The trip thus far had been uneventful. Minus a few wrong turns and detours Jefferson and Donna were making and having a good time. How could anyone not have a good time en route to their friend’s cabin in northern Vermont? They would have their first romantic getaway in almost a year and a half. It wasn’t that either of them hadn’t wanted to get away, it was simply that they couldn’t. The timing was just always off.

Jefferson had been a teacher, seventh grade math, and the coach of the varsity basketball team. He had summers off, an amazing benefits package, and the ability to enjoy his life. At 36 years old, Jefferson had been on the verge of needing high blood pressure pills or some type of anti-everything medication. He was a partner at a law firm on the verge of national greatness. While he was great at his job, his heart wasn’t in it, making the long hours, the competition fueled by others both inside and outside his law firm, and the everyday struggle with who and what his clients were or might have been was too much for him. After many discussions with Donna, his parents, his best friends, and even his boss, Jefferson had decided to leave the legal profession. His boss being an intelligent and strategic fellow had allowed Jefferson to remain an attorney and a partner while he was getting his Masters in Education. Jefferson had been part of a million dollar lawsuit and 50 or so other cases. Bert Fischer told Jefferson that he could give associate the rest of his caseload and focus solely on the million case at hand. So that’s what Jefferson did. He busted his tail for a year and half and left the firm when it was time for him to do his field work. This of course left him without income for a few months, but he and Donna would manage. Jefferson had plenty of money saved up, barring any unplanned speed bumps, he would make it just fine.

Donna never doubted Jefferson, or his ability to contribute to the winning of a major lawsuit while graduating with honors from his teaching program. She even knew he would be able to keep his purse strings tight while he was doing both. Donna did doubt her own ability sometimes. Working for a non-profit had seemed like a dream come true at first. Like Jefferson, Donna had worked in the same law firm owned, operated, and run by Mr. Bert Fischer. She was on the marketing side of things when the company restructured. During her month of unemployment Donna hustled harder than she ever had in her life to find a new job as quickly as possible. Jefferson had offered to lend a hand financially, but it wasn’t in Donna’s nature to take help of any kind. She knew he had meant well, but just because your boyfriend is a big shot at a law firm, didn’t mean she couldn’t keep her own bills paid. Within 30 days, one day short of a full month, Donna had found a new job. She was going to take a position at a non-profit organization. Yeah, it was a bit of a pay cut, but it was working with children. While Donna didn’t want to have children of her own, she very much liked helping and working with them before giving them back to their parents at the end of the day. She hadn’t realized that working in a non-profit, or at least the one she was working in, meant 65 to 75 hour with nights, weekends, and all-hours-of-the-day-and-night communication; making plans only to cancel them; and giving up the better part of her life for the livelihood of the business she worked for and not even with the children she was supposed to be helping. After a year in and multiple conversations with Jefferson, their dog, Jefferson’s parents, her friends, and her therapist, Donna decided to make moves. Even though Jefferson was going through his transition, Donna meticulously reviewed and planned for everything and barring any unplanned speed bumps, she would make it just fine.

“Huh,” Donna jumped. Looking down she was Jefferson’s hand reaching out and touching her own. “Sorry I was lost in my thoughts,” Donna explained.
“Really,” he asked.
“Yes,” Donna giggled.
“What were you thinking about,“ Jefferson inquired?
“Just that we’ve done really well. The first year and a half of our relationship was great, but I feel like this past year and half has been even better in a weird way. Maybe it’s not weird, but, it was just… a lot. Everything was a lot, but that now that we’re here. I don’t know. I guess I’m just really grateful to be getting away with you this weekend. Even though, with everything we’ve been through, I’m just happy I guess is what I’m trying to say. Oddly grateful for it all, and happy,” Donna took a breath. She normally wasn’t so inarticulate, “am I even making sense?” Jefferson looked over at Donna. Even though the twilight, when it was hardest for Jefferson to see, he could spot her dimple and her increasing blush. “No, it does,” Jefferson replied, “oddly enough that’s why I reached out for your hand. I was just thinking of everything as well. We’ve covered a lot these past three years, that’s for sure.” Jefferson gave her hand a squeeze. A calm silence filled with memories of the past and the promise of their trip filled the car. Jefferson felt strongly moved. “Mkhmm,” Jefferson cleared his throat. “We seem to be making great time, and I haven’t seen a rest stop, car, or streetlight in ages. We’re good on gas, but I would like to pee before it gets too dark to see the things that go bump in the night” Donna chuckled and asked, “how far are we from the cabin?”
“That’s the thing,” Jefferson began, and he pulled the car toward the side of the road, “the GPS has been moving along with us, but the time left to go hasn’t updated. I have a feeling we’re going to lose service. Maybe you should get out the handwritten directions from Nadine.” Donna bent forward to pick up her oversized bag. Even though he was the one that bought it for her, Jefferson always laughed and said it couldn’t possibly be a purse, not a bag that big. She began to rummage around looking for the directions. “Okay,” Donna said slightly distracted, “out of curiosity, how far is it stuck at?” Jefferson stretched his arms, make a loud gruff, and yawned again as he reached for his phone. “Says we’ll be there in an hour and half. I’d estimate we’re probably only another 30 or 45 minutes away though,” Jefferson said as he returned his phone to the center console and got out of the car.

