Hart in Peril
Frank lazily burrowed into the blanket wrapped around him cocoon like, enjoying the way the pillow next to him still smelled like Aiden. He shyly opened one eye and peered around the bedroom with a contented sigh. Aiden had had to leave earlier to deal with some business but he had said he would be back in time for the picnic lunch they had planned the day before.
He gave a little stretch before rolling groggily out of bed and starting the day. Once he had showered and dressed he went into the kitchen to prepare their picnic lunch. As he made a fresh pitcher of lemonade and set it to chill in the fridge, he looked out the window into the beautiful garden behind the cottage.
The grass still sparkled with the last of the night’s dew and Frank glanced at the clock to check the time before nodding and hurrying to where he and Aiden had decided to store his skin. Grabbing it from its hiding place, Frank smiled as he switched his usual collar for the larger one Aiden had had made for him to wear in his other form.
Once he reached the back garden, he slipped his skin on and hurried to the tempting grazing area. The alfalfa was sweet and tasted faintly of honey in this form while the timothy and clover were more like fresh bread and the way cut grass smelled.
As he nibbled daintily among the plants Aiden had had grown for him, Frank was pleasantly surprised to find a few strawberries growing along the edge of the area. With gusto, he gobbled up the sweet treat and was reminded of how sweet his husband was to him.
The sound of the door opening behind didn’t worry him at first, Aiden sometimes did come home early. When no call of his name came though, Frank lifted his head and froze in shock.
That was not Aiden.
Instead, Aiden’s brother Sigma stood in the doorway of the cottage and stared straight at him.
Frank trembled as Sigma slowly moved closer to him, there was nowhere for him to run. Shortly after Frank had revealed his secret to Aiden, Aiden had had a large privacy fence erected around the back garden to ensure that Frank could safely change there in safety. However without Aiden there, there was no one to open the gate into the forest, the fence was too high to jump and Frank couldn’t change in front of Sigma.
He had disliked and feared Aiden’s brother from the beginning and Sigma still treated him as a thing instead of a person. If Sigma ever knew of what Frank could do, it would not be good.
When Sigma took another step, Frank bounded away to the next corner. Perhaps he could move around, circle back into the house and find somewhere to stip off his skin quickly before Sigma saw….
Sigma moved backwards and shut the door into the house, leaving Frank with nowhere to go. Frank shifted nervously backing himself into a corner. He had no idea what to do.
He was trapped.
Aiden pulled his car into the garage, eager to rejoin Frank for their picnic. He reached onto the seat next to him, grabbing the bouquet of flowers and the package of strawberries he had picked up as a surprise for Frank. Even little things such as these made Frank beam with delight.
While he enjoyed seeing Frank happy for even such simple delights, it also made him furious that Frank’s family had denied him even the most basic of pleasures. He had vowed the day he had married Frank to make up for all his family had denied him.
As he went into the cottage, he looked about for Frank calling his name as he headed toward the kitchen to put the strawberries away until it was time for their picnic in the garden. The kitchen offered up the first sign that something was not right: the cafe table by the bay window pushed into the corner, its chairs askew.
Aiden tossed the flowers and berries onto the counter and called out to Frank louder. He felt rage and fear vie for dominance as he threw open the door into the garden as saw the signs of a struggle; The table and chairs on the porch were knocked over and scattered as was the comfortable easy chair he had had set near Frank’s grazing area. There was torn turf and scattered plants, parts of the grazing area had been trampled down from something going through it.
There was no sign of Frank, either in human or in deer form.
With a snarl, Aiden stalked towards where the surveillance system was concealed and quickly moved the time stamp to when he left and fast forwarded through the day. He watched the screen as Frank left their bed, showered, dressed and headed to the kitchen. He saw Frank start on their picnic lunch before pausing and grabbing his skin then headed out into the garden for a late breakfast.
He was filled with awe as usual at the sight of Frank drawing on his deer skin and changing into the pure white deer. He was pleased to see that Frank had changed his collar at the same time he had fetched his skin. Frank knew he was Aiden’s and enjoyed being his.
He watched Frank lazily graze in his patch of sweet grasses and he had to smile when he saw Frank find the strawberry plants that he had had planted along the border of the grazing patch. His little lapin did love strawberries, well, berries in general if he was honest.
Aiden had thought he was prepared for anything, however the sight of his brother arriving was the last thing he expected. He snarled as he watched Sigma poke about the cottage like he owned it and then step out into the garden.
He could only watch with growing rage as Sigma spotted Frank and Frank backed himself into a corner in fear. He hated seeing Frank so obviously terrified; even through the camera he could see Frank’s flanks tremble.
However the smoldering rage in his chest burst into a swirling firestorm of loathing and murderous desire for vengeance when he saw someone else arrive and be let into the garden by Sigma. The flames only leapt higher when he saw the stranger shoot Frank with what appeared to be a tranquilizer dart to judge by how Frank was staggering and wobbling as he tried to avoid the two men trying to catch him.
When Frank finally stumbled and fell, Aiden felt his chest tighten in fear and his mind slip into the cold space it rarely used anymore. Seeing Frank callously thrown over a shoulder and carried off by the stranger was enough to finish the shift into the headspace he rarely drew on outside of his private playroom and that he never showed Frank.
It would seem he needed to...have words with his dear brother.
Aiden stared at his brother’s office door.
It had been far too easy to enter his brother’s home and he doubted that Sydney was aware that he had entered. He sneered as he moved around the piles of things scattered around the room. Sigma was such a hoarder, it was a wonder he hadn’t been crushed under his treasures.
He eased open the door and had to shake his head at the predictable way Sigma had set up his office.
Sigma sat at his huge desk staring at Aiden with an amused smirk. “Is there something I can help you will, Omega?”
