he'd lost his dad and his mom hadn't been in the picture since he was a
small baby. His dad had taught him how to use the internet for homeschooling and taught him everything else about survival himself, but after the power had been shut off, Keith had taken to using his own innate powers to power his laptop for schooling until he hit 16 and "dropped
out". By then, he'd learned to take his human form and hold it as long as he needed to, taking what money he had left from his dad's stash kept in a secret cellar out in the rehab barn.

He flew himself down to Phoenix (hah!) and get himself a job washing dishes at a dive bar
that didn't ask him too many questions and paid him under the table.

He eventually managed to learn bartending and got another job (and had saved up enough money with a secret bank account) to take some actual classes.

It didn't hurt that his human form was, in the words of one
coworker named Rommie, sex on legs.

His natural feline grace and magical creature strength and his exotic facial features (his pretty violet eyes) worked in his favor, getting him more and better tips.

Plus the men at the swanky uptown private bar paid him even /more when he
paid them a little bit more attention.

Yeah, he'd known early he was gay. Seeing his dad's friends from the safety of his bedroom windows, the tour groups of cadets from teh Garrison...yeah. He'd known.

But then he got homesick.

City life was wearing him out. So he uprooted
his life and moved home, prowling his ranch at dawn and dusk, sleeping most of the day out in the canyon, or taking more online classes for tending and other bar-related skills.

He hadn't counted on Blackstar. She'd been one of his father's mules and she had recognized him right
away, but he'd never had the chance to speak to her until that day, when the human had been gone in the barn for a while.

He had meant to get Black's attention from the roof, but he slipped n fell off the roof, scarin her instead, so she bit him for his trouble.

Rude ass.
Speaking of, he rubbed the spot gently. Stupid ornery mule.

He could only hope the human thought maybe he'd had a bad heatstroke spell and forgot what he'd seen. Black at least would do her best to try and keep him away for a few days, in any case.
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