Wilona settled into her chair. She felt uncomfortable missing the meeting, but she knew that she had to. As far as how she was missing it, well, there was just no other way. Opening her appointment book, she scrolled down the list of patients she had today: Jeremy, Anthony, Jessica, Cecilia, Roberta, James, and Samantha. Usually, she would have had eight patients on the schedule, but Donna was away with her boyfriend this weekend. A nice quaint getaway to strengthen their relationship. Wilona was about the same age as Donna and knew how difficult changing careers and dating could both be. Wilona also knew how this weekend would turn out. She had very little to fear or worry about – she was actually starting to hate that she couldn’t be away this weekend too. Picking up her pencil, Wilona cleared her throat and loaded the internet page she had bookmarked days ago. Glancing at her watching once more, Wilona hit play. Suddenly the room was filled with the sounds of chaos. Wilona dialed the phone with the back of her pencil and put the call on speaker. With her free hand she covered her mouth with a rag. “Hello? Hello?” the voice on the other end of the phone squaked.
Wilona grunted and moaned.
“Wilona?”
With a harsh spit, Wilona freed her mouth from her own cloth. “Help, 3482, help,” she screamed as she disconnected the line!

Charlie had been dozing off. Before that she had been rubbing one out. She understood the importance of lookout duty, but it could be so, so boring. Usually they went out in pairs, but this month was the town meeting and everyone, sans the unfortunate git on lookout duty, was mandated to attend. So there she sat, the unfortunate git waiting in the woods in case anyone was en-route to their special little town. There had been some rumors of controversy. For starters Charlie wasn’t a person, she was a deer. More specifically, she was a doe, and that meant she wasn’t as big and strong as the males in the community. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t have even been a conversation but one of the Council was missing. Never before in the history of town meetings had a Council missed a meeting. Even members of the community only missed meetings due to extreme extenuating circumstances, like death or natural disasters that impeded their travel home. Charlie snapped her eyes open as she heard a rustle in the distance. Without a sound, Charlie surveyed the area sweeping her eyes and head across the horizon. It seemed as though there was no one in the woods with her. Then where had the rustle come from? Perhaps she should concentrate more on staying focused and alert than taking care of herself. Something in the forest moved again. Charlie screamed as something plowed into her. She bucked to free herself from the weight bearing down on top of her.
“Calm it,” the voice said, “it’s only me.”
“Fucking Nate,” Charlie said straightening herself out.
“There’s been a code called in,” Nate said more seriously.
“A code gets called in, and you think it’s a good time to jostle?” Charlie asked incredulously.
“Yes, and no,” Nate said as he rammed into her once more, this time a little more softly.
“What the actual – ugh,” Charlie groaned as she landed on the ground, “NATE!”
“There are strangers approaching,” Nate said as he circled her, “based on the stats the team was able to track them down. They should have already passed you, but the man stopped to take a leak.”
“Okay,” Charlie thought about this as she eyed up Nate, anticipating his next bullrush. “So why are you sparing with me instead of lining up to take their car out,” Charlie questioned as she pranced left avoiding contact.
“Council wants them captured not derailed, not dead. Alive,” Nate said harshly as he leaped forward cutting Charlie’s maneuver short.
“Captured? And this is going to…”
“Distract them. If they see you’ve been hurt they’ll definitely stop,” Nate explained as he swung his backside into Charlie’s stomach. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to actually fight you. When we have their attention, I’ll run off.”
“Then I limp toward them and collapse?” Charlie presumed as she charged Nate from behind.
“Exactly,” Nate said as he fell forward.
“Not that I’m not super excited to play your next victim Nate, but why?”
“The code that was called in was from Council Wilona. Code 3482.”
“3482,” Charlie froze, forgetting her surroundings she didn’t realize Nate was in the process of back bucking her until his hoofs smashed into her chest.
“So much for not actually hurting you,” Nate said looking over her, “Jesus – you okay, Char?”
Charlie nodded from the ground. Her head was spinning. Her chest was searing with pain. All she heard was Nate’s voice, Code 3482.
“Wait, I hear a car,” Nate said as he snapped his head toward the road. “Try to stand up a few times, I’m going to rear and make it look like I’m trying to stomp at you. When I take off, try to get close enough the car that they’ll want to help you.” Charlie nodded. She wasn’t sure if she could actually stand, but she would have to do something, “Yeah, I got this.” “I see them,” Nate stated, “and Charlie, I’m sorry. You know if I’m going to hit you, I’d prefer to do it from the back.” Nick winked, and began to raise his front legs forward. It was time.