Omega frowned and stepped forward. “It is more the matter of you helping yourself to something of mine.”
Sigma’s smirk fell. “Ah...I am sure that we can come to a fair deal. How does fifty-fifty on the profits sound?”
Omega moved closer, both hands on the desk as he loomed over Sydney. “Sydney. Where is he? What did you do with him?”
Sigma shifted nervously, “Now, Aiden, I am sure-”
“Sydney. Where. Is. He. What did you do with my deer?”
A knife quivering between two of Sydney’s fingers cut him off. “Where?”
“1059 Litton Street. But they will likely already have butchered the thing by now-”
Omega had Sigma bent over the desk in flash, “If a single hair of its hide has been hurt, I will butcher you.”
With that he shoved his brother away and strode from the room with a last snarled warning for Sigma before the door slammed shut. “Touch what is mine again, brother and brother or not I will string you up in my playroom.”
Frank shifted, his head felt heavy and everything seemed blurred when he opened his eyes. He wondered why he was in his deer form when the sound of strange voices startled him to his hooves. He glanced around as quickly as he could with his head reeling.
He found himself in a cage with not a lot of room around him, maybe enough to move around a little to either side but not much beyond that. He tried to remember how he had ended up here. He could remember putting on his skin and going out to graze. Then...Sigma! He froze as he remembered Sigma standing in their garden staring at him.
He had tried to run but obviously he had failed. He moved closer to the front of the cage trying to see what was going on, where he was. However when he peered forward he jerked back in horror. Suspended from the ceiling by ropes and a metal hook was the carcass of a deer, its throat cut and skinned. The chest had been cracked open and two men were in the process of gutting it.
Frank felt sick and terrified. What kind of place was he in? Where was Aiden? Surely he had returned and discovered he was missing by now! Any moment he would burst in and rescue him. He tried to ignore the squelching wet sounds that came from before him and curled up in a corner of the cage. He had to be strong until Aiden came for him.
Still he was trembling as the sound of the other deer being butchered drew to an end and was replaced by the sound of a hose spraying down the area. He lifted his head from where it had been resting on his flank and flicked his ears trying to hear what was going on.
Footsteps drawing closer made him scramble to his hooves swiftly and back into the corner of the cage. A strange man looked at him through the bars of the cage with a rope in hand. He trembled in fear as the second man approached carrying a gun that the man pointed through the bars and everything went black.
Aiden’s car skidded as he swung into the driveway of the address Sydney had given him. His heart racing along with his mind as Sydney’s words kept echoing in his mind.
Sigma had sold Frank to be butchered.
Images from his playroom appeared in his head interweaving with images of Frank smiling, laughing…
Not his Frank.
He shut down the car and leapt from the driver’s seat, storming for the door. He easily kicked down the front door, moving through the rooms of the house with frightening rapidity. When he reached the back of the house, he saw a small backyard with a second building behind. He strode across the grass and slammed the door open with a growl. The sight he saw brought his rage higher than it had ever been in his life.
Two men stood in an open area, one with a knife in his hand while other bent back the limp head of a pure white deer that was suspended from the ceiling.
No. No! NO!
Aiden lashed out, snatching the knife from the man before bashing him in the head with the hilt. He punched the other man hard enough to knock him to the ground unconscious. His focus was entirely on Frank and his hand trembled as he reached out at touched him.
He was relieved to feel a faint heartbeat and quickly set about lowering Frank back to the ground. He cradled Frank’s head on his lap, gently stroking his sleek neck and was relieved to feel slightly heave of Frank breathing and his heart beating.
Aiden glanced at the two unconscious men before drawing his cell phone from his pocket. “Smith, get Darden and Mccoy out to 1059 Litton. Complete scrub down. The two inside get taken direct to my playroom. Feel free to be harsh with them.”
Aiden picked up Frank, hefting him to his shoulder and carrying him out to the car. He set him down in the back seat, where he barely fit. He wished that Frank would wake up so he could change back. He had no idea what would happen if he tried to change Frank back or where he would even start.
As he stared at his husband he realized something and turned back to storm into the house. He knocked over the work area and heard the sound of his men arriving as he hunted for the last thing he needed. Moving to an area strewn with odds and ends he wrinkled his nose as he dug through the area.
He found items pinned to photographs, proof of the deed perhaps. A halter with a picture of a horse, a dog and a worn collar. Even a picture of an elderly couple with a deer in a collar with the collar pinned to it. Nestled amongst the grim trophies was exactly what he had been searching for: Frank’s collar.
Grabbing it, he walked back out to the car and nodded as he passed his men as they set to work restraining the men while they were still unconscious. He set the collar on the passenger seat before checking to make sure Frank was as comfortable as he could be in the back seat.
Satisfied, he got into the driver’s seat and headed home with his husband.
Frank groaned a little as he woke up, his head hurt terribly.
He could smell fresh grass and hear birds singing though and that was a marked improvement from the last time he had awoken. He slowly blinked open his eyes and was relieved when he saw the familiar sight of his own garden. He groggily lifted his head a little and instantly there was a hand helping hold it up.
Seeing Aiden before him was more than Frank could take and he shed his skin faster than he ever had before. He crawled into Aiden’s lap, his skin left behind on the grass as he began to brokenly sob against Aiden. “I was so scared! They...they were here and...and I couldn’t jump the fence and and they chased me! I was so scared Aiden! I was so scared! Then I woke up and oh god Aiden! Aiden there was another deer! They...they butchered it and it was horrible! I was so scared! I knew you would come! I knew you would save me!”
Aiden held his husband close to him, savoring the feeling of having his husband back in his arms, warm and breathing and real. He would never let anyone harm his beloved Frank.