Jefferson and Donna felt like they had been driving forever.
“We should be there in another 25 minutes or so according to what I figured out from Nadine’s directions,” Jefferson said. “If I’m right about this there will be a clearing up ahead on the right. She even noted that there are usually deer there. We see the clearing it means we have 25 minutes, if we don’t it could mean I’ve royally fucked up, “Jefferson ended with a chuckle.
“Did Bob say it was this complicated to get here?”
“Bob has actually never been here,” Jefferson explained. “He took some liberties and explained more to Nadine than I would have preferred. They’ve only been together a few months. She said this place was magical. That it had a way of melting stitches sewn into the heart. It was what we needed.”
Donna cleared her throat, “oh.”
“Yeah, but a free cabin for the weekend from a person seeing a friend. I could deal with all of that to spend the weekend with you, Donna,” Jefferson said as he tapped her knee.
Donna smiled and looked out the window. She did love Jefferson and she was glad that they were closer than ever. It would have been a lot cooler if they could have gotten here without the secrets and lies, but they were here together. He wasn’t here with MrsDracula_28xox. He was here with her. And that what was important. At least that’s what she and her therapist spent a good portion of her sessions discussing last year.
“LOOK! The deer,” Donna shouted with a smile. A smile that quickly dissipated. “I think they’re fighting.”
“What,” Jefferson said as he pulled over. “Oh shit, he’s attacking the smaller one. She looks like a female.”
“We have to do something, Jefferson!”
Jefferson beeped his horn. The larger buck froze, looked in their direction and scampered off into the forest. Jefferson and Donna looked at each other. They were relieved to have stopped the attack, but the smaller deer hadn’t gotten up yet. They both silently wondered if they would have to shoot her or if she would survive on her own.

Here goes nothing, Charlie thought to herself. A white searing pain shot up as she tried to stand. At least they’ll believe I’m hurt, Charlie continued to talk to herself as she struggled through the suffering. Charlie hoped that the Council and the rest of the team are in place and ready by now. She had a fear that people who might kidnap one of their own, or one who they believed to be one of their own, might not hesitate to shoot a struggling dear. Charlie’s hopes were confirmed, with the humans out of their car everyone executed a plan they had prepared for, but never thought they would use. Charlie watched as they dropped to their knees. The woman in near tears; the man visibly angry. She had been standing for less than a minute before she fainted from the feeling screaming through her body.

Neither Jefferson nor Donna understood what was happening to them. All they knew was they had been apprehended by a group of locals with guns with dozens of deer surrounding them. They were frightened and angry. Outrage and terror had taken over their senses. Everything was falling into place, and now this. Life was fucking incredible. The mob had escorted them to what appeared to be a great hall. Large portraits were hung on the walls – portraits of both humans and deer. They were lead to the center of the room, and forced to their knees. Guns were pointed at them along with an assortment of other weapons. Finally a leader of the group emerged. With a stone face he spoke, “We have been alerted to your presence here by one of our own. We will ask you one question and one question only. We will not kill you until we have an answer, but we will get an answer. What have you done with Council Wilona?”
Jefferson spoke first, “what the fuck is – “ Jefferson’s body lurched forward. An intense pain ran up his spine, a scream escaped him.
“I told you we wanted an answer, not to be told anything else,” the leader spoke. “Again, what have you done with Council Wilona?”
This time Donna spoke, “Who?”
The leader leaned into Donna’s face, so close she could see his pores filled with anger and possibly fear, “the woman you attacked before coming here.”
“We didn’t attack anyone. His friend, his friend’s girlfriend lent us her cabin,” Donna spat out as quickly as she could. When she finished a white flash crossed her face. She resisted the urge to cry.
“That is Council Wilona,” a second man spoke up pointing to a portrait.
Jefferson, now kneeling upright, and Donna followed his arm to the portrait of a woman. “Council Wilona? That’s my therapist,” Donna said as Jefferson burst out, “MrsDracula_28xox!”
The couple looked at each other with shock and disdain. Simultaneously, their worlds went black.
“We have our answer,” the second leader spoke. In agreement the leader nodded. As the Council and townspeople left. The Noble deer entered the room. Their antlers would be covered in blood by the end of the night, but they would know where to recover a member of their sacred Council from by all means possible.

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